Christine’s Chat Corner

A place where real questions get answered.

Christine Louis de Canonville is a psychotherapist who worked for many years with victims of narcissistic abuse. The questions discussed in her “Chat Corner” are real questions, they have come from the many victims that write to her on her blog daily.

Q.  “I cannot believe that the narcissistic woman I fell in love with deliberately set out to manipulate me from the very beginning. Is it true?

A.  We are all guilty at some time or other of manipulation, but when we are talking about a narcissist, we are talking about someone who lives their life through the manipulation of others every single day. Victims constantly ask if the narcissist knows what they are doing? The answer is “yes”, they are consciously aware that they are manipulating, they may even take pride in doing it. So, don’t be fooled that they do not know what they are doing, they know it very well. Their manipulation is deliberate, and they use a wide array of techniques in the process. The question is “Why do they do it?”

Why do narcissists do it?

The answer is quite simple really. All narcissists use an array of manipulative techniques to feed their addiction to attention. They are addicted to all forms of narcissistic supply for getting as much attention, adoration and power that they can.

Furthermore, narcissistic supply it is not only confined to their most intimate relationships (although these relationships are the best, most reliable, and provide regular daily source of supply for the narcissist), however, they see everybody as fair game.
They are especially attracted to sensitive, empathic, kind individuals, who they systematically diminish over time by violating all boundaries. Because narcissists are opportunists, they will use manipulation wherever they feel they have something to gain, and what is more, they feel entitled to do so. They use a range of both subtle and extreme manipulative techniques to groom their victims, which includes a combination of both charm and rage to gain and keep control.

If their manipulation results in collateral damage for others, too bad, that is merely incidental. Should a victim call them out on their behaviour and inadvertently shame them, then they will use vicious and slanderous behaviours (i.e. smear campaign, false accusations, scapegoating, shaming, etc.). Unlike the rest of us, they are not hindered by conscience or remorse.

The narcissists total focus is always on getting the personal attention they need. Their whole existence depends on having enough narcissistic supply to guarantee their getting a sufficient fill of attention and adoration.
The attention the narcissist reaps does not even need to be positive, negative attention equally gives them the oxygen they crave from each encounter. The manipulation starts from the moment they pick you as a target, and nobody is safe; not their romantic partners, children, parents, siblings, friends, work colleagues, bosses, or even strangers. Remember, narcissists are skilful manipulators, they know how to handle, control, and use people to their own ends. Unfortunately, most people never work out that they have been manipulated until it is far too late to do anything about it.

The narcissist’s Machiavellian tactics of manipulation are numerous. For example, here is a sample: –

  • Idealisation: They lavish you with praise for grooming you, especially at the beginning of the relationship.
  • Devaluing: They say or do things to purposefully make you feel worthless.
  • Denial: When confronted about their behaviour they generally deny it, then combine it with some of the following behaviours below.
  • Gaslighting: They use this form of psychological abuse to make you doubt your perception of reality.
  • Play the Victim: They deliberately play the victim when they need favour, playing on your sympathy.
  • Triangulation: They bring other people into the relationship to upset you, make you jealous, and then control you.
  • Guilt-bating: They will guilt you to make you feel at fault and vulnerable, then coerce you into ceding unreasonable demands.
  • Aggression: They often use aggression and intimidation to control you by fear, and to make you do what they want.
  • Love-bombing: They use heavy seduction during the beginning of the relationship (Idealisation Stage) to hook and suck you in.
  • Smear Campaigns: To convince others that you are unstable, and “the problem”.
  • Silence: To bully and unnerve you by placing doubt and uncertainty in your mind.
  • Verbal trickery: To confuse, belittle and degrade you.
  • Targeting: They systematically target your flaws and insecurities to throw you off balance.
  • Pathological lying: Lying serves to give the narcissist an advantage over you, and they lie by vagueness, omission and commission.
  • Projection: Shifting their negative thoughts and actions onto you.
  • Intimidation: To keep you afraid and on edge.
  • Singling out the victim: Weakening your confidence and self-belief, to make you vulnerable.
  • Moving the goal-posts: To confuse and humiliate you, often the cause of apathy, and depression.
  • Use subtle flattery: To gain access into your life.
  • Mirroring: They mirror back to you your beliefs and values, pretending that they are just like you (your soul-mate).
  • Judge and Criticise: Implying that there is always something wrong with you, making you feel inadequate.
  • Utilise the Law of Reciprocity: They are nice to you to obligate you to do a favour for them.
  • Pity: By getting you to pity them, they can get you to switch away from their negative behaviours.
  • Managing down of expectations: You get so little that you come to expect little or nothing, and they get more and more.
  • Hope: They intermittently give you glimpses of the heavenly Dr Jekyll to lower your defenses and give you refuge from Mr/s. Hyde.

As you can see, the manipulation is often complex, and interwoven for maximum effect, a perfect illusion. Such manipulations deliberately create an imbalance of power between the narcissist and the victim, exploiting the victim to serve the narcissist’s agenda.

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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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