Love, Heartbreak

The SCARY 6-Step Process A Narcissist Uses To Confuse And Control You

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How A Narcissist Manipulates Their Victims

My client Greta is involved with a narcissist (I prefer the more clinical term “Asshat”) named Jacob. Since their relationship began two years ago Greta’s life has been in chaos.

One feeling that comes up time and time again for Greta is self-doubt. I asked her to journal about the relationship so I could help her work through it. I’ve been given permission to share her story. Here's how a narcissist manipulates their victims and what you can learn from Greta's experience.

1. The narcissist behaves badly.

“Saturday Jacob and I were going to a barbecue at my friend Viv’s. We were supposed to be there at 5 PM and we were an hour and a half late because of Jacob dragging his feet.”

Jacob is often late to take Greta places and often cancels at the last minute with flimsy excuses.

2. The victim vacillates between being angry at the narcissist and not holding him responsible.

“I couldn’t let it go. His lack of time management drives me nuts. I still take it personally. I think if he were really a good guy and loved me, he’d be on time — instead of realizing, he’s Jacob.”

Greta is beginning to doubt that she should hold Jacob responsible for his selfish behavior. She is already trying to “let it go,” even though Jacob hasn’t made amends and might never. In the past, Jacob has told her she’s too sensitive and demanding, which makes her doubt her reaction to his hurtful behavior.

3. The victim demonstrates her anger passive-aggressively. She's been conditioned to be indirect because he shuts her out when she's direct.

“We drove home in silence. I turned away from him in bed. He called me from work the next day to find out why I was pissed and got my voicemail. Instead of calling him back I texted a rather lengthy message telling him I knew I had to accept the fact it was hard for him to make and carry out plans with me, but I didn’t know whether I wanted to live my life that way — that I was ‘struggling’ with it. The purpose of that text, apparently, was to threaten him — change or I might leave you! Then again, a better way to look at it might be, giving him fair warning. So if I do decide it’s over, he won’t be left wondering what he did or did not do.”

Greta often threatens to break up with Jacob but never does it. Usually, because she’s consumed with self-doubt, but also because she’s co-dependent with Jacob.

4. The narcissist ices the victim out. She begins to regret taking a stand. 

“He never texted back. I’m assuming he got the message sometime yesterday and I haven’t heard a peep. I called this morning and got his voicemail again, so I’m sure he’s pissed. He doesn’t like to be threatened."

When Greta threatens or tries to control Jacob he simply disappears. No responding to phone calls or texts. She discovers her attempt at control backfires every time because she can’t stand it when he disappears, panics and tries to reach him.

5. The victim desperately wants to hold her ground. 

“These silences of Jacob’s put me through a lot of fear. Fear for me and desertion. But fear for him too — that I’ve hurt him too much. So I take back the things I say and make my desires negligible. It’s not good to be a person who has no respect for other people’s time. It’s also not good to be a person who can’t hear anything negative about themselves without allowing it to totally overwhelm them.

In a way, Jacob’s so fragile, so easily devastated, so up comes his wall, the denial that this is how he is and there I am the caretaker placing him before me. He’s mad, he’s hurt so he shouldn’t have to bear the results of his own behavior, I’ll just swallow my hurt and anger.”

Part of Greta’s self-doubt has to do with her habit of rescuing Jacob. Often forgiving him for bad behavior when he hasn’t apologized because she’s worried she’s hurt him by holding him accountable for his bad behavior. She worries if she’s “hurt” him too much he might break up with her.

6. The victim is filled with self-doubt and self-abandons in order to stay with the narcissist. 

“And the opposite thought is — do I have to fight every battle?”

These last few paragraphs demonstrate that Greta is truly conflicted. She believes Jacob needs to take responsibility and be held accountable for his own behavior, but at the end, she self-abandons by asking the rhetorical question, “Do I have to fight every battle?” Which suggests she worries she might be too sensitive and wrong.

If you’re dating someone who behaves poorly then either blames you for their behavior or punishes you for not accepting their bad behavior, you are likely dealing with a narcissist and are filled with confusion and self-doubt.

Knowing how a narcissist manipulates and that you’re dealing with a narcissist is half the battle because now you know you’ve been a victim of gaslighting:

Wikipedia: Gaslighting is manipulation through persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying in an attempt to destabilize and delegitimize a target. Its intent is to sow seeds of doubt in the targets, hoping to make them question their own memory, perception, and sanity.


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This article was originally published at Huffington Post. Reprinted with permission from the author.