So, you’ve found yourself under fire again, the victim of yet another apparent smear campaign – courtesy of a toxic narcissist, of course.
The everyday average person can’t imagine what it’s like to experience a smear campaign at the hands of someone they love – and that’s because, in general, people who love you would never consider such behavior.
But narcissists are different – they are far more likely to engage in manipulative behavior – and for one simple reason: they will do literally anything to get what they want – and that includes maliciously lying or spreading rumors or exaggerations about you.
So, what is a smear campaign?
If you look up “smear campaign” in the dictionary, you’ll find that the political version of the term matches up with the narcissistic one: “a deliberate attack on somebody, by spreading an untrue and unpleasant rumor about them, or by making an accusation intended to damage their reputation.”
And contrary to popular belief, a narcissist who stoops to the level of creating a smear campaign is not crying out for help; rather, s/he’s crying out for attention and, in many cases, for a new source of supply.
A lot of narcs use sob stories (such as “this person has treated me so poorly, poor me, feel sorry for me) – as part of their love bombing and or hoovering tactics when they’re hooking in a new victim (or trying to re-hook you once you manage to get away).
Why Narcissists Run ‘Smear Campaigns’: The Neurological Components
As someone who isn’t a toxic narcissist, this stuff doesn’t make sense to you.
You might find yourself feeling shocked or even confused by the smear campaign, because it’s not normal behavior. The fact is that unless you’re intentionally educating yourself about toxic narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder, you can’t really understand the way a narc’s mind works.
That’s because it doesn’t work the same way as a “normal” person’s mind does. See, most people feel empathy for others in their lives, and they’d never want to hurt someone they love. But narcissists don’t really see others as people who are on the same level; to them, to put it bluntly, you are not a person.
That’s because, according to Robert Hare, PhD, “their information, including emotional information, is scattered all over both brain hemispheres – it takes too long or the brain to retrieve and process information, and the entire process of socialization becomes so ponderous that ultimately, it fails.”
Living with a narcissist puts you in a tough spot: you sort of forgo the simple pleasures in life. Rather than taking fun strolls down memory lane and laughing together, you’ll find yourself feeling like you’re literally sleeping with the enemy.
It’s like the very stuff that makes life worth living becomes forbidden to you – and as you watch those in healthy relationships have normal, healthy interactions with their love ones, the pain can become even more intense.
But as always, you smile as you die a little inside, bit by bit, each time your voice gets silenced…each time you are blamed and shamed for reacting to your narcissist’s emotional and verbal abuse.
Sadly, this behavior is entirely normal for toxic narcissists. See, they are people psychologists group in with the Cluster B personality disorders – and these types are known to pathologically lie, gaslight and run smear campaigns on their victims.
While the narcissist is capable of understanding that causing social harm, damage and general invaliation of your fundamental human rights is wrong, it doesn’t stop him/her – and they also continue with lying and manipulating people and trying to gaslight them, knowing it is morally wrong.
But though they recognize the moral wrongness, they equally show no concern about it as they actively work to recruit flying monkeys – people who (wittingly or not) do the narcissist’s bidding.
So, what does a smear campaign look like?
So, for example: a narcissist might run a smear campaign on a friend or even a spouse by making up rumors and stories about their target’s mental health (or lack thereof). This way, when or if their victims try to speak out or get help (or even support) with the abuse, the victim’s credibility has been undermined in advance.
The narcissist will point out that the victim is behaving exactly as s/he predicted, and will use the victim’s natural response to this outrageous smear campaign against him or her.
Worse, a narcissist actually sort of “gets off” on this kind of stuff – the idea of “getting away” with something gives them something to feel excited about. They have absolutely no empathy for anyone else, and they only show feelings of remorse if it becomes necessary to do so – as in, if they get caught.
As the victim spirals through the pain and emotional torment of being publicly humiliated and experiencing the deepest depths of shame, betrayal and general invalidation, the narcissist feels no sadness or remorse; rather they find themselves feeling physical, emotional and psychological pleasure. The narcissist will project whatever image might suit their needs at the moment on to the target, and they use this to self-stroke their ego.
It’s a bit like emotional masturbation, which they accomplish by manipulating other people’s relationships and creating situations in which they can triangulate people.
Then, they lie about one of their sources of supply to the other and they end up feeling very powerful, at least for a moment.
And these days, one of the easiest and most effective ways to covertly bully a victim is through social media. This might begin subtly at first, as in sharing “pointed” memes and quotes, or it might be more overt, as in directly calling out the victims on social media.
This usually involves some perceived offense in which the target stands up for him or her self and is rewarded with a big old case of narcissistic injury.
And even harder to swallow is the fact that narcissists will often claim to be victims of their own kinds of abuse – and they’ll play the injured party while they torment their targets secretly.
And, when a kind-hearted person takes pity on the poor, injured narcissist, as they inevitably do, the narcissist feels validated and immediately understands that they’ve found a new potential target – or at the very least, a new flying monkey.
What it all comes down to is that since narcissists are virtually incapable of normal human emotional behavior, they must manufacture joy and happiness by taking a rather sadistic pleasure in being the predatory creatures they are.
Even if they’re directly confronted with actual facts that invalidate their lies, narcissists will hold on to those lies. Worse, the longer the smear campaign continues, the more committed the narcissist becomes and the more outrageously he will behave.
So how can you deal with a narcissist who is actively smear campaigning you?
Honestly, while exposing the narcissist to the people in his life may help some of them to get a clue and stop allowing themselves to be his narcissistic supply, it’ll only temporarily slow the narcissist down.
In fact, it’ll give him or her the proper fuel s/he needs to get his next supply on the line – his very own savior. Because, of course, in his version of the story, you’ll be just the crazy bitch who was so mean and hateful to him and who tried to make his family and friends hate him.
You feel me? It’s a cycle.
It’s not worth it – it will only further serve to make you miserable.
If you’re still dealing with the narcissist, you can try this tip.
If you’re stuck with the narcissist because you’re co-parenting, or because he or she is your boss or mother-in-law and you just can’t go NC for some reason, the best response is to use the gray rock method – in which you literally don’t react at ALL.
But the best solution to deal with smear campaigns is this.
The best and only solution to dealing with this kind of person and remaining or becoming happy in your life is to take back your power and choose to create the life you really want, with or without the narcissist – most likely, without. Going no contact or low contact is statistically the most successful way to do it and the only “sure-thing” kind of answer you can find.
What do you think? Have you ever been the target of a smear campaign? How did you handle it? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section and let’s discuss it. You never know who your story could help!
Angela Atkinson is a Certified Life Coach and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic relationships since 2006, Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed coaching and has certifications in life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves.
Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded QueenBeeing.com Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy. In her life coaching practice, Atkinson’s clients enjoy her personalized approach that allows and encourages them to become the best possible versions of themselves and to succeed in doing what they love most. She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online and NarcissismSupportCoach.com.