7 Painful Tactics Used By Narcissists To Control Their Victims

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.



Narcissists use control to keep others close to them. It often stems from a fear of abandonment. They believe that everyone, given the choice, will leave them. And so they create an environment where they are initially adored, then feared. This dichotomy creates what is known as a trauma bond. The victim is drawn in, like a drug addict, by the amazing feelings the narcissist gives them of love and adoration. When the drug (love) is withdrawn, the victim seeks to chase the next high. This can lead to them doing anything and everything to get the love back. Including handing over all control of their lives to the narcissist.


Current thinking in neuroscience and attachment theory tells us that in a dangerous situation, we are hard-wired to preserve our attachment relationships above all else. After a person has attempted fight, flight and freeze, they will often surrender as a final defence mechanism.

This involves appearing compliant, as though they are making autonomous choices to behave in the way the abuser has asked them to, when in reality they are utterly subservient to the abuser’s will. When the victim survives the attack with their attachment to the abuser still intact, their brain records it as a success and automatically behaves in the same way again next time.


Being compliant and abused leads the victim to feel worthless and often guilty and ashamed for allowing this to go on. This is further exacerbated by society who say “well why don’t you leave them?” Guilt and shame further erode the self confidence of the victim and leave them feeling unworthy of love. As love is a basic human need, victims often feel like they are better off staying and chasing the high with the narcissist, than leaving and being on their own. Knowing that in order to keep the relationship they must behave in certain ways and be completely subservient, they further surrender. They essentially hand over everything to the narcissist. Financial control. Parenting. What they wear. And how they think. Including how they think about themselves. They become co-dependent.


This surrender is the ultimate separation from your soul. Your true self is a constant resource of love, knowledge, wisdom and joy. When you become co-dependent you cut yourself off. You look outside of yourself for external validation. You don’t trust yourself any more and second guess every decision. But your true self knows exactly who you are and what you truly want.

You literally do sell your soul to the devil.

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