Figuring Out Who is in Cahoots with the Narcissist in Your Life
STEP 1: Name a violation of your personal boundaries by the narcissist.
STEP 2: List the people who participated in the violation or who you discussed it with.
STEP 3: Create a grid with their names and tactics narcissists use, then ask the YES or NO question: Did this person use this tactic against me? If the answer is “YES,” check the box in the grid.
Narcissists often recruit confederates and enablers (often called a “harem”) to help them manipulate their targets. Doing the exercise above for the narcissist’s violations can help suss out the harem. In the example, the narcissist knows the target loves their work at an after-school program, and the narcissist sometimes participates. The program was planning an event, and, without discussing it with the target, the narcissist contacted the organizers to make commitments on the target’s behalf and wrangle having the target honored at the event. The honor was meant to excuse the transgression of not getting the target’s consent beforehand and mask the narcissist’s grasping for attention by proxy. I can’t list every tactic the narcissist and harem might employ, but here are several common ones:
PREMEDITATION: This isn’t technically a tactic, but it gets left out of the analysis a lot. If people in your life are plotting and scheming to violate your boundaries, put them straight in the bin, and leave them for waste management.
PARTICIPATION: Did they play a role in carrying out the violation?
LYING: Did they lie to carry out the violation? Are they lying to cover it up? N.B. Each promise the narcissist made on the target’s behalf in the example was a lie.
MINIMIZATION: Are you being told you’re overreacting?
PLAYING DUMB: Are people pretending not to know what they did was wrong?
DEFLECTION: Does the subject keep getting changed?
GUILTING: E.g., “You don’t want to disappoint the kids, do you?”
FALSE CONCESSIONS: Fake apologies, promises to do better, etc.
TANTRUMS: Towering hysterics to bully you into compliance.
TRIANGULATION: Comparing you unfavorably to another person to induce insecurity and compliance.
LOVE BOMBING: Showering you with excessive idealization to get you into a compliant state.
GASLIGHTING: The narcissist and their crew will pretend nothing happened. They might even say the whole thing was your idea.
REPETITION OF VIOLATION WITH ESCALATION: If escalating transgressions keep happening (e.g., this time they’re calling up the local news), you have to get the people participating out of your life before they do real damage.
If you repeat the exercise for a few of the narcissist’s more egregious violations, and the same people’s names keep coming up, and they keep using the same manipulation tactics against you, they are more than likely part of the narcissist’s harem, and you should re-evaluate maintaining those relationships.
Adapted from an Instagram microblog.