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.
Something Broke Inside Me
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.
Soul-Twisting, Ugly Rage
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’s always looking for attention!”
She minimized and invalidated 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 full 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.
How does a narcissist react when they can’t control you anymore? Narcissists need to be in control of you when you’re among their sources of narcissistic supply. This becomes apparent when you look at how they engage in emotional abuse, fulfilling their need to be adored and idolized in a way that keeps their partners (and other loved ones) in check.
So, it’s in a narcissist’s nature to use gaslighting and other forms of manipulation to maintain control. But what happens when someone is so used to having control over everything that they’ve lost all sense of what it means to compromise? What happens when a narcissist loses control completely?
What is a narcissist?
A narcissist is a person who has an inflated sense of self-importance and an extreme preoccupation with themselves. When this self-love and obsession with their own excellence becomes pathological, it manifests in displaying grandiosity, entitlement, and a lack of empathy for others. They may just display narcissistic traits or they could be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder.
How does a narcissist react when they can’t control you anymore?
The lack of control combined with 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.
The narcissist may start acting incredibly hostile and manipulative.
They tend to become irrational, emotional, pushy and demanding.
It’s not surprising that narcissists feel the need to take charge of every situation, as well as everyone around them, in order to feel like they’re in control.
Toxic people (including narcissists) also tend to be extremely envious which makes them feel inadequate or unworthy. They constantly seek reassurance from others that they are special.
Because of this, they can’t stand the thought of others being better than them at anything. This is why it’s common for individuals with narcissistic personality disorder to berate their partners, children, and other family members or friends for any reason. In their minds, consciously or otherwise, doing so makes them look superior to everyone else – which, sadly, makes them feel better about themselves.
When someone with narcissistic tendencies begins to lose control over something or someone important to them, they can become extremely upset and angry, eventually lashing out at the person or thing they previously controlled.
Narcissists need control because they feel like they don’t have it in other parts of their lives. This usually begins in childhood, as narcissists are often victims themselves of narcissistic abuse as children. When they can’t control their own lives anymore, they might become very dangerous people.
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.
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 at 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 narcissistic supply they are missing. This is what we call the hoover maneuver – because they are 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.
Use the Gray Rock Method
Take yourself out of the narcissist’s so-called harem by refusing to give them narcissistic supply. Use the gray rock (grey rock) method – a shockingly simple but effective technique that was named and first published by a writer called Skylar, who advises that you act boring and don’t react to the narcissist’s attempts to engage you in drama. The tactic is highly effective but also infuriating for narcissists to experience. Note: do not use this method if you are dealing with any physical abuse as the narcissist may not react well. Learn more about how to use the gray rock method.
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.