The following is a list of terms and definitions that are common among those who have been in some form of a relationship with Narcissists. Many of these terms are not recognized by mental health professionals, so I highly recommend you print out this list (or email the link to this page) and give it to any mental health professional you are working with, so you both can get on the same page as far as the language you are using when describing your experience.
I hope this list helps you as well. I am continually adding to it, so if you feel I need to add a word, make any changes, or have a resource that was helpful, that you’d like me to share, please contact me and let me know. 🙂
Aggressive (communication): Is one of the four communicate styles. (The four different styles are known as: Passive, Passive Aggressive, Aggressive, Assertive.) An aggressive person communicates in threatening or violent ways. Punching, spitting, cussing, kicking, shaking, yelling, threatening are all some examples of aggressive communication.
Antisocial Personality Disorder (formerly known as Sociopaths and/or Psychopaths): A personality disorder that presents as impulsive, reckless, hostile, aggressive, behavior problems,little to no regard for the law, and oftentimes abusing and torturing animals or other people. This personality disorder is often seen in childhood before the age of 15.
Assertive (communication): This is where a person is able to effectively communicate their thoughts and feelings about a subject, in a calm manner. This form of communication is very solutions focused, and (in most situations) is considered the most ideal form of communication. The exception to this would be if the victim is able to escape the abuser, and goes “No Contact” or “Gray Rock”. Both of these escape strategies involve either cutting off communication completely, or drastically limiting it. When dealing with abusers, assertive communication does not matter, as the abuser isn’t seeking to problem solve, or understand, but only to manipulate and use. The victim must not get baited into thinking that a “real” conversation can be had, and must instead consider all forms of communication in terms of what is best for their self-protection. Being open, and honest with your thoughts and feelings is highly dangerous when dealing with an abuser, and if not immediately, eventually, will be used against the victim.
Bait and switch: Luring (or baiting) the potential, or current victim in with charm, kindness, affection and attention and once the victim is “hooked” (in love), the narcissist switches to being mean, demanding, inattentive and cruel.
Baiting: An act used to evoke an angry, aggressive or emotional response from another individual.
Boundaries: Guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify for themselves what are reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave around him or her and how they will respond when someone steps outside those limits.
Closure: Closure in a relationship involves honest, healthy, open-minded, non-judgmental communication about what went wrong and why the relationship is over. There is never closure in a Narcissistic relationship, because Narcissists are pathological liars. Many victims are left to get closure on their own, which they do by limiting contact “going gray rock” or ending contact “going no contact” with a Narcissist. Many find support groups extremely helpful, as well as therapy.
Cluster B: Refers to a grouping of personality traits in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illness (DSM). These traits are broadly described as dramatic, erratic and emotional. Within the Cluster B are four of the ten recognized personality disorders: Borderline, Narcissistic, Histrionic, Antisocial.
Codependency: This term originated in the context of Alcoholics Anonymous, and was used to describe the relationship between an alcoholic and their spouse (who often tolerated or supported their behavior.) The term codependency has trickled over into other types of unhealthy relationships, regardless if there is an alcoholic involved. In these relationships there is one person enables or supports another person’s addiction, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility, or under-achievement. These relationships are one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive.
Example: A wife who calls in sick for her alcoholic husband who is drunk and passed out on the couch.
Cognitive Dissonance: Stress, anxiety or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values. Because we are wired for consistency, the greater the divide between the belief, idea or value, the greater the stress, and the more apt the victim is to try to close the gap between the two and/or by avoiding situations that will increase the divide.
Example: A person may be in a relationship with a Narcissist who has cheated on them multiple times. This person may not believe that divorce is an option, or that their husband would be capable of cheating so the wife blames her husband’s cheating on any number of external factors: substance use, stress at home/work, the other woman, even herself and not paying enough attention to the Narcissist. As long as she can make his behavior “not his fault” then she can justify staying married to him.
Crazy making: A form of psychological abuse, where the abuser sets the victim up for failure, as nothing the victim ever does is right. Crazy making behavior is also due to “gas lighting,” and can also involve “word salad” (see the terms below.)
Abuser: We are going out to dinner with the Smiths’ on Friday.
(Friday rolls around…)
Victim: Aren’t you going to get dressed for dinner?
We are supposed to meet the Smiths’ in twenty minutes.
Abuser: I never said we are going out to dinner with the Smiths’.
Cycle of Abuse: Was developed in 1979 by Lenore E. Walker to explain patterns, and the stages of behavior in an abusive relationship. There are four stages in the cycle:
1. Tension-building: Stress from daily life, such as conflict as work, home, with children and/or finances. During this stage the victim may either begin “walking on eggshells” trying to desolate the situation by being non-confrontational, and going out of their way to be more doting, helpful and nurturing, or, the victim may provoke the abuser in order to get impending abuse over with.
2. Acting-out: The abuser’s behavior exerts power and control over the victim, and their behavior escalates (often times) to verbal and psychological abuse, which is often followed by outbursts of violent, abusive behavior. The emotional, verbal or physical abuse often times serves as a release for the abusers hostility, and is followed by the “honeymoon” stage.
3. Reconciliation/honeymoon: The abuser may feel (or pretend to feel) guilt, remorse and empathy. They may be accountable for their actions, but more often than not they aren’t, instead the project (or share) their behavior onto the victim. (Such as, I wouldn’t have cheated, if you’d been more attentive. It’s your fault–or I wouldn’t have cheated had you not been more attentive–so it’s both our faults.)
The victim often feels fearful, and uncertain during this stage, not sure of whether or not the abuser is sincere, and that it won’t happen again. In addition, due to the emotional abuse that tends to proceed this stage, the victim often feels that they played some part in the abuse, taking responsibility for the abuser’s actions–that if they had done things differently, that this wouldn’t have happened. (This applies to not only physical abuse, but emotional abuse such as cheating.)
4. Calm: This stage involves the abuser vowing to change. The abuser asks for forgiveness, often promises to go to counseling, and gives gifts to the victim. Passionate make up sex, and an intense feeling of connection are often present in this stage, which further serves to reinforce to the victim that they are in love, and that this relationship should, and could, be saved–and that it won’t happen again.
Cycle of a Narcissistic Relationship: The current recognized model is “idealize, devalue, discard.” My spin on this is: Idealize, devalue, discard, replace, hoover.
Dark Triad: A psychological term that refers to the combination of three personality disorders/traits: Antisocial, Narcissistic, and Machiavellian (this last one is not an official personality disorder, but more a series of traits.)
Delusional: A person is considered delusional when they hold a set of beliefs with strong conviction despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Denial: Believing or imagining that some painful or traumatic circumstance, event or memory does not exist, did not happen, or did not happen in the way that it did–regardless of the physical proof that is shown.
Dissociation: A psychological term used to describe a mental departure from reality. Many victims report feeling this way during or after any type of abuse occurs–as if they are not in their body, or somehow feeling that what is or has happened to them is like a movie.
Domestic Violence: A pattern of behavior which involves violence or other abuse by one person in a domestic context against another, such as in marriage, living together or within a family. Domestic violence can (and often does) take a number of forms including physical, emotional, verbal, economic and sexual abuse, which can be expressed in a wide variety of ways from subtle manipulations, name calling, threats, to marital rape, or to violent physical abuse that results in disfigurement or death (just to name a few.) To read more on domestic violence go here.
Dosing: Small and temporary revivals of the idealize phase where the narcissist gives his/her victim “doses” of attention, affection (love bombing) and hope in order to keep them in, or suck them back into, the relationship. Dosing differs from love bombing in that love bombing is an excessive amount of communication and complements, whereas dosing is where the abuser gives the victims just the bare minimum needed to continue the relationship.
Double standard: Where the Narcissist has very high expectations for his victim’s behavior, yet, these standards do not apply to him. For example, the narcissist would be outraged if his spouse cheated, yet he does it all the time.
Enabler: A person who provides excuses, or other forms of support (money, shelter, etc.) to a person who is engaging in self-destructive or inappropriate behavior.
Empath: A highly sensitive person who feels (and often takes on) the emotions of others. These people often get (and stay) sucked into relationship with Narcissists because they feel pity for the Narcissist. Many victims of Narcissists believe that they are empathic.
Emotional Abuse: Is where one person subjects another person to intentional behaviors, such as name calling, put downs, attacks on self-esteem and self-worth, that often times result in psychological trauma, including anxiety, nightmares, dramatically decreased self-esteem, paranoia, insecurity, chronic depression, and/or post-traumatic stress disorder. For more about emotional abuse, and how to get help, or for FAQ’s visit The National Domestic Abuse Hotline’s website by clicking here.
Emotional Rape: The intentional violation and abuse of a person’s emotions for some sort of gain from the abuser. Victims are often left feeling rage, obsessive thoughts, lost self-esteem, fear, anxiety, the inability to love or trust in a relationship, unexplained physical illness (caused by extreme stress), seemingly irrational and extreme behavior such as withdrawing from people or activities that they formerly enjoyed, isolation, paranoia, and an intense distrust of others that the victim formerly trusted, and even suicide. Often times victims turn to substance abuse in an attempt to cope with what has happened to them. To the outside world, the victim’s behavior often seems severe and inappropriate, as they view what happened to the victim as simply a “bad breakup”, and that the victim just needs to “get over it”. This attitude from friends and family (and often times even from well-intentioned therapists) is incredibly damaging, as the victim further shuts down and feels that they have no support, and feeling of isolation and paranoia can increase.
Emotional Vampires: A slang term for Narcissists, and is used to describe the emotionally draining effect Narcissists have on their victims.
Fleas: They’re the bad behavior patterns and habits “picked up” from living with a person (generally a parent, sibling, significant other) who had total and unhealthy control over us. Fleas are the crazy making, and unhealthy ways of coping and perceiving the world-type behaviors that the victim develops in order to survive their home environment. Many view these behavior traits as unlearnable (for what it’s worth, I think people can get rid of their fleas.)
Flying Monkeys: People, including friends, family, coworkers, and their children that the Narcissist has conned into believing that the Narcissist is the victim in whatever situation that they have created, when in fact they are really the perpetrator. Read more about flying monkeys.
Fog lifting: A term used to describe the feeling of clarity when victims begin to learn that what they are (or have) experiencing is real, and that there are names for these things–such as “Narcissist” and “Emotional Abuse”. When the confusion (fog) lifts, they are able to see the behaviors for what they are and they begin to exit the cycle of Narcissistic Abuse.
Future Faking: When a Narcissist promises a victim her idea of the perfect future. The Narcissist has extracted what these elements of a great future would be from the early love bombing stage. Often times the Narcissist will speak about creating a happy family, buying a home, settling down, getting married, moving in together, having children, or some other false promises in order to either manipulate the victim into the relationship (for the first time) or into rekindling the relationship. These promises never come true, and if certain elements do, such as the victim and Narcissist buying a home or getting married, then it is a hellish version of the victim’s ideal future.
Gas Lighting: The term gas lighting is taken from a movie, where the main character’s husband has killed his own aunt to get her jewels, and then erases any link to his former identity, including changing his name. He marries a rich woman, and then attempts to drive her insane by denying and questioning her own sanity once she comes across his former identity. (Click here to watch the full movie version.) Gas lighting is a form of mental abuse in which information is twisted or spun, selectively omitted to favor the abuser, or false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception, and sanity, and is a very popular technique among Narcissists. Read more about gas lighting here.
Grand Finale: A term used to describe the ending of a Narcissistic relationship, which is often characterized by an extreme amount of drama, lies, and overall outrageous behavior. It is around this time that the Narcissist’s mask either slips, or is taken off completely, and the victim is shocked by what they see (a person they don’t know).
Gray Rock: A technique used to minimize contact, and damage from a narcissist by becoming as reactive and as exciting as a “gray rock”. The goal is to deny a narcissist any supply that they are seeking, so that they will get bored and leave the victim alone. Read more about how to go “gray rock”.
Grooming: Is a calculated and predatory act of manipulating another individual into subtly and slowly taking on a set of behaviors and actions that makes the victim more isolated, dependent, likely to trust, and more vulnerable to abusive behavior.
Hoovering: A manipulative technique named after the Hoover vacuum, and used by narcissists to “suck” their victims back into the relationship. Hoovering consists of any attempt to communicate with the victim. It is often done in the form of text messages, phone calls, emails, through mutual friends, family or “accidentally” bumping into the victim. Multiple forms of manipulative messages can be used, from just saying hello, to I love you, or more aggressive or provoking messages such as suicide threats, outright lies, claiming that the victim is harassing the narcissist, etc. Read more about Hoovering.
Hypocrite: Having a certain standard of behavior for one person, but a different set for yourself. Example: A Narcissist expecting his wife to be faithful and honest, while he cheats and lies to her.
Illusion: Who the Narcissist pretends to be during the love bombing phase. This is a carefully constructed persona to mirror back to the victim the image of their ideal partner. Victims fall in love with the illusion, and the illusion is hard to give up because it is so convincing–until the mask slips.
Impulsiveness: The tendency to act or speak based on current feelings rather than logical reasoning. Narcissists are known for having “erratic” behavior that is often categorized as impulsive and reckless. Examples: A Narcissist moving out of his house and telling his wife he wants a divorce out of the clear blue, or, a Narcissist quitting his job without a backup plan.
Inappropriate Guilt: A feeling of responsibility or remorse about a situation for which the person did nothing wrong.
Examples: Feeling guilt over leaving an abusive partner because they won’t have anyone to take care of them. Feeling guilty for not returning to an abusive partner if the partner has threatened to commit suicide because they’ve left.
Intimidation: Any form of veiled, hidden, indirect or non-verbal threat. Example: Leaving a rose on the passenger seat of the victim’s car, or a text message that says, “Please drive carefully, I don’t want you to get hurt.”
Invalidation: A manipulative technique used to get an individual to believe that their thoughts, beliefs, values or physical presence are inferior, flawed, problematic or worthless.
Love Bombing: Phase one of the cycle of Narcissistic Abuse. This stage often involves constant communication and complements, and is designed to lure the victim into (or back into) the relationship. Read more about love bombing.
Managing down of expectations: A continual, and often subtle, form of boundary pushing done by abusers to where the abusers behavior gets worse and worse, and at the same time, the victim tolerates more and more, often focusing on the abuser’s words (promises of change), instead of their actions (hurtful or harmful behavior). Read more about managing down of expectations.
Masks of a Narcissist: Refers to the different “faces” that the Narcissist shows in public as well as to the victim. These different masks are often socially acceptable, or even desirable masks. They are often the persona of the great parent, the church-goer, the volunteer, the world’s best spouse, the charming and funny person. However, those close to the Narcissist knows that many times their actions are very different than those of the people that they pretend to be.
Mask (of a Narcissist) slipping: When a Narcissist’s mask slips, it is usually only the victim that sees this–although others may from time-to-time see it too, (they just don’t know what they are seeing, and often chalk it up to the abuser having a bad day). It is during this time that the Narcissist’s true self, which is composed of deception, manipulation, and cold, calloused, calculating behavior is revealed. Many victims are terrified of the person they really see when the mask slips, and often describe them as “pure evil”.
Mask (of Narcissist) coming off: The Narcissist generally only intentionally takes off his/her mask during the “discard” phase of the Narcissistic Abuse Cycle. Regardless if the victim discards the Narcissist, or if the Narcissist discards the victim, It is during this time that the victim is in the most danger, as the Narcissist’s level of lack of remorse, regard and empathy are often fueled by his impulsiveness and his whims to quickly move on to his new supply. When the victim sees the Narcissist for what he really is, she is usually terrified, and realizes that he is truly capable of anything.
Narc: A slang term for Narcissist.
Narc speak: Generally refers to nonsensical or manipulative conversations or statements that Narcissists make in order to gas light (manipulate and confuse) or insult their victim.
Narcissist: A person whose set of behaviors are characterized by a pattern of grandiosity, self-centered focus, need for admiration, self-serving attitude and a lack of empathy or consideration (remorse) for others. Read more about Narcissism here.
Covert Narcissist (also called Vulnerable Narcissist): One of two (unofficial) types of subcategories of Narcissists. These Narcissists do not come across like a “textbook definition” of a Narcissist. In fact, the often come across like the exact opposite. They tend to be charming, likable, and humble, and a victim who is unfamiliar with the red flags would never see them coming, as they are often very convincing. Most people don’t know what they are dealing with for years, or even decades. My opinion is that these are the most dangerous types of narcissists, because they often fool everyone–including therapists. They (initially) come across as humble, sincere, charming, caring, and are liked by most people. They are the kind of person that goes above and beyond for others, often making it a point to come across as selfless and giving. People tend to like them, however, they often tend to have a lot of strained relationships with family members–many of which they no longer talk to. These people are the perpetual victim, and they use pity to trap their victims. Threats of suicide, addictions, other women throwing themselves at them–all behaviors where others (including the victim) takes pity on them, and hopes that this time they really will change. “Let me hear more about you” and “Look at what they/it made me do” would be their mantras.
Overt Narcissist (also called Grandiose Narcissist): One of two (unofficial) types of subcategories of Narcissists. These Narcissists are more obvious, and tend to be a “textbook” example of what a narcissist presents like. These people are larger-than-life, arrogant, often loud and boisterous, love to be the center of attention, and often come across as obnoxious to most people. They are the classic “one-upper”, and people tend to either be very impressed by them or turned off completely. They are often very status driven, and self-centered. These people are the perpetual hero. They generally justify their behavior and they are always right. “Enough about you, lets talk about me” and “Yeah, but still” would be their mantras.
Cerebral Narcissist (One of three unofficial sub-sub categories of Narcissists, that includes cerebral, somatic and delusional): Cerebral narcissists take great pride in their intellect, and are incredibly convincing. They are master manipulators and are often most visibly seen as the high-ranking, cut-throat CEOs and politicians of the world. The more extreme cases of this have cult followings. They often have advanced degrees, and come across as elitists. They rarely like to associate with anyone that is below their intellect or educational level. These narcissists are not necessarily focused on status symbols. (Example: The representation of Alan Turing in “The Imitation Game,” Bernie Madoff and a case could be made for Ferris Bueller as well.)
Delusional Narcissist (One of three unofficial sub-sub categories of Narcissists, that includes cerebral, somatic and delusional): Delusional narcissists are very grandiose in their beliefs and are often full of stories that are so over-the-top that rarely do other people believe them. (Example: Telling someone that you have $10 million dollars in the bank and a jet plane in your backyard, but that you work as a gardener because you like to be outside–oh, and you own the company too. Their delusions tend to be focused around the Military, success/power, religion, and/or having advanced degrees.)
Malignant Narcissist: An (unofficial) term that describes a hybrid of Narcissism that includes characteristics of paranoid, schizoid, and Antisocial Personality Disorder traits.
Somatic Narcissist (One of three unofficial sub-sub categories of Narcissists, that includes cerebral, somatic and delusional): Somatic narcissists are very fixated on their body and appearance. They are often very seductive, and are pathological cheaters. To them, sex is a weapon, and a very powerful one at that. They tend to be very status oriented, and are often checking themselves out in the mirror every chance they get. Many of their victims often feel a soul mate connection to them, which is backed up by (amazing) sex. (Example: Arnold Schwarzenegger.)
Narcissistic Abuse (Symptoms): These symptoms are often experienced as a cluster of symptoms, such as avoidance behaviour, loss of interest, feeling detached, sense of a limited future, sleeping or eating difficulties, irritability, hyper-vigilance, easily startled, flashbacks, hopelessness, dissociation from their bodies, surroundings, and emotions; psychosomatic illnesses (pain with no physical cause), depression, self-harming, thoughts of suicide, etc. Narcissistic abuse victims often experience humiliation and shame, and tend to blame themselves (in part because according to the Narcissist, they were always at fault, and also because they feel ashamed for not leaving sooner and waiting for the abuse to get to such a severe level.) After they leave the relationship many victims often need constant reassurance of decisions they are making or of their thought processes in general, as they have either experienced gas lighting and other manipulative techniques designed to erode their sanity, or if the relationship did not contain gas lighting, then seeing the “mask slip”, and finding out the truth of the Narcissist’s level of deception is enough to shatter their concept of what is real, and who can be trusted. In addition, many abuse victims develop Stockholm Syndrome and want to support, defend, and love the abuser despite what they have gone through. (This is why many victims’ in response to the question, of “Why did you stay?” Will answer, “Because I loved him/her.”
Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome (or Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome): A term that was coined by Medical News Today in 2010, in order to to describe the health symptoms experienced by long-term victims of narcissistic abuse (although it’s not an official diagnosis).
Read more at http://dailytwocents.com/narcissistic-victim-syndrome-npd-narcissistic-personality-disorder/#GHBfUQe9JEv9O1G0.99
Narcissistic Injury: Is a perceived threat to a narcissist’s self-esteem or self-worth.
Narcissistic Rage: Inappropriate displays of emotion that a Narcissist exhibits that occur on a spectrum ranging from aloofness, and expression of mild irritation or annoyance, to serious outbursts, including violent (and potentially lethal) attacks.
Narcissistic Supply: A term that is used to describe victims, and/or potential victims of a narcissist, as narcissists use them to “supply” their ego with some combination of attention, food, clothing, shelter, sex, admiration, or disdain. Read more about Narcissistic Supply.
Narcopath: An unofficial term coined by victims of narcissistic abuse that felt what they experienced had elements of both Narcissism and Sociopathy and/or Psychopathy (even though Sociopaths and Psychopaths are now called “Antisocials”.)
No Contact: The most ideal, and effective way to get rid of a Narcissist. Narcissists feed their ego with attention and emotional energy from their victims. The only way to get them to get their fixation off of you is to “starve them out” of any attention or reaction. Allowing them contact, or re-opening communication often lands the victim back into the abusive relationship. Read more about how to go no contact.
Normalizing: A tactic used to desensitize an individual to abusive, coercive or inappropriate behaviors. Once the behavior is seen as normal, then the victim is more prone to taking part in it. It is the manipulation of another human being to get them to agree to, or accept something that is in conflict with the law, social norms or their own basic code of behavior. Example:
Paranoia: Because the Narcissist has “emotionally raped” their victim, subjecting them to constant emotional abuse, while at the same time eroding their sanity, the victims are often left not knowing what is real, and who to trust. This behavior is driven by anxiety and fear, and is often seen as erratic and irrational to others. The victim often realizes that they are feeling paranoid, and that the connection they are making in their brain might seem far-fetched to someone else, so they often begin withdrawing and isolating themselves from others in an attempt to ease the paranoia (which is often so severe, and so long-lasting, that the victim has anxiety attacks, night terrors, and has trouble functioning in day-to-day life.)
Passive Aggressive: One of the four communicate styles. (The four different styles are known as: Passive, Passive Aggressive, Aggressive, Assertive.) A passive aggressive person combines two of the communication styles (passive, and aggressive) to get their point across. Some examples would be: the silent treatment, door slamming, sabotaging someone, rude comments pretending to be nice.
Passive Communication: One of the four communicate styles. (The four different styles are known as: Passive, Passive Aggressive, Aggressive, Assertive.) is where a person does not communicate their thoughts and feelings, and often feels “stuck” in their relationship with other people or in their life.
Pathological Lying: Someone who has a complete lack of regard for others, and continually lies in order to suit their own needs (often times lying even if the truth would work better.)
Physical Abuse: Physical abuse is the use of physical force against someone in a way that injures or endangers that person, and includes, but is not limited to: slapping, punching, kicking, scratching, biting, pinching, inappropriate restraints, or in any other way causing physical pain, injury or harm to another person. For more about physical abuse, and how to get help, or for FAQ’s visit The National Domestic Abuse Hotline’s website by clicking here.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): According to the National Center for PTSD, PTSD is a stress-induced condition that happens to some people after a traumatic event, such as war, abuse, death or an accident, and causes disruption to work or home life, as well as causes great distress to the victim. Everyone goes through some degree of stress and trauma after an event, but if you are experiencing these symptoms 4 weeks or more after the event, you may have PTSD, and should consider seeking help. For more about PTSD visit, please visit the government sponsored site for PTSD by clicking here.
There are four types of PTSD symptoms:
- Reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms)
Memories of the traumatic event can come back at any time. You may feel the same fear and horror you did when the event took place. For example:
- You may have nightmares.
- You may feel like you are going through the event again. This is called a flashback.
- You may see, hear, or smell something that causes you to relive the event. This is called a trigger. News reports, seeing an accident, or hearing a car backfire are examples of triggers.
You may try to avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic event. You may even avoid talking or thinking about the event. For example:
- You may avoid crowds, because they feel dangerous.
- You may avoid driving if you were in a car accident or if your military convoy was bombed.
- If you were in an earthquake, you may avoid watching movies about earthquakes.
- You may keep very busy or avoid seeking help because it keeps you from having to think or talk about the event.
The way you think about yourself and others changes because of the trauma. This symptom has many aspects, including the following:
- You may not have positive or loving feelings toward other people and may stay away from relationships.
- You may forget about parts of the traumatic event or not be able to talk about them.
- You may think the world is completely dangerous, and no one can be trusted.
You may be jittery, or always alert and on the lookout for danger. You might suddenly become angry or irritable. This is known as hyperarousal. For example:
- You may have a hard time sleeping.
- You may have trouble concentrating.
- You may be startled by a loud noise or surprise.
- You might want to have your back to a wall in a restaurant or waiting room.
Posturing: A term used to describe a person who is behaving in ways to impress others. However, this behavior is different when it comes to Narcissists, as covert (charming, likable) and overt (grandiose, arrogant) Narcissists posture in different ways and for different reasons than normal people.
“Covert” Narcissists posture more so with their personality. Their goal is often to impress people with their character attributes, which are often humility, kindness, charm, a sense of giving, a deep sense of spirituality or military service. They use these traits in order to manipulate others into thinking they are a great person, so these people can uphold the covert Narcissist’s image and/or be used to side against the victim once the discard stage begins–and they will more easily believe that the victim isn’t the victim, but actually the problem. “Overt” Narcissists tend to posture more so with things, flaunting items of status (BMWs, designer clothes, etc.), advanced degrees, their intellect, etc. They use these traits in order to show off because they have a huge ego and are extremely arrogant, and love the praise, admiration and complements that follow. Their posturing may or may not be used to manipulate others.
Power and Control: Two elements that are always sought after by an abuser in an abusive relationship. Everything that the abuser does or says (especially with a Narcissist) is designed to take away power and control from their victim. Once this happens, the victim is at the mercy of the Narcissist’s (very erratic and unpredictable) whims emotionally, financially, physically and psychologically.
Psychological Abuse: Some mental health professionals consider psychological and emotional abuse to be the same thing, however, many victims often consider emotional and psychological abuse to be two different things–that emotional abuse damages the victim’s relationship with their own emotions, meaning that their ability to love, trust, and feelings have been dramatically altered in a negative way. And that Psychological Abuse is abuse that damages the victim’s relationship with their thinking, meaning that their ability to accurately process events, feelings, perceptions (reality) is greatly altered. (For what it’s worth, I think they are two very different things.)
Psychopath: Sociopath and psychopath are two terms with the same meaning, that were formerly in the DSM as personality disorders. These two terms have been recently been replaced with the term “Antisocial Personality Disorder” (APD). Sociopaths (APD) are often loners, exhibit superficial charm, have an early history (before the age of 15) with inflicting trauma and abuse on animals, as well as have an early pattern of conduct disorders. They have no remorse, or empathy for their crimes, or for others (even though they might claim that they do). Even though the terms Sociopath and Psychopath is outdated, some mental health professionals still use them. In addition, some mental health professionals view Narcissism as more of a spectrum disorder, with Narcissistic Personality Disorder at the more mild end, sociopaths in the middle, and psychopaths at the most extreme end. To add further confusion to the mix, there are some professionals that take this spectrum approach, and view psychopaths as less dangerous than Sociopaths. The differences between Sociopaths and Psychopaths in the spectrum is that Sociopaths are considered to be more calculating of their crimes, and often times continue these crimes throughout their life, whereas a Psychopath is seen as more erratic and unpredictable, and may only have one instance of violent behavior in their life.
Projection: In terms of Narcissistic abuse, the Narcissist takes all of her/her thoughts, feelings and actions and places them onto the victim. Example: Accusing the victim of cheating, when the Narcissist is the one cheating.
Red Flags: Potential warning signs that serve to caution the observer to slow down and proceed with caution, as a healthy dose of skepticism combined with further investigation is needed.
Red Herring: A “logical fallacy” (false logic) that comes from fox-hunting. It is a practice of dragging a smoked red herring across the scent trail of a fox to throw the dogs off. In conversation, it is a technique where one issue that is not the topic of conversation is “dragged” or brought up in the conversation in order to distract from the real issue at hand. This is a favorite manipulation technique that serves to distract the victim from the real issue at hand.
Example: Susie: I can’t believe you are cheating…again! John: Well, you got home two hours late on Monday, so I guess we both can’t be trusted. Susie: I had to work late! John: I don’t like that you work late.
(Example of a red herring and projection: Susie: I can’t believe you are cheating…again! John: Well, you got home two hours late on Monday, so I guess we both can’t be trusted. Susie: I had to work late! John: I don’t like that you work late, it makes me wonder if you are cheating on me. Susie: You know I’d never cheat on you! I love you! John: I dunno, I’ve seen the way you look at David.)
Sadist: Someone who enjoys causing others pain. Most, if not all, Narcissists are sadists, and the more pain, chaos and destruction they can cause, the better. It is for this reason that victims are encouraged to go “gray rock” or “no contact” when leaving a relationship with a Narcissist, instead of letting the Narcissist know how much they hurt them by their discard. Narcissists soak this up, as they equate a victim’s level of pain with their level of importance. The Narcissist often takes great joy in emotionally (or physically) destroying their victim, even driving them to suicide, as it shows them the amount of power and control they have over the victim.
Safety Plan: A personalized plan that is involves brainstorming and planning for everything to be lined up for a victim to get to safety, if they needed to leave immediately. Elements of a safety plan include: a safe place to go, ideally originals (or copies) of important papers such as birth certificates, social security cards, medical/shot records, bank info, as well as medications that would be needed, several changes of clothes, spare key to the vehicle, placement of the pets, and money. Ideally all of these items would be hidden away from the abuser, so the victim could leave immediately and not worry about them sabotaging their efforts. Read more about developing a safety plan.
Sex Addiction: Is a progressive intimacy disorder characterized by compulsive sexual thoughts and acts. Like all addictions, its negative impact on the addict and on family members increases as the disorder progresses. Over time, the addict usually has to intensify the addictive behavior to achieve the same results. For some sex addicts, behavior does not progress beyond compulsive masturbation or the extensive use of pornography or phone or computer sex services. For others, addiction can involve illegal activities such as exhibitionism, voyeurism, obscene phone calls, child molestation or rape. (from www.psychcentral.com)
Shell of a person: A person who feels so emotionally drained, that they have nothing left to give, and are “empty”.
Silent Treatment: A manipulative and emotionally/psychologically abuse technique where one partner cuts off verbal communication with another for more than a reasonable amount of time where one would need to “cool off”. A Narcissist will often give the silent treatment as a result of a fight with the victim. The silent treatment can range from days to weeks (or longer), and is used to communicate the abuser’s displeasure, disapproval and contempt toward the victim. During this time the victim becomes so uneasy that they are walking on eggshells, and will do just about anything, including forgiving the Narcissist of whatever event triggered the silent treatment to start. Read more about the silent treatment.
Smear Campaign: Is an attack on the victim’s reputation, character and intent by making false accusation (that are often believed by others). Read more about a smear campaign.
Sociopath: Sociopath and psychopath are two terms with the same meaning, that were formerly in the DSM as personality disorders. These two terms have been recently been replaced with the term “Antisocial Personality Disorder” (APD). Sociopaths (APD) are often loners, exhibit superficial charm, have an early history (before the age of 15) with inflicting trauma and abuse on animals, as well as have an early pattern of conduct disorders. They have no remorse, or empathy for their crimes, or for others (even though they might claim that they do). Even though the terms Sociopath and Psychopats is outdated, some mental health professionals still use them. In addition, some mental health professionals view Narcissism as more of a spectrum disorder, with Narcissistic Personality Disorder at the more mild end, sociopaths in the middle, and psychopaths at the most extreme end. To add further confusion to the mix, there are some professionals that take this spectrum approach, and view psychopaths as less dangerous than sociopaths. The differences between Sociopaths and Psychopaths in the spectrum is that Sociopaths are considered to be more calculating of their crimes, and often times continue these crimes throughout their life, whereas a Psychopath is seen as more erratic and unpredictable, and may only have one instance of violent behavior in their life.
Starving them out: A slang term for denying a Narcissist their “food” supply (attention and emotional reactions).
Status Bombing: When a Narcissist repeatedly drops the names of things that are “status-y.” Very similar to name dropping, except the intention is to impress someone with things instead of other people. Example: “I just love skiing in Switzerland. My BMW handles all the mountain driving really well, and I’m soooo glad that I got that new North Face jacket, it was just heavenly.”
Stealth Attacks: A subtle manipulation technique used as part of “grooming” the victim to be what the abuser wants them to be, as well as serve to undermine the victim’s
Stockholm Syndrome: The psychological term, Stockholm Syndrome was coined by the criminologist and psychiatrist Nils Bejerot in 1973, after he assisted the police during a bank robbery in Stockholm in which four employees (3 female and 1 male) were held hostage by two captors for six days. During their captivity it was noted that the hostages had managed to develop a strong emotional attachments to their captors, in which they claimed stemmed from their captors showing them kindness in the midst of their captivity. These small acts of kindness seemed to negate the fact that their lives had been threatened, or that these bank robbers were criminals. Several months after being released, it was discovered that some of the hostages were still defending their captors. In fact, one woman became engaged to one of her captives, while another raised legal funds to aid their defense.
The Stockholm episode sparked off great interest and research into the phenomenon of emotional bonding between captors and captives in any dynamic (abusers and victims). This type of emotional bonding is often referred to as “trauma bonding”, and helps to explain why victims stay with an abusive partner.One tell-tell sign of trauma bonding is when a victim is asked why she stays with her partner, and she replies, “Because I love him.”
Psychology wanted to know if what was witnessed in the Stockholm Bank incident was a unique occurrence, or was it more common than was thought. Since then, studies have revealed that trauma bonding in captives occurs in many situations, for example; narcissistic abuse, battering (men and women), abused children, incest victims, rape victims, cult members, prison camps, pimp-procured prostitutes, prisoners of war, etc.
Stonewalling: When a person become as immoveable (and about as helpful) as a stonewall. It is a general refusal to communicate or cooperate, and is sometimes accompanied by the “silent treatment”. Many victims report that when their partner “stonewalls” them, that they feel they are dragging around dead weight. The act of stonewalling is emotionally exhausting for the victim, as they are the ones left to do all the work (emotionally or physically).
Thought policing: A manipulative technique where an abuser questions, controls, or unduly influences another person’s thoughts or feelings. This often accompanies “gas lighting” and “crazy making” behaviors.
Trauma Bonding: A term developed by Patrick Carnes, in which a strong emotional attachment between an abused person and his or her abuser, is formed as a result of the cycle of any type of abuse. The victim often continues to seek reassurance and comfort from the abuser, with the mindset of, “He caused pain, and only he can take it away.”
Triangulation: Creating some form of drama or chaos, with the Narcissist in the middle, generally involving two rivals, and manipulating them into a conflict with each other. This either done for the entertainment of the Narcissist or as a way to deflect blame/accountability from themselves.
Example: John is married to Sally, and is having an affair with Elaine. John tells Elaine that Sally is some form of crazy/bipolar/addict/alcoholic/bad parent and that he has wanted a divorce for a long time, that he and his wife are in separate bedrooms, and that he plans to move out next month, (making Sally the bad guy, and also eliciting pity from Elaine for his bad marriage and implying hope that if this other woman isn’t in the picture that they could have a future together.) When John is caught, he then tells Sally that Elaine is some form of crazy/bipolar/addict/alcoholic/bad parent and that she threw herself at him, (making Elaine the bad guy, and eliciting pity and hope from her that if this other woman who is the problem isn’t in the picture that they can have a good marriage.) Now the two women are fighting each other, and while the accountability is off of John, he is now the center of attention and he is using both women as a source of “Narcissistic supply”.
Trigger: Anything that sets off either a visual or emotional flashback or feeling to a negative event. This can be a sight, smell, sound, touch, taste, place, or person. The trigger is often not seen by others, and can be as “harmless” as the smell of baking bread, or daisies blowing in the wind, or more obvious such as the home that the abuse took place in, seeing the same type of alcohol on the shelf that their abuser drank, or hearing a loud noise.
Walking on Eggshells: Watching what you say or do around a certain person because anything might set him or her off. (Also part of the “tension building” phase of the cycle of abuse/violence.)
Word salad (also often refered to in slang as “Narc Speak”): Word salad is a nonsensical mix of words, phrases, or conversations and is traditionally (and clinically) associated with a person who has Schizophrenia, Dementia, Logorrhea (a communication disorder of the brain), Schizophasia, Receptive Aphasia, or brain injuries. A more extreme example might be along the lines of this: Asking a person how they are doing, might lead to a response such as, “I am, well, you know, pleasant…the things in the refrigerator, sometimes go red, like they do.” The level of severity of mental illness, or brain injury often determines the severity of word salad. A more milder form might be loosely enough related so that a person could follow the intent of the communication, even if the words aren’t strung together properly. Example: Asking a person how they are doing might lead to a response such as, “Good, good, things, you know happy, pleasant, he’s a nice boy, smiles a lot.” (The intent, or implied feel of the conversation is that this person seems to be doing pretty well.)
In the context of “Narc Speak” word salad is a combination of intentional manipulative conversational techniques that are designed to frustrated, confuse, and erode the sanity of the victim getting them to question their perceptions of events, as well as their own judgment in general. Narc Speak most commonly happens when then victim confronts the Narcissist with their behavior, although if the Narcissist is using these technique to “gas light” word salad can happen at any time.
The ten most common techniques of word salad in the context of Narc Speak are:
1. Denying their own bad behavior, and instead, bringing up (and focusing on) the victim’s. Because the Narcissist is never at fault, and they have a huge sense of entitlement to do whatever they please, they believe that their behavior should never be in question, instead, any potential problem that someone else has with their behavior is invalid, and all their real (or imagined) problems with the victim’s behavior are then focused on.
Victim:”I thought you said you were going to cut off contact with your exgirlfriend.” Narc: Well, you still talk to your exhusband.”
Victim: “Only when I have to–and only when it’s about the kids.”
Narcissist: “Well, how do I know that for sure? How do I really know I can trust you?”
Victim: “Because I’ve never given you any reason to not trust me.”
Narcissist: “Well, maybe you have and I just never mentioned anything before. Have you ever thought about that? You could be cheating on me with him for all I know.”
1. Conversations that are generally repetitive, circular, and never end with a resolution. When confronted with their behavior, the Narcissist will often become defensive (as it is never their fault), and then deny the behavior, deny previous conversations about this behavior, bring up all kinds of other unrelated topics that serve to make the victim feel exhausted as well as feel insecure and question their motive for even bringing up this topic to begin with–often times feeling like they are being difficult, have trust issues, or have a hard time of letting things go (even though the reality is that the victim keeps bringing up the same topic, because the Narcissist’s behavior is a problem, and not because they have issues.
2. Circular conversations. Conversations about the same topic (generally the Narcissist’s behavior) that happens over and over again, without the Narcissist’s behavior ever-changing. Since the behavior never changes, the victim often feels like what is the point of even having the conversation in the first place. The lack of insight and the Narcissist’s desire and willingness to change is absolutely crazy making for the victim, and then they often feel that they are the one with the issue–since the Narcissist doesn’t see their behavior as a problem. Some common topics of circular conversation are generally about obvious behavior that shouldn’t need to be addressed time, and time again with another adult: Why are you posting pictures on Facebook of you posing with other women? Why can’t you ever talk after 5pm? Why wasn’t this bill paid? Why do I smell alcohol on your breath? (If they are an alcoholic).
3. Condescending & patronizing tone. Oftentimes the Narcissist will provoke the victim into an intense emotional reaction, and then stay cool, calm and collected. Their non-emotional response often further enrages the victim, as it comes across as insulting, condescending, patronizing and entrapping as it’s meant to. This tone is often used by a Narcissist during the “discard” phase of the relationship, or during a smear campaign–during both of which the Narcissist has already told other outside people (his new “supply”, and other various friends and family of both the abuser and the victim) that the Narcissist is leaving because the victim is crazy and has an awful temper–and then does something outlandish to the victim in order with the goal of provoking them to prove their point.
4. Accusing you of doing things that they are doing (projection). During a confrontation, a Narcissist will often “project” or accuse the victim of the exact thing that they are doing, which (obviously) serves to enrage the victim, as the Narcissist seems so blind to such obvious hypocrisy.
5. Different masks are seen. Anytime that a Narcissist feels like they are losing control of situation, they will begin to throw every manipulation and mask they have at the victim in an effort at regaining control. The victim might see the different masks such as the good guy (I love you/”future faking”), bad guy (it’s all your fault/devaluing), dangerous guy (if I can’t have you, no one can), and little boy (I’m sorry, I don’t know what I’m doing/pity ploy–often time with puppy dog eyes). A Narcissist trying to regain lost control is one of the most wild things a person can witness. They will throw all their masks, and manipulative techniques, and lies and cons at the victim–all at once, in a frantic attempt ar regaining control. The victim is often left with the terrified feeling that they really don’t know who this person is (because they really don’t).
6. The eternal victim. Somehow their cheating and lying always leads back to a conversation about their traumatic childhood, their ongoing struggle with addiction, all their problems with you, the kids, work, or a crazy ex. The victim feels bad for them, even when they’ve done something horribly wrong. Oftentimes the victim feels that maybe this time they are getting at the root of these ongoing problems, and that maybe the Narcissist’s (cheating,lying, stealing) allowed for them to bond through these intense conversations about all their trauma and previous abuse, and that a new level of honesty and communication was reached. The victim often thinks that now the relationship is “getting real” and can really be fixed this time. (But in reality it will just be more of the same.) Ironically, Narcissists always complain that they are the victim, when in reality it is those closest to them that are continually victimized by them.
7. You begin explaining basic human emotions and/or behaviors. You find yourself explaining things like what it means to be nice, to (not) flirt, or how their (very obvious) behavior is (very obviously) impacting others. Victim’s tend to (understandably) think that they are in a normal relationship with a normal person–especially if the Narcissist is “covert”. They believe that if they just explain to them their issue with their behavior, that the behavior will stop–but it never does. They continue to see shades of the same issue over and over again, each time getting more and more frustrated that they don’t seem to see the very obvious connections between the different situations. Normal adults do not need these things explained to them. And they for sure don’t need these things explained to them time and again.
Victim: Why did you just call your co-worker “honey” and give her a big hug goodbye? I’m standing right here you know.
Narcissist: I don’t see a problem with that. We are coworkers.
Victim: That is flirting. You are married, and I’m not okay with that.
Narcissist: (Either will continue to deny what they know they are doing, or will give a fake apology.) I’m sorry that upset you. (Notice how a true apology isn’t given.)
Three months later…
Victim: I’m upset that you posted a picture of yourself at a nightclub, and you have your arms around two women!
Narcissist: We were just having fun–they were just some girls at a club.
Victim: It looks like flirting to me. Why do I have to keep pointing this out to you?!
Narcissist: Well we can’t all be as perfect as you. You need to lighten up. Obviously you have trust issues.
8. Excuses. Narcissists are never accountable for their behavior. Ever. That in itself is crazy making, but add in ridiculous excuses, and the fact that their words rarely match their actions and it’s even more enraging. Narcissists will offer their victims different versions of what happened, as well as excuses as to why it happened until the victim either accepts one of the versions, or they become so exhausted with the whole conversation they give up.
Narcissist gets caught cheating, and at first denies it. More evidence comes out, then he admits to the bare minimum–yes, he slept with her once, and it’s the victim’s fault because she was never home. More information comes out, then he blames the other woman, by saying she threw herself at him. More information comes out and the story and excuses keep changing. Narcissists are not only pathological liars, they take great pleasure in lying, as when they can get their victim to believe something it makes them feel superior. Narcissists always have a handful of different versions of what happened, although none of which are the truth. (This is one of the many reasons that closure is not possible with a Narcissist.)
9. “What in the world just happened”. The conversation was so draining, the victim often spends hours or days rehashing what was said, in an attempt to untangle it, as well as trying to formulate reactions to all the points that they didn’t get address. The conversation was such a mishmash of unrelated points, that the victim can’t even articulate what just happened or what was said to friends or others, often describing it as “A bunch of craziness,” or “The conversation went nowhere…as usual.”
10. Random words and phrases strung together. Example: Both Narcissist and victim are watching TV, and the Narcissist blurts out, “love, hate, oranges, tomorrow”. The victim then turns to them as asks them what on Earth they just said to which the Narcissist might respond that they either said nothing as all, or that they said “Can you get me a glass of orange juice?”
My goal is to educate, empower, and inspire other abuse victims in understanding more about what happened to them (and how to prevent it from happening again), as well as how to go on and rebuild an amazing life.
Even though I have had a lot of "in the trenches" experience with highly manipulative people of all kinds, I consider myself to be a student of Narcissism, mindset, motivation, healing, and life in general, and am by no means an expert on any of these topics.
It's for these reasons, that when you are reading my information that I encourage you to hold to what helps, and let the rest go.
Latest posts by Dana (see all)
- Episode 28: Gratitude Can Help Keep You Grounded - March 21, 2017
- Episode 27: Learning How to Tune Into Your Emotions - March 19, 2017
- Episode 26: Live Stream from March 8, 2017 - March 14, 2017