The world of narcissists is a complex one. Along the spectrum and across the different types, there is a wide variety of behavior. Still, the result remains the same in the end.
In a previous article, I introduced you to six phrases, and here are six more that will shed some light on this complex and toxic personality type.
The whole game narcissists play is about control and domination. Once the narcissist can’t lie, cheat, exploit, or betray anymore, because the victim has managed to eventually leave the relationship, they will launch a smear campaign against them.
This campaign is designed to hurt their former partner as much as possible. Since the narcissist’s fragile (but huge) ego has been damaged, they will do this to exact their revenge.
The entire relationship has been about using and exploiting the victim (emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, financially) and then, when the moment is right, leaving that person for somebody else to start the narcissistic cycle of abuse all over again.
Yet the game did not end as expected, so the narcissist will make up for it by trying to see the victim devastated using any means whatsoever, with a total lack of guilt or remorse.
Some examples of the smear campaign are:
Trashing the victim’s image at work with the aim of getting them fired.
Manipulating other people (called flying monkeys) to bully or harass the victim.
Lying to common friends about the victim in order to isolate them.
This is a non-reactive tactic to get protection from a narcissist when “no contact” is not possible (i.e. the narcissist is his/her boss, or they are an ex-partner and parent to their child).
A narcissist’s behavior is manufactured to get a reaction out of people. Going Gray Rock means being as reactive and exciting as exactly that: a gray rock. It means being boring, with little or nothing at all to say, not giving any personal information (or as little as possible), and generally behaving like a living statue that is impervious to any confrontational barbs the narcissist may throw.
It is hard to do at the beginning, but it gets better with practice… and, most importantly, it works. The narcissist will realize that their provocations no longer elicit a reaction from the victim. Eventually, they will give up and move on to another target because the victim is not as “fun” as they used to be.
Narcissists do not have an authentic inner self; they don’t really know who they are and they have low self-esteem. When they were raised, it is likely that there was at least one parent and/or caregiver who treated them either too badly (psychological and/or emotional abuse during part or all of their childhood) or too well (think “you are the king/queen and you will always be able to do whatever you want – people will always please you”).
Because their inner self was not properly nurtured, all their esteem comes from the outside, from other people, and not from inside themselves. Therefore, they become entirely dependent on other people and what they are trying to get from them. This is how they remain functional and not miserable.
The narcissistic supply in each particular case depends on which personal needs have to be met through someone else. The most common narcissistic supplies are: food, sex, love, shelter, money, admiration, attention, and power. This supply is usually given by more than one person at a time whether knowingly or unknowingly.
Narcissists organize their lives around this supply and usually have other people already providing it – or in the pipeline – just in case their primary source unexpectedly fails, or they get tired of the “old supply.”
More essential narcissist reading (article continues below):
Stockholm Syndrome gets its name from a bank robbery in Sweden in 1973. Several hostages involved in the robbery ended up defending and/or having relationships with their kidnappers. Stockholm Syndrome takes place when a hostage involved in a kidnap develops a strong emotional bond with his/her captor.
Trauma Bonding is similar to Stockholm Syndrome. Victims have deep and strong feelings for the narcissists they are in relationships with. Narcissists will sometimes treat victims well and other times treat them badly.
The effect of trauma bonding on the victim’s brain is very similar to being addicted to a drug. They get hooked on the cycle of good (happiness) and bad (hurt):
Happiness takes place in the form of, for example, love bombing, praising, or good sex (which produces oxytocin in their brain, also called the happiness hormone).
Hurt happens in the form of abuse, put-downs, and crazy-making to name just a few (all of which produce cortisol in the victim’s brain; the stress hormone that warns against danger).
This cycle of endless bad-good, bad-good,… is what get victims hooked on the relationship and is a primary reason why it is so difficult for them to get out of it for good. They have to literally quit abuse as if it were cocaine.
Relationships with narcissists are emotional rollercoasters with very intense feelings, and a lot of drama and instability. People who have grown up in dysfunctional families with at least one narcissistic parent were involved in this kind of dynamic during their childhood. They learned that this was love. Therefore, that kind of relationship is what they will be unconsciously looking for as adults, not being aware of the abuse. “Normal” relationships usually appear to them boring and flat.
The victim frames it as “We have been through so much together,” when actually the abuser is the one who has put the victim through all the pain and adversities, without the slightest bit of guilt or remorse for doing so.
Triangulation is a toxic dynamic of indirect communication and behaviors that involves three people. The main characteristics of triangulation are covert action, deceit, and abuse. It occurs when one person attacks, discredits, and/or abuses another with the collaboration of a third party (knowingly or unknowingly).
The Karpman Drama Triangle, created by Stephen Karpman in 1968 and widely used in psychology and psychotherapy, maps a destructive interaction that takes place between people who are in conflict. It has three characters: the Victim, the Persecutor, and the Rescuer.
The Victim: feels that life or other people treat them badly, and that they do not deserve it. Still, they do nothing to remove themselves from that situation.
The Persecutor: is after other people directly or indirectly to harm them, teach them a lesson, or punish them.
The Rescuer: thinks that other people (usually his/her partner) can’t survive in life without him/her. The Rescuer thinks that if he/she saves the other person, he/she saves himself/herself.
In a relationship with a narcissist, sooner or later a triangle always forms. Narcissists use triangulation as a means to assert power and control.
This is the triangle in the narcissist’s head: He/she is the Victim. His/her current partner (old narcissistic supply) is the Persecutor. His/her lover (new narcissistic supply) is the Rescuer.
This is the Real Version: the narcissist is the Persecutor. The current partner (old narcissistic supply) is the Victim (and often the Rescuer, too). The new lover is merely the accomplice of the narcissist (whether aware of this or not).
Since narcissists do not have a true inner self, they wear masks in order to get narcissistic supply from people. One of the techniques they employ to lure people in is mirroring. They usually use mirroring (which is a huge red flag to watch out for) with potential new partners, pretending they are twin souls; a “match made in heaven.”
If, let’s say, the potential victim has always wanted to travel to Peru, then that suddenly becomes the trip of the narcissist’s dreams, too. If he/she is thinking about signing up for swing lessons, what a coincidence because the narcissist has also been meaning to do that! If he/she is a lover of old movies, the narcissist will, all of a sudden, have a full collection at his/her place.
All of this is fake and superficial; the narcissist will merely try to fit the bill as the victim’s “ideal partner” in order to trick them into a relationship. They are very good at mirroring because they are able to quickly summon up a lot of information and then play a role to make the victim think “This is it. I have found the love of my life.”
Are these phrases new to you? Do they help explain some things in a past (or present) relationship in your life? Leave a comment below.
Patricia Armesto Corral is a blogger specialized in narcissism and abusive relationships. Gestalt therapist to be, she already offers therapy to survivors of dysfunctional families, either personally where she lives in Barcelona, or online. When she is not writing, she likes walking in the nature, watching old movies, and taking care of her plants.