Power and control are two things no self-respecting narcissistic person is willing to go without. Learn how to spot the warning signs a Cluster B person is lurking about. Narcissistic people or those who have Cluster B personality types are masters of making themselves feel powerful, typically at the expense of others. Known for being likened to “emotional vampires”, understand some people overtly or covertly use, abuse, and bully other people by habit as part of their fundamental nature. Common abuse tactics include but are not limited to shouting at people, lying to them, physically assaulting them, pulling stonewalling disappearing acts, or conversely putting themselves in the spotlight by compulsively ranting and raving.
The following Narcissistic Abuse tactics have been excerpted from a domestic violence handout commonly given to men and women seeking safe shelter from domestic abuse at shelters. It’s important to note that abuse in all forms — physical, social, sexual, psychological, emotional, spiritual, religious, or financial — is something abusive people willingly choose to do to other people. Unless a person is physically unable to control their behavior for a medical reason like Alzheimer’s or a traumatic brain injury, chances are they voluntarily abuse other human beings with a sense of presumptive entitlement by habit.
Each tactic listed below can be used by an abuser or perpetrator to gain power and control over the victim. One or more parts may be present in an abusive relationship. No tactic is less important or impactful than any other.
- Using Intimidation- An abuser may use threats of physical violence or even subtler tactics, such as the invasion of personal space, displays of physical size and strength, or certain looks, gestures, or other body language to intimidate and thereby gain control over their partner.
- Using Emotional Abuse — An abuser may demean and belittle their partner in order to gain control by making them feel worthless, embarrassed, and helpless. Examples may include making comments on their partner’s weight, appearance, or intelligence. This can often occur in public places and/or social settings.
- Using Isolation — This tactic is used by an abuser to gain control over their partner by isolating them from friends and family. An abuser may claim to be disliked by the friends and family of their partner and use this as a reason for not letting their partner associate with them. Often abusers will withhold phone calls and messages from family members and friends as a form of isolation. An abuser will generally attempt to gain control by cutting off supportive figures in their partner’s life.
- Minimizing, Denying, Blaming — This tactic is employed by an abuser to rationalize their actions, to make the victim feel like they are to blame for the abuse, to minimize the impact of their actions, and to pretend that their behavior is not really abusive. An abuser might claim that their partner is being “too sensitive,” or that an incident of abuse was simply a “misunderstanding.” They may also directly blame their partner for the abuse, and attempt to justify an incident by blaming it on their partner’s actions and making their partner responsible.
- Using Children — In a relationship that involves children, an abuser may hurt the children or threaten to take them away from their partner. While this tactic may not seem relevant in a violent relationship that does not involve children, this tactic may manifest in different ways – for example, an abuser may threaten to harm or take away their partner’s pet.
- Using Male Privilege — A male or masculine-identified abuser will often find ways to gain power and control by exploiting the male privilege bestowed upon him by male-dominated society. They may do this by enforcing rigid gender roles, treating their partner like a servant or sex object, or by making all of the decisions, whether personal, financial, or otherwise.
- Using Economic Abuse — An abuser may prevent their partner from obtaining a job, or interfere with their work and jeopardize employment in order to maintain their partner’s financial dependency on them, thus potentially making it difficult for their partner to leave. An abuser may have sole control over their partner’s finances or give them an “allowance.” He may also interfere with academic activities or attempt to compromise their partner’s scholarships and/or jeopardize future goals.
- Using Coercion and Threats — An abuser may use this tactic to stop their partner from leaving the relationship, or to facilitate sexual abuse. For example, the abuser may start throwing things, threaten to kill their partner, or threaten to injure their friends or family. The abuser may also threaten to commit suicide if their partner leaves them, attempting to make their partner so guilty that they decide to stay. These are all methods of gaining power and control.
As a gender neutral handout to share with friends and family, the “POWER AND CONTROL” cycle of Narcissistic Abuse graphic typically accompanies the list of information presented to domestic violence victims. Sadly, because most handouts are aimed strictly at helping those who have been abused in romantic relationships, a child or adult child of an abusive parent or person related to a sibling or parent with a Cluster B personality disorder ends up feeling socially without support and somewhat emotionally invalidated.
If a romantic partner uses intimidating threats to harm or bully, one can make logical strides to break up with that person and disengage. But what happens when the person doing the bullying is or was a relative like a brother, sister, mother, or father?
What happens when the person being emotionally abused is the adult child of a narcissistic parent — one who has spent the child’s entire lifetime situationally abusing of them in private while socially pretending they have a “difficult child” but are themselves a truly magnificent and grandly magnanimous parent?
A parent fighting with a spouse might do damage when and if they minimize or reduce their mate’s complaints or requests for humane treatment, but when an adult invalidates the fundamental human needs and rights of a child or some other person of familial interest? Real damage is done for a lifetime to the child of abuse or the person pervasively targeted for social and emotional “execution”.
Blame shifting is one of the most common tactics an abusive personality type will take when defending themselves after being caught red-handed or confronted about their self-centered, obnoxious and toxic actions. Victim shaming is their next ploy, first blaming the victim while claiming they had a right to behave in a morally criminal manner toward that person followed by justifying the abuse — typically claiming the person “deserved it”.
Using children to win social attention or control a partner might be a smart move in the mind of a heartless, self-aggrandizing, or Malignant Narcissist, but in the eyes of those who are both well-educated about psychology and generally have emotional IQs that are high, the very notion of treating kids like objects instead of people causes wellsprings of compassionate tears to roll from even the most non-emotionally reactive of eyes. Whether engaging in acts of visitation interference, threatening to deny visitation rights, or willfully trying to triangulate a child between siblings, steps, or other parent partners, the sicker and more Machiavellian the toxic personality, the more likely they are to use and abuse their own children while treating them like chattel instead of priceless humans.
Teaching a child misogynistic gender roles might have been wise to do back in the 1800s and even early 1900s when women did not have the legal right to own property, inherit property, run businesses, or vote, but the continued practice cripples both genders — at least as far as American cultural systems go. In the 21st century, gender equality is expected. A young lady raised to believe she is less than a complete human is likely to do as much social damage and harm to herself and her own children as a man who for whatever reason personally decides he “hates women”.
Financially controlling teens and adult children is par for the course with narcissistic parents. Following their parent’s role models, many abusive ex-husbands and ex-wives use things like withholding child support, actively defying judges in contempt of court, and the filing of frivolous lawsuits to waste the time and ultimately money of their abuse targets. In cases where a rejected suitor or ex leaves and net gains a co-narcissist partner who enables them, expecting decades of social and financial abuse from an estranged ex and his or her new romantic partner is becoming the norm as “punishment” for the most loving, sensitive, and emotional of healthy behavior advocating former care partners.
But using coercion or threats to control a child or adult’s behavior physically or psychologically is truly the most overt of all narcissistic abuses. Buying big ticket items, promising rewards of monetary nature, or simply pitching huge temper tantrums to scare a target are all mind control tactics routinely engaged in as acts of social warfare against the victims of Cluster B predators.
Learning how to reflect on narcissistic abuse from all ages and stages of life and social position angles can help all human beings develop a more comprehensive set of empathy values. Both self and others benefit each time a human being cares enough to self-reflect in such a way that they mindfully seek to understand themselves in social relationship dynamics with others.