Do you feel like you’re never able to win over your narcissistic husband, wife, or partner? Or maybe it’s your narcissistic parent, friend, or neighbor? Do you find that they always seem to be a step ahead of you?
Somehow, narcissists have this intrinsic ability to “know” what buttons to push that will hurt you the most. This is because narcissists are expert mind game players.
The narcissist is a master of manipulation. They can get you to do things you don’t want to do and think thoughts you don’t want to think…all under the guise of “love.”
What are narcissist mind games?
There are so many kinds of narcissist mind games, but in this case, we’re talking about different types of emotional manipulation. The manipulation of emotions can be so subtle, smooth, and insidious that you hardly notice it happening.
These games are designed to make you feel insecure and relatively inferior to them, encouraging you to compete with them or put your energy into earning their approval.
The good news is that we can work through the games and learn to break free once we know the games.
Why do narcissists play mind games with you?
To be able to play mind games, the narcissist has to ignore the feelings of others completely. They have no empathy and can’t see their pain or feel it. They cannot connect with others on any other level than a superficial one. They have no interest in others as people other than how they can use them, and they lie for no reason other than to avoid being honest.
In other words, narcissists play head games to control others and be in power. The main goal is to confuse, deceive and manipulate. They enjoy the ‘chase’ and the ‘hunt’ more than the actual ‘kill,’ so they want you to stay hooked at all times so they can keep playing this game. Whether consciously or otherwise, the narcissist’s goal is to keep you confused about and focused on figuring out how to navigate their behavior.
That way, they’ll have more control over you because you’ll be so focused on trying to figure them out that you might not recognize what’s happening. Plus, in most cases, the mind games involve tearing you down and making you feel worthless – so you won’t believe you can do any better than them. It may be hard to believe that a person who loves you would knowingly try to hurt you, but if they are a narcissist, that’s exactly what they do. But you’ve got to understand that a narcissist cannot love you in the same way you could love them.
What are the most common mind games played by the narcissist?
There are many narcissist mind games but these are the most common. They’re used often to play with your emotions, your intelligence, your sanity and they’re used often to confuse you. They don’t mean anything; it’s nothing personal (usually) It’s just for one reason or another they use these mind games to make you feel like you aren’t good enough… like you need to change something about yourself…
Are narcissists all the same? I have had so many people read my books or articles, or watch my videos and say things like, “I can’t believe how accurate this is for my situation,” or “Have you been spying on me? This is my life!” I’ve even heard people say we must have the same parents or ex because my situation sounded identical to theirs.
One thing that has always stood out to me is that the traits of narcissists seem to be the same across the board – regardless of their life circumstances, relationship status, culture, race, religion, financial status. It’s almost like they have a narcissist playbook or something. How is it possible that they’re all so very similar? Well, that’s exactly what we’re talking about today at QueenBeeing.com.
So do narcissists really have a “playbook” used to manipulate you?
Not technically, but it almost seems like they do. A client of mine recently referred to this as a “narcissist program” – noting that narcissists all seemed to be running the same “computer program.” I’ve also found myself jokingly referring to narcissists as “NPCs” or “non-player characters” – a video-game term I learned from my kids that means a programmed character that doesn’t have a human behind it.
But why is that? How could they all be so similar? Is there something specifically neurological going on? Is it a result of some sort of trauma, or is there something else going on? Well, let’s talk about it.
How are narcissists are different than the rest of us?
So, we all know that narcissists are seriously lacking in empathy, especially those who would be classified as having NPD (narcissistic personality disorder) if they’d ever give anyone the chance to diagnose them officially. (Side note – they won’t, because they don’t feel that there’s anything wrong with them).
Research Says People with NPD Have Different Brains
Let’s start with the fact that published scientific research tells us that people with narcissistic personality disorder may have less gray matter in the left anterior insula, the part of the brain linked to empathy.
But the layman’s version of the scientific explanation is that those parts of the brain that mediate empathy (the ability to care about other people’s feelings) are lower functioning and less capable of focusing on others.
In other words, a narcissist has less gray matter in their brain than someone who is capable of empathy.
Worse, researchers say, the differences in the narcissist’s brains are actually literally causing them to turn inward and to self-focus.
Study authors defined certain traits as being shared among all narcissists, despite various other definitions and forms of the personality disorder.
In a German study, researchers found that the degree to which a person was able to exhibit empathy was directly tied to the amount of gray matter in the brain, both in the healthy individuals as well as in those with narcissistic personality disorder.
Narcissistic Abuse is Subtle
Narcissists are by nature very subtle in the way they control and manipulate their victims. In fact, so often, even the very people they’re manipulating and controlling aren’t aware of it – in fact, that’s the very nature of their favorite manipulation tactic, gaslighting.
So many people are in these situations and because they are being so heavily manipulated, they really believe that they are the ones with the “issues” – when in reality, they’ve just been horribly gaslighted by one of these toxic people.
In a narcissism-focused study, the researchers were able to define the following traits as being shared among all narcissists, despite various other definitions and forms of the personality disorder. It didn’t matter if they were a covert narcissist or an overt one – or one of the many other types that we’ve currently defined.
4 Qualities Shared by All Narcissists
The qualities that are shared by all narcissists, regardless of classification, include the following.
Expecting special favors and unquestioning compliance with your expectations
Taking advantage of others to get what you want
Having an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others
Being envious of others and believing others envy you
Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner
As you can guess from the official list of symptoms, diagnosis of NPD would typically be made by a qualified psychologist or psychiatrist when five or more of the characteristics are identified – but generally, the condition goes undiagnosed because narcissists see nothing wrong with their behavior.
Common Narcissist Behaviors
People who are involved with narcissists and those who have NPD typically report the following kinds of behaviors and characteristics – do we see a pattern?
The belief that he or she is “special” and the desire to only associate with people he or she perceives are on their wavelength or who will “appreciate” them.
The need for excessive admiration from those around him or her.
An expectation of especially favorable treatment and automatic agreement by people around him or her.
Exploitation of others around them for their own benefit or advancement.
Inability to empathize with others.
Feels envious of others, but also feels that others are envious of him or her.
Acts arrogant, and may try to disguise arrogance with ethics.
Displays an exaggerated sense of self-importance and is typically extremely judgmental.
So how do you deal with these people if you have one in your life? Well, usually it’s best to distance yourself from a person with NPD. This is especially true because they don’t generally realize that anything is wrong. Plus, there is currently no known “cure” for NPD–though if a person affected with it seeks therapy, change is possible. However, it’s very unusual for a person with NPD to seek therapy since they don’t see a problem with their behavior.
“I stood up as best I could to their disgusting stupidity and brutality, but I did not, of course, manage to beat them at their own game. It was a fight to the bitter end, one in which I was not defending ideals or beliefs but simply my own self.” ~George Grosz
So, expecting a narcissist to change for love will leave you sadly disappointed and wasting a lot of your life hoping for something that is statistically impossible. And yet, it isn’t always possible to leave a narcissist – at least not immediately.
No Contact Isn’t Always an Option
This is evidenced by the fact the some of the most frequently asked questions on narcissistic abuse recovery that I hear from survivors include things like:
How do I deal with the narcissist if I can’t leave?
What can I do to make life easier while I’m working on leaving the narcissist?
Maybe they can’t go no contact because they have kids with the narcissist and need to co-parent, or maybe it’s because the narcissist in their life is their boss and they really need their job. Or maybe it’s because the narcissist lives next door, and they don’t want to sell their home. Or the narcissist is an extended family member or friend who going no contact with might cause you to lose the other people in the group that connects you.
In any case, you might find yourself trying to figure out what it takes to beat a narcissist – and in that case, stick with me, because I’m going to tell you exactly what you need to do if you want to beat the narcissist.
How to Beat the Narcissist At Their Own Game
Do you want to learn how to play the narcissist’s game so that you can beat them at it? We’ll get to that…but before we do, let me ask you something.
Would you agree that the narcissist cares just as much about how they’re perceived as they do about how YOU behave inside your relationship? Is he or she always the one who calls the shots – whether directly or indirectly?
When I say directly, I mean by literally setting the rules; or indirectly, by manipulating every situation to his or her advantage. So, inside the relationship, the narcissist is controlling, often of every single aspect, to say the very least.
Assuming you would, let me ask you another question: would you agree that people who don’t know the narcissist as well as you do may see him or her as a very generous, selfless, or fun-to-be-around type of person?
That’s what you call the narcissistic conundrum – sort of their secret sauce – the “duel personality” thing.
They’re one person at home (or in private) and another person in public or around “outsiders.” They are the type who’s nicer to strangers than they are to the people they love.
(But as one of the narcissist’s favorite forms of narcissistic supply, you already know that their “generosity” is always equipped with proper strings.)
Oh, and then there’s the fact that you can’t always count on a narcissist to explode when something’s wrong in their little world – you’ll also have the covert narcissist types who will often just shut down and force you to figure out what you did wrong this time. And this one may not speak to you for days or weeks, even.
Playing the Game: The Rules of Toxic Narcissism
The apparent objective of the game is self-preservation – but there’s a twist! (Isn’t there always?)
The twist is that you’ve got to discover the tipping point between self-preservation and self-destruction when it comes to this game.
If you focus too much on self-preservation, you may find yourself exhibiting certain classic narcissistic behaviors. But if you focus too little on it, you find yourself being a typical “narcissistic abuse victim.” (See how I didn’t say “SURVIVOR” there?)
During the course of a relationship with a narcissist, especially a toxic one, you’re going to find yourself sliding back and forth on a sort of track between the two extremes.
So, the actual objective of the game is to simply keep spinning, stay on that sliding track and inside of the narcissist’s so-called harem. To just simply KEEP THE GAME GOING.
Another super-fun fact about narcissists? They like to play both sides; that is, one day, they might play a victim who needs rescuing (damsel in distress, anyone?) while the next day, they’ll find center stage by becoming someone’s savior.
The Players in the Narcissist’s Game
Your role as a player in the narcissistic game is fluid – sometimes, you’ll be the victim who needs to be rescued. And when the narcissist wants to be rescued? You’ll be the hero.
Either way, don’t try to steal the narcissist’s spotlight. They won’t like that one bit. But then again, sometimes, the narcissist will need to crush someone’s soul – and guess what friend? That’d be your role, too – the crushee, of course. That’s because you’re at least part of the little “harem” of people that feeds them narcissistic supply.
FYI: Narcissistic supply is usually a person, but can also be a pet or group of people, the narcissistic supply is used by the narcissist to get attention, validation, admiration – all the “supply” they need to feed their ego. The narcissist often has a circle of supply or “narcissistic harem.”
The Rule That Overpowers All Rules
No matter what, you must keep the game going. It’s absolutely necessary for both parties to participate if one of you (the narcissist) is going to win in the end.
Oh yes, that’s the last rule: you WILL NOT win. You can’t, because even if by all logical standards and opinions, you are the clear-cut winner, the narcissist will never, ever acknowledge, admit or encourage you to discuss it. He will instead find literally any reason to place the fault on someone else and to artificially elevate his own fragile ego.
So, in short:
1. The object of the game is to keep the game going.
2. The biggest rule of the game is that both parties must participate in the game.
3. The other rule of note is that you cannot win the game.
Okay, so let me ask you: why are you playing this game again?
How to Beat the Narcissist: Winning Their Game
Here is how you win that game – the ONLY move that will save you: you get the hell out of it. You leave, you quit, you end it. GAME OVER.
That is how you beat the narcissist at his game. You leave.