The Lebensauger

It’s Narcissist Friday!   


Narcissists drain life from their victims. This has come up again and again in the comments and in my personal correspondence. Just as I decided that it was time to write something on this phenomenon, the popular tv show, “Grimm,” had an episode titled, “Lebensauger.” Yes, it means, “life-sucker.”

The life-sucker. I know it sounds like a crude term, but it fits. The narcissist sucks life from his/her victim. In fact, this could be one of the defining characteristics of a narcissistic relationship.

When I talk with counselors about narcissists, I suggest that if they see someone who appears drained of enthusiasm and energy, who has little normal ability to fend off the criticisms of others, they should look for a narcissistic relationship. Some might say that this is simple depression, but too many victims of narcissism have been diagnosed as depressed without anyone seeing the abuse in the relationship.

I also ask the counselors if they have ever had a client who seemed to pull the life out of them. Yes, even the counselors. Scott Peck describes such a case in “People of the Lie.” They never seem to move past their presenting problems, but move you to work and strategize and study to help them. They pull on emotions, both positive and negative. Sometimes counselors try to find ways to avoid the appointments with these folks or end the counseling relationship, but they also find that separation is difficult. And, in the back of their minds, the guilty little fantasy world of the counselor, they dream of how life would be so much better if the client would just cease to exist. (If you have never watched the Bill Murray movie “What about Bob?” you should.)

Why does this happen? Why does the narcissist draw life from those around him/her? The answer really requires a general understanding of what narcissism is, but let’s just say that the narcissist does not function in the real world. The narcissist’s world is a fantasy. While the real life of the narcissist is hidden away and protected, the image of the narcissist is put out for others to see. The narcissist wants others to believe that the image is real and is, of course, him.

But the image has no life and the narcissist does not dare to reach to his hidden self to draw life from there. So life is drawn from those around the narcissist. They are the “supply” the narcissist needs to maintain the image.

What does this look like? Well, picture the child whose mother uses her to make points with acquaintances and then blames the child for any negative that comes. The little girl is loved when she is dressed up and behaving well so that others can give praise to mom; but she is hated when she gets dirty or misbehaves because that might make mom look bad.

Or picture the office worker who puts in extra time and energy on a project only to have a co-worker or boss steal the credit. Or the spouse who is blamed for any financial stress or any discomfort, even that caused by the narcissist. Or the church member who works hard and sacrifices but never seems to give enough to be appreciated or to rest because the narcissistic organization or leaders just keep taking.

I’m sure you can come up with your own examples now. When you try to be positive and you try to contribute and you try to stay on top of things, but always fall short or get criticized, you might be dealing with a narcissist. When you are no longer the person you used to be, no longer as creative or happy or fun to be around, you might be in a narcissistic relationship. When you feel like it would be easy to die, a pleasure to kill, a wonder to run away, but you end up pulling back into your cave a little more each day; you might be losing your life to a narcissist.

Please, if this is you, find someone to talk with. The depression of a narcissistic relationship can go away. The life that has been drained away can come back to you. Deep inside, in your heart, you are still the person you want to be. Find someone to help you find the way back. If you are free to leave the narcissistic relationship, do it. Don’t look back. If you are not free to leave—if you are married or need the job or in a family—there are ways to rebuild your life. Setting boundaries, rebuilding your support system, finding ways to be creative again, can all be done within the narcissistic relationship. It might be challenging, but don’t be afraid.

Your life is ahead of you.




Filed under Narcissism

33 responses to “The Lebensauger

  1. Patty

    It is exactly as you say. They drain you.
    It is hard to distance from the toxic. Especially when you have two who are daughter in laws and sisters. They have cut our sons outbid our lives. Of course sons have let them. We have tried to reconcile. Boundaries have been set but they try to draw us back into drama
    God will have to supernaturally intervene. My struggle is to keep my heart right through this and not become down and bitter. We pray they will one day come home.
    Thank you for the posts they do help tremdously to keep perspective.

  2. My ExH was emotionally and verbally abusive to me and to our children for years and years before he finally had the affair that caused me to divorce him. Your description of someone in a narcissistic relationship describes me perfectly. I was nearly suicidal, and today, almost five years since we separated, I’m still trying to remember who I was 30 years ago before we married.

    • Recovering

      Elizabeth Lee, my NPD cheated on me and abandoned the marriage of 21 years. I am trying to recover still also. We divorced 3 years ago and he is still a firefighter making tons and money and living the good life after he threw me under the bus so to speak. I am however, SO glad we are divorced he totally tried to ruin me.

  3. Recovering

    I am dealing with my ex husband NPD in my head again. He is getting remarried and proudly proclaims the last half of his life will be happier than the first….as if I was the sole cause of his unhappiness. He made a lot of money on the sale of our house recently that I had to give him in our divorce 3 years ago. I thought I had forgiven him and now I am fighting in my head all the treachery and anger all over again. Dave, how do I know if I have forgiven completely? Someone told, when I can pray for good for my enemy. I am not feeling that at all…ever. 😦

    • JS

      Recovering, it took me eleven years to forgive my N ex completely. Just keep asking God to help you do it and give yourself time to work through everything that happened to you. It is wonderful freedom! And it was spurred on by this blog.

  4. Tammy

    Patty – It is truly difficult no matter what. Been there. With a sibling N and an Ex N. Divorce is hard, especially with children… forever tied in some way to the N. Family is hard, again, especially if there are children.

    I have chosen no contact with both. The no contact with my brother (and my refusal to keep silent about his abuse), resulted in him refusing to allow his children to be around me. As much as I love them, I hate the abuse more. I see them on holidays and share warm hugs. It is all I can do.

    The Ex? I would truly love to get along with him, but any concession is not enough. Now he has many believing that he got saved so it makes me look “worse” because I am not all “buddy buddy” with him… I am not Jesus and cannot judge, but the Bible is clear. Salvation produces fruit. 1 John 3 talks about our inability to continue repetitive sin when we are saved. Let’s just say that there is not enough evidence to convict him of salvation.

    The bitterness is difficult. What is the most difficult is to extend grace when they continue the same toxic behavior. Likely your sons have been told lies. N’s are professionals at growing a GRAIN of truth into a sick and twisted believable lie. It is all part of their evil plan.

    I cannot wrap my mind around head games, crazy making, “gas lighting”, manipulating behavior. My brain just doesn’t work like that. The only thing I have found to work is prayer. We do not battle people but powers and principalities. Jesus who is in me is greater than he that is in the world. Read those words and more encouragement every day from the One who has already won the Victory.

    Have courage and faith!

  5. Penny

    Thank you , Dave for this excellent and necessary post. It is so very true and so real and so insidious and so scary how the N can drive you to the edge. I became suicidal b/c I felt so trapped, with no way out. That was when I hit bottom. But I DID find a way–and it saved my life, but I had to be the one who did it. No one else was willing to draw the line in the sand and say “no more”. Yes–it was beyond difficult; yes, I have been betrayed and abandoned by many who believe the lies, or perhaps worse, know the truth but have something to gain by aligning with the N (money, prestige, etc.) in the abuse. I have had several occasions to “educate” (enlighten?) church leadership and/or pastors, who try to urge premature reconciliation or compromise b/c they really don’t “get it”; they, too, are being played by the religious N and they mistakenly think that they can counsel them effectively. They seem to minimize the abuse b/c the skilled N is so good at hiding it. I remind them of what Scott Peck and other professionally trained counsellors have said: they limit how many Ns they will accept as clients (if any) b/c they are so toxic and so draining. Sometimes I am just blunt and tell a pastor, “you are in way over your head and don’t even know it”. They need to validate the friends/family of the N who are dying, and not dismiss the abuse or minimize it. Pastors need to know that when a “religious” N refuses to seek professional counseling but “prefers to meet with the Pastor” instead, it is a “red flag”: the N is manipulating the pastor, protecting their carefully-crafted image and avoiding reality. Ns can pray and cry and collapse on the floor in a weepy puddle….but it’s all part of the show, it’s all about them. I have yet to find a pastor who wasn’t moved by the N”s tears but who failed to ask them exactly what they are crying over: their tarnished image? their loss of a pipeline? Or, that they wounded others so deeply? If they admit to wounding, what exactly did they do? will they admit it? or shift blame? Pastors who “get it” can set a boundary with that person and refuse to continue to meet with them– but most don’t…perhaps fearing getting slandered themselves, or thinking “more highly than they ought” of their ability to counsel. If they truly understood how few professionals will take on a narc, then perhaps they will realize that it takes a highly skilled and experienced counsellor to work with an N; they will need to swallow their pride and ask around for appropriate referrals. The so-called “Christian” counsellor who attends their church and has an office down the street might not be the right person. God can and does work thru those who don’t even know Him, but are excellent at what they do and truly understand the toxicity of narcissism. But it is all so sad, so draining and so dangerous to the body of Christ. Thank you, Pastor Dave, for “getting it”– and providing this oasis, this safe place, for so many who are hurting. Bless you a thousand times over. Bless you.

  6. Leslee

    Thank you for these posts. What is the difference between a sociopath and a narcissist?

    • Recovering

      Leslee that is something I wonder. I have labeled my Ex husband a narcissistic socialpath because it fits. I am not sure there are many differences. They are just so lethal and treacherous.

      • Penny

        From George Simon: “it’s crucial to remember that along that continuum of character disturbance, there are many conscience-deficient, abusive, exploitation-oriented, self-absorbed, and manipulative individuals who are not severely disturbed enough to be rightly labeled psychopathic, but who are nonetheless character-impaired enough to leave a trail of badly bruised victims having the misfortune to be involved with them in some way.” The difference is in degrees….but to those of us exposed to the narc, the outcome is the same: they suck the life out of you… like a vampire. Avoid them like the plague.

      • Leslee

        Penny, on the continuum, my husband could be classified as a sociopath. For 34 years I lived with his behavior which, of course, kept escalating – more rapidly after our 3 children were born and as they grew up. I compartmentalized him as the ‘not-so-good’ part of my life, and through Christ I was able to enjoy being a mom, a teacher, a friend – all the other parts because I don’t believe in divorce. A few years ago his threats to me became overt: “I’m going to ruin you; I’m going to destroy you.” I ignored him as usual until he lost our 20m company and our two properties, facts he carefully hid from me. He said he was sick of CA and wanted to return to TX – we agreed that I would take two of our children and he would fulfill his 2-yr contract while our oldest son finished high school. TX was not a good environment for my kids (or me!). We were staying on my dad’s ranch; my little brother is also a sociopath who never left home. One day my husband tried unsuccessfully to kidnap our middle child.
        We had no community or support system in TX, so I sent my children back. My father’s affairs were in complete disorder and I tried to arrange them until my oldest son called me and told me Tom was living with another woman. When I confronted him (he had been calling me saying how much he missed me and when was I coming home), he said “oh, she’s just a homeless woman staying with us until she has her hip surgery next month.” I drove back to CA and the morning after I arrived he threw divorce papers at me, saying “you forced me to do this, now get out”. That was three years ago. He won’t let me go, nor has he given me any money. BUT! Christ has been with me and has provided. My children and I are close and life is still good. Sometimes getting away from the life-sucker is really difficult.

  7. Wonderful post.
    “The air of heaven is that which blows between the ears of a horse.” – Arabian proverb.v

  8. margie lynn

    Thank you so much for this one.  It was uplifting to me today.

  9. Jennifer

    Wow. Where to begin. You’ve hit so many nails on their proverbial heads.

    A couple of days before I left my N-husband, I said to him, “I have nothing left to give. You’ve drained me dry. I’m just so empty”. It’s probably one of the main reasons I had the courage to leave; I was just so empty anyway, that I had nothing to lose. The number of times in my 20-year marriage I wished that he’d be killed in a car accident are countless. That same wish continued for a number of years after I left him. I don’t wish that anymore, only because I am truly free of him now after 6 years of separation. If you knew me, you’d know what a shocking confession that wish is. I love the Lord with all my heart, but that man is just so toxic, and I wouldn’t allow myself to leave because I wanted to be “a good wife” and make our marriage work. How was I to know that’s exactly what he was counting on?

    He’s moved over to a different church now after spinning his magic webs wasn’t getting him anywhere in our old church once I left. He has a new bunch of naive believers to fool, and much to my dismay (on her behalf), he has found a new woman to date (and we aren’t even divorced as of yet). I feel badly for her, but he has told everyone including our old friends and his family that I am crazy, so as much as I’d love to warn this poor woman, it wouldn’t go over very well. I just have to pray for her.

    I was warned by my very adept Christian counselor NOT to do marriage counselling with him. She’d pretty much picked off the fact that he was an N right from the very beginning. She warned many of us that N’s will routinely fool their counselors and that the poor abused spouse would come out the worse for the wear in those counselling sessions. He refused to get individual counselling because he had to pay for it, so he went through the motions of some groups counselling for a couple of months, sold the point that he was neglected as a kid and blamed his behavior on that (He was no more neglected than any other average kid), while telling all the world that I’d lost my mind.

    There are so many stories, so many things I could say, but you all know. You’ve all been there. N’s are like blood-sucking, emotional, crazy-making vampires. :/

    • Recovering

      Your story is so similar to mine…long term marriage…my ex is so “charming” it just looked like I was the problem. My ex is engaged to be remarried. He told me his fiance’ is a “phenomenal” woman. SO my guess is she is an awesome N supply for him right now. She won’t be when he drains her…she will look like troll the way I do. He took decades off my life with his crazy-making, gas-lighting, deceitful, cunning abuse. I feel like I look like an old lady at 46 thanks to him.

      • Joy

        My ex is like both of yours. Soo charming he fools friends, family, church and counselors. He had a counselor once who he could not fool and he quit counseling, because of course there “is nothing wrong with him.”

        I was married for 30 years because my Christian beliefs led me to believe that if I hung in there and loved him and worked on our marriage, things would get better somehow. After reading “Boundaries” I finally realized that some people live and thrive on hurting others. I set boundaries and he smashed them down all while smiling and being charming. Eventually I was a shell of my former self. I told him I felt like pitcher that was full of love and affection that I”ve poured out on him for years and years with him never returning any of it…and that I was just plain empty. I said “If something doesn’t change I will have to leave.” and he said, “maybe you’d better go.”

        He would have never cheated on me, or hit me or done anything that I might have normally considered it ok to leave over…if I left , the whole thing was going to be my fault. I stayed 2 more years, trying to sort things out.

        I’m still recovering. I can hardly believe what a number someone can do on your mind, in such sly ways.

    • Jennie

      Wow, what an excellent description of these folks. Yes, they can do drama so they can be the center of attention; or they can be subtle and keep the abused isolated and alone. I came across the first kind in the grocery store the other night. A young woman was shopping with her grandmother, and she was loudly and overtly obnoxious to this poor, quiet woman. There were several of us just staring, open mouthed at her behavior. There was no shame at all, just a me, me, ME attitude. I actually started shadowing them (another couple did as well) to make sure she didn’t do anything to harm the old woman.

      The mind boggles at their behaviors.

  10. I have come to believe THIS quoted from the article is true far more than 50% of the time depression is evident:

    “When I talk with counselors about narcissists, I suggest that if they see someone who appears drained of enthusiasm and energy, who has little normal ability to fend off the criticisms of others, they should look for a narcissistic relationship. Some might say that this is simple depression, but too many victims of narcissism have been diagnosed as depressed without anyone seeing the abuse in the relationship.”

    I can look at myself, my brother, my parents, my poor, trouble friend, my seriously abused former coworker–and I can point to the likely Ns in their lives, contributing to their depression. I see it so clearly now.
    As Christians, we’re not supposed to let others get us down that much, but we need the tools, like Pastor Dave is giving here, to recognize that Ns are NOT NORMAL and N relationships are truly destructive. We aren’t brought up able to discern the different between an N and a “normal” person, so we let ourselves get so deeply mired in these relationships, trying so hard to make things right, to be noble, loving, and forgiving. And all the while, it is backfiring, and there’s gaslighting to use our good efforts, and we are being slowly murdered by our Ns.

  11. Still in Shock

    I just found out after 5-6 years of very well hidden physical, mental, emotional abuse towards my 2 younger children, that my 19 year old is a master of manipulation and has been for years. I trusted her. I believed her. Until so much became unbelievable. At the end of it all I had to have her leave home after her 18 birthday. I don’t understand so much! The characteristics are things her dad used to do but we have been divorced for 12 years and he wasn’t a part of her life for the passed 8. So how is it that she seems to carry the same problem. I am shocked, angry, hurt for my younger children that for years she made them out to be the bad guys when all along it was her. I raised her for The Lord but it seems she has chosen an easier road. The manipulation and lies are so hard to accept. It’s one thing to think an adult doing but another thing when it’s been your child against the two younger ones.

    • Jennifer

      I’m so sorry. I’ve often wondered if there is a genetic component to this type of behavior. It seems to me there is, but I’m not a professional so I’m not sure. I have a daughter who is somewhat like this. It’s hard to have a relationship with her, but it’s not as bad as it could be at this point. ((((hugs)))) You feel helpless as a parent when faced with these things.

      • Still in Shock

        Thank you. The most difficult was the fact that no one believed me when I started realizing what was “actually” on. I was told things like, “It’s just teenagers!” or “I need to not be a hovering parent because I raise my kids in a Christian home.” When I would share I was always made feel I was the problem or my standards. So much judgement. So many critical statements from those who “thought” they knew what was going on. It has been a very lonely time and if not for my personal relationship with The Lord I would have lost it. My younger kids are healing and doing much better now and finally because of numerous things my
        oldest is doing her fruit is beginning to show. Of course, it breaks my heart but God has given me a peace that I couldn’t have raised her any different or better than I did. I stand before Him with a clear conscience. But that doesn’t make this any easier. I cry. I feel angry and hurt and disappointed, deceived by my own flesh and blood and at times just don’t know who my enemy is. BUT GOD… Is not done. He had/has a purpose and I will continue to cling to Him as my rock!

      • Jennifer

        Amen! It sounds like He who began a good work in you is being faithful to complete it. 🙂

      • Leslee

        Jennifer – ahhh, I feel your pain. Years after my children were saved and baptized, my oldest son became a satanist. EWWW! I just kept praying. Now, at 21, he is not, but still is standing back from the Lord. I keep looking for signs of (hopefully not) hereditary narcissism. None of my children will go to church. But look at history and the great witnesses God raised. Many prodigal children come home. Our job as mothers is, simply, to pray.

  12. Leslee

    Oh, sorry, the note was for Still in Shock.

    • Jill

      Mine life-sucking N was a friend who lived in my home. Her rage, manipulation, constant degrading, lying and drama took its eventual toll on me not only emotionally but physically. Last September I was experiencing adrenal fatigue. By late November I couldn’t even bear to be in her presence. I was repulsed by her and her evil ways. Plus I was empty from the fight or flight of our three friendship. There was nothing left to give. She drained me but I was not so depleted that I could protect myself and tell her via email to leave my home. I’ve never had another human suck the literal life out of me. It’s otherworldly.

      • UnForsaken

        Jill, I feel it! It must be Wonderful to be away from her influence, to be able to Choose what to think and how to think about it! I also have adrenal fatigue and other health issues , partially as a result of the Ns in my life. There was a time when I was too drained to protect myself, so I’m Very glad to hear you have been able to bypass that. It will take a lot of space , but being at the point you can say it is “otherworldly” means you are well on your way to healing!

        Praying for you! 🙂

  13. Lori Keim

    I am so grateful God does not need me to supply Him with life or to make Him look good. God is not a narcissist.

  14. Susan McAllister

    Please keep these posts coming. I really have come to depend on the information and encouragement in my journey. God bless you as you have us,


    Sent from my iPhone


  15. Tammy Cook

    My brother and I grew up with an alcoholic father and both parents are narcissists.
    I think one of the things I am glad to see in your article above is that when you talk with counselors about narcissists, you suggest that if they see someone who appears drained of enthusiasm and energy, who has little normal ability to fend off the criticisms of others, they should look for a narcissistic relationship.
    Both my brother and I have been in and out of counseling over the years due to depression and never did any one put the pieces together for us. It was not until my niece, in taking her college courses came across narcissism and shared that with my brother and I. In time as we began to study this we were able to begin to put the pieces together. To begin to understand that we were not going crazy. But I think that if one of the many counselors we have seen over the years could have put the pieces together for us, just how much sooner we could have been set on the road to understanding and healing a whole lot sooner.
    As one who has dealt with this for over 50 years, and knowing first hand how this form of abuse robs the life, or we could say sucks the life out of the one being abused, please continue to encourage all counselors you speak with to not dismiss that this could be a possibility for someone’s depression.
    I am happy to say that with all most no contact with my parents I have been depression free for a little over 5 months now. 🙂 A record for me. I know that I have a long ways to go yet in this healing process, but so thankful that God has gotten me through all those years and that way off in the distance I see a little tiny light at the end of the tunnel. It may be small, but at least I can see it now. 🙂

  16. dombeckblog

    Not only did the life get sucked out of me, I felt utterly absorbed, like a “parasitic twin.”

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