| Narcissists Stir the Pot for Two Common Effects: Supply and Control |
Narcissistic individuals live to manipulate and extract “narcissistic supply” from others. They are masters at playing mind games, exploiting vulnerabilities, and creating drama to achieve their objectives. In order to better understand how narcissists “stir the pot” to manipulate and extract narcissistic supply, let’s first look at what narcissistic supply is and how it relates to the behaviors of narcissistic individuals.
Narcissistic supply usually refers to the admiration, attention, and recognition that a narcissistic individual seeks to fuel their ego and sense of self-importance. This can come in many forms, such as compliments, gifts, expressions of admiration, and attention from others. Narcissistic individuals crave this type of supply and will go to great lengths to obtain it. They often see others as mere objects to be used for their own benefit, and will exploit anyone who they believe can provide them with the narcissistic supply they seek.
Narcissists will often settle for negative supply, however. They may sometimes thrive on conflict and drama, so one of the ways that narcissists manipulate to extract narcissistic supply is by stirring the pot. This means that they create chaos in their relationships, often by causing conflict or provoking emotional reactions in others. This can enable them to maintain control over a given situation and keep the focus on themselves. They may sow seeds of distrust, make up harmful innuendos, start rumors or seek sympathy for real or perceived harms inflicted by others. They will use a range of tactics, including gaslighting, triangulation, and projecting.
[Related example of pot stirring: “With Friends Like These…“]
Gaslighting is a tactic that involves manipulating someone’s perception of reality. A narcissist may use this technique to make someone doubt their own memory or judgment, causing them to question their sanity. For example, a narcissistic individual may deny that they said something hurtful or abusive, despite evidence to the contrary. They may also minimize the impact of their actions, making the other person feel as though they are overreacting or being too sensitive. Gaslighting is a powerful tool for a narcissist, as it allows them to maintain control over the other person and manipulate them into feeling helpless and dependent.
Triangulation is another tactic that narcissists use to create drama and manipulate others. This entails involving a third party in a conflict or relationship, often by spreading rumors or gossip. For example, a narcissistic individual may spread false rumors about someone they perceive as a threat to their ego, or they may use a third party to deliver a message to the person they are trying to manipulate. This can create a sense of competition or jealousy between the people involved, which can often serve two purposes at once. It allows the narcissist to maintain control over the situation, perhaps by preventing two people talking to each other – or at least about a particular inconvenient (for the narcissist) subject. At the same time, conflict (particularly when it’s over the narcissist) is exciting and energizing for a narcissist.
Watching sparks fly after setting two or more people against each other is very satisfying for a narcissist, but keep in mind, they’ll also be the very first to insist they “hate drama.”
Projecting is a tactic that involves projecting one’s own negative feelings or behaviors onto someone else. For example, a narcissistic individual may accuse someone else of being selfish or manipulative, when in fact it is they who are exhibiting those behaviors. This allows the narcissist to avoid taking responsibility for their own actions and to manipulate the other person into feeling guilty or ashamed. It also allows them to maintain control over the situation by creating a sense of fear or insecurity in the other person.
Humiliation is also a great way for a narcissist to elevate his or her own ego and also works as a powerful mind-control tactic. Humiliation can make people more vulnerable to suggestion and thus, manipulation.
In addition to these tactics, narcissistic individuals may also use other forms of manipulation to create drama and extract narcissistic supply. For example, they may withhold affection or attention, causing the other person to feel as though they are not important or valued. They may also use a range of emotional manipulation techniques, such as guilt-tripping, playing the victim, mirroring their victim’s personality, or using flattery to gain the other person’s trust.
It is important to note that narcissistic individuals often engage in these behaviors unconsciously, as a result of deep-seated emotional wounds and a lack of self-awareness. It’s behavior that they’ve been “rewarded” for over and over again until it became instinctive.
Some may not even be fully aware of the impact of their actions on others, or they may be in denial about their own emotional needs and vulnerabilities. However, this does not excuse their destructive behavior, and it is important for those who are in relationships of any variety (whether romantic, casual or working) with narcissistic individuals to understand the tactics that they use.
These behaviors are rightly considered narcissistic abuse. When you’ve been subjected to gaslighting, triangulation and other psychological and emotional manipulation, it causes damage to the psyche. This kind of damage is measurable and physical as well and can hinder a victim’s ability to function normally or even think clearly. Confidence and self-worth generally take a big hit, as well.
Understanding is the first step to healing when you’ve been the victim of gaslighting and narcissistic abuse. It can be a long journey, but the more you know, the easier it will be to untangle jumbled memories and misunderstandings and get your head screwed back on straight.
You might never be completely the same after narcissistic abuse, but if you get away from it and start doing the work to understand what happened and why, you can get onto a path of continued improvement.
I’ve made so many changes for the better in my life since getting away from my personality-disordered abuser, I can’t even relate to the person I was while in that predicament. I’ve been writing books, creating art and music and learning to fly airplanes. Both my psychological and physical health is vastly improved and I’ve knocked anxiety and depression back so effectively, I’m actually surprised on the rare occasion they resurface and I’m not even using any pharmaceuticals to manage those symptoms.
Unfortunately, recovery isn’t overnight. It took years for me to climb out and get to know myself again. It was a matter of unsteady improvement. Sometimes, it was one step forward followed by two steps back, until eventually, progress significantly outweighed any regression.
Related Reading from Psychology Today: Are You Stuck in a Narcissist’s Drama Triangle? Three Potential Roles and How You can Get Out
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