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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.



So now, 20 years’ post-divorce, I’ve gone on with my life and am reasonably happy, until I’m required to be around him for some family gathering and then the past hurt comes rushing in and I’m thrown right back in time.

One huge difficulty is that since my children didn’t see their father treat me badly, they can’t really understand WHY I don’t want to be in the same room with him. It’s like I’m being the bad guy!
I’m told I need to “get over it”!.  I’ve shared some things with them to help them have some understanding, but they don’t want to hear anything negative about him and feel that our issues are our issues.  AND, because I am this big empath, I STILL want my children to think well of their father!!.  I see no answer to this dilemma other than my staying home and missing out on that time with the family, and that doesn’t please me either.

I’ve missed the family gathering at Christmas and Easter because he and Wife #3 were there. She and I get along fine and I think if it weren’t for him, she and I could have been good friends. I am concerned for her well-being because she is the current Empath, but there I go, being too empathetic again! Any helpful thoughts??!



The one thing that makes a narcissist happy is to never say “goodbye” to their source of narcissistic supply. This husband mentioned above is on his 3rd marriage, and still, his first wife is spending a lot of energy thinking about him, fretting, and avoiding him. This must make him a very happy man, especially as he has an audience to witness her distress. Many partners of narcissistic abuse find themselves in this predicament, very often because of the children.

Even though the relationship with the ex-narcissistic spouse has long ended, the empathic victim can still be thrown into such terrible anxiety with the thought of attending family events where the narcissist is likely to attend. The victim finds themselves ruminating for days or weeks ahead of the event, their thinking is so conflicted. On the one hand, they do not want to meet the ex-narcissist, but on the other hand, they do not want to miss out on the event with people they love either. Their cognitive dissonance is triggered, “Will I, won’t I?” They do not want to let everybody down, especially their children. Or they may not want to offend the host who has gone to so much trouble preparing for the day. But at the same time, they also do not want the narcissist to get the satisfaction of winning anything over them if they don’t attend.

Entanglement is the end game of the narcissist, and after the discard phase has finally taken place, the narcissist has other techniques to keep you in the loop with them. Although you may not have realised it, once you allowed them into your life, you inadvertently signed a psychological contract that tied you to them for life. So, any time the narcissist has any need for further supply, they use the *”hoover manoeuvre” to suck you back into their life again for their entertainment. Getting attention from you keeps the game in play, and it does not matter whether the attention is positive or negative. One is as good as the other to the pathological narcissist.

Victims make the mistake of thinking that when the narcissist engages in “hoovering” behaviour, it is because they miss them, and want them back in their life. But that is not always the case, what they are looking for is to suck more superior oxygen from you, and go on a fact-finding mission to find out what you are doing. Information is power to the narcissist, and once they satisfy their curiosity they will leave you alone for some time.

How you respond to the hoover brings its own reward to the narcissist. For example, if you are nice to them they will want that attention again. If you lashed out and wounded them, they will want to get some revenge for gaining the feeling of one-upmanship over you once again.

Sometimes the narcissist does not need to do an obvious hoover, like calling you, texting you, or turning up unexpectedly at your local coffee shop when you least expect them. Sometimes all they have to do is to wait until the next family event comes along (i.e. Christmas, Easter, children’s birthdays, funerals, etc.) and sit back and wait to see what happens next.

If the victim has remained single, the narcissist will hoover in a benign way. They will convince themselves that the victim is still in love with them, and for that reason, they have not been able to move on. This will fill them with confidence, and they will find a way to get mileage out of the situation. For example, they may parade their newest conquest, and show the ex-victim how happy they are now with someone else.
They are taunting you, letting you know what you have missed if you had played your card right you could be with me now. But others will be unaware of the cat and mouse game that is being played out. All they will see is the narcissist being friendly and polite to you.

Even though you may choose not to make any comment, it is possible that your annoyance at the game will show on your face, and you will be perceived as being the difficult one by family members. They may even put your hostility down to personal jealousy seeing your ex happy with his new partner. Everybody wants to play happy families, and they do not appreciate your behaviour at these events when you find yourself responding to your unconscious triggers. The narcissist does not have to do anything but look bewildered or embarrassed by your behaviour. This is their way to manipulate others to come to their defence, and before long the victim will feel a coldness from other family members that lets the victim know that they are not really welcome at these family events.

Whether you attend the event or not, either way, the ex-narcissist will extract pleasure in knowing your discomfort at the rejection of others…… this provides them with the oxygen they crave. They come out smelling of roses while the victim is rejected by the manipulated proxy hoover.



*The term “Hoover  manoeuvre” is a metaphor taken from the famous brand of vacuum cleaner known for its powerful suction, and is used to explain how the abusive narcissist asserts their right to suck the victim back into the relationship for further oxygen.

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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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