Control is important to narcissists. They need to control their environment because they believe they know best. They have to exert themselves to stop anyone from challenging them.
Through conversations with victims, I have noticed patterns in their behaviours and this list encompasses the main themes of their controlling behaviour.
Feel free to add your own in the comments.
1) They Create Anxiety in Their Victims
A Narcissists moods can be very volatile. They can rage at the slightest provocation and take out their wrath on their nearest and dearest. As a result a codependent, who is already accustomed to ignoring their feelings, learns to tip toe around the precarious moods of their partner. They walk around on egg shells, never knowing when the next proverbial shoe will drop. If this anxiety continues for a prolonged period of time and goes untreated physical ailments have been know to occur.
2) They Wear Down Your Self-Esteem
Either overtly or covertly they take aim at those parts of you that you are most ashamed of. They criticize everything you do, how you look, how you behave, even your very existence. The assault can be so pervasive that you become like a shell of a human being, believing that you can’t do anything right and little by little the Narcissist takes over every aspect of your life. You get to a point where you leave everything to them, believing that they know better. You lose yourself in the relationship and let go of your autonomy.
3) Gas Lighting
Gas lighting is the most recent buzz word surrounding Narcissists. It’s a manipulation tactic used by Narcissist to get their victims to question their memory, perception and sanity. They plant seeds of doubt and confusion to further weaken your grasp on reality.
4) They Display a Complete Lack of Empathy
They fail to celebrate or acknowledge anything that is important to, or about their partners. They don’t buy gifts, or recognize their partner’s achievements. They may pick fights right before a birthday, or the holidays to give themselves justification for their behavior. They don’t want their partners to get too confident. A confident partner is a partner who might decide they’ve had enough of their abuse and leave. A Narcissist fears abandonment and will guard against that at all costs. Making their partners feel small and insignificant is a great way to do that.
5) They Isolate You From Everyone You Love and Trust
There is always a big fuss anytime you want to spend time with people you care about. They berate and rant about how awful your friends or family are and anytime you talk about them or want to see them a confrontation ensues. They do this because they have spent so much effort into making you doubt your reality and they don’t want that messed up by people that have the ability to make you see the truth. The problem is that you have likely already bought into the Narcissist’s game plan. Your friends and family will tell you to get the hell out of there, like any sane person would, but they don’t understand the dynamic you’re stuck in. When you continue to stay, after revealing horrific details of the abuse, they get frustrated with your behavior to the point where you don’t want to tell them anything anymore, because you can’t deal with their criticism and disappointment, you stop talking and continue to hide your feelings.
6) They Play Mind Games
A Narcissist is always playing a game of one-upmanship. If you think you’ve caught them in something they will lie and make up a story. If you accuse them of bad behavior they will profect that behavior back on you and accuse you of the same thing. They are always trying to outsmart their partners and stay one step ahead of them, everything is a game and keeping you in the dark in regards to their behavior, true feelings and motivations feeds their ego. It makes them feel superior and reinforces their belief that you are lacking intelligence and are in fact inferior.
7) They are Vengeful
Fear of punishment and retribution are powerful motivators. If you know that you will be yelled at, physically harmed, humiliated, insulted, have your children harmed, your property destroyed or have anything that holds meaning to you taken away, you can be trained to be obedient. In Narcissistic/Codependent relationships there is always a power differential and they use that power as a means of control. They will teach you that everything is their way or the highway and when you do not comply you will be punished, in one way or another, until you comprehend that everything is always all about them. This constant erosion of boundaries, expectations, and the irrelevance they put on your needs and want is another hit to an already fragile sense of self.
Essentially Narcissists control people around them by using negative conditioning. When a Narcissist’s partner stands up for themselves, acts independently or in a manner they disapprove of, a Narcissist will use negative reinforcement to keep them in line. It’s a form of operant conditioning coined and identified by F.B Skinner. It’s the removal of a stimulus the subject wants or requires. Like taking a cell phone away from a misbehaving teenager, a Narcissist will remove themselves by disappearing or giving you the silent treatment. We learn through both positive and negative reinforcement. Conditioning is just another tool a Narcissist uses to subjugate their victims.
This list is not exhaustive so do feel free to add your own.