8 Tactics That Narcissists Use To Control Your Thoughts

Narcissism is generally centered around the advancement of one’s self that’s not often built on hard work and effort, but tearing others down in order to claim some throne to which they feel entitled.

One of the oldest tricks in the narcissist’s playbook is employing different tactics in order to control the way people think.

If they can get into your head, they can alter your actions and get you behaving in ways that benefit them.

1. Fear mongering.

Fear mongering is the bad faith use of fear designed to alter the way you would act normally. Fear mongering is an incredibly harsh term to describe something that can look rather benign.

The idea behind fear mongering is to get you reconsidering your words and actions because of a fear that’s instilled in you – like the fear of secrets being spilled or someone you love leaving you behind.

You can break free of fear mongering by choosing to act on your own desires with your own best interests in mind and not fear the possible consequences of simply being yourself.

2. The illusion of choice.

From the day we’re born, we’re presented by different choices. As children, the adults in our lives give us choices. In a healthy family, all of the choices presented create an outcome for the child that is in their best interest.

Narcissists employ a simlar kind of tactic, but not in good faith – not with your best interests in mind. They tend to present choices in an aggressive way. “You’re doing this for me or I’m gone.”

Pushing back on the illusion of choice is far and away not an easy task. It takes rejecting the choices and possibly even presenting some alternative choices of your own.

3. Bad faith compliments.

Every action should be analyzed through the lens of good faith vs. bad faith intents. A compliment can seem like a nice gesture on its face, but what is the intent behind it?

A narcissist often gives out compliments in bad faith. They’re not trying to make you feel better or lift your spirits and make you feel appreciated. What they’re doing is buttering you up so you’ll be more receptive to whatever manipulations they throw at you next.

Regardless of how nice a narcissist is being to you, look for the deeper intent. If they have a history of using compliments to get what they want from you, beware.

4. Gaslighting.

Gaslighting is defined as a tactic that manipulates an individual using psychological means into questioning their sanity and the reality in which they live. The idea is to get you to agree to a reality that doesn’t actually exist so the discussion can be reframed to benefit the manipulator.

Gaslighting can manifest in the form of lies, twisting your words, and projecting their own behaviors onto you. Gaslighting is not an easy think to break free of. If you’re not sure if you’ve been gaslit by someone, I strongly recommend reading our article: Gaslighting: 9 Ways To Know If You’ve Fallen Victim.

5. Normalizing abuse.

Probably the most dangerous item on this list is the normalization of abuse. Normalizing abuse is considerably easier if the abuse begins from a young age. Often, narcissistic parents are able to pass abuse off as normal to their children.

Abuse is not normal and it is never normal. Abuse in all its forms is wrong. It doesn’t matter if it’s verbal, sexual, physical, psychological, emotional, or any other kind of abuse. Abuse is never normal and never something you need to tolerate. If you are a victim of abuse, do not hesitate to call the Domestic Violence Hotline any time day or night at (800) 799-7233.

6. Shifting the onus.

To shift the onus means to shift responsibility away from yourself and onto others. This is a classic narcissistic approach to defending indefensible positions. Instead of making an assertion and backing it up, they make an assertion and demand that you disprove them if you’re so convinced they’re wrong.

When they try to shift the onus onto you, shift it right back. Make them defend what they say, and remind them that the responsibility to make accurate claims is shared.

7. Name calling.

Name calling isn’t always as straight forward as calling someone “stupid” or a “bitch.” It can happen in far more subtle ways. It doesn’t even have to be a classically bad name to call someone.

“You’re being lazy.”

“You won’t ever win.”

“You suck.”

These kinds of statements and words are designed to break you down from the inside. Always push back against them.

8. Twisting your words.

One of the biggest ways that narcissists get into your head and control your thoughts is by twisting your words. It’s sort of like gaslighting. The idea is to get you to agree to things that you never actually said in order to change the entire narrative of a conversation.

Whether it’s your words being twisted, being called mean names, normalizing abuse or complimenting you in bad faith, these narcissistic tendencies can change the way you think, but you can always fight back against them. It’s not always easy, but worth it in the end.

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