Hoovering

Hoovering

When you end a toxic relationship with a narcissist, you might think that it’s over – but very often, the narcissist has other ideas. in fact, more often than not, the narcissist will do something to suck you back into their drama – or even fully back into the relationship – using a technique called hoovering.

What is hoovering?

Hoovering, named after the famous vacuum cleaner company, is what we call it when the narcissist tries to “suck you back in” after you’ve left them or ended the relationship, or after they have discarded you. They may use some kind of personal problem or dramatic issue to pull you back in, or they may use love-bombing. Hoovering is always an attempt to obtain more narcissistic supply from you, and in many cases, it can be an attempt to reconcile the relationship. It can also just be a manipulation tactic used to get you to break no contact.

What are the signs of a hoovering narcissist?

The first thing you need to remember here is that there is no level to which a narcissist won’t stoop – nothing is off-limits for them. Here are a few ways narcissists might engage in hoovering you.

  1. Finally saying that one thing you’ve been dying to hear. Narcissists are infamous for holding things over your head and for feeling justified in not giving you what you want and need in a relationship. For example, if you were dating a narcissist for 10 years and you just wanted them to pop the question, they might hoover you with a diamond ring and a proposal. Or if you were married to the narcissist and always wanted a baby, they might hoover you with an offer to try to get pregnant.
  2. Future faking you. Narcissists are known for their future-faking ways – where they promise you an amazing life together and never follow through. Many narcissists will use future-faking as a way to suck you back in. They will promise you the world – maybe they promise to buy you a house, or to finally go to couples counseling, or to really stop cheating on you this time. Most often, they fail to deliver, but use this future-faking in order to get you back into their clutches – and into the relationship.
  3. Getting you involved in their drama. As someone who has struggled with codependency, you’re especially susceptible to helping someone in need. The couldn’t be more true for someone you love or have loved. So, a narcissist might come to you with some big problem or issue in their lives that they need your help with. This could be something as serious as the death of a loved one that they just can’t make it through without your support, or something as simple as an argument with a friend or a coworker. One of my clients told me that her ex tried to hoover her by bringing his sick dog to her house and asking her to help take care of it. Like I said, they have no limits.
  4. Accidentally “butt-dialing” you or sending you a text “meant for someone else.” This is a sneaky one. Narcissists will often “accidentally” call your phone or text you something random and mysterious so that you’re enticed to call or text back and ask what they need, what they meant by that text or why they called. Then, they’ll pretend that it was an accident or that they meant to call or text someone else – and before you know it, you’re in a full-on conversation during which the narcissist will try to pull you back into the “circle of supply.”
  5. Swearing that they can’t live without you. When they realize that you’ve truly moved on, a lot of narcissists will use a resounding declaration of love and claim they cannot live without you. They’ll say you’re their soulmate and they’ll even pretend to admit their own flaws and faults in order to get you to fall for it. This will effectively begin a whole new period of love-bombing, designed to suck you back into the relationship.
  6. Engaging flying monkeys to do their dirty work. Narcissists always have a crew of flying monkeys on hand – people who are happy to “do their bidding” for them. This may include flying monkeys who are willing to help them manipulate you without remorse, and it may also include “unwilling” flying monkeys – well-meaning people who fall for the narcissist’s lies and who are really trying to help. In hoovering, narcissists send the flying monkeys your way with worries and concerns about your (or the narcissist’s) well-being, all designed to get you to communicate directly with the narcissist or to manipulate you with drama.
  7. Suddenly recognizing the error of their ways. In a last-ditch effort to get you back into the relationship, some narcissists will come to you in tears, telling you they’re a terrible person and admitting “everything they did wrong,” which is often done by parroting back exactly what you’ve been trying to tell them for the duration of the relationship. They’ll say things like “I know I don’t treat you right” and “You really do deserve better than me” in order to soften you up and pull you back in.
  8. Using fear and intimidation to bully you. Some narcissists will even go so far as to try to scare you back into the relationship. They may also use guilt or blame-shifting to force you back in. And bullying is a very common manipulation tactic for most narcissists.

These are just a few of the ways narcissists will try to hoover you. This playlist offers a more complete list of ways that narcissists might try to hoover you back into the relationship.

How can you deal with hoovering?

The next question on the mind of every narcissistic abuse survivor is usually, “How can I avoid the hoover?” Here are a few of the most important things you can do.

  1. Remember that knowledge is power. Simply be aware of the fact that the narcissist may try to hoover you and become familiar with the signs of hoovering. That in itself can be enough to help you avoid falling for it.
  2. Use the gray rock method. Don’t show any emotion and only talk to the narcissist if you must, about what you must. If you have no shared children or shared business, you can completely go no contact.
  3. If possible, eliminate their ability to contact you. Change your phone number, block them on your social media and don’t answer the door if they come calling.
  4. Focus on YOU for once! Take the time you need to do self-care, to do that redecorating project you’ve been meaning to do, or to just do more nice things for yourself. You deserve it, and it’ll help you to distract yourself from the narcissist’s hoovering attempts.
  5. Reconnect with old friends, and make new ones. While you shouldn’t jump into any romantic relationships too soon after ending a relationship with a narcissist (because you need to heal first), it’s a great idea to dive into your friendships. Since you may have lost touch with old friends as a result of the narcissist isolating you during the relationship, what better way to celebrate the end of it? Reach out to your old friends and consider making new ones by getting involved in a group of like-minded people. Maybe that means taking a class, going to church or synagogue or joining a local club. You can also look at sites like Meetup.com to find groups of local people with similar interests. If that feels like too much, start with one of our online support groups for survivors of narcissistic abuse. 

This video playlist goes into more detail and offers more coping techniques for how to avoid being hoovered by a narcissist.

Why haven’t I been hoovered yet?

This question is often asked by survivors of narcissistic abuse who aren’t quite ready to be done with the narcissist just yet. They actually want the hoover because they want another chance to try and fix the relationship. While this question is one that makes me a little sad, I totally get it. And there are a number of reasons the narcissist may not be hoovering you.

Get the full rundown of reasons the narcissist isn’t hoovering in this video.

Bottom line: even if you do fall for hoovering and get back into the relationship with the narcissist, chances are that any change you see will only be temporary. Once the narcissist knows you’re back “in” officially, they will quickly return to their usual manipulative, abusive ways. Don’t fall for the hoover!

Toxic Relationships

Toxic Relationships

“Controllers, abusers, and manipulative people don’t question themselves. They don’t ask themselves if the problem is them. They always say the problem is someone else.” ~Darlene Quimet

Toxic relationships aren’t always obviously toxic to the untrained eye. In fact, even people who are actively engaged in toxic relationships aren’t always aware that they’re dealing with a toxic person. As outrageous as this sounds, it’s an unfortunate fact. There are many reasons that we don’t always recognize a toxic partner, family member or friend – and we’ll cover those today.

According to a MentalHelp.net survey, toxic relationships are far more common than you might think. In fact, according to their results, “57 percent of respondents have felt afraid or uncomfortable in their current relationship, while 87 percent have felt this way in previous relationships.” And that isn’t counting those who have reported abuse in these toxic relationships.

And it isn’t just women who are experiencing abuse in toxic relationships.  Though a large percentage of domestic abuse is experienced by women, especially those between 18 and 34 years old, men are just as likely as women to experience emotional abuse in toxic relationships.

“Nearly 50 percent of both men and women reported psychological aggression,” write the study authors. “This falls roughly in line with our survey results, which showed that an equal number of men and women experienced fear or discomfort in their current relationship.”

What is a toxic relationship?

A toxic relationship is similar to a dysfunctional relationship, but it’s far less repairable. Toxic relationships involve more negativity than positivity, and one or both of the people involved will be deprived of even the most basic emotional support on a consistent basis. Toxic relationships very often involve a myriad of issues for those involved, such as resentment, contempt, communication problems and varying forms of physical, emotional and psychological abuse. Toxic relationships are also usually codependent relationships on various levels.

What are the signs of a toxic relationship?

The signs of a toxic relationship are many and varied. They include:

Read more on the signs of a toxic relationship right here.  Prefer to watch/listen? This playlist goes into great detail on how to recognize signs of a toxic relationship.

Further Reading on Toxic Relationships Signs

Why did I get involved in a toxic relationship?

If your toxic relationship is of the romantic nature, chances are that you’ve experienced a toxic relationship in some other iteration in your life – most likely, in childhood. For example, one or both of your parents may have been toxic, or you may have experienced a trauma of some kind at the hands of someone you should have been able to trust. You are also an empath or a highly sensitive person who acts swiftly to soothe the extreme feelings of the people around you, possibly due to some sort of abuse or neglect in your own childhood.

This playlist goes into detail on what makes you susceptible to a toxic relationship.

Further Reading on Why You Get Involved in Toxic Relationships

How do you deal with a toxic relationship?

“Like arsenic, toxic people will slowly kill you. They kill your positive spirit and play with your mind and emotions. The only cure is to let them go.” ~ Denise Lisseth

No Contact is the ideal solution to a toxic relationship. That means that you end the relationship and stop connecting with the person involved, on every level. Learn everything you need to know about how to do no contact and why it works, right here. When no contact isn’t an option because of shared children or some other reason, you can manage with low-contact, gray rock or using a variety of other strategies. And there are even ways you can manage to coexist with a narcissist in the same house (if you must).

This playlist offers tips on how to deal with toxic people in relationships.

Why is it so hard to leave a toxic relationship?

It’s always easier said than done to leave a toxic relationship – as it is to leave any relationship. But somehow, leaving a toxic relationship can be so overwhelming that many victims just choose to stay indefinitely. Why is that? Two words: trauma bonding. Trauma bonding is similar to Stockholm Syndrome. It’s a condition that causes you to develop a psychological dependence on a toxic person (abuser) as a survival strategy during abuse. And this is exactly what makes recovering from a toxic relationship so much more difficult than recovering from a “normal” breakup.

This playlist goes into detail on why it’s so hard to leave a toxic relationship.

Free Resource Alert: If you need help leaving your toxic relationship, go pick up your free copy of my PLAN (Plan to Leave a Narcissist) right here.

This playlist also features a number of videos that may help.

How do you heal after a toxic relationship?

Healing from a toxic relationship seems like an impossible goal for many survivors of narcissistic abuse, and this is true for a number of reasons. This healing guide offers not only solutions but also resources to help you learn not only how to heal from a toxic relationship, but why you were there in the first place. Plus, you’ll learn how you can level up your life after a toxic relationship and begin to evolve into the person you’ve always wanted to be. Read the full guide on how to heal after a toxic relationship right here. 

How can I tell if my relationship is toxic?

Take this quick toxic relationship test to find out if you might be dealing with a toxic relationship. After you finish the test, you’ll be guided to free helpful resources designed just for you.

Trauma Bonding

Trauma Bonding

Trauma bonding is a common condition among narcissistic abuse survivors and their abusers. Thanks to an ongoing cycle of intermittent reinforcement, many survivors of toxic relationships go through this, much like kidnapping victims and hostages do.

Trauma bonding is often a bigger issue for people who also grew up in toxic and abusive homes, partially just because it feels like “normal” to them.

As Warwick Middleton said, “The capacity for dissociation enables the young child to exercise their innate life-sustaining need for attachment in spite of the fact that principal attachment figures are also principal abusers.”

What is Trauma Bonding?

Trauma bonding is often used interchangeably for the term Stockholm Syndrome.

“In 1973, Jan Erik Olsson walked into a small bank in Stockholm, Sweden, brandishing a gun, wounding a police officer, and taking three women and one man hostage,” writes Rachel Lloyd. “During negotiations, Olsson demanded money, a getaway vehicle, and that his friend Clark Olofsson, a man with a long criminal history, be brought to the bank. The police allowed Olofsson to join his friend and together they held the four hostages captive in a bank vault for six days.”

Lloyd continues: “During their captivity, the hostages at times were attached to snare traps around their necks, likely to kill them in the event that the police attempted to storm the bank. The hostages grew increasingly afraid and hostile toward the authorities trying to win their release and even actively resisted various rescue attempts. Afterward, they refused to testify against their captors, and several continued to stay in contact with the hostage-takers, who were sent to prison. Their resistance to outside help and their loyalty toward their captors was puzzling, and psychologists began to study the phenomenon in this and other hostage situations. The expression of positive feelings toward the captor and negative feelings toward those on the outside trying to win their release became known as Stockholm syndrome.”

Similar to Stockholm Syndrome, it’s a condition that causes abuse victims to develop a psychological dependence on the narcissist as a survival strategy during abuse. Of course, this makes recovering from a toxic relationship significantly more difficult than it might otherwise be. While bonding is normal in healthy relationships, trauma bonding is a sort of toxic version of this that results in an abusive relationship – verbal, physical or otherwise.

In this video, I’ll explain trauma bonding in detail and give you a list of common signs of trauma bonding.

What does trauma bonding feel like?

Trauma bonding is the feeling of being addicted to a person. And it literally causes you to become almost physically addicted, due to the ongoing cycle of intermittent reinforcement. You are fighting a battle within yourself and it turns out that your own body is sort of against you on this one. The cognitive dissonance and the feeling of addiction are what lead us to stay with a narcissist in a toxic relationship even when we logically know better.

“Many survivors have such profound deficiencies in self-protection that they can barely imagine themselves in a position of agency or choice,” writes Judith Lewis Herman. “The idea of saying no to the emotional demands of a parent, spouse, lover or authority figure may be practically inconceivable. Thus, it is not uncommon to find adult survivors who continue to minister to the needs of those who once abused them and who continue to permit major intrusions without boundaries or limits. Adult survivors may nurse their abusers in illness, defend them in adversity, and even, in extreme cases, continue to submit to their sexual demands.”

This video explains how trauma bonding directly affects our decision-making ability and why it causes it to feel so hard to let go and move forward from a toxic relationship.

“Their experiences led them to create assumptions about others and related beliefs about themselves such as ‘this is my lot in life’ and ‘this is what I deserve,'” writes Christine A. Courtois. “Some also learned that personal safety and happiness are of lower priority than survival and that it may be safer to give in than to actively fight off additional abuse and victimization. When abuse is perpetrated by intimates, it is additionally confounding in terms of attachment, betrayal, and trust. Victims may be unable to leave or to fight back due to strong, albeit insecure and disorganized, attachment and misplaced loyalty to abusers. They may have also experienced trauma bonding over the course of their victimization, that is, a bond of specialness with or dependence on the abuser.”

What is cognitive dissonance?

Cognitive dissonance is a form of psychological stress or discomfort that happens when you simultaneously hold two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values. Often affects narcissists as well as their victims at different times and for very different reasons. Are you struggling with cognitive dissonance during or after narcissistic abuse? Get your free cognitive dissonance toolkit right here.

This video offers an overview of cognitive dissonance as well as actionable and practical self-help tips for healing from cognitive dissonance.

How does trauma bonding affect your body and brain?

In this video, I’ll break down the science of how trauma bonding works and what it means to you as a survivor of a relationship with a narcissist.

How can you manage and heal from trauma bonding?

It isn’t easy, but it’s totally possible to heal from trauma bonding – or at least to manage it into submission. In this article, my fellow QB coach Lise Colucci explains how self-care can help. Lise also runs a small group coaching program for healing from trauma bonding.

Here’s a video with a ten-step plan to heal from trauma bonding. If you find yourself stuck in a toxic relationship, these practical steps will help you heal from a trauma bond and finally let go of the narcissist, once and for all. The heartbreak is painful, but the healing is real. We will discuss the psychology of a trauma bond and how to let go of the narcissist, plus PTSD and NPD and how they work.


Being trauma bonded to an abuser is being tied to something you know harms you yet still feeling unable to get away. The emotional ties alone are confusing and challenging. Here are a few ways to help you break those bonds too.

Think you’re trauma bonded with a toxic narcissist, but still not sure? Try this test.

Are You Dealing with Trauma Bonding? Take the Trauma Bonding Test

 

Our Recent Posts About Trauma Bonding

Ignoring the Narcissist

Ignoring the Narcissist

How do you ignore a narcissist? Why is it so hard to ignore a narcissist? Here’s the truth about ignoring the narcissist, including everything you need to know. Why you should ignore a narcissist, when you should avoid ignoring the narcissist and more. Plus, tips, techniques and the psychology of ignoring a narcissist.

Identifying Emotionally Unavailable People in Relationships

Identifying Emotionally Unavailable People in Relationships

“Most people in the psychology field believe that if we do not get a child to bond at a deep level with someone by age eight, we have lost them. We can never recover them and teach them empathy. Never.” ~Patti Henry, Author of The Emotionally Unavailable Man

Emotionally unavailable people in relationships can often be appealing to people – especially those of us who like to help “fix” people’s problems, those of us who enjoy solving a good mystery, and those of us who may have experienced an overly emotional person in a toxic relationship. In some cases, you can potentially take steps to connect with an emotionally unavailable person and actually create some positive change in both of your lives. But in the case of the emotional unavailability being a side effect of NPD (narcissistic personality disorder) or otherwise on the cluster B spectrum – or even with someone who just has strong narcissistic tendencies but who hasn’t been officially diagnosed with the personality disorder – you’re going to be fighting a losing battle if you try to create genuine connection.

What does it mean to be emotionally unavailable?

Someone who is emotionally unavailable refuses to let his or her guard down. People who have been hurt or rejected often in their past may take this position without realizing it. They may find it difficult to trust new people or anyone at all if there has been significant trauma in their lives. In many cases, these people can be helped with counseling, coaching or even simple discussions with their loved ones. Toxic people, such as narcissists, who are emotionally unavailable might also be helped through counseling or therapy, but usually refuse to get or accept help as they don’t see anything wrong with their behavior.

How does it feel to be in a relationship with someone who is emotionally unavailable?

Whether the emotionally available person is your partner, your parent or your best friend, you might find yourself feeling very lonely and even rejected by this person. You might feel unloved, and you might feel like their repeated rejection of your attempts to connect are related to a big wall this person puts up around him or herself. You feel like this person isn’t there for you in the way that a normal parent, partner or best friend would be. It’s a one-sided kind of relationship.

If this person is a narcissist or other kind of toxic person, it gets even more complicated. This video playlist offers a powerful compilation of red flags to look for in toxic relationships. 

Can an emotionally unavailable person change or heal so they can become more emotionally available?

This depends on whether you’re dealing with a toxic narcissist or a “regular” person. In both cases, the behavior is most likely a subconscious way to self-protect themselves. They refuse to allow themselves to be vulnerable to you in order to reduce the chances that they might be hurt or rejected again – or to manage their own emotional response if it (inevitably, in their minds) happens to them again.

However, with narcissists, we need to consider the fact that they have impaired empathy, which could also appear to be emotional unavailability. And we must remember that while it’s theoretically possible that a narcissist could create true change in their lives, it’s also highly unlikely that they will. That’s because most narcissists are unable or unwilling to take any sort of responsibility for things that go wrong in their lives and their relationships – so they generally look to blame someone else (with deflection and projection) and see themselves as victims or at least innocent bystanders.

How do you deal with an emotionally unavailable person?

If you’re dealing with someone who is capable of change, it could just take some time and some talking to work the situation out. You could sit down and have a conversation with this person and ask thoughtful questions about how they feel and why. Do your best to make that person feel safe and comfortable with you and like they can trust you, and then show them this in your own actions and behavior.

If you’re dealing with a narcissist or another kind of toxic person, the game changes. In this case, it’s unlikely that the person will change at all, nor will they be willing to admit they have a problem, to begin with.

That means the first step to dealing with an emotionally unavailable person is to determine whether they are a toxic person, or not. Take this quiz to find out if you’re dealing with a toxic narcissist. 

Once you submit your answers, you’ll be given resources to help in your situation.

 

 

 

Healing from Emotional Abuse

Healing from Emotional Abuse

“It is not the bruises on the body that hurt. It is the wounds of the heart and the scars on the mind.” ~Aisha Mirza

Emotional abuse, which may also be referred to as psychological abuse, is a pervasive and painful form of abuse that is often overlooked by even the victim. As difficult as it can be to detect, it can affect literally every part of a person’s life and can lead to other psychological and physical health issues.

While you might not see physical scars on a victim of emotional abuse, there are lifelong psychological scars that never go away. However, you can heal from emotional abuse if you do so intentionally, and there are a number of ways you can get help if you’re dealing with emotional abuse.

“There are far too many silent sufferers. Not because they don’t yearn to reach out, but because they’ve tried and found no one who cares.” ~Richelle E. Goodrich

What is Emotional Abuse?

Emotional abuse is a form of abuse in which a toxic person subjects or exposes you to repeated behavior that often results in long-term psychological trauma, including anxiety, chronic depression, or C-PTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder).

Emotional abuse is underestimated by most people, even sometimes its victims. However, it can cause mental and physical health issues that last a lifetime. Emotional abuse is used to control victims and can be inflicted in a variety of ways. Due to its pervasive nature, emotional abuse can be difficult to detect. The abuser’s goal is to slowly wear down the victim’s self-esteem in order to cause the victim to depend on them. This causes the victim to be vulnerable to being abused and controlled. It leads to the victim feeling like they’ll have nothing without the abuser, or they may simply feel trapped and unable to get away from the abuser.

This leads the abuser to develop a sort of power over the victim that leads to the victim developing a sort of “learned helplessness.” This might mean the victim is afraid to make some (or all) decisions without checking in with the abuser, or it could mean that they feel unable to do certain things themselves due to restrictions imposed on them by the abuser. For example, a victim might not go to the grocery store without getting a list or a budget from the abuser first, even if they run out of something important, for fear that the abuser will verbally attack them for doing so.

What are the signs of emotional abuse?

You might need support for healing from emotional abuse if you can identify with some or all of the following signs of emotional abuse. 

  • They accuse you of being jealous all the time.
  • They accuse you of cheating
  • They are possessive of your time and get angry when you’re not available at the exact moment they want you.
  • They cheat on you and then say it’s your fault they did it.
  • They control you with sex, by either withholding/denying or coercing you into doing things you aren’t really comfortable doing, and/or by forcing or pressuring you to have sex when you don’t want to
  • They control your social life, who your friends are and who you spend tie with and/or what you do
  • They cut you down by saying things like you’re worthless or that you can never do anything right
  • They destroy your stuff
  • They do things and say things that make you cry or feel extreme anxiety
  • They give you the silent treatment
  • They have a certain look that scares you
  • They insult you and/or call you names
  • They isolate you and keep you from spending time with friends and/or other family members
  • They make you feel like you’re not allowed to leave your home alone, or at all.
  • They may threaten you with weapons.
  • They may verbally threaten to hurt you or your kids.
  • They might be jealous of your friendships or even relationships with your kids or other family members.
  • They might break stuff when they’re angry at you without regard for who it belongs to (and sometimes, it’s your stuff).
  • They might make all of your decisions for you and/or make you feel incapable of making a decision on your own
  • They might prevent you from going to work or school
  • They might try to make you drink alcohol or do drugs when you don’t want to.
  • They minimize any accomplishments you have, or they take credit for them
  • They monitor your location and need to know where you are every minute of every day.
  • They say you’re a bad parent and/or threaten to take your kids away from you if you don’t do what they want or behave how they require you to behave.
  • They seem to intentionally do things to incite jealousy in you.
  • They tear you down emotionally and seem to want you to feel bad about yourself
  • They tell you that you’re lucky to have them and that you’ll be alone and/or that no one else will ever love you if they leave you. And then threaten to do exactly that – directly or indirectly.
  • They tell you what to wear or how to look, or attempt to control your appearance in some way
  • They threaten (or actually) hurt your pets
  • They threaten you with violence, either directly or by implying it
  • They use gaslighting to manipulate you and control you
  • They will humiliate you in some way (publicly or otherwise)
  • They will take your money and/or refuse to give you money for things you need, like groceries and personal care items. They are controlling all of the household money.
  • They withhold affection and/or give you the silent treatment as punishment for breaking (often unspoken) rules.

How do you get help with healing from emotional abuse?

What are the steps you need to take to heal from emotional abuse?

The stages of healing from emotional abuse are as simple as they are overwhelming. You need to understand how to identify toxic people, and what abuse looks like. Plus, you need to work on building your self-confidence and release your codependence on the abuser. There are three primary stages in recovery. And don’t forget self-care.

How do you help someone you love who is being emotionally abused?

What if it isn’t YOU? Are you worried that someone you care about might be dealing with physical or emotional abuse at home? What can you do to help them, and how do you know for sure if they’re being abused? Read More: How do you help someone in an abusive relationship? 

More Resources for Victims of Emotional Abuse

Visit the QueenBeeing Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Resources & Support Page

If you’re in an emotionally abusive relationship, you might want to read one of these books.

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