Narcissistic plays the victim

Why Do Narcissists Play the Victim?

Narcissists may play the victim if they believe they gain something from making you feel guilty. Their tendency to use manipulation tactics is one of the formal symptoms of narcissistic personality.

Have you ever played the victim? If so, do you remember the emotional need you were trying to fulfill or express while doing so? It’s the same for someone with a narcissistic personality, but they may feel it more often.

It can be challenging for you to think of a person with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) as the victim or someone who feels like one.

After all, someone with a narcissistic personality is often thought of as a person with a grandiose sense of self and an unlimited need for power.

So, what does it mean when a narcissist plays the victim? Is it on purpose? Is it a manipulation tactic? Do they truly believe they’re being victimized?

Narcissistic personality disorder — often referred to as “narcissism” — is a complex mental health condition and never a personal choice. There are many reasons why a narcissist plays the victim and the type of narcissism they live with may be one.

Research from 2003 suggests that people high in narcissism may see themselves as victims of interpersonal transgressions more often than people not living with the disorder.

In a 2020 qualitative study, relatives of people with narcissistic personalities reported that their loved ones often showed a victim mentality.

Whether narcissists really feel like a victim or just play the victim role to tweak social interactions to their benefit isn’t always clear.

If you’ve ever been in a relationship with someone with narcissistic personality disorder, you may have noticed that they lack both self-awareness and self-reflection.

In general, people with narcissistic personalities have a difficult time being aware of their behaviors and how these affect others. They might not be able to “see it” even when you point it out to them.

This is why they might feel attacked when you contradict them or tell them they’ve done something wrong. This just doesn’t align with their inflated sense of self.

This is part of the complexity of narcissistic personality disorder.

The tendency to have low introspection combined with an exaggerated sense of superiority may leave them unable to see the situation in a way that doesn’t fit their worldview.

As a result, they may “play the victim role” in some scenarios.

Why a narcissist plays the victim may be directly connected to some of the symptoms of NPD:

  • sense of entitlement
  • denial and low insight
  • grandiosity
  • projection
  • need for control
  • narcissistic rage
  • low empathy

Not everyone who plays the victim has narcissistic personality, though. Not everyone with narcissistic personality plays the victim either.

Here more in-depth information on why narcissists play the victim:

A person with narcissistic personality disorder may have a strong sense of entitlement. This means they might believe they’re inherently worthy of special treatment, recognition, and privileges.

When things don’t go their way, they might react with anger and feel the need to blame others for “messing things up.”

A sense of entitlement might also lead someone with narcissistic personality to think anything they do for you is just the greatest.

If they feel they don’t get enough praise and recognition for this action, they might act like the victim: “I can’t believe you act this way after all I’ve done for you!”

In this instance, a narcissist might go from playing the hero to playing the victim.

Everyone uses defense mechanisms in different circumstances and for different reasons. We’re not usually aware when a defense mechanism is activated but it serves a purpose.

Sometimes, it protects us from remembering painful experiences; other times, it might help us cope with perceived threats to our identity, integrity, and sense of self.

People with narcissistic personality disorder may also use specific defense mechanisms to protect themselves from emotional pain.

Some people with the disorder live with delusions of grandeur. These are false beliefs about themselves that may make them feel they’re nothing short of a superhero and invincible.

Grandiosity is a similar defense mechanism where someone has a sense of power and self-importance, often not based on actual facts.

A person with narcissistic personality may have developed these beliefs to compensate for painful childhood experiences.

Because of this, self-esteem based on these false beliefs might be what clinicians call fragile. This means it’s likely to change according to external factors.

If someone with either delusions of grandeur or grandiosity faces a situation where they’re not seen as the hero they think they are, they might justify it by saying someone else is trying to harm them.

This “bad guy” versus “victim” train of thought may work to soothe their distress.

For example, they might believe they’re the smartest and ablest member of the team. But if someone else gets the raise or promotion they believe they deserve more, they might explain it as jealousy from the boss.

“They’re just nervous I’ll eventually get promoted to their position, so they’d rather sabotage me and help someone else instead.”

Another common defense mechanism in narcissism is projection. This is when someone unconsciously “projects” their own feelings or reality onto another person. “It’s not me — it’s them.”

For example, you might feel threatened in some way by a co-worker, but you perceive the situation as them being jealous of you.

Projection isn’t something you fake or pretend. You really believe it. And in this case, projection may sometimes explain why narcissists play the victim.

For example, if someone with NPD is highly competitive to the point of sabotaging someone else to get ahead, they might believe it’s the other person who’s trying to sabotage them.

For them, a difference of opinion expressed during a work meeting with the boss might be interpreted as a co-worker’s attempt to hurt them. In that scenario, they may believe they’re the victim of someone else’s bad intentions.

Some people with narcissistic personality disorder have a high need to have control, and sometimes, playing the victim can serve this purpose.

If you’re having an argument with someone who’s feeling attacked, you’re likely to back off and soften your stance.

You might also be more flexible about some things if the other person is saying you’re not being fair or kind to them.

If someone with narcissistic personality plays the victim, they might have developed this manipulation tactic to protect themselves and retain control whenever other avenues fail them.

It’s also probable — according to 2014 research — that emotionally intelligent people with NPD know how to better regulate their emotions and read other people’s. This would make it easier for them to play a role (like the victim) that they know might “get to you.” In some instances, these people are called dark empaths.

It can sometimes be difficult for people with narcissistic personality disorder to take criticism or rejection. This might make them react in several ways — one of them is rage.

In this case, experts refer to it as narcissistic rage or narcissistic collapse.

One aspect of rage is feeling like the victim of someone else’s attacks. “I’m enraged because you attacked me.”

Another aspect is that even when a narcissist doesn’t feel like somebody else’s victim, they may realize that playing this part may make others back off and take back what enraged them in the first place.

In other words, if you feel someone’s doing something you don’t like, and that makes you mad, playing the victim can make the other person change their ways.

Every person will respond differently.

Some narcissistic people may attack you or treat you in a vindictive way whenever they feel rage, while others play the victim instead.

Guilt is a human emotion that tends to keep us in check. When balanced, guilt may act as a deterrent for antisocial behavior.

Research suggests that some people with both vulnerable and grandiose narcissism may not experience guilt in some situations. This might make them more likely to use manipulation tactics to get what they need.

Low empathy also makes it difficult for someone with NPD to understand where you’re coming from. This might lead them to believe you’re attacking them.

For example, if you’re expressing how hurt you feel for something they’ve done, they might not see it your way. They might not understand why that behavior would hurt you. For them, you could be complaining and treating them unfairly.

In that scenario, they may think of themselves as the victim, even if you’re just saying you’re hurt or upset.

Low empathy might also lead them to use psychological games — like playing the victim — to get what they want, even if you get hurt.

Even if you understand that narcissistic personality disorder is a complex mental health condition and not a personal choice, it can feel overwhelming to have someone frequently feeling or acting like a victim.

You might hope they change or grow out of it. You may even try to convince them to change their ways.

While this might work with someone without the condition who plays the victim, it won’t likely work for someone with NPD.

Some narcissistic people do develop new social skills with the help of a mental health professional. However, it can often be challenging for them to stay in therapy.

In the meantime, learning to recognize games they might play, and setting clear boundaries can help you cope.

Here are a few tips to consider if a narcissist is playing the victim:

  • Try not to take it personally. This is never easy, but with practice you can do it.
  • Don’t take the bait. If possible, walk away every time they treat you like the bad guy.
  • Don’t internalize it. They might say a few hurtful things when they’re playing the victim, but those words don’t define you.
  • Don’t idealize them. It’s natural to second-guess yourself and consider if you’re really mistreating them. Trust their actions more than their words.
  • Don’t engage. It’s not uncommon to react in the same way someone is treating you. However, avoid the need to play the victim with them, even if they really aren’t being fair to you.

Why a narcissist plays the victim depends on the situation and the type of narcissism they live with.

Playing the victim or feeling like a victim may stem from lower self-esteem, low empathy, or a need for control.

In every case, because NPD is a mental health condition, this behavior is linked to the symptoms that define the disorder and not to a personal choice.

Understanding this may be a first step toward coping with this behavior. In other instances, it might be necessary for you to set clear boundaries or walk away from the relationship.

Ways People with NPD Play the Victim I Psych Central

If someone in your life has a pattern of playing the victim, it may feel confusing and frustrating. You’re not alone and there are ways you can cope.

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a complex mental health condition, often linked with a “victim mentality.”

While it’s possible for a person with NPD to do this consciously to manipulate others, it often goes deeper than that.

Someone may firmly believe that they’re the victim and operate from that place, even when the evidence suggests otherwise.

With a few expert-backed strategies, it’s possible to navigate this difficult terrain.

In part, it’s how people with narcissistic patterns view interpersonal interactions.

Research from 2018 suggests that a sense of victimhood or entitlement is a common trait of NPD.

Narcissistic defenses (like all defenses) operate unconsciously, says Dr. Ramani Durvasula, a clinical psychologist based in Los Angeles and author of two books on narcissism.

A 2020 study suggests that people who live with NPD often carry a sense of victimhood.

“Victimhood is a form of blame-shifting,” Durvasula says. “It allows the ego to remain intact, to blame the world, and in some cases to get validation perhaps from other aggrieved people, or people who want to rescue them.”

Possible motivations

It may be helpful to think of the “victim card” as a defense mechanism to help someone get their needs met.

A victim stance can help someone:

  • acquire resources
  • confuse who is at fault
  • garner sympathy from others
  • maintain a sense of control
  • prevent someone from leaving

There are many ways that victimhood can play out in relationships.


One of the symptoms of NPD is a belief that someone is superior to others and should be given different or special treatment.

In victim mode, says Durvasula, this can sound like, “The reason things haven’t worked out for me is that I wasn’t born with a trust fund, everyone else has connections, and I have to make things work on my own.”


The DARVO strategy can muddle the details of an interaction.

It works like this:

  • D: deny the behavior
  • A: attack you
  • R: reverse
  • V: victim and
  • O: offender

For example, a spouse may deny that kissing counts as cheating (D), feel hurt by your unwarranted jealousy (A), and insist that you apologize (RVO).


When faced with difficulties, some people project their emotions onto others.

For example, a spouse may accuse you of wanting to leave when they’re actually the one thinking of leaving. Seeing their distress, you may find yourself apologizing and making amends, believing you are somehow in the wrong.


Someone with NPD may deny or minimize behaviors, leaving you questioning your sense of reality. This is known as gaslighting.

This could sound like:

  • “It’s your fault I did this.”
  • “You’re the one who started it.”
  • “I didn’t do it. What’s wrong with you?”
  • “You knew this when you married me.”

Smear campaign

To preserve their reputation and gain sympathy from others, someone may talk badly about you or accuse you of things you didn’t do.

For example, a boss may insist that they came up with a concept first and that you’re trying to steal their idea.

It may take some practice, but it’s possible to empower yourself in these situations.

Try to practice detachment

If possible, try to avoid the temptation to go down the rabbit hole of defending yourself, says Durvasula. “They’re likely accusing you of something that isn’t true, so there’s no point,” she says.

Instead, try to detach from the situation and hold onto your reality.

“Just because someone else tells you the grass is purple doesn’t make it so, and you don’t have to defend the green grass that is there,” she explains.

Document your experience

When someone consistently takes on the victim role and refuses to take accountability for their actions, it’s not uncommon to feel like you’re imagining things, says Sybil Cummin, a licensed professional counselor in Arvada, Colorado.

“If you’re starting to doubt your own experiences because of the responses you’re getting, start journaling your experiences. Document or note any patterns,” she says.

Consider setting healthy boundaries

You may find it helpful to set boundaries around what behaviors you will tolerate, Cummin explains.

For example, she says this can sound like:

  • “Your statement about X doesn’t fit the facts of what happened.”
  • “Your previous experiences don’t give you permission to treat me this way.”
  • “It’s clear that we’ve reached an impasse of opinion.”

“If they become angry about your boundaries or refuse to respect them, it’s likely that you’ll need to start changing your level of contact with them to ensure your mental health and self-worth can remain intact,” she says.

Try the grey rock method

In essence, going “grey rock” means becoming as neutral as possible. The purpose is to protect your emotional well-being, says Dr. Nakpangi Thomas, a licensed professional counselor in Detroit.

“It involves only necessary contact and the removal of your emotions,” she explains. “You only provide someone with information that’s essential.”

Thomas outlines four basic steps you can try, including:

  • avoiding small talk and interactions
  • keeping interactions short
  • giving brief answers
  • communicating using only the facts

Consider the no-contact approach

If this relationship is interfering with your emotional well-being — or it’s toxic, abusive, or dangerous — it may be time to consider making an exit plan and ceasing contact.

“[Battling] someone with NPD may be tiring, and no one wins,” says Thomas. “In some cases, the best way to respond is no-contact. This includes calls, texts, social media, and events. Involving the authorities may be necessary to obtain an order of protection.”

If you want more information, you can check out our article about how to leave an abusive person with NPD.

People with NPD often have a sense of victimhood. This can present you with many challenges, but it’s possible to cope.

If possible, try to document patterns, set healthy boundaries, and limit your interactions.

Some useful books may include:

  • “Stop Caretaking the Borderline or Narcissist: How to End the Drama and Get on with Life” by Margalis Fielstad
  • “‘Don’t You Know Who I Am?’: How to Stay Sane in an Era of Narcissism, Entitlement, and Incivility” by Dr. Ramani Durvasula
  • “The Covert Passive Aggressive Narcissist: Recognizing the Traits and Finding Healing After Hidden Emotional and Psychological Abuse” by Debbie Mirza

Read online The World of the Narcissistic Victim. Relationships in the Context of Modern Neurosis”, Anastasia Dolganova – LitRes, page 2

Sasha is from a small working-class town, the son of an early deceased mother and an alcoholic father. He has a steel structure in his spine and several pins in his bones from constant beatings. He believes that this is karma, of course, that such a childhood cleansed him, that this is an analogue of the suffering of Christ. In fact, he is a crippled, embittered, and vindictive sociopath.

The right decorations

Let's get back to relationships. Old traumas always tend to end. The psyche tends to work out painful material. In order for the wounds to heal, we need to be able to respond differently to the previous situation. We strive to experience new feelings about an old problem and therefore unconsciously look for and choose people next to whom our trauma will surface and we can finally experience it differently. And who better than a person with narcissism is able to recreate for us the trauma of narcissistic rejection, to raise the narcissistic experience from the bottom of the psyche? nine0005

Ira's mother is a psychopath who chose one of her three children for love and rejected the others. Ira did not get into the favorites and had heard enough about the fact that she was ugly, that she could eat less, that she was growing too fast and that in general she was a disgrace to her mother. Now Ira is married to a man from a different social circle, which Ira perceives as not the most successful Christmas tree toy that hangs in the most prominent place. She needs to go with him to receptions and business dinners, she needs to dress beautifully, she needs to behave with dignity, which will advantageously complement the image of her husband. She can't, of course, that's what he tells her. She has bad taste, an ugly figure, provincial manners, and in general she interrupts him all the time and shames him in front of people. nine0004

And Lena has a rejecting dad who has been living in two families for many years. He seems to love his daughter, but he never finds time for her - in any case, as much time as she would like. As a child, she believes that it's all about her and tries to attract and keep him, sobbing bitterly when she fails. By adolescence, she decides that her father is to blame for everything, and stops communicating with him, considering her feelings for him faded and unimportant. She does not have a permanent relationship, but the relationships that she had were with a business traveler, with a shift worker, with a workaholic, with a single father. All her partners also always do not have enough time for her, she also hates them and deletes them from her life, like a father. nine0004

Everything is not so obvious with Denis: he has a good family, his parents love each other and their children, and there are a lot of resources. Dad is a surgeon who loves his job, a professional with a well-known name. Denis, by the way, is also a surgeon, and a good one (but not like his father, of course, he says). Denis has a relationship with a bright, interesting girl, a poetess and writer, successful and passionate about her work. Denis feels that he does not suit her, that he does not reach her level. Self-doubt is his constant background in a relationship that otherwise could be quite good. And so he plagues his beloved with bouts of uncertainty. Denis suspects her of cheating, reacts sharply to any of her oversights, and it is difficult to endure her successes. She tries to share less with him in order to hurt him less, and then he accuses her of secrecy and that she does not trust him. Exhausted, she leaves, leaving Denis confident that he was unworthy of her and ruined everything himself. nine0004

Relationships like these are the perfect backdrop for old traumas. Therefore, they become super-valuable, super-significant: the psyche throws all its resources into the possibility of becoming healthy again. On the surface, it looks like a great love, a strong attachment, a love addiction. In the depths, this is always an attempt - again and again to prove to the rejecting person that I am still worthy of love, that everything is fine with me, and you are wrong. Therefore, the idea that a partner is a hopelessly ill person and nothing will work out with him simply because he is not capable of it resonates so easily with narcissistic victims. nine0005

This is one of the options for resolving psychic trauma: to decide that I have nothing to do with it and that the whole thing is about another person who, in principle, is not capable of love.

This is most often true about a parent.

About an adult partner - not necessarily.

Innocence does not exist

The thing is that the psyche, in search of suitable scenery, adjusts reality to what it needs. There are many ways to do this: from simple demonization of a partner to unconscious provocations for narcissistic behavior. This is a very complex topic. To think about it is to refuse the saving transfer of responsibility to another person. The word “saving” here is not irony, but an inner reality: to admit that I bear part of the responsibility for what is happening to me means to return to the childhood experience “if this happens to me, then something is wrong with me.” To experience the shame that you have worked so hard to avoid and discover that you are not so innocent after all. Given that the psyche is looking for exactly innocence, adequate and justified when we were children, avoiding responsibility is salutary. It takes a lot, a lot of resources and support to stop blaming your partner (as a traumatic parent figure) for everything and rely on your own adulthood in order to really do away with old experiences. nine0005

Our adult task is not to satisfy our childish desperate needs, but to learn to live with the fact that they have not been and will not be satisfied.

This is a huge, irreversible grief. Can we be blamed for doing our best to avoid it?

Therefore, the victim's strategies are infantile and the way she adapts to relationships and self-care is also infantile. The most common victim strategy in a narcissistic relationship is to run away from the perceived abuser. This is not just a childish strategy. This strategy is too similar to what the victim blames his partner for. nine0005

Yana talks about her husband for a long time, all the first meetings, practically without letting me put in a word. I understand that it is important for her to speak out, it is important to feel heard and understood. It is not difficult for me to understand her: she says that her husband does not pay attention to her, carried away by what is happening to him, and I feel the same next to her. She talks about his coldness and indifference, that he is not interested in her - and I feel the same. She complains about the categoricalness of his judgments, that he evaluates her, calling him a "pronounced narcissist" and "a man without feelings." Next to her complaints about depreciation, it’s hard for me to feel valuable: without letting me do something for her, after a few meetings, Yana begins to talk about how the therapy is going somehow wrong. And when I pay attention to the fact that here she has space for all her experiences, that in this way they find a place for themselves and express themselves, she says that she constantly shares this with her friends and expected something more serious from the psychologist. nine0004

Fear is important for Yulia: she lives in constant tension because her partner constantly compares her with her ex-girlfriend, and she loses this comparison. Speaking about this, she utters the phrase: “My last man carried me in his arms, with him I understood what love is.

Andrei is married to a narcissistic girl who blames him for any difficulties they have in raising their daughter. “You are a bad father”, “if you spent more time at home”, “you spoil her”, “you don’t help me in raising”, “for you it’s all an ongoing holiday” - all these reproaches fall on Andrey constantly. He also feels that if the wife coped with her maternal duties, then her daughter would not have any problems. In this family, there is an undeclared war over who is the best parent: open on the one hand and secret on the other. At the same time, both are sincerely happy when the second makes a mistake or fails. Everyone lives in constant tension and stress: war is war. The daughter does not sleep well at night, throws tantrums and cannot learn how to use the potty. nine0004

The relationship in which the victim of the narcissist finds himself is narcissistic on both sides. Partners in such relationships share the same trauma. They both strive for a fusion that will finally heal old pains, and they both choose partners who can recreate the right scenery. Both strive for unequivocal recognition and acceptance of themselves, suffering due to discontent or the demands of a partner. Both have a set of specific adaptation patterns that make a person vulnerable to criticism and force them to spend all their energy on the one who criticizes. nine0005

The victim rejects her partner as often as she is rejected. He does not like the way she talks - she rejects his need to have a worthy partner at important events. He devalues ​​her hobby - she does not notice his efforts at work, which he makes to provide for his family. He plagues her with demands for order and cleanliness - she considers him a maniac, fulfilling his requests with anger and fear, unable to listen to what he really wants.

The relationship between Lana and Yegor looks, at first glance, like a relationship between a rapist and a victim: cleanliness is important for Yegor, and Lana has to spend most of her time cleaning, because a drop of water on the bathroom mirror can lead to lectures at best , at worst - to the scandal. Lana suffers in these attempts to keep her purity and not run into the aggression of her partner, and her martyrdom is obvious to everyone, including Yegor. He is really narcissistic, and disobedience makes him anger that frightens Lana, it's true, but he is angry not only because she did not take out the trash can or did not make the bed. Despite her exhausted face and refusal to spend time together due to her fatigue (and this is passive revenge), she still does not do what he asks her to. The garbage is still not taken out, the bed is still not made. First of all, Egor is furious because Lana, by and large, does not care about his needs: she does mechanical work in order to be exhausted and have the right to be offended by him and refuse him, not understanding what is really important to him. This is such a passive rejection in which narcissistic character traits grow exponentially. nine0004

Lana provokes Egor's narcissism - if he does not look like a maniac, then she will not look like an innocent victim. Therefore, she ignores Yegor's demands (he asks that the houses be clean and tidy, she also makes an operating room out of the apartment, in which order does not appear, because she is tired). Egor harasses her directly. Lana is passive-aggressive.

The relationship in which the victim of the narcissist finds himself is masochistic on both sides. Both partners have difficulty expressing their feelings directly, both do not know how to fully take care of themselves, both tend to assert themselves at the expense of the other, since the opportunity to be realized is lost. Masochism and narcissism always go hand in hand: they are two sick forms of adaptation, two stereotypes that stem from the impossibility in early childhood to be who we are. To put it very roughly, in a narcissistic relationship, the narcissist is the one who uses narcissistic stereotypes more - grandiosity, social admiration, publicity, and the victim is the one who has more masochistic patterns: endure, suffer and worsen his life so that others feel bad. Usually these patterns change, although there are favorites. In the story above, Lana is a masochist who narcissistically believes he is absolutely right, and Egor is a narcissist who masochistically endures his role as a domestic tyrant, although he does not get any pleasure from it. nine0005

These patterns of behavior do not indicate anything out of the ordinary. In fact, it is they who make up the bulk of modern relations.

Injuries converged

The narcissist and his victim have the same injury. I consider the narcissistic trauma of both partners to be the main, if not the only, reason for starting and maintaining a narcissistic relationship. I do not believe that only one partner is responsible for destructiveness (this applies to relationships, not one-time meetings or casual contacts). Relationships are a space that arises between two people, their common field, in which they both are. All our past experience, all our personality that has developed during our life, is placed in relationships - how can it be that all this does not matter? I am sure that what happens in a relationship is based on the experience of each of the partners and includes his personality, his conscious and unconscious needs. nine0005

Feeling like the passive side is safe only at first glance. Without the opportunity to feel our own responsibility, we lose the chance to change and deprive our partner of hope for a healthier relationship. By refusing to do something—something real that has nothing to do with the games and patterns of the traumatized person—the victim, no less than her partner, maintains the very patterns that destroy her. And since narcissistic trauma and narcissistic traits are characteristic of most modern people, feelings and behaviors can appear in any relationship that make this relationship narcissistic. This trend is not even at the level of the individual, but at the level of the system. nine0005

There are four types of trauma reactions: flight, fight, freeze, and complete submission. The injured person is fixed on these modes of action, losing the opportunity for flexible adaptation.

All he can do is run, be aggressive, stupor or obey. In this sense, the mass appeal to "run out of relationships with narcissists" is also a result of trauma.

At the same time, the tasks that confront us in any relationship are complex and multifaceted. They require more skills and reactions than these four. Flexible, creative adjustment to the relationship and to the partner is a necessary condition for the relationship (and the partner) to be as healthy and functional as possible. The more complex life situations that a couple goes through, the more complex and ambiguous their ways of adaptation will be. nine0005

For example, in a relationship there may be a lack of money or unemployment of one of the partners. Based on a set of traumatic patterns, in this case you can:

run away - end the relationship;

fight - get angry at a partner, blame him externally or internally, consider him a gigolo or look for a job for him, lend money, save;

freeze - avoid talking on this topic, stop hearing your needs for material support, turn off your concern for your partner and for yourself; nine0005

obey i - adapt to the situation in the belief that the partner does not have money and never will.

The reality is much more complicated. In reality, we experience all these feelings at the same time: anger, and fear, and pity, and the desire to help, and hope, and despair, and the willingness to accept, and the need to have support. In each specific relationship, its own unique version of what this couple will do with the current situation should be born. The universal answers that any system offers do not and cannot fit because they do not take into account the individual reality of the couple. The universal response is one of the options for traumatic patterns. nine0005

For example, it may be acceptable for a couple to use outside help - contact their parents, take out a bank loan, borrow money from friends. Perhaps it is for this couple that such an option is suitable when the second partner takes over all the material functions for a while and gives the other time and the opportunity to find himself and start earning again if he wants to. For the third couple, the best option would be to move to India, spiritual practices and odd jobs. For the rest, it is quite possible that parting, and salvation, and adaptation, but this should be the result of a conscious choice from a variety of possibilities. nine0005

Returning to an adult the possibility of flexible adaptation to what is happening in his life and in his relationships is the most important and healthiest thing to offer when he is not coping with his life. To offer such a person the idea of ​​his complete innocence is to increase his neurosis and condemn him to repeat the old story over and over again, perhaps for the rest of his life.

Tamara, for example, suffers daily threats and bullying from her husband. She suffers as if because he can greatly complicate her life: having moved to another country with him, she is afraid of losing her residence permit during a divorce, and her husband does not forget to remind her of this. There is a dead end here: I can sympathize with her and teach her to take care of herself more, but I can’t do anything else. She has a lot of reasons to skip meetings or hold them, repeating old complaints, she begins to complain about me, that nothing helps her. Only when I tell her that in our relationship she makes me a narcissist who uses her resources and remains useless, we begin to work. Tamara tells that from the very beginning she married a man whom she did not particularly like, and his accusations of her indifference are quite justified. Having begun to be honest with herself, she ceases to be destroyed by her husband's anger, because she finally stops making excuses and trying to convince him that he is wrong. Somehow it all adds up with a residence permit. The couple separates, but the relationship between them becomes healthier than in marriage. nine0004

Sveta, with her severe anxiety and a history of suicide attempts, talking about how sadistic her husband is doesn't help much either. Rather, the situation gets worse: playing a good client for me and a good wife for my husband, she turns out to be even more unstable, since she must be two different people. Only realizing that she was deceiving herself and such a relationship could not become good with all the efforts of the other person (me, for example), Sveta began to build boundaries, talk about her experiences and feel more secure. nine0004

But Yulia, in response to my remark that she does not hear me and is not going to hear me, after a pause, continues to talk about the past week. When I talk about my irritation, he reacts aggressively, justifying his innocence to me by the fact that I am a psychotherapist. When I talk about the lack of contact, he pretends to understand me, again talks about the past week, leaves me dissatisfied and finds a reason (it's always either money or time) not to come to the sessions anymore. nine0004

Relationship dynamics

Such relationships often contain similar scenarios, as they begin and develop between people who have similar traumas. These traumas dictate specific forms of adaptation to the world and manifest themselves in narcissistic and masochistic traits.

Each partner experiences a need to satisfy their needs for intimacy and acceptance, and each does not have enough healthy external and internal skills to build a truly intimate relationship. nine0026

Of course, at the entrance to a relationship, no one thinks that the other person is perfect for the role of a partner who will bring pain, because he looks like a parent and will be able to reproduce painful situations. When meeting and at the first stages of a relationship, we always feel anxiety, which is associated with the unknown. Narcissistic relationships are characterized by a special dynamics of anxiety: it does not decrease, but increases with rapprochement and better recognition of the partner. Since each of the partners has difficulty recognizing their emotions, this anxiety can look like falling in love, passion, excitement, attraction. It happens that these relationships arise out of anxiety, when the very context of the relationship or the situation of acquaintance is not safe and suggests further difficulties. It happens that relationships that start out rather boring, flare up with passion when the first quarrel occurs or the couple meets the first problematic situation. Both or one of the partners interpret these anxiety attacks as a “sparkle”, “love at first sight”, “I have never felt like this.” nine0005

Ilona's "fatal love" - ​​a man who insulted her on the road, pressed her to the side of the road and threatened to kill her. They went home to Ilona together. From the first seconds, this man captured all her attention, her whole life focused on how his eyebrow was raised, in what mood he came home, how many brackets he put in the message. Ilona was beaten by her mother as a child, and now she perceives her terrible anxiety as a strong love.

And for Inga, relationships become interesting when her husband's friend who was previously indifferent to her visits their house in his absence, drunk, beaten, in need of help. She begins to think about this man, seek meetings with him, in the end - starts an affair. Inga's father is an alcoholic, and for her psyche there is nothing more interesting than another attempt to save and save. Inga's husband knows how to take care of himself perfectly, he does not need help, this relationship is calm and therefore unattractive for her. nine0004

This is where the first division of functions takes place: who will be the rapist and who will be the victim? This choice is often made by the victim, reacting with the first wave of pain to the behavior of someone who will have the status of a rapist and narcissist in the future. The stimulus can be very different: from really going beyond the scope of unacceptable behavior to some kind of everyday occurrence or a manifestation familiar to another. Something that happens in sex, at home, in a public place or in private, hurts one of the partners so much that he cannot cope with it. nine0005

Raisa cannot bear the mention of her lover's ex-girlfriend in the common company they are in together. At first, she pretends that everything is fine, that she is interested in hearing about it, she even jokes about it. For her, this is a feat and heroism, for which she expects the same tact and support from a man. When he first tells her that he does not like Rai's girlfriend and would not like to see her in their common house, Rai is ready for this accumulated anger and resentment, accusations that she is everything for him, and he is for her I'm not even ready to be patient. A man reacts aggressively to such a presentation, Raya is hurt, she feels misunderstood and humiliated. He begins to meet with his girlfriend secretly, while telling the man that she has fulfilled his request and now communicates with her friend less often and on neutral territory. The relationship quickly acquires a narcissistic connotation, in which Raisa is the victim of a selfish and cold man who deprives her of the right to have girlfriends. nine0004

Rita feels normal and behaves adequately until she meets her husband's mother, who does not particularly approve of Rita's profession and lifestyle. Rita is silent and tries to be nice, bakes cookies for her mother, asks about her health, lets her husband go to visit her. At the next general meeting, the husband jokes about something related to her work, and this provokes an explosion. At home, Rita screams that her husband does not respect her, indulges her mother in everything, does not put her work into anything. The husband goes to his mother. They will reconcile (after a long period of her silence), but the precedent will remain - and that he allowed himself a joke, and that he is on his mother's side, and that he left her when she was hysterical. nine0004

In all these cases, the narcissistic victim's trauma mechanisms are activated and she runs, fights, freezes, or submits. In none of these cases is it a flexible adaptation, in none of these cases does it solve the problem that has arisen. Since the victim cannot fully take care of himself, he creates the first precedent of inequality and from now on will have a moral advantage in such relations. If she's not in a relationship with a psychopath, then it will matter. Nobody wants to feel bad. For a person with narcissistic traits, such experiences are generally unbearable, because his psyche is traumatized and forced to ignore shame in order to remain whole. nine0005

It is difficult for Nadia to have a child, it is difficult to live in a small and uncomfortable apartment, to endure remoteness from her parents, unemployment and long business trips of her husband. It seems to her that she has no right to talk about her feelings and needs, and she tries to be comfortable and not causing problems. Unexpressed feelings manifest themselves in one of her husband's visits: Nadia does not have the strength to be nice, she feels unwell, and against this background, suppressed anger erupts. The occasion is accidental: the husband, accustomed to her demonstrated high spirits, says something like "what are you so sour." Nadia tells him everything she thinks about everything that has accumulated, and does it in the form of reproaches: that he is not such a father, not such a husband, not such a man. It is difficult to respond peacefully to such a flow of unpredictable anger. The husband is frightened by her affect and withdraws even more, she becomes even worse. Relations gradually deteriorate: he returns home, sees her tired and dissatisfied face, both of them can’t talk about it, and he becomes more and more aggressive towards the one from whom you constantly need to defend yourself. Both are sinking deeper and deeper into dissatisfaction with each other. She's unhappy, it's his fault. She suffers, he is angry at her suffering, because he is the cause of it. nine0004

Instead of getting the understanding and sympathy she needs, the victim is traumatized again. She gets even worse, and she blames her partner for this again. He, defending himself from a new sense of guilt, again makes her understand that he is not responsible for her condition, that she herself is to blame for everything and he is not going to accept her, since this already involves playing on unequal conditions. Here we are no longer talking about equal relations: we are talking about who deserves them or proves his right to be right and not feel shame. nine0005

A war begins, which will then be the content of these relations for many years to come. There is a lot of anxiety in the war, which is heard as excitement and great love. The forces invested in this war do not allow capitulation, demanding justice and retribution. One of the partners plunges deeper and deeper into pain, psychosis, illness. The second becomes more and more indifferent and aggressive. Both are more and more wounded about this relationship and more and more frozen in confidence in their rightness. There is less and less closeness, sincere care, honesty between them. The relationship turns into an alliance of two enemies, each of which needs to outsmart the other. nine0005

Olya and Vasya read a lot. Mostly literature on psychology and self-development. After that, they tell each other about what they read, making assumptions about what is wrong with the partner. They go to the same psychotherapist, who tells Olya that it's about Vasya, and Vasya says that it's about Olya. When this couple is faced with some kind of problem, it is more important for them not to solve it, but to find out who is to blame. For example, the couple discusses conflicting and inadequate neighbors from above not in the sense of searching for a way out of the situation, but in the sense of which of them unconsciously attracted this situation and who is now mentally working it out. nine0004

And for Vera and Maxim, the war is a comparison of parental families: Vera's parents are doctors and professors, Maxim's are workers. Vera accuses her husband's family of primitiveness, Maxim accuses his wife's family of arrogance. Rare general gatherings are full of provocations. Vera can defiantly talk to her parents about the refugee situation in Europe or discuss French films. Maxim insists that his father show the repair made by himself. Both pairs of parents feel awkward and almost do not communicate with each other: they already have little in common, they live different lives, and then there is this war. By the way, then the parents of both Vera and Maxim act in the same way - when a young family asks for help with the appearance of children, they withdraw themselves. Their adult children are hurt by this, but they also continue to see the reasons in different ways: Vera is in Maxim's parents, Maxim is in Vera's parents. nine0004

If one of the partners leaves this game and distances himself, the other one also subsides for a while, offering to approach. These are the so-called "narcissistic pings", when, when one of the partners is distancing, the second begins to offer to go somewhere, asks how you are, shares funny pictures. It is traditionally believed that the narcissist is pinging, calling on the victim to return to the relationship. But if someone who has the status of a narcissist is removed, then the victim pings no less. Only now she will regard his greetings and pictures as pretense and manipulation, and her own as manifestations of sincere feelings and steps towards her partner. nine0005

Veronica can't stand the absence of her partner when it wasn't her who pushed him away. If, after a quarrel, Veronica decides to punish him with silence, she does not answer calls, does not read messages, does not open the door until she considers the punishment sufficient. If she is dumped this time (and this is a dating-diverging couple, they break up every few months), then she writes long letters, arranges random meetings, or “accidentally” dials his phone number.

There are several options for the development of narcissistic relationships. More often, the victim still leaves, usually not immediately, but having managed to thoroughly collapse. Narcissistic relationships in general are rarely short: it takes time to unfold a neurosis, the strength of needs in these relationships is great, and the strength of anxiety looks like love and affection, so partners remain in mutual dependence even when it gets really bad. To a person who is accustomed to living in a situation of suppression of his needs, this state of affairs does not seem to be something new and worthy of intervention. Need a reason. nine0005

Some kind of “last straw” can become this reason: betrayal, beating, outright public insult. This is always a situation with an unambiguous interpretation: one is definitely right, the other is definitely wrong, and the one who is right leaves. This opportunity brings short-term catharsis, a sense of liberation. Being able to act on one's own will can seem to be healing. Alas, not for long.

As the old trauma unfolded in the relationship, the psyche took care to ignore emotions and needs that did not fit into the previous picture. Now that the game is played, those feelings are starting to come back. The victim yearns for their relationship, grieves for a failed marriage, may feel tenderness and warmth, and look at their partner in a different way. She can be pulled back with great force: the feelings were strong, the loss was serious. She may think that the partner has changed, perhaps everything will work out for them. Unfortunately, if this relationship starts again, most likely, the same game will continue in them. The victim simply does not have the opportunity to build these relationships in a different way. She feels fragmentary, in separate pieces: apart and near. The fragmentation of her personality does not allow her to connect these pieces together and build relationships based on a full-fledged inner life. nine0005

Narcissists only create the illusion of reciprocity

Originally posted by sirin_from_shrm at Imitating Vaknin. The Narcissist and Emotional Dependence

Emotional involvement is an integral part of healthy love and friendship relationships, it is based on the emotional attachment of people to each other. In relations with a narcissist, attachment takes the form of emotional dependence (EZ) - the emotional relationship in this case is not mutual, but one-sided. nine0197

After the victim becomes emotionally involved and deepens the connection with the narcissist, he becomes an exclusive person for her, acquires a high status in her value system. At the same time, for the narcissist, the victim remains one of the many providers of the resource. Such a resource is both her attitude towards him as a unique and important person in her life (which allows the narcissist to inflate a bubble of greatness), and the opportunities that his priority position in the eyes of the victim opens up for the narcissist - the opportunity to use her emotional, sexual, social and financial service. nine0197 The narcissist is kept near his victim by the fact that he is either completely satisfied with the resources supplied by him, or has not yet found anything more suitable to replace him.

The narcissist does not cooperate, but eats . In normal relationships, people constantly mutually “feed” each other with resources on the basis of a free and voluntary exchange (which also implies the possibility of refusal). If difficulties arise in interaction, both are ready to take responsibility for overcoming them and are ready for mutual compromises. For normal people, their relationship is a priority, for a narcissist, their own comfort and benefit is a priority. nine0005

The narcissist is ready to "give" his resources in so far as. At the initial stage - in order to tie the victim to himself. An important point: even at this stage, all concessions in resources are forced. The narcissist perceives this not as a voluntary donation to the relationship, but as an investment, or as his "deflection" before the imposed choice. The narcissist always remembers his own investments and concessions and, at the first opportunity, will take revenge, compensate them a hundredfold, often justifying his cruelty. A narcissist can also give the victim resources from an excess of his own capabilities, according to the principle "God is on you, what is worthless to us." Here, the image component is important for the narcissist, and he will not fail to remind once again of his “kindness”. nine0005

At the first sign of difficulties or disagreements, the narcissist shifts the responsibility for overcoming them to the victim, leaving control and evaluation to himself. The victim wrestles with an impossible task alone, and the narcissist spits down and lets out the controlling comments "you're not trying hard" and "sock, sock pull!". The narcissist can give specific instructions, but he can also express instructions in a veiled form - “guess, they say, yourself.” At the same time, he himself enjoys power and fumbles his eyes around in search of another victim. nine0005

At the first stage of the relationship, the narcissist created the illusion of reciprocity in the victim. Therefore, the victim is unaware that her relationship with the narcissist is not symmetrical. Convinced that the investments are mutual and the goals are the same, in the next stage of the relationship she looks for the reasons for the cooling of the narcissist in herself, "works on herself and on the relationship", and the more she invests in this, the more she gets bogged down. This is how emotional addiction occurs.

The narcissist uses EZ to provide himself with a continuous supply of resources so that the victim is always at hand and ready to serve. When the need for a victim is irrelevant or she herself needs to use the resources of the narcissist, which he is not ready to give away, the narcissist prefers to withdraw, most often under a fictitious pretext (“I need to be alone”, “you got me”, etc.) . nine0005

Why is boycott important in the formation of emotional dependence (ED)?

Refusal to communicate hurts self-esteem: the victim realizes that she has been rejected. Let us recall that, in its original meaning, a boycott is a form of political and economic struggle, which involves the complete or partial termination of relations with an individual, organization, enterprise. The narcissist often uses the boycott as a form of victim coercion. But it also happens that the refusal to communicate is unconscious and indicates that at the moment he no longer needs the resources that the victim can provide him. nine0005

In this case, of course, the emotional well-being and needs of the victim do not play any role for the narcissist.
A boycott is terrible because the victim cannot always understand its true reason. It’s hard for a normal person to believe that they took advantage of you, and when the need for you ceases to be relevant, they begin to ignore you. If the victim realizes that the reason for the boycott is to force them into the unacceptable behavior that the narcissist wants, they have no opportunity to offer a compromise solution. nine0005

Either way, the victim has to find ways to reconnect with the narcissist using their own resources. Since she is interested in a relationship, she looks for reasons to cool down in herself and looks for ways to adapt to his requirements. And that makes it even more bogged down.

Risk factors for a potential victim: what makes it more likely to "catch" EZ?

Regardless of the presence (deficit or excess) of their own personal resources, people have needs that cannot be satisfied on their own. It is these needs that present a good opportunity for the narcissist to parasitize his victims. nine0005

The main factors that cause the emergence of EH in a pair with a narcissist are the natural human need for love, acceptance, emotional closeness, the desire to create strong close partnerships, as well as such human qualities as sincerity, gullibility and the desire to share. If two people meet with a mutual need for each other, their emotional dependence remains within the framework of healthy communication.

What is the difference between withdrawal with EZ and "just a bad mood"? nine0026

"Just a bad mood" is never "just like that". It always hides some unsatisfied need and, accordingly, a repressed emotion.

Hormones play an important role in the relationship of people to each other. They determine the emotional background of situations. In the formation of EZ (as a pathological form of emotional attachment), the hormone oxytocin plays an important role. As they get closer and intimacy develops, the partner begins to play the role of a stimulus that causes the production of this hormone.

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