Tag Archives: manipulative
Setting you up in a no win situation is one of many weapons in the narcissist’s arsenal. They put you in a situation where you can’t win so they have a reason to be angry with or hurt by you, or to make you do what they want.
In my late teens, my mother’s abuse was at its peak. She would scream at me so often, it was just a way of life for me then. She didn’t have any valid reason to scream at me, so she would often make up reasons or put me in a situation where I would be wrong no matter what. One example that comes to mind took place not long after I met my now ex husband. Upon seeing him for the first time, my mother hated him & told me to stay away from him. I liked him so I sneaked around behind her back at work & school to see him. (The rest of the time I was with my mother). He & I worked together, & often closed the place. I wasn’t allowed to have a car, so my mother took me to & from work & school. When my ex & I walked out from work together, my mother screamed at me as soon as I got into the car for spending time with him. When I walked out first on the next evening we worked together, she screamed at me again for him “hiding from her”, “not having the guts to face her, “& “being a coward”. Then on the next evening we shared a shift, he left first as I hung back. Then she screamed at me for him “being so cocky”, leaving work before me. There were only three ways to handle the situation & she got mad at every single one of them. She created the perfect no win situation. When I tried talking to her about it, she screamed at me for not knowing what she expected of me. It was devastating to me & made me feel crazy. It didn’t matter to her it hurt me though- as long as she felt better, that’s all that mattered. That’s how narcissists are- so long as they benefit, it doesn’t matter who they hurt or destroy.
Unfortunately, I’ve never found a really good way to deal with it. That’s why it’s called a “no win” situation, I suppose. All I have learned is not to engage in the behavior. Let the narcissist have the temper tantrum but you remain calm. Showing narcissists emotions only gives them supply so you refuse to do that! Do NOT apologize if you weren’t wrong. Change the topic. Leave the room or hang up the phone.
Always remember, this is NOT normal behavior! The person who puts another in a no win situation is not normal. There is something very wrong with that person, not you.
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 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!
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.
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 of the favorite tools of a narcissistic mother is to groom her child to believe the child is the problem. If the child wasn’t so difficult, the narcissistic mother wouldn’t have to “discipline her” (translation- abuse). The child is rebellious, ungrateful, or has mental problems. Communicating this message to the child ensures that she won’t question her narcissistic mother’s cruelty. She believes the abuse is all her fault. She also may try to please her narcissistic mother endlessly to make it up to her for being such a bad child.
Not only does the narcissistic mother communicate this message to her child, but to anyone else as well. This serves the narcissistic mother well, as people believe her, without question. The child is not believed by people who know her narcissistic mother, even as an adult, even by people who have known her for a long time.
Grooming her child & spreading her vile message to anyone who will listen, along with manipulating people pretty much guarantees the adult child of the narcissistic mother won’t be believed if she ever opts to reveal the dysfunction of her family.
This has happened to me. Most people I have discussed my relationship with my parents with who also know my parents don’t believe me. They think I’m exaggerating, things weren’t so bad, I’m oversensitive or I’m the problem with the relationship. I need to forgive & forget, just let it go- it’s in the past.
When this type of situation happens, it hurts & frustrates you badly. I have had moments where I wondered if the other person was right- was I really the problem? Were things as bad as I thought they were? These people were so adamant about what they believed, maybe they had a point, I thought. It took praying & remembering the horrible events of my past to realize that no, they weren’t right. I was not the problem, & I really was abused.
When evidence of your narcissistic mother’s grooming appears, you will know it immediately, as you will be invalidated & blamed while she is praised. Unfortunately, this will happen at some point. Who does it may surprise you, too. It won’t be only those friends & relatives of your narcissistic mother, but those who aren’t particularly close to her. Those you would think would be more objective. In my case, I have had two people who my mother hates & who hate her rush to my mother’s defense. One told me I was the one who needed to fix the relationship, & the other trivialized what I have been through, telling me I needed to get over it (never admitting “it” was abuse). Imagine my surprise when these two treated me this way!
You need to be very careful who you discuss your situation with. Even then though, sometimes this type of thing may happen anyway. When it does, all you can do is deal with the hurt & anger you feel & cling to the truth. Also, refuse to discuss this topic with that person again, even if they are the ones who bring it up.
Know that this may damage your relationship irreparably with that person. In my case, the love I had once felt for the two people I mentioned above died abruptly. Not that I wish them harm, of course. I just suddenly no longer felt warmly towards them. I’m quite sure that they feel the same towards me as well. One stopped speaking to me for several months after our discussion & was very cold the few times we’ve spoken since. The other became critical of anything & everything about me since. It’s amazing how devoted people can be to narcissists, even when they despise them!
If you have C-PTSD like I do, this can be an especially painful & frustrating experience. It triggers all kinds of awful feelings that you really don’t want to feel. Personally, I felt like I did as a teenager going through the worst of my mother’s abuse- alone, hopeless & like no one cared. It is vital to be especially good to yourself during times like this.
Good day, Dear Readers!
Over the last few years, I have reached the end of my tolerance for dealing with abusive, selfish, manipulative or narcissistic people. Having dealt with a couple of people like this recently, I thought I’d share some ways to recognize safe people vs. unsafe people. So many people who have survived some type of abuse often attract unsafe people, & have trouble recognizing safe people. I was that way too, but have learned the difference. I hope this post will help you to learn the difference!
Safe people respect your time- they don’t assume you are going to wait for them to call or show up at a certain place. Unsafe people, however, have no respect for your time or life.
Safe people ask, rather than make demands. Unsafe people are entitled, believing they deserve whatever they want or need, even at the expense of others.
Safe people do not jump to conclusions. For example, if you don’t answer the phone, they don’t call you back 15 times in a row. Safe people assume you are unavailable, & either wait for you to call them back or they call you back several hours later or the next day. Unsafe people call you back repeatedly, assume you didn’t answer the phone because you are mad at them, or try to make you feel guilty or get mad at you for not answering their call. That is a control tactic- forcing you to deal with them on their terms.
Safe people aren’t judgmental & critical. They don’t say things like, “well if I were you, I would-” or judge or criticize you for decisions you make, things you like, etc. Those are invalidating behaviors are cruel!
Safe people help & support you, rather than mock you or tell you how your problem affects them. This is a huge pet peeve of mine, as I have experienced this many times. The day my dog, Danya, died suddenly & unexpectedly, while my husband & I were trying to gather his body (he was over 100lbs- not easy to move him!) to take him to the vet’s for cremation, my mother called. I told her what happened & what we were doing. She went on & on about how upset she was over his death, not asking once how my husband, I or our pets were doing.
Safe people don’t expect you to be their “trash can.” What I mean is when a person dumps all of their problems on you, & expects you to listen to whatever they want to talk about while ignoring anything you have to say. That is being a trash can. Unsafe people do this trash can thing all of the time.
I hope this helps you to recognize the safe, good people in your life. Remember, you deserve to be surrounded by safe, loving, compassionate, empathetic people. You do NOT deserve to be abused & mistreated!