Gaslighting, Devaluing, Love-Bombing and more…
Narcissistic defences are offensive and destructive to relationships. What’s tricky about them is that they are done with such ease that if you don’t have a strong sense of self, you can be swept off centre, believing the lies, manipulation, devaluation and gaslighting are true.
When we come to our senses, we blame them for our lack of ability to boundary their behavior or to hold onto reality when they use their narcissistic weapons to shoot us down. We tolerate it, do workarounds, adapt, and hope for the best instead of insisting that if their behavior doesn’t change, the state of the relationship will.
Here are the top 5 narcissistic weapons of relationship destruction that narcissists use to get their own way:
Gaslighting is a strategy used to trick you into doubting your own memory, perception and sometimes your sanity. They use it to avoid having to take responsibility for what they have done. They split the world into good and bad, sane, and crazy, trying to make you feel like you are the bad, crazy one in the relationship.
One of the most common forms of gaslighting is when you have asked for something of a partner or boss, and they have agreed. When you follow up, they say “I didn’t say that.” You either engage in a “yes you did, no I didn’t” argument that goes nowhere or you doubt yourself thinking maybe they didn’t say it and you are wrong. Because we don’t have evidence of every conversation we have, just say something like, “let’s agree to disagree” or I think we are remembering things differently” and refocus on what you want from them. This stops you from walking away feeling angry or victimized.
Narcissists will make you feel like you are the most special, wonderful, amazing human being that ever walked the earth. They tell you how perfect you are and how they have never met anyone like you. You are their soul mate. It’s their strategy to get you and when you are finally hooked, they withdraw attention and affection, causing you to anxiously try to get their attention back.
Many of us have been deprived of attention or having our value recognized. This leaves us vulnerable to love bombing, a way of fast-tracking attachment to the narcissist. They go from the perfect mate to a despot, demanding you consider their feelings and needs so you never do anything to upset him or her. The problem is, you never know what that might be. From criticizing every little thing to making up stories of your untruthfulness and infidelity, just because you go out with friends for a drink or get a text from a work colleague. The illusion that the narcissists spun originally is what you are attached to, not the person. Best to walk away because it isn’t real love.
To keep you in the service of their needs and to affirm their power, the narcissist uses devaluation as a way of making you feel weak and powerless. Because they need to feed off of your strengths and can’t bear losing you, they find your vulnerability and use it against you so that you will be too insecure to leave them.
Devaluing is a weapon that many people use on themselves, so it’s easy to believe that you have little value when someone who professes to love you does the same. To inflate their own value, the narcissist will diminish yours. They will use passive-aggressive comments, make hints or overtly insult you in front of others. They can give you a pet name, like “my little space cadet” or call you stupid until you believe you are. Don’t allow it for a moment because if you do, it will only intensify. You also need to confront your own negative self-talk, so you don’t make them an ally in diminishing your value.
Projection is a way of making the other person take responsibility for what the narcissist is doing. They are selfish and quick to call you out when you want to do something by yourself. They break dates, are unreliable and will compete with you for attention, then turn around and accuse you of being all of these things. You spend a lot of time defending reality to little avail.
Our own tendency to see others as we need them to be, entangles us in relationship to the narcissist. We want to keep seeing them the way we did during the honeymoon phase of the relationship or at the level of their potential. This is our own defence against the reality of who our partner really is. So, we have a choice. We can continue to try to help them be who they were when they were love bombing us, or we can take back our projection, accept them for who they are and see if they will strive to develop from their own narcissistic defences.
Manipulation / Victim
After all the things they do to hurt you, if you disagree with or call out hurtful behavior, they shift to victim mode, accusing you of hurting them. They create a story that has nothing to do with what really happened, painting a picture of you as the victimizer. You find yourself apologizing for what you have done just to get them to stop attacking you.
It is so easy to feel victimized by narcissistic behavior and when it happens, have them turn you into the victimizer. For those of us who don’t use this defence, we can be in awe of how our reality can be shaken, as though we have just gone through the looking glass and found ourselves in the “opposite world.”
Sometimes just saying “damn they’re good” can be enough to get us out of our own reaction to the manipulation. Don’t respond to their behavior or argue for your right to be a bigger victim. Know that this is a defensive strategy and try to focus on what the actual issue is that you need to be resolved. If you have ever had this conversation, you’ll know what I mean.
Scenario: The dishes haven’t been done for 3 days, and it’s their job. You’ve been trying not to nag or hold them accountable, but you don’t have any dishes left. You dropped a couple of indirect statements to no avail. You finally have to say something.
You: You haven’t done the dishes yet and there are no clean dishes.
Narcissist: Can’t you ever stop complaining about me. I never do anything right.
You: But we agreed you would do dishes and I would vacuum.
Narcissist: Oh, you think you are so good. You are always trying to show me how much better you are than I am.
You: No, I don’t. I never do that. You are so much better than me at many things.
Narcissist: Like what? You never praise me for anything.
You: Yes, I do. Just the other day I said…
And so on.
If these are the kind of power dynamics your partner is engaging in with you, remember, no consequences, no behavioral change. If you aren’t willing to stay in the conversation, keeping it about the dishes and not about you defending yourself, you will end up washing the dishes yourself.
Learn to recognize the defences strategies of the narcissist so that you can set better boundaries and hold your power. Stop giving your power and authority for yourself away. You may be better off without them, than with them.
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