Monday, April 14, 2008

A Malignant Narcissist's Shock Tactics

One of the most glaring outward signs of malignant narcissism is the way narcissists malign others. They are constantly improving their own image at someone else's expense.

Another very red flag is perverted reactions to things. This red flag can't be missed, because it's downright shocking. But you witness it infrequently, and it's so perplexing that people unfailingly disbelieve their very eyes and blow off this warning sign.

Therefore, whenever you DO witness a perverted reaction to something, DO NOT blow it off. It is always a very bad sign.

For example, the narcissist inexplicably gets angry at what should please. You expected a smile and - WHAM - you got a look that could kill instead. It sets you reeling, doesn't it?

Guess what? That's exactly why the narcissist does that = to set you reeling so you are easy to run over.

Other examples are being repulsed by what should endear. Laughing at what is tragic.

You know - those bizarre reactions that make you want to pinch yourself. Those reactions that you cannot quite believe even though you have seen them with your own eyes.

Remember that normal people don't do that.

My experience convinces me that narcissists use these backwards reactions to things as shock tactics. They strike you as the sight of apple falling UP from a tree would. It takes you aback. It disarms you.

That way the narcissist gets away with it, because you are stunned. It's kinda like a "sucker punch".

While your jaw is hanging and you are wondering where that reaction came from - whether you or the narcissist is the crazy one - the narcissist performs this hit-and-run to get away with the abuse.

It's a way to disable you (by morally stunning you) so that you cannot defend yourself from the attack. The term for disabling and then attacking someone is "mayhem." Needless to say, it's the lowest of the low who fight that way.

Know anybody who does that you? Who somehow takes offense and gets mad just when you are saying or doing something that should make them happy? If you do know anyone like this, stay away from them. It's a stunt. A perverted stunt to catch you off guard and run you over.

And normal people, people of goodwill, don't do that.

See also A Narcissist's Perplexing Behavior and Backward Reactions to Things.

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19 Comments:

At 4:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been reading your site and wonder if a person has to exhibit the extreme behavior you describe in order to qualify as a narcissist? Someone who laughs at something tragic is pretty obvious - what about more subtle behaviors.

I've just left a situation where there was a high level of self absorption, extreme attention to the public persona, acted like it would have "killed them to give me any gratification," felt obliged to bring little to the party but their wonderful self, took, took, took without giving in return, lacked empathy, kicked me when I was down, and took the smallest complaint or request for attention as an insult and attack.

BUT, they would never have engaged in the sabotage of my reputation, etc., nor did they engage in lying outside of rewriting history, saying ridiculous things or making ridiculous charges in an argument.

I always knew something was off and that it wasn't a balanced relationship, but I'm reluctant to say more than they might have narcissistic overlays to their personality.

What distinguishes "It's all about you," from a narcissist?

CAM

 
At 5:02 PM, Blogger Kathy said...

Are you sure they "would never have engaged in the sabotage of my reputation, etc."? It seems to me that we all are sure of that till we get the shock of our lives and find out what they've been saying about us behind our backs. The same thing with the lies about anything and everything, to the point that you can't believe them about what day of the week it is. Also, we are talking about malignant narcissism here, a pathology, not just the silly character trait.

 
At 5:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not unusual to find out 1-3 yrs after the fact, that an N has been slandering you to others...they're extremely sly and sneaky about it sometimes. I recently found out an N I had a relationship with slandered me to a dear friend of mine...the slander took place almost 3 yrs ago. What's really strange is that they will do that to you, then call you up and talk like nothing's ever happened.

I agree there are also subtle ways that N's respond to things...such as indifference. Example: When I first met my N it was obvious after a short time she was working overtime to get me to fall for her. After a few months when I expressed feelings for her, you would have thought that what I said amounted to no more than mentioning the Fed had increased the prime rate by 1/8 percent. I think that indifferent response is probably due to the N being far more interested in how they're looking at the moment than what someone else is saying or feeling. Any thoughts?

 
At 8:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm still struggling with this disorder vs. something that is perhaps just outside the circle of malignant narcissism.

This person has been in my life for 22 years. I have been a devoted friend who even managed her divorce, bought her a condo until she got her settlement, arranged several trips where I picked up most if not all of the tab and the list goes on. It would be more accurate to define us as companions as we did everything together.

When my own divorce happened, she told me that she didn't have any sympathy for my struggle to adapt to such a dramatic life change because I didn't have the financial worries that she had although she is hardly destitute.

I finally couldn't stand the inequities anymore and feeling like I was a convenience and disposable. She also lacked empathy, was emotionally vacuous, and indifferent to my rights in the relationship. When I explained that I couldn't live with it anymore she went ballistic, but also seemed happy about it all - "Doing great and happy to be without the conflict," she reported. That's code for me saying that it would be nice to have a little reciprocity of compassion and regard.

I manage a very civilized, respectful and considerate relationship with my ex-husband, but rather than meet even a few small needs she cut me out of her life with apparently no more thought than she would give yesterday's bad lunch. That was almost 3 months ago! I'm in disbelief that someone could chuck 22 years of devotion without looking back for one second.

Again, the following description found elsewhere on this site applies:

"People at work may be routinely praised and complemented while they act like it would kill them to give you attention. . . They act like it would kill them to say they're sorry for something, to give you credit for being right about anything, to put their arm around you . . . and let's just cut to the chase: they act like it would kill them give you one bit of gratification."

The smallest complaint or request for attention is accepted as an insult and an attack.

But I still maintain that she would not sabotage me because I've never seen it as a part of her personality. Nor was she prone to falling into regular rages and rants although she would become completely irrational and rageful when I would attempt a fair hearing of my concerns.

As long as we played by her rules and she didn't have to be responsible for anyone other than herself, she was perfectly delightful and charming to be around albeit emotionally absent.

Sorry to go on, but I'm not sure where to put this kind of behavior. Is this maybe a 3 on a scale of 10, or a hybrid mix of less serious personality traits?

Also, do you tell a narcissist that they're a narcissist?

CAM

 
At 10:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My ex did the same. She came on strong to get me. With a very direct approach. My caution told me to take it slow and take my time to get to know her better first. I got feelings for her and when she took my hand during a walk after 2 months I fell for her.
In love and sure she was oke, I gave my trust and love to her.
For one month it looked like heaven. Then the shock came suddenly.
Completely out of the blue she said something so totaly shocking I couldn't believe my ears.
I was swept of my feet totaly. She came up with it just at a moment all seemed perfectly romantic and harmonic.
It was very creepy I remember. Like being in the precence of evil itself. I've got chicken-skin all over the place I remember.
Everything in me screemed; get away!
I tried but didn't succeed. She came to me crying and desparate and lured me back in again. This act had taken most of my armoury and left me very confused.
After all, I concluded that it was at this point that I lost it by not staying with my decesion to leave her.
I've regretted this for years.

So all I like to say to people who encounter something like this: GET OUT and stand ground. Listen to this screeming of your whole body and soul.
It's very painfull and difficult to do, to leave the one you think you love so much but when you surrender to this shock-treatment you'll loose yourself. And when you are empty and broken in the end she'l leave you anyway; like an old shoe she'll throw you aside.

Yes I think it's the biggest red-flag on NPD-behaviour.
Anycase my biggest lesson; no matter what always get out when someone does something like this rightaway. No second thought.

greetings, Gerard

 
At 3:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I heartily agree with your sentiments about the shock tactics... very familiar territory in my family growing up (highly malignant N mom, passive enabling father).

Lots of slander, lies, no empathy... and unbelievable, horrible shock tactics that make no logical sense whatsoever. My husband and I finally cut off contact with these people- 30 years of fighting for emotional survival is enough.

Thank you so much for your posts, they are right on.

 
At 4:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My narcissist was the sneakiest, most two faced person I have ever met. To this day it boggles my mind how he operated.

For example, he told me he ran into a friend of mine at a coffee shop. And "while he didn't want to tell tales out of school" she told him how she hated my husband, how he was really bad for me, etc. My N countered with, of course I told her I think you're a great couple.

Three days later, I'm at the supermarket and I feel a tap on my shoulder. It's my friend's husband, all tan and happy because they had just got back from an island vacation the previous day. That's right, when my friend was supposedly in the coffee shop trashing my marriage, she was really lying on the beach drinking out of a coconut.

Anonymous 4:45, you dodged a bullet.

 
At 5:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Kath,
I think that the problem here is that we are programmed to expect normal human responses from what appears to be a human being. I get round this by de-humanizing the N. I imagine that if I cut off the top of his head and took a look inside, I would not find a brain, but a set of printed circuit boards. Whatever comes out of the N. is determined by the programming of these circuit boards. I have an understanding of how these boards are programmed from reading sites like yours. This image is so strong that I don't even consider that I am dealing with another person, and therefore do not even try to evaluate what they do in human terms but only in terms of how I know these circuit boards work . I don't expect empathy or understanding from my television, I don't argue with my computer, and I treat the N in much the same way. It works for me.
Interestingly, this is probably similar to the way N's see US.

 
At 8:33 AM, Blogger Kathy said...

Well, CAM, if you want an authoritative opinion, go to an authoritative source (see the disclaimer here). You sound like an acquaintance of a narcisst, not her principal victim. If she hasn't gone so far as to try to sabatoge your career, that could be because you have power she fears or because she finds you useful in other ways. But I caution you against the "She would never never do that" thinking. We all thought that. None of us could believe that the N was capabale of anything half so malignant and unprovoked and bizarre. If this woman is a malignant narcissist and you are not someone she aggrandaizes herself by association with, she WILL trash you, no matter how unbelievable it seems. Just count how frequently commenters here use that word "unbelievable." What Ns do is routinely unbelievable. But this is no place to get a diagnosis. It's just a place to learn the warning the warning signs and an understanding of how Ns operate.

 
At 9:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is exactly what the N does. My first experience of this:

We took our newborn to the N's house for the first time. Bear in mind that she had already seen our baby many times, thanks to her selfish, uninvited visits. The baby was six weeks old.

The N found out that we had taken the baby to see his grandfather, an invalid who was unable to travel, before going to her house. This was grandfather's first visit with our baby.

The N reacted by flying into a rage. "You'll be dead by the time you're fifty," she screamed at my husband, then ranted on in one of her soliloquies about how all the men in his family die by the time they're fifty, and there is nothing he can do. All not true, of course.

There was the proud father of a newborn, crestfallen and shattered. No one said a word. The N smirked, then babbled on happily about inane chitchat topics, as if nothing had happened.

My husband thought he was doing her a favor by visiting, a first highway road trip for the baby. But the selfish N had to crush him for daring to let the child's grandfather see his grandchild. No one but the N deserves attention.

She also has a "fat rant" and a "failure rant", pulled out when the occasion calls for them. All shocking the first time...not so much once you see the pattern.

 
At 10:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just ran into a Pain Specialist who used this "Shock Tactic" on me. I asked him a medical question and he told me that I was putting him on the spot and it was very inappropriate of me. He said I was looking for an answer from him and that he had none. Here are some addictive pills and come back in a month. HELL NO! Before I went in there, I new all the procedures he performed and he wasn't willing to perform any on me. Plus he poo pooed Surgeons and told Surgery horror stories to scare me. Even though I knew there were procedures out there and things that could be done, I was literally dejected. Part of my little brain believed it for about a day. He absolutely blindsided me and if I wouldn't have researched and known he was full of shit, I would have sunk into MAJOR depression.
I'm no Angel, I wanted to lambaste him right there but I didn't want to upset the Doctor that had reffered me, so I didn't. I so want revenge!!!!!

 
At 10:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have just finished reading Gerard's post, and I could have written it. In fact, I have used the "old shoe" reference many times, and will be happy to reach a point in my new "free" life that I do not feel like one any more.

There were many defining moments during the relationship with my N. Several left me almost suicidal, but one in particular two months into our relationship had my head screaming "RUN--GET OUT" but my heart said something else. I think back on that moment often, and wonder how I survived
23 years.

I also agree that the biggest red flag is behaviour. I often said that I refused to join him "in his three year old games." That was long before I was aware of narcissism and learned that was his true emotional maturity level.

 
At 11:08 AM, Blogger Kathy said...

"I'm no Angel, I wanted to lambaste him right there but I didn't want to upset the Doctor that had reffered me, so I didn't. I so want revenge!!!!!"

Narcissists have a way of doing that to people, don't they? In fact, on her site, Joanna Ashumun actually lists it as a red flag of narcissim = the ability to make perfectly normal people - even normally gentle and slow-to-anger people - FURIOUS!!!!

I agree with her on this. It's a warning sign. Normal people just don't incense others by ambushing them to humiliate them like this in everyday interactions; only narcs do.

 
At 5:29 PM, Blogger DrewTerry said...

Don't kid yourself - if you are wondering if they are narcissistic, damaging, abusive, etc. = THEY ARE.

Just having to ask the question should tell you the answer, albeit not what you want to hear.

Trust me: there is nothing you can do, there is nothing they will do but make things worse, and eventually, my youngest brother committed suicide.

Cut off his own head - with a chainsaw.

I'm dead serious - March 5th, 2008 7:54 PM.

I had nothing to do with my parents or extended family for over five years before this happened. I had been in touch with my brother, Jake, but he was becoming paranoid and delusional by about 2 years ago. I never saw it coming, not suicide. Jake was crazy, but I figured he would die a tragic stupid accident. The irony is he quit drinking 4 years ago, cold turkey, because he said he was afraid if he kept living that lifestyle he would kill himself taking too many chances (this was after he ran across a 6 lane freeway at rush hour, which was the closet he ever came to being killed and it scared him).

Anyway, since the funeral I've had to cut everyone off again, because I heard nothing but how much pain I caused everyone during the time I had no contact. How much pain I caused them???

I told my mom, it was either that or she would have gone to my funeral by now. She got angry. Nothing surprises me anymore.

The primary concern was what to blame the suicide? I got sick of hearing it was drugs when they found no drugs anywhere on him, toxicology clean, which didn't stop them from scapegoating.

Until I told them, "one son cut off his fucking head with a goddamn chainsaw and all you care about is whether or not people will say you were bad parents? Guess what? They already know, Jake made it pretty clear how he felt."

They all think I am crazy because I am "blaming" them when the did "the best they could." I've always given them the benefit of the doubt in that respect, but now that my brother is dead, in the way that he did it, I feel like they lost the luxury of that benefit of the doubt. Jake certainly suffered enough, they deserve to live with it.

Among the many twists and turns, Jake took the cake in our family because he blackmailed my father for my father's drug use from the age of 8 years old. He got to do whatever he wanted and my father said nothing. It got so bad that my mom moved out of the house for Jake's senior year in HS, then moved back in after he left, and blamed all their marital problems on him! Of course, they had been separated more times than I can remember by the time I was in HS. They divorced after 31 years in 2000, 4 years after Jake graduated from HS.

Tellingly, all 3 of us moved out of the house on the last day of exams in HS. I came back a week later for the ceremony, stayed up all night and left the next morning, never lived there again, except at Christmas until I quit going.

All they care about is feeling like they were not to blame - when as parents, how can it be anyone else's responsibility?

Blame is useless, but to take responsibility doesn't mean "I made a mistake" and that is it. It means feeling the pain that mistake caused, something they are loathe to do, because to feel that pain they cannot feel.

But if we don't speak up, then they will continue to fool everyone that believes them. Granted, it is pissing into a hurricane but I don't know what else to do. I feel like my brother's death should mean something more than just the way they want to forget about all the shit that happened that is why he was the way he was.

it sucks. Fucking I don't wish this on anyone. I don't want revenge, I'm just sad. I've never cried this much in my entire life.

The best part? My mom who has always hated drugs (except prescription, but she wasn't a pill popper) was on Xanax at the funeral service and never shed a tear. My father practiced his speech night and day for a week to get himself to the point where he would not cry when he read it.

Did he cry? What do you think?

Thanks for listening.

 
At 5:59 PM, Blogger Kathy said...

Drew, I am so sorry to hear that. I'm speechless. As conflicted and confused as your feelings must be, they are natural. You do know that it wasn't your fault, don't you? It is frustrating and makes you feel helpless when you can't get through to them. But leave it at that. It will make you angry and be hard to accept, but it shouldn't make you blame yourself, because Ns are just impossible. What a waste. I hope you put some thought into what you need to do to take care of yourself, and I wish you the best.

 
At 2:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What can you say..
People killing themselves who have been directly under the influence of a M.N. for a length of time.
I've seen it myself and been there.
They leave a trail of confusion, pain and sickness in their wake.
They never take any responsebility or blame for it never. Always blame on others but themselves. And they succeed. They make people sick.
They make people commit suicide.

The only thing my mother said to us children right after my father died killing himself was; 'and now we all start a brand new better live'. Shock-tactics. She left us speachless.

It took me another 20 years to finally understand and let go.
Leaving the leftovers of a chattered, confused and partly sick, narcisstic family.

Now, after 2 years I feel it was a good dissision. Only being out of this sickening influance is a healing factor on itself.

Drew I wish you all the strength and support you need.

Gerard

 
At 11:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Cam,

I'm sure s/he would never do THAT! Perhaps you wouldn't, nor expect your friends to, here is an anecdote:

Friends were visiting me when I lived with a woman, who later became extremely envious of me when I was putting on a production and obsessively sued other people for no reason. This part of her character was not obvious, nor did I have a clue about what narcissism was then. Even though there were two lounge areas, each with a phone, she would always make/take phone calls in the lounge room with people in it and speak very loudly. In front of all of us, she took a phone call where she had been named as a reference and the prospective employer was checking the reference. We were all open mouthed as she proceeded to totally annihilate the character of the person referred to. Either way, it looked bad; if you believed this bitch, then you wouldn't want anything to do with her but if you didn't, it still looks bad to have someone you are confident of a good reference slag you off.

-Cassandra

 
At 12:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gerard, My N Mothers response, 30 seconds after we (N-Brother, Sister and I)told her that my Dad was dead, (upon us returning from the Hospital)was "Who's gonna take care of me now"!!? Of course accompanied by crocodile tears. Such compassion huh? She hated the man and would always knock and belittle him for as long as I can remember,even as a child.But to mourn for 30 secs. before thinking about yourself is despicable. Selfish bitch. I'm still having a hard time talking about my f-ed up family. Sometimes I feel like the guy from "Clockwork Orange" who was conditioned to feel repulsed by violence, etc. Only I've been conditioned to feel ashamed to speak honestly about my family. I'd get a lump in my throat and avoid any honest disscussion for fear of airing the "dirty" laundry. Fortunately that is changing, and it is in part due to sites, like this one, that have helped me know I am not alone.
Abel

 
At 4:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Abel, thank you for sharing this.
My mother did just the same; belittleing my father as long as I remember. Favorite was always comparing him with other man who offcourse always did much better in every way.
As early as a small child I often felt so sad for him and felt the unjustice. From childhood on I took as much as possible save distance from her instinctively, also for this behaviour I understand now.
You always hope something will change some day, so you keep trying to get a loving mother too for very long (at least I did).
It's painfull and confusing.
And it never happened, only got worse.
It was hard to let go and telling the truth about her is still difficult. I think I know what you mean about the dirty laundry.
I think it's still feeling the pain of admitting and the certainty that there was no loving mother never. She could not do it.
Full of contempt she lashed out on everyone who mirrored her a world that wasn't the way she wanted it and believed she deserved.

It took me another encounter with an N to finally see what happened all that time.
Also thanks to sites like this. They helped me tremendously in understanding and finding myself again.
The other part is the letting go.
To give up hope on them.
It's sad but by doing this, after a few years now I feel released and more to myself then ever.
Still struggel with my new insights to act to them accordingly.
Being under the influance of N's for so long I still find it hard to keep my bounderies in place when I encounter narcisstic behaviour.
But I know I'm doing much better and never will go back were I've been.
Good luck,
Gerard

 

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