The only thing harder than dealing with a narcissist’s abuse is realizing that you’ve been a victim of one. Unfortunately, your nightmare is not likely to end there. When a narcissist knows you have figured them out, they will take their unscrupulous tactics to a whole new level. So, you’ll need to prepare for what is to come, especially if you are dealing with a violent egomaniac.
In this article, we’ll outline the stages a narcissist goes through when their mask starts slipping. Also, we’ll shed some light on the tricks they may use to manipulate their way back into your life. Hopefully, that information will help you to not only cope with the situation but heal as well.
What Goes on Inside a Narcissist’s Brain
The easiest way to describe people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is by saying that they have two selves.
The first of them is the narcissist’s true self. That’s their ugly side, which makes them feel so insecure that they’d go to great lengths to hide it.
The second self of a narcissist is a fake one. Typically, they use it to boost their self-esteem and to mask their real self. The problem is that to exist, the false self needs to receive validation from other people. Without it, this pseudo side of the narcissists is nothing but a fantasy that exists only in their heads.
By relying on various manipulation tactics, people with NPD gain your attention and admiration. As a result, you become their narcissistic supply that feeds their fantasy of grandiosity and superiority.
The one thing that really makes narcissists tick is when they have power and control over you. To keep you under their thumb, they’ll often diminish your sense of self either in an overt or covert way. So, without even realizing it, you turn into their victim.
Things You Can Expect When a Narcissist Knows You Have Figured Them Out
As you can see, the mind of a person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder does not function normally. For example, narcissists are “immune” to feelings like remorse, empathy, and guilt. What’s more, they are unable to control their impulses. Therefore, when a narcissist knows you have figured them out, they’ll view you as a threat to their make-believe world.
Still, NPD sufferers tend to be so engulfed in their play-pretend reality that they won’t realize you’re onto them. Thus, the idea that a narcissist knows you have figured them out is somewhat wrong. The only thing they know is that your behavior towards them has changed. For instance, they will become agitated if you suddenly start avoiding their company.
If a narcissist feels that they’re losing power and control over you, they’ll go through the following stages:
1. Complete loss of control over their emotions and behavior
2. Infliction of punishment through cruel manipulation tactics
3. Use of fake promises and dishonest attempts for reconciliation
4. Attempts to justify their toxic actions
5. Discard of the victim without offering closure
Stage #1: Losing It
As mentioned, narcissists have no control over their impulses. As a result, their first reactions to your disobedience would be fear and anger. Usually, they stick to a well-calculated strategy when they interact with other people. That’s why it’s shocking to see how explosive their behavior can become when you’re onto their lies.
When a narcissist knows you have figured them out, they’ll have a full-blown fit of rage. If you happen to be around them when that happens, they’ll make a big scene out of it. So much so that you may not know how to react.
Even if you’re not around to witness this “explosion,” narcissists find a way to unleash their anger onto you. For instance, they may call you just to say how terrible you are. What’s more, they’re highly likely to hang up on you because that will give them a slight sense of control.
Verbal or Physical Abuse
While not all people with NPD are abusive, their rage can often turn into verbal abuse. When that happens, they will call you all the bad names in the dictionary.
Narcissists do that because they feel that you have hurt them by refusing to participate in their fantasy. Since their minds function differently than those of empaths, they believe that they must fight fire with fire. Therefore, their logic is, ‘You hurt me, and now I have to hurt you back.’
Unfortunately, sometimes the abuse can be physical too. If you know that the narcissist you are dealing with is violent, be careful. Also, come up with a safety plan. Have a safe place and safe person you can go to if things go out of hand.
Stage #2: Punishing the Disobeying Victim
Once the NPD sufferer collects themselves, they will turn to cruel manipulation tactics to make you regret your disobedience. When a narcissist knows you have figured them out, they will attack you on multiple fronts. So, don’t be surprised if they drag your friends and family into this fiasco. Whatever they do, try to stay calm and composed.
Let’s say that you have caught your narcissistic spouse kissing someone else. You decide to confront them about it, but the narcissist fiercely denies the accusation. Furthermore, they repeatedly say things like, ‘It’s all in your imagination!’ until you start to doubt your own eyes.
The tactic used in the situation above is called gaslighting. By relying on it, NPD sufferers make you question your reality and sanity.
Narcissists are great at giving you a false sense of security. However, once you let down your guard, they will be quick to attack you. Thez are ready to say and do anything just to get a reaction from you. So, they won’t hesitate to provoke you by sticking a knife into your wounds.
Don’t take the bait! Instead of reacting to their provocations, use the gray rock technique. Don’t show any emotion when you are communicating with them and only give them Yes/No answers. Eventually, you will become too boring and uninteresting for them.
When a narcissist knows you have figured them out, they may stonewall you. You’ll receive the silent treatment. Whenever you try to talk to them, you will be completely ignored.
Another way in which NPD sufferers “block” you is by using the withholding tactic. They will withhold your access to both physical and emotional resources. For instance, your spouse may prevent you from seeing your children. That would be emotional withholding. If they change the locks on your family home, they’re practicing physical withholding.
To punish you for seeing through their fake mask, narcissists will try to destroy your name. They will come up with lies for their elaborate smear campaign. Worst of all, they will spread gossip about you among your family and friends. Understandably, such an attack on your character can really push you off the rails.
Of course, your first natural reaction would be to defend yourself. Still, by doing so, you’d give the narcissist what they want. Remember that their main goal is to get a response from you. When a narcissist succeeds at pushing your buttons, they feel that they’ve regained their control over you.
Therefore, the only thing you can do in this situation is to do nothing. Don’t fight it and just accept things for what they are. Trust that your friends and family know you better than to believe the lies of a narcissist blindly.
Like smear campaigns, triangulation is a tactic through which the narcissist attacks you using those closest to you. This time, however, the narcissist’s objective is to destroy not your name but your relationships with people you love. So, they will get dangerously close to your family and friends. To pit everyone against you, narcissists will twist your words in any way they can.
If the narcissist’s evil plan works, you will suddenly feel very isolated. Although you would want to fix things, you must not interfere. Give it time, and the narcissist will either lose interest in you or pick a new punishment from their menu.
Bullying, Blackmailing, and Threats
People with NPD will use your fear to force you to obey them. So, when a narcissist knows you have figured them out, bullying and threats may come into the picture. Don’t be surprised if they start to blackmail you. For instance, they may threaten that they’ll leak some personal photos of you unless you start listening to them.
As mentioned, NPD sufferers lack feelings like guilt and remorse. Therefore, you must not ignore the seriousness of their threats. Instead of laughing it off, find a way to record or document the blackmailing. Also, don’t hesitate to seek the assistance of your lawyer and the police.
Stage #3: Hoovering
When their brute-force tactics fail to work, narcissists will try to sweet-talk you into believing that they’ll change. Of course, that’s just another lie that aims to brainwash you.
Here are narcissists’ favorite hoovering techniques:
• Fake apology: They may tell you that they are sorry. Don’t buy that. You do remember that they can’t feel remorse, right?
• Love-bombing: You are “bombarded” with compliments and professions of love. Usually, the narcissist prefers to be on the receiving end when it comes to such admiration and praising. However, they’re willing to go against their nature just to lure you back into their web.
• Using guilt and obligation: By reminding you of everything they’ve done for you, the narcissist will make you feel guilty for treating them “badly.” They’ll claim that putting up with their toxic behavior is your moral obligation.
Stage #4: Attempting to Justify Their Behavior
In their heads, narcissists are never wrong. They believe that when they do make a mistake, it’s always someone else’s fault. So, when a narcissist knows you have figured them out, they’ll try to justify their terrible behavior. If you take that bait, you’ll fall back under their spell.
People will Narcissistic Personality Disorder rely on three techniques to rationalize their wrongdoings:
• Victimization: The narcissist is acting the way they’re acting because they’re a “victim” of an unhappy childhood, stressful job, etc.
• Leveling: The narcissist levels their behavior to yours. They bring up things from your past to illustrate that you are not better than them.
• Projection: The narcissist projects their mistakes onto you and blames you for them. Moreover, they may even say that you are the narcissist and not them.
Stage #5: Discarding
Imagine that one day you wake up, and the narcissist is no longer in your life. Just like that, they discontinue all contact with you. There’s a simple explanation behind their sudden disappearance — they have discarded you.
The reasons behind such an unusual behavior are several. For instance, you are no longer of use for the narcissist, or they may have found a new narcissistic supply. Also, the narc may simply be bored with you because you refuse to participate in their cruel games.
Once an NPD sufferer discards you, you won’t be able to get in touch with them. They won’t give you closure, and this will be their only consolation prize. Let them have it and start enjoying your newly-found freedom.
Breaking free from narcissistic abuse is not easy. When a narcissist knows you have figured them out, they will do anything to regain their control over you. Also, the narcissist will go to great lengths to destroy your life. So, they won’t let you go without putting up a fight.
The best thing you can do if a narcissist goes after you is to remain calm and composed. Ignore everything that they say and do. Sooner or later, they’ll lose interest in you, and they’ll leave you alone.
If, however, you are dealing with a violent narcissist, have a safety plan. Seek help from people you trust and contact the authorities before things go out of control. After all, Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a mental illness. Therefore, never underestimate its seriousness.