Criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder
- Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance
- Expecting to be recognised as superior even without achievements that warrant it
- Exaggerating achievements and talents
- Being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance or beauty
- Believing they can only be understood by or associate with equally special people
- Requiring constant admiration
- Having a sense of entitlement
- Expecting special favours and unquestioning compliance with their expectations
- Taking advantage of others to get what they want
- Having an inability or unwillingness to recognise the needs and feelings of others
- Being envious of others and believing others envy them
- Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner
Ambient Abuse is the fostering of an atmosphere of fear, intimidation, instability, unpredictability and irritation. There is no tangible evidence of abuse but the victim constantly senses a bad omen or premonition of impending doom. It is perpetrated by dropping subtle hints, by disorienting, by constant and unnecessary lying, by persistent doubting and demeaning and by inspiring an air of unmitigated gloom and doom.
Abuse Amnesia is a form of cognitive suppression where an abuse victim has trouble remembering episodes where their boundaries have been violated. It is a strange occurrence which is common among people who have been chronically abused.
Abuse amnesia is common in situations where a person is still invested in the success of the relationship and is “rooting for” the abuser to turn the corner, for the situation to improve and for the relationship to succeed.
The term cognitive dissonance is used to describe the uncomfortable feeling that results from holding two conflicting beliefs. When there is a discrepancy between beliefs and behaviours, something must change in order to eliminate or reduce the dissonance.
Confronted by evidence which contradicts their values or beliefs, a person is forced to make an uncomfortable choice:
- To hold to their belief and disregard the data they have been presented with
- To modify their beliefs and risk having to re-evaluate their world view, their choices and their character.
Individuals often experience cognitive dissonance when they are confronted with evidence that their partner is not behaving in a loving way toward them. This may contradict their belief or desire that their relationship is healthy or “normal”.
The narcissist views his partner as an extension of himself, except his partner is an inanimate object, not a living creature in his eyes. The narcissist needs his partner to provide a regular flow of supply to feel worthy, superior, and good about himself. The slightest disagreement, criticism, or difference of opinion, is perceived as an assault on the existence of a narcissist. Differences of opinion are viewed as an outright attack on the false persona he has carefully created.
Any suggestion, belief, or opinion that contradicts his false-self is not tolerable, and the narcissist will do anything to defend his points of view and demonise yours. His manufactured false image is dependent upon his partner to sustain. He’s driven to devalue his partner because he despises his dependence on her as much as he is dependent on her. Devaluing his partner is the only way to disavow the unwanted dependent feelings while maintaining his sense of superiority and control.
Where she once could do no wrong, fault will be found. The devaluation may take various forms, including nit-picking, gas-lighting, withholding physical intimacy, blaming her for everything, needing to always be “right,” projecting his feelings onto her, playing the victim, triangulation, constant criticisms of minor and trivial things disguised in form of just “trying to be helpful”, and domineering behaviours that started small in the beginning, but eventually permeated until every aspect of her life is under his control.
A narcissist can disappear for a few hours, to a few days, even a few months with no warning at all. Why does he do this? He will most likely tell his partner it was because of her! Either something she said or something she didn’t do. But the real reason he disappears is that he is always moving forward, looking for something or someone to validate him. He get validation by being able to be completely disconnected from whatever it is he is doing and elevating himself above it. With his partner, there is a constant need for reciprocated feelings of love, compassion and so on. Because he cannot reciprocate her feelings, she is draining him.
When he is not getting the “feel good” from their partner anymore, he disappears! If he feels she is being critical of him, they are gone! If she confronts him about any number of things: lies, infidelity, commitments not kept, once again, they disappear. A narcissist does not feel he needs to be accountable, therefore, when he re-appears, the last thing he wants is to have to give a truthful reason why he disappeared.
Ultimately, the person with narcissism discards his or her dating partner, who served as a source of narcissistic supply to fuel the ego of the individual with narcissistic issues. When the target asks for compromise, reciprocity, empathy, integrity, honesty, and boundaries (all healthy and valid requests that people with extreme narcissistic qualities generally do not engage in), the person with narcissism may decide that the target has lost his or her appeal and is tarnished—no longer the “perfect partner” to fluff the ego feathers. Inevitably, the discarding occurs when the person with narcissism either disappears or orchestrates his or her own abandonment by engaging in some form of severe emotional abuse.
Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse where the abuser manipulates situations repeatedly to trick the victim into distrusting his or her own memory and perceptions. Gaslighting is an insidious form of abuse. It makes victims question the very instincts that they have counted on their whole lives, making them unsure of anything. Gaslighting makes it very likely that victims will believe whatever their abusers tell them regardless as to their own experience of the situation.
There are numerous gaslighting techniques which can make gaslighting more difficult to identify. Gaslighting techniques are used to hide truths that the abuser doesn’t want the victim to realize.
1. Withholding is one gaslighting technique where the abuser feigns a lack of understanding, refuses to listen and declines sharing his emotions.
- “I’m not listening to that crap again tonight.”
- “You’re just trying to confuse me.”
2. Countering is another gaslighting technique is where an abuser will vehemently call into question a victim’s memory in spite of the victim having remembered things correctly.
- “Think about when you didn’t remember things correctly last time.”
- “You thought that last time and you were wrong.”
These techniques throw the victim off the intended subject matter and make them question their own motivations and perceptions rather than the issue at hand. It is then that the abuser will start to question the experiences, thoughts and opinions more globally through statements said in anger.
- “You see everything in the most negative way.”
- “You have an overactive imagination.”
3. Blocking and diverting are gaslighting techniques whereby the abuser again changes the conversation from the subject matter to questioning the victim’s thoughts and controlling the conversation.
- “I’m not going through that again.”
- “Where did you get a crazy idea like that?”
4. Trivializing is another way of gaslighting. It involves making the victim believe his or her thoughts or needs aren’t important, such as:
- “You’re going to let something like that come between us?”
5. Forgetting and denial can also be forms of gaslighting. In this technique, the abuser pretends to forget things that have really occurred; the abuser may also deny things like promises that have been made that are important to the victim.
- “What are you talking about?”
- “You’re making that up.”
Think of a narcissist as a hoarder. In the same way that a hoarder finds comfort collecting objects, a narcissist gains comfort collecting people. They don’t trouble themselves with mundane things, like right or wrong, or other people’s feelings. To a narcissist people are objects. They are either narcissistic supply, potential supply or nothing.
A narcissist requires excessive amounts of attention and admiration. consequently he accumulates an assortment of people he can turn to whenever he has a need for them. These people, called the narcissistic harem, mainly consist of ex-girlfriends, potential girlfriends and women who wish to be his girlfriend. The harem can also consist of co-workers and friends, basically anyone who the narcissist deems a good audience and who will boost up his self-esteem and sense of superiority by putting him on a pedestal. A happy narcissist is one who has many options.
A narcissist will offer up friendship after he has screwed his victim for the 100th time, but what he’s really offering is a membership to his harem. This membership allows him to pop in and out of their lives, mess with their heads and keep tabs on them, while at the same time keeping them stuck and fixated on him.
Hoovering is another tactic used by the narcissist to re-claim control when his partner has tried to break away from the relationship. Contrary to what it may seem, the narcissist has not had an epiphany, he hasn’t suddenly discovered his undying love for her and he CAN imagine his life without her. He knows his victim well and he knows exactly what to say and how to behave to pull her back in.
The hovering tactic is much easier for the narcissist than love-bombing. They’ve developed certain advantages such as knowing what tugs at his victim’s heartstrings and they will use those buttons unashamedly. Further, if it isn’t the first time they’ve hovered, they know what worked the last time and use it to their benefit.
Intermittent reinforcement is unpredictable random rewards in response to repeated behaviour. It can be elevated gradually (and subtly) to increasingly extreme levels, creating compliance that is obsessive and even self-destructive.
Creating fear of losing the relationship – and then relieving it periodically with episodes of love and attention- is the perfect manipulation. The more infrequently the crumbs of love are offered, the more hooked the victim gets.
Intermittent reinforcement begins insidiously and escalates gradually. A phone call or a text message doesn’t come when expected. A hand that always held ours as we walked down the street is kept in a pocket instead. He seems to be flirting with someone else but denies it. For weeks, he isn’t in the mood to make love. Little by little it gets worse. He gives the silent treatment. He subtly criticise his partner for all types of things or he compares her unfavourably to someone else. He provokes his partner into an emotional meltdown and then tell her she’s crazy. But there are always the times he reverts back to being the loving and attentive partner. This keeps the victim hanging on through the bad times.
Love bombing / idealisation
Love Bombing is a seductive tactic that is used when someone who is manipulative tries to control the relationship with bombs brimming with “love” right from day one. It often takes place within whirlwind romances and is usually directed by sociopaths or narcissists.
This concept is known as love bombing due to the bombardment of actions that may appear very similar to “love” but that are extremely overwhelming and deliberately perpetrated. So much so that the bombing can effectively sweep people off their feet and cause high levels of infatuation, as the target is unaware that it is a manipulative means to gain attention.
Love bombers are masters at flattery; they will constantly be telling their target how much they adore them, how beautiful they are, how funny, talented, special, precious and any other sweet nothing they can think of. Love bombers will make their partner feel as though they are the only person in the world for them, telling them how grateful they are to finally be understood, what terrible previous relationships they had, how they have found the love of their lives and that they are for-sure certified soul mates.
It is a predatory and over the top move to lure and attract someone so that they feel irreplaceable and fall unquestioningly into their lair without the need for the love bomber to make any real emotional commitment. Love bombing is a one-way game, with the simple goal of destabilising and derailing the person being targeted so that they become very easy to manipulate.
This means the one being bombed can quickly become co-dependent on the love bomber, especially if their confidence is low and it comes at a time when they appreciate the (false) validation and approval.
Narcissistic injury / rage
Narcissists suffer from what the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines as narcissistic injury: “vulnerability in self-esteem which makes narcissistic people very sensitive to ‘injury’ from criticism or defeat. Although they may not show it outwardly, criticism may haunt these individuals and may leave them feeling humiliated, degraded, hollow and empty. They react with disdain, rage, or defiant counterattack.”
While the narcissist may act arrogant and haughty and put on a show that nothing bothers them, this facade makes it difficult for you to see their inward self-loathing. Their presentation deceives most people until they get to know the narcissist. When the narcissists’ facade of charm and deception gets cracked, their whole world bursts apart. They will blame you for their feelings of inadequacy, lack of happiness, and lack of love.
When narcissists feel that they have lost or they feel rejected or abandoned, they don’t forget it. We have all felt abandoned or rejected at times in our lives, and most of us get over it with a little time and processing of feelings. We move on. But the narcissist does not do this. Narcissists are not enough in touch with their own feelings to move on. The issues remain in their mind as “It’s all your fault.” “How could you do this to me?” They want to strike back.
The counter attacks and force of disdain and rage from the narcissist can feel like you are being bullied with no restraint. It can come in the form of emails, texts, letters, verbal abuse, social media attacks, or in-person abuse. Their narcissistic rage seems to come out of nowhere and can leave you feeling confused and afraid. “What will they do next?” “Why did that person do this?” It really makes no rational sense because it is clearly the projection of their own feelings onto others.
The lack of accountability in the narcissist is astounding. When you expect they will see the error of their ways and apologize, you will find them defending themselves. Somehow, they find a way to make it all about you and it becomes your fault. “You made me react that way.” “You did this or that to create my rage.”
Narcissistic Supply is anything that builds the narcissist’s ego up and re-affirms his feelings of superiority, grandiosity, and entitlement. Examples include: adulation, compliments, admiration, subservience, attention, being feared, approval, affirmation, respect, applause, celebrity status, money, media notice and sexual conquest.
Typically a person welcomes a mild to moderate amount of attention usually in the form of affirmation, approval, or admiration. Too much attention paid to oneself, though, makes the person feel uncomfortable. Negative attention or criticism is typically avoided and makes the person even more uncomfortable.
On the other hand, the narcissist is like an alcoholic or a drug addict when it comes to attention. He is insatiable and seeks out attention as if it were his drug of choice. He does not get uncomfortable with it, no matter how much he gets (it is never enough) or whether it is positive or negative. Narcissists generally have no intrinsic or “built-in” sense of self-worth so they rely on other people, via attention or Narcissistic Supply, to re-affirm their greatness in order to feel good about themselves.
To elicit a steady stream of attention or Narcissistic Supply from others, the narcissist projects a False Self. The False Self is an imaginary façade or mask that he shows to the world that includes what the narcissist wants to be seen as: powerful, charming, intelligent, rich, or well-connected.
The narcissist then ‘collects’ reactions to this projected False Self from spouse, family, friends, colleagues, business partners and peers. If the expected Narcissistic Supply is not forthcoming- (adulation, admiration, attention, fear, respect, applause, or affirmation) – the narcissist demands them, or extorts them. Money, compliments, a media appearance, a sexual conquest are all simply various forms of the same thing to a narcissist-Narcissistic Supply.
A projection is an unconscious defence mechanism in which the individual ejects aggressive, negative feelings and thoughts on to another person. Most people are unaware of their projections. If they get upset or angry or enraged, they simply let it spew out on those closest to them.
Narcissists are constantly projecting feelings that they cannot tolerate out rather than turning inward, identifying that they are projecting and owning what they have done. The narcissist creates his own world. Everything revolves around him/her. He believes that he is the initiator and master of his personal and professional domain. Everyone has a role and that is of serving him and his specific purposes. This structure is not going to change; it is rigid and unyielding.
Besides the narcissist is never wrong. He automatically blames others when anything goes awry. It is very stressful to be the recipient of narcissistic projections. The sheer force of the narcissist’s accusations and recriminations is stunning and disorienting. No one deserves to be accused, demeaned, humiliated and treated like an inferior human being.
Narcissists feel so entitled and would never believe that you would disagree with them. They are so delusional, thinking and believe that they are superior to everyone else, they know that you will cave in to their demands and threats of recrimination.
The silent treatment is a form of emotional abuse typically employed by people with narcissistic tendencies. It is designed to:
- place the abuser in a position of control
- silence the target’s attempts at assertion
- avoid conflict resolution, personal responsibility or compromise
- punish the target for a perceived ego slight
Often, the result of the silent treatment is exactly what the person with narcissism wishes to create: a reaction from the target and a sense of control.
The target, may work diligently to respond to the deafening silence. She may frequently reach out to the narcissistic person via email, phone, or text to resolve greatly inflated misunderstandings, and is typically met with continued disdain, contempt, and silence. Essentially, the narcissistic person’s message is one of extreme disapproval to the degree that the silence renders the target so insignificant that she is ignored and becomes more or less non-existent in the eyes of the narcissistic person.
Because no further communication can ensue unless and until the narcissistic person decides to give the target another chance, a false sense of control is nurtured. Often, the narcissistic person will demand that the target apologise for whatever inflated transgression the target may have committed.
If you look up “smear campaign” in the dictionary, you’ll find that the political version of the term matches up with the narcissistic one: “a deliberate attack on somebody, by spreading an untrue and unpleasant rumour about them, or by making an accusation intended to damage their reputation.” Quite simply, that’s what a narcissist does when he feels threatened or otherwise concerned that he might lose his narcissistic supply.
While the narcissist is capable of understanding that causing social harm, damage and general invalidation of fundamental human rights is wrong, it doesn’t stop him and he also continues with lying and manipulating people and trying to gaslight them, knowing it is morally wrong. For example: a narcissist might run a smear campaign by making up rumours and stories about their target’s mental health (or lack thereof). This way, when or if their victims try to speak out or get help (or even support) with the abuse, the victim’s credibility has been undermined in advance. The narcissist will point out that the victim is behaving exactly as he predicted, and will use the victim’s natural response to this outrageous smear campaign against him or her.
Stonewalling is when someone shuts you down from communicating. He just “bails” on your efforts at communication, refuses to take you seriously; refuses to engage a discussion of your concerns.
He may ignore or dismiss you, express fatigue with you (and your concerns); he may listen without offering a thoughtful, respectful response, and then credit himself for having listened, perhaps even listened at a length he may complain about.
In any case his unthoughtful, lazy, dismissive, or flat-out non-response to your feelings and concerns captures the essence of stonewalling and will reflect his pure contempt for which he’ll take no responsibility.
Rather, he may depict you as a boring windbag who doesn’t know when to “stop talking,” or who’s always making or looking for “trouble,” without recognizing or owning how his insistent refusal to listen, his determination NOT to listen, actually provokes, passive-aggressively, your very instinct to “talk” and “pursue him” until he gives a meaningful response.
He may flat-out tell you he’s bored by, and uninterested in, the concerns you raise, regardless of how strongly you feel about them, and regardless of how strong your need to discuss them is. It may be that the more urgency you feel to broach your concerns, the more he’ll contemptuously stonewall you.
When your concerns pertain to the relationship itself, his rebuff will feel especially cruel and leave you feeling especially helpless. It will also very likely be dripping with some form of passive-aggressive, if not aggressive, contempt.
Triangulation can be defined as an indirect form of communication where one person (usually the narcissist) acts as a messenger between two other people. Or it can be a direct form of communication where one person attempts to draw in an accomplice, to gang up against a third party, to further their agenda. In both cases, the messenger will fabricate or alter a message, often incorporating a sliver of the truth, to advance his objective. There are as many different reasons why a narcissist might use triangulation as there are narcissists, but here are the 4 most common methods and motives.
- Killing two birds with one stone
To obtain control, attention or adulation, narcissists will often inform their partner about how a third-party, such as a mutual friend or co-worker, has been flirtatious with them. This third-party person is brought into the relationship to kill two birds with one stone! First, it stirs up feelings of jealousy and insecurity in their partner, and subtlety warns the partner that they are potentially replaceable. Instinctively, the partner tries harder to please the narcissist, as to not be replaced. Second, it creates an illusion of desirability and encourages rivalry, both of which, fill the narcissist with narcissistic supply, consisting of adulation and control. So, not only does the narcissist get his dose of supply, he also increases the amount of power he wields over their partner.
- Recruiting reinforcements
One of the ways narcissists use triangulation to manipulate their partners into siding with their point of view or acquiesce to their wants and needs is by using third-party reinforcements to substantiate their opinions. This is a form of recruiting allies, or when taken to the extreme, it is flat out bullying. The narcissist tries to manipulate anyone who may hold a different opinion or belief by using the help of an unwitting third party, which of course, has only heard the narcissist’s rendition of the truth.
The third-party is usually oblivious to the narcissist’s ploy and believes they’re only trying to help the narcissist. Usually, the third party is a relative or a member of the narcissist’s fan club. The narcissist uses these innocent people as tools to help settle differences and coerce their partner or anyone else into accepting their viewpoint through the use of persuasion, embarrassment, majority rules or guilt.
This method of triangulation involves pitting two people against each other. The narcissist does this by smearing the character of one or both of the people behind their backs. This enables the narcissist to preserve their false image and ensures they’re viewed positively among the triangle. In many instances, the narcissist will portray themselves as the victim, especially if they feel their partner is growing tired or aware of their manipulation, hypocrisy, and abuse. The narcissist will usually seek supporters that he knows will always agree with them, no matter what. This is how they set up their partner, to look like the abuser in the relationship.
- The pre-discard and dump
This is the final triangulation tactic used by the narcissist when he has decided to end the relationship and discard you. Instead of talking to their partner about this, they will confide in people who they know will agree with them, and believe their rendition of the truth. Sometimes they will confide in people, who hardly even know their partner, if at all. The narcissist will make sure to let their partner know that they have been confiding in other people, and every single one of them agrees with the narcissist. Most likely, one of the narcissist’s confidants will assume the role of the replacement partner.
When they’re feeling threatened or bored, psychopaths and narcissists will often use what’s called “word salad” as an attempt to regain control over their target. Basically, it’s a conversation from hell. They aren’t actually saying anything at all. Before their target can even respond to one outrageous statement, they’re already on to the next. She is left with her head spinning.
His target will think they worked something out, only to begin discussing it again in two minutes. And it’s as if she never even said a word the first time around. He begins reciting all of the same bullshit, ignoring any legitimate arguments his target may have provided moments ago. If something is going to be resolved, it will be on his terms. With psychopaths and narcissists, the same issues will come up over and over again:
- Why is he so friendly with his ex again?
- Why is he suddenly not paying any attention to me?
And every time their target brings up these issues, it’s as if they never even had this argument in the past. She get sucked back in, only to feel crazy and high-maintenance when he decides “I’m sick of always arguing about this.”
The entire conversation will have this calm, “cool” demeanour. It’s almost as if he’s mocking his target, gauging her reactions to see how much further he can push. When the target finally react emotionally, that’s when he’ll tell you to “calm down”, raise his eyebrows, smirk, feign disappointment, etc. The whole point of word salad is to make his target unhinged, and therefore give him the upper hand.