Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Narcissist's Smear Campaign

Those who gossip to you will gossip about you
Narcissistic Mother's Smear Campaign Video by Gail Meyers

© by Gail Meyers
The narcissist's smear campaign involves gossip, lies and slander. You can become the target of a narcissist's smear campaign for numerous reasons. It can be anything from their insane jealousy, to the fact that the narcissist knows you see through their facade, to concealing their abuse or for simply disagreeing with them.

In my experience, the smear campaign is always used by abusers for what they consider premeditated damage control in anticipation of exposure. My alcoholic pedophile step-father used it during the years he sexually abused me, as well as continuing in it once I was an adult. Of course, that was first and foremost to keep me quiet about the abuse. Secondly, it was an attempt to discredit me so no one would believe me should I decide to tell. My narcissistic personality disordered mother used smear campaigns against her scapegoat children, anyone she was jealous of, anyone who attempted to hold her accountable, and anyone who saw through her facade.

The smear campaign may be going on behind your back during your relationship with a narcissist and may accelerate when the relationship ends, regardless of who ended it. Whatever the relationship, the smear campaign is intended to discredit and isolate you, manufacture fear, hurt you and label you as inferior. It is just one more form of intimidation and bullying used by abusive narcissistic manipulators.

This article explores the smear campaign, including real life examples of how smear campaigns were used in combination with other manipulation tactics by my narcissistic personality disordered mother. Options to consider if you are the target of a narcissist's smear campaign are also provided.

What is Gossip?

The Oxford Dictionary defines gossip as "casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true." Gossip is speaking about someone, including details that are not confirmed to be true, who is not present to defend themselves. Gossip often involves:
  • Slander - lies about a person that cause damage.
  • Secretly telling others personal information that may be true, but was trusted to the gossip as private or confidential.
  • Backbiting - spreading spiteful information without the person being there to defend themselves.
  • Mockery - presenting the gossip in the form of a joke at the expense of the person being discussed.
  • Planting seeds of doubt, distrust or discord with lies, innuendo or implication.


    The Triangulation of Gossip

    Ideally, when someone has an issue with you, they speak directly to you about it. However, in dysfunctional families and relationships, the person may speak to everyone but you about it. This is triangulation, speaking to a third-party about something that should be addressed directly with the other person involved. Some people may do this out of habit or because they never learned healthier ways to communicate. Some may be concerned by the reaction they might get should the issue be addressed directly. Then there are those who do this intentionally for manipulation, character assassination and smear campaigns.

    Let's use the example of Grandmother, Mother and Daughter. Daughter did something Mother did not like, but instead of telling Daughter, Mother tells Grandmother about it. This might be an old habit for Mother and she may not have bad intentions by doing it. She may not even realize the damage it can do unless someone points it out to her. This triangulation can potentially damage Daughter's reputation in Grandmother's eyes while also never giving Daughter the opportunity to address the issue with Mother and come to resolution.

    What the Bible Says about Gossip

    The Bible has much to say about gossiping. Here is a sampling of the verses, followed by a brief video on the topic.
    • A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends. Proverbs 16:28
    • There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers. Proverbs 6:16-19
    • Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Psalms 34:13
    • Whoever slanders his neighbor secretly I will destroy. Whoever has a haughty look and an arrogant heart I will not endure. Psalm 101:5
    • They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips. Romans 1:29
    • As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him. Titus 3:10

    The Smear Campaign Wrapped in Fake Concern

    This is how a narcissist gossips without appearing to be slandering anyone. The narcissist may even be perceived as a concerned, caring person. For example, Narcissist Mother again talks to Grandmother about Daughter. This time Narcissist Mother expresses her great concern to Grandmother about Daughter's fragile emotional state. In reality, Narcissistic Mother is being abusive and Daughter is responding to the abuse, but Narcissistic Mother is using that response as proof of your instability. So in a very real sense, the narcissist uses your reactions of anger, frustration or outrage to their abuse, to cause you to look crazy to other people.

    Here, Thomas Sheridan, author of Puzzling People: The Labyrinth of the Psychopath, shares his insight into the smear campaigns of psychopaths in the political arena and the workplace.

    The Smear Campaign While Playing the Victim

    The narcissist will often use more than one of these manipulation tactics together. For example, this is one of my narcissistic personality disordered mother's favorite maneuvers. She would verbally assault me, then scapegoat by telling everyone I verbally assaulted her while wrapping it all in fake concern. This was her concealing her abuse by playing the victim while vilifying the true victim. She would then tell everyone who would listen how she was verbally assaulted, while imposing the silent treatment on me.

    Then at whatever point we spoke again she would gaslight me by rewriting history and claiming I owed her an apology. This is often how she concealed her abuse, garnered pity, and rallied the flying monkeys for abuse by proxy. This is exactly how she destroyed many of my late brother's extended family relationships, too. She also destroyed as many of my relationships as she possible could in this manner. This maneuver is narcissistic crazy-making extraordinaire!

    The Smear Campaign to Inflict Abuse By Proxy

    In virtually every story my narcissistic personality disordered mother ever told she was either the innocent victim or the hero - or both. For example, take the scenario of Narcissist Mother verbally assaulting Daughter then flipping the tale in her slanderous gossip to portray herself as the innocent victim to Grandmother. This is to build the narcissist up while tearing you down.

    Now Narcissist Mother calls her narcissistic supply and flying monkeys to tell all of them this fictitious tale. Flying monkeys is a term taken from the Wizard of Oz in which the flying monkeys did the Wicked Witch's bidding. In the same way, narcissists have flying monkeys and in my mother's case she loved to manipulate them with guilt and pity. So attacking someone, then flipping the tale to portray herself as the innocent victim not only garnered pity for her and harmed her scapegoat, but also called her flying monkeys into action to inflict her abuse by proxy. In other words, she intentionally triangulated in order to manipulate others into doing her bidding.

    The Narcissist's Thinking on the Smear Campaign

    A narcissist does not play fair, but vicious and dirty while telling themselves you deserve it. I am convinced my narcissistic personality disordered mother did not see her behavior as evil, but that she was outsmarting her enemy. So, for example, if a normal healthy person did something devious, backstabbing and vicious, they would likely reflect on it and feel remorse. My narcissistic personality disordered mother never displayed remorse or apologized, even on her deathbed. Instead, there were times, if you were watching for it, you would notice the smirk on her face or the glimmer in her eye. I am convinced it was giving her a rush of feeling superior, as well as satisfaction of thinking she was getting away with it.

    The point of the smear campaign is to discredit you while making the narcissist look like the healthy one. It is to keep you quiet and isolated. That way should you decide to attempt to expose the narcissist no one believes you or you look like the hateful or unstable one. Ideally, the narcissist wants everyone on their side leaving you no support or validation.

    Narcissistic Mother's Smear Campaign quote by Gail Meyers
    Narcissistic Mother's Smear Campaign

    An Average Person's Thinking on the Smear Campaign

    The average person who has never dealt with a narcissist often thinks one of a few things. They may very well not have any idea what the narcissist is truly doing until after the damage is done. The person may see hints of the damage or perhaps begin getting what appears to be illogical or negative responses from others. They may have a sense of something being wrong, but not be able to clearly articulate the entire matter. The person may consider what the narcissist is doing to be so petty they will just take the high road by ignoring it.

    Whatever the case, I would not wait for the narcissist to have a conscience about their behavior and correct herself. The narcissist is truly playing a different game, and I do think they consider it just that - a game. So while the average healthier person with their own internal controls that will pull them back from such consistent vicious behavior is waiting for the narcissist to realize their behavior is evil or pathetic, the narcissist is feeling smug.

    Many of us assume everyone has the same basic set of human emotions we have, but that is a mistake when dealing with a narcissist. It took me time to grasp this even when it was obvious and pointed out to me. It was just difficult for me to grasp that someone could behave in such a manner and view it as brilliance rather than abuse. It is apples and oranges. The narcissist sees it as proof of their superiority, while the healthier person may well see it as pure and simple evil behavior. Keep that in mind as a possibility with the narcissist you are dealing with in your life.

    How to Respond to a Smear Campaign

    Here are a few things I learned the hard way as a result of being the target of smear campaigns at various times in my life:
    • Learn to recognize the traits of narcissists and psychopaths, including the high conflict cluster B personality disorders. Some of these personalities are known to fool therapists even, but arming yourself with this information is still empowering. The sooner you are able to spot red flags, the better because you can then back up and look at the bigger picture.
    • Learn the common manipulation tactics of narcissists. There may be a nearly infinite number of manipulation tactics, but learning at least the mostly commonly used tactics is empowering. Just being aware of some of the manipulation tactics can make them less effective, as well as greatly reducing the potential confusion they can otherwise cause.
    • Build trust in relationships slowly over time and maintain boundaries. If someone does not respect your boundaries, that should send up a red flag.
    • Once you realize or suspect you are dealing with a narcissist, seriously consider going no contact.
    • If you maintain contact with the narcissist, at the least stop sharing the intimate details of your life and thoughts. In my experience, having a heart-to-heart with a narcissist only results in the information being used against you, often twisted for inclusion in the smear campaign.
    • Do not be alone with someone who is directing a smear campaign toward you, at all. For example, my mother reserved her rages for times when there were no witnesses. She was then also able to flip the tale and claim I was the one who attacked her. She would not have gone to that extreme in front of another person, and if she had I would have had a witness.
    • Always listen to your instincts or gut feeling even if you are unable to put your finger on the exact reason.
    • Some advise others to confront the narcissist with the misinformation, while others advise taking the high road and ignoring it. I can not tell you which option is best for you in your circumstances. Personally, I corrected the information whenever I became aware of it. I also confronted my narcissistic personality disordered mother, which always ended in her raging and revenge. So be prepared for that reaction should you decide to confront a narcissist. Also, confronting the lies with third parties needs to be done in a calm, rational manner. Outbursts and emotional displays are often used by the narcissist to convince others the person they are targeting with their smear campaign is unstable, mentally ill, etc.
    • That being said, there was a time I spent time and energy attempting to convince flying monkey extended family members of the truth. It was a total waste of my time and energy, never ending in anything other than frustration. People who love you, will love you regardless of what a narcissist tells them. People who are interested in the truth, will inquire rather than accuse. There are good reasons why the flying monkeys in my extended family were flying monkeys in the first place. I consider it a reflection on them, not me and I have never regretted going no contact with them.
    • Refuse to take part in gossip or be part of the smear campaign toward anyone else. This can be difficult and uncomfortable at first if you have a long history of gossiping or if you are in an unhealthy environment, but it is worth the effort. Rather than gobbling up the juicy little morsels a gossip spreads, asking them if they have spoken directly to the person concerned about it will often shut them down. I have also asked questions such as how the person could possibly know such a thing. In my experience, office gossips for example, will quickly learn not to run to you with their gossip if you give any response other than enjoying it and passing it along.

    Join the discussion How Do I Survive a Smear Campaign? on Face the Facts: When a Loved One Has Borderline Personality Forum. Join us on Narcissistic Personality Disorder Mother on Facebook.

    Tuesday, January 21, 2014

    A Narcissist's Silent Treatment

    Chalkboard hanging on fence with Gail Meyers quote on the silent treatment.
    Narcissistic Mother's Silent Treatment

    The silent treatment is "the act of ignoring and excluding a person or group by another person or group." It is a passive-aggressive form of communication that conveys contempt, disapproval and displeasure. It can be used in virtually any relationship for a variety of reasons, but control is the core issue in the silent treatment.

    The silent treatment can be so destructive to relationships that John Gottman included it as one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse in relationships. In other words, it is a relationship buster. While some may use the silent treatment prior to learning more effective communication skills, chronic emotional manipulators often repeatedly use it to control, punish, test boundaries, avoid accountability and avoid even discussing unpleasant issues.

    This discussion of the silent treatment starts out by joining Roger S. Gil, MAMFT for a closer look at the silent treatment in the context of other relationships than those with chronic emotional manipulators. He provides the common results of the silent treatment, as well as some more effective communication skills to use in place of the silent treatment.


    Cooling Off Period v. the Silent Treatment

    A cooling off period is not the same as the silent treatment. This can actually be healthy for a relationship when both people remain quiet for a short period of time until they are able to communicate without being hateful. Usually 20 or 30 minutes is enough time to allow any anger to subside and to gather your thoughts, but it varies from person to person. If only negativity is going to come out of your mouth, then remaining silent is not the silent treatment. It is healthy prudence.

    So not everyone who remains silent is trying to punish or control the other person, at least not intentionally. Some use it in order to give the other person "some time to think." However, the belief by one party that the other person should be able to read their mind is often what leads to the silent treatment. Common results of the silent treatment:
    • Resentment by the person remaining silent. The person not speaking is resentful because the other person can not read their mind. They believe the person should know what the problem is without them having to tell them.
    • Resentment by the person being given the silent treatment because the other person will not tell them what the problem is even though they are making them suffer for it.
    • Even if the problem is obvious and known by both parties, the silent treatment ensures that the communication necessary to resolve the problem will not occur.
    • Used habitually it can cause withdrawal in the relationship during a crisis.
    • Ensures that issues are not resolved, but causes issues to build up. So the next time there is an argument the same issues come up.
    • Can cause anger to increase while no solution is found.
    • Threatens the long term viability of the relationship.

    Healthier Alternatives to the Silent Treatment

    • No one can read your mind, so clear communication is needed.
    • Cool off and remain silent for a set period of time until you can communicate without overreacting or being hateful.
    • If the issue can not be resolved in one day, then agree to another time to address the issue until it is resolved. This acknowledges that there is a problem that needs solved without attacking anyone as a person.
    • If there can be no clear communication without anger or if you habitually use the silent treatment, then consult a professional.
    Next, The Social Connection provides a closer look at the silent treatment and the basic human needs it violates.

    Dr. Kipling Williams at the University of New South Wales has been studying the phenomenon of ostracism. He defines ostracism as "the act of ignoring and excluding an individual or a group by another individual or group." Ostracism is known by many different names and can be used while in the presence of one another or physically apart.

    Examples of terminology used when a person is ostracized and physically removed from the other person or group, including:
    • Shunning
    • Exile
    • Banishment
    Examples of terminology used when the people involved remain in the presence of one another, include:
    • The silent treatment
    • Getting the cold shoulder
    • Being sent to coventry
    • Meidung

    The silent treatment in all of its various forms can be so damaging because it violates four fundamental human needs:
    1. The need to belong. Human beings need to feel connected. Ostracism undermines this sense of belonging.
    2. Sense of control. People need to feel a sense of control, which can be maintained as long as they are able to argue their point of view. The silent treatment removes that sense of control.
    3. Self esteem. Human beings need to value and respect themselves. Being ostracized induces a feeling that you have done something wrong or that there is something about you that is wrong or bad.
    4. Human beings need a sense of meaningful existence, but ostracism can take that away. It can cause you to feel as if you are invisible and meaningless.
    *Notice how the subject is being stonewalled by the other two participants in the experiment on the video.

    Ostracism violates four fundamental human needs quote by Dr. Kipling William


    How a Narcissistic Manipulator Uses the Silent Treatment

    In this series on manipulation tactics, chronic emotional manipulators are defined as those individuals with narcissistic, borderline or antisocial personality disorders, as well as those with chemical or behavioral addictions. In this video Noordinarylife7 discusses the silent treatment in an abusive relationship.

    The silent treatment is used for:

    • Control
    • Punishment
    • Testing boundaries
    • Avoidance of issues and responsibility


    The Stonewalling Silent Treatment

    Dictionary dot com defines stonewalling as behavior to "block, stall or resist intentionally." Steve Becker, LCSW of Love Fraud, states stonewalling is "shutting down a partner’s communication either aggressively, or passive aggressively, the effect of which is to leave the “stonewalled” partner feeling voiceless, alone, dismissed, negated as a person. While stonewalling, then, can arise from less malign motives, sometimes, too often, it expresses serious pathological aggression, passive-aggression, hostility, contempt and callousness."

    Stonewalling can take many forms, including someone carrying on as if you are not talking to them. For example, you are discussing an issue and the stonewaller starts reading the newspaper.


    Examples of the Silent Treatment Used to Ostracize the Scapegoat

    While this series attempts to articulate the dirty tricks of chronic psychological manipulators one-by-one, it is rarely so clear cut in real life. The silent treatment is often combined with other tactics from the narcissist's bag of dirty tricks. For example, my late narcissistic personality disordered mother would pull this stunt then immediately inflict the silent treatment. This is the previously discussed dirty trick of playing the victim while vilifying the true victim.

    For several years just prior to the holidays, my mother would start a fight with me out of nowhere. Literally, the last time it happened we were in the middle of a pleasant conversation when she suddenly began having a one-sided conversation that made no sense at first. Imagine someone on the phone with you and it seems someone suddenly walked up on them. Then I realized what she was doing. She wanted to convince that person I was attacking her, so she begin responding on the other end of the phone as if I was attacking her, even though we were just in the middle of a pleasure conversation! By this time, I was on the other end of the phone telling her to stop, but she persisted as if oblivious to my words.

    Narcissistic manipulators rarely play fair, they play dirty. She then inflicted the silent treatment while telling everyone I attacked her and telling me I owed her an apology! This is an example of the crazy-making behavior of a narcissistic personality disordered mother. This meant I was uninvited to the extended family holiday gatherings, where she concealed her treacherous behavior and put the blame for my absence back on me by telling family members I attacked her. She was playing the victim in a drama she fabricated and orchestrated.

    Another example is when I confronted her about lying and spreading vicious gossip about me. She flew into a disproportionate rage, screaming profanity, and telling me to get out of her life and stay out of it. She then told everyone I screamed that profanity at her, while immediately inflicting the silent treatment and later demanding an apology from me! This crazy-making behavior can cause you to feel as if you have had your head in a washing machine. Writing out what actually happened in a journal and having your experiences validated by a trusted friend or therapist can help. Reducing contact or going no contact are also often healthy options to consider.

    We did not speak for four years during that silent treatment, nor did I make any attempt to. A few months after this happened, when she was getting no response, she orchestrated a big melodrama attempting to make it appear I had attacked her when I was not even speaking to her. She was manipulating for abuse by proxy, to get the flying monkey extended family members to punish me with abuse by proxy because I was not giving her the satisfaction of letting her know it was bothering me in the least.

    Thus, the prolonged silent treatment can transition into the ostracism of the scapegoat in a toxic family. What she was doing was continuing to attempt to breakdown my extended family relationships and reputation with more of her lies and maneuvers behind my back, while simultaneously having me in intense emotional pain. There was never any empathy or remorse for any of this abuse.

    If you are in this situation, please reach out for support. Talk to a trusted friend or family member. Seek counseling from a pastor or preacher. Find a therapist knowledgeable in this area. Sliding scale counseling services can be found at Al-Anon and Overcomes Outreach groups are available in many locations. There are also many online resources and groups for those dealing with personality disordered individuals, as well as online therapists offering telephone or in person counseling.


    The Silent Treatment v. No Contact

    There are flying monkeys who insist the only distinction between the silent treatment and an adult child of a narcissistic mother going no contact is semantics. This conveniently fits nicely with the ultimate reason many flying monkeys are - well, flying monkeys. In my experience it is rarely because they are truly innocent and ignorant of the truth, even though that is a lesson it took many years to learn.

    It is often because they are abusive and narcissistic themselves. They also may fear becoming the target of the narcissistic emotional manipulator's wrath if they stand up to them. So this ridiculous statement is one more example of the spin that is put on defining situations and terms by a manipulator.

    First of all, the motive is completely different at its core. A narcissist imposes the silent treatment to control and punish. This is usually done for a childish reason while the manipulator is throwing a temper tantrum as a disproportionate response to something they did not like. It is often akin to a six year old informing a playmate that if they do not get their way, they are taking their toys and going home. When an adult son or daughter decides to go no contact, it may well be in anger. However, in stark contrast to the narcissist's temper tantrum, the adult child comes to the painful conclusion after years of being used, abused and manipulated. It is usually a self-protective, albeit often painful decision for the adult child.

    Secondly, narcissistic mother's silent treatment is punishment to get you back in line so they can have their way, shut you up, avoid confrontation, etc. It is just one more way a narcissist avoids accountability, manipulates and punishes. When the adult child goes no contact it is often in order to work on the mammoth load of emotional baggage thrust upon them by the narcissistic emotional manipulator. The thing the adult child is attempting to avoid is being injected with more venom while they are attempting to heal the old wounds.

    To say the silent treatment is the same thing as going no contact is a ridiculous statement to make if someone is even remotely aware of the true nature of dealing with a narcissistic personality disordered mother. Don't buy it. Experience has taught me not to waste my time and energy trying to explain or justify myself to a flying monkey. I like to say something like, "You might be right, but that is my decision." That seems to defuse them from attempting to force you to see things their way, but politely reinforces your boundary. Do not give any further explanation. This may feel awkward at first, but with practice and recovery it becomes easier to resist the urge to take the bait.


    How to Handle the Silent Treatment

    When I look back on the long estrangements resulting from my narcissistic personality disordered mother inflicting her silent treatment, they look like blessings in disguise. It certainly did not feel that way at the time! I was in agonizing emotional pain, but she never gave the slightest hint it bothered her in the least.

    It was a mind game to her. It was just one more way she invalidated me, tearing me down to make herself feel better. If I had it to do over, I might just consider the long bouts of the silent treatment as a blessing in disguise! However, I know well from experience how painful it can be. Here are some thing to avoid when an emotional manipulator is giving you the silent treatment:
    • Do not argue
    • Do not beg
    • Do not blame yourself
    • Do not attempt to force communication
    • Do not apologize when you did not do anything wrong
    • Do not internalize the projections and negative messages
    • Do not show the narcissist the silent treatment is bothering you
    It is truly pathetic, but certain personality disordered characters seem to thrive on your pain. The only thing any of the above does is reinforce the behavior and invite more of the same. The narcissistic emotional manipulator may well continue even without any response, but do not encourage it. Here are some things to do:
    • Realize the silent treatment is used by an emotional manipulator to control, punish, invalidate and silence you.
    • Realize the chronic use of the silent treatment is emotional abuse and unacceptable behavior in a relationship.
    • Put your focus on your own life and recovery, detach.
    • Get help. See a therapist, join a support group, or confide in a trusted friend.
    • Realize the silent treatment is destructive to relationships and individuals so you do not in turn give others the silent treatment.


    If you use the silent treatment in your relationships, realize it is threatening to the long term viability of the relationship. If you are on the receiving end of the silent treatment of a chronic emotional manipulator, examine the motivation behind it and determine how you will respond. 

    More Resources on the Silent Treatment

    Join the discussion on the silent treatment from a narcissist on PsychForums.

    Idealization, Devaluation and Discard: The Narcissistic Cycle by Surviving the Narcissist Relationship on Facebook.

    Read The Silent Treatment of the Borderline Mother by Gretel Ella, an adult child of borderline and narcissistic personality disordered parents.

    Saturday, January 18, 2014

    Narcissistic Mothers Play the Victim While Vilify the True Victim

    Narcissistic Mother Playing the Victim While Vilifying the True Victims by Gail Meyers

    © by Gail Meyers
    First up in the chronic emotional manipulator's bag of dirty tricks are pleas for pity, playing the victim, martyrdom, and vilifying the true victim. This is the first dirty trick in this series because of the destruction it can cause. This includes immediate results, as well as cumulative effects over the course of time.

    Pleas for pity are a favorite of narcissistic emotional manipulators because compassionate people do not want to see people suffer. Manipulators know this, so they often resort to manipulating with pity in an attempt to get what they want rather than taking the honest approach of simply asking and allowing you to freely answer. The first step for codependents is recognizing when and how they are being manipulated. There is a distinction between helping someone who truly needs it and being played by a narcissistic manipulator.

    In the mind of a manipulative narcissist, playing the martyr while vilifying the true victim is like killing two birds with one stone. In my experience, it is used in a vast multitude of situations with various twists depending on the narcissist's goal of the manipulation. This can be done so subtly that most may not even realize the reality of the situation.

    It can transpire overtly or very subtly and covertly. So you may clearly see what the chronic emotional manipulator is doing. You may just know something is wrong, but not be able to put your finger on it. Conversely, you may not see the dirty trick that is being pulled on you until much later or when you learn about the bag of dirty tricks.

    Playing the victim while vilifying the true victim can be used to conceal the wrongs of the manipulator, while simultaneously stripping the true victim of their virtue. It allows the narcissist to avoid responsibility while gathering pity. It is essentially taking you down a notch to make the abuser feel superior and in control while making you feel and look bad. Whatever characteristic you value in yourself, or the manipulator envies, will often be the target in this scenario.

    For example, you pride yourself on being a generous person, but narcissistic mother is a con artist. So, they will rip you off, then accuse you of being a lying thief to anyone who will listen, including you. One favorite I have especially noticed is the totally and completely self-centered manipulator accusing you of being selfish.

    Secondly, playing the victim while vilifying the true victim is used to conceal the narcissistic manipulator's abusive behavior and project the blame onto the true victim. Virtually every abuser I am aware of tries to blame the victim for their abuse in some manner. This cunning and deceitful maneuver is a double whammy.

    You first endure their abuse, then they blame you, then you may also endure the societal disapproval or broken relationships for what is actually their behavior, based on the martyr tale lies they spread to conceal their abuse. This can sometimes lead to abuse by proxy as the manipulator triangulates by lying to and involving a third party in the abusive relationship.


    Narcissistic Manipulation with Pity

    This is a real life example of what I repeatedly, although completely inadvertently, caught my narcissistic personality disordered mother doing when I was in my twenties. Poor little narcissist mother has been saving her pennies in hopes that one day she can buy this garden statue. She loves to garden and after looking and looking, this is the perfect finishing touch. She works so hard (as opposed to me who only worked at a desk), but she just has not been able to save enough money for it. She is going to keep saving until one glorious day she is able to buy it.

    I was a single mother at the time, but she had her heart set on it. So like a well programmed adult child of narcissists, I surprised her by buying it for her even though I could not afford to. A couple of weeks later, just in the general course of conversation, my Grandmother tells me how she gave my mother the money to buy a statue she wanted for her garden. She was so excited to finally be able to buy it after saving for it for so long.

    One would think that is shameless enough behavior, but it did not stop there. A few days later I hear my aunt tell how she also bought my mother the exact same statue. She works so hard, but she just could not afford to buy it. So my narcissistic mother accepted all three gifts without telling anyone the other two had already given her the statue or the money to buy it. This is just one more example of why I am astounded by those who claim narcissists just do not know what they are doing! She knew exactly what she was doing. This also fits right in with Dr. Scott Peck's claim of what tightwads narcissists are.

    She attacked when she realized I inadvertently discovered her schemes. I really think part of the problem is the average, more honest person just can not grasp the depths of the pathetic behavior. In true narcissistic style, she then set out to convince the two of them this was my negative character trait rather than her repeated manipulative maneuver. Needless to say, I learned the hard way to stop buying her things, especially since I could not really afford to at the time in the first place. However, I do not even know how many times I discovered her pulling this scheme over the years.


    Narcissists Vilify the True Victims

    In my experience with various emotional manipulators in the extended family, this is an all-time favorite dirty trick. I can not even imagine anyone pulling this off as cunningly and consistently as my narcissistic personality disordered mother. She used it quite a bit with varying little twists.

    First and foremost, come hell or high water, my mother wanted to be viewed as the innocent martyr. By this I mean absolutely nothing was ever her fault. Ever. Regardless of what actually happened, she was innocent. Often times she was more than just innocent, she was the long suffering martyr. To paraphrase Dr. M. Scott Peck, in his book People of the Lie, she was intensely concerned about appearing good, but had no desire whatsoever to actually be good. The extreme to which this maneuver was used to accomplish such an appearance is nothing short of astonishing to the average person. No matter who it was or what happened, she was always either the hero or innocent victim in her tall tales.

    I am convinced at times she did this purely for her own entertainment. Contrary to popular opinion, this clinical narcissist was not the stereotypical boisterous, bragging loud mouth. My mother was diagnosed by three separate licensed professionals over the course of two decades, but in my opinion she had a full blown inferiority complex too. While it was obvious to me when she was in public, there was no sign of it in private. I truly believe at times she pulled this dirty trick for no other reason than to relish the feeling of power and superiority I believe it gave her. At other times, the motive was more obvious - that is if you were wise to her true nature.


    Narcissists Are Always the Innocent Victims

    In my twenties and into my thirties my mother was insanely jealous. Even though everyone from my best friend to the preacher's wife told me this, I did not have enough self-esteem at the time to even seriously consider the idea that anyone could be jealous of me about anything - let alone my own mother. At the time I still believed the tall tales that this one and that one attacked her because they were jealous, but she did not have a jealous bone in her body. In truth, she is perhaps the most insanely jealous person I have ever known. It was only years later when I looked back at some of the things she did, that I wondered how I could have possibly missed the fact. It was so blatant and obvious at times, but I just could not conceive of it at first.

    My alcoholic pedophile step-father molested me for nearly a decade of my childhood. At 21 years old, I hysterically told my mother of the abuse, thinking at the time that she did not know. Interestingly, in hindsight, her jealous rages had already been in full swing for several years. Of course, she knew about the sexual abuse the whole time. In any case, she would viciously verbally assault me then turn around and tell everyone I was the one who did that to her. She would tell my siblings and extended family members how I had savagely attacked her because she did not protect me from the child abuse.

    When I told my mother about my childhood sexual abuse, I broke the toxic unwritten family rule of never telling about the abuse. In this extremely toxic environment, it is not the abuse that is seen as the problem. It is the telling of the abuse that is considered the problem. I realized later that revealing the sexual abuse put me in her highly cherished victim role. I inadvertently knocked her off of her martyr throne, and cast her in a poor light for failing to protect me. I would later discover it was also because she had every reason to know he was a pedophile as early as a few days after their wedding. So it exposed more than I realized at the time. In any case, that was her response to me seeking recovery for myself. She did not want me to have any support or compassion from anyone, but sought to vilify the true victim.

    She responded in true pathological narcissistic style by viciously verbally assaulting me, then flipping the tale and claiming I was the one who assaulted her. If you are on the receiving end of this dirty trick, it can be like a triple punch. I first endured her heinous assault during a time when I desperately needed a mother. Then, she breaks down your other relationships with false allegations of savage attacks, which can easily lead to abuse by proxy in toxic families. Thus, some of the people she tells the story to in turn punish or abuse the true victim again for treating their mother so poorly! This can erode or destroy extended family and other relationships both immediately and over time.

    Gossips and slanderers can take down a ministry or church in this manner, and we are in the position of being a narcissistic personality disordered mother's child. Notice the sly and deceitful reason she attributed the attack to - that I was angry because she had failed to protect me as a child. That was always immediately followed with more avoidance of any responsibility to protect by her claiming she did not know. Then putting the blame back on me in one form or another. In reality, she was mad as hell I told about the abuse. It forced her to have to leave the pedophile and get a job, because she could no longer convincingly pretend not to know.

    So the maneuver accomplishes quite a bit for the cunning, deceitful emotional manipulator:
    1. Her lying conceals her contemptuous behavior.
    2. It causes the true victim to be disparaged by having such vicious behavior attributed to her in the eyes of others.
    3. That damage to reputation is not forgotten by the narcissist or the ones who believe it. The narcissist will continue to build on it later until she destroys as much reputation and as many relationships as she can.
    4. It can deny the true victim any validation or support from others.
    5. It moves the narcissist a little bit closer to her martyr throne. After repeatedly pulling this stunt, she eventually declared how she hopes I heal from the sexual abuse. She really does, but she has done all she can. She just can not put up with being attacked all the time. I was not attacking her in any way, but she was viciously attacking me. I was trying to help her heal!
    6. It moves the scapegoat closer to being ostracized by others who believe the lies.
    7. It allows the narcissist to avoid responsibility for their abuse.
    8. It results in the pity mongering narcissist garnering all of the attention, support and highly prized pity for more manipulation and abuse by proxy.

    She pulled the same dirty trick with various people in many circumstances. As I look back over the years, I can pretty clearly see who she was jealous of at the time or who she thought was figuring her out. If you heard a martyr tale about someone attacking her, you could almost be sure she was paying them back for something or she was jealous. (I realize the DSM says "envious," but I think it is "jealous." If envious means I want something you have but I do not mind you having it too, and jealous means I want something you have instead of your having it, then she was jealous not envious. A narcissist wants it all, all of everything and everyone for themselves).


    Practical Steps with Narcissistic Manipulators

    I like to believe most of us are compassionate human beings, but it is a mistake to assume everyone has normal human characteristics. Some people may communicate in manipulative manners for no other reason than they have never learned healthier ways to communicate. However, there are those walking among us who, for whatever reason, do not possess such human characteristics as compassion, empathy or remorse. In my experience, narcissistic manipulators have no problem using, abusing, conning, lying and slandering even close family members. Actually, they seem to reserve their worst behaviors for those closest to them.

    So while in my youth I jumped to help anyone in need, I have long since been practicing more discretion. There are those who are truly in need and authentic victims, but there are others who have just learned to get what they want by playing the victim and vilifying the true victim.

    The very fact that you know this dirty trick will cause it to be less effective. Knowing the game can also empower you to handle it better because you see what is happening. If you spot this game, look at what the manipulator is really after in the situation. Think immature and petty, and you will often be on the right path. Then take steps to protect or remove yourself from the situation. Listen to your instincts!

    Practice recognizing when you are being manipulated, pressured into doing something you would not freely do if you were asked directly with no pressure. Notice your body, when you muscles tighten up. Seek to strike a balance, between being so protective of yourself as to help no one and so easily manipulated that you are easily manipulated with pity ploys. This balance naturally came in time once I began paying attention to when I was being manipulated. For many years now when someone starts manipulating, it feels to me like I walked into a sticky cobweb.

    Next up is the dirty trick of scapegoating, but first enjoy these tips from Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC on how to handle an emotional manipulator.

    Photo: Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

    Tuesday, January 14, 2014

    Narcissistic Psychological Manipulators

    While we can all be manipulative at times, there are those among us who chronically and deceitfully manipulate others.  My narcissistic mother not only consistently used manipulation tactics, it was as if she was perfecting her craft.  

    What is Emotional or Psychological Manipulation?

     To manipulate is: 

    • "to negotiate, control or influence something or someone cleverly, skillfully or deviously."
    • "to manage or influence skillfully, especially in an unfair manner."


    Who Are the Emotional Manipulators?

    Ross A. Rosenberg provides a strong foundation by defining an "emotional manipulator" as one with pathological narcissism, including these three personality disorders:
    1. Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)
    2. Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
    3. Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD)
    • Or, someone suffering from a chemical or behavioral addiction, such as sex addiction or gambling, is also considered an emotional manipulator because their addiction drives them to pathological narcissistic behaviors.

    Additionally, it really can not be ignored that there are tens of thousands of people currently practicing some form of the dark arts, occult or witchcraft, whether they are involved with secret societies, covens or cults or not. 

    Why Emotional Manipulation?

    When someone operates out of emotion rather than reason they are more easily manipulated.  This is an important distinction because abusive narcissistic mothers prey on empathetic people, including their own children.  My narcissistic mother specialized in manipulating with guilt and pity. When these powerful emotions are triggered within us it can short circuit our logic and reasoning 

    We Are Not All the Same 

    One of the very first things we have to understand is we are not all the same. For example, empathy allows us to be compassionate human beings, but you can quickly find yourself in a fog of confusion if you attempt to understand a narcissist by putting yourself in her shoes and assuming she thinks and feels what you believe you would think or feel in her situation. 

    The lack of empathy is one hallmark of narcissistic personality disorder. While the narcissist lacks empathy, she is exceedingly aware of your empathetic, compassionate nature that may be manipulated with pleas for pity. Think about when you pity someone. You immediately let down your defenses and become cooperative or helpful.

    Another example is a narcissist may have little or no functioning conscience, but is again exceedingly aware of your sensitive conscience. Thus, she will try to use your own good conscience against you by intentionally inducing guilt trips. This can leave you feeling bad about yourself as well as easily manipulated in an effort to relieve the discomfort. However, it does not work the other way around. Guilt trips are ineffective with narcissists even when she is guilty or there is a mountain of true guilt.

    Our emotions are a gift never intended to be used against us, which is what narcissists often do. The goal is not to get rid of our positive characteristics but to prevent and protect ourselves from having them abusively manipulated and used against us.

    Narcissists play by vastly different rules than most of the rest of us. They fight when we may not even realize we are in a fight. They are sneaky, petty and deceitful. They do not fight fair, nor do they have any remorse about. In my experience, I did not recognize her behavior because I was giving her way more credit than she deserved. There may be a 40, 60 or 80 chronologically aged woman in front of you, but ignore that exterior. Consider what a rotten, self-centered six year old would do and you will often be in the ballpark.

    Do Narcissists Know What They're Doing?

    It never ceases to amaze me how many people claim narcissists do not know what they are doing.  My mother knew exactly what she was doing. 

    • Many of her schemes were premeditated, intricate and systematically carried out.
    • She was very much able to control her rages in public and around most people, reserving them only for certain people and only at times when there were no witnesses.  Thus, she not only knew what she was doing, she could control her behavior but chose not to at times.
      • Hence, she was not doing the best she could.  While it may sound all nice and fluffy, everyone does not always do the best they can do.
      • A closely related idea I once held is that everyone wants to be the best they can be -- healthy, whole, etc.  While it may seem difficult to grasp, this is just not the case.  Some people enjoy their misery.  Some enjoy your misery.  Some enjoy their evil ways simply because they choose to.
      • Everyone does not want you to be the best you can be.    
    • My mother could instantaneously switch from raging monster to sweet talking angel upon the unexpected arrival of a flying monkey.*  
    • If you watched closely you might notice the glimmer in her eye or the slight smirk she could barely contain at times.
    • My mother could have been considered psychotic in the common use of the word.  By witnessing her behavior, someone might consider her loony, bonkers or kooky, or wrathful, infuriated or enraged. However, she was not psychotic in the psychiatric or medical sense of the word, as in suffering from a state of psychosis. She was not out of touch with the reality of what was going on around her.    

    Dr. George Simon is spot on in my opinion and sums it up succinctly: 
    When the emotional manipulator is engaging in the manipulative behavior, he is not defending anything. The emotional manipulator is primarily fighting. Who are they fighting? He is fighting the person he is trying to manipulate, you.  

    She knows what she is doing. You are in a fight. If she is covert like my mother was, you may not even realize this fact. My narcissistic personality disordered mother was fighting me for years before I even realized I was in the fight of my life. This is a huge realization, because if you do not know you are in a fight you will always give the benefit of the doubt and you will not protect yourself.  My narcissistic mother was viciously and deceitfully fighting me, whether I realized it or not.  

    *Flying monkey is a term taken from The Wizard of Oz, in which the Wicked Witch sent her flying monkeys after Dorothy.  

    Photo: Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

    Sunday, January 12, 2014

    Recognizing Double Bind Coercion

    As adult sons and daughters of narcissistic personality disordered mothers, we are intimately familiar with double binds.  The proverbial double bind is a form of control without open coercion.  In other words, it is using a manipulation tactic without looking like you are manipulating.  It is being put in a damned if we do, damned if we don't situation, and damned if you say anything about it.

    Double bind dilemmas leave us feeling trapped, confused and often exhausted. This article looks at five types of double binds, as well providing effective solutions. 

    1.  The Ultimatum Double Bind

    • A dilemma requiring a decision between one thing and another thing, but choosing either one of them will bring a consequence you do not want to experience.
    • Then, if you comment or confront the person bringing you this dilemma, that will bring you a consequence you do not want.
    • All three responses will bring you consequences you do not want.
    • So you decide you are not going to participate in this, but making no decision at all will also bring you a consequence.
    • Trapped on all sides
    • No winning
    • You are in a catch-22
    This is being in a double bind, which is a form of control without open coercion.  You are not directly being told what to do.  The part that is coercion is the confusion.  We are so confused that we can not really respond to what is going on.

    So we end up either trying to defend ourselves, trying to explain our way out of it or saying it is unfair.  So we end up choosing the one we think is the least repulsive.  However, we are still choosing something we do not want to choose.  We minimize it.

    How to Handle Double Binds

    1. Do not introvert.  Pull back and look at the bigger picture of what is going on.
    2. Don't defend yourself.
    3. Detach. This is not your game.  This is their game.  Whether used intentionally or inadvertently, double binds are a way of controlling someone's behavior without looking like you are trying to coerce.  This is not about you, it is about the other person.
    4. Look for additional options.
    • Examine the situation and the relationship to avoid future double binds.
    • Turn the double bind back on the person who put you in it.  Example:  The double bind is the husband says stay married to him or finish school.  Respond that you are going to go to school and it is up to him whether he wants to say married to you.




    2.  The Contradicting Directive Double Bind

    The contradicting directive is when two instructions conflict one another.  

    • For example, a mother telling a child to show her father how she plays spontaneously.  You can not play spontaneously on purpose because if it is on purpose it is not spontaneous.  So it is mind bending.  The opposing instructions are confusing and can cause anxiety.
    • Another example is a wife wants her husband to go to the opera.  He does not like the opera.  She tells him not to go unless he wants to go.  However, he knows from previous experience if he does not go she will punish him.  So he goes, hating it the whole time, but he is having to act as if he likes it.  So he is trapped.  He is going to get punished or have to pretend he is having fun.

    3.  The Double Bind Question

    A question assuming a decision you have not yet made.
    • For example, you are looking at a sofa that will match your decorum, it is the right size and you like it.  However, you have not decided to buy it.  Yet, the salesperson asks you whether you are going to pay cash or use credit?  You have not said you are going to buy the sofa.  The question assumes a decision you have not yet made.
    • Solutions:  State you have not decided to buy it or pretend you did not even hear them ask that question.

    4.  Two Conflicting Messages Double Bind

    • For example, your Grandmother gives you two t-shirts.  One is a long-sleeve yellow t-shirt and the other is a short sleeve blue t-shirt.  Monday morning you come down to breakfast wearing the yellow t-shirt.  She looks at you and says, "You don't like the blue t-shirt?"  The next day you come down wearing the blue t-shirt.  She says, "You don't like the yellow t-shirt?"  The message is confusing because when you wear one she implies you do not like the other one.  So Wednesday you come down and you are wearing both t-shirts, the yellow and the blue.  She says, "You're wearing both of those t-shirts?  That's just weird."  
    • Ideally, if you can communicate with her about it and resolve it that is the best solution.  Here is how to handle it if that conversation is fruitless. 
    • Solution:  Do not introvert or try to figure it out.  Don't defend yourself.  Do not attack her.  Step back and detach.  Tell yourself this is her thing, not yours.  This is her issue and not about you.

    5.  Double Bind When Words and Actions Do Not Match 

    • For example, when someone is telling you you they love your or you are important to them.  However, their actions are telling a different story.   
    • Solution:  Again, look at the big picture.  Double binds cause a lot of confusion.  So, the goal is to get out of the confusion.  This is about them, not about you.  Then look for a third solution, instead of trying to figure this out.

    Double Bind Life Survey Exercise

    • Survey your life and look for double binds.  
    • When you feel trapped and confused, it is often because you are in a double bind.
    • When you realize you are in a double bind, look to see who is putting you there. 
    • Look for where you are putting other people in double binds.