How Nostalgia Becomes a Weapon in a Narcissistic Relationship

Kitanya Harrison
3 min readNov 16, 2022
Photo by Girl with red hat on Unsplash

Nostalgia is an important weapon for narcissists, because they want to control their targets’ memories. It’s one of the reasons they act out so much during the holidays, etc. — there are nostalgic forces at work that are much more powerful than theirs. Narcissists tactically create memories with their targets that make them look good and intermittently reinforce them. When they have a gang of collaborators to help them orchestrate and recall these moments, it puts immense pressure on targets. The group dynamics also strengthen the gaslighting campaigns that reshape the target’s perception of reality. Sharing nostalgic moments to reinforce an idealized or phony reality is a reason social media is so important to many narcissists. If you look closely at the events they choose to highlight, you’ll notice the narcissist and their gang nearly always received status, etc. from them, and the target was compliant. That’s what they’re reinforcing — a hierarchy. The group reliably appearing in “remember when we were happy” moments (e.g., they’re included or tagged on social media) are important to the narcissist’s plans and will have key roles in their pathological narcissistic spaces (places where a narcissist can reliably receive narcissistic supply (attention and validation) and exert control.

A child a target cares about is a powerful nostalgic locus. Narcissists and their gangs often lean into leveraging this when they fear losing control of a target. A big tell something is off is when adults start posting about other people’s children on social media more than the parents do. Even if this doesn’t rise to the level of narcissistic manipulation, it’s a sign that this person doesn’t understand their place in the situation or recognize a conventional boundary. It’s always a red flag when someone besides the child’s parents gives themselves the license to decide how the child is presented on social media. This is often to gain status by exaggerating their closeness to people connected to the child. Ingratiating themselves with children is a way to dominate the other adults in the equation by leveraging the child’s happiness. That’s how cynical these people are.

It’s important to note that targeting children or other people who create powerful nostalgic forces can be a concerted group effort. It’s a myth that narcissists can’t get along with other narcissists. In some ways, they’re attracted to each other and coalesce into groups more easily than you might suspect. The gang a narcissist leads will often include other narcissists. Pay close attention to the lead narcissist’s right hand person and others whose relationships with the narcissist predate yours. Even if it takes some time to spot them, the users will reveal themselves when they sense the target is getting ready to discard the narcissist, and they get on code to play a montage of the “remember when we were happy” nostalgic moments they banked for use in these moments. The goal is to manipulate the target into staying under the group’s control.

Kitanya Harrison

*squinting in Nanny of the Maroons* | Read my essay collection, DISPOSABLE PEOPLE, DISPOSABLE PLANET: | Rep: Deirdre Mullane