Agenda-Driven Empathy: How Narcissists Fool You Into Thinking They Care

Agenda-Driven Empathy: How Narcissists Fool You Into Thinking They Care


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Narcissism, Lack of Empathy and Self-Awareness

I’ve often discussed the fact that the defining quality of a narcissist is the lack of empathy. Not only is this the one quality shared by all toxic narcissists, but it is also the “tipping point” into the “toxic” side of narcissism.

The fact is that narcissists cannot put themselves into your shoes, and they cannot understand any type of pain you feel because they are not capable of it on an emotional level. But this explanation isn’t quite thorough enough because it leaves so many of us wondering, “but what about all those times they did seem to be empathetic?”

For example, if your ex is a narcissist, they probably seemed to be fully aware of your feelings when you first started dating. After all, they very clearly knew what you liked. They made sure to give you what you liked, and they did their best to steer clear of what you didn’t like.  This is one of those little things that made you feel like you’d finally found your soulmate – at least, at first.

Narcissists Can Access This One Type of Empathy

So, I know what you’re thinking. If narcissists are not empathetic, then how could they ever fool you? After all, you’re pretty good at reading people and figuring out how sincere they may or may not be.

And isn’t this how empathy works? To be aware of and to choose your actions based on someone else’s feelings? Well, yes, and no.

Before we get into how narcissists are able to show empathy when it’s convenient for them, it’s important to understand what “real” empathy is, so let me define it for you.

What is ‘Real’ Empathy?

My shorthand definition is that empathy is the ability to feel and care about how other people feel and to act from that perspective. To be a little more clear, real empathy is the ability to sense, understand, and feel someone else’s emotions, even if you haven’t had an identical experience.

It means being able to put yourself into someone else’s shoes. You can feel what they are feeling even if you cannot relate to what they are going through directly because you can sort of imagine how they must feel.

You feel compassion for them and care about their feelings because of this – and then you act accordingly.

What is False Empathy?

Narcissists sadly use false empathy as a manipulation tactic when they want something from you. Since you value connection and empathy, as most non-narcissists do, the narcissist knows it will help them get what they want from you.

So they pretend to care how you feel. See, when it comes to narcissists, they are unable to feel emotional and compassionate empathy.

But at the same time, they are well aware of the fact that other people value empathy, and because of that, they might demonstrate false empathy.

This is why detecting a narcissist early in a relationship is so confusing and difficult.

False Empathy: Understanding the Narcissist’s Empathy Deficit

Here’s the thing. When we say “narcissists have no empathy,” we don’t necessarily mean that they’re not capable of figuring out what you’re feeling. What we mean is that narcissists don’t FEEL empathy in the same way as most people do. As in:

  • They have no compassion, no remorse, and they don’t feel regret – unless they regret a choice they made because it negatively affected them directly.
  • To put it more specifically, when someone feels compassion, it means they are sympathetic toward someone’s situation and feel compelled to help that person fix whatever is wrong or at least not make anything more difficult for that person.
  • When someone feels remorse, it means that they feel really guilty about something they did that they see as wrong.
  • And when someone feels regret, it means they recognize that they made a choice or took an action that led to a negative consequence, and they wish they hadn’t done it or even that they could go back and change what they did.

So, in other words, the narcissist is capable of understanding exactly what you think or feel on a cognitive level, but not on an emotional one.

They can “think about” what someone else is feeling, but it doesn’t affect their emotional state directly, nor does it play a part in how they treat the other person.

The exception is when the narcissist thinks someone has negative feelings about them. This situation will make them angry, offended, and generally upset, which manifests in narcissistic rage and/or injury.

The truth is that while narcissists find it easy to learn the motions of how to appear to be empathetic, they are usually just imitating what they’ve seen others doing – and that is when they use false empathy. 

Yes, it really is all part of the narcissist’s cycle of abuse. 

What is the cycle of narcissistic abuse?

The cycle of narcissistic abuse is a pattern used by a narcissistic personality disorder, psychopathic, or sociopathic person to entrap their victims. For the most part, victims will experience four main phases, including the idealization phase, also known as love bombing, followed by the devaluation and discard phases.

After that, the narcissist will often try to bring you back into the relationship, or at least into their “circle of supply,” through a hoover maneuver tactic. The hoover maneuver can involve several different manipulative behaviors designed to get your attention. This cycle will repeat throughout the relationship, whether or not it’s ever officially ended. In

many cases, the “final discard” only happens when you choose to end it yourself. This is because the narcissist will continue to use you for narcissistic supply as long as you allow it in most cases.

What are the effects of narcissistic abuse on the victim?

It’s a common red-flag symptom of NPD abuse, and it’s one that many victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse and gaslighting in relationships report: they feel like they don’t matter. They feel like the narcissist made it clear that they aren’t good enough, or at least that they’re not as good as the narcissist.

What Are the Different Types of Empathy?

A lot of people don’t realize that there are different types of empathy as defined by psychologists, including cognitive, emotional, and compassionate empathy.

And what is even more perplexing for a lot of us is that it is totally possible to demonstrate one or more of these types of empathy without actually caring on an emotional level what someone is feeling or going through.

Cognitive Empathy

As defined by psychologist Daniel Goleman in his 1995 book Emotional Intelligence, cognitive empathy is “simply knowing how the other person feels and what they might be thinking.”

He adds that cognitive empathy is also sometimes called “perspective-taking.” In other words, it means being aware on an intellectual level of someone’s emotions and likely thoughts about any given topic or situation.

Cognitive Empathy Example: Your Co-Worker’s Grandma

It’s like understanding that a coworker is sad that their grandma died, but since you didn’t know her, you might not feel personally sad about it.

You tell them you’re sorry for their loss and offer to help them keep up on their workload while they attend the out-of-town funeral, but you don’t necessarily go home and cry about it.

Now, this kind of cognitive empathy is pretty common for most people.

But narcissists actually experience and use cognitive empathy in a toxic, manipulative way that can be anything from mildly annoying to devastating. It all starts when they listen closely to you in the beginning, during the love bombing phase

That’s when they gather a lot of the ‘weapons’ they’ll use against you later. Here’s what happens:

You’ll meet a really cool or otherwise pleasant person who seems to be exactly what you’ve always wanted.

You’ll share all of your trauma and your triggers early in the relationship while you feel safe – like you’ve met your soulmate.

Before you know it, the devalue phase comes. This person will become disillusioned with you a few days/weeks/months later. It’ll seem like they’ve flipped a switch and lost their love for you.

They might just be plain rude and disrespectful. They will actively pick at everything you’re associated with and be so judgmental that you’ll feel like they’re actively destroying you.

They’ll rudely and blatantly criticize you.

That’s about the time you’ll try to figure out what YOU did wrong or why they stopped liking you – and then you’ll begin to change yourself accordingly. 

This will begin an ongoing cycle of intermittent reinforcement that will make you feel literally addicted to the narcissist, and they’ve got you under control.

At least, that is, until you recognize that you’re dealing with a narcissist and have been repeating the same patterns for as long as you’ve been together.

That cycle is the cycle of narcissistic abuse, as described above.

Cognitive Empathy Example: The Car Salesperson’s Go-To Sales Tool

Narcissists will use cognitive empathy as a way to manipulate you in the same way that a used car dealer would try to get you to buy an over-priced, underperforming vehicle. The salesperson doesn’t really care about the fact that you’ve got kids or that your budget is stretched. They’re more concerned about moving inventory and getting paid.

Yet, on an intellectual level, they can read you well enough to understand your thought process and what you’re looking for in a vehicle. And they can gather that you’re emotionally tied to this decision in some way, whether it’s due to a desire for a safe, dependable vehicle, or a desire for a pretty and stylish vehicle, or one that is super extra fast and powerful.

If they don’t have something in stock that fits your needs perfectly, the ethical thing to do would be to say so and possibly recommend another car lot. But they aim to move their own inventory and make money, so they’ll do what they need to to make something they have work for you.

And while the car they ultimately talk you into buying may or may not be right for you, they will use this understanding of what you want to make it seem like exactly what you need.

Sure, maybe it’ll cost way more than you can afford, or maybe it’ll have 300k miles on it – but these things aren’t a concern for the salesperson. They just want to sell you a dang car so they can go out to lunch, or buy that boat they’ve had their eye on, or whatever.

Narcissists use cognitive empathy as a tool.

The car salesman’s approach offers a glimpse into the psychology of the narcissist. See, while they can see things from your perspective, a narcissist will always act in a way they will benefit the most.

In other words, they use cognitive empathy to get what they want by understanding what is important to you or what your perspective happens to be.

In fact, Daniel Goleman also notes that this is the kind of empathy used by people who use torture tactics. It allows them to understand what makes a person tick without feeling any sympathy toward them.

So, narcissists can and will use cognitive empathy to get what they want. But it doesn’t mean they can feel anything you feel; you feel me?

Example: Agenda-Driven Empathy

A twist on cognitive empathy is “agenda-driven” empathy. See, when the narcissist is getting what they want from you, they will pretend to know that you are making sacrifices for them.

And they think they can convince you to be more willing to give up what you want for them by acknowledging that. For example, let’s say you’re excited about your upcoming friends’ night out. You’re going to see a movie you’ve been DYING to see.

At the last minute, the narcissist you work with asks you to fill in for them the same evening, even though they were well aware that you wanted to go. They will say, “Oh, I know you were looking forward to this but if you do this favor for me I will be forever grateful.” How can you turn that down?

Emotional Empathy 

Emotional empathy is the type of empathy most of us think of when we call ourselves empaths. It means that you can sense and in some ways, actually feel what other people around you are feeling, even when they’re a stranger. Interestingly, emotional empathy can be seen in most humans as early as two months old, when a baby will smile back at their mother smiling at them or when the baby will cry when hearing another baby cry.

Examples of Emotional Empathy

  • For one example of emotional empathy, if you watch someone on television stub their toe or get kicked in the shin, you sort of “feel” it along with them.
  • Emotional empathy is what makes us cry at movies and what makes us feel sad when someone we love is sad. It’s sort of like other people’s feelings become almost contagious for you.

Narcissists do not feel emotional empathy.

However, they might feel a sort of shallow empathy, which is when the narcissist shows a degree of softness for you. This happens most often early in a relationship during the love-bombing phase, and even then, if you look hard enough, you’ll see that they continue to show their true colors elsewhere.

And of course, they will show their true colors to you eventually. It’s like a doctor who has an amazing bedside manner but is a total jerk to his wife and kids. Same deal.

Compassionate Empathy

Compassionate empathy is exactly what it sounds like – being aware of and feeling for a person’s situation, and feeling moved to do something to help. It means keeping your head on straight but also caring about the other person’s feelings. It doesn’t necessarily involve being overly emotional, though you might be driven by emotion. It doesn’t necessarily involve being overly analytical or intellectual, though you might use your intellect to help them solve the problem.

It simply means you understand what someone is experiencing, and you might help them take action to resolve the issue.

Narcissists do not feel compassionate empathy.

Narcissists do not generally have compassionate empathy, though they can be good at faking it when it helps them get what they want from you. This will throw their romantic targets and non-family sources of narcissistic supply into a tailspin when they begin to demonstrate this earlier in the relationships.

Does the show of empathy mean the person isn’t a narcissist? 

Not necessarily. Let me explain. 

So many people ask why the narcissist in their lives seem to show empathy. The obvious answer is the one you’ve already read – cognitive empathy.

That said, I have witnessed some people who have narcissistic tendencies but who have not been diagnosed with NPD and who appear to be “lower” on the spectrum of narcissists who can, under the right conditions, demonstrate both emotional and compassionate empathy. 

They need to be in the right frame of mind, of course, as well as to have some reason to show such empathy. If they are in any way upset or agitated, this ability would disappear.

The person they’d be showing some empathy would be a key player in their circle, but almost never their partner or primary source of narcissistic supply.

Then again, in those who are higher on the cluster B spectrum, you’ll find a similar phenomenon – except its nearly always cognitive empathy – or false empathy. This is just one more reason narcissists are so confusing to the people in their lives. 

Question of the Day

 Have you experienced a narcissist who used false empathy? What was that like? And when did you recognize what was happening? Share your thoughts, share your ideas and share your experiences in the comments section below this video, and let’s talk about it.

Start Getting Help with Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Today

 

You might also like to watch these narcissistic abuse recovery videos.

Narcissism And Attachment Theory – What Is The Connection?

Narcissism And Attachment Theory – What Is The Connection?


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If it’s not one thing, it’s your mother. At least that was the case for me. For years, I lived with a kind of anxiety that made me almost physically sick at the idea of disappointing or upsetting someone. I couldn’t stand the idea that anyone didn’t like me or felt like something was not acceptable about me. This is probably because, growing up, I believed that my value was dependent on the way my mother felt about me. This would continue well into my adult life, and if I’m being honest, that was a pretty dangerous place to base my self-worth since my mother was not super fond of the person I’d turn out to be, to put it mildly.

I wonder if you can relate. Have you found yourself dealing with a narcissist or toxic person who actively tore down your self-esteem or devalued you in some way? Did you find yourself struggling with anxiety and feeling not good enough? Rejected even? If so, you’re going to want to stick around, because today, I’m going to explain to you exactly why you feel this way, and how it relates to your relationships with narcissists. See, there a theory that could explain narcissists and the way they behave in relationships, as well as how you fit into all of this. It’s called attachment theory.

What is attachment theory?

Let’s start with a brief overview of attachment theory. Attachment is defined as a deep and enduring emotional bond that connects one person to another across time and space. Attachment theory basically helps us understand that our relationships with our mothers can affect us and our lifelong development (and even our relationships with others) in profound ways.

In psychology, attachment theory as we know it today first originated in 1958, when child psychiatrist John Bolby recognized the importance of a child’s relationship with their mother. It turns out, he realized, that our emotional, social, and cognitive development are directly affected by our attachment to our mothers.

Along with fellow researcher James Robertson, Bolby found that children who were separated from their mothers experienced extreme distress, which led to anxiety. This, they assumed, could have been related to the idea that their mothers fed and cared for them, but they noticed that the separation anxiety would not diminish even when the kids were fed and cared for by other caregivers.

Before this, other researchers had underestimated the bond between a child and its mother and had assumed that it was the feeding of the infant that bonded a mother and child.

Bowlby was the first to propose that attachment could be an evolutionary thing – the child’s caregiver obviously is the person who provides safety, security and food. So, he reckoned, being attached to the mother would increase a baby’s chance of survival. Makes sense right?

What are the four attachment styles?

There are four primary attachment styles, including secure, anxious-preoccupied, dismissive-avoidant and fearful-avoidant, though many sub-types have also been identified. For today, we’re going to focus just on the four main attachment styles, which, for the record sort of explain why families tend to see generations of healthy – or unhealthy – relationships and why it’s so important for those of us who have grown up with toxic parents need to intentionally change our own lives so that our kids, if we have them, can do better than we did in the future.

Secure Attachment Style

A secure attachment style is probably the most desirable – it’s where you feel comfortable and connected to the person, and where you trust them and the integrity of the relationship. You feel secure in the relationship.

People who have this style of attachment had healthy relationships with their parents and also felt secure enough in those relationships to explore the world and other people in it. They felt loved and supported in childhood. This helped them to grow up feeling safe in to grow and involve themselves a variety of situations and activities, knowing they could always still get support and love from their parents. And their parents were likely also securely attached to their own parents, so this healthy pattern would continue through to the next generation.

Anxious-Preoccupied Attachment Style

If you’ve ever met a hopeless romantic, you may have met someone with the anxious-preoccupied attachment style. This person desperately wants to be connected to others, and craves the emotional intimacy that comes along with it. The only problem is that this person also tends to want to jump ahead in the game, even if their partner isn’t ready for it. So, they’re likely to say, “I love you” too quickly and to push ahead even when the red flags are everywhere.

They need constant approval and reassurance from their partner, and they feel anxious if they don’t it. They doubt their self-worth, probably because they need others to validate them – and when their clingy behavior pushes away their partners, they feel like they were right all along – they might really be worthless. They have a positive opinion of their peers, but not so much of themselves.

Their parents may have intermittently met their needs – they were loved and cared for, but not on a consistent, predictable basis. Interestingly, this kind of person develops when their parent seems to need the child to meet their own emotional needs. Their mother might have been the type to think to herself, “Well, if I have a baby, then I’ll have someone to love me.” Once again, you can see how this would carry on throughout the generations.

Dismissive-Avoidant Attachment Style

This is where you might find your narcissist. Someone with a dismissive-avoidant attachment style appears to be emotionally independent and is often likely to be afraid to commit to a single person in a long-term relationship.

This person would have had parents who were either not around a lot, or who were negligent in their care in other ways. They may have been ignored or undervalued in childhood. They felt rejected, not good enough or unwanted. One or both parents might have been completely absent for this person. Their needs may have been partially served, but not fully. For example, they may have received enough food and were bathed regularly, but they weren’t held often enough.

They may have been rejected by peers as they got older and may have lived their lives feeling not good enough entirely. This would leave them afraid to trust people and, as a result, likely to be really dismissive of others. They tend to cover up their insecurity with a sort of false sense of self-confidence. But when someone is dismissive-avoidant and manages to find a secure, loving relationship and works through their own issues, they can manage healthy relationships. Unfortunately for most narcissists, they don’t develop the emotional maturity to do that and stay stuck here.

Fearful-Avoidant Attachment Style

This person might always date the “wrong” people for them, and on the flip side, they might also end up rejecting those who would be good for them. They might find themselves feeling “normal” in unhealthy relationships where they feel the need to earn the other person’s approval and feel scared or threatened when something seems “too good to be true,” or when things are going toward a bigger commitment such as marriage.

Their attachment style might lead them to actually sabotage a really good relationship, maybe because they are afraid it will end and leave them feeling devastated.  They struggle with jealousy and distrust in relationships, even when it isn’t warranted. This person grew up with parents who made it clear they were unwanted or maybe that they were not acceptable as they were.

They are a walking conundrum – they desperately want emotional intimacy, but they also push it away. They want to be in a committed relationship with the right person, but actively seek out the opposite or avoid relationships completely out of fear of rejection. Psychologists say that this kind of attachment style is sort of a combination of the dismissive-avoidant and the anxious-preoccupied attachment style and that it is a result of dealing with a lot of trauma or loss in childhood.

Like the dismissive-avoidant, their parents may have been unable to fully meet their needs in infancy – they might have been fed enough and always wearing a clean diaper, but they might not have been held or interacted with enough, for example. They may have really difficult relationships with their parents or they may even become completely estranged from them in adulthood. Their parents may have been alcoholics or addicts – or narcissists – and they may have been physically and/or emotionally abused.

Which Attachment Style is Yours?

You might have any of these attachment styles and end up dealing with a narcissist, but those of us who end up in longer-term relationships with a toxic person are most likely to fall into either the anxious-preoccupied or the fearful-avoidant attachment style categories.

If you have an anxious attachment style, you’ll find yourself completely bowled over by a narcissist. That is because you might tend to have high anxiety responses to their behavior. Think about it.

If you have the anxious-attachment style, then you have a tendency to be sort of emotionally hungry. You might find yourself holding on to the idea of being deeply bonded with someone else, even when it’s just a fantasy and not reality in your relationships. What I mean is that you might sort of self-invent a bond that your partner isn’t feeling at the same time. That is due to the history of how you were not nurtured enough as you probably had at least one parent who did not give you the love and nurturing you need. You’ve dealt with a lot of turbulence in your life and felt unloved and unwanted, so you might have a tendency to latch on and hold on for dear life.

Narcissists see this and sense this, which is why you are vulnerable to them. They know how anxious you become and that alone gives them the narcissistic supply they need – which is why they see you as the perfect prey. Since narcissists are known to have the avoidant attachment style, they can be abusive and will always find faults with you. They will place blame on you as well because since anyone with the avoidant attachment style will not take responsibility at all. The more they do this, the more you become anxiety-ridden that your bond with them will disappear and the vicious cycle keeps going.

Which Attachment Style Does the Narcissist Represent?

As I mentioned earlier, while technically a narcissist might classify themselves under any of these categories, they are most typically identified as the dismissive-avoidant attachment style. That is why they maintain a certain distance when it comes to their relationships and why they make you feel like you’re unwanted or unneeded – even if they do clearly depend on you completely for narcissistic supply, among other things.

The dismissive-avoidant style leads to being overly self-reliant and downplaying the importance of relationships. However, they are quite vulnerable when there is a big crisis as they don’t handle crises well. They may have a super-inflated opinion of themselves and be very critical and suspicious of others, making their relationships miserable for their partners.

This is where you’re likely to find the overt narcissist, anyway. But the covert narcissist can fall into the avoidant-fearful style – which seems counterintuitive since their victims can also fall into this category.

The Wild-Card Attachment Style: Fearful-Avoidant

Many people who could be classified as codependent might fall into the fearful-avoidant attachment style. As adults, fearful-avoidant types might become overly dependent on their relationships. While they may have had similar experiences in childhood, the difference in whether they become a narcissist or a more empathic kind of codependent depends on how they deal with their childhood experience.

In either case, those who could be classified as fearful-avoidant are terrified of rejection, and they are constantly dealing with inner conflict. They sometimes thrive on drama and they nearly always suffer from low self-esteem. They show anxiety when it comes to relationships as well, whether they’re super-clingy or constantly avoiding intimacy.

So how could codependent, people-pleasers potentially fall in the same category as a covert narcissist? Well, it is the codependency factor – both narcissists and their victims could be considered codependent. At its most basic level, codependency represents someone who has sort of “lost themselves,” or never found it in the first place.

The ‘Lost Self’ Disorder

In other words, a codependent person has no connection to their innate self. Rather, probably due to being raised by toxic parents, they have learned to base their lives – as in, their thinking and their behavior – around someone or something else outside of themselves. This could be a person, or a process or even a substance.

For narcissists, the lack of connection to their true self can lead to a connection with a made-up or ideal self- the mask we often discuss. In contrast, a people-pleaser might find their identity in the approval of others instead, or at least find value in themselves this way.

Interestingly, narcissists in general are also thought to be emotionally immature. Like I’ve said before, they are emotional toddlers. See, when an infant is cared for by its mother, it does not think about the mother’s needs at all. Most people begin to develop this awareness of the needs or feelings of others on a really basic by the age of two or three. Narcissists never develop it fully – so in some cases, even people who had really attentive parents can become narcissists, especially when their parents did not actively teach empathy.

So what does all of this mean? Are you doomed to a life of miserable relationships if you do not have the secure attachment style?

Hope for Narcissistic Abuse Victims: Earned Secure Attachment

Good news! There’s hope for you yet. I’ve been telling you for years that it is possible to heal from narcissistic abuse and to create the life you want. And studies confirm this, telling us that with intentional healing and focus on creating the life you want, you can actually develop something called “Earned Secure Attachment.”

At its most basic level, it means you can sort of build a new attachment style that is healthier and better for you on every level. This just means that you’ve done the work and managed to deal with and heal from any dysfunctional parenting you had growing up. Even better, you can do this at any age. It’s about taking the time to understand where you came from and working to sort of rewrite your story in the process. If you’re interested in learning more about how you can do this, take a look at the video I’m going to leave for you right here.

Question of the Day: Have you looked into attachment theory before? Where do you think you fall into these categories, and where do you see the narcissist in your life among them? Share your thoughts, share your ideas, share your experiences in the comments section below this video, and let’s talk about it!

 

 

How does a narcissist react when they can’t control you anymore?

How does a narcissist react when they can’t control you anymore?

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.
  • They may show signs of physical aggression
  • They might even threaten to take their own life if they feel that they’re being left behind or not getting their way.

And while these may seem like strange reactions, they might make more sense than you expect. In order to fully understand what happens when narcissists lose control, we must first understand the reasons why they need control so badly.
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Why do narcissists need to be in control?

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.

The psychology of narcissism is very complex but an integral part of narcissistic personality disorder is the need to gain and regain control over others. There’s a standard pattern a narcissist will use when they lose control over you. 

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?

So, what does the narcissist do when they can’t control you anymore? Let’s talk about it.

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 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.

Question of the day: Have you ever experienced seeing a narcissist lose control of you or someone else in their lives? How did it play out? How did you deal with it? Share your thoughts, share your ideas, share your experiences in the comment section below this video and let’s talk about it.

You might also be interested in this video: What Narcissists Do: 23 Lies They Tell and Secrets They Keep.

Read more: How I Stopped Being Controlled by a Narcissist (Story Time)

Start Getting Help with Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Today

If you feel you need additional help and support in your narcissistic abuse recovery, look for a trauma-informed professional trained in helping people who are dealing with overcoming narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships. Depending on your particular situation, you might benefit from Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Coaching, or you might do better with a therapist.

You have to decide what to do from here – if you’re not sure, start with my free Narcissistic Abuse Recovery quiz. With your results will come recommended resources for your situation. It’s free. Are you looking for more personal support? You might like to join one of our private small-group coaching sessions, or you might prefer to check out our one-on-one narcissistic abuse recovery counseling and coaching sessions. 

Remember that online help is readily available for survivors of narcissistic abuse. Here are some options to begin healing from narcissistic abuse right away.

 

Ultimate Edgelord Casanova Narcissist

Ultimate Edgelord Casanova Narcissist

Editor’s Note: This true narcissistic abuse story was shared by a fellow survivor. Read more survivor stories here, or submit your own story here. 

Today, I want to share my experience with the narcissist I call “Ultimate Edgelord Casanova.”

Many narcissists are subtle in their manipulation. They don’t throw down in the dramatic way we come to expect, because people will call them out. So, they gaslight. They provide evidence that they’re telling the truth. The only way to prove they’re lying is to engage in extreme sleuthing. This, of course, is time-consuming and unreasonable. But narcissists rely on people to be reasonable, which is why it takes so long for many of us to figure out what they’re up to.

The Ultimate Edgelord Casanova and I were introduced by a mutual friend, who had wanted to set me up with him three years ago. I kept putting it off until last fall. I knew he was shady when he canceled our first date.

Once, when I asked how his evening was going, he sent me a photo of what was definitely a wine bar. It was a romantic-looking setting. I asked him if he was on a date. He said he was having a dinner party with staff. (I did not believe him). But it wasn’t until the second date that I realized what was seriously wrong with him. Additionally, I was dating a few other people at the time, so I was not that focused on him.

Basically, he had this tendency to ask me out on a date only to cancel two days before the date. His usual excuse was that he had an out of town business trip. One time he told me he was out of town on business but sent me a photo of a golf cart on a golf course. So, clearly, he was playing golf and not doing business. He has outed himself as a liar, correct? When I pointed out the discrepancy, he claimed that he had taken his staff away to play golf. Whatever. The next morning, he sent me a photo of himself (naked, from behind) with a large painful looking bruise on his back.

His message had lots of exclamation marks.

“Look!!! I fell and hurt my back!!! I can’t go out with you!!! It hurts when I sit down. I can’t even drive!!!”

I was not actually in contact him at the time so I thought it was weird how much effort he was putting into making excuses to not see me. He seemed happy about the fact that he was injured. Weird, no? Anyway, the bruise looked really bad, so I urged him to go to the hospital, in case a bone was broken. He replied that he had no time to go to the hospital as he had a plane to catch. Red flag. A few hours later, he was back in town and he sent me a photo from inside his car. He was driving to another city that was three hours away. I said something like, “Good luck.” Grade A A-hole, right? Big red flag.

A month later, he asked me out. By this time, I realized that for him the payoff was my accepting the date and not actually going out. So, I told him to ask me out on the afternoon he was available. I said that if I was available on that day, I would go out with him. I think that was how we ended up going out on the second date. He wanted to save face because I was calling him out on his shadiness.

On the second date, he told me he had spent about USD 2 million on lawyers to avoid paying a bill of 200,000 Canadian dollars to a commercial supplier. My spider senses were on full alert so I asked for receipts. As it turns out, he had photos of the contracts, the shipping container, and payment invoices saved on his phone. Wow. The evidence did not match his story, at which point, I realized he was lying to me. I asked to see what messages he had exchanged with the company. Then, I revealed to him that I had a business negotiation certification from Harvard and that this was my area of specialization.

Could I do anything to help? Because he’s spent ten times the amount of the bill to avoid settling the bill. So, clearly, he needed to fire his lawyer, right? If he was in the right, he would ask me to help him. He hasn’t.

What happened? He did the same thing to the Canadian company that he had been doing to me. He made a big order of commercial products to feed his large ‘international man of business’ ego. Then, he paid half the invoice amount to have the product shipped. This gave him boasting rights with the receipts (which is why they were in his phone in the first place). But it took a long time for the products to get to him in the shipping container, so he lost interest. (Typical narcissist – short attention span). Then, when the container finally arrived, he took photos of the container to prove that he had in fact completed this huge international transaction.

But, of course, he decided to “Ultimate Edgelord Casanova” the company, like he does to women. He called the company and said that he wanted to return the products and be refunded his money. They were defective, he said. Their lawyer demanded that he pay the remainder of his bill.

Do you know what he did next? He told them that the person (his representative and agent for the contract) who inspected the products was actually untruthful about the quality of the products put in the container. He also claimed that this person disappeared on him. However, he probably forgot that I had just seen the text messages he and this agent had recently exchanged via iMessage on his iPhone.

At this point, I realized that he was lying to me about EVERYTHING and that he uses photos as “evidence”. Obviously, he spends a lot of time talking to women who aren’t very clever. Right? Who sends golf course photos when they’re supposed to be on a business trip out of town? Also, for a business person, he has a lot of golf playing time. He has serious financial problems so how can he afford to take his staff to play golf? The back injury could not have been recent. Driving for three hours after you dinged your hip bone on the edge of a concrete step?

No, M’lord.

Next.

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