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Narcissistic Behaviors That Distort Your Reality

* I generally write using the pronouns he/him when referring to narcissists, but females are just as likely to be narcissists or exhibit narcissistic traits. So please don't think just because article uses the word him or he that it could not be a woman in that same role.

Narcissists engage in behaviors that are harmful to everyone they meet.

Below are the tactics they use to distort your reality and their motivations behind them. These are classic narcissistic behaviors in a nutshell:

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1. The use of gaslighting

Gaslighting can be characterized using three terms in various combinations:

“That didn’t happen,” they say.

“Are you crazy?” and “You dreamed it.”

Because it tries to distort and undermine your sense of reality, it is one of the most subtle manipulation techniques.

It erodes your capacity to trust oneself, making it impossible for you to feel justified in reporting abuse and maltreatment.

When a narcissist deceives you, you try to resolve the cognitive dissonance by holding two opposing beliefs:

“Is this person right?”

and “Is this person wrong?”

or “Can I believe what I’ve seen?”

The narc will try to persuade you that the first is true and the second is a manifestation of your own pathology.

It’s critical to stay anchored in your own reality in order to avoid gaslighting.

Counteracting the gaslighting effect can sometimes be as simple as writing things down as they happen or informing a buddy about your experience.

The value of having a validating group might help you return to your own inner direction from a narcissist’s skewed world.

2. Representation

Projection occurs when a person refuses to acknowledge their own flaws and tries everything possible to avoid being held accountable.

It’s a defensive technique for absolving oneself of responsibility for one’s own undesirable actions by blaming someone else. It finally serves as a diversion to evade responsibility and ownership.

The projections of a narcissist are psychologically destructive.

Rather of admitting their own shortcomings and wrongdoings, they dump them on their victims in an excruciatingly painful and cruel manner.

They prefer that their victims accept blame for their negative behavior rather than recognize that self-improvement may be necessary.

They may indulge in pathological lying and falsely accuse their partner. They might be needy and accuse their spouse of being clingy.

The “blame shifting game” is a favorite pastime of narcissists. Their goal is to win, while you lose and are blamed for anything that goes wrong with them.

Solution? Don’t “project” your own compassion or empathy onto them, and don’t take responsibility for any of their harmful projections.

They have no desire to change. It’s critical to break links with the narcissist as soon as possible so you can reclaim your sense of self-worth and affirm your identity.

3. Incomprehensible Conversations

If you disagree or confront them in any way, narcissists will employ word salad, circular talks, ad hominem arguments, projection, and gaslighting to confuse you and pull you off topic. They do this to discredit and frustrate you, as well as divert your attention away from the core issue.

They make you feel guilty for having sentiments and thoughts that aren’t the same as theirs. You are the issue in their view.

After 10 minutes of arguing with a narcissist, you’ll be left wondering where the dispute started. Because you disagreed with them, your upbringing, family, friends, work, and way of life are now being questioned.

Narcissists do not dispute with you; instead, they argue with themselves, and you are subjected to their exhausting monologues. You give them supply every time you try to construct a counterpoint to theirs.

Instead of feeding them, provide yourself with assurance that their abuse is the issue. When you sense an interaction escalating, cut it off and focus your efforts on self-care instead.

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4. Generalizations and Blank Statements

Intellectually, narcissists aren’t masterminds; they’re intellectually lazy. Rather than considering a different point of view, they generalize what you say.

They do this to make your perception of the situation invalid.

If you bring up their unsatisfactory conduct, they will make broad remarks like “You’re never content,” or “You’re always too sensitive,” rather than address the underlying problem.

When this happens, keep your truth in mind and remember that they are irrational thinkers with limits and an inflated sense of self.

5. Misrepresenting Your Thoughts And Feelings On Purpose.

Your conflicting viewpoints, valid feelings, and prior experiences will be seen by a narcissist as character faults and evidence of your irrationality.

They’ll reinterpret what you’re saying in order to make your views appear stupid or horrible.

If you express your dissatisfaction with the way they speak to you, they may reply by saying, “So now you’re perfect?” or “Does it mean I’m a nasty guy now?” when you’ve done nothing but express your emotions

This allows them to dismiss your right to have ideas and feelings about their actions while also instilling guilt when you try to set limits.

They also utilized “mind reading” as a type of distraction and cognitive distortion.

They assume they know what you’re thinking and feeling at this point. They frequently leap to conclusions based on their personal triggers rather than taking a step back and carefully assessing the issue.

They behave in accordance with their own illusions and make no apologies for the harm they do as a result of their actions. They’re known for putting words in your mouth to make you appear to have an aim or opinion you didn’t have.

Even before you’ve had a chance to call them out on their behavior, they accuse you of thinking of them as poisonous. This is also a sort of preventative defense.

In this sort of discussion, just repeating, “I never said anything,” and walking away if they continue to accuse you of saying or doing something you didn’t helps to establish a barrier.

They have succeeded in persuading you that you should be “shamed” for providing them any actual criticism as long as they can blame shift and divert from their own actions.

6. Picking At The Goal Posts And Moving Them.

The existence of a personal assault and unrealistic standards distinguishes helpful criticism from destructive criticism.

The narcissist does not want to assist you; instead, they want to pick on you and make you the scapegoat in whatever way they can. Narcissists are masters at “changing the goal posts” to ensure they have plenty of reasons to dislike you.

Even after you’ve produced all of the information to back up your claim or taken action to satisfy their expectations, they’ll create another expectation for you or want additional proof.

Narcissists are able to implant in you a chronic sense of unworthiness and a sense of never being “enough” by doing so.

Narcissists might encourage you to focus on flaws or shortcomings instead of your strengths by bringing out one unimportant information or item you did wrong and hyperfocusing on it.

They make you worry about the next expectation you’ll have to meet until you’ve bent over yourself to accommodate their every demand – but it doesn’t change how they treated you.

If they choose to rehash something unimportant and don’t acknowledge the effort you’ve done to establish your argument or please them, their goal isn’t to learn more about you, but to have you prove yourself over and over again.

Know that you are enough and that you do not need to be made to feel insufficient or worthless all of the time.

7. Changing The Subject To Avoid Being Held Accountable.

The “What about me” mentality is the name for this strategy.

It’s a deliberate diversion from the original topic in order to draw attention to a completely separate issue.

Because narcissists don’t want to be held responsible for anything, they will redirect the conversation in their favor.

They may, for example, bring up a mistake you did years ago and say something like, “What about the time when…” These diversions are used to disrupt debates that question the current quo, as well as to divert your attention away from the main point.

If the narcissist switches things up on you, you may use the “broken record” strategy to keep reiterating the facts without succumbing to their diversions.

“That’s not what I’m talking about,” you can tell them. Let’s keep our attention on the genuine issue.”

If they’re not interested, withdraw and focus your efforts on something more productive, such as avoiding a toddler debate.

8. Threats, both covert and overt

When their overwhelming feeling of entitlement, false sense of superiority, and grandiose sense of self are questioned in any way, narcissistic abusers and other toxic individuals feel tremendously frightened.

They have a habit of imposing unrealistic demands on others while punishing you for failing to meet their unachievable standards.

They set out to distract you from your right to have your own identity and perspective by instilling fear in you about the repercussions of disagreeing or complying with their demands, rather than dealing with disagreements or compromises maturely.

Any difficulty becomes an ultimatum for them, and “do this or I’ll do that” has become their daily motto.

If someone threatens you into submission in response to you setting boundaries or having a different opinion than theirs, whether it’s a thinly veiled threat or an outright admission of what they plan to do, it’s a red flag that they have a high sense of entitlement and have no intention of compromising.

Take threats seriously and demonstrate to the narcissist that you mean business; document and report threats as soon as practicable and legally permissible.

Narcissistic Behaviors

9. Name Calling.

Anything that a narcissist perceives as a challenge to their supremacy is exaggerated by them.

Only they can be right in their universe, and anybody who dares to disagree causes a narcissistic damage that leads to narcissistic wrath.

Narcissistic fury is caused by a strong sense of entitlement and a false sense of superiority, rather than a lack of self-esteem.

10. Destructive conditioning.

Toxic people condition you to associate your strengths, talents, and happy memories with abuse, frustration and disrespect.

They do this by sneaking in covert and overt put-downs about the qualities and traits they once idealized as well as sabotaging your goals, ruining celebrations, vacations and holidays.

They may even isolate you from your friends and family and make you financially dependent upon them. Like Pavlov’s dogs, you’re essentially “trained” over time to become afraid of doing the very things that once made your life fulfilling.

Narcissists, sociopaths, psychopaths and otherwise toxic people do this because they wish to divert attention back to themselves and how you’re going to please them.

If there is anything outside of them that may threaten their control over your life, they seek to destroy it. They need to be the center of attention at all times. In the idealization phase, you were once the center of a narcissist’s world – now the narcissist becomes the center of yours.

Narcissists are also naturally pathologically envious and don’t want anything to come in between them and their influence over you.

Your happiness represents everything they feel they cannot have in their emotionally shallow lives. After all, if you learn that you can get validation, respect and love from other sources besides the toxic person, what’s to keep you from leaving them?

To toxic people, a little conditioning can go a long way to keep you walking on eggshells and falling just short of your big dreams.

11. Smear campaigns and stalking are number 11 on the list.

When toxic people can’t control how they view themselves, they try to influence how others see them; they play the martyr while you’re labeled the poisonous person.

A smear campaign is a common narcissistic strategy for sabotaging your reputation and slandering your name so that you don’t have a support network to fall back on if you decide to detach and sever connections with this poisonous individual.

They may even pursue and harass you or others you know in order to ostensibly “reveal” the truth about you; this exposure serves as a cover for their own abusive conduct, which they project onto you.

Smear campaigns can also be used to put two individuals or organizations against one another. Often, a victim in an abusive relationship with a narcissist is unaware of what is being said about them throughout the relationship, but they ultimately discover the lies after they have been rejected.

Toxic people will gossip behind your back (and in front of your face), defame you to your family or friends, fabricate tales that portray you as the aggressor while they play the victim, and claim that you engaged in the same behaviors that they are scared you will accuse them of.

They will also assault you in a systematic, hidden, and purposeful manner so that they may use your emotions to argue that they are the “victims” of your abuse.

Staying aware of your feelings and sticking to the truth is the best approach to deal with a smear campaign. This is especially important in high-conflict divorces with narcissists who may use your emotions to their provocation.

Any incidences of harassment, cyberbullying, or stalking should be documented, and you should always speak to your narcissist through a lawyer if at all feasible.

If you believe the stalking and harassment is getting out of hand, you may want to seek legal help; locating a lawyer who is familiar with Narcissistic Personality Disorder is critical in your instance.

When the narcissist’s phony mask begins to fall away, your character and integrity will speak for themselves.

12. Devaluation and love-bombing

Toxic people make you go through an idealization phase until you’re sufficiently committed in starting a connection or relationship with them. Then they seek to diminish you while denigrating the exact things they once respected.

Another example is when a toxic person elevates you while actively discounting and criticizing someone else who threatens their sense of supremacy.

Narcissistic abusers frequently do this: they denigrate their ex-lovers in front of their new relationships, and the new spouse eventually suffers the same mistreatment as the narcissist’s ex-partner.

What will eventually happen is that you will be subjected to the same mistreatment. You’ll be the ex-partner who becomes their new source of supplies one day. You just aren’t aware of it yet. That’s why, if you see conduct that doesn’t correspond with a narcissist’s syrupy sweetness, it’s critical to be aware of the love-bombing tactic.

Slowing down conversations with people you feel are toxic is an effective strategy to counteract the love-bombing technique. Be mindful of how someone behaves or speaks about someone else since it may indicate how they may treat you in the future.

13. Preemptive Defense is number thirteen.

Be skeptical if someone insists on being a “good man” or “nice lady,” that you should “believe them straight away,” or that they highlight their trustworthiness without any prompting from you.

People who are toxic and abusive exaggerate their abilities to be sensitive and caring.

They frequently advise you to “trust” them without first establishing a solid trust foundation. To mislead you, they may “perform” a high degree of sympathy and empathy in the start of your relationship, only to reveal their fake mask afterwards.

The genuine self is shown to be terrifyingly cold, cruel, and contemptuous as their fake mask begins to crumble periodically throughout the devaluation phase of the abuse cycle.

Genuinely lovely individuals don’t need to brag about their good characteristics all the time; they radiate their warmth more than they talk about it, and they understand that deeds speak louder than words. They understand that trust and respect are two-way streets that need reciprocity rather than repetition.

Reevaluate why a person may be highlighting their positive attributes to fight a preemptive defense. Is it because they believe you don’t trust them, or do they know you shouldn’t? Trust actions above words, and look at how someone’s actions reveal who they are, not who they claim to be.

Narcissistic Behaviors

14. The triangulation method.

Triangulation is the process of incorporating another person’s opinion, perspective, or implied threat into the dynamic of a conversation.

Triangulation, which is frequently used to justify the toxic person’s abuse while discrediting the victim’s reactions to abuse, may also be used to create love triangles that make you feel unbalanced and insecure.

In order to elicit envy and insecurity in you, malignant narcissists prefer to triangulate their significant other with strangers, coworkers, ex-partners, friends, and even family members. They also rely on the views of others to support their claims.

This is a deception technique designed to divert your focus away from their abusive conduct and towards a false picture of them as a desirable, sought-after individual. It also makes you wonder if you’re right — since Mary agreed with Tom, doesn’t it indicate you’re wrong? The truth is that narcissists like “reporting back” falsehoods about you that others say about you, when they are the ones doing the smearing.

Recognize that whoever the narcissist is triangulating with is simultaneously being triangulated by your connection with the narcissist in order to fight triangulation methods. This one individual is effectively playing everyone. Reverse the narcissist’s “triangulation” by enlisting the help of a third person who isn’t under the narcissist’s control – as well as seeking your own affirmation.

15. Use Bait and Pretend To Be Innocent.

Toxic people lull you into a false feeling of security in order to have a platform on which to display their wickedness.

Baiting you into a thoughtless, chaotic disagreement may rapidly develop into a brawl with someone who doesn’t understand the concept of respect.

A simple argument may tempt you to reply respectfully at first, until it becomes evident that the other person is out to destroy you.

They can then begin to toy with you by “baiting” you with an apparently benign statement disguised as a sensible one.

Remember that narcissistic abusers are well aware of your vulnerabilities, the unpleasant catchphrases that undermine your self-assurance, and the distressing themes that recreate your scars, and they exploit this information to agitate you.

They’ll step back after you’ve fell for it hook, line, and sinker and naively ask if you’re “all right” and talk about how they didn’t “mean” to disturb you.

This phony innocence is designed to catch you off guard and convince you that they didn’t mean to injure you until it happens so frequently that you can’t reject their malice any more.

It’s important to recognize when you’re being baited so you can avoid becoming involved.

Baiting strategies include provocative words, name-calling, nasty allegations, and unjustified generalizations, for example. Your gut feeling may also tell you if you’re being baited — if you feel “odd” about a certain statement and continue to feel that way even after it’s been elaborated on, it’s a clue you should step back and review the situation before responding.

16. Hoovering And Boundary Testing

Narcissists, sociopaths, and other toxic individuals are always testing your limits to see how far they can go. The more infractions they can commit without facing repercussions, the farther they’ll go.

That’s why, when survivors of mental or physical abuse return to their perpetrators, they frequently face much more severe acts of violence.

Abusers often “hover” their victims back in with seductive promises, phony sorrow, and hollow pledges of how they will change, only to abuse them even more horribly. This boundary testing serves as a punishment for both standing up to the abuse and returning to it in the abuser’s warped thinking.

Instead of retreating on your boundaries when narcissists try to reset your emotions, strengthen them even more fiercely.

Remember that people who are very narcissistic and manipulative do not respond well to empathy or compassion.

They react in response to the consequences.

17. Aggressive Jabs Claimed To Be Jokes

Covert narcissists like making derogatory remarks about you. These narcissistic tendencies are generally disguised as “just jokes” so that they may get away with speaking heinous things while appearing innocent and cool. However, you are accused of having no sense of humor if you are offended by an inappropriate or harsh comment. This is a common method employed in verbal abuse.

A poisonous person, like a predator who plays with its prey, gets pleasure from harming you and getting away with it, as seen by their scornful sneer and sadistic glitter in their eyes.

After all, isn’t it only a joke? Wrong. It’s a ruse to make you believe their abuse is a comedy, diverting your attention away from their harshness and toward your apparent sensitivity. When this happens, it’s critical that you speak up for yourself and state unequivocally that you will not tolerate this sort of conduct.

Calling out manipulative people on their subtle put-downs may lead to additional gaslighting from the abuser, but maintain your stance that their conduct is unacceptable and, if necessary, leave the conversation right away.

18. Patronizing Tone and Condescending Sarcasm

A toxic person’s forte is belittling and humiliating others, and their tone of voice is only one tool in their toolkit. When both parties are engaged, sarcasm may be a fun method of communication, but narcissists use it on a regular basis to control and humiliate you. You must be “too sensitive” if you respond in any manner to it.

Forget about the toxic person’s continuous temper tantrums whenever their big bad ego is confronted with actual criticism — the victim, presumably, is the hypersensitive one.

If you’re treated like a child and are frequently chastised for expressing yourself, you’ll develop a fear of being reprimanded for expressing your views and opinions.

Because you begin to mute yourself as a result of your self-censorship, the abuser has to put in less effort to silence you.

When you’re greeted with a condescending manner or tone, forcefully and assertively call it out. You don’t deserve to be spoken down to like a kid, and you shouldn’t ever muzzle yourself to satisfy the superiority mentality of someone else.

19. Shaming

“You should be ashamed of yourself” is a favorite saying of toxic people.

Though it can be used by someone who is non-toxic, in the realm of the narcissist or sociopath, shaming is an effective method that targets any behavior or belief that might challenge a toxic person’s power.

It can also be used to destroy and whittle away at a victim’s self-esteem: if a victim dares to be proud of something, shaming the victim for that specific trait, quality or accomplishment can serve to diminish their sense of self and stifle any pride they may have.

Malignant narcissists, sociopaths and psychopaths enjoy using your own wounds against you – so they will even shame you about any abuse or injustice you’ve suffered in your lifetime as a way to retraumatize you.

Were you a childhood abuse survivor?

A malignant narcissist or sociopath will claim that you must’ve done something to deserve it, or brag about their own happy childhood as a way to make you feel deficient and unworthy.

What better way to injure you, after all, than to pick at the original wound? As surgeons of madness, they seek to exacerbate wounds, not help heal them.

If you suspect you’re dealing with a toxic person, avoid revealing any of your vulnerabilities or past traumas. Until they’ve proven their character to you, there is no point disclosing information that could be potentially used against you.

20. Control.

The most important Narcissistic Behaviors that they are always working towards is to maintain control over you in whatever way they can.

They isolate you, maintain control over your finances and social networks, and micromanage every facet of your life. Yet the most powerful mechanism they have for control is toying with your emotions.

That’s why abusive narcissists and sociopaths manufacture situations of conflict out of thin air to keep you feeling off center and off balanced.

That’s why they chronically engage in disagreements about irrelevant things and rage over perceived slights. That’s why they emotionally withdraw, only to re-idealize you once they start to lose control.

That’s why they vacillate between their false self and their true self, so you never get a sense of psychological safety or certainty about who your partner truly is.

The more power they have over your emotions, the less likely you’ll trust your own reality and the truth about the abuse you’re enduring.

Knowing the narcissistic behaviors and manipulative tactics and how they work to erode your sense of self can arm you with the knowledge of what you’re facing and at the very least, develop a plan to regain control over your own life and away from toxic people.

6 thoughts on “Narcissistic Behaviors That Distort Your Reality”

  1. Its funny, critical theorists and “woke” people pull each of these tactics to some degree when someone disagrees with them.

    1. Huge red flag. Trotting out some tucker Carlson talking points on a blog about narcissist abuse. You sound like a raging narcissist Seriously. This is garbage brain Fox News rhetorical literall designed to emotionally abuse an audience of narcs that can’t get enough

  2. Only way out of this is to LEAVE the relationship. I had 13 years of this toxic madness. I’m free now healing and loving my peaceful life. Due to this toxic madness I will never have another relationship ever

  3. Two things lve learned after being married to one.first,nothing is EVER their fault.second,they will never love you.and no,they know no boundaries.keep these people out of your life.they will suck your joy,money,and sanity out of life.and tell you its all your fault.

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