Just when you think you might know a person, you realize that it was all just a facade and that they're actually a narcissist. But maybe knowing these tactics can spare you the pain.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on November 29, 2019. It has since been updated.
When it comes to a narcissist, they know exactly how to make you feel inferior. They make you feel uncomfortable in your own skin, as if you never do anything right and that you're the one at fault. They take your hard-earned confidence and break it down to almost nothing. But you are more than what they make you out to be. You're far stronger than that. However, it's always best to try and understand what they do, in order to protect yourself from their tactics. And one of the biggest manipulation techniques they use is projection.
According to psychologist Heinz Kohut, narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is defined as “…a personality disorder with a long-term pattern of abnormal behavior characterized by exaggerated feelings of self-importance, excessive need for admiration, and a lack of empathy." They expect to be treated as superior, have a grandiose sense of self and strong feelings of envy towards others, bully others, exploit people and have an obsession over desired traits such as attractiveness, intelligence, power, and success.
According to licensed marriage and family therapist, Darlene Lancer, “When the [narcissistic] individual is in the superior position, defending against shame, the grandiose self aligns with the inner critic and devalues others through projection," quotes Psychology Today. And here's how they're using it against you:
1. They mimic your emotional behavior
Though narcissists are usually cold and unfeeling towards others, many of them are intelligent enough to recognize that emotions matter to other people. That is why, in order to convince someone of their authenticity, they mimic the emotional behaviors they see elsewhere that others find desirable. For example, if they see someone being kind to someone of lower status, they will mimic that behavior to manipulate you into believing they're nice people. The problem with this mimicry is that it tends to fall apart soon enough, especially when they think they're not being watched. So keep your eyes and ears open.
2. They "victimize" themselves
Narcissists absolutely enjoy painting themselves as the victim at first because they realize that that vulnerability is what most of us connect with. Our humanity refuses to let us sit by while others suffer and we want to help. Which is exactly what narcissists try to take advantage of, according to Psych Central. So when they come up to you, they act as if they are the most hurt people in order to gain your trust. Much like their mimicry, you'll find that the longer you are with them, that facade will slip and they'll end up exposing themselves.
3. They call you out
This might be one of the most obvious ways to project — by calling someone out on their behavior. But when a narcissist does it, it could be for one of two reasons. The first reason might be to get you to bend to their will or the second, to attack you. In some cases, it could be both. It's this guilt-tripping method that is the most common method that they use. They love to blame you for everything and break your self-esteem in that manner. And if they see you being unaffected by it, they might get frustrated, slip up and verbally attack you. It's best to just ignore them. Indifference is a powerful weapon against them.
4. They insult you
If nothing else works, a narcissist is more likely to "go for the jugular" by assassinating your character and making you seem like the lowest of the low. And if you've ever experienced this before, then you might know just how bad the side-effects can be. When a narcissist partakes in this, it could be out of vengeance or to impress and win over others who might not be positive towards you. The important thing is to not panic. You didn't work so hard on being the best version of yourself just to be taken down by a person with low self-esteem themself.
5. They drop the act the moment they have you where they want
The moment you look to them for guidance or validation, their whole nice, sweet person act will just drop. They know now that you're dependent on them for all of your emotional needs and they see that as the reins to hold you hostage. It's when you try to resist that the situation might become dangerous for you. When they are caught in the act, they won't just leave quietly. They might just confuse you enough to make you keep them around. That is why it is essential for you to be firm in your decision about cutting them out of your life.