Both equally dangerous, narcissists and sociopaths are social predators with an ultimate purpose of gaining admiration from, and control over their victims. They exhibit little or, more commonly, no empathy towards others and this is exactly why they are able to manipulate their victims and hypnotize them into not leaving despite the abuse.
Nevertheless, their methods of manipulation are not that intelligently devised and most of them are spotted easily if you know what to look for. In fact, people who are generally speaking healthy individuals – with a healthy emotional climate, more or less strong sense of self and firm personal boundaries – tend to be repelled by most of these manipulation tactics, and interpret them as a warning sign that something is clearly off with the person delivering them.
Instead, a narcissist/sociopath aims at people with poor personal boundaries who have already been abused in the past (mostly childhood – related abuse) – such as codependent types – and with people who might not have codependency but are still emphatic and kind-hearted in nature. These character traits are strengths, but a narcissist/sociopath sees them as weaknesses and tries to exploit a person by using their vulnerabilities against them.
Terms narcissist and sociopath are being used interchangeably because they both employ same, or in worst case scenario, very similar methods of manipulation. Perhaps the only distinction that can be made between the two has to do with the extent of violence.
A sociopath is more prone to breaking the law and being involved in criminal acts such as domestic violence, burglary, vandalism and so on, whereas a narcissist doesn’t go that far and sticks to these tactics below:
1. INSULTING AND NAME CALLING
This is an overt tactic of manipulation designed to create, as time progresses, a feeling of worthlessness in a victim, and it’s as devastating as it is obvious in it’s function. Since the verbal abuse takes place so frequently, almost on a daily basis, a victim gradually distorts their self-image by absorbing these patterns of abuse, and therefore becomes what the narcissist continualy emphasizes they are.
Narcissist insults and calls names because he loves to degrade, as it fuels him with a sense of power and dominance. He despises happines because he doesn’t have the capacity to feel happy himself. Therefore, he delights in intentionally making his victims feel worthless and anxious. This, in turn, creates a false sense of happiness in a narcissist, as he satisfies in observing this state of tension created in another person.
Sometimes, a narcissist may even attempt to cheer up his victim after insulting them. If he succeeds, this fuels him with an even greater sense of power and control, because he then percieves that he is able to control his victim’s emotions, and in other words, control the other person entirely.
2. GASLIGHTING AND PATHOLOGICAL LYING
Gaslighting is a covert tactic of confusing a person and putting them in a position of questioning their memory, sense of reality and sanity.
This particular manipulation tactic is so cruel and devious because it focuses on altering our basic perception of what is real, and what is not. It includes intentionally distorting past events – claiming that things which haven’t been said or done, in fact, have been said or done and vice versa. It also includes adding distorted meanings to present events and convincing a person that how they momentarily feel about something is unfounded and ultimately non – existent.
So a victim may try to communicate to a narcissist how he has failed to keep a promise, and he will insist that a promise has never even been made. Or a victim may try to express their happiness, and a narcissist will emphasize how they are actually self-conscious and unable to relax properly. A narcissist is quite proficient and skilled when it comes to deceiving others. He is able to lie convincingly well because he is a pathological liar. This means that he lies compulsively and therefore may even believe his own lies – which further enables him to be deceitful.
As a result of being exposed to gaslighting and continuous lying, a victim is in a dangerous position. This type of abuse shatters a persons sense of self, resulting in cognitive dissonance, sleeplessness and discomforting feelings of emptiness accompanied by a sense of meaninglessness to life. In more severe cases, it can lead to neurotic behaviour, depersonalization and derealization. Conclusively, if exposed to this type of abuse for a longer time, a person is more prone to developing psychological problems.
3. SILENT TREATMENT
Silent treatment drains a person psychologically, physically and emotionally. This is such a powerful method of manipulation because a narcissist breaks contact so suddenly and unexpectedly, leaving his victim feeling perplexed and in a state of shock.
Narcissist uses it as a leverage to feel as if he is in control by withdrawing and then reconnecting with his victim when he deems fit. He also uses silent treatment as a means of punishment, which often occurs due to what is known as narcissistic rage. A victim – more often than not – unknowingly enrages a narcissist by touching upon his wounds.
So a victim might unintentionally have to put their conversation with the narcissist on hold for a few minutes because they have to use the bathroom, and this will consequently enrage a narcissist because it will make him feel as if he is being ignored. So instead of dealing with the emotional reaction, he will tell himself something like:
” He/she is clearly not interested in what I have to say, so why would I waste my time on them. I’m just going to leave.”
Since a narcissist isn’t capable of true introspection, he cannot and doesn’t want to deal with his emotions, because having a negative emotional reaction would imply that he is less than perfect.
In addition, even when he decides to reconnect with his victim, by acting awkwardly cold and indifferent and by being dismissive of his victims emotions, he further traumatizes a person. Silent treatment can last from anywhere between few hours and more than few years – depending on the circumstances and the person involved.
4. LOVE BOMBING
Love bombing revolves around baiting and hooking a victim.
Just like a fisherman uses a worm to bait a fish, only to pull it from under the water and thereby kill it for a food supply – so a narcissist does the exact same thing to his victims. He puts on a mask, a fasade, and initally makes the other person feel cared for, acknowledged and understood.
In reality, most people more or less tweak their behaviour in the begining phase of the relationship in order to establish connection with the other person, but a narcissist takes it to the extreme.
This is how you will know if you’re dealing with a narcissist :
- Mirroring – we subliminally mirror each other’s gestures because we want to emphasize on our commonalities with the other person, but a narcissist will almost always overdo it – and this is key. He will be interested in everything you are also interested in, he will wear the type of clothes he finds out you prefer, he will even pretend that he has the same passion as you do. So if it seems to good to be true – it probably is.
- Being overly attentive – A narcissist will want to know everything about you and your past, and he will want to talk to you all day – every day. It will seem as if you finally found a person who is deeply interested in you. The fact is, he will be so interested in you, but won’t convey much about his private life and his past. So he will either avoid talking about it, or will describe it as “it’s all great” scenario. This is a major warning sign.
The initial phase of “bonding” with a narcissist most often lasts for a few week or months. More rarely, it can take years before the mask finally starts to slip. This phase is followed by gradual neglect of his victims emotions as well as increase in violence and other forms of manipulation until finally a victim breaks down, is brainwashed, and centers their life around a narcissist.
He also uses love bombing on a more micro scale to maintain a notion of him being loving and caring throughout a relationship. He will, from time to time, emphasize and point out all these caring things he has done and how much he has actually sacrificed for the relationship, directing attention away from the abuse. This creates confusion and mixed feelings about the relationship in a victim, who usually starts to rebel, but after a short while relapses back into old, subservient patterns of behaviour and thinking.
On a situational level, narcissist employs love bombing when he has reached a stage of ego starvation and is in desperate need of gratification, or when he fears that his victim could abandon him. This he fears most because one of his core bone-shaking fear is precisely a fear of abandonment.
Just as a fisherman uses fish for a food supply, a narcissist never has real intention to bond and never has genuine desire to get to know the other person, he merely uses his victims as a source of supply – narcissistic supply.