Mocking is a subtle form of verbal assault. The victim is traumatized by the initial attack, then typically invalidated and left with emotional and psychological pain left unresolved and creating in them (and them alone) physical stress likely to be at the core of most illnesses.
How many times have you been put down by an apparently offhand comment made flippantly or callously by a socially aggressive or violent person? If you remember a time, even once, that you were mocked or ridiculed for fun and sport by a social predator — welcome to the Narcissistic Abuse Victim’s Club.
Mocking is using caustic humor to covertly engage in overt but veiled social bullying.
You are not imagining that it is abuse, and you are not being overly sensitive when and if you happen to know that the verbal assault tactic does physical harm and health damage to targets.
If you are struggling to understand the concept of mocking and why it’s so hurtful, you are not alone. Consider the plight of an abused child — targeted for pervasive social abuse by their own parents, grandparents, siblings, and other family friends and extended family members.
Here is a simple example of how a toxic parent or verbally abusive might use mocking to undermine the social and emotional self-confidence of their own adult child.
When you say to a Mommy Dearest figure, for instance, something wholly innocent and non-confrontational like, “I have friends coming over for dinner…”, she might ask something ridiculously demeaning like, “You have friends?!?” for her personal pleasure, meaning her core values-based definition of insulting others for fun and conversational sport.
An Enabling Henchmen father might chime in from the other room to show her support, smiling and baiting you to trigger by adding a further injurious question like, “You can cook?!?” in order to double-tap — a pack predator behavior exhibited by animals who play with prey before eating it.
Feigned incredulity is a Machiavellian covert conversational sadist’s most common gaslighting, hyper-magnified look.
If you react to either of these hurtful comments, the mocking speaker who was leading the charge by habit replies, “I was just joking”. Then, their Enabler is likely to say something ridiculous like, “She was just kidding. You always take things the wrong way. Stop being so sensitive! You clearly have no sense of humor.”
Once you are told that the person insulting you (and who succeeded in seriously upsetting you or hurting your feelings) was just kidding, you are done for in a peer group like a toxic family unit. The social expectation is that the target is expected to take the abuse with a smile on their face, routinely and without complaint.
Moreover, Abuse Enablers who like to spectate and watch other people be verbally abused are likely to defend the Abuser — telling the victim, provoked or baited to the point of physical duress — that their reaction to verbal assault is the problem, not the Cluster B pack’s behavior choices themselves.
A victimized target is often accused of being over-sensitive or not having a sense of humor. Not only are those statements overt gaslighting, but they are also malicious, psychologically abusive tactics designed to purposefully produce a feeling of toxic shame in the person who has been assaulted, invalidated, and/or humiliated.
But here’s the deal — they were not kidding, those Abusers, when they were saying mean stuff to you or about you.
Resist the urge to believe gaslighting tales about their intent either from them or from their Enablers.
Mean people know exactly what they are saying. They had enough presence of mind to strive to be hurtful, demeaning, and insulting in such a way that they, themselves, could not be held socially or legally accountable for their hurtful words and telling actions.
[They also typically all candidly report that when they are able to lie to or about someone and are believed or if they can belittle someone without being held accountable, that the more pain and humiliation produced for their victim the greater their social satisfaction and sadistic pleasure.]
Cluster B social predators want targets to know how little they think of them. They like watching the facial expressions of the people they hurt or insult, and feel the same endorphin rush when they successfully verbally or socially abuse others that most Empaths and other high EQ people feel when and if they help another.
The socially aggressive, vertical thinker never “just” does or says anything. They are method actors, constantly calculating and scheming in every social setting to win or to gain a personal social advantage.
They tend to use caustic humor to cover cheap shots taken below the belt in order to hurt, undermine, or embarrass targeted friends, lovers, and family members.
That feigned surprise questioning about some deficit in you was intended to be hurtful. Resist the urge to engage in magical thinking about the reason why people who are prone to situationally abusing other humans — they compete to win, and in their mind in order to win someone else must be a loser.
Toxic people who use these strategies, often in front of other people, are using rhetorical techniques to covertly bully you.
Saying something hurtful that appears rational is called “social aggression” by researchers. Social aggression also includes non-verbal things like rolling the eyes at something you said or did. The research is clear that these offhand questions or comments are deliberately hurtful and are NOT jokes.
In GENUINE communication, there are two “parcels” of information. The first “parcel” is content – the information that is sent. The second parcel is the emotional content, which is often implied rather than explicitly stated.
The person who receives the communication can respond to the content or the feeling, or both. For example, if your partner says, “Can we skip going out tonight? I had a bad day at work,” several possible genuine replies can be made.
“OK, let’s skip going out tonight” addresses the content of the message.
Another genuine response that also answers the content is “I don’t think we can. We promised Rose that we would complete the project tonight and she’s already arranged a babysitter”.
A genuine reply to the same question that focuses on the feeling is, “What happened to make your day so bad?” This response does not address the content, but it responds directly to the heart of the emotion that was parceled into the communication.
This response is like a code that says, “I care about you and want to validate how exhausting your work can be.” Remember this truth the next time someone tries to say something abusive and rooted in gaslighting — but that they expect you to believe is true.
A response to both the content and the feeling of the communication is, “I don’t think we can skip it because we promised Rose we would be there, but we can let her know we will be leaving early. What happened at work today?”
In all the above examples, both the question and answer are genuine. There is a genuine intent to convey information from both the sender of the message and the receiver.
So what happens when Cluster B people break the communication code of conduct in order to make a weapon out of a question? They use the words of what might appear to be a genuine communication, but with a tone of voice, and in a context that camouflages their “parcel” of deliberately hurtful intent.
In the example where you say that you have invited friends over for dinner, the content is about the general topic of having guests or how you plan to spend the evening. The emotional content is neutral because your intent is to simply convey a fact.
The Cluster B completely ignores the content and replies using a logical fallacy called a non-sequitur. This is also known as derailment. A non-sequitur is irrelevant to the content of what is said. It is literally an “out of sequence” response.
By asking a question about a completely different topic (your friends or cooking skills), the Cluster B derails the topic from hosting dinner guests to implying that something is wrong with you.
He also uses another literary device, the rhetorical question. This is a question that doesn’t need an answer. A common example of a rhetorical question is, “Do pigs fly?” Although the reply is obviously no, most people understand that this rhetorical question is used to convey cynicism about something.
Examples of Cluster B rhetorical non-sequitur include engaging in faux-Socratic and purposefully demeaning question series that imply or in some way suggest the target is stupid or inept.
Verbally controlled, Machiavellian thinkers who are adept in the behavior of choosing words designed to hurt without their own core sadistic and dishonorable core nature being revealed mock their victims expressly — but their real superpower is doing harm to targets using implied derogatory, gaslighting psycho-social machinations.
For instance, a person who asks a targeted verbal abuse victim something like, “Did you actually read the instructions?” (shared in a sarcastic and demeaning tone) or “Who could ever believe you went to college?” (dutifully coupled with a sideways glance or an overtly haughty look down the nose) is choosing to abuse using implication, more than likely disdainful body postures, and tone to physically and psychologically manipulate the emotions.
Histrionic people mastered the art long before the printing press was invented, and not much has changed since storytellers of old told fairy tales to children that featured Cluster B character representations in their own heroes, legends, and serious villains.
Eye rolling, huffing, making exaggerated facial expressions to imply the speaker is causing the abusive person to be forced to listen is some great pain or inconvenience, and any physical move that puts distance between the Abuser are just a few tricks most vertical thinkers use to physically appear dominant in conversations.
Targets of this sort of mocking generally respond in one of two ways.
The first is to ignore it or laugh it off. The hurtful accusation lingers in the air. You feel ashamed and diminished, especially if the comment was made in front of other people. This is the aim of the toxic non-sequitur.
Sometimes, after a series of undermining rhetorical non-sequiturs, it’s hard to remain gray rock. When and if you lose your cool and respond, round two starts — increasing the personal and abusive ad hominem attacks.
Example — you crack and respond emotionally to the negative commentary. You might speak up in self-defense, striving to self-advocate but lack the ability to seek relief from the abuse.
Trying to communicate effectively about your emotions while giving examples of the speaker’s implications or word choices that were or are hurtful, you may blurt, “That’s the third time you have accused me of being stupid today!” This loss of control in an attempt to self-protect is actually healthy — but your Abuser and their enablers won’t validate that very fact.
Triggering is known as reacting to a provocation after taking whatever bait left you feeling upset. In a healthy relationship, when and if one person — let’s call them Partner A, tells Partner B that something Partner B said was hurtful, Partner B would listen, strive to understand, would apologize in a meaningful way that reflects comprehension on a complex emotional level, and they would strive to avoid the same or similar word use by mindful and considerate decision in the future.
A targeted victim’s unfiltered reaction was the response the cluster B was hoping for, noting that when a target shows any response whatsoever that is not flatlined emotionally that the provoking person is likely to derive pleasure.
The Abuser and those who like to sit on the sidelines and watch (or to pitch in and help while mobbing) are likely to mock victims relentlessly using what they find out hurts their target the most.
You have been manipulated into making what looks like a crazy response to an apparently reasonable question. You are crying. You are hurt. You feel humiliated, confused, betrayed, and battered psychologically and emotionally by the mean person’s comment — but you are not allowed to let anyone know or else the Abuser and their Narcissistic Harem are likely to blame you for causing a scene or making a problem.
But, in good faith, you strive to communicate — believing that if you ask them nicely enough and can explain why what they are saying is hurtful that they will validate your human right to ask for the verbal assault on your human form to actually stop.
Then the Cluster B feigns a look of hurt and says, “But I was just joking”. Now you are further diminished — devalued, now accused by implication of being a bad or emotionally unsound and intellectually moronic person, and left with no way to seek a resolution to the pain the abusive speaker caused more than likely for no other reason than to one-up you or to alleviate their own existential angst and boredom.
Common emotions experienced by targets include feelings of toxic shame and powerlessness. Feeling this way means you are healthy and normal; to feel unaffected entirely or numb to the pain would indicate the Abuser was successfully in anatomically handicapping or damaging your brain.
You are confused and ashamed as well as hurt. Your angry reaction to the intent of the non-sequitur comment provides “proof” that you can’t take a joke, or are crazy.
If the Cluster B is really on a roll, they can also throw in false victimization pleas like, “I’m hurt that you would think that I could ever say something like that about me…” — a social abuse tactic that casts you as the villain and them as the poor, innocent, confused, and truly socially maligned and targeted victim.
The whole point of the undermining non-sequitur rhetorical question is to diminish your sense of worth. Toxic parents do this to their children who are not developmentally mature enough to figure out what is going on. Also, mean girls in middle school have made this particular form of bullying an art form.
As a strategy to humiliate a chosen target, hurtful mockery is relatively risk-free because there is the, “I was only joking” excuse if the bully is confronted.
Cluster B people use rhetorical questions as non-sequiturs to undermine their target. In general, the point is to express contempt for the target in order to create shame and humiliation. Used long term it is an effective gaslighting technique to make the target feel crazy and stupid.
Furthermore, these “joking” comments can have a negative effect on your abilities. In an interesting experiment, researchers were deliberately rude to research participants to see if rudeness made people do less well on tests. The rudeness was a set-up where a fake college student (a confederate) deliberately arrived late to the experiment.
The researcher said in a normal voice to the group, “What is it with you undergrads at this university? You always arrive late; you’re not professional…” The students were then given cognitive tasks. Their performance on these mental activities was compared to the control group which had not been subjected to the rude comment. Students who had been treated with a single rude comment performed significantly worse on tasks requiring thinking and creativity.
There are a couple of interesting points from this research.
First, is that the deliberate rudeness in this study was in the form of a non-sequitur. It is also exactly the kind of comment that if challenged, the researcher could give the excuse of, “I was just joking”, or “I didn’t mean you students, I meant other students in general”.
The second important finding was the negative effects of rudeness on cognitive performance occurred after only one instance of rudeness. Imagine the effects of being the target of undermining comments for months or years?
So it is important that you don’t allow anyone to use non-sequitur hurtful comments against you, which means you have to learn a response that will block the hurtful intent and prevent the cluster B from trying this tactic again.
Typical target responses won’t do this. If you laugh at his non-sequitur “joke” or ignore it, this lets the bully know that it is OK to continue to do this. If you respond to the content, the focus is on you defending your alleged inability to have friends, cook, or whatever variation of “not good enough” is used.
Most people are provoked into responding because they are reacting to the intent of the rhetorical question. They feel hurt and angry. They accurately perceive the toxic person’s intent was to make them feel diminished.
People who feel diminished typically respond with hurt and anger. The problem is that if you respond with anger at the intent of the rhetorical question, the attack was doubly successful because now you also look crazy.
Therefore, your plan is to give the attacker a dose of his own medicine. If the non-sequitur question is “do you HAVE any friends?!!” Say, “No”.
[That unemotional and unexpected response leaves the meanness of the question to linger in the air. It leaves no opening for further questioning or barbs, keeping the abuse (if you are lucky) at best shorter.]
The simplicity of the reply makes your point.
A stark one-word NO answer indicates to the attacker that you know they are not seeking a genuine, reciprocally meaningful communication. If he or she tries another put-down question, you simply reply with a non-revealing one-word answer again.
Think of limiting the conversation as an educated Empath’s code for, “I know what you are doing and I am not going to play”. Pulling the plug on the attention flow tends to make them wander off once they are bored.
It doesn’t matter what rhetorical question they ask, the answer to any social provocateur or person prone toward verbally abusing others is always best left vague.
If a person striving to do recon on what will provoke you to lose emotional control asks you if you like to cook, say something like, “I know how to boil water.”
It’s probably true that you can (first and foremost), so you are giving a true and correct answer — but if you tell them you love to cook they will ruin the pleasure of it for you. If you cannot cook, you will be ridiculed for not knowing how… but if you can? That’s when the metaphoric slings, arrows, and barbs come out.
Whatever you tell any socially aggressive person should reveal as little factually accurate or telling information about how they can hurt you. They tend to attack not only in emotional and psychological places where you feel vulnerable or insecure, but also strive to make you feel ashamed of any skill set you have or thing that you like no matter how trivial, healthy, or innocent.
You see, to a vertical thinker who is prone to behaving in ways that are socially abusive, it’s all about the win. The bloodlust and desire to dominate and shame or harm other people, in Cluster B people, is typically great.
It’s never a genuine person seeking information for the sake of understanding in a prosocial manner. If you let a social predator know something you fear, like, or take pride in, they are likely to make mental note and use the knowledge to say mean things to you about it or they will engage in mocking your character and social preferences later.
If a bully lies to create an effect, you can redirect their locus of focus in order to successfully neutralize their effect. It is possible to give them the impression to virtually anyone that you have had a conversation with them if all you do is ask questions.
Genuine communication takes two or more people to understand what is or was functionally being communicated by the other(s). Narcissistic Abuse only takes one person to abuse the hospitality of another. For that reason, when and if one has to engage in casual conversation with a toxic person, strive to emulate a seasoned or veteran reporter.
Another response is to ask a rhetorical question of your own. You could ask, “Are you serious?” He can either say “yes”, (and you can raise your eyebrows in mock disbelief), or he can say ‘no’ which means he is admitting his non-sequitur was not genuine communication. Most likely he will fumble around and try to come up with some excuse or other, giving you the opportunity to change the topic to one that is not about your supposed deficits.
Sometimes, a statement is used instead of a rhetorical question, such as “this dinner looks like a biology experiment”. In this case, a question you could ask is, “what would make you say such a thing?” Based on the content, this LOOKS like you are asking a genuine question, but you are not. Your question assumes that something is making him say something. In other words, your intent is to focus attention on his lack of ability to control his rudeness.
If the person protests that he was just joking, then simply ask, “How is that funny?” Be genuinely curious. What WAS so funny about that comment? Whatever the toxic person comes up with will be pathetic. The irony is that the toxic person chose to derail genuine communication, so you are simply following the content regarding their new line of conversation.
Even if he is able to talk his way out, chances are he will think twice before he tries this strategy again.
Hurtful mocking comments are used by toxic people (and pre-adolescent girls) who think to express hurtful things as “jokes” is a safe way to express aggression. What they are learning is that if they try to embarrass you in front of other people, they risk ending up looking like fools.
What you are learning is that it is not OK for anyone to say demeaning things to you, and that the excuse of “I was just joking” is a lie. Caustic humor is just that — always caustic.
In case you are still wondering, tolerating, or engaging in the social use of abusive humor is (for the most part) incredibly toxic. Sticking to the use of dark humor is a healthier way to deal with tough subject matter — but when and if you do have something witty to say, ask yourself first how you would feel about being characterized in the same or a similarly persecutory or pejorative of ways.