Glossary of Terms

 

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)

The hallmarks of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) are grandiosity, a lack of empathy for other people, and a need for admiration. People with this condition are frequently described as arrogant, charming, self-centered, manipulative, and demanding. They may also have grandiose fantasies and may be convinced that they deserve special treatment. These characteristics typically begin in early adulthood and must be consistently evident in multiple contexts, such as at work and in relationships. 

Individuals with NPD will be easily offended by criticism or defeat and may react with disdain or anger but social withdrawal or the false appearance of humility may also follow according to the DSM-5. A sense of entitlement, disregard for other people, and other aspects of NPD will damage relationships. While a person with NPD may be a high-achiever, the personality disorder can also have a negative impact on performance (due to, for instance, one’s sensitivity to criticism).

Researchers have reported associations between NPD and high rates of substance abuse, mood, and anxiety disorders. These may be attributable to characteristics such as impulsivity and the increased experience of shame in people with NPD. There are different types of NPD, such as Covert and Overt, and many overlapping traits with other Cluster B personality disorders such as Borderline Personality Disorder and Anti-Social Personality Disorder.

Cluster B Personality Disorders

Characterized by dramatic, overly emotional, or unpredictable thinking or behavior. They include antisocial personality disorder borderline personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder. Many have similar or even overlapping traits and characteristics. People with personality disorders may act out early abuse, neglect, violence, and other forms of childhood attachment failures. Codependents with consistent pattern of dysfunctional helping are often are attracted to cluster b disordered people because they are “bottomless pits” of need, which can contribute to the development of dysfunctional helping relationships and abuse.

Narcissistic Abuse

A form of emotional abuse projected by a narcissist on to another individual, Although narcissistic abuse is primarily focused on emotional and psychological abuse, there are other types of narcissistic abuse that can include abuses such as financial, spiritual, sexual, and physical. Narcissistic abuse occurs in relationships where the narcissistic person tends to seek out an empathetic partner (co-dependent) in order to gain admiration of their own attributes and feelings of power and control. The narcissist creates a dynamic abuser and victim relationship through a cycle of abuse, resulting in traumatic bonding that makes it hard for their partner to leave the increasingly abusive relationship

Cycle of Abuse

The primary model that has been offered for how narcissists abuse their partners is the three-stage idealize-devalue-discard narcissistic abuse cycle.  It begins with a honeymoon stage called “love bombing.” Love Bombing involves being showered with affection, gifts, and promises for the future with someone making you believe you may have discovered love at first sight. The relationship will then deteriorate into the devaluation stage of severe and persistent emotional abuse, including gaslighting, emotional manipulation, verbal abuse, social isolation, and silent treatments which all lead a victim to become trauma bonded to their abuser. The victim will then suffer the eventual discard when the abuser abandons the victim in a cruel and dramatic fashion. This cycle can continue over and over until the victim decides to end the abusive relationship by going no contact

Idealization

At the beginning of a romantic relationship with a narcissist, a victim may describe the initial infatuation stage as “otherworldly.” The emotional high can feel like a drug cocktail as potent as cocaine, heroin, and ecstasy, all rolled into one noxious dose that lasts a few weeks, months, or in some cases a year or slightly more. Victims of narcissistic abuse report feeling as if they have found their soulmate, and often the narcissist will declare their “true love” or insist you are their “soul mate” very early on in the relationship. “Love bombing” is a phrase describing this stage, in which the narcissistic person may smother the target with praise, courting, intense sex, vacations, and grand promises of a future together. future faking.

Devaluation

Gradually, the target begins to see bright red flags that indicate a problem in this fantastical paradise. The narcissist will begin—subtly, insidiously, and covertly—to devalue his or her significant other. This may happen via putdowns, gaslighting, intermittently lacking emotional or physical intimacy, withdrawing affection, seductive withholding, inexplicably disappearing from contact, or blaming the target for the narcissistic person’s issues (projection), and other forms of emotional abuse and manipulation, During the devaluation phase, the narcissist will intermittently return to the idealization love bombing phase, however briefly, to keep the victim off balance and to create and reinforce trauma bonds.

Discard

When the victim asks for compromise, reciprocity, empathy, integrity, honesty, and boundaries (all healthy and valid requests that people with extreme narcissistic qualities will not engage in), the narcissist will decide that the victim has lost his or her luster and is tarnished—no longer the “perfect partner” to fulfill their need for narcissistic supply.  Inevitably, the discarding occurs when the narcissist either disappears or orchestrates his or her own abandonment by engaging in some form of egregious emotional (or physical) abuse. The outcome is often shocking for the survivor, unclear as to how someone that he or she fell so deeply in love with could throw it all away.

Emotional Abuse

An attempt to control, in just the same way that physical abuse is an attempt to control another person. The only difference is that the emotional abuser does not use physical hitting, kicking, pinching, grabbing, pushing, or other physical forms of harm. Rather the perpetrator of emotional abuse uses emotion as his or her weapon of choice. Some examples are constant criticism, shaming and blaming with hostile sarcasm or outright verbal assault, the use of shaming and belittling language and verbal abuse such as name-calling, and withholding affection as punishment

Emotional Manipulation

 An emotionally unhealthy psychological strategy used by people who are incapable of asking for what they want and need in a direct way. They undermine your faith in your grasp of reality, their actions don’t match their words, they are experts at doling out guilt and they claim the role of the victim.

Power and Control

Narcissism is almost entirely about gaining control over others. The narcissistic personality and its obsessive desire for control is not about control just for control’s sake, but an essential defense against the risk of receiving a narcissistic injury; a blow to the ego or self-esteem. Abusers use a combination of several different tactics to maintain power and control.

  • Coercion and threats
  • Intimidation
  • Emotional abuse
  • Isolation
  • Minimizing, denying and blaming
  • Using children
  • Economic abuse
  • Male privilege

Trauma Bonds

Refers to a state of being emotionally attached not to a kind friend or family member, but to an abuser. It is a negative form of bonding as it keeps you loyal to a destructive situation. The abuser uses cycles of abuse and then some form of reward to keep you trapped psychologically and emotionally. Some signs of trauma bonding are you feel stuck and powerless in the relationship but try to make the best of it. Deep down there are moments you don’t even know if you like or trust the other person, but you can’t leave. You have tried to leave, but you feel physically ill if you do, or like you will die or your life will be destroyed. The other person constantly lets you down but you still believe their promises. It may also be referred to as Stockholm Syndrome which is a condition in which hostages develop a psychological alliance and positive feelings and loyalty toward their captors during captivity

 

Co-Dependency

An emotional and behavioral condition that affects an individual’s ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. It is also known as “relationship addiction” because people with codependency often form or maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive. Co dependents have good intentions. They try to take care of a person who is experiencing difficulty, but the caretaking becomes compulsive and defeating. Co-dependents often take on a martyr’s role and become “benefactors” to an individual in need.  Co dependents often form or maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive. 

Co-Dependent Addiction

Referred to as “relationship addiction” or “love addiction.” The focus on others helps to alleviate our pain and inner emptiness, but in ignoring ourselves, it only grows. This habit becomes a circular, self-perpetuating system that takes on a life of its own. Our thinking becomes obsessive, and our behavior can be compulsive, despite adverse consequences. Examples might be calling a partner or ex we know we shouldn’t, putting ourselves or values at risk to accommodate someone, or snooping out of jealousy or fear. 

Boundaries

An imaginary line that separates me from you. They separate your physical space, your feelings, needs, and responsibilities from others. Your boundaries also tell other people how they can treat you – what’s acceptable and what isn’t. Without boundaries, people may take advantage of you because you haven’t set limits about how you expect to be treated. Healthy emotional boundaries mean you value your own feelings and needs and you’re not responsible for how others feel or behave. Boundaries allow you to let go of worrying about how others feel and places accountability squarely with the individual. 

Narcissistic Projection

A defense mechanism commonly used by abusers, including people with narcissistic or borderline personality disorder and addicts. Basically, they say, “It’s not me, it’s you!” When we project, we are defending ourselves against unconscious impulses or traits, either positive or negative, that we’ve denied in ourselves. Instead we attribute them to others. Our thoughts or feelings about someone or something are too uncomfortable to acknowledge. In our mind we believe that the thought or emotion originates from that other person.

Blame shifting

An emotionally abusive behavior or tactic. Abusers have difficulty taking responsibility for problems. They go as far as necessary to attribute blame for their circumstances to anyone else, even if it may sound somewhat conspiratorial. Similarly, they don’t accept ownership of their emotions. They typically express both negative and positive feelings with language like, “You make me so mad.” Blame may be attributed more subtly by saying “I wouldn’t have to do this if you didn’t do that” They also take the focus away from themselves by shifting the focus to a past perceived slight or time that you did something to hurt them, instead of taking responsibility for their behavior. 

Denial 

Refers to someone who fails to recognize the significance or consequences of certain behaviors. It also implies that something believed is untrue. When someone is in denial that a relationship is bad for them, what they are denying is not so much the nature of their relationship (e.g., that person is bad for me) as the feelings that are triggered in the course of the relationship. Denial is a cognitive process that is an attempt to alter our experience of unwanted or unacceptable emotions. 

Gaslighting

 A form of psychological manipulation in which a person covertly sows seeds of doubt in a targeted individual, making them question their own memory, perception, or judgment, often evoking in them cognitive dissonance and other changes such as low self-esteem. Using denial, misdirection, contradiction, and misinformation, gaslighting involves attempts to destabilize the victim and delegitimize the victim’s beliefs. Instances can range from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents occurred to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim.

Cognitive Dissonance

Occurs when a person holds two or more contradictory beliefsideas, or values, or participates in an action that goes against one of these three, and experiences psychological stress because of that. According to this theory, when two actions or ideas are not psychologically consistent with each other, people do all in their power to change them until they become consistent. The discomfort is triggered by the person’s belief clashing with new information perceived, wherein they try to find a way to resolve the contradiction to reduce their discomfort.

Triangulation

When a toxic or manipulative person, often a person with strong narcissistic traits, brings a third person into their relationship in order to remain in control. There will be limited or no communication between the two triangulated individuals except through the manipulator. It may appear in different forms, but all are about divide and conquer, or playing people against each other. It is a highly effective strategy to gain an advantage over perceived rivals by manipulating them into conflicts with one another. Triangulation is the method used by narcissistic individuals to soothe and protect their ego

Hoovering

Term used to describe a narcissist trying to re-connect with you after a time of separation. Often, this separation occurs after a time of silence between you and the narcissist.  They need narcissistic supply to emotionally exist. They need to know that they are affecting someone, or someone hasn’t got over them. They tend to keep multiple sources of supply as backup. The “hoover maneuver” usually begins after the narcissist has left you and after a period of silence. They send you messages pretending nothing happened or use the pretext of a special occasion to make contact. It is very important not to respond to a hoover because it will reignite the cycle of abuse.

Intermittent Reinforcement

When a narcissist creates fear in the victim of losing the relationship during the devaluation phase, but then relieves it periodically with episodes of love and attention. Intermittent reinforcement is a pattern of cruel, callous treatment mixed in with random bursts of affection. The abuser hands out “rewards” such as affection, a compliment, or gifts sporadically and unpredictably throughout the abuse cycle. Intermittent reinforcement causes the victim to perpetually seek the abuser’s approval while settling for the crumbs of their occasional positive behavior, in the hopes that the abuser will return to the idealization phase of the relationship. Like a gambler at a slot machine, victims are unwittingly “hooked” to play the game for a potential win, despite the massive losses.

Silent Treatment

The silent treatment is a form of emotional abuse typically employed by people with narcissistic tendencies. It is designed to (1) place the abuser in a position of control; (2) silence the target’s attempts at assertion; (3) avoid conflict resolution/personal responsibility/compromise; or (4) punish the target for a perceived ego slight. The result of the silent treatment is exactly what the person with narcissism wishes to create: a reaction from the target and a sense of control.

The target will work diligently to respond to the deafening silence. He or she may frequently reach out to the narcissistic person via email, phone, or text and is ignored. The narcissist communicates extreme disapproval to the degree that the silence renders the target so insignificant that he or she becomes nonexistent in the eyes of the narcissistic person. It is a particularly cruel form of emotional abuse. Research has shown that the act of ignoring or excluding a person activates the same area of the brain that is activated by physical pain. The silent treatment, even if it’s brief, activates the anterior cingulate cortex, the part of the brain that detects physical pain. 

Social Isolation

Often used to facilitate power and control over someone for an abusive purpose. Isolation reduces the opportunity of the victim to be rescued or escape from the abuse. It also helps disorientate the victim and makes her more dependent on the abuser. The degree of power and control over the victim is contingent upon the degree of their physical or emotional isolation. Social isolation usually begins with wanting the victim to spend time with only the abuser and not his or her family, friends, or co-workers. The abuser will then slowly isolate the victim from any person who is a support to her. He dictates who she can talk to and is often jealous and unreasonable. Any attempt to seek outside support will be met by anger and punishment. 

Pathological Lying

Narcissists view other people as objects and feel completely justified in exploiting them. Lying is integral to impression management and mirroring. Lies enable narcissists to present false images of themselves to potential targets. A pathologically lying narcissist knows what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ yet doesn’t care and will use whatever methods necessary to secure narcissistic supply. It is of no consequence to the narcissist that their lies would hurt you if you knew about them. They lie through evasion and by withholding information. They lie as a form of gaslighting, in order to increase their control over their targets by making them constantly question themselves. They often repeatedly tell the ultimate lie, that they “love” their targets. And, they lie just for the fun of it.

Narcissistic Injury

Occurs when narcissists react negatively to perceived or real criticism or judgment, boundaries placed on them, and/or attempts to hold them accountable for harmful behavior. The bubbling up, or surfacing, of injury to the narcissist’s ego manifests itself as feelings of rage and vindictive hatred for the instigator of the narcissistic injury. Narcissistic injuries are disassociated feelings of self-hatred and self-loathing that are projected onto the offending person, by either an angry tirade, cruel and vindictive verbal abuse, physical violence, or the silent treatment

Narcissistic Supply

Refers to those people who provide a constant source of attention, approval, adoration, admiration, etc., for the narcissist.  The attention they receive from supply is vital for the survival of the narcissist, without it they would die (either physically or metaphorically), because their weak ego depends on it in order to regulate their unstable self-worth and self-esteem. The narcissist is engaged in constant self-avoidance, and narcissistic supply is their drug. 

The narcissist’s inner being (the True Self) is damaged. When the cracks appear and the abuse begins, this is the real person you meet. The inner self has trapped within accumulated childhood wounds that the narcissist has tried to divorce him or herself from. Narcissistic supply is the distraction. Never learning in childhood to be resilient or self soothe, narcissists develop no conscience or empathy. They do not love themselves, others, or life itself. This is the basis of all addictive behavior. A separation from self-worth, self-love and the ability to inwardly emotionally navigate life healthily.

Narcissistic Mirroring

Because early childhood circumstances prevent narcissists from establishing a stable sense of identity and self-worth, narcissists look to external sources for definition and esteem. When they find a prospective or new partner, they study that person and attempt to reflect their personality, style, interests, and values. People with NPD engage in narcissistic mirroring for three primary reasons:

  1. They lack a stable identity and are trying on yours.
  2. They are working to win you over, reflecting what they think you want to see.
  3. They are faking intimacy because they lack the skills and desire for genuine connection. 

Narcissistic FOG

FOG is an acronym that stands for Fear, Obligation, and Guilt.  Narcissists use FOG to keep their targets in a haze so they can’t see how the narcissist is using their emotions against them in order to make them doubt their own judgment and perceptions, thereby gaining complete control over them.

Narcissistic Word Salad

The first most overt sign of ‘narc speak’ in action, is the nonsense that comes out of their mouth. It is the very epitome of verbal chaos. You will find a bunch of unrelated words and concepts all smooshed together, including contradictions and disjointed phrases, or random irrelevant and impromptu comments thrown at you. The effect and very deliberate purpose of this is to leave you entirely unable to follow the narcissist, to stop trusting your own logic, and become unable to hold them accountable for their behavior.

No Contact

Means that you know there is no point going around in a three-ring circus of arguments with the narcissist anymore. It means that you know you have no choice other than to end the relationship, because it is not getting better, resolution isn’t ever going to be reached and that there is simply no point in trying – because nothing works. You need to block them from all social media, email and phone and make a commitment to yourself that you won’t respond to a hoover. No contact is the only way to break the codependent addiction and stop the cycle of abuse.

Modified No Contact (Grey Rock)

The grey rock method is a practice where an individual becomes emotionally non-responsive, boring, and virtually acts like a rock. Emotional detachment serves to undermine a narcissist’s attempts to lure and manipulate, causing them to grow uninterested and bored. It is generally recommended for people who have children with a narcissist and can’t go full no contact because of an ongoing need to communicate.

Flying Monkeys

The individuals that a narcissist will recruit and then use to do their bidding, typically to isolate, alienate, and harass another person. This happens when a relationship with a narcissist comes to an end.  The narcissist will tell anyone close to the couple – friends, family members, sometimes even the family members of the ex – typically false information that will turn them against the narcissist’s ex-partner or even result in the flying monkeys harassing the ex-partner, alienating or isolating the ex-partner, and leaving the ex-partner feeling lost, hurt, and in some cases, traumatized.

Smear Campaign

The narcissist’s scorched-earth policy, leaving nothing but the burned wreckage of relationships and, sometimes, reputations. The smear campaign is born out of a combination of factors, including the need to be right and have his or her “truth” become the prevailing script, retaining status and standing making sure that his or her inner hidden shame doesn’t become public, and maintaining control of his or her image.

Narcissistic Entitlement 

Refers to a belief that one’s importance, superiority, or uniqueness should result in getting special treatment and receiving more resources than others. It also includes a willingness to demand this special treatment or extra resources.

Trickle Truths

The narcissist is continuing to lie and continues to behave in damaging, disrespectful, and self-serving ways all while claiming they are being honest with you. The narcissist withholds damaging information and presents a façade of truth while the victim continues to feel unbalanced. The victim begins to find that the details do not corroborate, or their recollection is different to the new truth being presented to them, or they discover some tangible piece of evidence that clearly unearths another lie.