It is common knowledge that narcissists love to play games; they love to play Twister with your mind and Ping-Pong with your heart. They Gamble with relationships and people’s lives. They are always Simon in “Simon Says” and they are master manipulators in their version of “Chess”. Additionally, various internet sources refer to narcissists playing “emotional hot potato” (Streep, 2016). Emotional hot potato is said to be when a narcissist doesn’t like the way he is feeling he projects the feeling on to you (target/victim) and now you look to him like the bad guy, a loser, or even an abuser. This projection allows for any detachment or abuse that comes your way via the narc to be not only justified, but also a consequence of your perceived inadequacy. While there are many more games played by Narcissists, the game I found them playing the most is “Hide and Seek”. Of course, the rules and object of the game are much different than the one we played as children.
The object of the Narcissist’s version of Hide and Seek doesn’t include the first person found automatically becoming the next “seeker”. The object is also not for the last person to be found to be deemed the winner. That’s because there is no other winner but the Narc, ever! I don’t even imagine there being a “safe” place to go once you are found by the Narc. There might be a Narcissist’s “glue” though! The people that go there will find it hard to leave the game. Some people will find out that they can never win when playing with the Narc. Some are not even in the game to win, they just want to build a friendship. Others will continue to participate in the game just to be associated with the Narc. Whatever the capacity of the player, they will all eventually lose.
The most noticeable change in the game rules is that the Narc is always the seeker. The Narc is constantly seeking. He seeks players and pawns for many different reasons. He has players that adore him from a distance (think social media) and he seeks players to physically surround him (think pawns, the ones he strategically controls). Everybody wants to play with him because he is so fun, attractive, has an expensive car, has a very large home and throws fantastic parties. He drops names of well-known locals and goes to charity fundraisers in designer clothes with the ability to make large monetary donations. The narc goes from work to home, and everywhere in between, seeking out players for his game. He will seek players for his game his entire life.
The second change in the game is that the Narc hides too. The Narc hides that fact that he is a bully because if he didn’t, nobody would play with him or be his friend. Deep down the Narc knows that something is wrong with him. For example, he wonders why he doesn’t feel sad when one of the players falls and skins their knee while trying to get to “safe” when being chased by the Narc. In fact, the Narc finds himself holding back laughter. Since he knows that laughing is not what should come as a natural response, he has to fake concern. He has had to learn how to fake (wear different masks) for the following reason; what comes natural to him is not natural for the majority. His responses seem superficial, rehearsed, almost too perfect. Specifically, he has learned that by faking emotions, people will not see his true lack of real emotion. But the Narc cannot hide always and forever. The masks of concern and sympathy fall off. The fake tears dry up too quickly. Their mask of supposed sense of humor falls off when they laugh at the wrong time for the wrong reason. Their mask of integrity slips when their actions don’t match their words. Once the Narc feels the threat of exposure with this group of players, he will move on and seek new players, players that have not seen the mask slip, players that are unfamiliar with his tactics. He will create a whole new persona. He has made some mistakes here and has learned from them; his skill set even more perfected, more believable for the next victims. Sadly, the more skilled the Narc becomes, the larger the trail of relational destruction.
Eventually, the games will come to an end. Narcs cannot play Hide and Seek forever, Players don’t want to play a game when there is no chance of winning; heck, we don’t even get a participation trophy! Nobody wants to play with someone who makes their own rules or changes the goal posts. The masks of their formal speech pattern, righteousness (acting like they are doing no harm to anyone, anywhere), perfection, and baggage-free personality will fall off. Impression management becomes too difficult and time consuming as they get older. They go from covert to overt abuse and their cruelty is no longer deniable. Pretty soon the victims will begin to talk. In the end, people will get tired of playing the Narc’s games and he will end up alone.
Streep, P. (2016) 4 Behaviors That Unmask Narcissists. Psychology Today.
Narcissists love to throw themselves pity parties, but please don’t accept the invitation! Did you know that “an appeal to pity attempts to persuade using emotion—specifically, sympathy—rather than evidence?” An argument involving pity is fallacious (based on mistaken belief) because our emotional responses are not always a good guide to truth; emotions can cloud, rather than clarify, issues. We should base our beliefs upon reason, rather than on emotion, if we want our beliefs to be true” (http:/www.logicalfallacies.info/relevance/appeals/appeal-to-pity/). In other words, feelings are not facts! Narcissists use pity (mistaken belief) for two reasons. The first is to manipulate someone (deceit) and the second is to mask what they are doing (deceit) by taking the attention off of their bad behavior and then transferring the listener’s attention into giving sympathy to the narcissist for a whole other matter. A good example of how this type of dialogue looks is below. This is also a way that the narcissist brings attention back to him or herself. Notice how the narcissists keeps trying to get pity and cause the target to forget about what she was complaining about in the first place. The target is being manipulated to console the narcissist as if the narc is in more pain than the target.
Target: “Why didn’t you tell me you were going to dinner with so-and-so last night”
Narcissist: ” Oh target! I felt so bad the entire time I was there” or “I felt so sick to my stomach I couldn’t even finish my meal ”
Target: Well, why didn’t you tell me.
Narcissist: “I knew you would be hurt because you were not invited”.
Target: “Well, if you knew that I would be hurt, then why did you still go?”
Narcissist: ” I just couldn’t turn down the invite. I felt obligated to go! Can’t you see I was under pressure”
Now, if you are an empath or highly-sensitive person, I can almost bet you started to feel sorry for the Narcissist, didn’t you? Do you see how they work? Narcissists have to solicit for pity because they don’t have logical explanations for what they do. Well, to clarify, anything that serves them, in their mind, is logical! In order to solve problems in a relationship there needs to be logical reasoning, which in turn solves a particular problem. Productive arguments contain two logical virtues and simply put, they are (1) True Reasons (having no objections) and (2) Reasons that are properly related to the conclusions.
In going back to the above dialogue, the target asked why the narc didn’t tell her that he was going to dinner. A true reason (1) would be that “it was a last minute invite”. If this were true, then the expectation of a phone call or text, in this day and age, would not be unreasonable in a normal, healthy relationship. But notice, there isn’t a “true reason” in his initial response. In fact, there isn’t any reason at all! What there is though, is a pity ploy (manipulation). So, the target asks again and the narc says that he knew the target would be hurt if she found out. The Narcissist’s second answer appears is if he didn’t tell the target out of concern, right? Wrong! If the narc was so concerned about the target being hurt, then why did he go in the first place? That has yet to be answered here and never will be. This conversation will go round and round, will always be about the narc. What will happen is that narc will feel trapped then will start with the put downs, name calling and raising his voice to intimidate. The target will end up crying and will start to learn to never question the Narc again so that these types of confrontations won’t happen in the future. This is what emotional abuse looks like!
Remember, in logic, the reasons have to relate to the conclusion. We all can assume that the reason why the narc didn’t tell the target is because he doesn’t truly and sincerely care about the target and only wanted to be seen with the who’s-who in a fancy restaurant, a self-serving ego (narcissistic supply) builder. But, the narc cannot admit to this and covertly disguises his error of omission (not telling target) as feigned sympathy. Does this all make sense?
As part of your healing and recovery from a relationship with a narcissist, protect yourself against weak arguments. Become familiar in ways in which people use faulty reasoning to wiggle their way out of accountability. Remember, faulty reasoning lacks both a true reason (without objection) and a conclusion that is properly related to the true reason. More logical fallacies can be found here, http://www.logicalfallacies.info/relevance/appeals/appeal-to-pity/. Oh, and don’t forget that there will never be a sincere apology! They may say that “they are sorry you feel that way” but that is not an apology! The narc is blaming you for how you feel and is covertly escaping from any personal accountability. Furthermore, that fake apology does not include remorse or how they plan to not continue the behavior that hurt you in the first place. There is a myriad of information on what a sincere apology looks and feels like. I encourage you to research the topic if for no other reason than to
Image Credits: girlchanhgirlbanh_girlxoclaem via Foter.com.
When someone hears the word “target” they could think “department store” (shopping), “deer hunting” (sporting), or “archery” (competition), all relatively harmless activities. When victims of narcissists hear the word “target” their stomachs flip; their breath is taken away; and their heart skips a beat, but not in a good way! Similar to shopping, hunting and archery, narcissists have targets too, and it is frightening to find out that you were chosen to be one. Narcissists are very selective in who their targets are and they go through quite the process to finding and grooming one. I know this because I was the target, victim and survivor of a narcissistic relationship.
If you ask me how I became friends with one I really do not have an exact answer. What I do know is that our kids are the same ages and go to the same schools. We were both room moms, PTO moms, baseball moms, and dance moms. But truthfully, I was just going about my business raising my family, working and going to school at night. Before I knew it, I had a “best friend”. I became so close to this friend that it was hard to believe that I finally found someone who loved me unconditionally, who I had loved unconditionally, and that had so many interests similar to mine. I often asked her how we even became friends and her answer was “well, I picked you out of the school directory”. BULLSEYE! Punctured by a poison arrow! Who picks friends out of a school directory? Don’t friendships happen naturally and gradually? Now, when I tell this story to others, their eyes open wide, their jaws drop and their voices raise about three octaves. Most say that picking someone out of a school directory is strange enough to be a RED FLAG for them, but it wasn’t for me. Personally, I thought it was just irony. How cool and coincidental that someone picked me and that we just happened to be two peas on a pod! I thought we were meant to be friends forever. Why did I think this you ask? Well, RED FLAG #2 was the future faking. I was told that we would be friends when we were old and gray, which allowed me let her get close to me. The “growing old” theme was carried out in birthday cards to each other and in random conversations. I mean if someone has the intentions of being my friend for the next 25 years or so, I certainly want to treat her with love and respect, right?
It is well known within the mental health community that Narcissists, Psychopaths and Sociopaths all lack empathy. Webster’s dictionary defines empathy as “the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions”. I think that while individuals with Cluster B personality traits do lack empathy, parts of me also believe that they do “understand” and “share” another person’s experiences and emotions, otherwise they would not do what they do. They totally understand that they need to hurt and betray specific individuals so they can feel good. They totally understand how to do it and the pain (emotion) their betrayal causes. They “share” their pain with us, for sure! I noticed that while the friend that I now believe is somewhere on the narcissism spectrum, had lots of “friends”, many of them lived in big homes, had nice cars, owned businesses, were in local politics, would be considered attractive by most people’s standards, and were treated by her with calculated care and respect. For some reason thought, she didn’t treat any of them like she treated me. I was the emotional punching bag she needed to feel good. There was something about me that she was attracted to. While I am not privy to any toxic traits of the others in her social circle, I am also not aware of nor have I ever been told that I am a toxic friend either. First, I don’t even know how to manipulate someone and I wake up in the same mood everyday. Secondly, I don’t lie and actually value honesty. Third, I certainly don’t change my looks or personality to suit whatever crowd I am hanging in. Fourth, I don’t put people down, in fact I usually make fun of myself first. Fifth, I have a great sense of humor and a sincere laugh. Lastly, I am capable of open and honest communication. But, since narcissists correlate money with power, she saw me as powerless and defenseless. I had weak personal boundaries and was raised by a narcissistic mother. I was out in the open with no protection whatsoever!
There is another term that I think is more applicable than the “experience” part of empathy and that is the term “relate”. Webster’s dictionary defines “relate” as “to show or make a connection between (two or more things)”. While I think that narcissists can experience and understand (know the meaning of) emotions they just can’t “relate” to them, or connect to them. Of course they understand emotions because they can mimic them. They have studied them. Narcissists by nature are not introspective and cannot look at themselves as the source of anything. They are unable to relate as to what is the real source of their pain, but they understand that they are in pain, which is why they do what they do. They are unable to relate to the tears that drip down their target or loved one’s face. That they caused the tears. We are not over-sensitive! We are not jealous! They cannot relate to the actions and investment of love. They don’t relate to compromise and sacrifice. The don’t relate to unconditional love. What they do understand though, is that they are in pain and that they want their pain to go away.
Don’t most, if not all victims of Narcissistic Abuse feel like Humpty Dumpty? In the beginning of any relationship with a narcissistically disordered person, the target is idealized by the Narcissist. So much so, that it seems as if the Narc is actually infatuated with the target. Infatuation is a great description because it means “to make somebody behave irrationally as a result of a great, often temporary, passion” (Encarta Dictionary). Similarly, “idealization” is what narcissists are known to do. Idealization is to, “represent somebody or something as being perfect, ignoring any imperfections that exist or may exist in reality”. When the narcissist perceives through idealization, that the target is perfect, the narc becomes infatuated. Terms to focus on within idealization and infatuation are, “temporary” and “reality”. Narcissists do not live in reality and all of their relationships are temporary.
As time goes on, the target becomes more attached to the narcissist and the target assumes that the narcissist is becoming more attached to it. One would assume that each is the priority of the other as the relational bond grows and deepens. Eventually, as the narc spends more time with the target, the narc starts to get bored. The target is eventually covertly removed from the pedestal. Removal from the pedestal also happens because the target’s humanity starts to emerge (it was always there but idealization by narc blinded the narc to it). The narc claims that the “target has changed” and starts to lash out at the target in order to protect the narc-self. It must feel to the narc like the target is abusing or betraying the narcissist because the target no longer fits snugly into the narcissist’s mold; it is like the target becomes almost defiant in the narcissist’s eyes when all the target did was be him or herself and did absolutely nothing wrong.
Now that the target has been shoved off of the pedestal, it attempts to climb back up. The target, having not changed at all, gives more of itself because it is all it can do in order to feel loved again. The target loves the narcissist. Since the target hasn’t done anything wrong, but just follow the course of its normal relational patterns, it digs deeper to give more of itself in order to please the narcissist. But nothing seems to please the narc anymore. Every time the target starts to crawl up the pedestal (adore the narc) to get back on top, the narcissist steps on its fingers, or moves the relational goal posts, and the target loses its grip and falls back down. The narcissist looks down on the target, disappointed, as if to say “keep trying”; and that the target does.
The target is unsuccessful in its many attempts to return the relationship to the infatuation/idealization stage (the target is not aware of any stages but is sure he/or she can get the narc to treat it better) and is convinced that there must have been something it did to cause the narcissist to shun it like she did. The target seeks advice and support from long-time mutual friends within the narc and target’s social circle. The target also tries to talk to family members, but any support is denied. Nobody seems eager or willing to listen to the target and when they do listen, they are not “seeking to understand”, so the target, already exhausted, is forced to defend itself. Nobody can believe that the narcissist keeps stepping on the target’s fingers. Some even laugh in disbelief at the target’s tall tale. Everyone sees the Narcissist as being friendly and caring toward others. The target wonders why everyone is so blind. Doesn’t anyone see the target climbing out of the hole, physically and emotionally exhausted, trying to get back in the relationship (on the pedestal)? It seems that everyone is actually blaming the target for falling off the pedestal (treating the narc poorly, jealous).
The target finally gets out and looks for the narcissist and the pedestal, but both have disappeared. The narcissist is now infatuated with someone else and the new target is now on the pedestal. Everyone is happy for the narcissist and has left and/or rejected the former friend/target. Since the target/victim has no one to turn to for help, it has no other alternative but to seek out a professional, someone who is not familiar with the narcissist; someone unknown, someone the target has never met; to now observe and listen to the target turned victim. The victim spends months, maybe years in therapy. The victim must say good-bye to its previous life. The target turned victim now a survivor, realizes that it will never be the same (scars and a broken heart) and is now forced to live the rest of its life from a whole other perspective.
Just like Humpty Dumpty, friends and therapists cannot put the target, turned victim, back together again. The therapist shows the victim where the pieces are and it is now up to the victim to put itself back together again. The victim becomes a newer, stronger, and emotionally smarter version of its prior self before being removed from the narcissist’s pedestal. The victim turned survivor, having experienced the abuse from a narcissist, becomes a healer and educator to others. It is in the validation of outsiders (strangers), that the survivor can heal finally itself.