Narcissists have a way of communicating that can be very deceptive. If you’re looking for advice on how to decode the language of narcissists, sociopaths, psychopaths, and other toxic people, you’re not alone. Despite what many people believe, there are far more people who might qualify as malignant narcissists than you might expect.
One of the most common manipulation tactics narcissists use is called gaslighting, a pervasive and highly-effective tactic meant to manipulate you into questioning your own sanity and even your perception of the world around you. Today, we’re covering common phrases used by narcissistic abusers in gaslighting (and what they actually mean when used).
Why are narcissists all so similar?
So often, people wonder if there’s some kind of narcissist playbook. Why? Because narcissists are all so similar, across the board. This makes it easy to predict what they’ll do next, if you educate yourself on their specific traits and disorder. In fact, whether the narcissist in your life is a spouse, partner, parent or another relative, friend, or even a coworker, there are certain kinds of phrasing they’ll use, and in many cases, they will use nearly identical word-for-word statements. Surprisingly, this is true regardless of a person’s race, culture, religion, nationality, and financial status. Malignant narcissism does not discriminate – it can affect anyone in any circumstance, from the jobless drug addict to the wealthiest person on the planet and everyone in between.
“You’re angry? I don’t need to deal with this nonsense right now. I will leave you alone until YOU get back to your senses and come back to me later.”
Translation: I know I’m the reason you’re angry about MY antics. I don’t care, I will never care, and don’t expect me to apologize for MY behavior because I am blameless and perfect, and you need me anyway….”
“I’m sick of you accusing me of cheating. It’s getting old!”
Translation: I don’t get why you won’t just get over it. Clearly, I’m cheating. We both know this. But I am over actually hearing about it, and I’m tired of having to pretend I’m not doing it. Additionally, I will never take responsibility for it and I’ll go ahead and expect you to tolerate whatever I throw your way. And if you don’t, I’m totally going to act like the victim in this whole deal.”
“I WANT TO BE ALONE!”
Translation: “I want to spend time with someone else and you’re in my way!”
“I’ve done nothing wrong.”
Translation: “I’ve done ALL the things you pointed out, and probably a whole bunch more you don’t know about. But I think anything I do is okay because I’m the one who did it, and I don’t do things that are wrong. Also? Why do you keep calling me out on things I actually did? I don’t like that!”
“You have an anger problem!”
Translation: “I’m going to provoke and poke at you until you can’t take it anymore, when you finally blow up at me for continuously disregarding your boundaries, I’ll just say you’re an angry crazy person so I can play the victim instead of accepting any actual responsibility for my behavior.”
“I thought you were the last person I was going to be with.”
Translation: “I totally underestimated you and thought I could be with you while also doing whatever I want with whomever I want while you patiently wait for me (and on me) and keep my house in order.”
“You are too sensitive! You need to have thicker skin.” Or “Can’t you take a joke?”
Translation: “I don’t understand why you don’t just accept my cruel and unfair criticism as fact. What is wrong with you?”
“You’re going to have to work so hard to get my attention again.”
Translation: “You’ve caused narcissistic injury by somehow exposing one of my many flaws, and you’re going to pay for it by begging for my oh-so-precious attention while I blatantly ignore you and treat you like dirt on the bottom of my shoe. And while you’re at it, I’m going to make you feel like you’re the one who needs to apologize even though I’m the one who did something wrong.”
“You’re crazy.” or “It’s all in your head.” or “You need help.” or “You’re delusional”
Translation: “What you said is absolutely right. You totally hit the nail right on the head…but I don’t know how you figured me out and I dont want to admit that you’re right, so I’m going to make sure you feel crazy and look crazy. This way you’ll be more focused on what’s not really wrong with you instead of what’s actually wrong with ME.”
“You are always saying the same thing.”
Translation: “Why do you keep telling the truth over and over again? I hate when you call me out like that.”
“Everything is all about you!” or “You’re so selfish.”
Translation: “How DARE you try to make ANYTHING about you? Don’t you know it’s all about…ME?”
“I can’t have just a little time alone, so I have to be telling you every 5 minutes I love you?”
Translation: “You’ve somehow interrupted something I was doing or hiding from you, and now you’re asking me for validation? What am I, an actual human? You’d think you would know by now that I’m the only one who matters in this relationship!”
“Everyone says…” or “Everyone agrees that you’re…”
Translation: “I’m pretending that some imaginary group of people are silently agreeing with me about everything I say about you, because not only do I hope you’ll feel humiliated to think all of these so-called people are talking about you, but it’ll help me prove my point. Plus, as an added bonus, telling you that everyone thinks bad things about you will further isolate you and that means I’ll be in more control.”
“You’re a nice guy.” or “You’re such a sweetheart.”
Translation: “Because of your sweet, empathic nature, I can get you to do anything I want you to do by manipulating your emotions.”
“OMG! You’re so boring! Can we please talk about something interesting?”
Translation: “How dare you talk about anything YOU care about that isn’t me? You’re not saying enough things about me. I don’t like talking about things that aren’t all about me, or at least me-focused. Did I mention that I’d like to talk about things related to me?”
“I don’t think your glasses are working properly.”
Translation: “You saw what I was doing, and you understood it correctly, but since I will not be accepting any responsibility for it at all, I’ll just gaslight you real quick so you’ll doubt yourself and your own perception of the world by claiming that something is wrong with your glasses.”
“You treat me like a child!”
Translation: “Even though I require you to take care of me, do everything for me and otherwise act like you’re my parent, I need to pretend you’re trying to control me when you ask me where I’m going or where I’ve been or anything else I don’t want to tell you. But you better not stop doing all these other things for me, or I’ll further abuse and manipulate you.”
“I never said that! You made it up!”
Translation: “I totally said that, but I’m not really happy that you’re reminding me of it. So, I’ll just pretend you’re insane so you’ll start doubting yourself again. I always like to watch you squirm and feel confused. Keeps you busy so I can keep doing whatever I want.”
“I prayed to meet you,” or “I manifested you,” or “You’re my soulmate!”
Translation: “I am going to make you believe that our connection is divinely inspired so that you’ll feel like leaving would be doing something against God or the Universe or whatever you happen to believe in.”
“I’m sorry I seem to have done things to make you not trust me!”
Translation: “I’m sorry you’re calling me out on the things I’ve actually done, but I will not be acknowledging the very specific actions I have actually committed against you or our relationship. I mean, yeah, I totally DID those things, but I’m not capable of taking responsibility for them, so my fake apology will have to suffice. And don’t question me on this one. Accept it, or I’ll rage on you like always.”
“Everything that happens going forward is on you,” or “The ball’s in your court now.”
Translation: “I guess we can be together as long as I can be a horrible human being and you can continue to pretend that I’m perfect. Otherwise, you’re on your own, toots. At least until I need another shot of supply from you. Ok?”
“You just don’t listen!”
Translation: “I don’t like when you don’t go along with whatever I want or whatever I say. You’ve got a lot of nerve to say the truth as opposed to my twisted version of it – so I’m going to focus on diverting attention from what’s actually true by focusing on your hearing.”
“Why do you always insist on arguing with me about everything?”
Translation: “Why are you so obsessed with the truth? Despite the fact that I make up facts to back up my lies, we both know I am superior and it’s all my way or no way.”
“Can’t you see that I love you?”
Translation: “Why do you keep making me take responsibility for things I’ve done to you? Isn’t the fact that I use the words I love you enough to make you shut up and pretend everything is okay?”
“Why can’t you love me for who I am?” or “That’s just who I am – I won’t change for anyone!”
Translation: “I want to do whatever I want, say whatever I want, and treat you however I want – but I don’t want you to notice or stop acting like I’m the best thing in your life. And if you do ask me to stop doing something you don’t like or to compromise or bend in any way, shape, or form, I will make you so miserable you’ll be begging me for mercy.”
“Why can’t you be like everyone else?”
Translation: “Why can’t you just shut up and do whatever I want in any given moment? Why can’t you read my mind and accept whatever I say, think or feel as fact?”
“If you cant see that there’s a problem with this relationship, then there really is a problem!”
Translation: “Oh look! We’ve just entered the devalue phase and you’re a little shocked at how mean I’ve suddenly become? Clearly, this is all my fault, but you know I’ll never take responsibility – therefore, I’ve decided I’m going to go ahead and start making you question everything – including, and especially yourself and your own inability to perceive the non-existent issues I’ve just made up to confuse you. Boom!”
“Weird, your tears don’t phase me, even though I’m a total empath.”
Translation: “I don’t care that I hurt you. I’m a liar, not an empath. Got ya!”
“I didn’t mean to cheat on you, it just happened.”
Translation: “I refuse to accept responsibility for cheating on you because I am not interested in your emotions and I don’t care how you feel.”
“I’m the most honest person you’ll ever meet,” or “I never lie.”
Translation: “I’m the biggest effing liar on the planet, but I have an image to uphold to seem innocent, and likable. Plus, I’m really good at lying to MYSELF and I tend to believe my own lies when it’s convenient for me.”
“So, you’re making this about you…?”
Translation: “I really don’t care how you’re feeling, because everything is always about me, even when it’s really about you. And the idea that you would think otherwise really peeves me right off.”
“I just want things to be good between us”.
Translation: “If you don’t behave the way I want and accept all my lies and crappy behavior, then you’re making things not good between us, so it will be your fault that I will have to be mean to you and/or leave again”.
Any of this sound familiar to you? Could you be in a toxic relationship with an abusive, malignant narcissist? If so, the following resources might be helpful for you.
(Prefer to watch/listen? See/hear on YouTube) If you’ve ever been in any kind of relationship with a narcissist – a toxic parent, friend or family member – or even a narcissistic ex – chances are that at least on some level, you found yourself feeling pretty alone in the world. If this person isn’t a family member, you might even find yourself thinking back and remembering the good old days when you might have had a best friend or even a whole group of them. And if the narcissist is or was a romantic partner, you may have had a family that cared about you, and other friends who had your back before you had met the narcissist.
But what happens all too often is that we get so wrapped up in these toxic relationships that we miss something really big – the fact that narcissists have this way of pushing people away from us. We are kept away from people in our lives who might either take our attention away from the narcissist or worse, who might support us against them once we realize exactly what we’re dealing with.
How Love-Bombing and Idealization Play Into Self-Isolation in Toxic Relationships
Now, at first, if this person is a friend or especially a romantic partner, this will seem almost natural. You might find yourself sort of foregoing time with others for a while, voluntarily. And this is pretty normal up to a point at the beginning of a new relationship. But when you’re dealing with a toxic narcissist, it isn’t just that you’re dealing with a normal sort of early-relationship infatuation. Instead, something much more sinister is going on.
On a deeper level, whether consciously or not, the narcissist has a goal to isolate you from others, both for the reasons I mentioned, as well as because it causes you to become more dependent on the narcissist. This ensures that not only will you stick around until they’re done with you, but also that you’ll be more easily controlled by the narcissist.
And, in so many cases, you might find yourself self-isolating as a result of emotional exhaustion that you deal with when you are constantly bombarded with the narcissistic manipulation tactics and games they play with your head. As if that wasn’t enough, you might also develop crippling social anxiety after or during a relationship with a narcissist.
Crippling Fear, Shame and Guilt Related to Narcissistic Abuse Leads to Self-Isolation
And, if you’re like a lot of narcissistic abuse victims and survivors, you won’t always feel comfortable discussing it with the people you’re close to, not to mention anyone else. If you’re being honest, the truth is that even though you do your best to put on a good front and generally appear to be totally fine, and even though you’re totally capable of engaging in friendly conversation (and have good social skills), there can be an underlying feeling of isolation when you’re in a relationship with a toxic, controlling narcissist – one that feels sort of like a dull ache. You know it’s there, and you want to soothe it, but you also feel like you’re not really equipped to do so.
You feel like you can’t trust anyone, not even yourself, thanks to months or years of gaslighting and manipulation. And listen, my friend – you’re not alone here. So often, I hear this from my clients – they feel like they don’t even know how to be vulnerable anymore – and they find themselves feeling very gunshy, constantly on alert.
Do you know how it feels? It’s where you carry a lot of tension in your body. You have aches and pains and you’re tired. Your stomach is weird. You’re always in “fight or flight” mode, or worse, you freeze. In fact, I’d venture to guess that you sometimes forget how to even talk about yourself, much less how to connect with others on a deep level. Even the idea of having to put yourself together enough to go to the grocery store might feel like too much.
Narcissistic Abuse Takes a Toll on Your Whole Life
See, emotional abuse (not to mention physical and even deeper forms of psychological abuse such as gaslighting) can really teach us to shut up – to stop talking about ourselves – and this leads to our becoming paralyzed in certain ways – one of which is developing the need to be alone! So, we self-isolate and even though we might feel lonely on occasion, we feel safer this way – or at least we think we’re less stressed. This will prove to be a false sense of peace, on some level, since isolating ourselves can be dangerous for our physical and mental health.
And the really messed up part of all of this is that if and when we do find the strength to leave the narcissist, we look around and find that we’re all alone. Our family might be estranged, our best friends have moved on and we don’t even have anyone to invite out for a cup of coffee.
But how is it that the narcissist is able to have such power over you? Maybe you were previously the sort of person who had decent friends and at least a few connections.
The Underhanded Ways Narcissists Make You Self-Isolate
Just like other kinds of narcissistic abuse and manipulation, it’s all very sneaky and subtle, especially if you aren’t watching for it. And the narcissist rarely just comes right out and says, “You need to dump everyone in your life in order to be with me.” In fact, they might even straight up tell you that they LOVE your friends and family members. They might charm them and get them on their side, even. And at first, the people in your life who go along with the narcissist and fall for their charm might be safe – especially if the narcissist can get them to team up with them against you. This might be a little joke at first, but the narcissist hopes for (and sometimes gets) a good flying monkey out of that deal – you know, someone who will assist them in their smear campaign later.
But there will be many people in your life who, initially or over time, might admit to you that they really don’t like the narcissist, or who actively challenge them. They might refuse to “get” the narcissist’s bad jokes, or actively question them when they sense that the narcissist is lying or hiding details. Or, there might people who will act protective of you, like that one friend who sweetly gets up in the narcissist’s face the first time they meet him or her and says something like, “I really like you but if you hurt my friend, I’ll rain down on you like the wrath of a thousand bumblebees,” or whatever.
These people are a problem for the narcissist, because not only might they point out that you’re being emotionally and psychologically abused or manipulated, but they might even help you stand up to the narcissist and get you away from them. Since this would foil their evil plan to dominate and control you, the narcissist sees them as a threat and needs to eliminate them from the equation. And, as I’m guessing you’re painfully aware of by now, there’s no level to which they won’t stoop to get what they want.
Five Things Narcissists Say to Make You Self-Isolate During a Toxic Relationship
So how do you know if this is happening to you? I know, you’re probably thinking it should be obvious when it’s happening, right? But it isn’t, not always, because narcissists can be very subtle and sneaky – and because narcissistic abuse is so pervasive and confusing that you sometimes don’t even know it’s happening to you WHILE you’re in the middle of it. That’s why I’m going to share five things that narcissists will say and do to cause you to self-isolate during a toxic relationship.
1. You’re my person. I’ll always be there for you.
If the narcissist is not a parent or family member, the love-bombing or idealization phase will be the stuff of legends and romcoms alike. Believe it or not, one of the biggest ways non-family narcissists get you to self-isolate is by promising you that they’ll always be there for you – and that they’ll always have your back. It is often the first thing they will audibly say that will lead to this unfortunate situation.
Why? Because a lot of people who end up in relationships with narcissists were also raised by toxic people and/or suffered trauma during childhood that led to them feeling alone in the world. Without realizing it, this leads us to desperately seek someone who is willing to be “our person,” as in, someone for whom we are the most important person in their lives. And, whether or not this person is toxic, because of our own issues developed in childhood, we are at tremendous risk of becoming codependent. This means that we grew up in such a way that we didn’t feel loved and supported – and we are so happy and surprised that someone wants to be “our person” finally, we allow ourselves to be seduced and hooked by the idea of it.
2. This person doesn’t like me, and you need to choose: me or them.
Ah, yes – the good old “me or them” thing – the ultimate ultimatum that no one should ever have to deal with. But sadly, this is another common thing that narcissists say to make you isolate yourself from your family. Not only do they want you to not be with your friends, but they don’t want you to have anything to do with your family, especially when they might emotionally (or otherwise) support you in any way. They will manipulate you into believing that your family or friends don’t seem to like them – or they will DO something to ensure that this is the case. And whether anyone they’re pushing away actually said or indicated any issues with the narcissist won’t matter. The narcissist will literally say whatever they need to say to get your full and undivided attention – at least when and if they want it. Of course, if you don’t immediately dump the offending person, the narcissist, without remorse, will pull out the old narcissistic injury card and tell you how hurt they would be if they were forced to leave you for not dumping this person. You’re put in a position that leaves you with almost no choice.
3. Your best friend did something awful…I just thought you should know.
As you know, narcissists are pathological liars and at times, they are so good at it that they could even pass a lie detector test. That’s because they have a very limited ability to empathize on a genuine level – and because they aren’t likely to feel remorse. This is especially true when they feel upset and threatened, which they are bound to do when you’re close to someone who isn’t them. And your friends, especially your best friend, can become a serious threat to the narcissist’s sense of control. That’s why the narcissist will do the unthinkable to push them away.
For example, the narcissist might make you isolate from your friends by telling you that they are saying not so nice things behind your back. And you might believe them because since they’ll focus this little campaign on your shortcomings and/or insecurities. For instance, if you have a habit of laughing nervously, the narcissist will pick that up and not hesitate to tell you that your friends make fun of how you do that laugh. You know you laugh that way…and you can’t help yourself at times, therefore, you would immediately believe what the narcissist says. That will make you cut your friends off.
Or, and this is the worst, they might make up a story about a specific friend. It might be a total lie, but the narcissist will throw in enough “facts” and so-called evidence that you’ll at least doubt the person in question, if not totally fall for it. For example, they might say your best friend made an inappropriate move on them in some way. This will follow the narcissist having told you (or your friend) that they found the friend attractive. Then, they might have started little innocent flirtations in front of you and later confided to you that your friend made a comment that turned them on or that they saw or heard something that otherwise got their attention.
Even if you don’t believe it at first, this could cause you to have doubts about them as people which will in the end cause you to pull away from them. And along with your own mind’s ability to connect details and to feel protective of your relationship, this will change the way you feel about your friend – and that will lead to a moment of desperation in which you cut off contact – either directly or indirectly. You’ll lose touch and before you know it, you don’t even know each other anymore. Meanwhile, the narcissist is getting exactly what they want – you, isolated and under their full control.
4. Your family doesn’t think much of you, do they?
Whether your family is amazing and supportive or painfully toxic, the narcissist doesn’t want them in the way. That’s why they will often say things to you about how they notice that your family does not respect you in any way or form. Or they’ll say your family uses you, or that they don’t care about you at all.
They’ll say that they’ve seen this before, and they’ll point out little idiosyncrasies that you’ll start to hyperfocus on (such as the way your mom’s left eye twitches every time you talk about your relationship or the way your sister rolls her eyes when you talk about your dream of writing the great American novel). And to really put the nail in this coffin, the narcissist will do their best to exacerbate and exaggerate actual issues that you have shared with them about different people in your family. They’ll amplify and magnify anything you’ve shared and actively cultivate doubt, anger, and the feeling of betrayal in your mind. This will begin to poke at you over time. The narcissist will keep pushing it, maybe even blatantly lying and saying things that aren’t true, or things that have a whisper of truth to them, such as pointing out how the family is always talking about you behind your back.
And since you already know that every family talks about its members among themselves, you’ll assume they’re telling the truth. Why wouldn’t you? What kind of person would want to intentionally push someone’s family away from them? (Yes, that was a touch of sarcasm.) But, all joking aside, you will find yourself falling for this stuff, especially during the love-bombing or idealization phase. If it happens later, you might even push the family away in order to show the narcissist how loyal you are to them or even to get them off your back. But only rarely will you consciously understand what is going on while it’s happening, because the narcissist can be so sneaky and subtle in their manipulation.
5. I’m the only one who really loves you, you know. It’s us against the world!
This kind of manipulation might look different in different relationships. For example, let’s say the narcissist in your life is your spouse or partner. They pulled you in with promises of having someone “on your side,” of a “soulmate” or whatever your version of that was – but ultimately, you were brought in thinking you were getting your dream person. So, they’ll pull the old “us against the world” thing, which will initially feel really good to you because you’ll feel like you belong somewhere and are a part of something special – maybe for the first time in your life. Or, if your narcissist was your parent or parental figure, it looked more like “I’m the only person who REALLY loves you so you better do exactly what I want or you risk being completely abandoned in the world.”
And in either case, it looks like “if you don’t do what I want, you will be alone” – and the narcissist KNOWS instinctively that everyone’s secretly afraid, at least on some level, of ending up completely alone and unloved in the world – whether we admit it or not. So, in order to properly secure you as a source of narcissistic supply, they’ll play on your very human fear of abandonment. And if you do happen to have a touch of codependency in you, this will feel like a life or death decision, which the narcissist will seduce you into making before you even realize what has happened.
Bottom Line: Narcissists make you self-isolate for control, manipulation and to secure you as narcissistic supply.
In the end, just know that without hesitation or remorse, the narcissist can easily and methodically manipulate you into believing that your friends and family are no good for you for one reason or another. You will believe the narcissist either because you’re head-over-heels in love with them, or you will do it out of fear because you don’t want to lose them. Of course, once you see the truth, that they are abusive and toxic, it’ll be too late, because they have managed to make you push everyone out of your life and you’ll be alone. This will leave you struggling to find support and, if the narcissist has their way, without access to the help you need to get out of the relationship.
If this situation sounds familiar to you and you’re struggling to figure out how to deal with it, you might want to watch this video, which I’ll also link in the description.
Doing what I do, I get to talk to a lot of interesting people – and I hear some really revealing stories. For example, I was talking to a client the other day and she mentioned to me that her ex had unfriended their son on a certain social media platform. This caused her to reach out to him and ask why he’d done it – it upset her son and she had to know why he would do such a thing. He admitted that he was childish and the two had an hours-long conversation afterward, leaving my client more confused than ever.
Another client told me about how her father kept sending her strange boxes of things that belonged to her deceased father, despite the fact that they’d been no contact for years. Luckily, she didn’t react, but it definitely messed with her head.
A male client shared with me that his ex had been giving him the silent treatment for weeks. In fact, it had gone on for so long that he assumed the relationship was over. Then, one day, she contacted him to let him know she was pregnant and that the baby would be coming in a few months. He instantly forgot about all of the drama that had gone down between them and rushed to her side. A year later, after he’d helped name the baby and had fallen madly in love with him, he learned that he wasn’t the father – and worse, that the mother had known it all along, but did not tell him because the real father had gone to prison. But now that he was out, she said, he wanted his baby and she wanted him.
And then there was the client who told me a story about how after she’d struggled to end a relationship with a particularly difficult ex, she heard a knock on the door one day, and there he stood, holding his dog. She said he told her the dog was sick and he didn’t know what to do or to whom else he could turn. Of course, she helped him get the dog to the vet and made sure he was okay afterward. They ended up dating for three more months after that.
Sneaky Things Narcissists Do to Get You Back
All of these stories sound different, right? But they all have one thing in common – they are sneaky things that narcissists did to get people back in their lives. And these are just a few of probably thousands of examples of this phenomenon. If you’ve been pulled back into a relationship with a narcissist, or you’re worried that you might be, stick with me, because that’s exactly what we’re talking about today – sneaky things narcissists do to get you back, plus: how to recognize them and what to do if it happens to you. See the video on YouTube for more, or read more here.
This is Hoovering
When you end a toxic relationship with a narcissist, you might think that it’s over – but very often, the narcissist has other ideas. in fact, more often than not, the narcissist will do something to suck you back into their drama – or even fully back into the relationship – using a technique called hoovering.
Hoovering, named after the famous vacuum cleaner company, is what we call it when the narcissist tries to “suck you back in” after you’ve left them or ended the relationship, or after they have discarded you. They may use some kind of personal problem or dramatic issue to pull you back in, or they may use love-bombing. Hoovering is always an attempt to obtain more narcissistic supply from you, and in many cases, it can be an attempt to reconcile the relationship. It can also just be a manipulation tactic used to get you to break no contact.
If you grew up with a narcissist mother, then you already know that the effects they have on their children as they grow up are profound and life-altering. The truth is that living with a narcissist can be difficult for anyone, but growing up in the care of one can affect your life in some pretty surprising ways. For example, most narcissists use a really pervasive sort of manipulation called gaslighting. You probably already know that it’s the worst kind because it messes with your mind in ways you’d never expect. This is especially true for the children of narcissistic mothers, who can’t get away from it and have no concept of what “normal” actually looks like from the inside.
If your mother was a narcissist, you probably spent most of your childhood thinking you weren’t good enough and you probably assumed that your mom was right about everything she said about you. You might have spent most of your childhood trying to get her approval, desperately seeking her validation, and failing miserably. For me, and for many of us, this would continue into adulthood.
Of course, many of us actually internalize the toxic mother’s image of ourselves. And often, we do our best to attempt to become the person she wants to be, even when that person isn’t who we really are – and when we fail, we begin to think we’re worthless.
Like all narcissists, these women have two faces – the one they show the public, and the one they show you at home behind closed doors. And very few people outside of your family will have any idea of what you’re dealing with. Most people will either not be aware of her, or they’ll think she’s amazing and hung the moon.
This can really mess with your sense of self, to put it mildly. Worst of all, as the child of a narcissistic mother, you are forced to pretend in public that all is well–all the while knowing that when you get home, things will be different. In some cases, you literally dread going home because the difference is so significant. And if you’re a little rebellious, you might not pretend all the time. And then people will ask questions. They won’t get why you’re not happy, and they’ll believe her lies when she tells them there’s something just not right about you (or whatever excuse she makes). Alternatively, you’ll spend your life living up to an impossible standard trying to keep her happy.
And also like other narcissists, she will not have the ability to tune into you emotionally, and she has no empathy. The concept of unconditional love is foreign to her – she ONLY loves conditionally and makes sure you know it. She is critical and she is judgmental. But what exactly drives her crazy? Well, that’s exactly what we’re going to talk about today (see video here) – 9 things that drive narcissistic mothers crazy.
9 Things That Drive a Narcissistic Mother Crazy
1. When you have an independent thought or opinion on literally anything that differs from her own.
Narcissistic mothers are very opinionated, and no matter what their stance is on any given subject, they absolutely hate it when you have the nerve to think anything other than what they told you to think. Since a narcissistic mother sees you as an extension of herself rather than a whole person, she cannot imagine that you could possibly have a thought or opinion that doesn’t mirror her own. The fact is that your thoughts, feelings and opinions are rarely, if ever, validated by a narcissistic mother – and when they are, it’s only when you happen to feel the same way your narcissist does. This continues into adulthood for most children of narcissists. Once you realize that, you might even start to tell yourself that your opinion is, in fact, always consistent with hers, at least on some level. It causes so much less trouble, and you’re treated to the illusion of approval if you comply. For example, each of my children has two middle names. Why? Because my mother HATED the names I’d chosen and insisted that I add in names from her family. And when I got pregnant for the first time, I really felt the need to be connected to her. It’s something that seems to happen, I guess. But when I finally told her, she literally called me an asshole and didn’t speak to me for the next 8 months. She said I’d done it to hurt her and felt personally offended by it, apparently. (But of course, she showed up for the big day and pretended to be the doting grandma – it got her lots of attention. And in my clueless and desperate state, I took it. All I ever wanted was her approval and that’s one thing I’d never end up getting).
2. When you know something she doesn’t know.
Narcissistic mothers hate it when you have a skill they don’t have or you know something they don’t know. For example, my own mother once had a complete meltdown when I used a word she didn’t know during a counseling session. She said nothing during the session, but as we drove home, she called me every name in the book and I had no idea why. The 45-minute drive felt like it lasted hours as she raged on and on, and I remained in the dark on what I’d done wrong – until we got home and she pulled out the dictionary to look up the word I had said. (For the record, the word was “pensive,” as in thinking about stuff.) And one of my viewers recently commented that she speaks Spanish, and her mother would rage about it, telling her she thought she was so great because she speaks Spanish, but that she wasn’t, and I quote, “all that.”
3. When you don’t like something she wants you to like.
This could be the food they’ve cooked or purchased, the clothing they buy or even something like their choice in a scented candle or a paint color. Narcissistic mothers have decided who you are and what you like (hint: think some version of themselves), and you better not go outside those lines, or else. After all, she sees you as a possession, an extension of herself, so why would you have the nerve to be anything else? For example, my mother always forced me to eat things I hated, and I was required to pretend I liked them. And if I didn’t, she would punish me in various ways. One year on my birthday, she invited a few of my friends to her favorite pizza place and proceeded to order a pizza “with everything,” which was her preference. She knew very well that I seriously disliked that kind of pizza and would’ve preferred something simple like pepperoni only, or even just plain cheese. When I asked her why she did this (because of course, she included olives and mushrooms on the pizza – two things she KNEW I hated), she literally told me, “Well, I didn’t know what everyone liked.” And when I told her she knew what I liked (and reminded her that it was MY birthday), she pulled out the poor me act, AKA narcissistic injury, and acted like I was being completely unreasonable about it. Oh, did I mention that I was 12 when this happened? Yep. Anyhoo, this brings me to number 4.
4. When you’ve accomplished something – especially when it’s bigger than or more recently than anything she’s accomplished.
Narcissistic mothers love to brag about your accomplishments to others, don’t get me wrong. But they also secretly (and sometimes, not so secretly) hate it when you win. Whether it’s your graduation, or you got a book published or you won an award, beware of the wrath of the jealous narcissistic mother. And yet ironically, being raised by this time of mother might lead you to spend your life trying to prove something–maybe that you have value. The day I got my first book published, for example, I called my mother all excited, telling her I couldn’t believe that I was finally seeing my name on the cover of a book. She brushed it off and told me she was very busy and had to go. And then never mentioned it again. And a client tells me that her mother is insanely jealous of her career in high-tech. It seems her mother never went to college and while she pressured my client to do so, she has always tried to get her to stop working such a stressful job and go get a job at Starbucks or some such thing.
5. When you are the center of attention.
When you’re raised by a narcissistic mother, you know the rules. She is the center of EVERYTHING – and that includes your life. In fact, she’d prefer to be at the center of everything that happens, all the time. Even if they’re more covert, they want to make everything about them. This includes your wedding day, the birth of your children and even your birthday. On any day that is supposed to be “your day,” you can count on a narcissistic mother to ruin it, if you allow it. My mother, for example, made all three of those events all about her, each time – and when it wasn’t about her, she wasn’t interested.
6. When you grow up.
In some cases, narcissistic mothers can seem great when their kids are small. But especially for female children, when they start to show physical signs of becoming an adult, the narcissistic mother will feel literally jealous of them. This can even lead to her attempting to compete for the attention of other men, and in some cases, can result in the mother creating an uncomfortable situation in the home by pushing the child away from the father out of actual jealousy – she feels like she’s competing with her daughter for her husband’s attention. This can, in some cases, get even worse when the man she’s married to isn’t the father. For example, I had a client who told me her mother refused to buy her a bra when she began to develop. This left her feeling very self-conscious, so she’d wear big sweatshirts and overalls as often as possible. The mother was jealous of the daughter’s youth and her developing body. It’s horrific when you consider the implications – and in this case, there were lifelong struggles that took years for my client to resolve.
7. When you don’t take her advice.
Narcissistic mothers are full of something they claim is “advice,” but in reality, their advice is more like an order. As in, do it, or else. When you make a decision that she doesn’t agree with, whether it’s as simple as a haircut (or as complicated as what college to attend or who you should marry), she will make your life difficult. She will play the narcissistic injury card and throw out the poor me act, and if that doesn’t work, she may rage at you or even do sneaky things to try to “take you down a couple of notches.” For example, my own mother once called CPS on me and tried to have my children taken from me for not following her orders. (I won’t go into it here, but you are welcome to read the full story at QueenBeeing.com/Story if you are interested).
8. When you do what she wants.
Say your narcissistic mother complained about your grades not being high enough. So, you’d work super hard and pull your grades up – maybe you even get straight A’s. Rather than be happy for you, she might say something like, “Oh, great. Now let’s see if you can keep it up,” or “Oh, you think just getting these grades once makes you perfect? Let’s see what happens next semester.” Or maybe you search for weeks to find the perfect gift for her, and when you give it to her, you expect her to finally be grateful for once. But when she opens it, she rolls her eyes and tosses it aside. She might say something like, “Oh, I guess you know I already have one of these,” or she might just say nothing. Either way, she’s invalidating you. For example, one of my clients told me a story where her mother got angry with her for not defending her when the mother argued with my client’s brother. The next time they started to argue, my client dutifully jumped in to defend her mother – and then she was chastised for getting in the middle of something that had nothing to do with her and trying to “censor” their discussion. No joke.
9. When you’re not perfect, as far as she’s concerned.
Narcissistic mothers have a very specific idea of what their children are supposed to be, and when they don’t “measure up,” as in, when they choose to be who they want to be instead of who she tells them to be, it’s a big problem And in many cases, this can be the case with stuff that isn’t your choice as well. For example, she might be upset that you have a physical or mental disability, or that you’re overweight or underweight, or that you were born with blue eyes instead of brown. And in some cases, such as in the case of Gypsy Rose Blanchard, the girl whose mother pretended she was very ill and required constant medical procedures and a wheelchair, they might even get mad at you for being healthy. What it all comes down to is whether you choose to become “perfect” or you go to the other extreme, your narcissistic mother will likely actively discredit everything you do, say or feel. You might start to think you don’t matter–and that you’re not even all that “real.” Like I’ve mentioned, I remember believing that nothing I felt or wanted was as real as whatever my mother felt or wanted.
121 Specific Phrases Narcissists Use During Gaslighting
You’re being irrational.
You should get tested for schizophrenia.
You’re always making shit up in your head.
You need help.
I don’t do things I think are wrong.
Why are you being so defensive?
You are so childish/immature.
You need to learn to communicate better.
I’m not arguing; I’m just discussing.
Hey, I’m not saying you need to be any different!! I’m not trying to change anybody!
It’s always something with you.
You’re crazy, you weirdo, freak.
If you wouldn’t piss me off I wouldn’t have to say mean things to you.
No wonder so and so has a problem with you.
If you tell them about me I will ( blah blah ) and hurt you. (Either blackmail or made-up exaggerated lies to get back at you for exposing them.)
I used to think you were a good person. (Because you tell them off and get on their level.)
Why are you being a bitch, get over it, I’m late, I was supposed to be here at noon but it’s 2:40 pm. Do you want to go eat or not?
]I don’t have time for your games.
Go ahead, tell them about me. I will make your life a living hell, bitch.
I’m much smarter than your dumb ass.
Just try, you will lose.
I’m going to kiss their butt; we will see who they want more to do with.
You would think you would have figured out by now – you can’t beat me. But hey – knock yourself out, and make a fool of yourself.
If you’re on the phone with them, in front of an audience, you get: “Listen, you need to get help, I can’t play your games anymore. I really feel sorry for you, I’ve got to go. I’m not being pulled into another fight,”. (You’re on the other end saying “what are you talking about?”) About that time he clicks the phone off. Then, he later calls you, ” Try me bitch – have you figured out you won’t win?”
What do you mean I have no real friends? I have an attorney friend, one who owns (blah blah), I have tons of friends! You’re the depressed loser who stays home all the time with no friends! Oh sorry, you have a volunteer pet rescue friend! Wowww, I’m impressed.
Oh, I forgot you’re holier than thou!
You like being a victim.
You wonder why I stay away from you.
Others think I’m a pretty nice guy. Too bad you don’t.
I’m going to stay away from you as long as you put me down.
No wonder I do drugs!
If I want to feel like shit I will come around you.
How’s it working for you?
Listen to yourself! You are losing it.
If they leave you and you say, “Good riddance! Now she can put up with you. He says, “Oh, she doesn’t mind breakfast in bed! We are going to Hawaii. You could have had the finer things, but you wanted to fight me all the time. When I’m a millionaire, we will see who is doing better then.
My ‘friends’ (on Facebook that I never met in person) tell me all the time how smart I am all the time.
I am not trying to control you. You are thinking about your ex-husband, and taking it out on me.
You’ve always “got a problem.”
I’m the best thing that ever happened to you.
No one can ever love you as I do.
It’s always your fault.
Why do you have to get all pissy and hurt over stuff?”
“You just look for something to gripe about all the time.”
“What do you get out of being all moody all the time? I hope that’s fun for you.”.
I’m the only one that really loves you.
“YOU ARE NOT GOING TO CONTROL ME, YOU F…ING B****!”
I don’t give a crap about your kids.
“Everyone” agrees with me – you’re bad!
I never said that!
You’re too sensitive!
I know what you’re thinking.
You never listen.
I’ll pay you back. (Never does!)
You better wipe that look off your face or I’ll do it for ya!
You’re a piece of shit.
You try to make them aware about something, like that they are going to get in trouble with either legally or personally. They say, “Don’t worry about it. Shut up, You’re such a goody-goody weirdo; you worry about everything. I’ve done this before.”
Stop telling people stuff about me.
After cheating on me repeatedly he wants to know why I said “some not nice things to him.”
Also tells me “You will never find another man as good as me.”
When he goes out someone “told me they had the best time ever because I was there.”
I’m from the Acadian bloodline, so naturally, I’m smarter than average people like you.
My job is more important! You just have projects, it’s just busywork
I don’t answer your texts because you’re bothering me with your foolishness.
It’s my way or the highway!
Women are here to serve men!
If you’re so great at budgeting, why are we past due on everything and broke? (After he blows entire paycheck at the casino)
“I know how _______.”
“I know why ________ .”
“I have the answer, you just have to listen to me.” (You can fill in the blank with ANY subject. He always knows the answer to everything…. Peoples’ motives, parenting, why your cake just exploded. Any subject at all… he has ALL the answers. You just have to listen.)
“Back when I lived in Florida and I was rich beyond belief and knew all the movie stars (because I grew up with them), I never had to worry about being broke all the time.”
Watch what I do next, bitch!
I used to race Porsches for Indy 500 and owned two Burger Kings and a Pizarro’s.
No wonder your daughter can’t keep a boyfriend! She’s so needy and trailer park trash.”
After one of his (often veiled) put-downs: “and that’s the truth!”
“I know at least 3 people in this town who think you are bi-polar”
He is incredibly grandiose and exaggerates his achievements, talks constantly to anyone about the people of high standing that he “knows,” needs to be seen as a genius, is challenged by other people’s achievements – behind their backs will call them “third rate.”
When I was manager of over 50 people at a restaurant…” ( …Taco Bell – but you couldn’t say that – heaven forbid he was associated with fast food)!!!
“You just want to rehash the past.”
“You should have known that this was not a good time to (talk to me….call me on the phone….etc.).” (Followed by a “justifiable” narcissistic rage).
“YOU treat me like shit and you’re NOT on drugs.”
“Nobody likes you, they all laugh behind your back.”
After he breaks up with you over the phone: “You made me! You asked if you were all right.”
“It’s always something with you.”
You leave me and you will be blued, screwed and tattooed!
You will NEVER have the confidence to leave me!
“You are delusional.”
You have no friends.
Nobody likes you.
You’re too old; no one will ever want you.
You’re too fat.
No one will ever love you like I do.
You’ll never find anyone as good as me.
You’ll never find anyone else to put up with you like I do.
You’ll never have a house as nice as this one. You’ll end up living in a broken down car on the Northside.
What are you going to do without me? How will you ever feed yourself?
I never said that…you’re crazy.
You need a shrink.
I never did that…you’re crazy.
I can say or do anything I want to you because I own you.
“I was busy!”
Somebody has to earn a living!
“I work my ASS OFF, but nobody around here seems to care!”
No one is able to love someone like you, except me.
Why do you always have to criticize me?
Don’t nag me.
Why are you upset? I was ONLY kidding.
I want … I need…
I … me me me.
I was just kidding – gee, you can’t take a joke
Rage? What rage? Oh, so I’m not allowed to get angry?
Only I can treat you like shit!
“I never said anything to you because I just thought you knew how she felt about you. She was talking about you, complaining. I didn’t think you were friends.”
Narc: You have the most beautiful blue eyes.
You: Awww. Thank you.
Narc: I can’t do this anymore.
You: Are you breaking up with me again?
“If you ever cheat on me, I’ll kill them…AND you…”