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Growing up, I was always “under my mother’s thumb,” as in, she was, as far as she was concerned, in control of every aspect of my life: my activities, thoughts, feelings, ideas – everything. And this didn’t end when I grew up and moved out. In fact, it continued until I was 35 years old.
In fact, I was 35 the day I went no contact with my mother. Before that, for my entire life, I had felt this deep, profound sense of obligation to her. She made sure of it.
I learned that her feelings, thoughts, and ideas were more important and more “real” than mine. She taught me that I needed to keep her happy and that I wasn’t ever good enough because I couldn’t be, say or do whatever it was she thought I should. It never seemed to matter how hard I tried, either. Even as a dang adult.
But that day, everything changed. See, I had recognized that she had betrayed me, in an unforgivable way that I could never have imagined. It woke me up and fast.
The very moment I realized what she had done, I almost physically felt something break inside of me – that seemingly indestructible cord of obligation that had always been there and had always caused me to bend to her will – it broke.
In one single moment, I lost the ability to care how she felt. And more than that, I lost the fear of her. She had always intimated that if I stopped doing what she wanted, or refused her too many times, she would abandon me, and then I’d have no one. I lived in that fear for 35 years.
I could never have imagined (nor would I have believed) that she would stoop so low to hurt me. I cannot even come up with the right words to describe the way I felt – it was almost like the time I was running in the dark as a kid and tripped over a branch, knocking the wind out of myself. I felt like I had the wind knocked out of me.
But then, I got mad. Well, not just mad. After years of being a people-pleasing, self-hating codependent, I was filled with blistering, blinding rage.
You know, the kind of soul-twisting, screaming, ugly rage that comes up from deep inside and nearly forces you to take swift action. The kind that causes you to get crystal-clear on what you want and what you deserve real quick. I was filled with what I now know is justified rage. I was indignant. And in that very instant, I was done. I went no contact and I have not looked back.
But it wasn’t so simple. My mother wasn’t done yet. She had been in control for 35 years and she wasn’t about to give it up without a fight. First, she got very angry. Then, she told a lot of lies about me and spread malicious gossip to everyone in the extended family, as well as to some of her friends.
And later, she’d end up publishing my name in her little work newsletter, asking people to pray for me and my “mental health issues.” After that, I heard through the grapevine that she was playing the victim, telling everyone how she had absolutely no idea why I wasn’t talking to her “after all she had done for me.”
She minimized me and justified her feelings by saying things like, “She’s always looking for attention.”
In fact, I was doing the opposite: I was looking for peace. I wanted nothing else from her. But a few months after I went fully no contact, I heard that she planned to send my brother over to my house during the holidays to straighten me out. The plan, according to the grapevine, was that he would just show up without calling. I nipped that one in the bud.
But why did she play all these little mind games? I suspect it was for one simple reason: because she was no longer able to control me. See, narcissists don’t like to lose control over any source of narcissistic supply. And when they do, they have some fairly predictable ways of reacting. Nearly every manipulative thing a narcissist does can be broken down into a pattern, if you look for it.
So that’s exactly what we’re talking about today – the standard pattern a narcissist will use when they lose control over you. Plus, what you can expect when the narcissist in your life realizes that you have taken control of your own life and how you can and should respond when that happens.
What Happens When A Narcissist Can No Longer Control You?
Let’s say that you have figured the narcissist out, and you have realized the hard way that someone you believed in and trusted turned out to be a complete nightmare, to put it mildly. Now that you have seen through the mask and understand what the narcissist is all about, you have set your boundaries. You are no longer letting that narcissist control you. And while you already know that you should expect some kind of retaliation, you are worried about what comes next. And, given what you’ve been through, who could blame you?
So, what does the narcissist do when they can’t control you anymore? Let’s talk about it.
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.
They 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.
They Refuse To Take No For An Answer
Some very tenacious narcissists will never accept the fact that they can no longer control you. Rather than just backing off, these particular narcissists will instead step up their game. They will utilize manipulation tactics such as showing up unexpectedly to your doorstep, or they might even show up at your job to make it clear that they will always be in control. They might even actually stalk you and literally show up whenever they want in an effort to send the message that they will always be the ones in charge. They will call you in an apparent emergency and try to get your attention that way. They’ll make stuff up as to why you need to come back and provide the necessary supply they are missing. This is what we call the hoover maneuver – because they are literally trying to suck you back into the toxic relationship.
The Narcissist Ghosts 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 to Deal With the Narcissist in This Situation
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.
You should also keep an eye out for flying monkeys – the people who will happily do the narcisisst’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 your self. 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.
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 – they 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?
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 your self 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 recent video, What Narcissists Do: 23 Lies They Tell and Secrets They Keep.
Angela Atkinson is a certified trauma counselor and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery, and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic personality disorder and narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships since 2006, she has a popular narcissistic abuse recovery YouTube channel. Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed narcissistic abuse recovery coaching and has certifications in trauma counseling, life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation, and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves.
Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded QueenBeeing.com Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy.
She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online.