Have you ever wondered how narcissists and sociopaths (narcopaths) are so highly skilled at control and manipulation tactics without ever having stepped foot in a psychology classroom? Were you ever curious how by some means they instinctively know how to take a smart, successful and happy person and methodically dismantle their self-worth and self-esteem to smithereens so covertly that the target is completely unaware that it’s even happening until it is too late? Have you said to yourself, “It’s like they all went to the same Jim Jones University of Narcopathy or they all must have read the same Narcopath For Dummies book?”
Narcopaths are innately born masters of the art of manipulation. They set their traps long before they are ever sprung. They deliberately ensnare their targets like skilled trappers catch prey. Once captured, the narcopath erodes the target’s self-esteem and self-worth with such insidious stealth as to make the target believe they are to blame and that they are the one who has disappointed the narcopath.
All narcopaths use a combination of classic brainwashing techniques, behavior modification methods and various forms of ambient abuse. The narcopath meticulously and systematically executes these tactics with the intuitiveness of a psychic and the savagery of a beast.
The 8 essential steps and requirements for successful brainwashing and covert manipulation are:
- Lack of remorse and guilt about causing emotional harm to the target.
- Lower the target’s guard through love bombing in the form of excessive showers of flattery, adoration and praise.
- Isolate the target.
- Camouflage the hidden agenda, intentions and manipulative behaviors.
- Uncover the psychological vulnerabilities of the target to determine what tactics are likely to be most effective.
- Expose the target to mixed messages by alternating love and kindness with cruelty and criticism.
- Manage the target down by creating an atmosphere of unpredictability and chaos which constantly keeps the target walking on egg shells.
- Erode the target’s identity using various forms of ambient abuse such as; guilt tripping, blame-shifting, projection, gas-lighting and triangulation.
STEP 1: A LACK OF REMORSE AND GUILT ABOUT CAUSING HARM TO THE TARGET
Due to childhood abuse or neglect or genetic predisposition, or most likely a combination of all three, narcopaths don’t experience emotions or think the same way as the rest of us. So from a very young age they learn to watch how people act in certain situations and imitate and mimic their behaviors. They become so talented at faking emotion that most fly completely under the radar and are never detected.
Since they are so detached from their feelings, they are able to observe people’s interactions and behaviors with the absolute clarity of neutrality. This provides them with unique insight into what manipulation tactics are more efficient and will provide a better result. Since they don’t experience feelings the way normal people do, they are able to manipulate and abuse people without the bothersome feelings of remorse or guilt.
STEPS 2 & 3: LOWER THE TARGET’S GUARD AND ISOLATE THE TARGET
During the idealization stage the narcopath uses love bombing as the trap to capture you and lower your guard. Love bombing, is actually a form of brain washing and primes you for complete and total domination. Since brainwashing is such an aggressive form of influence, it requires complete isolation. The narcopath having no outside interests, real friends or hobbies focuses all his/her energy and time on you. The narcopath spends every possible waking moment with you and becomes overly involved in your daily life and activities. Although the narcopath’s stage 5 cling-on behavior should raise red flags and send you running for the hills, their irresistible, seductive charm and constant adoration appeals to your ego and yearning for love and overrides your better judgement and instincts. Once this happens, the narcopath’s trap has been sprung and s/he delights in their own satisfaction as you willingly take the bait.
STEPS 4 & 5: DISGUISE THE HIDDEN AGENDA WHILE UNCOVERING THE TARGET’S PSYCHOLOGICAL VULNERABILITIES
The narcopath fakes interests in you and asks a lot of questions. As you spill the beans about your dreams, goals, childhood and inner most thoughts, the narcopath assesses your vulnerabilities and insecurities that s/he will later use to manipulate you. The narcopath knows that the more they effectively can pinpoint your insecurities, the more successful they will be at eroding your self-confidence and self-worth. Through the processes of idealization and isolation, you become dependent on the narcopath. You start spending less time with your friends and pursuing your outside interests and hobbies and your world becomes smaller and more isolated.
The narcopath most likely will not introduce you to his/her family or acquaintances at this stage. This is so the narcopath can completely control their false persona and avoid the risk having his/her cover blown and the effects of the “kool aid” they have been steadily serving you diluted by outside influences. The narcopath will disguise their intent to isolate you by making comments like, “I’m just so in love with you that I want to spend all my time with just you” or “I missed you all day while at work, can’t we just spend the evening together alone tonight?”.
During the idealization stage, the narcopath introduces another manipulation tactic called Operant Conditioning, a termed coined by behaviorist, B. F. Skinner. Operant conditioning is a behavior modification technique. The narcopath uses positive, continuous reinforcement (flattery, attention, love bombing) to reinforce the desired response (compliance and submission). The narcopath’s plan is to trap you with the lure of promises of eternal and everlasting love and lavish amounts of attention and adoration to fool you into believing s/he really loves you.
Positive reinforcement requires a lot of energy on the narcopath’s part, that’s why once they are certain you are sufficiently under the influence of their spell, they gradually start to withdraw the positive reinforcement. On the surface, the gradual withdrawal of the positive reinforcement that so effectively made you fall for them seems like a maneuver that is counterproductive to their goal, but actually it is exactly what reinforces their grip on you.
How is this so?
The problem with continuous positive reinforcement is that over time it loses its power and the desired outcome (total obedience) is prone to wane. For instance: if every day you open your front door and find flowers on your porch from your lover. Eventually, the novelty wears off and the flowers lose their value and have less of a positive effect on you. Now, if you receive flowers sporadically from your lover, then you are more likely to treasure them and value the gesture. If you know you will always be rewarded no matter what, the perceived value of the reward decreases and your motivation to obtain the reward diminishes. It’s just human nature.
STEP 6: EXPOSE THE TARGET TO SPORADIC REINFORCEMENT AND MIXED MESSAGES
The inauguration of the devaluation stage is characterized by a new form of conditioning called Intermittent Reinforcement. Intermittent reinforcement not only reinforces the desired behavior but it guards against its extinction. The narcopath alternates acts of love and kindness with cruelty and criticisms. It has the same effect as a Las Vegas slot machine. When you pull the lever (or push the button) sometimes it pays off and sometimes it doesn’t. When the slot machine does pay off, you are more likely to revel in your winnings and the exhilaration of the pay-off, however little it might be. Ultimately, you will win now and again, but over the long run, you will lose.
The narcopath begins to set trivial rules and may demonstrate controlling behaviors. It can manifest itself in many ways. They could be jealous of your relationships with others, the time you spend on yourself or hobbies, the friendships you have, and the list goes on. You’ll be blamed for the narcopath’s behavior and accused of not loving him/her enough or of being a selfish partner. Slowly as you begin to relinquish control by giving in and complying with the narcopath’s demands for your undivided attention, the cycle of isolation, manipulation and control will escalate.
Not surprisingly, according to the research of B.F. Skinner, the most powerful way to reinforce a desired behavior is through applying the method of intermittent reinforcement. The narcopath’s mean/nice cycle starts off slow and innocuously. They gradually eliminate the showers of “love”, acts of kindness and adoration and replace them with bouts of nastiness and cruelty. The narcopath may start off making simple requests. The requests will always be followed up with “if you really love me you would do that for me” and “I would do that for you”.
The more you concede and change to accommodate the narcopath, the more s/he will up the ante and attempt to change you. But wait! You thought that the narcopath thought you were the perfect partner for them! At least that’s what s/he said in the beginning, right? What the narcopath once loved about you will no longer be satisfying enough from here on out. Your days of being their ideal partner are forever over. They are history. Done. Caput. Finished!
The mean/nice cycle or conditions you into submission. Since the atmosphere creates a state of fear, doubt and confusion, you start to feel the sharp edges of the egg shells under your feet. You never know what to expect since the rules seem to constantly change amidst the constant chaos intentionally created by the narcopath. You wonder what you have done to cause such a drastic change in the narcopath’s behavior. This is exactly what the narcopath has planned to get you to believe all along– the change in their behavior is all your fault.
The narcopath’s criticisms and demands are always cloaked in professions of love and only wanting the best for you or disguised as helpfulness. You instinctively work harder to please the narcopath and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. There is no rhyme or reason or logic that can be applied to the narcopath’s responses. Due to the lack of predictability the narcopath builds into the relationship, you slowly begin to lose your bearings and question which way is up. The mixed messages of love and cruelty and the constant drip of criticisms generate confusion, self-doubt, stress and despair. You know something is wrong, but you just can’t seem to put your finger on it. When you start to pull away, the narcopath lassos you back in with more positive reinforcement. The “I love you’s”, good deeds and false promises of everlasting love intensify.
All the while, the narcopath carefully assesses the effect it has on you. Your compliance and appreciation affirms their superiority and the success of their tactics. The narcopath intuitively senses exactly when s/he needs to deliver positive reinforcement to keep you under their thumb so they can continue to destroy and dismember your self-worth until they have absolute control and dominance over just about every aspect of your life.
The longer the cycles of intermittent reinforcement of reward (attention, kindness, “love’) and punishment (criticisms, blaming, guilt) the stronger the traumatic bond and the more resistant to change it becomes. This partly explains why so many targets stay trapped in these unhealthy, one-sided toxic relationships.
STEPS 7 & 8: MANAGE THE TARGET DOWN AND ERODE THE TARGET’S IDENTITY THROUGH VARIOUS FORMS OF ABUSE
Frequently, one of the first forms of ambient abuse introduced into the relationship is nit-picking. Nit-picking is a form of brow beating used to manipulate and wear down the target. It’s also a defense mechanism to ward off the narcopath’s own feelings of inadequacy and imperfection by scrutinizing the target’s actions instead of focusing on their own short-comings. The narcopath becomes overly invested in finding fault with the target.
The narcopath’s fault findings are ALWAYS covertly disguised in the form of helpfulness or constructive criticisms. They will correct you on the most trivial and inconsequential actions. Nothing you do is ever good enough. Eventually over time, the constant assaults take their toll on your self-esteem and you internalize the message that you are inadequate and not good enough. Or you succumb to doing things the narcopath’s way to avoid arguments, rage and silent treatments. With every modification you make, you lose a little bit more of yourself and the distance between you and your identity widens.
The narcopath launches a full-fledged attack on your identity through various forms of ambient abuse. A few of the most common are; gas-lighting, minimizing, blame-shifting, projection, guilt tripping and triangulation. The narcopath needs you to feel inadequate and at fault. The more inadequate and helpless you feel, the more dependent you become on the narcopath. This is a double-dose of supply for the narcopath. Your feelings of inadequacy serve to inflate their sense of superiority and maximizes their control over you. The balance of power in the relationship becomes glaringly obvious as the narcopath elevates himself/herself into the position of dominance and authority at your expense.
This is not love. It’s the love of control.
It’s pure and evil, self-serving, calculated manipulation that shatters the target’s self-worth and identity. The damaging impact on the target is not fully recognized until the target has had some distance from the abuse and the residual brainwash diminishes. As the residue of manipulation fades it converts to anger as the target painfully realizes their mind, heart and soul had been so deceptively hijacked.
Copyright © 2015 Bree Bonchay. All Rights Reserved.
References: Brainwashing- Learn How It’s Done So You Can Undo It. Verbalabusejournals.com
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