When it comes to reading articles about narcissists and sociopaths, most of us are all familiar with terms like gaslighting, projection and stonewalling. Yet there are five methods that narcissists use that I find aren’t normally spoken about in articles about covert, underhanded narcissists which are – there’s no more accurate way of saying this – just seriously fucked up.
1. They dangle the carrot.
Narcissists and sociopaths are masters of stroking their victim’s egos when it suits them. They know how to future-fake quite well to meet their own needs and agendas (this is known as love-bombing – where they give you excessive praise and attention). So, they ensure that you always have something to look forward to, to imagine, rather than actually fulfilling their promises or following through with what they’ve told you they’d do.
They dangle the proverbial carrot in front of you, urging you to get closer and meet their needs all while neglecting your own. They might express how excited they are to one day build a future with you. They may insinuate helping you with a big goal of yours or facilitating your possession of a lifelong dream. Whatever promises they make, it’s all just a web of lies to ensnare you into their toxic, twisted world. While you’re busy investing in them, they’re busy sinking their claws into their other victims.
2. They pinpoint what you most deeply desire, then withhold it or give it to someone else.
Those higher on the spectrum of narcissism and closer to psychopathy find great delight in manipulating others and causing them pain. The most covert and sadistic of narcissists enjoy finding out what you want and pretending they can give it to you. Then, when you least suspect it, they’ll withhold whatever they promised and give it to someone else (and you get a front-row seat to the horror show).
Maybe it’s the promise of a relationship title, a marriage, children, a future together or even something as simple as a photo together or relationship status on Facebook. Whatever it is, once they find out you want it, they use it as bait to hook you and sink you. They are also immensely gleeful when triangulating you with the person they’re treating favorably. They enjoy showing off the fact that they gave what you’ve always wanted to another unsuspecting victim.
3. They use emotional language, even though they’re emotionless.
Research has shown that psychopaths tend to use more emotional language than their peers to manipulate their targets. It’s their way of trying to seem more “human.” Narcissists and sociopaths will wax on about how they love spending time with you (all while ignoring and neglecting you when they actually do). They’ll profess how much passion they feel in your presence (all while demonstrating an eerie, cold, flat affect). They’ll cry crocodile tears about how much they miss you (once you’ve already left after enduring years of their abuse) and how they wish they could be the man or woman for you.
They’ll “re-use” you and re-idealize you as narcissistic supply once they see you have something valuable they need.
Researchers have found that psychopaths talk more and use more emotional words in an attempt to gain attention and admiration. Psychopaths are really good at saying just the right thing at the right time. They know how to play on other people’s emotions and they’re master manipulators… [but] their language lacks emotional dimension. For psychopaths, saying, “I love you,” doesn’t stir up any more emotion than saying, “Please pass the milk.” They can parrot back what they’ve heard other people say but their facial expressions don’t match their words. Their ability to verbalize feelings is most likely a learned behavior, as opposed to a genuine emotional experience.
— Amy Morin, 9 Subtle Ways Psychopaths Communicate Differently, According to Science
4. They create imaginary scenarios out of thin air just to blame you for them.
A sociopath is a pathological liar – someone who will lie just for the fun of it. They draw amusement and entertainment from their victims having to defend themselves against baseless accusations. Blameshifting ensures that the target is on edge, restless, and wastes their energy trying to explain themselves rather than simply stating the facts and standing firm in their self-validation.
“Another lynchpin is dishonesty. Lying for the sake of lying. Lying just to see whether you can trick people. And sometimes telling larger lies to get larger effects. The other thing that needs to be stressed is that sociopaths are often extremely charming. They are people who are better than you and me at charming people, at being charismatic.” — Dr. Martha Stout, The Sociopath Next Door – Interview Magazine
Accusing someone of something they didn’t do – all while holding all the rational evidence that they didn’t – is a fun game that sociopaths engage in, especially against those they’re pathologically envious of. They enjoy crafting scenarios out of thin air and claiming their victim was the instigator – and their victim’s reactions also helps them with their eventual smear campaign.
5. They make it seem as if their bare minimum is maximum effort – and punish you for asking for more than their crumbs.
Toxic people enjoy guilting and shaming their targets into believing that they are simply asking for way too much when in reality, they are asking for the same decency, respect and consideration that the sociopath has given other victims who they’re idealizing.
You may have pleaded and begged for the narcissist or sociopath in your life to do something quite small, and once they do it (with half-hearted efforts), they’re acting as if they’ve carried you out of a burning building. They simply “don’t have the time” to listen to your “demands” (apparently, asking for your basic human rights, fairness and equality to be honored is too demanding), but you can’t help but notice that they’ll climb mountains for complete strangers they’re trying to impress. Don’t take this tactic personally: it’s a way to diminish you while gathering valuable new members of their harem.
In any type of relationship with a narcissist or sociopath, remember: their abusive, toxic and manipulative behavior is the problem – not you. Normal, healthy people do not go around deliberately harming others or manipulating them. In order to stay sane, you must seek outside support and validation to escape the inevitable reality erosion involved in this nightmare.