Narcissists are pathologically secretive, they will pass on information on a need to know basis only and will very often deliberately misinform and dodge direct personal questions.

Since they do not have a conscience they are quite happy to lie and prevaricate to keep their secrets.  They compartmentalise their lives so that they can keep family, friends, colleagues apart, thus preventing them from “comparing notes”.  The narcissist sees keeping secrets from friends and family as part of the game and it makes them feel in control because they think that they know a lot more about you than you do about them.

These secrets can range from having multiple affairs, “illegitimate” children, secret bank accounts or just telling someone that they are doing  one thing when they are doing something completely different.

Narcissists do not like to share, they can give, but they consider giving a “purchase”.  Sharing is too intimate whether is be information, money or responsibility.  They will be focused on getting as much out of other people as they can.  They can do this by lying, cheating or robbing.  Frequently charities are targeted by narcissists as it is the perfect “cover” for taking money from other people.  A divorce situation is another scenario where funds just disappear through dishonest means.  At the same time that they are cheating and lying they will project their nefarious activities on to others and maintain that they are the ones being duped.

Since narcissistic personalities are delusional and they manufacture their own little world and how they want it to be, they cannot afford to be open and honest because they have a fear of being exposed to other people’s reality and then their world would feel like it was under attack, which in turn leads to narcissistic rage.

  • They will tell you that they “love” you even though they know that they don’t.
  • Say that they will do things, when they know that they have no intention of doing it.
  • Will get people to do jobs for them when they know that they have no intention of paying for them or that they could easily do for themselves
  • They will spin a web of endless little lies just to lead you astray to protect their real secret internal turmoil.
  • They will constantly contradict and counter contradict so that you do not know what to believe.
  • If you pull them up on some inconsistency in their story, they will flatly deny it or tell you that you misunderstood what they said.
  • They will often invent a personal history (before you met them) that is completely false, this could be about academic achievements, successful businesses (that some how went bust, usually due to a dishonest partner) or wonderful relationships (that some how ended).
  • They will try to keep their past and present lives separate, or at least minimal contact and will prime you about the people you are going to encounter before any direct contact has taken place.
  • Their electronic devices will be heavily protected with passwords and PINs but they will expect to be given those of their partner and friends and get very annoyed if they are refused access.
  • They physically lock things like doors, desk draws or car doors when there is no immediate threat to their privacy.
  • They usually have more than one hiding place for bank statements, love letters or receipts for activities they have been up to
  • They can lie about their position at work or even where they work
  • They can deny knowing someone or claim to know someone well when they have never met
  • They will assume intimate knowledge of someone that they might have only met once
  • They never let the truth get in the way of a good story
  • They will lie about having been places

NOTE:  Narcissists will share other people’s secrets with absolute reckless abandon, not stopping for a second to wonder if they would upset/embarrass the other person or not.  It is a very good idea to play your cards very close to your chest when dealing with a narcissist.


Communication techniques – arguing, conversing talking at people, not listening

“Listening is a form of accepting”

Stella Terri Mann


Before we realise that we are dealing with a narcissist we treat them like a “normal” person.  The way that they communicate might leave you feeling like you were talking to a brick wall.  Every attempt that you make to reach them will be blocked, interrupted or negated.  You will feel confused, frustrated anxious and finally realise that you attempt at talking to them is absolutely futile.  There are three things to always remember when talking to a narcissist.  The first thing is that they are narcissists and while they can be charming and good company, they are always narcissists.  Scratch the surface and their default personality type will emerge.  The other thing is that it is important not to be open with a narcissist.  They will go in search of your vulnerabilities and while they might seem charming at the time, they can take all information they learned about you and use it against you at a later date.  The third thing is, do not listen to the content of what they say.  See how they behave, see how they treat other people and see what they say about mutual acquaintances.  The way the narcissist replies to any communication will depend entirely on who the audience is and what image the narcissist wants to project at that time.  No communication with a narcissist comes from a place of the heart.  A narcissist can do a 180° turn on the way that they are communicating if someone else walks into the room.

The way that Narcissists communicate is by controlling the conversation.  This happens in many ways.  The most obvious phrases that they use are:

  • Well at least …” (anyone who replies to something that someone else has said with this is not going to show an empathetic response)
  • “It could be worse”
  • “I know what you are thinking”
  • “I know what you are feeling”
  • “I know why you did that… you did it because you think”
  • “You are…”
  • “You did that because you want to make me feel guilty” (for lack of gratitude)
  • “You think …”
  • “We think/like/dislike/believe …”
  • “You have no real friends”
  • “You are always…”
  • “Nobody is dead..”
  • “What they don’t know won’t hurt them”
  • “I never said that”
  • “You’re paranoid you are making it all up”
  • “I never”
  • “You always”
  • “You are too sensitive”
  • “You are always making stuff up in your head”
  • “You need to get some help”
  • “Why are you being so defensive?”
  • “You are so childish/immature
  • “I am not arguing ,I am just discussing”
  • “I am not shouting you are” (while shouting or speaking in a loud voice to drown you out)
  • “Whatever”
  • “Mary has a real problem with you, she thinks that you are really weird”
  • “You are delusional”
  • “Nobody likes you”
  • “You are too fat/thin/tall/short
  • “We get invited out because people like me, they only tolerate you because they like me so much”
  • “No wonder I stay out all night, when I come home I have to put up with your behaviour”
  • “Don’t you dare discuss our private life with other people”
  • “You are thinking of someone else, I do not behave like that”
  • “I am not going to play your stupid games” (when you pull them up on some bad behaviour)
  • “They don’t really want you to attend their party, they only asked you to be polite”
  • “Stop showing off”

I have put this in the first person singular, but it applies to everyone (“I know why they, s/he did that, they are jealous of me”).  Narcissists are very critical, judgemental and suspicious of other people, they project their own wildly self-obsessed motives on to everyone (including very small children and babies) and everything else like animals and environmental influences.  People who are not narcissists simply do not speak the same language as the narcissist which is cruel and manipulative.

Example of a typical conversation:

Narc: “ Hi, how are you?”

Person: “Oh I am fine thanks, I am a bit tired, I didn’t sleep very well last night ”

Narc: “Well at least you have a bed to sleep in”

End of conversation.

Narcissists are genuinely not interested in how you are (it is one of the few things that is genuine about them), a question about your welfare is a mere formality and they will usually not give you time to answer.  They are not interested in any physical, practical or emotional problem that you may have and that is why they invalidate what you told them before you can expand, even for something as benign as a bad night’s sleep.

  • If you come from a family where one or both parent(s) are narcissists, communicating with your siblings will probably be a great strain. The reason for this is that there will be a lot of secretiveness and triangulation, so healthy communication techniques were never established in childhood.  A narcissistic parent will probably attempt to keep his/her children from forming close bonds (because they see it as a threat), it is to prevent off spring from supporting each other, validating experiences, recognising abuse and maximise their amount of control.
  • Narcissists will often and frequently interrupt a conversation to say something utterly irrelevant to bring the attention back on to themselves.
  • They will frequently talk in a voice much louder than everyone else in the room, it is to draw attention to themselves
  • Narcissists are not interested in whether you are interested in what they have to say, they are after all really just talking to themselves.
  • Narcissists do not listen to other people. You cannot communicate with another person if they are not listening to what you say.
  • If you tell a narcissist something emotional they will usually react in a very inappropriate way. If you tell them something sad they might laugh out loud or if you tell them good news they might shrug with total indifference or look annoyed.  They could say something nice like “that is great news” but their tone and facial expression will tell you that they are not one bit pleased about someone else’s happiness.
  • Narcissists will treat children like adults (and their adult off spring like children) they will use age inappropriate language with them and give them far too much responsibility far too young and treat them like children when they are adults
  • They do not like other people to be happy or have good relationships they try to butt in or break it up. They find the connectivity between others a real threat.  This is very common for example, if a young child forms an attachment to a baby minder or au pair, the mother (usually) will fire that person as the bond between the two will be a threat and therefore not tolerated.  This can however also happen with the family pet, they will literally give it away or put it in a shelter (it really can be that petty and that is why it is so hard to understand them).  They will also get over involved in the friendships and marriages of their adult children
  • If you are trying to communicate with a narcissist and you say something like “I just broke my leg” a very predictable reply would be “well at least you didn’t break both of them”. This type rebuff is a control technique that is employed so that a conversation can never get into full flow.  They are not interested in what you think or what you have to say (unless they are harvesting information to use against you or others at a later date).
  • Narcissists go to a lot of effort not to expose themselves for what they are and live in fear of being “discovered”, that is why they talk a lot of gibberish most of the time. They are constantly on high alert to try to ascertain what they “should” say to project them in the best possible light.  As a consequence, they are very unpredictable and are capable of saying just about anything.
  • They will punish others for self-championing (both as parents, friends and acquaintances), they usually put a person down with snide comment or jeering laugh (the “don’t be ridiculous” one). If you pick the narcissist up on these reactions they will say “I was only joking, can’t you take a joke” or “What, I didn’t say anything” but they know very well that they have driven the message home.
  • One result of having narcissistic parents is that their children can become excessively reactive and will put the needs of others before their own. They are constantly on high alert and will try to predict what people want before they know themselves, and will do things for other people before even asked.  This makes them extremely easy to manipulate, because even the slightest hint that someone wants something from them will make them jump into action.  This is a coping mechanism from childhood because it is easier to think that you are giving something away of your own volition rather than be forced to relinquish something by your very powerful punitive parents, or to simply have “stuff” (achievements, relationships, toys, pet, promises) taken away from you.   This fear can and does make its way into most of their adult relationships
  • The other result is that they children of narcissists can become narcissists themselves through childhood emotional wounding and the psychotic parental model.
  • The narcissist will corrupt your core beliefs about yourself so that they are weak and therefore you are easier to control. Any comment that you make, if it does not suit the narcissist, will be flatly contradicted.  They will deliver it with such certainty and force that you will doubt yourself.  The naive bit is the question that we ask ourselves “why would someone say that if it was not true?”, the reason is to control you.  The narcissist has to negate a lot of what is said to, and around them to prevent you from seeing the truth, so nothing you say matters.
  • If mother and father are abusive it feels like an enormous act of betrayal, you trusted them as your parents and a child will learn to hide it (the betrayal) and their emotions around that betrayal, even from themselves (it is called disassociation) – because they are literally hostage to the narcissistic parent(s) abuse and there is nowhere else to go “I cannot believe she would do that to me, her own child, I must have done something to deserve it”. The children of narcissists (who do not become narcissists themselves) have a fear of hurting the feelings or of creating negative feelings in others (and themselves) so have a tendency to over intellectualise and try to construct counter reasons and excuses for their parent’s abhorrent behaviour. The narcissist will also be phobic about their own emotions and the emotions of others, the difference is that they have absolutely no fear of hurting the feelings of others. The fear of other people’s emotions manifests itself in the perceived threat of being expected to show empathy – of which they have none, so they are never real sure which way to “play it”.  Frequently, you can see a narcissist scan a room to observe the reactions of others, so that they can use it as a cue on how to behave.
  • Narcissist cannot play nicely with their children or with others.  They play as they live, and that is to win, and enslave those around them, get as many resources as they can, which include power, control, attention, time and money, they thrive on upsetting people and pitching one against another.  They get you off balance because their behaviour is so utterly bizarre to a “normal” person, it is difficult to work out the pattern.  They can be nice and charming, just so long as NOTHING threatens them, if it does they might be “nice” in the moment if you are in company, but they WILL get you back for what they perceive as an injury or insult to their persona.  This is not rational, it could be because you disagreed with them on something minor, paid more attention to someone else or even received a compliment when they did not.

Another way a narcissist controls is to say something like “what would you like to do for your birthday?” and you might say “I’d love to go to the restaurant on the High Street”, the narcissist will immediately flip it back and say “Oh I heard that it has really gone downhill, let’s go to the Italian one on the other side of town”.

  • The probability is that the narcissist hasn’t heard anything about the restaurant at all.
  • They do not prefer one restaurant to another, they might even prefer the one that they rejected.
  • It is your birthday – why can they not compromise and go where you want (you will probably be paying anyway)
  • It is all about control, to make you do what they want.
  • At this stage you could argue back but experience will have taught you that this could induce a narcissistic rage and it really isn’t that important anyway and if you do insist on going to your restraint of your choice they will create a horrible atmosphere, sulk, give you the silent treatment and ruin the occasion for you anyway.
  • A narcissist at this stage will feel like they have won a game by controlling you and they will be “happy”.

It is important to note that all narcissists when asking/demanding a favour will redress it or reframe it as though they were doing something generous for the other person.  So, they might say something like “I thought I would leave my dog with you this Christmas as I am going away and I know it is a horrible time for you to be alone”, you answer them with “no, no it is okay, I am going to be out a lot and won’t be around to take care of him or her”, “don’t worry, s/he will be fine, so long as you feed him etc.”  “no really, I don’t think that I will be around enough”,  “no I insist, I wouldn’t dream of letting you be alone at this time of year”

Here are some things that a narcissist will do to have their own way.

  • Not listen to what you are saying.
  • Trade on the fact that you are going to be polite and not rage back at them.
  • Deliberately misunderstand anything that goes against what they want for themselves.
  • If you are arguing calmly and well, an intelligent narcissist will take your point of view and argue it back to you treating you like an idiot for not seeing it “their way” in the first place.
  • Arguing with a narcissist is not about the subject matter, it is about them getting their own way and making you bend to accommodate them and it is all about winning.
  • If you tell a narcissist that you are going to do something nice for someone they will tell you not to. So for example if you say you are going to visit someone in hospital they will say “no, they said they explicitly that they don’t want visitors” (the narcissist probably hasn’t spoken to that person or a member of their family), if you say you are going to buy someone a wedding present they will say “no don’t, it would really embarrass them”, the only reason for this reaction is to block and control and to stop you from doing anything that might make you “look good/them look bad”.  If you go ahead anyway if it is “an important person” in their eyes, they will most certainly try to upstage you, or say something to a mutual friend like “oh poor Mary, she always has to try to buy friendship”.
  • If you start to talk about something that a narcissist doesn’t want to talk about they will use word salad, this is a term that means they will start to talk gibberish so that you cannot pick up any thread in the “conversation’ so it is futile to try.

The damaging effects of shame in narcissistic parenting


  • Shame damages the emotional well-being of the child and the child’s perception of themselves. Shame tells the child “you are a bad person” whereas guilt tells them “that was a bad behaviour –we can work on improving that”.  In the second instance the child has clarity on what behaviour was not acceptable and can learn not to repeat it.  A shamed child feels that their entire existence is flawed and does not know what to do to make it better.
  • Shaming has a very negative influence on a child’s self-esteem, when a child’s emotions are invalidated, ignored or as typical narcissist would say, “you shouldn’t feel like that, because…” this lack of empathy for the child’s feelings leaves the child feeling unworthy of support and attention, but also that the pain and confusion that is created between what they know they actually feel in a specific situation and what they are told that they are “allowed to feel”, in other words what they feel is incorrect.
  • If a parent does not listen to or validate the small stuff that a child is trying to tell them, over time the child will not tell their parent(s) anything because it doesn’t feel safe. So if the child comes across a major problem that they need to resolve, they will have no adult to turn to and will have to deal with the situation alone.  This is emotional abuse and very traumatising for the child.  That which is trivial to an adult can be extremely important and challenging to a small child, narcissistic parents tend to attribute adult emotions to even their very small children (albeit narcissistically stunted emotions)
  • Narcissistic parents will often jeer and ridicule their child for actually having emotions as most narcissists despise their own humanity. They see it as a sign of weakness in themselves, but also in others.  This causes massive insecurity because the message is “everything that you feel is wrong”.  This doesn’t only apply to negative emotions such as fear, despair, being scared, lonely, sad, inferior or empty but also to positive ones such as accepted, happy, joy, interested, optimistic, calm, loving and playful.  The narcissistic parent gets upset by emotions at both ends of the spectrum and would much rather that their children behaved like they were constantly on anti-depressants and constantly adhering to the needs of their parents.
  • When a child’s emotions are constantly rejected they cease to have the courage to express them since they are never validated. They learn to express themselves within very limited parameters for fear of being chastised, ridiculed or punished.  Shaming a child kills off their spontaneity, their freedom of expression and their confidence in exploring the world.
  • When a child has been subjected to narcissistic shaming there are two extremes, they become either over reactive so that they try to anticipate another person’s desires before that person even knows it themselves (people pleasers), or they shut down and become more or less immune to the needs and desires of others, in other words they become narcissistic themselves.
  • The effects of shame based parenting can last well into adulthood and may often be repeated – as it was the role model that was presented to them when they were very young before they knew what was happening.
  • The adult child of narcissists will there for have problems trusting his or her self as a result of being perpetually denied their feelings and emotions when they were growing up.

What are the effects of emotional incest on a child?

According to Wikipedia Emotional Incest is a style of parenting in which a parent looks to their child for the emotional support that would be normally provided by another adult. The effects of covert incest on a child when they become adults are thought to mimic actual incest.

That is the simplest form of emotional incest, it also includes being a parent’s most important source of support (even above that of their spouse) and children from a very young age are forced to put the needs of their parents before their own.  Unlike the damage from physical or sexual abuse emotional incest is very difficult to identify.  It can be couched in care and love but the real intention is to get control, admiration and attention.  As a result of this children of emotionally incestuous families are rarely feel safe, or are given guidance or discipline.  The parents will often maintain that they are being liberal when in fact they are being extremely abusive and neglectful of their off spring, who are exposed to responsibilities that are far too great for their actual age.

The selected child(ren) will often feel special because of the extra attention that they are receiving from their parent.  Parental attention is a limited resource and if one child is given more of it than their siblings it will lead to them thinking that they are entitled to it.  However, there is a cost to the child for this special attention:

  • It can cause resentment from their spouse that will be directed at the child. Since we get our self-esteem from our same sex parent, if they are exhibiting high levels of resentment, it can be devastating to the confidence of the “chosen” child.
  • It will almost certainly create jealousy and strong sibling rivalry.
  • The child can live in fear of being demoted as the narcissistic parent will use this threat as a means of control.

Emotional incest from one or both parents, makes it impossible for that child(ren) to set healthy boundaries and to get their own needs met.  It is highly probably that these children will go on to have adult relationships that might well be abusive in the same way, where the adult child always puts the needs of others before their own.  Children can often feel guilty because they are unable to understand or meet the emotional needs of their parents and their parents will let them know that they are not “doing their job properly”, these feelings will remain with them into adulthood if they go unchecked, feeling that they are not very good at love or indeed life.  Being okay is never “good enough”.

In adolescence and adulthood they are likely to be tormented by toxic shame and guilt coupled with resentment because they were delegated a “job” that was completely inappropriate and they were far too young for, as children they were never let set boundaries and say “no”.  Even if they might not have to vocabulary to express their sense of injustice/abuse, they will know that there was something very wrong in the family dynamic.

  • They can feel guilty if they do anything for themselves from studying, health care and simply having fun because they have been instilled with an outrageous sense of obligation to their parent(s). Narcissistic parent(s) have a problem with their children having fun because they themselves do not know how to have fun, so they try to prevent it in their children as they cannot relate to it which threatens their assumption that their children are mere extensions of themselves.
  • They might have difficulty relating to their own sexual identity as the parent(s) will want their opposite sex child act as a mini husband/wife and will get aggressive/hurt/jealous if they see someone come along who might threaten this “relationship”.
  • The child might feel inadequate for or unworthy of a healthy loving relationship.
  • Compulsive behaviours such as drugs, food, sex, alcohol, work and gambling are related to emotional incest.
  • The inability to communicate openly and frankly with people including lovers, colleagues and family members because voicing their own needs as a child was not permitted, punished or just ignored.
  • Social anxiety
  • Since a child exposed to emotional incest was given responsibility but no power they can be confused about sharing status with other adults and can often be dominating or dominated.

The whole family unit is effected by emotional incest.  The parent(s) become enmeshed in the lives of their children frequently using them in a game between themselves that their children cannot possibly understand.  The Golden Child will be the favourite of the parent, the one who can do nothing wrong, is very cossetted and always over protected.  Very often the mother will have one golden child and the father will have another (often opposite the sex).  In this situation, the mother’s golden child with become the father’s scapegoat child and the father’s golden child will become the mother’s scapegoat.  Sometimes a spouse is excluded from the family unit deliberately to have the child(ren) exclusively in orbit of one parent.  The spouse that has been shut out might turn to workaholism, alcoholism, hobbies or affairs just to avoid an unhappy home life.  It is more than likely that the excluded parent will be blamed for “never being there”, because as always with narcissists it is never their fault.

It can also happen that a child can be forced into a double role with their parent(s) for example they can be expected to play the role as the admiring/romantic/flirty “lover” and parent at the same time.  This is very confusing to the child as they are never sure which role they are expected to play and it will hinge on the mood the narcissist is in and the company they are keeping at the time.

The narcissist parent will tell their golden child all types of secrets and intimacies that the other children will not be privy to.  The child(ren) who have not been confided in will feel like there is something going on behind their back and this will just broaden the divide between siblings.

There is another type of emotional incest and that is between siblings, where one sibling parentises another, this is a much more intense relationship than “just looking out for the younger ones”, it happens when the parent(s) are emotionally unavailable and a younger sibling looks up to their older one for guidance and comfort.  If the older sibling is narcissistic themselves they can “take care” of the younger one(s), but it comes at a price and that is that they are used as supply, and also enslaved using the model of the narcissistic parent(s).  This dynamic will almost certainly continue into adulthood.  The younger (although not necessarily) sibling will be expected to do exactly what their older sibling tells them to do, even as adults.  This can also occur if one or both parents die prematurely.