A Narcissist Will Try to Manipulate You By Playing The Victim

Research shows that narcissists pretend to be victims in order to manipulate people and extract resources. 

Ekin Ok et al. conducted new research (2020) in which they found that there are fake “virtuous victims” who use “resource extraction” strategies which are used by actual victims who genuinely need and deserve resources. Put differently, there are people (such as narcissists) who know that if they pretend to be victims, they can make unreasonable demands. In the words of Ekin Ok. et al, they “convince nonvictims to willingly provision the alleged victim with resources”.

To better explain what a virtuous victim may do or say, Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D. gives the following example:

You’re having a conversation with an acquaintance who starts to launch into a description of how she’s managed to take advantage of the financial relief offered to her by her employer due to COVID19’s impact on the business. Out of a limited fund for the workers at this small company, she’s managed to capture an undue amount which, as it turns out, she doesn’t even need. She actually started a small online business herself and, while working from home, is starting to turn a small profit. She’s actually quite proud of herself, but you feel uncomfortable hearing this story.

In other words, people like this exploit resources they do not need.

What is worse, in doing so, they make it more difficult for actual victims who need and deserve these resources to receive them. Unsurprisingly, the people who do this tend to be unethical and immoral. Furthermore, according to the research of Ok et al., it is possible that the underlying personalities of these individuals actually reflect the “Dark Triad” traits of psychopathy, Machiavellianism, and narcissism. Psychopathy refers to having a lack of morals and empathy. Machiavellianism refers to one’s interest in their own goals and thus, their tendency to exploit others. Lastly, narcissism refers to having an inflated sense of one’s importance and an extreme lack of empathy. Therefore, it is not surprising that those whose personalities reflect one or more of these Dark Triad traits are likely to manipulate and deceive others for their own personal gain.

They are called “virtuous victims” as they pretend to be honest and victims.

According to Ok et al., there are several types of “victim signaling” that these individuals might use. Some of these include phrases such as:

  • I don’t feel accepted in society because of my identity.
  • I don’t feel financially secure.
  • I don’t feel comfortable with my body.
  • I don’t feel like I am in control of my future.
  • I am not able to pursue my goals and dreams because of external factors.

While the above phrases may resonate with actual victims, “virtuous victims” who lie to extract resources and manipulate people do not actually identify with them. Instead, they only use them as they know that they are likely to help them get what they want. Ok et al. comment on this as they explain: “We do not refute the claim that there are individuals who emit the virtuous victim signal because they experience legitimate harm and also conduct themselves in decent and laudable ways.”

Be wary of the people who claim to be victims – they are not always in need.

It is worth reiterating that there are people who truly do need help as they are actual victims. However, Ok et al.’s study remind us that it is important to be wary and cautious when somebody tells you about the struggles they face. Instead of blindly trusting deceitful individuals who want to take advantage of you by playing the victim, save your kindness and generosity for the people who truly need, deserve, and require your help.

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