Different Types of Narcissistic Hoovering Behaviour Carried Out By A Pathological Narcissist


Understanding Narcissistic Hoovering Techniques

So, you extracted yourself from the toxic abusive relationship with a narcissist, but, likely, your narcissist has not finished with you yet. On average, it takes victims seven attempts before they can free themselves of their abusive predators, and then the hoovering is likely to continue to happen after that. If you have been a victim of narcissistic abuse, then you can expect that at some point he/she will try to suck you back into the relationship (regardless of how long you are out of the relationship). They will use one of their classic narcissist hoovering techniques.

It is important to understand that the covert narcissist’s hoovering behaviours are how they lure their victims into giving them more narcissistic supply (the narcissist’s oxygen). Believe me, they will employ any tactic to draw their victim back to them, if that is what they desire. Should you keep finding yourself being pulled back into the narcissist’s circle of abuse, then you need to educate yourself on the different hoovering manoeuvres that narcissists engage in. In effect, the hoovering is all part of the narcissist’s “managing down” of the victim’s expectations (so that they learn to expect less and less each time they return to the narcissistic relationship), making them easier to control. The hoover can be so subtle that the victim does not see what is happening.

Is the narcissist’s “hoovering” a random act?

No, the covert narcissist’s “hoovering” is not a random act. It is a well-thought-out strategy to fit the condition of each victim that the narcissist targets. The narcissist’s hidden agenda is keeping their victim primed so that they can maintain control and manipulate them whenever they see fit. The act of hoovering is often a calculated move to ensure that the victim remains emotionally invested and dependent on the narcissist, allowing them to exert power and influence over them. To achieve their goal, the narcissist will carry out a no-holds campaign of promises, guilt-tripping, persuasion and seduction. During this campaign, the hunter (the narcissist) is now in full flight, determined to catch their prey (the victim).

Each hoover is full of fake news and broken promises:

  • “Missing you and I love you.”
  • “I regret my actions towards you, hurting you so much. Please let me show you how I have changed and want to marry you.”
  • “If only I could see you one more time. You know I love you and can’t stop thinking about you.”
  • “I’ve bought us tickets for your favourite band, they are in town next week. Please come.”

Abusive narcissists use these types of statements, hoping to lay down a lasting impression on the victim that they care about them. What they are doing is trying to get the victim to feel shame, guilt, or remorse. These are all manipulation tactics used to make the victim feel bad about themselves. If the victim would only take the time to analyse what the narcissist is saying, it would become clear that everything is about them; they (the victim) are not in the picture genuinely.

Identifying the “Red Flags” of Hoovering Behaviour:

It is important for anybody who has been a victim of narcissistic abuse to learn to recognise and identify the “Red Flags” of these effective predators’ hoovering behaviour. Because narcissists dislike losing their narcissistic supply, they carry out effective hoovering behaviour to suck their victims back into a relationship with them (whether it be for a temporary or permanent measure). Remember, narcissists have low-level empathy and high-level entitlement when it comes to their victims. So, everything about their hoovers is about them, their needs, their desires. etc. Generally, it is crucial for individuals to be aware of the signs of hoovering behaviour in order to protect themselves from falling back into a toxic relationship with a narcissist. By understanding these red flags and setting boundaries, individuals can empower themselves to break free from the cycle of abuse and prioritize their own well-being.

Classic Covert Narcissist Hoovering Techniques:

There are many methods of hoovers. Some methods even have names assigned to them. However, countless hoovering behaviours remain unnamed. When we study the narcissist’s Hoovering Techniques, we can see we can break them down into two camps: –

1). The Proxy Hoover: This hoover is carried out by others people on the narcissist’s behalf (the narcissist’s flying monkeys).
2). The Direct Hoover: The narcissist personally carries out their direct hoovers themselves.

Either the narcissists themselves carry out the hoovering (The Direct Hoover), or they employ their flying monkeys to do their bidding (The Proxy Hoover). We should explore the various methods the narcissists use to carry out hoovering on the victim.

The Hoover by Proxy:

This Hoover by Proxy, occurs when the narcissist gets someone else to reach out to the targeted victim on his or her behalf. The narcissist sends that person to persuade and coerce the victim into getting back into relationship with them. They may receive instructions to say that the narcissist has changed and is begging for another chance. It’s the way in which the hoover is carried out against the unsuspecting victim that makes them different.

The Hoover by Proxy is executed through a third party who acts on behalf of the narcissist. In effect, the proxy figure is sent to represent the narcissist’s wishes and affect the targeted victim in a desired way. These figures, often referred to as “Flying Monkeys,” are often people that the victim knows (i.e., a family member, a friend, a workmate, or a friendly neighbour, etc.). Sometimes, the Proxy Hoover executes the act with the knowledge of the third parties, but more often than not, they carry out the act without their explicit knowledge. In effect, the third-party individual is duped (i.e., manipulated or brainwashed) into helping the narcissist reach their end goal. But in all cases, the perpetrator’s manipulative technique instigated and directed the hoover. In a nutshell, the narcissist is the boss, while the Proxy person is their acting servant.

Here is an example of how I fell victim to being duped into carrying out a Proxy Hoover:

I have written about my psychopathic brother (Gerard) in my books. The following story shows how he manipulated me to get his ex-partner to meet with him (Hoovering by Proxy). My brother was living in England. His wife and most of his children had left the family home to get away from him. They had gone into hiding and he could not find them.

I was living in Ireland for about ten years by that time, and he rang me one evening in great distress. This was a telephone call I was not expecting. Gerard had never once telephoned me before. During all those years, I always made the contact with him and his family. According to him, I was the only person his ex-partner would trust, and he pleaded with me to reach out to her. Anxiously, he voiced his desire to receive reassurance about her and the children’s well-being, along with a heartfelt apology for the events that unfolded. He intended to meet with her to resolve their issues. I firmly believe that he meant every word he was saying when he promised me not to harm her.

Within about two hours, I had found her. had rung several places in England and left messages for her to contact me, which she did. Relaying his message, I told her what Gerard had told me, and she believed what I was saying to be true. I did not coerce her. I would have respected her decision regardless, but she trusted my opinion. My suggestion to her was that she did not go back to the family home but met him in a very public place (where I believed she would be safer). She agreed, and I then passed on her message to Gerard, saying that she would meet him at a designated time and place the next day. I asked him to let me know how they got on in the meeting.

He rang me the following day, saying that they had met his partner, but that the meeting had ended badly. He got into a rage and he beat her, then threw her over a wall. I suspect that when Gerard met with her, he was “champing at the bit” to get her to come back to him. Of course, having to express this need would have made him feel very vulnerable to shame. I assume his feelings of rejection and abandonment were so badly triggered that she became the “enemy” and had to be punished.

In this state of arousal, he unleashed his ferocious Dr Hyde personality to rain down a terrorising assault, asserting his physical superiority and reclaiming his feelings of control. Of course, upon hearing this news, I felt horrified. I felt so guilty that his ex-partner (a lovely woman) had got hurt. The weight of guilt consumed me as I realised I had led her into a trap.

Gerard pleaded with me to ring her again or give him the telephone number where he could contact her himself. Something snapped in me when I heard this news, and I said “No”. He could not believe that I would do that. It must have been quite a blow to him, impacting both his pride and his emotions. Never in my life had I refused him anything before. It was at this moment that he lost his lifelong control over me. He then got angry at me, saying that I was losing him to his family. I quietly said, “No, Gerard, you have successfully done that all by yourself”. That was where the conversation ended, and although I did not know it, this was to be the last time we ever spoke. It was a hard lesson for me to accept that I had allowed myself to be used as a “flying monkey”, even though I did not know what I was dealing with at that time.

Classical methods of deceptive “Hoovering Manoeuvres”:

There are many classic methods of “Hoovering Manoeuvres” that narcissists use to stalk their victims and suck them back under their control after the relationship has ceased to exist. Each method has its particular scheme of events for continuing to control the victim. As an example, H. G. Tudor, a confessed narcissist and author of Knowing the Narcissist, speaks about different hoovers narcissists use to stalk their victims and draw them back under their control once the relationship has ceased to exist.

The Reverse Hoover:

When one researches the narcissist’s hoover tactics, one may get the idea that all narcissists will come looking to suck their victim back into the relationship with them, but that is not true of all narcissists. For some narcissists, their weapon of choice is the “Reverse Hoover”, which differs somewhat from other hoover manoeuvres.

This is when the narcissist leaves the reaching out to come from the victim, knowing this will land them back in the relationship with them. When these relationships end, both the narcissist and the victim are likely to obsess about the other. The narcissist is obsessing about their loss of narcissistic supply, and the victim is obsessing because of the cognitive dissonance and trauma bonding they are experiencing.
Although the narcissist will never contact the victim directly, they will tell friends and family that the relationship is over, and they want nothing more to do with the victim. They will make sure that this message will reach the victim (i.e., through social media, gossip, etc.), knowing it will make them rethink things.

Should the victim ask about the rumours they heard, of course, the narcissist will deny having said anything and convince the victim that they are false lies. But being an opportunist, they will sweep the victim off their feet in happiness, knowing full well they have manipulated the victim’s self hoover.
This type of narcissist has worked out, that if they lie low long enough (stay under the radar) and do not initiate contact, the victim will doubt their instinct and reach out to them for contact. When the victim does the reverse hoover, the narcissist reads this as the victim’s willingness to forgive them of all their transgressions and accept them as they are (with their inappropriate behaviour). To make things worse, because the narcissist remained silent and respected boundaries, the victim wonders if they were dealing with a narcissist after all. This is how the narcissist wants their victim to think.

Once the victim is back in the relationship, they will want to talk about the narcissist’s past behaviour. Having got what they wanted, the narcissist will look confused and hurt. They will act as if they do not understand why the victim would want to rehash everything since they had forgiven them, so they refuse to listen and carry on as before.

One victim (I worked with in therapy) experienced domestic violence in a relationship with her narcissistic lover. She eventually found the courage to end it and moved out. Her partner did not contact her after she left. Instead, he disappeared out of sight. But before doing that, he put out the rumour that he could not live without her, and that he would kill himself (emotional blackmail). When she heard this story, she was panic-stricken and reached out to reconnect with him. She felt so guilt-ridden that she felt compelled to check if he was alright. This is not unusual.

It is important to realise that the narcissist’s emotional abuse and their intermittent “good and bad” behaviour create “trauma bonding” (attachment bond) between the victim and their abuser. This makes it harder for the victim to break free. Here, the reversed hoover allowed the narcissistic partner to suck my client back into the relationship (the vacuum cleaner effect). She then lived in hell with his cycle of abuse for the next twenty years, before she got out from under his grasp.

The Blast from the Past Hoover:

Not everybody who will come back into your life after a long absence is a narcissist, but it can be a “red flag”. When the narcissist, perhaps after a period of silence, contacts the victim out of the blue (i.e., perhaps with a text or email). You may need to be observant and look out for vague reasons given why someone hasn’t been in contact for some time and form the basis for contacting you now. Does what you may have heard about them from others match what they are saying? Be aware that vagueness is a manipulation tactic that is often used for getting control.

Narcissists, especially those who are ex-partners, may show not only their lack of boundaries but also their sense of entitlement. Watch out for signs of magical thinking, where the narcissist may say things like; “No one will ever love you as I do.”, “We’ll never have this again with anyone else.”, “We are soul mates, meant to be with each other.” Watch out if they try to triangulate you. For example, they may speak about their current relationship in an unpleasant and sneering way, showing a lack of emotional empathy. They may even attempt to triangulate you.

The Silent Hoover:

Narcissists use silence as a powerful bullying tactic, and it can last many months. It fills the victim with a sense of dread whereby the abuser gains an advantage over them. Silence can be an effective way for narcissists to exert manipulation, power, and control over their victims. It allows the narcissist to appear strong and confident while making the victim feel small and helpless. The victim will enquire “What is wrong, please tell me?” The stress is likely to make the victim want to please and comply with their tormentor, anything to stop them from using the silent treatment against them. This, of course, brings extra attention to the narcissist, which they are always craving.

Silence is a very useful tool in a narcissist’s arsenal because it gives them many advantages. For example, when a victim is being bullied by the narcissist’s silence, they will not know what is going on or why he/she is doing it. This form of intimidation keeps the victim in a state of inferiority, which leads to chaos, anger, fear, frustration, and confusion. The torturous silence often results in scaring them into submission. Sometimes the victim may think the bully is just being rude or mean, but it could also be a cover-up for something else. For example, narcissists will often employ this technique when they are feeling threatened or insecure about their position within the relationship.

Letterbox Hoover:

During birthdays, holidays, death, or other major life events, the narcissist exploits the vulnerability of their victim. To get what they want from their victim (any source of narcissistic supply), the narcissist will go all out to make an instant impression and tug at their victim’s heartstrings. For example, the narcissist subjected one of my clients (an Empath who lived in California) to a brilliant covert hoovering method. She received a small parcel out of the blue from her ex-husband on the 1st anniversary of the death of their only grandchild. It was a day of dark memories for her. It was a lovely photograph of herself that he had taken when they were on honeymoon during their “golden memories” together. The outside of the parcel was brown Kraft wrapping paper, on which he had beautifully hand-scripted the musical score of a song. It was not just any old song, it was “their song”, the song that was played for their first dance on their wedding day.

But it did not end there. Inside the package was a beautiful handwritten message, and on that card, he reminded her she had always wanted to go to Ireland. He wrote, “Perhaps we could still make that magical trip of a lifetime to the Emerald Isle together, soon.” She had been doing “no contact” successfully. But at that moment, she fell apart because of the loneliness she was experiencing on her own. The gift. It fulfilled its purpose as to do. It created a psychic connection and several emotional connections that were to weaken her resolve. With that minor act, her ex-husband had gotten into her head and heart with his gaslighting behaviour. Gaslighting is an integral part of all narcissistic relationships and the narcissist hoovering techniques. It is how they toy with their victim’s sense of reality. He created a false reality for this client while opening up all the wounds that had been healing while she was having no contact with him.

Need I say, things did not end well. Within weeks, he manipulated her into signing legal papers, where she signed away her rights to the company they shared. He also needed her signature (she was a professor) on a proposal he submitted for a huge government grant for his new adventure. Without her signature, he would not have been eligible for the government grant (which was worth €4 million). She suspected his actions, and she did question him, but he spun her a story which she swallowed hook, line and sinker. Within a few months, she lost all rights to their home (which was put up for guarantees on his new business venture). He had her name removed from the company they had been building together for almost 10 years (she had worked within the medical business while he studied to get a qualification). He did a smear campaign that damaged her reputation as a mental health professional.

What she did not know at the time was that he was planning to marry another woman. This lady was a high-powered lady he needed to work with him (for her credentials). So, once again, he had repeated the same history, except it was a different time with a different woman. My client lost everything: her family home, her partnership in the company, her financial security, and her husband. The ex-husband offered the young man a prominent position in his company (seduction). The son was told he had to choose between his Mum and his new career with his stepfather. To her dismay, the son chooses the career move, breaking her heart. After 10 years of my client building the business, this man became a millionaire almost overnight. Naturally, they did not get to visit Ireland. That was just a ruse to reel her under his control to get what he wanted, and she fell for the manipulation. It was a tragedy.

The Psychic Hoover:

When a victim enters a toxic relationship with a pathological narcissist, the connection happens so fast and so deep that the victim believes they have met their ‘soul mate’ (the soul mate effect). It is easy to understand how the narcissist’s alluring charisma seduces a victim. This is especially potent when they appear to have a lot in common with the victim (i.e., sharing the same views, beliefs, values, ideals, gifts, talents, etc.). They are the perfect match, or so it seems, and they do everything together. They laugh at the same jokes, they have the same taste in music, and they can even finish each other’s sentences. It is as if they have a psychic connection together and an energetic bond that they both share. Together, they feel they are complete, they do not need anybody else.

However, this is an elaborate hoax, an illusion to make the victim think they have found their soul mate. The narcissist is “mirroring” everything about the victim right back to them (i.e., their likes, their dislikes, their behaviours, their accent, their beliefs, their values, etc.). In effect, the victim is being misled into falling in love with their reflection by this fraudulent trickster, while giving the narcissist a cloak of invisibility (for building trust and relaxation in the victim). Mirroring is a form of grooming of the victim, as the narcissist professes to share their interests and sensibilities. This emotional manipulation not only creates emotional trauma in the victim but also causes soul trauma. Unfortunately, what is likely to follow will not only be disruptive and addictive, but it will be downright shocking for the victim. It is advised for empaths to develop psychic protection around individuals with NPD.

It is important to know that a narcissist does not target just anybody; they have a particular type of victim in mind from the start. Not everybody falls for their charm, so they will only spend time on those who prove the most susceptible to their seduction. Their perfect victim provokes powerful emotion in them, and they are best suited to sensitive types, especially empaths (intuitive people). The empath’s empathic responses (i.e., how they will fight for their relationships in the way they love, and they will give 100% to nurture those they connect with. Not only are they reliable, but they have a deep well of forgiveness and loyalty within them. Their resilience is so strong that it keeps them bouncing back, making them the best and ripest possible supply to be exploited and dominated. Empaths are “the cream of the crop” that makes every narcissist’s dream come true, and therefore they are not willing to give up this form of narcissistic supply.

Aggressive narcissists are not averse to using the victim’s spirituality against them, especially when the victim is an empath and they want to do a psychic hoover. They may text or leave a voicemail saying something like: –

  • “Last night I had a terrible dream that you were not well. Please let me know if you are okay.”
  • “I was thinking about you today, and when I got back to my car, mysteriously I found a feather on the passenger seat. I wondered if this was a Divine sign an Angel was trying to tell me something.”

The hoovering narcissist knows empaths are very compassionate individuals, so they will appeal to that side of the victim with a spiritual hoover, sucking them right back into their web of deception: –

  • “Will you be ever able to forgive me? I know what I did was wrong and swear I won’t ever do that again.”
  • “Please give me another chance. I know it’s God’s will for us to be together in life.”

Be warned, there are many forms of Hoovering:-

Narcissists have a hoovering tactic for every occasion, no one-size-fits-all situations. In my years working with victims of narcissistic abuse, I have come across many forms of hoovering, some of which I have never heard mentioned in research papers. For example: –

Hoovering the children:

Narcissists will do a hoover on their children to get “a foot in the door” (they are opportunists). I had such a situation with one of my clients when her son was used in this way. This father hoovered his boy, suggesting he take up horse riding at a specific school. He introduced the boy to a young girl who went to that school, “So that you will know someone there”.

What the son was not told was this young girl was the daughter of his father’s new girlfriend (his new narcissistic supply). He manipulated a way for the woman and child to meet before revealing that they were lovers, a situation his mother would never have agreed to. Of course, he was also triangulating the boy.

This father had done something similar before when he used the boy to speak with one mother at the school gate. This lady was a neighbour who lived in their neighbourhood. It was when that affair came to light that the wife (my client) suggested that he move out.

Unfortunately, the woman’s husband was not so accommodating when he found out. He came to the house, creating a terrible scene and displayed threatening behaviour. The husband moved out, but of course, the wife still has to deal with him, and how he used the children for personal gain.

Faux Incidental Contact Hoover:

Often these hoovers can appear innocuous, like ringing the victim’s mobile phone, then claiming, “Oops, sorry, it was an error. Lovely to hear from you. How are you?” Or the narcissist turns up in the coffee shop you are in. Be warned, it is never a “mistake”. I would put this form of hoovering into the “stalking” category.

The property hoover: –

Either the victim has left the home, or the narcissist has left the home. Regardless of the situation, there will come a time when personal property must be collected.

The narcissist will use this as an excuse to keep contact for future gain. “I just came across your mother’s old diary. Would you like me to drop it over to you?” Or, “I left my leather jacket in the house. I need it. Could you bring it over to my place?”

Hoovering threats: –

This is when the narcissist wants to frighten their victim and will let them know their intention for revenge.

  • “Before I am finished, I will take the roof from over your head.”
  • “You are an unfit mother; I am filing for total custody of the children.”
  • “I will destroy your reputation before I am finished.”

These threats can frighten the victim into backing off or staying in the relationship.

Love-bombing hoover: –

Even when the narcissist does not want you, they still want your attention as their narcissistic supply, and, of course, the good feelings that go with it. The love-bombing technique can happen at any time (whether the narcissist is still in a relationship with you or not).

For example, they may continue to text or call you, saying “I miss you so much, I can’t imagine my life without you.” This is a classic example of a narcissist trying to manipulate their victim into giving them the attention and validation they crave, even if they don’t truly care about the person they are contacting.

The love-bombing technique can happen at any time, as they try to reel you back in with kind words and gestures, only to later revert to their manipulative behavior.

The intention is to suck the victim in by boosting their ego and leading them back to remembering how things were in the first rush of the relationship when things were all-encompassing and wonderful. Of course, they will also offer the promise of a better future by repentance.

The “Let Bygones be bygone,” hoover:

Narcissists are master deflectors. They despise your anger as it hinders their ability to manipulate you for their gain. Whenever they say, “I need to see you and let bygones be bygone.”, be on alert. Whatever you may be thinking, it’s not about you, it’s about what you can do for them.

To Conclude:

Hoovering is a way the pathological narcissist taps back into their supply source. The only person served by the narcissist’s hoover is the narcissist. When they make contact, always look at the method they use, and ask yourself, “WHY THIS, AND WHY NOW?”

For example, if a narcissistic ex-partner suddenly reaches out to you after months of silence, asking for help with a minor issue, it’s important to question their motives behind the timing and the method of contact.

They may be using this seemingly innocent request as a way to manipulate you back into their life and regain control over you. It’s crucial to stay vigilant and protect yourself from being drawn back into a toxic relationship.

The Gaslighting Syndrome
When Shame Begets Shame
The 3 Faces Of Evil
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Christine is a Psychotherapist, Educator, Author and Supervisor of mental health professionals for over 28 years. She was part of a team in the Trauma Unit of St. Brendan’s Psychiatric Hospital, Dublin, and has worked specifically with victims of pathological narcissistic abuse in her private practice for many years.
Her books, “The Three Faces of Evil: Unmasking the Full Spectrum of Narcissistic Abuse” and “When Shame Begets Shame: How Narcissists hurt and shame their victims” set out to to help those who have been affected by a narcissist and also to address the shortfalls in a therapist’s education, so that they become better equipped to work with survivors of narcissistic abuse.Much of her knowledge has come from her post-grad studies in Criminology and Forensic Psychology, and it is through these disciplines that she has gained her understanding of “The Dark Triad”, (Narcissism, Machiavellianism and Psychopathy).
These three faces of evil are vital information for understanding the full spectrum of narcissistic abuse and the dire effects on the victims.It is her vision that narcissistic abuse becomes part of the curriculum of all Mental Health clinicians.
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