Reactive Abuse, and how to outsmart the games.
One of the many ways a narcissist gets to us is through our own reactions. When we know how and why they do it, this helps us learn to walk the other way. Let them go left while we go right.
It’s human nature for us to want them to see our point of view. Still, we are fighting a losing battle. A narcissist feels entitled and above others. They are more interested in their power and control than they are in the opinions, thoughts or feelings of those around them. They will exploit people, and with their lack of empathy, they just don’t care how it affects people, so long as their needs get met. You can not and will not change their behaviour. They lack empathy to relate to how you feel; they just have the knowledge of empathy, to use our compassion, and our need to be understood against us.
Abusers love reactive abuse as it’s proof in their minds that they are powerful, that they hold all the cards and that they are in control. That the person who reacted is unstable and crazy, that the one who’s reacted is mentally ill, they will use it against you for years to come, narcissistic people rewrite their own history, they change the stories they tell themselves, they are never accountable, they say so many lies they often believe their own lies and reality, and as they hold onto grudges, they will use reactive abuse against you for years to come.
Definition of reactive abuse.
Reactive abuse happens when someone who’s been abused, mind games or controlled, either physically or psychologically, financially, spiritually, or sexually stands up to or reacts to their abuser because they just can not take anymore, standing up for themselves, either by screaming, shouting, slapping, spitting, throwing things, either throwing insults with the words or lashing out physically. That’s all the abuser needs to then blame it all on the one they’ve been provoking.
Narcissists have been known to.
- Call the family to calm you down.
- Call friends to come and help.
- Give you the silent treatment before a special occasion, then when you arrive, they are good, and you look grumpy.
- Threaten you.
- Take people to the doctor to get them on antidepressants.
- Call the police.
- Install cameras in the home, and edit footage.
- Film reactions and show others.
- Edit their messages out and show others yours.
At the start, it’s often the innocent party who usually makes excuses for the narcissist’s behaviour and is often left blaming themselves; a narcissist might do this but in another twisted, manipulative way, where a narcissist will play the victim and say things like. “I did all I could; they just abused me.” Or “I tried to help; they are crazy.”
A narcissist will always play the victim or the hero, yet never the villain for years to come.
Where the actual victim might say. “If I’d have not done this, then they wouldn’t have done that.” Or “They’re just tired.” Things like. “I’ve not been at my best.” they still blame themselves for their abuser’s behaviour.
Ways they will cause reactive abuse to control us?
A Narcissist will.
They bait, they provoke, they gaslight, project, and they shift all the blame onto you.
Baiting is used by a narcissist to provoke an emotional response from us so that they can have power over our emotions and, ultimately, over our thinking to further their control over us. Baiting is used to make people feel:-
When we feel like this, it makes it easier for the narcissist to manipulate us further.
Blame shifting, this is when the narcissist has done something wrong, then they dump all the blame onto us to avoid any feelings of remorse or shame, also to escape accountability. They will play the victim, downplaying or completely avoiding what they did and making what you did to be far worse. They bring up your tone of voice or how you spoke down to them, as they know you have a caring, empathetic side, they will guilt trip or pity play, there could be the accusations, covert ” If you hadn’t, I wouldn’t.” To the overt,” You hit me, you abused me. I did nothing wrong.” Gaslighting with words such as.
- Why do you have to spoil everything?
- You make everything so difficult.
- If you looked after me more.
- If you hadn’t.
- It’s your fault.
- What do you want me to do about it?
- You’re selfish.
- That’s just like you.
Which just confuses us and plants those seeds of Self-doubt within our minds.
As a narcissist pays little attention to the needs of those around them, as whatever they do is only to meet a need of their own, they will make people involuntarily do as the narcissist wants them to do, often they unwittingly becoming flying monkeys and enablers.
- Their games.
- The past.
- The mask.
- Word salad.
- Flying monkeys.
When we’re happily discussing something, then we either don’t agree with their point of view, or they feel criticised, or we’ve asked them about something they didn’t want us to know about. To gain control and win, as that’s what narcissists wish to win and be in control. They’ll suddenly switch the conversation onto something else. Usually, something we’ve done wrong in their eyes, or something we haven’t done for them, or they will chip away at one of our insecurities. They project out loads of word salad to provoke us, confuse us, hurt and upset us. Suddenly we’re in defensive mode, and the original conversation has completely disappeared. Then we get blamed for everything, blamed for defending ourselves. Or we are reduced to tears, and they’ll sit back almost looking pleased with a smirk of contempt on their face and watch you cry while still blaming it all on you.
Gaslighting is an insidious form of psychological manipulation where the abuser gets the targets to question their own reality and sanity, and they will gaslight you with things like that.
- “You’re just insecure.” If you think they are cheating.
- “I was only joking.” They were not, but to escape accountability and pin the blame on you.
- “It didn’t happen like that.” It did, but they want you to forget what they did.
- “You’re losing your mind.” Again so you think you’re going crazy and blame it all on yourself.
- “I never did that.” They did; they just want that part wiped from your memory.
The main reason a narcissist uses intimidation is that you fear them, meaning you will conform to their demands out of fear. They also use it to manipulate you and cause you more confusion within your mind, with subtle threats that make you wonder if it’s a real threat if they’re messing around if they will act on this threat or leave it be. They do this on purpose, to lay the bait, so you are worried about the threat, but at the same time, you don’t want to make a fuss, or you also fear if you speak out or to other people, they might think you’re overreacting, as the narcissist will tell you and others, “You’re too sensitive.” “You’re overeating.” or things like “You are imagining things.”
This is when your thoughts, feelings, opinions, weight, shape, Job, and relationships, it can be as severe as everything about who you are and what you do is rejected, ignored, criticised and judged by the narcissist. They Invalidate with many manipulation tactics. They use your weaknesses against you, so if you feel overweight, they’ll make subtle remarks.
The Covert Narcissist.
- Should you eat that?
- I don’t think that job is for you.
- It’s not that bad.
- I wouldn’t do that.
The Overt Narcissist.
- You’re fat.
- You’re too thin.
- You’re not capable.
- If you do that, I will.
- Why have you done that??
- You’re dumb.
Or through triangulation. They will use children. Anything from your past, whatever they know, will hurt your feelings. They’ll attack through more manipulative words. They even put down those people that you care for the most for or go after those you care the most about to get at you. They will go after pets and animals, whatever is important to you, and it’s intentional as they know it’s what you’ll defend the most; if you love your home, they’ll go all out to take it from you.
Protection is a defensive mechanism commonly used by narcissists; they are defending themselves against subconscious or conscious, traits, beliefs, and actions to escape accountability; it’s a combination of blame-shifting and gaslighting, distracting the target from what is really happening while getting the target to blame themselves—things like. “You started it, accusing me, who knows what you’ve been up to.” or. “If you didn’t talk down to me, you’re always having a dig at me.” It’s like gaslighting, but they are actually referring to themselves yet claiming it’s you. They will.
- Call you insecure.
- Call you jealous.
- Call you crazy.
- Say you need a mental evaluation.
- Call you sensitive.
- Accuse you of lying.
- Accuse you of cheating.
- Accuse you of being dramatic.
- Ask,” why do you have to make things so difficult.”
As with their other tactics, to either get you to doubt yourself, blame yourself, take the focus away from anything they have done and exaggerate things you haven’t done or something you do not feel, but then think you feel it, all because you’re instinct said they’re cheating, they accuse you of being ”hung up on your past.” or ”crazy.” later it turns out your instincts were spot on.
I used to get called crazy for things that turned out to be true.
- They will start an argument out of fresh air.
- Say backhanded insults.
- Use your insecurities against you.
- Ignore you.
- Lie to you.
- Change events on you.
- Triangulation with other people.
- Say obvious hurtful things.
- Upset the children.
- Upset you any way they can.
- Threaten you.
- Threaten family and friends.
Then when you get upset, they will escalate the situation until you snap. You’re then left feeling bad for lashing out, saying hurtful things, being angry, and you apologise and do your best to make it up to them. Even though you know your reactions were wrong, you end up blaming it all on you, not paying attention to the part they played.
The silent treatment.
The silent treatment is another form of psychological manipulation the narcissist uses against others. It is another form of emotional abuse to keep power and control over you, to avoid taking accountability for something they have done, avoid responsibility for their own actions. To maintain their dominance over you. It’s used to punish you for something you have or haven’t done. They believe you are beneath them, and they want to do it, so you conform to their demands.
- The present silent treatment, where they stick around and ignore you.
- The absent silent treatment, where they disappear on you.
- Ghosting, when they disappear entirely.
The silent treatment makes us feel.
We can become angry and aggressive, so they do it, so when you then act out in anger, they blame you for the problems, with their projection and blame-Shifting.
The smear campaign.
The narcissist uses the smear campaign so that they can keep their toxic behaviours hidden from society, so we look like we’re jealous and either want the narcissist back or want to seek revenge on the narcissist. They use the smear campaign to make us look like we’re crazy or obsessed with them. They will either play the hero that tried so hard to help us. We are often left looking and acting depressed, a shell of our former selves, or they’ll be playing the victim of how we’ll no longer allow them to see their children or that we abused them. They’ll exploit others by using their empathy against them. They’ll be telling all those who’ll listen to everything that they did to us, only they’ll be making out to others that we did to them. So they shift the blame and walk free from any responsibility.
They trick you into reacting.
They will trick you into reacting, as you are fully aware you are not perfect. ( no one is.) with good intentions, there’s no wrong way or right way to live your life; we are imperfectly perfect. They will threaten to tell others, as they know you are not happy with your own behaviour as it’s not like you. They know you feel worse about yourself; they wear you down slowly over time, so you no longer feel good enough. You lose your integrity and stay trapped in the cycle of abuse.
After provoking a reaction from you, where you’d like to communicate with them, some will go into the silent treatment, either the one where they stick around ( the present silent treatment.) or where they disappear. They want you to beg and plead for forgiveness. Silent Treatment is psychological torture and causes great pain to the brain. You’re left looking to yourself as to what you did wrong and how you can make it up to them, and when you do, they’ll bring back the intermittent niceness as a reinforcement to your mind that you were wrong. They were right, leaving them to believe their realities and you questioning yours.
This all leads to cognitive dissonance; the target ends up full of self-blame, self-doubt, feeling like they are the narcissist, feeling unworthy, feeling grateful, that the narcissist who’s a bully and a con artist will take you back, changing who you are time and time again to please them, trying to help them while you slowly lose who you are. When you can see different realities, one that matches your beliefs and another that is continuously being rewritten on you, it’s hard to see it while you are living it; it takes time to work it out once you break free.
When the narcissist triggers us, and we react, we defend ourselves to the narcissist and believe we are getting our point of view across; we are not; we are only giving our power to them to continue their games. The more we react, the more the narcissist will push our buttons.
We can not control what they say or do; even when the relationships are over, we can, however, learn to control our reactions.
Even the best of people have their limits; those who are good, kind, generous, loyal, and loving people have their limitations; we are human, after all. When people chip away at you, push all your buttons, use all your insecurities and weaknesses against you, or send you into a state of fear, anxiety and depression, most people react to try and release all the stress, heartache, pain, and emotional build-up, only this then ends up with us feeling worse, as we are left feeling like we are to blame, guilty, and more lost from who we indeed are.
The worst part is, your reactions are your reactions, fooled or not, and we have to own up and take responsibility for our own actions as that’s something they are incapable of and one of the many things that separate us from them.
Who started what is irrelevant? If you are with someone who brings out the worst in you (even the most caring people have a breaking point.), a narcissist will argue with anyone and everyone, if you’re behaving out of character around certain people, if they bring out a side you don’t like about yourself, it’s time to break free.
Learning not to let the narcissist impact your life, learning to ignore them, means you take back control of your life, and they become powerless against you.
Narcissists live in a different reality to us, and they do not want compromise; they do not want to help others; they only want to help themselves. They want control.
As we go through recovery, each step is a learning curve. Each battle won within ourselves to overcome anxiety, CPTSD, fear, guilt, anger, resentment, trauma bonding and those negative self-doubts they’ve drilled into our mindsets. It is one step closer to leaving your past behind where it belongs in the past, so you can make progress in your present and create a brighter future, no longer be infected by the narcissist, learning to live in the present day, and move into a much happier future.
A narcissist is extremely jealous and envious of people, and most often when they see you moving on happily with your life. They up their games to pull your attention back onto them. They might do this by trying to destroy you or by playing nice and coming for the hoover as they feel you have something they can use you for.
Things to remember when recovering from narcissist abuse.
- You are far from alone; reach out for help and support.
- Your mind controls your emotions; you control your mind.
- So you are no longer dependent on living to how others think you should be, how you think others think you should be remembered; it’s not important to what anyone else thinks of, only you define yourself, with good intentions, there is no wrong way and no right way only your way.
- Standards, keeping your own standards high, yet keep your expectations low when we expect those toxic people to understand on a gallon level. Yet, they don’t understand things like others’ feelings, morals, compassion, two-way conversation, and compromise when we think they do. We are the ones going to spend our whole lives frustrated.
- Boundaries, good people will respect your boundaries; we need a million and one ways to say NO, and we need to stick to our nos. When you learn the art of saying no to things that don’t make you feel good, it becomes a great deal breaker to eliminate toxic people from in your life or entering your life.
- Heal any wounds. If you fear being cheated on, remember narcissists use that against you. When you find a good person, they won’t hurt you. In that way, if they use the children against you, keep everything via email or messages and keep a diary of the children’s behaviour, keep copies, if they bring the children back late, do not react, that’s why they’ve done it if they let them down have back up plans, do not let the narcissist know if they know they are hurting you through the children they will focus your time and energy on the children. If you have to go no contact for safeguarding issues, you’ll have healed yourself, have evidence, and you will make it through any court process; just focus on the best interests of the children at all times.
- Pattern interrupt in the mindset, removing all those toxic thoughts the narcissist planted in your subconscious one by one, write them out, write who told you, then write the truth. When they are running in your mind, rent-free subconscious popping by, consciously remove them back out.
- Learn the patterns they cycle around to get reactions from you, from pity plays, apologies, threats, rage, watch and learn, observe their behaviour, and don’t absorb their toxins. Then stop focusing on the narcissist and focus on yourself if you break a bone. You don’t spend six weeks focusing on how you broke it and still use it and live in that pain. You seek help to get it fixed; you deal with the break before anything else.
- Releasing and letting of any anger and resentment that you might hold towards them or towards yourself, it’s in the past now. Your present no longer needs it; if they come at you, by all means, scream it out, shout it out, talk to someone who understands, just never direct it to the narcissist they want and need your reactions. You want and need to heal and become free.
Working on your healing, new dreams, and a new thought process will give you a much calmer, more peaceful life; hopefully, the narcissist will realise they’re not getting what they want from you and leave you alone, yet when they do come at you, it’ll no longer affect you once you’re healed.
The narcissists bait and switch.
You can, and you will recover.
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Elizabeth Shaw is not a Doctor or a therapist. She is a mother of five, a blogger, a survivor of narcissistic abuse, and a life coach, She always recommends you get the support you feel comfortable and happy with. Finding the right support for you. Elizabeth has partnered with BetterHelp (Sponsored.) where you will be matched with a licensed councillor, who specialises in recovery from this kind of abuse.
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