Energy Vampires: Emotional Sadism and the Narcissistic Relationship

master of mirrorsThe narcissist is clearly sadistic in his or her rejection of others and in feelings of superiority.  What is a narcissist? Narcissism is a condition in which a person feels pathological self-hatred and is preoccupied with projecting a lovable image.  They are obsessed with this false image and direct tremendous energy to other people’s impressions of them.  Because the projected image is so loveable they are effective in eliciting real love from others.  People’s impression of the false image feels like self-love to the narcissist.  They are incapable of loving themselves or others, but want to be loved.  The narcissist craves admiration and will manipulate the needs and wishes of everyone to obtain it.  When a partner falls for the “lovable” image the narcissist acquires a sense of self through the look of love reflected back in the eyes and actions of the person.  The narcissist needs for constant attention and caretaking takes center stage as desires of others are ignored and denied.  As a relationship progresses the narcissist will not celebrate a partner’s accomplishments, compliment them on anything, and will ignore you in social settings.  They genuinely don’t care about your needs and are experts at pretending they do until they have control. Than the self-involved energy vampire punishes you for having desires because they demand that all of your attention and energy be focused on them.  They suck the life force and joy out of everyone they can take hostage. They prefer your admiration and awe, but eventually their behavior destroys any feelings of love and they will then settle for negative attention. This makes the emotional sadist feel all-powerful and capable of any cruelty.

The narcissist slowly progresses from minimal emotional assaults to intentionally deliberate attacks.  Distancing and cold rejecting aloofness is a favorite weapon.  It doesn’t matter to him if you cry because he is not affected and doesn’t care.  He feels nothing and is not concerned about what you are feeling.  The energy vampire is not interested in your character.  The emotionally sadistic narcissist gets enjoyment from hurting someone.  They are experts at manipulating people’s emotions until they are hurt more than physical abuse.  He intimidates his partners to avoid expressing criticism and disapproval of his actions and decisions.  His partner or children learn that this triggers fits of temper and rage attacks and turns him into an argumentative and irritable person.  His extreme reactions are a punishment for perceived inconsiderateness and insensitivity of his true inner state.  The narcissist blames his partner for his behavior, accuses them of provoking his outbursts and believes that they should be punished for their misbehavior.  Apologies, unless accompanied by requests for forgiveness are not enough.  The fuel of the narcissist’s rage is expended mainly on bizarre verbal accusations directed at made-up and imaginary intentions of the victim.  If you question the appropriateness of the behavior, no longer mirroring admiration and submissiveness, this causes him or her to doubt their illusory self-esteem.  You are then subjected to a period of terror where they try to hurt you for not recognizing their entitlement to your unquestioned obedience.  You will be belittled and humiliated with displays of aggression and emotional violence in countless forms.  His or her behavior changes from putting you on a pedestal to a severe devaluing of you as a worthy person.  The narcissist is repulsed by people judged by him to be useless.  These extreme alterations between seeing you as flawless to complete unworthiness make long-term relationships with the narcissist all but impossible.  He will exploit you cruelly and severely.  He uses you to get confirmation of the accuracy of his superior false image.

The emotional sadist’s abuse is kept secret by conditioning his partners, children, and sometimes colleagues or employees to not tell.  People often find themselves involved emotionally in an intimate or employment relationship before they discover the narcissist true nature.  His victims typically come from family environments where there is abuse and a “don’t talk” rule.  This especially is the case in families with sexual abuse and alcoholism to hide.  So secrecy is a major weapon in keeping the mistreatment confidential.  They keep up a public façade appearing nonthreatening and even altruistic and in private are evil and aggressive.  The victims keep the secrets safe by constructing an explanation to make sense of the cruelty, “He just can’t deal with intimacy” or “She had a bad childhood.”  Some victims are raised to not “air dirty laundry” and keep silent about the abuse to family and friends. The victim is held in traumatic bondage by being convinced they are the problem and to be blamed for the misconduct.  By the time the victim discovers the truth they find it difficult to leave the relationship.  The emotional battering renders the wounded with feelings of helplessness and shame for not seeing through the angelic façade.

Dealing with a narcissists sadistic behavior is pretty dismal.  Their numbers in society are great and it is imperative that this personality disorder becomes readily recognizable.  I have worked with countless numbers of violent narcissistic men and women, many more I am sure that missed my clinical recognition.  If you have found yourself living in quiet desperation or working with an emotional and/or physically abusive narcissist, please educate yourself and others about the abuse.  I have written a post on “How Codependents Leave Abusive Narcissistic Relationships” and “How Codependents Leave Employment with Narcissistic Boss” that you might find helpful to read.


Thank you for reading this post.  I’ve dedicated my personal and professional life to the importance of non-violence and self-compassion by teaching from my experience.  As a result, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to create healthy relationships.  And, as I learn and grow, I teach self-compassion and give advice I use myself, in the hopes that it helps you to improve your own life.


37 thoughts on “Energy Vampires: Emotional Sadism and the Narcissistic Relationship

  1. This is so true of what happened to me
    I thought he was everything but he assaulted me as I slept tried to get me to jump off a balcony and ignored me
    I left in the end but he did not care it was like I never existed
    He tries to keep control like he does with the women before me, but unlike them I blocked every method of communicating

  2. Thanks for your post. There is some comfort in knowing I’m not crazy, and my ex has genuine problems (consistent with what you describe). I feel as if I can now forgive myself for my failure to “make the relationship work”.

    I was and still am, passionately in love with the image of a person who projected.. Someone kind, attentive, unique and sexy. The problem is that person does NOT exist and and my heart can’t seem to understand that. She pretended to be exacrly what I wanted for my adoration, then used me sadisiticly for her own pleasure.

    I feel so angry to be used that way over the course of many years. I have not loved the same way since, doubt I will, and wish I could move on. I sometime think I can, then the old pain and profound sense of lost returns. I feel truely broken by this person. She had such a great effect on me, and I meant so little to her.

    I should be able to see it for what it is clearly, but even so I still wish I every night that I could once again hold her in my arms and watch her sleep. I have tried to hate her, and I cannot, and sometime I hate myself for my weekness.

    I wish I had never met her.

    • Dear Adam,

      Thank you for writing to me. I am hoping you have found some relief since you left this comment. The healing process takes time. Forgiving your ex for not being able to love you is essential to moving on. Facing and accepting your grief will help you to do what you need to do to take care of yourself. Eventually you will find the confidence to believe that you will love again. I am wishing you an abundance of love and acceptance.


  3. Hi Roberta..
    I just want to thank you for your knowledge and reaching out to educate the public. I am a 61 year old female that has lived with an emotionally sadistic man for 25 years, off and on. I have a degree from The University of Texas in nursing. I always thought of myself as being an educated, intuitive and empathic woman. Consequently, I could never understand exactly what kept me in a relationship with this man. It was such a mystery to me and one I could not unravel until I understood it on an intellectual level. I have an exaggerated “need to know”.
    Your article helped me to very clearly see the dynamics behind our relationship. I saw him so clearly, exact actually, which he has never fit in any other slot before. Every word you had written was descriptive of him. Thankfully, I was able to see the role I have played in our relationship, too. I did not walk away from this knowledge “hating him”, but more so, informed and free. There is so much power in the truth and being able to see your life clearly.
    As you article said, it truly is exhausting to be in a relationship with anyone that is emotionally sadistic. I worked for decades as an oncology RN which is a very rewarding and also, emotionally draining field. Between my job and this man, I ended up with adrenal failure. I am now on medical disability. I understand why now.
    I have wondered and wondered what it would take for me to finally leave him. I now know..
    knowledge! I stayed and stayed out of confusion and a need to “figure this out”. I will be able to leave him easily now. My only obstacle is money and that is very small in comparison to be emotionally paralyzed. Faith will show me the way…
    Thank you for reaching out to so many of us that do not understand why we live the way that we live. I had bits and pieces of our story figured out but you explained it so clearly that I have NO doubt that this has been the illness that I lived in and also participated in. You gave me freedom. Thank you!
    If you would like to ask me any questions about my 25 years with this man, I would be more than happy to answer them. It is so interesting to me how an educated person can find themselves as a participant in such obvious illness. I believe that one of the main reasons I stayed is how well liked he is by my family. That was certainly a draw. Oddly, if they knew the many things he has done and said to me, they would despise him. The biggest difficulty for me is that other people do not see him clearly. Also, he has done such a beautiful job of diminishing my character in others eyes, anything “negative” toward him on my part makes me look like I am abusuve and he is a victim! Isn’t it odd how that works? They are such masters at setting everyone around them up exactly how they want it to look, we truly do not see him or our relationships with him clearly. My wanting to leave him makes me look like “the bad guy”.
    If you have an article or subject matter on how to educate family on what life has been like for me (once they go home and the doors are shut and locked), I would greatly appreciate it. My granddaughters are like his own grandchildren to him. I have noticed that he MUST have at least one person to be cleverly cruel to. I feel sure it will be one of my granddaughters once I am gone. I would love any information on the comparison between how he is with me and how he is with the ones he wants and needs to impress. My telling them only increases his role as a victim of my behavior and creates a division between them (my granddaughters and daughters that I adore) and me. I have huge fear that my oldest granddaughter (20) will be his next victim. He already has an odd sense of ownership of her. I do not want her to
    lose herself to him as I did.
    Again.. you have no idea how much you helped me. I have clarity now. What a gift.. thank you so much.
    I do have a question if you have time.. do these personalities ever become physically dangerous once you confront them on their behavior and they know you are leaving them? I feel some anxiety around this.
    Bless you for your work and educating those of us in need.

    • Dear Katy,
      My heart and I am sure support from many of my readers goes out to you. Most narcissists are cowards and do not become violent when they rage unless they have been physically violent before. The greatest predictor of violence is from a person who has already committed partner violence. This means if he was physically violent once he will be violent again. Your partner will probably continue to be covertly violent with your character.

      As a codependent we try to make people be, do, or feel something they don’t want to or not capable of doing. We get stuck in trying to make emotionally unavailable people be emotionally present. It’s a nightmare. I suspect you have spent your life trying to do the impossible and feeling like a failure when you couldn’t. I wish you much self-compassion. Your pain is not permanent and will stop once felt and released. I ask you to invest in yourself by continuing to learn about what has happen to you. Investigating Christiane Northrup MD’s work with women’s health and wellness is a good resource for managing/understanding your adrenal failure. Make sure you have a well thought out plan for your exit. Be kind to yourself. You have what it takes to get to peace and acceptance. I am wishing you much grace.
      Best Regards,

    • Dear Kathleen,

      Your daughter can request a psychological evaluation. It is not an uncommon to have parental fitness evaluated with assessments. I hope her attorney knows what they are dealing with. I would make sure she discusses this matter with her lawyer. I am wishing you all the best outcome.


  4. Thank you for what you do Dr Cone. I’m certainly not glad that you have gone through the anguish of living with a narcissist in your past, however I am greatful that you have chosen to use your experiences to help others in such a worth while, exhaustive, and productive way. This article was very helpful, as it seems many of your others will be when I get to read them. I am 31 years old, and I am a single parent. My daughter is 12 months old and her mother is a mild narcissist. My own mother is the narcissist who has lead me to finding this article. She is a “covert narcissist”, and this article discribe her very accurately as well. I live in Louisiana where there are very limited recourses and I have yet to find a Dr who is truly aware of what this disorder is. Anyway, if you read this I have one question in mind at the moment, I often find myself wondering, now that I have recently become aware of the disorder and exactly what I have been unknowingly dealing with for 30 years, to what extent should I look at my mothers condition and treat it as a disorder in which she has no control over. In other words, should I treat her disorder as one might treat say autism and put up with the abuse to any extent? If so to what extent? Any advice or insight would be wonderfully appreciated to say the least. You have already given me much more ability and tools than I had before. Thank you!!
    Josh Aron

    • Josh,
      Thank you for writing to me. Your words touch my heart. I suggest you continue to learn as much as you can about what has happen to you. You will come to intuitively know how to handle your mom. It is never okay to accept abuse from anyone. It is especially challenging not to feel guilty when we say “no more” to an abusive parent. Sick people make people sick and so you must commit to treating yourself well. Coming to terms with your childhood/adult trauma is a process and lifelong journey worth the investment. If your mom is a true narcissist she is incapable of feeling love. Eventually it will be necessary to let your mom and partner off the hook for not being able to love you if you want a decent life. That does not mean they get to continue to victimize you. You will have to set boundaries and limits on what you will accept. Remember abuse is always a deal breaker. Keep showing up for yourself. You have had enough pain; it is time to be kind to yourself. I am wishing you much grace and self-love.

  5. I would have to say that was such a well articulated description of narcissistic personalities…..I am just going no contact with my ex partner of 6 years…and its only been a few weeks….your mind feels like an absolute mess but there are moments where your truth starts to trickle back in…..Its like someone waged a full blown covert war on your mind, heart and soul….and you didnt even realize because everytime you question the behaviour….BANG! you are back running in the many thousand directions they send you in.

    My ex partner would never answer any direct question I asked in regards to his behaviours, in fact he would spend hours telling me every other possible reason that I was feeling the way I was….rather than acknowledge or answer the actual question. It took me a long time to see this, for many years I was drawn into the crazy rollercoaster……and each time I realized….he would do anything to avoid the actual issue (his behaviour) and three hours later… head would feel like it had imploded and I was completely drained and confused and had also taken full responsibility for what had just happened ( ???) and he was now fully absolved from the conversation being brought up again and any responsibility for his actions!

    Its becoming slowly easier and is important to stay focused on the awful behaviour they showed towards you….because anything else wasnt real.

    Thanks again so much for this article, it is the best I have ever see

    healing slowly

    • Healing slowly,
      I know exactly how it feels when a partner never acknowledges responsibility for cruel behavior. It is frustrating and depressing. I would write down all the actions that were destructive and mean so you have it to look at when the loneliness gets tough. You will be forever grateful for sticking to “no contact” and gain some well-earned self-respect. I feel for you. Don’t let him win. Living in quiet desperation is so painful. I am wishing you lots of strength.

  6. It was great to read this. You articulated the dynamics perfectly. I’d like to see an extension of this regarding dealing with this type in the workplace. I ended a ten-year friendships recently when clear evidence arose of someone who always put up a compassionate front viciously tried to destroy my reputation. Unfortunately, they were highly effective. If I knew then what I knew now …

    I was raised by someone with NPD, and it made me susceptible to abuse and manipulation from other narcissists later in life. I try to take a “first day of the rest of your life” approach to moving on, but it’s so hard to not want to go back and defend myself against or correct past wrongs.

    • Matt,
      Moving on and releasing the narcissist is tough to do. Coming to terms with the painful lessons takes time. Keep learning about what happen to you growing up. It’s important to let the hurt go so that the narcissist cruelty doesn’t continue to affect your well-being. Part of what makes letting go so difficult is holding on to the desire to hurt them back. Let your own success be your revenge. Thank you for commenting. I am wishing you the best.

  7. Pingback: Energy Vampires: Emotional Sadism and the Narcissistic Relationship | sally amore

  8. Hi ,an interesting read .I was married to a man for 7 years that was a narcissist,lucky I divorced him three years ago. I told him that he would only be happy living in a home full of mirrors!
    Looking forward to reading more of your blogs

    • Annette,
      Hoping you are having moments of joy since your divorce. The shattering of illusions can bring us to believe in our right to happiness. Letting go of a narcissist is liberating and lets us explore our freedom to take care of ourselves. Good for you to own your power. The recovery from narcissistic abuse is not for wimps. You are no longer trapped! I am wishing you an open heart. You are lovable. Thank you for commenting.

  9. I think this is the best thing I have read on living with the narcissist…I was married to one for 17 years, and then it took 4 years to get away from him. and still, its all my fault, I did him wrong. The story has been twisted to an incredible lie, about how badly he has been treated. He does something different to most Narcs – he does ‘victim’ magnificently, and sucks in people who feel sorry for him. Then he get attention and sucks them up into his narc story. He is still vicious to our 15 year old son, terrible blaming and ridiculing emails. I know a child can do ok with just one parent who loves and treats them respectfully, but I am still fearful of the slow drip of blame the Narc does long term. Most people cannot, have not, seen the domestic violence that my son and I have lived through at the hands of this Narc. Research shows me I lived in the typical relationship cycle that a Narc sets up.. and one day I realised I had no friends or family, they were all gone, and I felt so lonely. Healing from a Narc is a long journey of self love, strength and courage. I feel I am doing pretty well now, but I still notice the anxiety, and fear that was my reality for 20 years. If I could sum it up, get a good therapist, protect the kids at all costs from the emotional violence, and get a good family lawyer (if you have property with the Narc). The Narc lives with Entitlement – they own you and deserve everything, you deserve nothing (not even the kids). My heart aches for this silent pervasive illness that destroys families/relationships and has enduring effects. It will take me years to get over it, I blame myself for being such a poor judge of character/ make poor choices in men. that thought at least has kept me on the healing path, theres a better life for us without the Narc, and self love seems the only way to go forward.

    • Carocass62,
      More power to you! My heart goes out to you. I do know what you are feeling and life will get better. It’s good to know you are not crazy and that many share your truth. Narcissists are academy award winning actors when they pretend to have real feelings other than rage. They are professional victims. Your ex would love knowing he is renting space in your head. Please do your best to let him off the hook for being incapable of feeling love, so you can have a fulfilling life. He wins if he can continue to suck joy out of your life. I am wishing you the strength to heal your life. I can see you are already doing it.

  10. My brother and mother are sadistic narcissists. It took me many years to try to get over some of the lasting effects from their behaviors. I was left alone with them after my father died and became the object of their “working at making me a better person” LOL, aka public and private humiliation and degradation; physical and emotional beatings; neglect and purposefully imposed terror. I am currently working on trusting my emotions since I was told that everything was always in my head. I learned to question everything I felt or thought. My mother was investigated by CPS twice and recently, CPS placed my niece with me due to the abuse or my brother’s “working on making her a better person”. She’s closed down emotionally like was said in this article, she almost has no personality and scurries about like a mouse. I see myself in her and I hope that my love for her will show her that life isn’t really like that, it’s not normal or okay. It’s articles like these and blogs, that help a lot. Everyone who is dealing with their own little special sadistic narcissists, holidays become a nightmare. I have been having panic attacks lately for the annual dinner, but I feel strong enough to handle it this year, thanks to places like this. I might even pick up some nicely embroidered hankies for gifts, for when their self hatred starts to leak.

    • Astra,
      I hope your holidays are going well. Having Plan B (a quick escape) before you go to the annual dinner or any family event is important. Being a safe woman for your niece is an incredible gift. Good Job! Thank you for your kind words. Keep doing the hard work. You deserve to be loved and feel strong.

  11. This is a perfect description of some of the horrors I experienced. I was degraded, raped and emotionally assaulted by a man for a long time. Recovery is extremely difficult. I cannot fight back, I can only walk away and move on. But a large number of well-meaning people in our community think he is a wonderful man and father. It is extremely difficult to live with this experience and not be able to do anything about it.

    • Dear Recovering,
      I feel for you. There are many people who can relate to the pain you are experiencing and know the truth in your words. It’s is important that you develop a support system to help you heal. A therapist with experience treating victims of domestic violence can help you move on. Battered women’s shelters have affordable Personal Empowerment groups. Keep learning about what happen to you and how to love yourself. Post-traumatic stress symptoms are common reactions in recovery from narcissistic abuse. Untreated victims are more likely to go back to purgatory. Don’t give up on yourself. Thank you for writing to me. I am wishing you much grace.

  12. I have a female friend who I have known for over 16 years now and she confided in me that she had been neglected by her parents in that out of all her siblings,she was the only one who had to make do with hand me downs and not recieving the love and attention that the rest got.
    She also has remarked to me that she has a sadistic mind and I have never asked her about it.
    She can be a good person most times,but,there have been other times when she can come off as cold,aloof,and,uncaring. She said that she is an introvert,but,I am one myself and I am not like her in that way. A few years ago,she met another girl younger than us and she spends more time with her than me now. She tells me that they go to the movies together and do other things like take vacations together which hurt me. I have been really confused in trying to figure out if she is an emotional sadist as she said she has a sadistic mind. I wonder if she does these things and tells me about them to get pleasure from my hurt? She doesn’t have very many friends and she says her demeanour scares people off and where ever she has worked,she says her co-workers do not like her. But,back when she used to hang out with our mutual friends,she even said that they were talking behind her back. I think she has psychological issues,but,I cannot figure out if she’s also a true sadist among them.
    I am glad I found your site yesterday. Thanks.

    • Tom,
      Thank you for leaving a comment to this post. Your friend certainly sounds insensitive to your feelings. From what you describe she is not worthy of your friendship. I imagine you must not feel good when you are with her. You deserve to be around people that are considerate and appreciate you. She has certainly taught you what you don’t want in a friendship. The kind thing to do for yourself is acknowledge the lesson learned and stick with friends that treat you well. I am wishing you the best.

  13. As i was reading your blog i said to myself this is my ex-boyfriend. In one year that we are together i was always the wrong one. It came to a point i went to therapy becuas he said i have issues. He is a very hard man to please. He cannot feel any remorse for all the name calling and emotional abuse. He broke up with me 3 x and i do all the fixing. He would threat me that he would leave me if i dont change. How far can i change? Practically i follow eevrything that he wants. I say something that displeases him , he would then make it an issue and crucify me till i have to beg for forgivenss so that he would be appeased. I am still trying to cope with my grieveing. He broke up with me 5 days ago and i came to research oline. Because it was all my fault then he said. I was so confused because i followed everything that he says already. HELP ME!!!!

    • Genalin,
      Thank you for writing to me. I and many others know the nightmare you experienced. Please get support from people you can trust. No contact with this ex-partner is imperative. Keep learning about what happen to you and make a commitment to heal your life. You are strong enough to love yourself. I am sending you the healing power to not give up and wish you the best.

  14. Thanks , its tough to believe this is even possible until you know they know how to read you better then you do and come up with a “customized/tailored plan to push all your emotional buttons!!. the first few months were wonderful and hypnotic, I fell under a vampire spell, then the magnified hell started. I did no contact a month ago, and still my brain is not able to shake the effects.

    • Toni,
      The self-respect you are earning is priceless. No contact is the only way to recover. Once you get past the posttraumatic stress response life gets easier. It won’t last forever. The narcissist spell is very real and they do have an insidious ability to mirror your deepest desire. It takes courage to end your relationship and walk the path of self-care. More power to you! Thank you for commenting on my post.

  15. Thank you thank you from the bottom of my heart for opening my eyes. This is the person that I have been living with for 13 years. I am ending this relationship for the past 10. But now I now for 100% there is no coming back and I can not change this abusive man who damaged, degraded, abused, controlled, demanded, put me and my kids down, lied to me, and believed in his own lies etc. HE STRIPPED ME AND MY KIDS OF HAPPINESS AND MY TEARS WERE HIS JOY.. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. I HAVE TO MAKE NECESSARY STEPS TO FINALIZE HIS EXIT FROM MY HOUSE. ME AND MY KIDS DO NEED A LOT OF THERAPY TO OVERCOME WHAT HE HAS INSTALLED INTO US AND HOW HE DAMAGES OUR INSIDES.

    • ALINA,
      My heart goes out to you. There are many of us as we read your comments that KNOW the pain you are feeling. The psychic repair from living in purgatory is a process and I want you to stay strong in your resolve to end the nightmare. I would suggest that you invest in yourself by reading and learning all you can about narcissistic abuse. The ending of your relationship calls for you to really use your intelligence. There are online support groups for survivors of this evil you might find helpful. I think your willingness to speak with a therapist is important to your recovery. I am sending you much power and endurance to take your soul back. Thank you for writing to me.

  16. Thank you for this article. Nothing worse than running into someone who can’t own their life good bad and ugly. A person incapable of feeling anything except for themselves. To anyone out there dating or involved with a NARC ….. do yourself a favor… leave and get help because the NARC will never believe you and gets fuel from even your thoughts about them. They are not capable of true love and truth. They will never see the damage that wired them into the delusion they live. They will hurt the people that love them and leave them in silent ruins because they can’t see. So sad!

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