Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Secret of Control Tactics

About that book....

Here's a bit of serendipity. I created an illustration to show why tennis players try to control the tempo of play. Lo and behold! that illustration has other uses!

For example, why did John McEnroe interrupt what by the rules is supposed to be "continuous play" for long periods, so that a match didn't continue until he personally allowed it to? Why do some players even turn and speak to spectators, bossing them around? Telling them where to sit and when they may move? Why do some players presume to judge the linespersons' vision and inner motives or intents? Why do they judge the judges of their own performance (i.e., the officials)? Why do they stall and press to control the tempo of play? In other words, why are they control freaks?

It's all psychological control tactics. What are control tactics for?

Their purpose is to suggest superiority. It's just a superiority act. The same as with your narcissist.

The purpose of control tactics is to create the illusion of superiority. Superiority is suggested by control, which is suggested by control tactics. This is a mental trick. You must allow the presumption for it to work. But our natural desire to avoid conflict tempts us to do just that, and controllers rely on it.

So, they PRESUME the right to control things they have no right to control (like your feelings and thoughts), and if you don't confront the imposition, asking them who they think they are, you are playing the role of an inferior with respect to them.

So there -- it's not such a mystery after all.

Note that they thus steer a collision course toward conflict, while normal people try to avoid it. Narcissists don't mind conflict. They use it. It's a tool that serves them well, because we hate it and try to avoid it. So, they cross you with the threat of it at every turn. What do you think? What do you feel? What will you wear today? Whatever -- the narcissist goes into Imperious Mode and acts like God mad at you for breaking one of his 10 commandments.

To avoid their wrath, you just let them have their way. Then brat is instantly all smiles.

Which is why they like conflict. They confront you with it (or the threat of it) constantly to control you.

In fact, what HUMAN being is supposed to have such rights with respect to us? The right to judge us. The right to determine what we may think and feel?

None, right? Those are (ownership) rights reserved for a god.

And that is why scripture calls letting others do this "idolatry."

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At 8:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ive just read over this weeks articles and posts and must say how eloquently people have spoken. i came on to say how mine told me the other day he misses me. aaaww- would melt anyone else's heart. BUT it made me cold to the core and suspicious as all hell. i was actually trembling when i read it. i'm glad i can talk here. my radar was going off, wasn't it ?! looking for verification any where else would have invalidated what i was sensing- but reading here confirmed already what i was going to ask for. indeed it was a ploy on his part. being on ready alert is exhausting. it makes me grateful to all our peers in military and law enforcement services who are truly good people there to serve us ! and i am truly empowered by everyone here. we are each others source of strength, survival and comfort. please continue to dwell here. it is much needed and deeply appreciated jt

At 12:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're so right Kathy and I believe that what hurts me the most is the fact that I let him tell me or others what I was supposed to think or feel.I should have stopped him and showed him how claiming to know other people's feelings and thoughts were ridiculous and only a megalomaniac could claim this.I also let him interpret and judge my every move or behaviour- of course at the time I was like paralysed or hypnotized by him, really felt like under his spell. So when you come down it enrages you.

At 11:11 PM, Anonymous Marisol said...

Kathy, I wanted to ask you something. My question is about my husband of 8 years. I'm wondering if he's a narcissist or an addict or both. I come from a family with a lot of narcissists in it. I can easily fall into the spell of a narcissist, but this guy never seemed to cast the same 'spell' on me. Still, your posts really explain him when nothing else does, and I often seem to see clearly that he is one--this happens a lot when I visit your site. Living with him has been miserable. He's a control freak, and recently he also had some alcohol abuse and was flirting with physical abuse, so I left. He convinced me to give him another chance by both making it financially hard to get away from him and claiming to have discovered he was an alcoholic and blaming his 8 years of being a miserable f*** on that. I sympathized and fell for it. Now he's not sure he is an alcoholic, and I can see his point. And I am considering leaving again, although in a calmer and more pre-planned way, since he's not a physical threat any more. He is terrified of me leaving him (apparently). By coincidence, though, I am becoming convinced that he does have some kind of addictive issue. I got that idea from going to some 12-step meetings to learn about addiction. I think his addiction, though, if it's a real addiction, is more clearly attached to a type of compulsive financial behavior, called 'debting' in 12-step, than alcohol. I really am leaning toward believing it's a classic addiction for him, that he has no control over it, that he's heading for a 'low bottom' with it that could easily end in destitution, emotional collapse or suicide, as they say this addiction often does. He does have a diseased attitude about money, always has, and this addiction runs in his family, and it seems to have gotten completely out of control just recently (after he became abstinent with all substances, marijuana included). When I read the 12-step literature, it sounds like addictions can create pointlessly dishonest, irrational behavior, and I think I could see that in him too, and that part might be getting better. So I'm just trying to learn enough to double-check before I go: Could an addiction cause narcissistic behavior like you're describing in your posts? What is your take on the relationship between addiction and narcissism? Can addiction ever cause behavior that's virtually indistinguishable from narcissism, that can 'go away' when the addict gets into 'recovery'? Actually, I am probably too untrusting to fall for the addiction-illness 'explanation' at this point whether it's true or not. I'll probably just leave this guy for some other woman to take their chances with. People always think he's great husband material. He does the saintly act very well. He's also regarded as such a great asset to me because of being so 'devoted' (ha--that's an act in public), so good at earning money (yeah, but he debts it all down the drain), and relatively handsome. I'm thinking it's still more likely that he's a real narcissist so I should get away from him (they can have addictions too, anyway, I guess) and that I should probably just read here more faithfully, get empowered as Anonymous (8:15 AM) says, and intelligently plan my exit from the relationship. One thing that gives me pause is that when, occasionally, I read him a post of yours aloud, in support of my claim that he's a narcissist, he actually recognizes himself. With some apparent regret. I think the recognition is genuine (not sure about the regret). And it also gives me pause that, even if he is working the 12 steps for show and to keep me from leaving, which he probably is, AA and abstinence do seem to be having an effect on him. His mind is clearing up and he's less irrational and more honest and less passive aggressive. He even seems (emphasis on 'seems') to be recognizing that his addiction is still active, with the 'debting.' If he is suffering from addictiveness or whatever, my guess would be that the recognition about debting could be the turning point. My self-protective side says 'Yeah, that's just his schtick again. He really knows how to pretend to have potential.' Even worse, maybe a clearer mind, from not drinking and smoking pot, is just going to make him a more formidable narcissist. And reading about the 12 steps might help him to better fake being someone I should not leave because he's about to transform into a great husband if I just-wait-a-little-longer. Which is his schtick again. Do you recognize this kind of narcissist? He's just a narcissist, right?--not a poor guy who is 'very ill' with an addiction like an alcoholic, and who might transform into a really cool husband after a couple years (gulp) of 'recovery'? Or can you not tell from my description? Is there any doubt as to which he is? Has anyone else who reads here known one of these addict/narcissists? I'm just wondering if I should invest more time in 'supporting him in his recovery'--he really does have all the ingredients of a great, fun husband, except for apparently being so self-centered he's dangerous and corrupt to the core, haha--or buy him some booze to distract him and then effect my escape fast before his mind clears up more (just kidding about tempting him off the wagon--but not so much about getting out fast before his mind clears up)? Are narcissism and addiction connected, or two separate issues? I think you (Kathy) have the most insight into narcissism of any author I've read so I was hoping you had some views on this one. Thanks Kathy or anyone for any insight!

At 4:01 PM, Blogger Kathy said...

Hi Marisol,

Of course I don't know about the person you're referring to, but I can say without doubt that NPD and addictions go together hand in glove. Addicition to alcohol or drugs is very common in people with NPD. In fact, it's almost the rule, I think.

This has been an issue, known as co-morbidity, in that they are often diagnosed with both an addiction and NPD. The addicition gets treated and the NPD doesn't.

NPD itself is an addicition - to attention, the high the ego gets from it.

The narcissists I have known would start and stop drinking at the drop of a hat. I think they are likely to to end up in the bottom of a bottle during the darker periods of their life, when they are losing a source of ego gratification and are not easily able to find another.

On the links page at the main web site there are links to articles on this.

At 6:54 PM, Anonymous Marisol said...

Hi Kathy,

That's interesting. Thanks for helping me sort that out. It seemed like all the Al-Anon groups were encouraging us "loved ones" to treat them as if they had cancer--(quote) "you wouldn't leave him if he had cancer, would you?" OK, from what you say, maybe it's like they have cancer. How do you treat a vampire with cancer? Run, like from any vampire! I wish those groups were more informed about this subtype of addict. I'm surprised that NPD/addicts ever get cured from the addiction, when part of the cure is all that humility, anti-ego, anti-arrogance, anti-selfishness recommended in those groups. Do you have any public opinion on 12-step groups? I'm going to look harder at your links and see if I can find that stuff on comorbidity and substance addiction.

I love your recent posts. Funny that a non-professional psychologist, non-psychoanalyst and non-counselor/therapist would be the one to best 'get' narcissists, especially malignant ones, while psychologists etc aren't as good about it. Maybe there have always been too many narcissists in those fields (especially analysis!), giving them a blind spot. Thanks, Kathy, for stepping into the breach. I am hoping that, at least, those of us affected by N's can come out of the experience, if we come out of it at all, with truth-compasses and lie-repellents in their heads like yours. Though I wouldn't wish the learning process on anyone.

At 8:28 PM, Blogger Kathy said...

Thank you for your kind words. i know next to nothing about 12-step programs, just what is common knowledge.

I don't see how what works for normal people can work for Ns though. Their brains process everything backwards.

The Ns I knew all suddenly stopped drinking the day they got a new source of supply.

One used his drinking for attention. He'd get falling-down drunk and call an ambulance to get taken to the County Home and dried out. Eventually the County wised up, so he got neighbors to call an ambulance for him.

12-step program... I can imagine a narcissist standing up and saying, "My name is John and I am an alcoholic." He'd say he's Beelzebub in THAT audience, because all those mirrors will shine on him for it.

An N really is totally fixated on the reflection of his image in the mirrors of the faces around him - nothing else matters. Nothing else even enters his head. As in when you are starving, nothing else matters. Nothing but food enters your head.

Nothing. The problem isn't that they are too complicated: the problem is that they are too simple.

At 7:31 AM, Blogger Lynn said...

Hi, my diagnosed NPD partner does not have any substance abuse. He hardly drinks and he gave up smoking 26 years ago. But he says he doesn't drink because when he's drunk his mind takes him to places he does not like to visit. So he may have missed the boat on being an alcoholic in that regard.

I've met another poster on a forum who is adamant that the 12-step AA programme works wonder for narcissists.

I'm also ignorant of it in detail but can see that perhaps some aspects of it can be helpful to the type of narc who's dysphoric, depressed, irresponsible, envious and self grandiose as the 12 step programme challenges that thinking, especially the self-entitlement aspect and the 'I am unique' thinking too, as almost all alcholics think they are different from anyone else.

NPD and narcissism terms aren't necessarily used in the professional circles such as psychologists etc., as they tend to avoid labelling certain thinking behaviours. I know in men's intervention groups for DV that they are not allowed to refer to narcissism or NPD although 99% of the participants will be, as what happens is people say, "Oh, I'm a narc, I can't help it." so they tend to keep away from labels. BUT, there's many professional therapists and counsellors out there that don't recognise the abuse that is dished out by malig narcs too, and that is a problem. I've found the only understanding to come from my domestic violence support group and the counsellors who deal specifically with DV - now, those ladies know, for sure!

At 9:07 AM, Blogger Kathy said...

I've known the victims of narcissists to become alcoholic. They are anything but grandiose.

Then there is the drinking habit acquired during youth that one never leaves behind. I have heard that there is evidence that some people are more succeptible than others and that if they start drinking very young, they will easily become addicted. I knew one older man who had had this problem when he was young and newly married. No narcissist for sure. But no victim of one either.

Decades later, he was able to drink socially without any problem. Why? He said it was because his wife had thrown him out, way back while they had their first two babies, and told him not to come back unless and until he was sober and stayed sober.

His wife and children meant more to him than the bottle. So, he did it. Ever after, he always insisted that it was a simple as that. He was a wonderful man. Everyone loved him.

At 7:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Marisol, as someone who was involved with Al Anon for years, I recognize the comment "you wouldn't leave him if he had cancer would you?"

Well, that is a throw away line they use and I believe it can be experienced as guilting you into staying with an abuser. So my response to that comment is this "Yes, I might leave him if he had cancer and was ABUSING me!" I can be sorry he is ill from afar and take care of myself at the same time.

Some A.A. groups have a cult speak and think attitude that I eventually found somewhat disturbing. I believe they help a lot of people but, became uncomfortable with certain things such as the censoring of information from outside the group. I had got a LOT of help from meditation and was repeatedly told not to bring anything up at all that was not from their own doctrine or outside the twelve steps. I learned that the 12 steps are extremely helpful but, you know what? You can work those in almost ANY context on your own. It does not sound to me as if they understands narcissists and for you that is the main issue right now NOT HIS alcohol problem. That is HIS problem.

I once knew a woman who I now believe to have been a narcissist who at the height of the "recovery" craze in the 1980's did just as Kathy has said. She joined A.A. claiming to be an alcoholic though I never had in all the years I knew her seen ANY indication that she even drank at all. I now believe she did it for attention galore. She was surrounded by people all the time who would pay endless attention to her. I wasn't the only one who had known her from before who thought she was "acting" in order to get attention. She had just moved to a new city and was short of supply so she "became" an alcoholic.

Her personality did change there somewhat but, the controlling of others around her did not. Fundamentally she was a narcissist and THAT was her problem. I don't think ANY 12 step self help program is a cure for N's.

Abuse is ABUSE and you have every right to call it that and to leave no matter if he is "sick" or not. Having a group tell you that you would be morally remiss to leave at a time like this because it would be cruel to the N is further abuse in my opinion. You have a right first and foremost to heal and to take care of yourself.

I really feel for you because if you do leave the N has a built in smear campaign in that he can say that here he is trying to get help and you are leaving at his most vulnerable and sincere time. AND those around him right now will soothe him and back him up. Keep in mind though, ALL N's run a smear campaign no matter WHAT or who is around them so that condition would happen anyway. Prepare for it the best you can and if it were me I would resolve to just cut him off.

With any N the most healthy thing to do for YOU is to get your own support and help and cut them off totally. No contact does wonders the longer it goes on.

Good luck to you, and don't let anyone tell you that you are wrong to get away from abuse even if they are well intended. If they haven't lived with a narcissist they have no idea what you have had to deal with. Take care of yourself.

At 11:44 PM, Blogger Cassandra said...

Re: this essay and the related essay "Starving a Predator":

Remember win/win, win/lose, lose/lose? Kathy, while I agree with you, I am going to quibble to make a point. I contend that there is only win/win and lose/lose in the long run, as win/lose really is lose/lose. If more and more people stopped producing and carried on with stupid unproductive win/lose games, then eventually everyone would starve. Thus narcissists don't win, they only appear to win, so even their victories are false!

Another description of win/win is fair consensual trade.

Yes, they always "win" but only on their own terms. They aren't really interested in equal competition with a worthy opponent, as they are in it to get something from someone.

Never let your opponent pick the battleground, never fight on his/her grounds/terms and never allow your adversary to frame the terms of the issue (think courtroom).

A narcissist is a being at war with him/herself, thus such a being will naturally be at home in conflict, especially if s/he doesn't feel. Thus withdrawing your energy is usually a better option than fighting them, as they have nothing to push up against and YOU are choosing the terms of interaction, as well as starving them. Unfortunately, a lot of people react and can easily be drawn to where the N wants them to be.

Also, when Ns arrogate the positive "right" to control things they have no business controlling, they are framing the issue in their terms. Care must be taken when defending oneself not to be manoevered into the position where one has to unnecessarily justify or explain oneself, as once here one is now in the one-down position.

I see things in terms of energy: If you allow yourself to be abused, apart from being hurtful, that takes energy to heal. Yet fighting is exhausting and productive people have better things to do, but it is sometimes necessary. Constantly having to watch your back is also exhausting and takes away energy from your business. Feeling entitled to live off others, not committing oneself to any project or person and getting a payoff gives Ns time and energy to fight.

Thus I totally agree that it is best to have minimal contact, if any. I don't intend to feed these trolls.

Robert Greene in his book "The 48 Laws of Power,"(Hodder) covers timing in Law 35.

When I was a kid, I used to watch McEnroe's shameless antics and I used to think, "you can't be serious...."

At 12:29 AM, Blogger Kathy said...

Cassandra, I think you make very good points.

Yes, their victories are hollow - victories only in their upside-down imaginations.

And, though you must fight their impositions, it's a Catch-22, because you'd be fighting them all the time. They will never stop, because fighting isn't unpleasant for them. That's why "no contact" isn't just a giving up: it's the only logical answer.

At 5:38 AM, Blogger Lynn said...

I'm really interested in what the 7.08AM poster said about N's seeking out AA for supply. I'd never given that a thought - d'oh! Of course, now it all fits. Now it fits....derrr, that's the penny dropping.

I could never quite figure out why anyone would advocate a 12-step program to fix Narcissistic Personality Disorder but now I can see it. Attention seeking.

Thanks 7.08AM poster!

Also to Marisol, there's a woman in my group who left her abusive husband while he was sick with cancer. She just couldn't cope with him anymore and the excuse of his cancer made his controlling and abusive nature 10 times worse. So she left. She did come under a lot of attack and criticism by her whole family, which I found really sad.

As the poster says, abuse is abuse is abuse, and why would you stay just because they're sick. The poster is right, the line is totally loaded with guilt. It's much more aimed at the alcoholic who is not an abuser of his family. IMHO.

At 6:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

just to mention that I appreciate a place where there is understanding of what I have witnessed (and to an extent, recognized and saw through). It is SO HARD to explain a narcissist to someone else, because their first reaction is "what? that can't be.. normal people are not like that"
BINGO. This is not a normal person.
Dangerous?? my daughter is presently in a custody battle with a narcisstic mother in law, who used projection to smear others, and cover up the fact that she took the grandchildren without cause.
It isn't enough for me to know what she is... we need to convey this to the lawyer.

At 3:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

a combination of resources has helped ease and educate me. this site is foremost the biggest help. doing reading on abuse has helped to educate as that subject can be quite complex. attending alanon has been of help too. having the N go to 12 step is a bad idea as pondered here. but going for yourself- which is what alanon is for and does do is a good idea. i started going to a group before i knew what narcissism was - and what i gained from attending was valuable insight on how to protect my own way of thinking. they help clear the haze on subjects such as detachment/enmeshment/codependency twisted thinking/...all kinds of stuff...and they help you identify for yourself how you are being affected and how to alter that for yourself. not how to change the alcoholic- but how to change yourself in ways to care for yourself and restore your own health. My N is not a drinker-but i learned to substitute the phrase alcoholic with workaholic/abuser/mental health problem...different things fit-and the philosophy and attitude adjusting worked. i'm beginning to think that in many situations, the predisposition is more the issue- rather than the actual substance. i hear so much about whether or not the person is drinking yet all the same problems exist for the loved ones. many of the behaviors and manipulations exist regardless of the substances. i also know of somebody who has addiction type issues only hers manifests in human relationships. and much of what ive learned at alanon has translated well into how ive managed my own mental health. we can't change another human being- we can EFFECT them- but we can not change them. we can and often need to change ourselves--NOT to fit to or for someone else- but to be able to obtain and maintain our own health and well being. that is not being selfish. that is being responsible. jt

At 3:30 AM, Anonymous Marisol said...

"They will never stop, because fighting isn't unpleasant for them." So true!!!! That's why I love this place! people 'get' the experience of living with one of these backwards people!
I love all these comments: "It is SO HARD to explain a narcissist to someone else, because their first reaction is "what? that can't be.. normal people are not like that". "If they haven't lived with a narcissist they have no idea what you have had to deal with." And the smear campaign--yeah I know about that now. It was when I left that I realized my husband had been setting up this defensive smear campaign in advance, apparently to be kept in reserve in case I left him. It was incredible the way people swallowed his lies hook, line and sinker and felt so sorry and indignant for him! His lies didn't even hang together and still they bought them. This time I have just decided I will do it on my own, without emotional support. The smear campaign can do what it likes. I'm 'selfish, manipulative, insane, cruel, having an affair, a coldly calculating genius'--all these at one time. OK, fine, and I'm also leaving. Lynn, I was interested to hear about your DV group and how they understand these guys. It reminds me of my DV shelter. I got along with another woman there who understood this type of guy also. After I left the shelter I was offered a spot in a DV group but by then I was short on patience and the phone contact person seemed impatient so I was like 'OK, I'll call you if I need you which I don't think I will'--that seemed to be what she wanted to hear, from her relieved tone of voice. But from what you say Lynn, maybe I'll try again.

(Sorry if I sound cloudier than before--I threw my back out and am on some anti-spasm stuff that makes me sleepy. My N becomes soooo creepy if I ever have an injury or an illness, so I am a major health nut but occasionally something gets through, and it triggers his rage big time (but right now he has to hide it because last time I tore my knee running he let his rage out--didn't hit me, just had major threatening theatrics while I was immobilized in the bed--and I called the police--one of my best decisions ever).

At 8:53 AM, Blogger Lynn said...

Marisol, yes do try again. Some of the women in the group had been out of DV for +5 years, and they found the help they needed to resolve their feelings (and guilt).


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