Narcissists are fickle creatures; they love shiny objects and they love to replace them just as swiftly as they’ve obtained them. They pit people against one another, they manufacture love triangles to make people jealous and to cause people to compete for the narcissist’s attention and approval. They become easily distracted by new victims who can heighten their status, reputation and wealth.
In a narcissist’s eyes, all victims are replaceable and interchangeable, depending on what they can do for the narcissist. All victims are in a never-ending competition to prove their worth and value to the narcissist.
The “love cults” that narcissists build to stroke their egos aren’t actually exclusive to romantic relationships. They can exist in families, friendship circles, the workplace and various organizational hierarchies.
Love-bombing is a technique that cult leaders use to groom and indoctrinate their members; it consists of showering someone with constant attention and praise to get the cult’s own needs met. When members are sufficiently love-bombed and indoctrinated into the group, they are then expected to cater to the narcissist’s every desire in return.
Consider this insight from author and former Playboy bunny Holly Madison when she speaks about Hugh Hefner’s grandiose persona and the cult-like mentality at the Playboy mansion:
“Hef loves to surround himself with ‘yes’ people. And he does have a lot of friends that he’s good to. There’s such a culture up there of everybody always talking about him being the nicest guy. You know, that was the veneer and the personality that I fell for – for so long. So you are kind of afraid to speak out in a way because you’re made to feel like you’re crazy.”
Your Role Can Change
Contrary to popular belief, the role you play in a narcissist’s harem isn’t always a fixed one. It can change and fluctuate based on how the narcissist perceives your usefulness and their needs.
Here are five roles you may play if you unwittingly become part of a narcissist’s harem:
1. The love-bombed target.
This is a role that one usually inhabits when first entering the narcissist’s harem – whether it means being the new girlfriend or boyfriend of a narcissist, a new employee entering a company, the spoiled “golden child” of a narcissistic family, or a fresh new face in a social clique.
In any relationship with a narcissist, you become part of a cult-like group, because narcissists usually have many other “admirers” awaiting to serve them at their beck and call – whether they be ex-lovers, crushes, “just friends” or your eventual replacement.
The love-bombed target becomes the apple of the narcissist’s eye and is presented to the cult as the best of the best. At first, he or she can do no wrong. They are given laser-focused attention to the exclusion of other members of the harem. When you are love-bombed, you are given starry-eyed admiration, excessive praise and flattery, and special favors that other victims aren’t privy to.
Due to this, the love-bombed target, usually through no fault of their own, becomes the subject of envy, jealousy, sometimes even sabotage from other competitors in the narcissist’s harem. But like all other victims, the love-bombed target will also eventually be devalued (although they may be re-idealized later on if they have something of value).
2. The ride-or-die enablers.
This role is assigned to the most devoted of the narcissist’s harem – the ones who will “ride or die” for the narcissist. Enablers are used to protect the narcissist from accountability and to defend the narcissist’s excessive sense of entitlement to whatever they want regardless of who they harm. They may be told to lie for the narcissist, to shut down the complaints of anyone who dares to question the narcissist, and to punish and scapegoat those who do so accordingly.
They can also be employed as “flying monkeys,” those who are used to bully, taunt and harass any threatening targets that may be in the narcissist’s way. They support the narcissist in their various schemes regardless of how immoral or unjust they might be. A ride or die enabler could come in the form of a spouse, a parent, a sibling, colleagues, friends or even an acquaintance turned devout follower – you name it.
3. The right-hand man or woman.
This is the narcissist’s partner in crime, usually someone who has sociopathic traits of their own. Unlike the other roles, this one is often fixed and reserved for those who are very much aligned with the narcissist’s own values; if you are the victim of a narcissist, you are unlikely to fill this role at all. This go-to person provides usefulness to the narcissist in a way that cannot be easily replaced because they share a similar unempathic, ruthless and exploitative nature which can serve the narcissist well in their agendas.
As a result, they tend to be a prized and long-standing member of a narcissist’s harem. Whatever role the right-hand man or woman plays in the narcissist’s life, they are usually the narcissist’s “best friend,” confidante and fellow con artist. They co-conspire with the narcissist to hunt new prey. However, just like any victim, they too can eventually be replaced should someone shinier (and perhaps more sociopathic) come along.
4. The empathic caretakers.
This role is usually inhabited by the most empathic, compassionate yet blindsided and trauma-bonded members of the narcissist’s cult. Think Stockholm Syndrome: these members delude themselves into believing that the narcissist really cares about their wellbeing and are led to believe that the narcissist is actually a good person. Remember, narcissists can’t just surround themselves with people only like them. They need people with a capacity for empathy – people they can provoke and utilize when they need them.
The empathic caretaker might be used to charm other new members of the narcissist’s harem (using their warm and nurturing presence to do so), to ensnare unsuspecting victims into the narcissist’s web and to coddle and “take care” of the narcissist emotionally when needed.
The presence of empathic caretakers in a narcissist’s harem is an essential one because narcissists need to maintain the image that they are charitable people, no matter how conniving they are. One way to do so is to surround themselves with those who possess the compassion they lack. This provides “social proof” that the narcissist is someone who is supported even by those who are morally distinct from them.
5. The scapegoat.
Finally, but perhaps most importantly, there is the scapegoat – the target that is used as an emotional punching bag for both the narcissist and the cult. The scapegoat can be persecuted in many different ways. They may be subjected to smear campaigns. They may be the center of extreme triangulation where the narcissist neglects and ignores them while praising other members of the group. They may be treated as if they were invisible or disposable; they may serve as the site of blame for the narcissist’s many projections, failures and shortcomings.
What you have to remember, however, is that any one of the narcissist’s members, at any point can become a scapegoat; all they would need to do is to outlive their perceived usefulness to the narcissist, challenge or threaten the narcissist in any way or simply dare to exist.
Many formerly love-bombed targets can be scapegoated or re-idealized (put back on the pedestal) in the abuse cycle based on the narcissist’s arbitrary desires and changing needs.
If you’ve found yourself ensnared in a narcissistic cult or harem of any kind, hold steadfast to the reality of the situation. To the emotionally infantile narcissist, you are nothing but a puppet and a doll that the narcissist picks up from time to time to play with when he or she gets bored.
To them, you are a plaything, nothing more. How the narcissist treats you isn’t “personal” in the sense that their exploitative and callous behavior is not your fault.
Most dolls get discarded in the narcissist’s playhouse of horrors – and while old toys are usually used again, new toys are always brought in to keep the narcissist’s “playtime” more interesting.
In order to defeat the puppet master, you must be willing to see the narcissist for who he or she truly is and cut the strings – for good.