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.