Tag Archives: manipulation
One passive/aggressive tactic narcissists use to abuse victims is to be sure they know they aren’t good enough.
A common way narcissists do this is to make sure you know that no matter how good you are at something, someone is better than you at it. Let’s say you own your own interior designing business & the narcissist knows this. Most people would be impressed by that. Narcissists are too, just not when it comes to YOUR business. They may say something like, “Did you know that Sally owns her own interior designing firm? She is so smart & talented! She works so hard! Never takes a day off!”
While the words aren’t said, the message is still clear: “Sally has real talent! You aren’t as hard working, talented or business savvy as she is! You aren’t worthy of my admiration like Sally is!”
Another variation on this is when a narcissist says, “Interior decorating is so easy. Seems like anyone can do it. Anyone can put up a sign saying they’re an interior designer these days. I can’t imagine why anyone would pay someone to do something so easy…” Again, the words may not be said but the message is crystal clear – “You’re nothing special. Any idiot can do what you do.”
A different tactic is used mostly by narcissistic spouses but also by parents. They never tell you how attractive you are & they know you’re insecure about your appearance, but they freely complement others. As an example, a narcissistic husband may fuss over a famous model’s beautiful figure to his pregnant wife who is about to give birth to their child, & who feels fat. Parents can do this too, though. My mother never told me I was pretty as a child. In fact she used to brag that once she told me she thought I was “kinda pretty”, even though I don’t remember that happening. Yet, when I was young, she’d fuss over how pretty other little girls were. When I would be upset, she’d tell me I was wrong & shouldn’t feel as I did.
There are some big bonuses for narcissists in treating victims this way. If you confront him or her, the narcissist knows their comment hurt you. If you’re angry, all the better for the narcissist, because the narcissist can use your anger to prove how unreasonable & crazy you are. They’ll say things like, “Don’t be so sensitive!” “I don’t know how you got that out of what I said!” “You read too much into things!” If you’re unaware of what is happening, you easily can feel like the narcissist is right. You’re crazy, oversensitive, etc. Believing those lies will make you feel shame & be easier for the narcissist to control. The narcissist may even use it as an excuse to discard you.
These tactics are attempts for narcissists to diminish anyone they envy, compete with or see as a threat in some way. They knock a person down a bit by making them feel unimportant, bringing them closer to the narcissists level which also builds up the narcissist.
If the narcissist in your life treats you this way, remember what they are doing. They’re using a passive/aggressive tactic to try to destroy your self esteem so they can control you. Chances are, they don’t even mean the cruel things they say. They’re actually envious of you for being prettier, more talented, more successful or whatever than they think they are. Rather than try to better themselves, narcissists would rather tear someone else down. So if the narcissist in your life treats you this way, don’t forget that. What they say isn’t what they truly feel. What they feel is the exact opposite.
Everyone who knows much about narcissistic abuse knows their tactics. Gaslighting, invalidation, scathing criticisms, baiting, projection… the list goes on & on. They also have other ways to abuse their victims that are so subtle, they are often overlooked because the narcissist isn’t doing anything.
Narcissists can instill blind terror into their victims with a look. I remember the look from my overtly narcissistic mother when I was growing up. I knew to stop whatever I was doing or saying right then or else the consequences would be terrible. Naturally, I obeyed, & didn’t have to face consequences after that look. My mother was hardly the only narcissistic parent to do this. Many use it.
There also is a variation on the look that covert narcissists prefer. The victim knows if they don’t do what the narcissist wants, they are going to be on the receiving end of a horrendous guilt trip. Since covert narcissists are naturally much more subtle than overt narcissists, they wouldn’t consider scaring their victim in the same way. Instead, they prefer to make their victim feel so guilty that they never repeat the behavior again.
Both overt & covert narcissists have yet another variation on “the look.” It’s the look that makes a victim feel like they are the most moronic, disgusting, pathetic creature in the world. My ex husband perfected this one. When we argued, I was always wrong, according to him. To drive his point home, he would look at me with a very smug look. He never said the words, but his facial expression told me he was convinced I was utterly pathetic, stupid & lucky he was willing to put up with such a disgusting creature as me who was clearly so far beneath him & his highly superior intelligence.
Another way narcissists can abuse without lifting a finger is known as triangulation. This is when a narcissist confides in another person about the victim. They usually lie to this person to make the victim look bad & to make the narcissist look like an innocent victim. When that third person believes the lies, they confront the real victim. They tell the victim that they need to apologize to the narcissist, stop doing whatever the narcissist said they were doing, or even resume the relationship with the narcissist after going no contact. The narcissist does nothing while this person abuses the victim on their behalf.
Clearly narcissists have abuse down to a science!
If you face any of these situations when dealing with a narcissist, chances are at some point you will think you’re reading too much into their actions. You may even think something is mentally wrong with you to think the narcissist meant anything more than simply to look at you or was talking to a friend about your troubled relationship. Please get such thoughts out of your mind immediately! You aren’t reading too much into anything! Every single thing narcissists say & do has a purpose. You are correct in assuming those looks mean what you think they mean, & that person telling you what you are doing wrong by the narcissist is being used by the narcissist.
When these things happen, the first step I suggest you do is ask God to guide you & give you wisdom & creative ideas for handling the situation. Also remind yourself that nothing narcissists do is innocent. Everything has a self-serving motive. These behaviors really have nothing to do with you. They’re about the narcissist gaining control over you. Don’t allow yourself to give into that control. And, as for the person used in triangulation? If you can’t remove this person from your life, at least refuse to discuss the narcissist with this person. You’ll save yourself a great deal of frustration!
One of the favorite tools of narcissists is saying something that may seem innocuous but in truth, it’s designed to cause hurt or anger. Years ago, my late mother in-law asked something me in front of my husband… “Is your car running ok?” Sounds innocent. Also, every time we went to her home, we were in my husband’s car so how was she to know if it was running or not? The truth was she hated my car. She told me many times I should get rid of it. Her “innocent” comment was one more way to say she thought my car was a piece of junk. Later, when I said something to my husband, he defended his mother. He never heard her tell me how she hated my car, & as I said, when we visited her, we took his car. He saw no evidence that what I said was true.
This is a very effective tactic! What narcissists say may sound helpful or nice, & may even have a victim believing that for a second, but it’s manipulation. It’s also said as it is to cause confusion, so when you confront the narcissist, they can deny any wrong doing. As an added bonus, narcissists like witnesses, so they can validate that the narcissist didn’t mean any harm & you’re wrong, as in the situation with my mother in-law. This provides the narcissist with their precious narcissistic supply. And, if you stay silent, this also provides the narcissist with supply, because they see they have control over you.
The coup de gras is when the narcissist can make you apologize for your valid feelings. Unfortunately this happens often, because such devious techniques can be very difficult to spot.
There are different ways narcissist use this technique. Some are listed below so you can learn to spot this manipulation as soon as it begins.
- Mentioning an ex frequently. Narcissists love to say “my ex is still in love with me”, that he or she called or they ran into each other somewhere. They also may mention good qualities about this ex. This is to make you jealous & insecure, by letting you know the narcissist has other, better options. If you say anything, the narcissist says you’re insecure, & have no need to worry. The reassurance doesn’t feel so reassuring, however.
- Narcissists like to flirt, but not necessarily with their partner. A narcissistic significant other has no trouble flirting with other people in front of their mate. When confronted, they say things like they’re just being friendly, you need to stop being so insecure & the flirting doesn’t mean anything since you are the one he or she comes home to. Again, the reassurance isn’t very reassuring!
- Narcissistic parents “brag” about their children to others. Narcissistic parents love to share stories about their children that make the parent look good. If they were able to fix something for their child or rescue them after doing something not very wise, those stories will be shared. When their child is upset, they tell their child they have nothing to be upset about because the parent was bragging about them. How can that possibly be upsetting?
- Being condescending. Narcissists believe themselves to be of superior intellect, so when their victim is in need of advice, they offer their so called wisdom freely. They mention they’re doing it to help or they have your best interest at heart, so your accusations offend them. You should be grateful they care enough to help you!
- Talking about things with other people in front of you that you know nothing about. If you & the narcissist are with other people, they may discuss stories that you know nothing about or have inside jokes. The narcissist wants you to feel left out. If you mention it, the narcissist says he or she knew you wouldn’t want to go which is why you were left out, or you’d be bored by the silly inside jokes. You then feel ashamed of yourself for your very valid feelings.
You can learn to recognize these subtle tactics with practice. When you do, remind yourself of what is happening, & act accordingly. Don’t show the narcissist that you’re hurt or angry. Pretend not to notice their manipulation. This will deprive them of narcissistic supply, & most likely they’ll stop using that tactic on you.
Narcissists love to hurt their victims. It gives them a feeling of power, control & superiority to be able to affect victims as profoundly as they do, so it’s no wonder they do it so often.
Narcissists have a vast collection of ways to cause their victims pain. Following is a list of some of their favorite methods used to accomplish this. Some of these methods are quite subtle, & may not even seem abusive at first, but they absolutely are.
If you want validation, count on the narcissist to withhold it from you. Narcissists won’t tell you that you did a good job or that you’re right about something. Withholding validation is a form of invalidation, & is done to let you know how unimportant everything about you is.
If something important is going on with you, whether it is good or bad, you can expect a narcissist to steal the spotlight somehow. They may invent a crisis or pick a fight with you. If something bad is happening to you, they may steal the spotlight by talking about how the event affects them. My ex husband & father did this constantly. I ended up comforting them rather than them comforting me.
If you need help with something, you can expect the narcissist to resist. Either he or she will disappear completely or will help but do things in a lazy, sloppy way. If this person does help you, the help most likely accompanied by a great deal of complaining or letting you know what a huge sacrifice he or she is making & how you should appreciate it.
If you’re sick or injured, you can count on a narcissist to disappear or act annoyed with your suffering. Since they lack empathy, they won’t care about how awful you feel. They most likely will trivialize your suffering on the off chance they acknowledge it. And, if the narcissist in question is your romantic partner, don’t think your illness or injury will have any affect on your sex life. You still will be expected to perform as normal, no matter the state of your health.
If you want sex from your narcissistic partner, you can count on the narcissistic partner to claim to be too tired. They must be in control in every area, & that includes your sex life. They also don’t care what their victims want in any area.
If you’re talking, chances of the narcissist interrupting you are excellent. It keeps the focus on them because a person who is interrupted naturally stops talking to let the interrupting person talk.
If you’re lonely, you can expect the narcissist suddenly to be too busy to spend time with you. The same goes if you need to talk to him or her about something. If you decide to spend time with someone else, the narcissist will become angry that you didn’t just wait to spend time with him or her. You will be called unreasonable, impossible to please or something similar.
If you want to drive somewhere when you & the narcissist go out together, count on your driving being criticized either actively or passively, no matter how safely you drive. Actively criticizing it is easy to spot. They tell you that you’re driving too fast, tailgating or other similar comments. Passive criticizing isn’t so easy to spot. It’s quieter & more covert, such as bracing themselves as you approach a red light or stop sign or cringing as you drive. I believe the passive criticism is even worse, because if you say something, the narcissist has plausible deniability. He or she can say things like, “I never complained about your driving!” “I never said you were speeding!” Before you know it, you easily can end up apologizing to the narcissist.
When you witness these behaviors from the narcissist in your life, remind yourself that they are abusive! You aren’t unreasonable or wrong or impossible to please. The narcissist is trying to hurt you. Don’t let that happen! Remind yourself what is happening so you aren’t hurt by their ridiculous & abusive behavior.
Narcissists love to manipulate & control their victims. One way they control their victims is to make them feel powerless, as if they have absolutely no control over any aspect of their own lives.
Feeling completely out of control & powerless is a horrible way to feel! It saps your joy & makes you feel utterly hopeless. Being depressed & hopeless may make you miserable, but it also will make a narcissist feel wonderful. This is because they have control over you & know you won’t do anything about it.
Don’t let the narcissist in your life get away with doing this to you! Take your power back! You can do this!!
As always, I recommend you start with prayer. God will be glad to give you whatever you need, be it insight, strength, courage or anything else. Let Him help you!! You need every advantage you can get where narcissists are concerned, so why not let God help you?
If you haven’t done it already, start learning about boundaries. You need to have very clear views on where you end & the narcissist begins, because one way narcissists remove a victim’s power is by blurring those boundaries. Victims often feel responsible for the narcissist in ways that they shouldn’t. As an example, narcissists make victims feel responsible for their feelings & actions. How many times has the narcissist in your life said something like, “You made me do that!” “I wouldn’t be so angry if you wouldn’t have said/done what you did!”? I would guess you can think of many examples. I certainly can.
As you learn about boundaries, you’ll need to learn some new & even creative ways to say no to the narcissist. Always remember, normal ways to set boundaries don’t work with narcissists, so avoid saying things like, “Please don’t do that.. it hurts me when you do that.” Admitting the narcissist’s behavior hurts you only provides narcissistic supply which means they’ll do that thing over & over again. Instead, say things like:
- I’m sorry. I have other plans.
- I can’t do that.
- I can’t make it that day.
- I’ll consider what you suggested.
- That isn’t going to happen.
- I’m not interested.
- Thank you, but no.
- No (without any explanation, simply saying the word).
There are also other things you can do to help yourself to regain some control. Start small. Organize your purse, a desk drawer, your car’s glove compartment. Work up from there onto something larger, maybe get rid of some clothes you no longer like even though the narcissist likes them. You also could paint a room or replace a piece of furniture. Keep taking back your power, little by little. The more you do it, the easier it becomes & the less you’re willing to settle for someone taking away your power.
Naturally as you do these things, the narcissist is NOT going to be happy about it. Most likely, the narcissist will realize that a rage will make him or her look bad, so that won’t happen. Instead, probably there will be passive/aggressive behaviors such as giving the silent treatment. Invalidation is also common. The narcissist may act as if there is something wrong with you for liking whatever it is you did that took back some of your power. Criticism certainly is going to happen. The narcissist will let you know that whatever you did was wrong, stupid, a waste of time & anything else negative they can think to say.
When the narcissist acts this way, always remember that it says more about the narcissist than you. Normal, functional people encourage others to be independent & have good boundaries. They also aren’t threatened by such things. Only unsafe & even narcissistic people are threatened by such normal, healthy, behaviors.
Dear Reader, you can do this! You can take back your power!
One of the most infuriating things I dealt with at the hands of my narcissistic mother when her abuse was at its worst was when she’d say, “My sources say you were seen doing *fill in the blank* today.” Or, “I was told that you did *fill in the blank*.” I would ask her who said these things & she would tell me it wasn’t my business, it didn’t matter or it wasn’t important.
It made me feel so paranoid, angry & even betrayed. Paranoid because I wondered who would tell my mother these things that I hadn’t even done. Angry that someone would tell her things I hadn’t done & she would believe I was capable of such things. Betrayed because clearly this person knew me.. what if this was a close friend of mine? My friends at the time knew about much of the abuse… how could any of them lie to my abuser knowing what happened when she was angry with me?!
Thankfully my mother stopped this after I moved out. I honestly thought I was over it, too. That is, until the spring of 2009, when one of my cousins & I had a falling out. She had invited my husband & I for Christmas a couple of months prior, & I declined. Apparently some time after, she learned that we took my parents to visit my father’s sister about a couple of weeks before Christmas & assumed that meant I spent Christmas with our aunt. I explained that wasn’t the case at all, I wouldn’t do that to her. Her response? “Why are you lying to me? My sources told me you spent Christmas with her.” That was a big trigger for me. All the old anger I’d felt at my mother came flooding back to the surface. Apparently I wasn’t over it, & with good reason.
So many narcissists use this type of manipulation. They accuse their victims of outrageous behavior, & say “my sources said you did it” or, “I was told you were seen doing that.” When you try to find out who their mysterious sources are, they say it doesn’t matter, it’s not your business or you don’t need to know. If you’ve been in this position, you know just how infuriating it is. It’s bad enough being accused of something awful you didn’t do, but not to know who is saying you’ve done this makes it even worse.
You know something though? The reason they refuse to divulge their “source” is because that person doesn’t even exist! The accusations came from the narcissist’s warped mind, not another person. The reason the narcissist is saying they were told you did this thing is to make you insecure, to make you think others are talking about you & ultimately to gain control over you. It can make you feel as if everyone is against you, & no one would believe you if you tell the truth about the abuse. I certainly felt that way with my mother. It makes you lose hope & afraid of disappointing people close to you. If the narcissist is especially good at this, you may come to believe that you did what the narcissist said you did. This makes you easy for the narcissist to control.
If you end up in this position with a narcissist, remember what they are doing. They don’t have “sources”. They are simply making up lies in order to gain control over you. Don’t get caught up in defending yourself to them, because they’ll only use that to prove how mentally unbalanced you are. And question everything they say. Even say something like, “Really? What did I do then?! I want to know!” If a narcissist wants to act so foolish, then they deserve to be called out on their behavior & to know you know they’re lying.
I love memes. In fact, I saved many over the years. Some inspire me with quoting Scripture. Others inspire because of the beautiful pictures. And then there are ones like this one that was popular on Facebook for a while. It said, “It is very sad when members of the same family do not talk to each other. The children suffer for the adult ego. Cousins miss the wonderful opportunity to be together, & all due to a bruised adult ego. Stop getting offended. Reunite with your family members. One day your imaginary conflict will all come to an end…with or without you. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Type yes if you agree.”
That one about made me gag.
I will admit, there are families where someone is being a petty jerk & not speaking to other family members. It does happen, but I don’t believe it’s all that common.
What is much more common is when someone in a family is abusive, & their victim gets fed up. They sever ties with that abuser to protect themselves & sometimes also their spouse & children. The abuser & their devoted flying monkeys harass the victim, drag their name through the mud & blindly support the abuser. Meanwhile the victim is left behind in a state of shock & deeply hurt by the betrayal of not only the abuser but the family members who once said they loved the victim. I guess that truth doesn’t make such a “nice”, wholesome sounding meme though, does it?
If I sound angry about this, it’s because I am. Not only for myself since I have been in this position but for the countless others who have been as well.
It’s not right to abuse someone in the first place. There is no reason to abuse anyone. The only thing that makes this even worse is when people know about the abuse, but treat the abuser with kindness & the victim with disdain. Treating someone who has the courage to open up about being abused is one of the cruelest things a person can do to another in my opinion. It takes a lot of courage to go against the abuser’s wishes in any way, especially their desire to keep their acts secret, because once it’s out, you can’t take it back. To treat someone in this position as if they’re lying, making a big deal about nothing, acting like a spoiled brat, trivialize their feelings or experiences or claim they want to hear nothing about it is absolutely disgraceful & disgusting. Anyone who does this should be utterly ashamed of their actions, but sadly that is rare.
People who act this way are people who are fans of the meme I mentioned at the beginning of this post. Those people obviously have issues. Since I’m related to many of that type of person & have seen their sick behavior first hand, I think I can say that without any doubt. Thanks to these people, I have learned a few things about this kind of person.
People who treat victims as they do often have abuse in their past. They don’t have the guts to face that fact, so they deny it. They put on a fake happy face & tell stories of their happy family. Their denial runs deep so they don’t have to face the pain. Any perceived threat to it & they attack. This includes silencing other victims who are willing to speak out, even when those victims are their own family.
There are others who know the narcissist & refuse to believe the truth. They believe the “nice guy/girl” act & will also attack any threat to their denial of the truth.
People like this are just as toxic as the narcissist who abused you in the first place. And sadly, they’re out there creating memes like this & hurting & manipulating God only knows how many people who see it. It’s utterly disgusting! You really can’t believe everything you read, because sometimes it’s nothing more than garbage written by toxic people.
Narcissists clearly are experts in the area of controlling. One lesser known tactic they use is called coercive control. It is most commonly known to happen in romantic relationships, but it also can happen in parent/child relationships.
Coercive control doesn’t always involve physical violence, yet victims wonder if they don’t obey the narcissist, will it turn violent one day? Fear is a great weapon, & those who use coercive control are well aware of that fact. Often without so much as touching their victim, they instill a deep fear in them.
There are other signs of coercive control that people need to be aware of abusers using.
Intimidation is a big red flag. Towards the end of my first marriage, my ex was trying to intimidate me by punching things other than me. After, he would tell me how lucky I was he was hitting the walls instead of me. Other forms of intimidation can include showing weapons, blocking you from leaving the room or standing over you in a way as to make themselves look much bigger than you.
“Minor” violent acts. I hate to use the word minor with violent acts because it sounds like it’s trivializing violence. That isn’t my intention. What I mean is acts like pushing, holding you in place or even pinching hard. These are so called minor violent acts.
Using threats to control. Threatening to leave you, to commit suicide or hurt your child or pet in order to get what they want fall into the category of coercive control.
Micromanaging a victim. When someone controls things like how you dress or how you wash the dishes, it makes you easy to control because in time, you feel as if you must ask your partner for permission to do everything. Some parents continue treating their adult child as if they were young children in need of their guidance well into adulthood. This is known as infantilization.
Financial abuse. An abusive partner will keep their mate in the relationship by destroying their credit, spending all of their paychecks or refusing them all access to the couple’s finances.
Isolation is another form of coercive control. It’s no secret that abusers isolate their victims. Isolation makes victims easy to control by limiting the information & support they can receive from outside sources. Abusers may claim their victims’ friends or family aren’t good for them as one way to isolate their victims.
Sex is a very commonly used method of coercive control. Abusers may violently rape their victims of course, but that isn’t always the case. Many use shame, saying things like, “Any other woman in the world would do this one little thing for me…” or, “If you loved me, you would do this for me.” They also may be very good lovers at first to get you hooked on sex with them, then in time, they suddenly lose interest in having sex with you. When you practically beg them is when they have power over you. They use the opportunity to tell you what they want from you that will make them regain interest in sex.
When things like this happen, it’s not easy to identify these behaviors as abusive at first. Abusers get worse gradually, to build a victim’s tolerance to abuse. This is probably why so many victims stay… it happened so gradually, they didn’t even realize it was happening. By the time they did, they felt unable to escape.
If this describes you or someone you know, please get out NOW!!! These behaviors are all signs of a potentially violent person! Protect yourself & stay safe! xoxo
Shame is a powerful weapon in the hands of an abuser. It can cause a person to rely on their abuser for pretty much any information & make them easy to control by causing them to think they need someone smarter to tell them what to do. Narcissists know this, & they have fine tuned many very effective ways to use shame to abuse their victims.
Narcissists will destroy a person’s self esteem in order to create toxic shame in a victim. They point out a person’s flaws (real or imagined) constantly & tell embarrassing stories about them. This keeps a victim on their toes, trying to be better, to please the narcissist, & to avoid doing embarrassing things that the narcissist will use to embarrass the victim with at any given time.
Narcissists also will invalidate a victim. If they tell an embarrassing story, for example, & the victim becomes rightly upset, the narcissist will say things like, “I was just joking.” “You can’t even take a joke!” My narcissistic mother did this one constantly, & when I got upset, would tell me, “There’s something wrong with you. You shouldn’t feel that way! That was funny!”
Narcissists also love to reinvent the past. They claim to be responsible for their victim’s successes, claim the successes weren’t all that great or even deny they happened. Regarding their abuse, they will claim the abuse never happened or if it did, it wasn’t as bad as the victim claims or the victim made the narcissist do it.
Narcissists will twist a situation around to make themselves look like the victim rather than the abuser. They do this in two ways. They will tell others about how angry their victim is, how he or she yells at them, while leaving out the things they did that got the victim to that state. They also will use a victim’s own valid reactions to their abuse to prove to the victim that the victim is abusive &/or is mentally unstable.
Narcissists never speak to their victims as if the victim is their equal. Sometimes they will talk down to their victim, in particular if the victim in question is their child. They want to maintain that adult/child relationship in order to make their child feel inferior to them, therefore making them easier to control.
Other narcissists will talk in circles, use big words, speak with authority & basically try to talk above their victim, which makes even the most intelligent victim feel stupid. They may change their body language or physical position so they literally can look down at their victim.
If the narcissist’s victim has any sort of religious faith, the narcissist will not hesitate to use their beliefs to shame the victim. Many tell their victims things like they are going to hell because of how they treat the narcissist, or they aren’t honoring their parent. They let their victims know they are a total failure in every way, including their religious beliefs.
Narcissists view everything as a competition, & they will use comparisons to shame their victims. If a narcissist & their victim have something in common, you can guarantee the narcissist will make sure the victim knows the narcissist does it better or has a better one or is more successful at it. Whatever “it” is, the narcissist is the master, the victim the failure, according to the narcissist.
When a narcissist behaves in these ways towards you, keep in mind what is really happening! You have no reason to be ashamed of yourself, no matter what the narcissist is saying. He or she is only trying to make you feel that way in order to abuse & manipulate you. Like everything when it comes to narcissists, it’s all about the narcissist, & has nothing to do with you. Never forget that!
One very popular weapon in the narcissistic arsenal is guilt. Covert narcissists in particular are very fond of using guilt as a means of control. It’s understandable it’s such a common weapon considering how very effective guilt can be. It also is unfair & even cruel.
So how can you cope when your narcissistic parent uses guilt trips?
First, pray. Ask God for wisdom & discernment so you understand when guilt is being used on you & ways to cope with it.
You also need to recognize what is a guilt trip & what isn’t. You need to know when someone is saying something to manipulate you or to help you to change & improve yourself. Statements like, “It hurt my feelings when you said/did….” can help you. Statements that simply make you feel guilty like, “After all I’ve done for you, this is how you repay me?” however aren’t to help you, but to control you.
You also need to be aware of the fact narcissistic supply is at the root of every single thing a narcissist does. Guilt trips are a part of that. Being able to control someone via guilt provides supply as does seeing that person upset about the guilt. The more you allow the guilt trips to work on you, the more the narcissist will use them on you. The best thing you can do is to pretend not to notice the guilt at all when you’re in the narcissist’s presence. Later, when away from her, vent to your heart’s content of course, but when in her presence or even on the phone with her, pretend you didn’t notice a thing. If she realizes guilt trips don’t work on you, she’ll stop using them since she sees they aren’t effective.
Don’t justify yourself or your actions. If you do, you’re only making yourself look guilty, which could mean the narcissist will get meaner. Probably my most successful interaction with my late covert narcissist mother in-law involved guilt from her. She wanted me to do something for her one day but I had plans. Granted, I could’ve changed them, but I didn’t want to. Not for someone who hated me & treated me so poorly. She kept trying to find out what my plans were. She said things like, “You sure must have something important to do if you won’t do this for me.” “I guess you’re doing something for your parents since you won’t help me…” Rather than explain my plans (which weren’t her business!), I ignored her. Since I didn’t tell her, she got mad, but couldn’t be mad at me without looking foolish in front of her husband & mine. By not justifying my actions, I protected my privacy, avoided more nastiness from her & she never tried to guilt trip me again. In fact, I found the entire thing funny because her behavior was so ridiculous. Much better to laugh than to be angry or hurt!
Remember, if you have done something wrong, you should feel some guilt since it will help you to improve your behavior. However, if you haven’t done anything wrong, then do NOT allow the guilt trip to work on you.
Narcissists will use anything at their disposal to abuse & control their victims, & that even includes cars.
If a victim has hurt a narcissist somehow or even simply set boundaries with the narcissist, the narcissist may drive like a maniac in an attempt to scare the victim. After I broke off the engagement with my now ex husband, we went somewhere together & he was driving very erratically. It terrified me & I asked him to stop it. He said it was my fault he drove that way, because after I broke up with him, he didn’t care if he lived or died.
Cars are also an excellent place for a narcissist to have complete control over their victims. The victim has no means of escaping the narcissist’s car, so there is no choice but to tolerate whatever is done in that car. In my late teens when my mother’s abuse was at its worst, she refused to let me get my license & a car. Naturally, this meant she took me to & from school & work. Each ride was sheer hell for me because she screamed & raged at me the entire ride. I had no way of escaping either since I needed to get to my destinations, so there was no choice but to tolerate it.
Narcissists also often want to be the driver because this means their victim/passenger only can go where the narcissist wants to go & on her time schedule, not the victim’s. If they want to go somewhere with their victim, they will tell the victim what time they will pick him or her up, or tell the victim to come to the narcissist’s home so the narcissist can drive them to their destination. It’s all about control, & all victims know, narcissists love to have control over their victim in every possible way.
There are also some narcissists who don’t drive. This is most prevalent with covert narcissists rather than overt. They may play the naive & innocent role, claiming it is just too hard to drive. Since overt narcissists usually avoid appearing in a way that can look weak somehow, they usually drive. Again, this is all about control. If a narcissist can’t or won’t drive, this forces the narcissist’s victims to take care of her by either taking her places or doing things for her.
I’m certainly not saying that everyone who is a bad driver, who prefers to be the one driving or doesn’t drive is a narcissist, of course. Some people are simply more daring behind the wheel than others. There are also many people who develop serious anxiety behind the wheel, & they realize they shouldn’t be behind the wheel. There are others who love driving or who feel safest when they are driving. These people obviously aren’t narcissists, & you can tell they aren’t narcissists by their behavior. The daring driver is daring all of the time, not only after someone has upset him somehow. The anxious person asks for rides &/or offers gas money rather than expects others to help. The person who prefers being the driver never gets upset when someone says they want to drive or meet them somewhere.
If you have recently met someone, & think the person may be a narcissist, this is one way to help you to figure it out. Watch how the person is when it comes to driving.
Some covert narcissists are what I think of as the consummate victim. They are the ones who are always wronged, always the victim, & never at fault for anything. Some examples of their behavior are as follows.
The narcissist says something cruel. You get angry, & rightfully so. She claims she never meant to hurt your feelings. She was just trying to help & had no idea what she said would upset you. She then stops speaking to you for weeks, even if you apologized.
The narcissist tries to manipulate you into doing something you don’t want to do. Naturally, you refuse to do it. She claims you don’t love her. How could you refuse to do this one little thing for her, especially after all she’s done for you?!
The narcissist is your elderly parent who expects you to come at their beck & call. You tell your parent you only are available one day a week to do what she needs. She tells your family how you refused to help her, & they attack you for being a bad daughter, ungrateful, a spoiled brat & more.
Narcissists who claim life is so unfair to them or that they are mistreated when people confront them on their abusive behavior are also consummate victims. There are also those who blame their victims for their abusive behavior. They are also consummate victims, as are those who complain about their problems, yet refuse to do something to change the situation.
Dealing with these people is incredibly frustrating, I know. My late father & late mother in-law were both covert narcissists & consummate victims. I repeatedly asked my father not to call after 9 at night. When I refused to take his call when he called at 10 one evening, he called my in-laws & a cousin who lives almost 500 miles away. He told both he was so concerned about me for not answering the phone, & asked them to have me call him immediately. Another time, I was angry with my mother in-law because she had snooped through my purse yet again. She asked my husband why I was angry, & he told her. I overheard the conversation. She claimed not to know what she did would be upsetting to me.
Both situations were similar. As a result of my father’s & mother in-law’s actions, my husband & I got into an argument about his mother & my cousin & I argued about my father. Being the typical consummate victims, their obnoxious behavior caused problems for the real victim while making themselves look good.
There are some things that you can do that can help you if you must deal with this behavior in covert narcissists.
Always rely on God to help you in this situation. He will be glad to help you discern the truth & strengthen you to do whatever you need to do!
Remember the type of person that you’re dealing with. No matter what you do, this person will twist the situation around to make you look bad & them look like the innocent victim of your cruelty. Expect nothing else because this person has no desire to behave any other way.
Also remember that there is nothing wrong with you setting boundaries or confronting this person on their abusive behavior. Both of those are good things to do. They are healthy & show you have self respect.
Consummate victims are very skilled at recruiting flying monkeys. When you set those boundaries or confront the narcissist about her behavior, no matter how gently & reasonably you do so, it’s a safe bet someone will tell you how cruel, unreasonable, wrong, etc. you are. When this happens, ignore whatever these flying monkeys have to say. They don’t know the truth, only what the narcissist has told them. Also, it’s best to refuse to discuss the narcissist with them.
Lastly, it’s also important to remember that consummate victims may project their status on their real victims. It can be easy to believe their lies since narcissists are talented actors who give very convincing performances. To avoid believing their lies, remember that you are NOT a consummate victim if you are angry about being abused, setting healthy boundaries or refusing to be manipulated.
If you are faced with a covert narcissist who portrays herself as a consummate victim, you can cope. You have the knowledge & strength to handle this ugly situation.
Narcissists love to have power over their victims. To hurt someone either mentally, physically or sexually gives them a feeling of power. Possibly the only thing that makes narcissists feel even more powerful is watching their victim suck up to them.
When a victim is genuinely repentant & will do anything to make it up to their abuser, this is a huge power trip for the narcissist. They know they can make that victim do anything at this point. There also is the added bonus of the victim accepting responsibility for whatever the narcissist did. This means the narcissist doesn’t have to take any blame at all. (Not that they would anyway, but at least in this situation, they don’t have to work to pawn that blame off on someone else).
Narcissists are incredibly good at manipulation & gaslighting- making a person doubt their own thoughts, feelings, perceptions & even sanity. Because of this, it’s no wonder many victims in the midst of narcissistic abuse continually apologize & suck up to their abuser. I certainly have done my fair share of it before learning about narcissism. (If you have too, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. I doubt there is one victim of narcissistic abuse that hasn’t apologized to their abuser at least a couple of times.)
If you’re still in a relationship with a narcissist, I’m sure you’re faced with the scenario at least periodically, where the narcissist is angry with you & demands that you apologize. Or maybe she prefers suddenly to stop speaking to you, with no explanation whatsoever, in an attempt to make you rush to her side, begging for her to speak to you again.
Having been there, I learned something. Don’t do it!!!
If you have done something wrong, then by all means, apologize. It’s just the right, mature thing to do. Say you’re sorry, make things right if you can, & move on.
If you haven’t done something wrong, then do NOT apologize! If you do it once, the narcissist will demand you do it again & again. She will use you & wear you down to get you to make it up to her for whatever horrible thing you supposedly did.
If a person can’t behave like a mature adult by trying to work out a problem, then don’t treat them as if they are one. Let that narcissist pout like the bratty child she’s acting like while you ignore her ridiculous display. If she’s trying to make you feel guilty, pretend not to notice. If she hints for an apology, also pretend not to notice. Learn to enjoy the silent treatment if you’re on the receiving end of it. It’s a reprieve from unnecessary drama- why not enjoy it?
Stop trying to make it up to a narcissist who isn’t telling you what you’ve done wrong or who blames you for them abusing you! It only provides them with narcissistic supply, & the more you provide, the more they will demand from you.
Making it up to someone you have hurt is one thing. It should be a normal thing for a person to do as well as the one hurt to expect. However, when someone constantly expects another person to make it up to them without trying to talk things out, or because they abused their victim, something is very, very wrong with this situation.
Since my last post was about red flags in those who write about narcissism, I thought I’d make today’s post about fellow survivors.
Most people who have survived narcissistic abuse are good people who are trying hard to recover. Naturally they have issues, but at least they’re working on them & working on getting healthier. They also are willing to share what they learn to help others in similar situations, & do so without any arrogance. They’re also open to input from other people, because they realize they don’t know it all- there is always more to learn on this topic.
Not every victim is this way, however. Some turn abusive.
I don’t know why some victims try to heal & why some become abusive but it does happen sometimes. If you’re going to interact with other victims through online support groups, reading blogs or on social media, you need to be aware of some red flags.
The biggest red flag to watch out for is narcissism. Many of you know the signs already so I won’t repeat them here. I’ll just share a link to the page on my website where I wrote about it if you care to check it out: http://cynthiabaileyrug.com/Narcissistic-Personality-Disorder.php
There are other red flags, too. If a person gives advice too freely, for example. While most victims want to help others, they also realize how rude it is to give unasked for advice. They also realize sometimes a person just needs to speak things out loud to help them work through a situation, & that doesn’t mean they’re looking for advice.
If a person is bossy or demanding with their advice, that’s another red flag. Most people realize that all people are individuals. What worked for them may not work for another. They realize it’s not a good idea to try to force someone to follow their advice & let the other person decide for themselves whether or not to follow it.
Your average victim of narcissistic abuse also isn’t judgmental or critical. They know all too well what it feels like to be judged & criticized so harshly, so they don’t inflict that on anyone else. Some victims turned abusers, however, can be extremely judgmental & critical.
Some victims also become very arrogant. They seem to think because they found success in doing something that helped them, that everyone should follow in their footsteps & if they don’t, they’re foolish.
These same people are also usually the first ones to shame people who, “don’t just go no contact.” They make it clear they don’t believe there is any reason not to go no contact, & they offer no compassion to anyone who wants to but it unable to or is trying to find another option.
Abusive victims also make excuses. If they are short with someone, it’s always for a reason like they’re having a bad da, as one example. They don’t apologize or accept responsibility for the hurtful things they do.
And, if you call a person like this out on their actions, they WILL be furious. They may offer a non apology. They may offer lame excuses for their behavior. They also may get mad at you. That in particular is a big red flag, because most victims of narcissistic abuse apologize easily & often. They don’t get mad when called out on their bad behavior. They usually get mad only when someone is accusing them of something they didn’t do.
One other red flag is a smear campaign. This is very common on social media. If someone feels the online support group they participated in wasn’t a good environment for example, social media is an easy way to let the world know how you feel about it. That is pretty normal behavior, I think, but if a person posts about that group in a way that really trashes it, that is a red flag.
The last red flag is stalking or harassing another person online. With your average victim of narcissistic abuse, they may have a dispute with someone then either stop speaking with them or even block them entirely. A victim who is also abusive however, may harass or stalk someone who disagreed with them. They may leave nasty comments on their page or join groups the other person is in & harass them in the group. This nonsense can go on for a very long time, especially with narcissists.
The best advice I can give in these situations is the Gray Rock method. Don’t react to their outrageous behavior or show them that what they do bothers you. Remain calm & ignore their behavior. Don’t defend yourself to their smear campaigns. Instead, simply block them wherever you can. Most people like this will get bored easily & leave you alone at this point. Narcissists may not be so simple to get rid of however. They may bother you for a long time. Never, ever respond to them- instead keep blocking them & their flying monkeys.
Narcissists love using shame as a weapon. Not only does it make them feel superior, but it takes attention off of their bad behavior while simultaneously discrediting their victim. It also makes a victim easy to control. Shame is a very effective weapon.
There are various ways narcissists use shame.
Narcissists reinvent the past. They tell stories differently than they actually happened. They either claim to be the reason someone succeeded or twist the story so the other person looks stupid, like a failure, etc. Since narcissists speak with such certainty, this can make a victim doubt their own memories & feel ashamed for something they didn’t even do.
They tell embarrassing stories about their victim. Narcissistic parents in particular seem to love this one. They tell stories that the victim would rather people don’t know about. My mother used this one with me, telling stories (usually in front of other people) of when I was a child & did stupid things. When I said I didn’t want her discussing these stories, she would shame me for how I felt, saying I was wrong & shouldn’t feel the way I did. It took a long time to realize that I wasn’t wrong- my feelings were just & this was nothing but an attempt on her part to make me feel shame.
Playing the role of victim. No matter what a narcissist does to a victim, they have the amazing ability to spin the situation in their favor, so they look like the victim, & the real victim is abusive. This can create shame in a victim very easily unless the victim is well aware of this game.
Religion can become a weapon. No true narcissist can be a Christian at the same time. Narcissism is diametrically opposed to the beliefs of Christianity. However, that doesn’t mean a narcissist won’t use Christianity to shame victims. Growing up, my mother told me I was going to hell for how badly I treated her. Later in life, a flying monkey said I was a bad Christian for treating my parents as I do & claiming to be a Christian. Thankfully, I also have a good enough relationship with God to know what they said was utter nonsense. If I didn’t, that comment would have caused a great deal of hurt & doubting my salvation!
“I was only joking!” “You’re too sensitive!” Nasty comments said to a victim followed by, “I was just kidding!” “Can’t you take a joke?” “You’re so sensitive!” & the like are also designed to make a victim feel ashamed for being righteously angry that they were offended by the narcissist’s cruel words. The goal is to make you feel ashamed of yourself for not realizing the narcissist was only kidding (which they weren’t) or being so sensitive you were offended by their “joke.” Don’t fall for it. You aren’t wrong!
Comparisons. If you & the narcissist have done similar things, you can guarantee the narcissist has done it better, at least if you listen to her side of the story. Everything with narcissists is a pissing contest (sorry to be crude- that’s the best term I know of to describe this situation). If you found a cure for cancer, they found it first, but didn’t want to brag like you’re doing! See what I mean? If they can make you feel badly for not being as good or as talented as them, that sows a seed for shame in you.
Talking down to others. Even a narcissist that isn’t overly intelligent can make a very intelligent victim feel stupid, & ashamed of being so stupid. Narcissists love to talk in circles & use big words (often that they don’t know the proper definition of & not in context). If you leave a conversation with a narcissist & your head is swimming, it’s not because you’re stupid. It’s because narcissists are masters of talking in circles, which is also known as word salad.
Acting as if the narcissist is the adult, the victim the child. This is very common among narcissistic parents. They’re all about keeping their children, children, no matter their child’s age. A person who thinks they’re immature & not wise like the narcissist is very easy to control. Narcissistic parents may continue using a tone of voice that intimidated their children when they were growing up well into that child’s adulthood. They may call victims immature or mock them with phrases like, “You’re such a baby/child!” “You’re so immature!” “You need to grow up!”
Remember this post if you’re faced with these behaviors. You do NOT need to feel shame! No one should put that on you, but narcissists will try to. If they do, never accept it. Ask God to tell you the truth. Also, look at your situation objectively & you will realize the truth. Write about it in a journal, too, since writing often gives a great deal of clarity that speaking can’t. You can deal with this unhealthy behavior in a healthy way!
One especially devious, creative ways narcissists abuse their victims is cementing facts in their brains. What I mean is, a narcissist can imply something once, then reinforce what they said by their actions instead of words. The result is you feel a certain way, & if you say anything to the narcissist, they will say they don’t know what you’re talking about or deny that they ever said anything in the first place.
As one example from my life, I have a terrible time admitting when I don’t feel well, taking time to recover or asking for help. I feel like I need to be OK at all times so I don’t upset anyone or burden anyone by asking them for help. I even question myself, wondering if I really have whatever problem I am dealing with at the time, even when my symptoms are glaringly obvious.
Do you have some false belief cemented in your mind too? If so, you’re not alone! This sort of thing happens all the time to children of narcissistic parents. There are some ways to cope.
As always, I recommend praying as the first step. Ask God for wisdom, to help you heal & anything else you can think of.
When it comes to healing, I firmly believe in getting to the root of the problem. It’s the most effective way to resolve the problem permanently. To do this, try to remember the earliest time in your life when you felt a certain way, & then deal with it from there. To explain it, I’ll tell you what I did.
When considering how hard a time I’ve had admitting I have health problems, I thought back over my life, present to past, during times I was sick or injured. I remembered many, many times when my mother didn’t believe I had a health problem unless it was something very obvious, like a bad case of the flu. As a child, she complained when she had to take care of me when I was sick. When I was only 5 years old, my mother woke me up one morning by tickling me. In trying to get away from her, I slipped & hit my head on the big wooden headboard. Long story short, the result was a trip to the ER & several stitches in my scalp. Afterward, my mother took me to the mall & bought me a coloring book & crayons, something she complained about buying for years. During the experience, my mother didn’t comfort me. She was upset & I felt completely responsible for that.
These experiences taught me that I shouldn’t burden anyone with my health concerns, I should be “ok” at all times so as not to upset anyone & my problems aren’t important.
To undo this warped thinking, I found it very helpful to look at things very logically, ignoring feelings for the moment. Here are some things I came up with:
- Why did my mother take me to the mall after a trip to the hospital?! I had a head injury! I should’ve been home, resting quietly. She could’ve called my father & asked him to pick up the coloring book & crayons on his way home from work, or asked a friend or neighbor to do it.
- My mother should never have complained to me about how hard that incident was for her or having to take care of me when I was sick. That is what parents do. It’s a part of the job.
- Why has my mother not believed me or blamed me about health issues as an adult? Since narcissists love projection, it makes me think it’s because she has either exaggerated or even faked her own health problems & thinks other people do the same
I can’t honestly say that I’m 100% ok now. I can say though, that since thinking about these things, I’ve already gotten better at admitting when I don’t feel well. I haven’t needed to ask anyone for help yet, but I am certain that will be easier too. It seems to me that when you face things, they lose much of their power over you. When you examine them & realize how wrong they were, they lose even more power.
What false beliefs are cemented in your mind? I would like to encourage you today to face them. No, it isn’t easy, but it is possible. The things I mentioned earlier did hurt me when I first thought about them, & made me angry. However, I’m still glad I did because that enabled me to remove the false beliefs I’ve carried around my entire life & replace them with healthier beliefs. I firmly believe the same thing can happen to you!
When people tell you you’re stupid, crazy, ugly, etc., there is a reason for it, & it isn’t what you think.
A person saying such things to you doesn’t necessarily believe that you are those things. In fact, most likely they don’t believe it at all. Quite the contrary, they think you are intelligent, attractive, etc.
So why would a person say such awful things to another when they don’t believe them to be true? There are two very distinct possibilities.
Control. A person with low self-esteem is much easier to control than someone with healthy self-esteem. The more a person is beaten down, thinking they are stupid, worthless & other awful things, the easier that person is to control because they assume the controlling person knows best. Also, a person with low self-esteem will work as hard as they can to get love & approval. This works nicely for the controller because she can get anything she wants from the victim.
Projection. Narcissists love to project their flaws onto others. If the narcissist is a liar, she will accuse you of lying. Overeats? She’ll call you a glutton, pig or fat. By doing this projection thing, it allows the narcissist to be angry about the flaw while not accepting that they have it. It is just one in their arsenal of horrible coping skills.
The next time someone says terrible things about you, take notice. There is a very good reason for it, & chances are that it isn’t that they are offering you constructive criticisms in order to help improve you.