Controlling people

 

Controlling people

 

Controlling people are very keen on telling others who they are, what they are, what they are thinking and the motivation behind their actions.  They will deliver their “insights” with such “authority” that you will feel that you have to defend yourself.  No one has the “right” to define someone else, most people do not know themselves very well never mind somebody else.  It is a complete and absolute violation of boundaries and one of the narcissists favourite means of control.  The narcissist will believe their own fantasy world and think that what they are saying/doing is actually right or constructive.  They will justify their actions by saying/thinking “well someone had to tell him/her, I was the only one who had the courage to do it!”

 

Control is a really destructive problem in any relationship whether it is romantic, friendship, professional or familial. When people try to control others they are attempting to define that person according to what they want/need them to be.  They cannot see that the other person exists and a sentient being that exists in their own right, they don’t respect you for who you are and it can be done in many ways such as:

  • Negative comments couched in false concern or “helpful advice”.
  • Gaslighting, denying your reality and projecting their own made up one.
  • Complete disregard for your feeling.
  • Constant lying about even the most frivolous things
  • Inventing “stories” about negative things that other people said about you.
  • Trying to prevent you from expressing yourself and negating everything your say.
  • Cruel “jokes” that are designed to hurt.
  • Adapting a really condescending and contemptuous attitude towards you.
  • Making examples of other to demonstrate what could happen to you if you do not submit to their coercion.
  • Going on a smear campaign behind your back if they feel like they are losing control, so that they damage your reputation before they are exposed.

The problem with recognizing controlling people is that a lot of their control is very subtle and we tend to see their comments as bad taste, we think that we must have missed something when they lie (because they are absolute masters at inventing lies on the spot) or accuse ourselves of being paranoid when people’s behaviour changes as a result of a smear campaign.

 

Controlling people will always play the victim if they are pulled up on their behaviour.  They will say things like “I was only trying to be helpful, you are so ungrateful”  or “you always misunderstand what other people are saying” (universal miscomprehension – how could they possibly know this?) or “do you always have to be so negative, you are not always right you know”.

When a person has good intentions (in general) it is hard to imagine the motivation behind a controllers behaviour because the big question is “why would anyone want to do that?”, the best “reason” that I have come across is because they are essentially very weak personalities and they think that if anyone else shines that they will disappear completely. Everything that happens around them they relate back to themselves, so for example a child could get sick at a time when a narcissistic parent wanted to go on a weekend break and the narcissist will think that the child did it on purpose to ruin their holiday, a puppy could chew up their favourite pair of shoes and the narcissist will think that the puppy “knew they were my favourite (and did it on purpose)).

It is possible to break free from the spell binding dominance of a controller and this is done by standing back and taking a long hard look at their actions, not their words.  The disparity between their actions and words is also a controlling tactic. When you see the pattern, there is absolutely no point in addressing it with them because they will deny everything and project their bad behaviour back on to you.  What needs to be done is to move out of their presence as much as possible, create relationships with other people who will support your reality and to learn (or relearn) to trust yourself and your intuition/gut feelings again.

 

Narcissism and suicidal feelings

 

If you come from a narcissistic family of origin or have had a narcissistic partner, suicidal feelings are “normal”.  This is because you have been drip fed poison about yourself over a long period of time, interjected with acts of “kindness”.  The acts of “kindness” were performed simply to keep you doubting yourself. In reality the narcissist wants to destroy you because it gives them sadistic pleasure and makes them feel strong. They invalidate everything that you do or take credit for it themselves.  If you come from a narcissistic family of origin you will have been caught up in a system (more than one person), that has constantly devalued you.  This only adds to the confusion that you will be experiencing, one person could be wrong – but all of them?

What the narcissist is out to achieve is to murder your soul.  To attack your personality because they do not have one.  They do it by choice not by accident, they know how to behave but they choose not to (all you have to do is notice the difference in how they behave publically vs privately).  They get away with it in part because you project good intention on to them where there is none, even if we think that they are “up to something” it is our incredulity, politeness and our cultural mores that keep us stuck (such as you should respect everyone, being vulnerable and open is a “good” thing, don’t judge people and universally trust everyone until proven otherwise)

A narcissist might well speak of you in glowing terms in public and at the same time demean, humiliate and abuse you behind closed doors.  This is an inverted smear campaign designed to discredit you if you say anything about their abuse.  They are extremely paranoid and their fear of exposure makes them capable of anything, even murder.  That sounds very melodramatic but when you are dealing with someone who has no conscience there are no limits to what they will do.   They do not see you as a sentient human being, merely an object for them to feed off, provide drama and entertainment for and generally make them feel more alive inside their emptiness.  Being offensive and crippling others self-esteem just makes them feel powerful.  Another really unpleasant thing about narcissists is that the nastier you are to them the more respectful they will be to you.  So if you are abrupt and uncooperative with them they will simply see you as a bad source of narcissistic supply and move away.

No matter how strong a person is, there is no way that they could stay strong under a constant vicious, vile and sadistic attack like that.  It is no wonder that sometimes you feel filled with a sense of utter despair, unloved (and unlovable), and helpless.  The reason for this is that you were looking for love where there is none, you were told that they love you, but a narcissist notion of love is to draft someone else into their service.  The minute that doesn’t work for them, that person will be totally discarded like an empty wrapper, the only time you will hear from them again is when they want something from you.  It is not your fault that a narcissist treated you the way that they did.  In fact, it has nothing to do with you at all, it could have been anyone with a kind and trusting nature that they felt they could push around.  Knowing that does not take away the pain or scars that they have inflicted but it is a good starting point to take back ownership of your life and to become the whole and beautiful loving person that you were always intended to be.

To do this you have to do a few things:

  • Work on creating stronger boundaries
  • Realise that no one has the right to tell you who you are, what you are thinking or the motives behind an action or decision that you took
  • Realise that you are being lied to constantly with only a light dusting of truth to make their lies seem credible
  • Know that they will say bad things about you behind your back, there is nothing you can do to prevent that (they can do it about anyone) authentic people will see through their smoke and mirrors
  • It isn’t personal, it is an extension/function of their personality disorder
  • Try to remember who you were when you were a young child, before people tried to mess with your head
  • Keep a journal
  • Show compassion to yourself
  • Be careful (judge without being judgemental i.e. is this person a good fit for me, my strengths and my weaknesses) about who you let get close to you

Holding space for someone

When we hold space for others it means that we empathise that we can feel other people’s pain where ever their journey might have taken them, without judging them for making “wrong” decisions, making them feel “less than”, by trying to fix them with our “superior knowledge” or influence the outcome or get annoyed with them because they don’t take our advice.  What holding space for someone means is that we open our hearts and our minds, we offer a non-judgmental non-controlling space where they can just be themselves and try to work their own problems out.

It is really hard to hold space for other people unless we feel that someone has “our back” which is why “normal” people in relationships with narcissists can appear really flakey and unreliable because they can seem really supportive and loving when all is well with their narcissist and disintegrate for their friends when they come under a barrage of fire from the same, as a narcissist’s attack is nearly always savage and can leave their victim very unstable because all is not what it seemed to be.

Holding space for other people is the essence of being a human.  It is not about money, success and all of those superficial things.  It is not what we have been taught but it is what is true.  We need to let people (now more than ever) be weak, be vulnerable and to feel safe to ask for help.

The rules are very simple:

  1. Don’t try to tell people who you think that they should be. That does not mean that you should live without boundaries.
  2. Don’t “over advise” or get pissed off when they don’t take your advice, they are living their own journey and trusting their own intuition (however that might be at the time), it is their journey not yours
  3. Don’t overload people with information, narcissism is a really hard concept to accept – be gentle/ be kind.

When people first learn about narcissism there is a lot of incredulity/half acceptance because they cannot believe that they are “that bad”, to be supportive expect to hear the person you are supporting become quite obsessed with the topic and be very repetitive, they only want you to listen so that they can work it out for themselves.  They are learning about the condition and are trying to mold the vast amount of information out there in to their own particular situation.

If we judge them as they grapple around in their confusion they will immediately recoil into their shell, when we hold space for them we give them the courage to move on and the resilience to keep going.

There is a phase in the journey on learning about narcissism when people have a tendency to beat themselves up and wonder “how could I have been so stupid/blind?”, “how could I have been so “accepting” of this type of abuse?”.  This is just an inevitable part of the journey and each person’s story is different.  However, there are two main reasons why people accept abuse the first is they come from a narcissistic family of origin, so abuse is their form of “love” and the second is that a narcissist will constantly check boundaries (like a small child) and every time they are permitted an abuse, the next time they will push a little harder.  So what might feel like a behaviour that occurred as a result of a bad day or fatigue is really the first steps towards something much more sinister.

A person who has been abused will be very confused so when they come to you for advice, instead of telling them what you think that they need to know, ask them open questions so that they can discover for themselves.

When a person feels that they are in a safe space, that is to say with people who are empathetic, compassionate and tender, they can get in touch with all of their more complex emotions and if necessary completely break down in front of the person(s) who is supporting them.  This is of immense help to the victim because they can then get in touch with “stuff” that they have been denying or minimalizing up to this point.

Strength and confidence are very important if you are going to hold space for someone.  Which means that you are in for the long haul (while respecting your own boundaries) and that you will not be shocked or aghast by what you hear or “turned off” by excessive emotional outbursts.

It is not easy to hold space for other people and it takes patience and practice.  It is also important that you do not hold space for the “wrong” person, someone who just wants an emotional crutch and shows no real desire to grow and move on. This is a hard thing to recognize because it is not always obvious

 

Narcissistic Rage

Narcissistic rage is a manipulation tool that is used by narcissists to frighten, silence, hurt or break their “opponent”.  It can flare up in seconds and is often used against children or innocent people.  It is not genuine anger it is a tool narcissists use to get people to do what they want them to do. It starts off like a dog growling, the message being “I am only growling now, but this could escalate in to a full blown attack if you do not back away”.

Narcissistic rage occurs when the narcissist perceives s/he is being personally “attacked/threatened” by someone or something else. Their rage can be expressed through verbal abuse, physical abuse or by storming off.  An outburst can happen every day, several times a day or every few months but the person who is in contact with the narcissist will never know when it is going to happen, so they are constantly on high alert and will often make huge self-sacrifices to prevent expressions of dissatisfaction escalating into full blown rage.  The sacrifices that other people make to appease the narcissist pleases them because it means that they get to control others.  After a narcissist has had a raging outburst they will be unwilling to discuss the source and appropriateness of their reaction.  When the narcissists self-image is challenged in any way it will nearly always lead to narcissistic rage, if they are in public they might postpone it, but it will emerge at a later date. Narcissistic rage is a reaction to” narcissistic injury”- a perceived threat (a “threat” to a narcissist can very often be something that someone else would not even notice) to their self-worth or self-esteem because it is so fragile the defend it in a totally exaggerated way.

They rage in two ways: they erupt like a volcano getting very heated very quickly.  This can include just randomly ranting and raving, a very personal verbal attack or sometimes even physical (usually in the form of shoving and poking, but it can be much worse) or they can be passive-aggressive. The passive-aggressive reaction includes the silent treatment, sulking and behaving like a whipped dog, like they have just been “attacked” in a most offensive manner.  False weakness and vulnerability are two weapons that narcissists will often pull out of their arsenal if they think that open aggression will not work.

Do not confuse genuine anger with the narcissistic rage. Anger is a natural reaction when exposed to provocation. Anger usually occurs from a rational cause and dissipates when one is able to express it. The fuming rage the narcissist feels is different from the anger that people usually feel; it is irrational and severely blown out of proportion from an often insignificant remark or action.

Narcissists need constant admiration, attention and compliments. They live with the illusion that they are perfect and that other people revere them. That makes them dependent on other people to keep their self-esteem high or at least at an acceptable level for them. Therefore, any challenge, mildly negative remark, or disagreement from another person is considered criticism, rejection and even mockery. They can get upset about the most inappropriate things.  For example, they could say that a two-year old behaved in a certain way to deliberately provoke them, or that someone did something to annoy/hurt them when the narcissist was the furthest thing from their mind.

Causes of Narcissistic Rage

  • Narcissistic always expect more from others than they are prepared to give themselves. This means that they often place unrealistic demands on their partners, children or colleagues. Narcissists rarely make sense, but in a fit of rage they become completely incoherent, so the other person is left thinking that there is no point in engaging in an argument with them.  This in itself lets the narcissist think that they “won” the argument and permits them to continue to feel superior to all those around them.
  • If a narcissists imperfections are pointed out to them, their whole projected image of themselves comes under threat. They might lash back with pure aggression or they might look devastated as though you just crushed them under foot.  If they do the later it is highly likely that they will seek revenge on the person that “attacked” them at a later date.  This can be done by a smear campaign on the person’s character or some sadistic/vindictive act.
  • When a narcissists false persona or projected self-image comes under threat in some way or another their reaction will be excessive and usually explosive. They will say and do things to others that would send they themselves into conniptions.  However, they do not take personal responsibility for what they say or do to others and they do not mind hurting others and/or reducing them to tears.
  • Narcissistic rage is always irrational, infantile and acted upon with impunity. The rage that the narcissist expresses has nothing (or very little) to do with the other person, it is as a result of very low self-esteem, a strong sense of shame and a fragile image of themselves that they project and feel that they have to protect as though their lives depended on it.
  • Narcissists are unstable people and it will never be more obvious than when they are raging because there is no logic and very often no apparent reason for their violent outbursts. After they have exploded they will feel superior and their sense of being in control/stable will return.
  • After they have vented their spleen, gone off in a huff they can come back 15 minutes later and behave as though nothing had happened and will be offended if anyone should mention it to them. They will go on the offensive if the person who they were rude to acts hurt or confused.  They merely wave it off.
  • The insincerity of their rage is often shown up to be what it is if they are roaring insults at someone and then another person walks into the room who they want to conceal this side of their personality from, then suddenly they become all sweetness and light, their rage is on a switch that they can turn on and off in a second. Genuine rage takes much longer to process, hours and sometimes days.  Not so with a narcissist it takes a second because there is absolutely nothing genuine about it

Criticism

No one likes criticism, it is part of human nature, sometimes even constructive criticism can cause us to feel defensive.  However, when a narcissist is criticised, even slightly they become hyper defensive and aggressive and will flip any criticism back on to the person who criticised (or allegedly criticised them) and will say things like “well you’re a”, “you did…” “s/he is just jealous or crazy”.  If they even anticipate that you are going to make some sort of comment about them they will try to shut-you-down or will leave the room.  They cannot bare to see their image of themselves as anything less than 100% perfect, as though even a tiny chink in their armour would bring their whole false persona tumbling down.

Like all people who are very sensitive to criticism they are very vocal, boorish and insulting to and about others.  They do this so that they can feel “better than” those around them.  In other words, they push other people down to buoy their own selves up.  With such a rigid and relentless self-defence built up around them, they are never able to let anyone get close to them.  At the same time, they will “assume” knowledge and intimacy with people that they have only just met.  This comes from having only a very minimal level of self-awareness and so they will assume that to know very little about someone else is to know all. This perceived image of others, like their image of themselves is constantly changing depending on their mood, what they have eaten, who they are with and probably the weather too.

When they are being criticised or think that they might be, they don’t feel safe and go into hyper vigilance mode.  Narcissists frequently do not know the difference between criticism and being teased (due to their poor sense of humour and inability to engage properly with others) so teasing them might garner the same aggressive/sulky reaction.  Usually if someone teases it is out of a sense of fondness for the other person.  Not so with the narcissist they tease to humiliate, taunt and embarrass others with absolute loose abandon.

Narcissists also perceive having different values or taking a different stance from them in a discussion as a form of criticism.  If they do not flare up with narcissistic rage they might easily shift their point of view to the position that you took at the beginning of the disagreement and will say “but that is exactly what I said at the beginning” and proceed to treat you like a fool.  When you realise that you are dealing with a narcissist there is absolutely no point in trying to follow their line of argument because there usually isn’t one.

Always having to be “right” is a defence mechanism for the narcissist, they have to protect their very fragile and insecure egos at all times, which is why they go crazy if anyone questions (or even pulls a funny face at) anything they said or did.  If someone expresses a doubt about them, it could turn into self-doubt and that is something that they are not going to risk.  In other words, attack is the best method of defence.  If they realise that their positon in an argument is not holding up, they can haul in an arsenal of defences such as to attack the other person on an issue that you were not even talking about, blame someone or something else, start to talk gibberish, yelling and not letting the other person talk, lie, contradict themselves or storm off in a huff.  If you are regularly exposed to this type of behaviour you will learn “not to go there” as it is a futile and embarrassing exercise.  Which is exactly the result that the narcissist wanted.  They will feel like they have “won” the argument.

It is the very lack of substance to what they say and the emptiness of content that epitomises a narcissist.  They can and will say anything without checking themselves or considering the verity or effect of what they are saying.  It is as though they are in a constant state of survival mode so they are shape shifting all of the time and this will happen all day every day.  (We all do this to some extent, but with a narcissist it is extreme).

 

 

 

Grey Rock

Grey Rock is a technique that can be used to stay neutral and unemotional in the presence of a narcissist so that they do not try to extract narcissistic supply from you.  Narcissistic supply can come in either positive or negative form of emotion, either will usually do.  So to remain emotionless, polite but uninvolved and detached is of no “use” to the narcissist, so they will usually (perhaps after a few attempts to get an emotional reaction from you (hook you)) move on to look for a better source. Their attempts can happen on either end of the spectrum, either by being excessively nice, attentive or sycophantic or by being extremely rude, dismissive and critical.

It is a non-confrontational method that implies “It’s not you, it’s me” except that you act it out rather than saying it so that the narcissist can come to that conclusion on his or her own.

When dealing with narcissists it is important to avoid making them envious, if you use the grey rock approach you will fade into the background and therefore their attention will not be focused on you as a potential threat.  Let them know that you are a boring person and have a boring life if they do try to test you for narcissistic supply and do not tell them anything personal however benign as they will use it to draw you in and then use it against you.

If the narcissist gets even the slightest inclination that you might be a good source of supply they will try different tactics to see which one can provoke the best reaction.  Should this happen you can use a technique that is called Selective Grey Rock.  This is where you respond to the issues that matter least to you, it will focus the narcissist on that issue.  Selective grey rock acts as a decoy and prevents the narcissist from pulling you into their drama.

Grey rock works because a narcissist is easily bored and the need constant stimulation to keep their own demons at bay.  That is why they get over involved in other people’s lives and constantly try to create drama, to have an effective drama you need (real or imaginary) actors and an audience.  Feeling involved in this production invigorates them, they feel empowered by directing the play, any kind of response works for them so long as they are the cause of that reaction.

The narcissist is addicted to power and control, they will do anything to divert attention to themselves, they know how much they “need” control and will constantly check to see that you are still jumping through their loops and are not creating any type of side show that they might be excluded from.  The more often we respond to their dramatic behaviour the more reinforcement that we provide.  If we just stay neutral s/he will get upset and probably try harder, if we stand firm and do not react the narcissist well see that we aren’t much “fun” any more and move on.  They may sporadically come back to see if there is any “play” in you, but if you do not respond, the game is over.