Part Three of Four
Let’s jump right in and continue what we’ve started – taking a good hard look at the tactics a narcissist will use to distort your reality.
5. Words vs. Actions
While studying Neuro-Linguistic Programming in NYC, I learned to watch for congruency when talking to people. This came in handy with my covert narcissist boyfriend and eventually led to the realization of what was truly happening. I would hear his words yet notice that his body language didn’t quite mesh and then his actions would be different too. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book, Talking to Strangers, discusses how we will “default to truth” when dealing with people. In other words, we want to think the best and will make excuses for these incongruencies. And I did. But once I was able to step back and look at it more objectively, it confirmed what my body had been trying to tell me. The incongruency is designed to make you doubt your reality.
6. Love bombing and flattery
Praise is addictive. We want it. We need it. And a narcissist knows how to use it. They will love and flatter you a lot in the beginning and will strategically begin to pull it back. They will devalue you, but you will just work harder to get that “hit” of praise. The love bombing and flattery will be just enough to make you doubt your reality when they start taking it away from you. They will also mirror you. They will mirror your actions, beliefs, and dreams. You will think you have found your perfect match, your soul mate (they will throw that word around too). The more they learn about you, the more ammo they have. Here is where I made the biggest mistake. I have a checklist (I know! I know! Don’t judge!) and I showed my checklist to Brad at the beginning of our relationship. So, he knew from the beginning what I wanted to hear – what I NEEDED to hear so I would keep chasing that carrot. And if you don’t think you can be baited like this, well, I didn’t either. And the main reason I didn’t think I could be baited was because when I was dating Tom, he had done the same thing. He was always with me and my friends, my family. He knew what to say and how to behave to keep me right where he wanted me. Two weeks before the wedding, he finally confessed to several things he had been lying about. Things that I had been asking him about because I had seen things and heard things – my instinct had known all along. But I was scared to call off the wedding. I didn’t want to disappoint people. Another thing that I have learned was an early red flag was how quickly they had both become attached to me. I didn’t see this as a red flag because I so desperately wanted someone in my life too. I saw it as a sign that they were just really into me. Well, that is sort of true. Narcissists scout out their victims in very purposeful and deliberate ways. They quickly determine who will be easy prey – who will provide the “narcissistic supply” that they need. During my healing (which is ongoing) this has been the hardest part for me. I feel so stupid and so used. And I feel like I can’t trust my instincts anymore. I now question everything and everybody. It’s like I have no capacity to trust myself anymore. I just instinctively now think everyone is out to use me – that no one really cares about me, only what I can provide for them. Now, I know that is not reality, it is just my messed-up perception right now. And I try to keep it in check as I continue working toward full healing, which I know will come. Eventually.
A narcissist knows how to keep you guessing, because that is the best way to destabilize your world and keep you questioning your reality. And here’s the thing, when you want clarity what do you do? You ask them, the abusers, for that clarity. Can you see the problem with this? Asking a narcissist to clear up your understanding about something is like asking a snake if eating from the tree of good and evil will hurt you.
8. Projecting and Blame-Shifting
I call this skill being a spin doctor. Narcissists are excellent at taking their behaviors and flipping them around to make you look like the guilty or crazy one. They will deny your version of reality all day long. They are so skilled at being “nice” that it draws you in and you don’t even notice that they have blame-shifted. You will be in a serious conversation about a concern you have and then all of a sudden they turn your concern against you and completely take themselves out of the picture. It happens so beautifully and flawlessly that you literally question your own reality.
Let’s finish this in Part 4!