Dehumanization: A Mechanism For Narcissists And Sociopaths To Mistreat Others

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If you have ever experienced a narcissist or sociopath firsthand, you will have been left wondering how they can possibly treat other human beings with such little regard.

Their behavior towards others is often so cold and heartless that it seems almost unbelievable, but they are able to act in such a manner because of a particular mental toolset.

It probably exists primarily on an unconscious level, but this mechanism allows them to perpetrate acts of malice – bordering on evil – without the emotional barriers or consequences a healthy mind would experience.

This mechanism is dehumanization and it is exactly what it sounds like. A narcissist or sociopath will mentally strip away everything about someone that might be considered a human trait. In their mind, they will try to turn them from living, breathing individuals into mere abstract entities that they can manipulate and use like they would anything else in their environment.

This process is not only something that occurs in their head, however; there are very real means by which they achieve this aim, and these can be incredibly destructive to the other person. They include:


Narcissists and sociopaths can’t handle genuine, heartfelt interaction between themselves and other human beings; they just aren’t capable of communicating on anything other than the most superficial levels.

So, rather than try, they simply alter their perceptions of those around them. They willfully ignore the thoughts, feelings, rights, and beliefs of other people and reduce them to mere objects. In this way, they don’t see a person, but simply an inert physical form.

They do this because they are familiar with objects; they know how to deal with them and use them for their own personal gain or satisfaction. Viewing individuals as objects allows them to treat them in the same way that they would a phone, car, table, or bed, for example.

Objectification is the primary vehicle through which they are able to justify and commit their callous and often abusive acts towards others. They are unable to feel any empathy towards the victim because, to them, this would be like empathizing with a rock.

The result is an armory of emotional, verbal, and even physical weapons that provide the means to extract the desired use from those they target. And because they see people in the same way as objects, they have no qualms about discarding them if and when they have served their purpose.

This is why, should you ever escape from a narcissistic relationship of any kind, and you are able to stay firm and maintain zero contact, they will swiftly move on and find a new victim without a moment’s hesitation. To them, it’s little more than a change of outfit or buying a new television. This is not to say that they won’t try to re-engage you at a later date, but they won’t do so out of some emotional connection; they will merely want to use you again.


To invalidate someone is to make them feel rejected, wrong, abnormal, and worthless. By doing so, a narcissist or sociopath can convince themselves of their superiority while simultaneously degrading a person and breaking their spirit.

Invalidation comes in many forms. It might be a case of teasing someone for their beliefs, their looks, their feelings, or the way they act in order to make them doubt themselves. This can chip away at someone’s self confidence until they are more easily persuaded and mistreated.

Repeated rejection can have a similar effect on a person’s self-esteem. If the perpetrator rejects a person’s advances again and again, it lessens their confidence and convinces them that they are not the one calling the shots in a relationship. They gradually become more subservient, bent by the will of their oppressor.

Ignoring someone is also a very powerful form of mental abuse. Whether it is a partner’s wishes, a child’s cries for help, or a colleague’s morning greeting, silence and/or a lack of acknowledgement can be incredibly disconcerting. It demonstrates the spitefulness so often seen in the behavior of narcissists and sociopaths.

Never-ending judgement of one’s actions and thoughts is yet another form of invalidation that leaves the victim plagued by doubt and riddled with insecurity. By putting someone under the microscope and criticizing their every move, these abusive personalities are able to further break down their victim’s sense of self. This leaves them in the vulnerable position of relying on their abuser for any and all decision-making.

These are just some of the many forms of invalidation that can take place. Really, any word or action that is designed to belittle the other person can be considered a way of invalidating them.

More essential narcissist reading (article continues below):


Objectification and invalidation lead to the narcissist or sociopath being able to exert their control over others. This control is something that they yearn for relentlessly because it allows them to minimize the risk to their ego. If they fear anything, it is a blow to the ego that they rely on so heavily to function in life.

All of their calculated words and actions are designed to promote themselves into a position of authority and power. From here they can control a person much like they try to control their environment. It doesn’t matter that this authority is illusory, they play on it and try to convince others of it, and they are often successful. They are effectively con artists in this respect.

This control is necessary for the narcissist or sociopath because of the way they view everything in their surroundings as an extension of themselves. Just like you value the control you have over your movements, they see the manipulation of others in the same light. To them, it is nothing more than a natural way to go about business.

On top of this, their positioning of themselves at the center of the universe means that nobody is more important than they are, and their needs should be prioritized over all others. It is this mindset that allows them to disregard everyone else in such a flagrant way; they simply put themselves first at all times regardless of the impact this may have.

These personalities also seek control over others because of their own, hidden, insecurities. Internally, they really don’t feel in control at all, so instead they focus their efforts on controlling as much of the external world as they can, and this includes people.

Of course, in any form of relationship with such a person, this control can manifest itself in countless ways. In romantic situations, it can involve telling their victim who they can and can’t see, getting jealous of others, and the taking over of all financial decisions. In parent-child relationships, it might mean dictating what career path to follow, which hobbies to take up, and how to dress. It can also stray into even darker territories as we’ll now discuss.

Disrespecting Personal Boundaries

Objectification and the need for control combine to create one of the most destructive aspects of narcissists and sociopaths. It is more a consequence of dehumanization, although in some ways still a method of achieving it. Since people are mere objects to be used and controlled in their eyes, many have no misgivings when it comes to invading personal space and abusing their victims both physically and sexually.

They completely lack any moral code that stops them from subjecting their victims to ordeals that will likely scar them for life. Even if they are met with resistance or protests, they are able to reject that person’s feelings in another demonstration of invalidation.

Even if there is no physical contact, they will often stand deliberately close to other people in order to try and exert their dominance. Or they might turn up at your home uninvited just to prove they are in control. Even something seemingly innocent, such as phoning a workmate late at night rather than waiting until the morning to discuss the matter, is a way for them to disregard personal boundaries.

These are 4 of the key points when it comes to the dehumanization mechanism used by narcissists and sociopaths. It is by no means a complete list and there are many other methods they might use, both subtle and not so subtle. This is why you need to keep your wits about you at all times to try and identify these and other behaviors quickly.

Does any of this sound familiar to you? Leave a comment below to share your story.

About The Author

Steve Phillips-Waller is the founder and editor of A Conscious Rethink. He has written extensively on the topics of life, relationships, and mental health for more than 8 years.