Narcissists have perfected the art of emotional abuse, fulfilling their need to be adored and idolized in a way that keeps their partners (and other loved ones) in check. But what if you’re not affected by this kind of emotional abuse?
What happens when a narcissist can’t control you?
How does he or she react? The lack of control is what makes narcissists go berserk. The thought that you might be going off and having a life that they don’t know about drives them into a fit of narcissistic rage. They tend to become irrational, emotional, pushy, and demanding. They may show signs of physical aggression or even threaten to take their own life if they feel that they’re being left behind or not getting their way. Yes, it’s THAT serious.
Growing up, I was always “under my mother’s thumb,” as in, she was, as far as she was concerned, in control of every aspect of my life: my activities, thoughts, feelings, ideas – everything. And this didn’t end when I grew up and moved out. In fact, it continued until I was 35 years old.
I learned that her feelings, thoughts, and ideas were more important and more “real” than mine. She taught me that I needed to keep her happy and that I wasn’t ever good enough because I couldn’t be, say or do whatever it was she thought I should. It never seemed to matter how hard I tried, either. Even as a dang adult.
But that day, everything changed. See, I had recognized that she had betrayed me, in an unforgivable way that I could never have imagined. It woke me up and fast.
The very moment I realized what she had done, I almost physically felt something break inside of me – that seemingly indestructible cord of obligation that had always been there and had always caused me to bend to her will – it broke.
In one single moment, I lost the ability to care how she felt. And more than that, I lost the fear of her. She had always intimated that if I stopped doing what she wanted, or refused her too many times, she would abandon me, and then I’d have no one. I lived in that fear for 35 years.
I could never have imagined (nor would I have believed) that she would stoop so low to hurt me. I cannot even come up with the right words to describe the way I felt – it was almost like the time I was running in the dark as a kid and tripped over a branch, knocking the wind out of myself. I felt like I had the wind knocked out of me.
But then, I got mad. Well, not just mad. After years of being a people-pleasing, self-hating codependent, I was filled with blistering, blinding rage.
You know, the kind of soul-twisting, screaming, ugly rage that comes up from deep inside and nearly forces you to take swift action. The kind that causes you to get crystal-clear on what you want and what you deserve real quick. I was filled with what I now know is justified rage. I was indignant. And in that very instant, I was done. I went no contact and I have not looked back.
But it wasn’t so simple. My mother wasn’t done yet. She had been in control for 35 years and she wasn’t about to give it up without a fight. First, she got very angry. Then, she told a lot of lies about me and spread malicious gossip to everyone in the extended family, as well as to some of her friends.
And later, she’d end up publishing my name in her little work newsletter, asking people to pray for me and my “mental health issues.” After that, I heard through the grapevine that she was playing the victim, telling everyone how she had absolutely no idea why I wasn’t talking to her “after all she had done for me.”
She minimized me and justified her feelings by saying things like, “She’s always looking for attention.”
In fact, I was doing the opposite: I was looking for peace. I wanted nothing else from her. But a few months after I went fully no contact, I heard that she planned to send my brother over to my house during the holidays to straighten me out. The plan, according to the grapevine, was that he would just show up without calling. I nipped that one in the bud.
But why did she play all these little mind games? I suspect it was for one simple reason: because she was no longer able to control me. See, narcissists don’t like to lose control over any source of narcissistic supply. And when they do, they have some fairly predictable ways of reacting. Nearly every manipulative thing a narcissist does can be broken down into a pattern if you look for it.
So that’s exactly what we’re talking about today – the standard pattern a narcissist will use when they lose control over you. Plus, what you can expect when the narcissist in your life realizes that you have taken control of your own life and how you can and should respond when that happens.
What Happens When A Narcissist Can No Longer Control You?
Let’s say that you have figured the narcissist out, and you have realized the hard way that someone you believed in and trusted turned out to be a complete nightmare, to put it mildly. Now that you have seen through the mask and understand what the narcissist is all about, you have set your boundaries. You are no longer letting that narcissist control you. And while you already know that you should expect some kind of retaliation, you are worried about what comes next. And, given what you’ve been through, who could blame you?
The Narcissist Will Begin A Smear Campaign Against You
The first thing they will do is utilize the smear campaign tactic. They will never accept the fact that they cannot control you. This means the narcissist will find other ways to be controlling. They will demean you, ruin your reputation, and they might even intentionally expose any sensitive private information about you to everyone who knows you – and even to some people who don’t. And because the narcissist is so good at believing their own lies, they’ll seem genuine. They will seem like they’re “worried about you” or just so “shocked you’d do something like this.” In other words, they’ll play this game in a way that makes it believable – which means your reputation will be ruined in no time.
The Narcissist Will Play The Victim
During and after the smear campaign, the narcissist will play the victim. They’ll act like you’re the one who caused the whole issue, and/or they’ll pretend that you just went crazy and ran away. By going to others causing them to feel sorry for them, they reiterate their point: they believe that they have been “wronged” by you. Yes, they will take advantage of that “poor me” act and they will do this without remorse, for as long as they want. An added benefit of this tactic is that it helps them get some replacement narcissistic supply in the meantime. The people they whine about you to will of course be sympathetic towards them – because, after all, the narcissist actually has convinced themselves that what they’re saying is true. So even the most skilled empath can’t tell that they’re lying in some cases – which means they will happily dole out the attention that the narcissist craves.
The Narcissist Will Refuse To Take No For An Answer
Some very tenacious narcissists will never accept the fact that they can no longer control you. Rather than just backing off, these particular narcissists will instead step up their game. They will utilize manipulation tactics such as showing up unexpectedly to your doorstep, or they might even show up at your job to make it clear that they will always be in control. They might even actually stalk you and literally show up whenever they want in an effort to send the message that they will always be the ones in charge. They will call you in an apparent emergency and try to get your attention that way. They’ll make stuff up as to why you need to come back and provide the necessary supply they are missing. This is what we call the hoover maneuver – because they are literally trying to suck you back into the toxic relationship.
The Narcissist Will Ghost You
If you can hold out and get through all of that stuff, you’ll finally be rid of the narcissist because, once their little bag of tricks is empty, they’ll ghost you. This is the best-case scenario because the narcissist will be out of your life. Eventually, you’ll be lucky enough that they will realize you’re truly done, and they’ll just go dark for you. This is because, without another move to make, they might just finally give up and move on to a different source of supply. You can bet you won’t get closure, though. And you can expect they will continue to tell sob stories and spread lies about you to anyone who will listen. But at least they’ll be leaving you alone. At least you’ll have peace, finally. Since they realized that the narcissistic supply that you used to give them sort of “ran out,” they will focus on someone else for a while. Fair warning here: don’t be surprised if, at a later date, the narcissist shows up again looking for more supply from you – they’ll try to suck you back in with a standard hoover maneuver. This is usually because they are bored with, angry at, or in some way removed from their new source of narcissistic supply.
How Do You Deal With the Narcissist’s Retaliation?
So, now that you know what to expect when the narcissist knows they’ve lost control of you, you’re probably wondering what you’re supposed to do next. Well, I want you to keep standing behind your boundaries. I want you to stay focused on yourself and your healing. I want you to keep control of yourself and your own life. If you’ve gone no contact, I want you to stick it out.
Watch for Flying Monkeys
You should also keep an eye out for flying monkeys – the people who will happily do the narcissist’s bidding for them. These are the ones who try to talk to you on behalf of the narcissist or who try to convince you to see them. They’re the ones who take whatever you tell them and run back to the narcissist with it.
Steer clear of areas you know they’ll be and keep your business to yourself. If you are worried about your physical safety, do not hesitate to contact the authorities and do whatever you need to do to get and stay safe.
Ultimately, though, it’s important to see this for what it is. For just a moment, I want you to look at this whole thing from a different perspective.
Recognize That You’re In Control
The thing is that if you’ve managed to get away from the narcissist and out from under their proverbial thumb, it means you’ve taken back control of your own life. And if the narcissist pulls all of their standard tricks, you have to know you’re already succeeding in your goal to free yourself from the burden of being their source of narcissistic supply. You have to know that you’re actually already winning this so-called game.
How do I know this? Because the narcissist tells you with their behavior. Think about it for a second: the narcissist has recognized that they can no longer control you, and their reactions are literal proof of that. Do you see what I mean?
Considering that fact, I want you to recognize that you’re the one in control now – even as they desperately try to maintain it. And rather than feel weak and afraid, I want you to feel strong and empowered by these behaviors. Recognize them for what they are: a pathetic attempt to claw their way back into your life. These behaviors – these patterns – are a clear reaction to the narcissist recognizing that YOU HAVE TAKEN BACK YOUR POWER!
And listen, my friend: the only way you can lose now is by letting them back into your life. Not that I’m the sort of person who would ever recommend revenge of a standard nature, but if you ever wished you could get revenge against the person who ruined your life, here’s the key: live your life well and happily without them. Pretend they don’t exist. Live like they don’t matter. Be happy, and be unencumbered by their toxic energy. That is the very, very best way you can win this whole toxic game – by living a life you love, a life that you create and choose. Are you with me?
Embrace Your Power!
Take the time to recognize that you no longer need to give your power away to the narcissist. Recognize that you have every right to make your own choices, to like and love what and who you want, and to be the best, most fulfilled version of yourself in any given moment. It’s an amazing feeling, my friend, and I want you to have it too.
One of my clients shared with me that her ex broke off their relationship in the most interesting way. She said that her ex told her he needed a little space, and abruptly moved out after 23 years together. He said that he wasn’t ending their long-term relationship, and in fact, that he wanted to start dating her again. He wanted to fall in love with her all over again, he claimed. He almost made it sound exciting and healthy.
He said he was in a rut and needed to shake things up – he needed to find himself. She was of course devastated, but she tried to play along.
Of course, what I haven’t mentioned about this situation is that this man spent the previous 23 years systematically manipulating and psychologically destroying my client. He had future-faked her for years – so much that they were literally engaged for two decades, but never actually married.
She confessed to me that she’d tried to leave him repeatedly, thanks to several episodes of cheating, but he’d always sucked her back in. In fact, they’d gotten engaged 20 years ago because of the first cheating episode. She told me that he’d showed up at her mom’s house, where she’d retreated to after finding him with another woman, with a ring and a big public proposal. He’d wooed her back into submission, and this pattern would continue, much to her chagrin.
Each time she tried to get him to set a wedding date over the years, he always had an excuse. They didn’t have the money. She was pregnant. Their dog died. He wasn’t sure if she REALLY loved him. He wasn’t sure if HE really loved HER. Then she was pregnant again. And now, after 23 years of not-wedded not-bliss and two children who were now a young adult and a teen, he was doing it yet again, and this time, she was sure it would stick.
But she couldn’t seem to let go of him, and she didn’t know why. She had become so enmeshed with him that she didn’t even recognize herself anymore. She knew she wanted to be done so she could finally move on with her life, but she couldn’t figure out how to even begin to do it. Why? Because, like all narcissists, he absolutely refused to give her the closure she needed to move forward and let him go.
Narcissists Don’t Do Closure!
Narcissists have a way of leaving you hanging, don’t they? They just don’t do closure. But why? Well, that’s exactly what we’re talking about, today: narcissists and closure – why they don’t give it, how you’re affected by the lack of closure, and how to create closure for yourself.
First, let’s discuss what I mean when I say closure. It’s a sense of resolution or a sort of “conclusion” at the end of any relationship. Unfortunately, this is often denied to survivors of narcissistic abuse. This leaves us feeling obsessed with figuring out the details and implications of our toxic relationships – we find ourselves stuck and spinning as a result of not getting closure. This leaves many of us feeling the need to either find our own closure or spending years trying in vain to emotionally heal after these toxic relationships, unable to move forward and not understanding exactly why.
Why don’t narcissists give you closure at the end of a toxic relationship?
There are so many reasons narcissists don’t give you closure. But for the most part, their reasoning (or lack thereof) probably falls into one of the following points.
1. Narcissists Only Care About Themselves.
You know that narcissists are not capable of being empathetic. They simply cannot put themselves into the shoes of anyone else. That is one reason that they won’t give closure. They will ghost you without a second thought, and the idea of wondering how it would make you feel when they do that is a completely foreign concept to them. All they know is that they had their reasons, and they don’t even consider your feelings. They may even seem shocked when you ask them why they’ve done what they’ve done. Truth? Teaching a narcissist empathy is like trying to teach a fish to ride a bike – a frustrating, impossible endeavor.
2. They Don’t Think You Deserve It.
Since narcissists don’t have empathy, they can’t imagine that you might even NEED closure, much less deserve it. That’s right. Despite the fact that you have spent a long time bending over backward to make sure they get what they need, now that it’s over, they don’t figure they owe you anything at all – and sadly, this includes closure. Plus, by not giving you closure they ensure that you’ll keep thinking about them – and what narcissist doesn’t want that?
3. They Don’t See You As a Whole Person.
This one is tough to hear, sometimes, but it’s the truth. Narcissists do not see you or anyone they’ve grown close to as real, whole people. Rather, you’re almost like an object to them – an object that they can use and consume at will, and toss aside when they’re done with you. And, they have no issue whatsoever coming along and picking you up and using you again, when they’re ready. They literally see you as less of a person than they are – which, if I’m being honest, is kind of ironic in a way, given their own shallow nature and the probability that you are a deep, thoughtful and compassionate person. How do I know that? Because narcissists can’t manage long-term relationships with anyone else – they need someone who will take care of their emotional needs (and often, all of their other needs as well).
4. Because You Want It.
Did you ever notice how, when you’re really stressed out or times are hard, narcissists have a way of sort of “kicking you when you’re down?” Narcissists can be real sadists, and part of them loves to see you squirming in emotional distress. And even though narcissists cannot empathize with you, they still get that you would appreciate closure and maybe that it would help you move on. And not only does knowing this gives them a bit of a power buzz, but it assures them that you won’t be able to move on when they need your supply again. Which brings me to my next point.
5. They Need Your Supply, Maybe.
Narcissists require narcissistic supply. You, as the narcissistic supply, are used by the narcissist for attention, validation, admiration – all the “supply” they need to feed their ego. On to of this, the narcissist often has a circle of supply or “narcissistic harem,” and like it or not, they’ve pegged you as one of them. Now, this circle or harem might include people they’re cheating with, their mothers or fathers, various friends, coworkers, neighbors and other family members. You might be (or have been) their primary source of supply for a long time. And since you’ve been such a good source of supply up to this point, the narcissist figures they might want to “use you” again at some point. So by leaving the door open, you’re left spinning and, if the narcissist has anything to say about it, you won’t be moving on with your life. This way, when they need you, they can wiggle their way back in again when it is convenient for them.
6. They’re Not Secure with New Supply Yet.
Speaking of narcissistic supply, there’s another possibility: the narcissist is actively trying to procure a new source of supply, and they’re not 100 percent sure yet that they’ve got it all locked down. The new supply still has the nerve to think that they are as important as the narcissist in the relationship, and so the narcissist might still need to dump on someone when they feel stressed or overwhelmed. And since they’re actively love-bombing and idealizing the new supply, they may not feel comfortable enough to take the mask off yet. So, if the narcissist can find a good reason to connect with you when they need to blow off some steam or get some comfort, they most certainly will do that. And even when the new supply is fully locked in, they may still want to keep you on standby, just in case. After all, as I mentioned, they don’t see you as an actual person, so why wouldn’t they use you when and how they can?
7. They Are Giving You a Message.
Throughout your relationship, regardless of the nature of it, the narcissist has been making a few things clear: they see you as powerless. They don’t want you to have any control whatsoever over the relationship, much less your own life. They want you to understand that, as far as they’re concerned, you don’t deserve any recognition for what you’ve done for them – no, not even for the years you spent trying to make them happy. And, sadly, they want you to believe that you are so unlovable, that you don’t even need to be acknowledged. This is all part of their cycle, part of the way they control you throughout the relationship.
Narcissists and Closure: What You Need to Know Now
This part is going to be a little tough, but you need to know that someone usually gives you closure because they actually care about you and the relationship you had. They give closure because they want peace and they care enough about you to want you to be happy. The narcissist knows that if you have closure, you’ll be able to find that peace and to move forward without them. By keeping you in their toxic loop, they keep you open for a hoover and they are able to keep taking, future faking and using you at will. It would require them to take personal responsibility for how they’ve treated you, and it would mean ending the lies and manipulation they’ve been using to keep you emotionally engaged. Just the idea of real, genuine closure is unthinkable to a narcissist.
So, what do you think? Question of the day: Have you struggled to find closure after a relationship with a toxic narcissist, and if so, how’d you deal with it? If not, are you worried that you won’t be able to get closure if and when you do end your relationship? Share your thoughts, share your ideas, share your experiences in the comments below this video, and let’s talk about it.
Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Resources
The QueenBeeing SPANily, Official – We consider this to be the best narcissistic abuse recovery support group on the web. Offers several subgroups and features a vigilant, compassionate admin team full of trained coaches and survivors, supporting more than 12k members. SPAN is an acronym created by Angie Atkinson that stands for Support for People Affected by Narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships.
Other Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups– We also have separate groups for each stage in your narcissistic abuse recovery, as well as some for those who have moved past recovery and are evolving into the next stage of their own life. Survivors have unique and individual needs, even when they’ve moved on – so we’re still here for you.
One-on-One Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Coaching – If you prefer to get more personalized support in your recovery, you might like to schedule a session with one of our coaches to plan and execute your own narcissistic abuse recovery plan.
Find a Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Therapist – If you’re looking for a therapist for narcissistic abuse recovery, either because you cannot afford coaching and want to use your health insurance or because you have additional issues you need to address that do not fall within the realm of coaching, you will want to find the right therapist for you – and as far as we’re concerned, that therapist must understand what you’ve been through. This page offers assistance to help you do exactly that.
One of my clients told me a story that is all too familiar for anyone who has been in a toxic relationship with a narcissist. During her relationship, her ex would consistently accuse her of cheating and wanting to cheat on him. He had become so obsessed that he was secretly tracking her car with a hidden low-jack device he bought on the recommendation of a private eye friend of his, and he’d even put apps on her phone and computer that allowed him to watch her every move.
Later, she would learn that he was a self-proclaimed “love addict” who had been actively cheating on her for years, sneaking around and hiding everything. Turns out, while she’d been doing everything in her power to be transparent and to soothe his insecurities in the relationship, he’d been the one cheating and hiding the whole time. He was clearly projecting his own bad behavior on to her – a common way narcissists manipulate us in relationships. But was he doing it to distract her from his bad behavior, which it thoroughly did, or was something more at play here?
Psychological projection is a defense mechanism in which the human ego defends itself against unconscious impulses or qualities (both positive and negative) by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others. It is part blame-shifting and part misdirection of a person’s inner insecurities, behaviors and issues.
Do Only Narcissists Use Projection?
Anyone can find themselves projecting – it isn’t just a narcissistic quality. The fact is that we all have insecurities. And even the most emotionally balanced among us can find ourselves subconsciously projecting our worries and insecurities on to the people in our lives. In most cases, we aren’t really even aware of it. But when we’re dealing with toxic narcissists in our relationships, whether they’re our partner, family member or friend, we are often actively being psychologically abused, and our self-esteem – if we ever had any – takes a nosedive.
So, when we project, it’s our subconscious sort of seeing qualities or issues within ourselves that we consciously deny. And then, without realizing it, we sort of attribute the feelings (or the issues) on to someone else. A lot of times, this is because the way we feel makes us uncomfortable and we don’t really know how to deal with it or can’t bring ourselves to do so.
For example, if we are stressing out and worried that our boss dislikes us, we might think, “Wow, she really hates me!”
But if we don’t have any actual evidence other than a general sense of negativity around her, we might ask ourselves how we really feel about the boss. The fact is that it’s possible that we’re just projecting our own stuff on to the boss. It’s possible that we don’t like her or feel somehow threatened by her.
In general, if you find yourself projecting, you can trace the trigger back to something that happened to you that made you feel insecure – and the situation you were in reminded you of that time. For example, during my pregnancy with my oldest child, my ex-husband made me feel like my changing body was grotesque. He was literally disgusted by me.
Eventually, I’d leave him and six years later, I’d find myself in a new relationship, pregnant with kid number two. And even though I would go on to have that baby and another four years later with my second husband, I struggled a lot during my second pregnancy with projection issues. I was triggered by my condition, and even though I logically knew that my husband loved my body during pregnancy, my thoughts raced and I struggled with doubting this and thinking he must be secretly disgusted as my ex had been.
I managed it, knowing logically what I was doing. But, boy, was it difficult!
Projection is a Primal, Reactive Behavior
Here’s where it gets interesting. Projection and our ability to resolve it within ourselves is all about emotional maturity. In fact, projection is considered a primitive defense because it preserves the ego by ignoring and/or distorting reality on some level.
In other words, projection is a primal, reactive behavior that is used by children and that eventually, most of us grow out of on our own, or at least we become aware of it and actively work to overcome it as I did with my pregnancies.
(For the record, my third pregnancy, though it was physically harder than the others since I was 32 years old by then, was far more emotionally satisfying as I had recognized that I was projecting old feelings onto my second husband, who didn’t, in fact, have the same issues as my ex, in the moment with my second and worked to get through it. That was because I had by that point developed enough emotional maturity to recognize the issue and deal with it.)
But narcissists tend to be emotional toddlers (or at best, emotional pre-teens) no matter how old they happen to be at any given moment. What I mean is that while they may appear to be a regular adult when you first meet them, narcissists are notoriously emotionally immature. In fact, on so many levels, their emotional maturity (or lack thereof) and manipulative behaviors can be compared to those of a toddler. But at least a toddler is cute. Narcissists can be downright ugly (on the inside at least) and while most of us begin to develop empathy as early as two years old, narcissists aren’t so lucky. They either never develop empathy or lose it during their own traumatic experiences in childhood. (In fact, if you have a minute later, take a look at the video I’ll leave right there and in the pinned comment for you – this is a literal comparison, not a figurative one. )
Narcissistic Projection vs. ‘Regular’ Projection
So, as you might imagine, narcissists are different when they use projection. While they may also be projecting due to their own insecurities, most of the time, projection acts as yet another manipulation tactic. This can become a serious issue, especially since it is often directed at people like us – people who are sensitive, empathic and who care too much about how they feel – at least until we recognize what they are.
And since many of us were also raised by narcissists or other toxic people, our own emotional struggles and lack of confidence can then be compounded by any narcissist we are in a relationship with, thanks to their extreme manipulation and gaslighting during our relationships. On the narcissist’s part, the goal is to divert your attention from what is really going on. By distracting you, not only do they get you to focus on yourself as the problem, but they also get you to take responsibility for the problem.
The Effects of Narcissistic Projection
When narcissists project their own issues on to us, we tend to actually personalize it and in some cases, we even accept the projections as true, or we worry that it could become true. Then, we might actively work to change something about ourselves that doesn’t need changing – or that isn’t even a quality or issue we have, but rather one of the narcissist’s projections of their own issues or qualities. Alternatively, we will spend our lives attempting to soothe their projected insecurities and ignore our own wellbeing in the process. In either case, it spells disaster for our core selves.
But on the plus side, if we can learn to recognize when the narcissist is doing this and identify it as projection, then we can label it and choose to see it for what it is and not internalize it.
So, how do you know if a narcissist is projecting on to you?
Since narcissists are well-known to lack self-awareness, it makes sense that they wouldn’t necessarily be consciously aware of their projecting thoughts and behaviors. And, since the narcissist’s ability to feel any self-esteem or self-worth is entirely dependent on how other people see and perceive them, they have a tendency to deny that they are in fact flawed humans who, like everyone else, have their own shortcomings or limitations. But rather than accept and recognize them, the way I did with my pregnancy issues, they will blame the people around them for anything about themselves they deem less than perfect.
So, in a way, you could almost say that narcissists tell on themselves through their projections. Using the example of the cheater who accuses his partner of cheating, we can see that projection is one way they reveal their own bad behaviors and ideologies on to us. It’s how they show us who they are and tell us what they’re doing.
When the narcissist projects on to you, they are essentially calling you by their own name, in a way. They’ll accuse you of doing whatever it is they are actually doing, or what they’re considering or planning to do. And since narcissists aren’t prone to feeling guilty for their behaviors, even when they should, they end up assigning that guilt to you through projection. Does that make sense? They unconsciously deny the existence of a feeling or action of their own and attribute it to you or someone else, thereby externalizing it.
Some people would call this intentional manipulation. Others would say it’s a subconscious way for them to avoid taking personal responsibility for their behavior. I say it’s a combination of those two things.
Examples of Narcissistic Projection in Toxic Relationships
Let me make this a little easier to understand by sharing a few examples of psychological projection in relationships.
1. The Narcissist Says You’re Something They Are.
This is where the narcissist has some insecurity about their personal selves and then they either call you that thing or they put a lot of pressure on you to change it. For example, if the narcissist is lazy around the house, they will accuse you of the same. Or they might constantly complain about the extra 10 pounds you’re carrying around, while they’re carrying an extra 50. They might even say something like, “You never put my needs first. You only care about yourself.” Sound familiar?
They do this because in fact THEY never put your needs first (or even second), and they care only about themselves. And think of the example I explained with my client in which she was constantly on-guard to stay transparent with her partner after being constantly accused of cheating or wanting to cheat, and later learned it was actually her ex who cheated.
And in some cases, they are projecting on to someone else in a similar way. Maybe they over-focus on the fact that a neighbor doesn’t keep their yard tidy enough, while their own yard leaves a lot to be desired.
2. The Narcissist Plays the Victim.
This is one of the most infuriating types of projection: when the narcissist plays the victim – also known as narcissistic injury. When the narcissistic person abuses or victimizes you in some way, they will act like you’re the one who did it to them, and they’ll twist everything you say and do to fit the narrative. For example, if you finally get fed up with the way they treat you and go no contact, they will tell everyone (including anyone they’re currently grooming to be their new source of supply) that you did everything they did. They play the victim, play up the sob story and get plenty of narcissistic supply out of the deal.
3. The Narcissist Flips Accusations Around.
When you call the narcissist out on something they’re doing or have done that upsets you, they will turn it all around on you and before you know it, you’re the one apologizing. So, for example, if you notice that your partner is paying too much attention to a particular person of the opposite sex (or same, or whatever y’all are into) and you call them out on it, rather than explaining and or acknowledging their behavior and trying to change it, they instead find something to poke at you about. In the case of this example, they might say you are overly jealous and have nothing to worry about – but that if you continue to bother them with your nonsense, they may as well go ahead and cheat on you anyway. I mean, after all, you’re accusing them of it. What is really going on here is that they’re once again deflecting their bad behavior on to you and getting you to focus on what they’re accusing you of instead – so you end up trying to stop being jealous and end up allowing them to do things that make you really uncomfortable in order to prove that you’re not. It’s crazymaking, to say the very least.
How do you deal with narcissistic projection?
It helps to first recognize the issue, and then to see it for what it is – just one more way the narcissist is manipulating you – consciously or otherwise. You should also realize that as someone who might be an empath and who is sensitive, kind and compassionate, you might have the unfortunate habit of projecting your GOOD qualities on to the narcissist, so be careful with that. Be sure you take off your rose-colored glasses and see the narcissist for what they really are.
Once you’ve done that, identify and focus on your boundaries. Be sure to stand firmly behind them and to be aware of what is true and what is a manipulated falsehood designed to push you down and boost the narcissist into the position of power. Take the power back by refusing to be convinced of something that isn’t true. If you need to, keep a journal of what actually happens so that you don’t doubt yourself. It can be a really helpful way to deal with both projection and gaslighting – which, of course, can be dealt with using the gray rock rule. If you aren’t familiar with the gray rock rule, take a look at the video I’m sharing with you right here, where you can learn everything you need to know about how to use and benefit from the gray rock method of dealing with manipulative narcissists.
Lies Narcissists Want You To Believe – An empath friend of mine, let’s call her Jane, was in a relationship a guy – we’ll call him John – and while they didn’t seem to be an ideal couple to the average eye, they managed to stay together almost 10 years. If we’re being honest, this was all thanks to Jane and how good she was to John (even though, if you like me, he didn’t deserve it!). John had many narcissistic qualities, but he was also a good-looking guy who, while he had kind of a weird personality, was okay to be around most of the time.
Anyhoo. A few years into the relationship, John started acting weird. He would disappear for hours at a time, or he’d say he was going to work late, but when Jane would call his office, he wouldn’t be there. But Jane would always say he had a good reason and apparently whatever he told her made sense.
Fast-forward a few years, and something weird happens. I get a call from Jane, and she wants me to help her figure out who is stalking John. She says someone has been sending both of them really scary and cryptic messages. The mysterious person has been texting Jane that John is cheating on her and pushing her to leave John. The person also insults her personally on a number of other shocking levels.
John swears that he has no idea who would do this. He says they must be crazy! Jane is very concerned, she tells me, and knowing that I have a gift for finding out information on the internet, she wants me to dig around and see what I can find out. She sends me the phone number of the person sending the texts and we dig into her and John’s Facebook friends lists. Before long, we have a name.
We ask John if he knows this person, and he says they work together, and that he’s “been there for her as a friend.” He claims she’s been talking to him about her husband and how he is abusive. He even says he’s been referring her to my videos and websites. But he has no idea why she’d say this stuff.
Jane confides in me around this time, letting me know that while John has cheated on her in the past, she really believes that this time, it’s different – she knows he loves her. And they’re living together now, so she can’t imagine he’d do it again. I want to believe it too.
A few weeks later, Jane has a dinner party, and sure enough, the stalker happens to send a message during the party. Only this time, she describes Jane’s house. She’s literally sitting outside, it turns out. Jane and John go to the police and the incident the next day.
Jane and John later figure out where the stalker lives, and they go together to confront her. There, they meet her husband, who defends the stalker. They have a really difficult interaction, and they leave. Jane tries really hard to continue to believe John, but she’s finding it increasingly difficult.
A few weeks later, it all comes out. John has in fact been cheating on Jane with the so-called stalker, and in fact, he tells Jane, they are now in a relationship. But, he says, he’s going to continue to live in Jane’s house since he can’t afford to move out just yet. (Side note – that didn’t last long. Jane came to my house a few weeks later complaining that he wouldn’t leave. But you know me. I helped her figure out a plan and he ended up leaving the same day).
Anyway. Here’s the thing. The truth is best seen in a person’s actions, and if you’ve ever been involved with a narcissist, you already know words don’t mean much. After all, most toxic narcissists are pathological liars who can, at times, be so convincing that they even believe their own lies. (No, I’m not kidding!) And it can be hard to catch a narcissist in a lie since they’re so very skilled at gaslighting and manipulation in general. It doesn’t hurt that they are also able to say anything, whether it’s the gospel truth or a blatantly invented lie with total conviction. And, their complete lack of concern for you and other people kind of rounds out the idea that when it comes right down to it, you can’t really trust a narcissist any further than you can throw them.
Literally anything that serves them. Oh, and sometimes, they lie just for the sake of lying. But today, I’m going to share a dozen of the most commonly uttered lies narcissists want you to believe – as well as the truth behind each one – read on or watch this video on YouTube.
12 Lies The Narcissist Wants You To Believe
1. “Everyone else agrees with me on this.”
Narcissists will tell you this when you question or argue with them for any reason, or anytime you offer anything that feels like criticism – as in, anything that doesn’t sound like “you are so amazing!” They’ll say things like, “What do you mean the sky is blue? You are clearly color-blind! Everyone agrees with me that it’s really green and yellow striped!” or “How DARE you question my judgment or choices? You are clearly not very smart. Everyone knows I’m the only expert in the world on this stuff – and they all agree with everything I say, literally all the time!” But what that really means is, “I don’t actually know what I’m talking about and I realize that you are well-aware of it, but maybe if I tell you about all these pretend people who agree with everything I think, say and believe, you’ll doubt yourself enough to think I might be right. And my self-esteem can’t handle a hit right now, so…” In other words, for narcissists, saying it out loud is an attempt at self-validation, as well as a way to gaslight you into believing that you are the problem and that everyone else must be right. Yeah, they’re lying to you – but they’re also lying to themselves. Deep down they are often really insecure, which is why they have the need to say this phrase. This brings me to my next point.
2. “Everyone says you’re (lazy/no good/insert other insult here)
Despite the fact that you are a decent person with good intentions, the narcissist is always finding reasons to have you believe that they regularly poll the general public about you. They say things like, “Everyone says you’re difficult to get along with,” or “Everyone agrees that I’m too good-looking to be with you,” or “Everyone says you’re a gold digger,” or “Everyone knows you’re a bad parent.” Anything to hurt you. Now, you can test this one pretty easily – just ask for names. Who, specifically, said that? Sure, they might say that “everyone” is their friends, family, or even coworkers. But 9 times out of 10, if you ask them specifically WHO said whatever they’re claiming, they either won’t give you any specific name, or they’ll give you the name of someone you don’t know or can’t contact. That’s because this is another big fat lie narcissists tell you.
3. “I Promise You!”
Someone who is a good person will say this phrase and mean it. A narcissist says this with literally no actual intention of living up to their promise. So why do they say it if they don’t mean it? To shut you up, of course – basically get you off of their back for anything you happen to be upset about. The narcissist will say, “I promise I’ll never cheat on you again!” or “I promise to stop yelling at you every time I hear you breathing the wrong way,” but what they really mean is, “I see that you have needs, but I don’t want to deal with this right now. So I’m saying what I think you need to hear so that you will keep thinking things are okay, and I can keep controlling you.” In other words, they’ll promise to do whatever it is you’re hoping they’ll do in order to get you to behave in a way that they like – whether that means they promise you they’ll be better so you won’t leave or so you’ll come back once you’ve already left – hoovering – or it means they promise you they’ll change/grow/do better in some way. But they will only follow through if it’s convenient for them – or for only a short time (or as long as it takes for them to know they’ve got you fully enmeshed with them again).
4. “I’m Just Better Than You…and Everyone Else, Too”
Sometimes, the narcissist will literally say those words, but most of the time, it comes in the form of actively insulting your morals, ethics and behavior. They’ll say things like, “I can’t stand to look at you – you’re just disgusting,” or “You are clearly clueless and you never have anything of value to say.” But they mean, “You are making me feel less than or unattractive or in some way inferior, and I don’t like that. So, I’m going to make you feel like your feelings and thoughts aren’t as real or relevant as mine.” Oh, and don’t try to prove them wrong! Even if you show up with documented proof of your claim, they’ll blatantly deny it. in fact, they’ll also insult anyone else who offers advice or information that is contrary to what they want you to believe. This is even true if that person is an expert, such as a doctor or lawyer, or even someone like me – a subject matter expert. Just remember that this is less about YOU or even the other people they insult – it’s really more about the narcissist and their inability to see outside their own head. They are so sure they’re right about everything that to be open-minded enough to even consider that any opinion outside their own is valid would be nearly impossible. Remember too that anyone who goes out of their way to say that they are ‘better’ than you or anyone else has a need to say it due to deep, often hidden insecurity.
5. “Don’t Worry, I Got You, Boo”
When a narcissist says this phrase, then you really do have every reason to worry. Are they going to cause trouble for you? Will they fail to follow through on whatever it is that they’re saying they’ll do? Should you be worried? Yes, yes you should. They’ll say things like, “Of course I paid the mortgage! Don’t worry about it!” and “Yes, I will absolutely pick up our kid/your life-sustaining prescription/insert important thing here. I gotchu, Boo!” But what they really mean is, “I’d like you to stop talking about this now, so please shut up and let me get back to whatever else I’d prefer to be doing right now.” In other words, they’ll say whatever they need to say to get you to be quiet or stop bothering them with your silly questions. Just remember that narcissists don’t care about boundaries and rules. They are well-known to lack morality and credibility – so just be aware and double-check them when they utter this line – especially when whatever they say they’ll do could affect you in a big way if they skip it.
6. “I’ll be there for you.”
When the great Jon Bon Jovi serenaded the world with these words back when I was a pre-teen, I want to believe him so badly. I mean, who could look into those bedroom eyes and doubt anything he said? Yeah, I know. But can you blame me? I really wanted to believe that whoever I ended up with would actually be there for me. Unfortunately, I ended up with a toxic man who stereotypically proved to me that for a narcissist, this is the ultimate lie. They say things like, “I’ve got your back,” or “you can count on me!” But what they really mean is, “I only care about my own feelings and issues, unless it’s convenient for me to pretend to care about yours. And I want you to be there for me, so sometimes, I’ll pretend to be there for you. But when the chips are down, you’re on your own, boo.” Remember that narcissists have no empathy – so they don’t care how you feel, and they show you this with their actions. So don’t believe their words.
7. “No one else will love you.”
Narcissists want you to feel REALLY bad about yourself. They want you to believe that you’re so flawed, bad or damaged that you are literally unloveable. They’ll say things like, “Go ahead and leave! Good luck finding anyone to take care of you,” or “You are a total piece of poop. I must be crazy love you – no sane person would,” or “of course I don’t love you anymore, you’ve gotten so old/ugly/fat/skinny/rude/dumb that no one would love you!” What they really mean is, “I want you to think I’m doing you a HUGE favor by being in a relationship with you, but the truth is that I’m not good enough for you and I’m afraid you’ll figure it out, so I am just emotionally and psychologically abusing you into believing this BS.” Yeah, they want you to think that they are doing you a huge favor by tolerating you in their lives. The truth? You’re freaking amazing and they KNOW IT! But if you know it too, then you’ll know that they aren’t good enough for you. In other words, they only say this to keep you around, firmly under their thumb, and under their control. And speaking of love…
8. “I love you.”
This one, for me, was the ultimate insult. Don’t get me wrong. I think they believe they love you in the moments they say it – at least in the early stages of the relationship. But what they really mean at that time is “I’m infatuated with you at this moment,” or “You’re super hot and I wanna get with you,” or “I think you could prove to be of value to me in some way, so I’m going to attach myself to your heart if at all possible.” It could even mean, “I want the validation of knowing that you love me, so I’ll tell you I love you and you can say it back.” Later in the relationship, it means something more like “I know that love matters to you, so I’ll pretend to love you in order to keep you around or control you in some way.” Narcissistic love isn’t the same as other kinds of love. It’s more like the love you have for your smartphone. You dig it when you first get it because it’s new and shiny and runs so fast. But later, when newer, shinier, faster models with better features come out, you kind of start loving it less, and before you know it, you’re finding reasons to dump your old phone for a new one. And that’s okay – when we’re talking about objects. Not so much for people.
9. You’re my soulmate.
I used to actually believe in soulmates and I still want to. But narcissists have a way of ruining everything, and for me, the concept of soulmates is one of them. They’ll say things like, “I’ve been searching for you forever,” or, “I knew I loved you before I met you. I think I dreamed you into life!!” (Yep, that WAS a Savage Garden song lyric from 2012, thank you for asking!) or “OMG! We have so much in common,” or “I know we’ve only known each other for a few hours/days/weeks, but I feel like I’ve known you forever!” What they really mean when they say this is “I am going to mirror you and pretend to be everything you’ve been looking for in a partner, but in reality, all of this is fake and once I’ve got you hooked, I’ll begin the devalue and discard phases. But until I’m there, I’m going to do my best to keep you in the dark about who I really am – because if you knew, you’d totally dump my sorry ass.” Or something like that.
10. My ex is crazy…or amazing.
Nearly every narcissist I have ever met has told me something about how crazy or bad their exes were early in the relationship And many times, later in the relationship, I’d be told that their ex was so much better than me – and/or regularly compared with the ex in a negative way. Stuff like, “Wow, you’re just like my ex,” which really meant, “How dare you try to have an independent thought, a backbone or disagree with me in any way ever!” Or, “You’re starting to make me miss my ex – I thought she was crazy until I met you!” And then there was the old, “I should’ve never left my ex.” In reality, their ex was probably not a terrible person and in many cases, they are actually projecting their own bad qualities and behaviors on to the ex. For example, if they say the ex cheated on them, chances are the opposite is true. On a similarly upsetting note…
11. This person is stalking me!
This one’s a fun one. The narcissist will claim that someone has become absolutely OBSESSED with them and in some cases, say they’re being stalked. But often, this is used as a manipulation tactic. And I’ve seen this work in a couple of ways. The narcissist might say something like, “I had no idea that the attractive, younger person I’m interested in cheating on you with would be at the party. They are TOTALLY obsessed with me!” That really means, “I totally knew they’d be there, but I didn’t tell you because I knew it would cause confrontation, and honestly, I just don’t have the time for that right now or I don’t want to deal with your emotions.” Or, the narcissist might say something like, “Those super-intimate pics and texts you found on my phone were TOTALLY not my fault! That person is literally stalking me and I’m scared! Save me!” And what THAT really means is, “I am SO already cheating on you with that person but they aren’t following the rules, so rather than own up to it when they try to reach out or connect with me, I am going to go ahead and tell you they’re a crazy stalker who has imagined this whole relationship with me. That way, you won’t believe anything they tell you, even though it’ll probably all be true!”
12. I Would, But…
Narcissists use this kind of lie to kind of keep you hooked. In order to make you THINK they care and to also point out how important they are at work, or how popular they are socially, they say things like, “OMG, that sounds SO fun! I really wish I could help you or attend your event! But I’m just so busy right now…maybe next time, okay?” And of course, what that really means is, “I am just not interested in supporting you or showing any concern for you at all unless I feel like it can somehow benefit me or give me a good dose of supply. It sounds like whatever it is you want me to attend is going to be boring or too ‘you-focused,’ so I’m going to just sit around at home and watch old Price is Right reruns or go out with my friends in hopes of meeting someone to cheat on you with, or whatever. Because you don’t matter to me unless I need something from you – and btw, go ahead and ask me again next time because I just realized I get a big boost of narcissistic supply whenever I see the disappointed look on your face after I tell you no.”
When I first met my ex-husband, I actually tried to hook him up with a friend of mine. He wasn’t my type, but he was charming and seemed like a nice guy. I kept talking to him, pointing him at my friend and trying to get the two of them talking. But by the end of our lunch (where he was our server), he’d asked me for my number. I didn’t give it to him, but I agreed to take his.
Then I didn’t call him. In fact, I threw his number in the trash.
But a week or two later, my friend called me from a local bar. She told me she’d run into him and he’d begged her to call me. Reluctantly, I went up to meet them. Over the next couple of weeks, I got the love-bombing of my life. And while things were moving fast, I kind of wondered if this guy could be the soulmate he claimed to be.
Fast-forward several months, and my company decided to move me to a different town several hours away. Though he had been charming and sweet, I intended to move and leave him behind. But when my mother accidentally met him, thanks to the same friend I had tried to hook him up with (long story), she instantly claimed to like him.
It’s almost funny to me now, since they seemed so different but were in fact two sides of the same coin. Anyway, she ended up suggesting that he move to the new city with me, and while we’d only been dating a few months, I invited him to do exactly that. In hindsight, I realize that I did this because I just wanted to please my mother, who was never happy with me anyway. That’s a story for another day.
Anyhoo, once we lived together, everything changed and his true toxic face came out.
Still, I thought I loved him and we snuck around and got married two months after the move. Long story short, I regretted it. His charm was lost for me very quickly, but one thing kept bugging me: he was so kind to people who weren’t me – so nice and charming and awesome. Everyone loved him when they met him – at least until they got to know him.
But for me, he was cruel and plain-old mean. I actually remember asking him questions like: Why do you treat strangers better than you treat me? Why can’t you just be nice to me?
In fact, it got so bad that when it would come to the holidays or my birthday, I’d always tell him I didn’t want a physical gift (not that he’d get me one anyway!), but I’d ask for him to just be nice to me for the day. It rarely worked out in my favor.
I couldn’t quite understand what was going on – but when I later realized that he seemed to be a toxic narcissist, I finally figured out why he was so cruel to me and so kind to others.
Why Narcissists Are So Cruel to You But So Kind to Others
Why does the narcissist show their charming side to strangers, while you are stuck with having to put up with their cruel true colors? Let’s talk about it.
1. Familiarity Breeds Contempt for Narcissists.
It is plain and simple, really. People who don’t know the narcissist well will see their nice and charming side because the narcissist can’t trust that they’ll feed their ego otherwise. But you’ve proven yourself to be a reliable source of narcissistic supply. And let’s not forget that fact you have, on occasion, had the nerve to attempt to get your own wants and needs met. Obviously, this would anger the narcissist and create resentment since they see you as an extension of themselves rather than a whole person. So, if your needs and wants aren’t in line with what they believe they should be, the resentment soars. And if there is so much resentment, then they no longer have a reason to share their charming side to you. In fact, they are abusive and cruel as a way to punish you for no longer feeding their ego by expressing that you have wants and needs as well. Remember that the narcissist is extremely egotistical, entitled, and will do what they can to get what they want at the expense of you. This leads to their devaluing you (and in many cases, it can also lead to permanent or temporary discard – but we’ll get to that in a minute). In any case, it isn’t quite that simple. There are so many other factors to consider – which brings me to number two,
2. They Have No Empathy.
The most obvious reason narcissists are cruel to you is their lack of empathy. But why are they then able to be kind to other people? It shouldn’t make sense, but for narcissists, it’s all about the attention and supply they can get from others. You may have become “old news” or too available to them. They see you regularly and they know that you’ve seen behind the mask, so they can’t fool you anymore. Others are still enamored with their false selves, so it makes it far more exciting to the narcissist to get supply from these people. We will dig into this a bit deeper in a minute, but for now, let’s talk about the psychological component that everyone forgets.
3. They Won’t Take Responsibility.
In addition to the marked lack of empathy that narcissists display, they have a really hard time accepting emotional responsibility in a relationship. Therefore, they don’t see any reason to be nice to you, unless they can see a way that doing so benefits them directly. And while they don’t take responsibility for their hurtful behavior, they also lack the ability to become truly attached to you in a healthy way, which further distances them emotionally from you. So, when they are mean and cruel to you, rather than acknowledging and admitting it and doing what they can to make up for it, narcissists will ignore you – or worse, get even crueler and start to say things like, “Why can’t you ever be happy?” and “Oh, look, here comes the dark cloud.” And speaking of the inability to create healthy attachments…
4. They Lack Object Constancy.
Have you heard about the Freudian theory of Object Constancy? Freud’s theory basically means that most people have the ability to still have a positive emotional bond with someone when you are also feeling angry, hurt, or disappointed with them. In other words, your average person is capable of loving someone and still being angry with them at the same time. Narcissists don’t have this ability. So they literally aren’t able to love you and be angry in the same moment. So when they’re angry with you…they literally cannot love you.
5. The Pre-Conditioning Factor (Brainwashing).
You know the narcissist too well. The narcissist has spent months or years manipulating, controlling and conditioning you to accept their abuse. As a result, you know them better than most people and you’re sadly pretty used to dealing with their behavior. This, in healthier relationships, will Since you’re already in the position of being a narcissistic supply, the narcissist feels comfortable with you. Lucky you – that means you are among the privileged few who get to see the true face of the narcissist. Wearing their “mask” – or being their false self in public – is exhausting. So when they are behind closed doors with a pre-conditioned supply, their true selves can come out and play. That also means that you become their emotional dumpster – they take out all of their feelings of frustration and anger on you, even though, for the most part, it’s bottled up stuff from outside of you.
6. The Idealization Phase.
Narcissists have a typical relationship cycle: they first idealize you, where they love bomb and treat you like you are worth your weight in gold. But inevitably, something happens and they recognize that you are in fact a flawed human like everyone else. And this is about the time they begin to actively devalue you. At first, it’ll be little subtle insults and jabs, but before long, they will be directly mean, disrespectful and outright rude. This will lead to the discard phase, in which they abandon you – either emotionally or actually, or both. This can take the form of the silent treatment, ghosting or even actually ending the relationship. Worse, it can happen over and over for literally decades in the same relationship. So, this explains another reason that narcissists are so cruel to you and so kind to everyone else: because they are or could be in the idealization phase with anyone they don’t know very well. And in many cases, people who have the ability to set firm boundaries with the narcissist from the beginning are automatically going to walk away if the narcissist gets too rude or disrespectful, and the narcissist knows it.
So how do you deal with a narcissist who is cruel to you and kind to others?
You start by taking care of yourself and setting strong boundaries. See, when you are with a narcissist, they get upset with you for doing anything for yourself. So you just stop doing stuff for yourself. I did the same thing – it felt easier to NOT do what I needed to do, because it made the narcissist less angry with me if I could just do for him instead. Or at least to ignore my own needs. This, unfortunately, led to my becoming a shadow of myself. I didn’t even know who I was.
But the first step toward healing is to start recognizing that you matter, that your needs and even wants matter just as much as anyone else’s. And to remember that if you can’t take care of yourself, no one else is likely to do it for you – and I mean emotionally, physically and otherwise.
Narcissists don’t change, but you can. And if you allow yourself to begin by doing something nice for yourself every day, even something small, it’s a good jumping-off point. After that, start figuring out what your boundaries are, and little by little, you’ll be able to reclaim yourself and your life on a whole new level. Remember that you matter. Remember that you are as important as everyone else and remember to take care of your own needs. So what do you think?