Tag Archive | NPD

8 Head Games the Narcissist Plays – Ping-Pong, Anyone?

images (18)Narcopath Manipulation Characterized as Games

Narcopaths (malignant narcissists, narcissistic sociopath) are masters at playing mind games. They play to win and take no prisoners. They are sore losers and if they don’t win they will often react in a fit of rage and stomp away like a little child.

I have to say upfront, I am not comfortable calling what a narcopath does to us as games, but I can’t think of a better alternative. I used manipulation characterized as games, but that’s a mouthful. Anyway, every therapist I’ve talked with uses the term, so I will, too. When I think of games, I think of fun, laughter and enjoying myself. Nothing about my experience with the narcopath comes even close, so it’s hard for me to think of the narcopath and games in the same setting. Polar opposites in my mind.

I don’t want to play games with a narcopath anymore. The rules are not written down and change according to her whim. I’ve lost before the game even begins. However, I am not a pacifist by any stretch of the imagination. I won’t walk away when I’ve been challenged very often, so when I urge you not to play the narcopath’s games, it’s not because I don’t like a good challenge. I just want a fair playing field or at the very least be playing by the same rules. The narcopath is too skilled and had far more experience playing these games than we ever will. If we are going to triumph against the narcopath, and we are going to, we have to play by OUR rules, not theirs. Oh, you may win a skirmish here and there, but remember, they don’t think like we think. This article reminds me a story a friend of mine, Dale, told recently. He and his young five-year-old son had a marathon checkers match one evening, and after several hours of winning game after game, Dale told his son he was calling it a night, but his son looked perplexed and exclaimed “But, the game’s not over yet!” Dale said he told him they played about a hundred games already, and what did he mean “the game’s not over?” His son looked at him with the most serious look a five-year-old could muster, and said, “the game’s not over until I win”. This mentality is what we face with the narcopath.

The most important thing you must remember about all these game is that no one can know the rules except the narcopath. Here are some of the more common “games” that narcopaths play:

    1. Ping-Pong: When a person begins to understand how a narcissist works, he or she realizes that it’s a bit like playing ping-pong. Anytime a narcissist has to self-reflect about anything, they will immediately throw the ball back to the person they consider their opponent. Narcissists will always throw the ball back to the other person. They do this in the expectation that they won’t have to take responsibility for their behavior. Narcissists hope that by not taking responsibility for their own actions (by using blaming, shaming, projection, denial, etc.) their partner will do what they have always done-forgive the narcissist, make excuses for the narcissist’s behavior, claim the narcissist couldn’t help himself because he was having a bad day, and so on. The narcissist is a moving target and you are always on the firing line. To get away from them (or expose them), you always have to keep an eye on the ball i.e., their actions and motives for playing their games with you. You have to stop wanting to play. You can stop catching the ball and put it back in the narcissist’s court by setting boundaries and making him aware of his actions. He then realizes he has no one to play with anymore. He will either drop the person like a hot potato, try to punish the person, or run away.


    1. Crazy Eights: This is a favorite game of narcissists. YOU are called crazy anytime you confront them, bring up past issues or behaviors, or expose them when they’re doing something appalling. The game goes like this: he/she tells you that you have an overly active imagination, you don’t know what you’re talking about, they have no idea what you’re talking about, or that you’re simply making things up to cause problems. They’ll tell you that it’s obvious that you are the one who is crazy (and tell you that everyone around you agrees with them about you being crazy). They will claim not to remember even unforgettable events, flatly deny they ever happened, and will never entertain the possibility that they might have forgotten. This is an extremely aggressive and infuriating tactic called “gaslighting”, a common technique used by abusers of all kinds. Your perceptions of reality are continually undermined so that you end up without any confidence in your own intuition, memory, or reasoning.


    1. Liars Poker: Individuals with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) play this game fantastically. They lie better than anyone I’ve ever been around. Unless you know them well, they don’t show any of the tells experts look for in exposing deception. My guess is this is how they are able to con so many therapists. I know first hand what that look is on a narcopath. When she was here, the things she didn’t tell us, most with tears in her eyes. I felt so much sympathy for the horrible things that her ex and her parents did to her trying to control her. The stories she told us were outrageous and I bought every one of them, hook, line and sinker. Their persona and their entire world are totally based in lies. Their positive attributes and alleged actions are all made up to trick and seduce others into giving them their fix of narcissistic-supply: praise, adulation and accolades.


    1. Gotcha! The narcopath is a master of phony empathy. He/She appears to take you in, appears to understand what you are experiencing, and appears to genuinely be able to put himself in your shoes. These acts cause you to let your guard down; just when you think there is a genuine give-and-take in your relationship, he pulls a fast one on you-a “gotcha”- most often when you’re at a low point. He will suddenly tell you about his extraordinary new career move, a luxurious trip that he’s taking, or a huge shift in financial status that will make you feel even more diminished. Narcissists perfectly execute an unexpected psychological pounce; their purpose is to grind you down, to humiliate you, and make you feel small and inferior.


    1. Death by a Thousand Cuts: This is a really fun game that all narcissists like to play! Some of your strongest trauma bonds are created with this sadistic game. It involves destroying your soul, your ego, your accomplishments and any belief system you have that does not agree with their beliefs. You both start with empty buckets. The first one to fill his/her bucket wins. They win the game if they are successful at turning everything about you and everything you do into a complete failure. They earn extra points when they successfully take all the credit for everything good that has ever happened in your life, and you thank them. They earn double points when they manage to put all blame for everything bad in your bucket.


    1. King/Queen Game: Either the king narcopath or the queen narcopath gets to make up the rules as they go along; they don’t have to tell the you the new rules, and they change the rules when it suits them. They are the king/queen and, as your superior, entitled to win this game, always. You suffer the consequences for breaking the rules, even those you didn’t know existed.


    1. Cat and Mouse: This is a kind of competitive patience (solitaire) game for two players. It is also known as Spite and Malice. You start this game by arranging the cards from low to high with the Kings/Queens being wild. Suits (the normal order of things and/or common societal rules) are irrelevant in the game. The game ends when someone wins by playing the last card of their “pay-off” pile. The game can also end if the players run out of cards, in which case the result is a draw. Cat and Mouse (or Spite and Malice) is a perfect game for a narcissist because it is actually a form of solitaire, it requires “one-upmanship”, and involves pulling out “better” cards to beat the opponent. It involves a “payoff” and for the narcopath, that usually means hurting you somehow. They keep track of real and imaginary things you do, have done, or might do. This is their “pile” and they will pull a card from it and use it against you when they feel like it.


  1. Guess Who?: This is a pretty simple game, and quite popular. The rules are few. Basically, you must summon all your psychic skills for this game. It is your job to read the narcopath’s sick mind, then decide what kind of mood he/she is in, and respond to her without her saying a word. Your options include, but are not limited to, two-year-old throwing a temper tantrum; Guilt-tripping puppeteer; Poor unappreciated Cinderella; Cock of the Walk; Coy tease; Inquisitor; Keeper of the Gate; add your favorites to the list. If you get it right, then you win the right to change your behavior to mirror his/hers, and your day will be a good one. Get it wrong and you lose. You get to listen to what a loser you are all day long. Either way, they win. OR, you don’t guess at all this time. Instead, you pack up and leave crazy narcopath and win you back.

The only way for the you to win any of the narcopath’s games to not play. If you are in a relationship, you can walk away from the toxic narcissist in your life. If your boss is an abusive narcissist, you can find another job. You can walk away from your parents, too, if they are abusive. If it’s a family member, move away, go no contact or low contact.

Keep Away Game for You: Keep Away is a game the narcopath doesn’t play, but if you must stay in near the narcopath, it’s one you need to master, and the rules of this game are not to respond the any of the narcopath’s attempt to pull you into one of her no-win games. You are not allowed to respond to jabs, barbs, promises, put-downs, etc. It will take focus and determination to break old habits and create new ones. It only takes 21 days of consistent behavior modification to create a new habit. This is not going to be easy, but you’ll get the hang of it pretty quick. Think of it like this: if you’re playing a game of catch, the only way to stop the game is to not catch the ball when someone throws it to you. It’s possible to stop playing games with a narcissist, as long as you mentally prepare for the challenge, and prepare yourself for the onslaught of negativity, accusations and histrionics. Ignore inciting words, don’t respond to inciting words, hang up the phone politely or leave. Take a drive, go for a long walk, anything. Just get away. There are many ways you can refuse to catch the ball and not throw it back. This is the game of “Keep Away”. You stay away, walk away, and refuse to play. This is a game that you, yourself, must learn to play. It is important to recognize that the narcopath will never acknowledge that he/she is now, or has ever played mind games. It’s up to you to stop playing. Don’t try to get them to acknowledge or take responsibility for their words or actions because they will always say they didn’t do it or it never happened or it was your fault.

6 Questions You Must Ask Before Hiring an Attorney

download (21)How Do You Prove Severe Emotional Abuse In Your Divorce or any Court Proceeding?

Why can’t you both just get along for the sake of the children?” Those words are like nails on a chalkboard to anyone who is divorcing a narcissistic sociopath (narcopath). Divorce brings out the worst in normal people, but a divorce involving a narcopath is like inviting the devil to take part.

The narcissistic sociopath appears charming, charismatic and endearing to those whom he encounters during the legal process, yet outside of the courtroom, he/she is calculated, manipulative and many times, downright dangerous. The untrained observer may perceive the situation to be about two immature adult who can’t get along, or worse, parents who are not capable of putting their children first.

Are you thinking the judge and other court personnel will see you’re narcissistic sociopath ex for who she/he is? How long did it take you? You’re putting way too much faith in the system if you think your judge is going to see your ex-partner, friend or co-worker for the manipulative liar he/she is. Many of the untrained observers are the very people who work in the court system such as Judges, court personnel, and sadly, even the attorneys. A narcissist is like the modern-day version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

I recall the first time I tried to explain to a Judge in a divorce case involving a narcissistic sociopath, that the parent siting at my table wasn’t being unreasonable. I distinctly remember fumbling with my words on how to explain what may look like unreasonableness was really just the opposite. It was not until that very moment that I realized how difficult it is to describe emotional abuse.

As you know, the abusive tactics build on each other, and the re-telling of the events starts sounding like nit-picking, when that’s the farthest thing from the truth. Not to mention, I have the narcopath’s attorney objecting and smirking at how absurd I sounded.

There are no photographs of the injuries. There are no police reports describing the attitude and cooperativeness of the parties. There is no ballistics report. There is no ER report precisely identifying the injuries and the lasting effects it may have on the abused party. Nothing. It was just me trying to explain the unexplainable, with opposing counsel jumping up and down. He objected to my “characterization” of the soon-to-be ex, all the while trying to make Dad look like the crazy one. He objected to every issue I raised the same way – “Your Honor, if we are going to rehash very marital spat between these two we’ll be here until next week, and we adamantly deny these accusations, “I mean what grown woman hides her husband’s keys and medication. Doesn’t it seem more likely Mr. Jones misplaced these items and is looking for someone to blame?” As he addressed the court, he patted the woman on the shoulder as she was dabbing her eyes with a tissue brought to her by the court reporter. I was sinking fast, and the Judge was looking at me for a response. I was speechless. The allegations I was making did sound crazy.

Finding my voice and a coherent string of words, the Judge listened. I could see his eyes gloss over, and knew I was losing him. Scrabbling trying to find the right words to get him back, I noticed the time and asked if we could recess early for the dinner break. Of course, he agreed.

We returned to my office, and I flat told him if I didn’t come up with something to prove his wife was lying, the judge wasn’t going to take his word for it. When I finished, he said he didn’t have any evidence to prove her wrong, and where was he supposed to get evidence like that. As he’s talking, he pulls a little notebook out of his pocket and began flipping through the pages, and telling me all he has are a few tape recordings of telephone calls, most of the emails she sent him and a few text messages, but he didn’t have any “court” evidence. I almost kissed him. After fighting the urge to give him a bear hug, I asked when he started keep a journal, and he said about 6 months before they split. His gut told him something was up again. She had done this kind of thing before, and each time she left him, she always claimed it was because of him, so this time he was going to prove her wrong. He said each morning when he got to work, he spent about 7-8 minutes writing down what happened at home the night before. I looked at it, and for each entry, he recorded the day of the week and the date. Gold, I tell you, this man had gold.

I remember his answer to this day when I looked at him and asked why he hadn’t given me these items when I asked him at our first meeting. I reminded him that I did ask him if he had any evidence for trial, and that he told me no. His reason? He didn’t think his stuff was “court” evidence, and he didn’t want me to think he was stupid if he asked me to explain evidence. We each learned something that day, and it wasn’t anything I was going to find in a law book. I never again assumed a client knew what I was talking about just because they didn’t ask questions. The incorrect assumptions we both made nearly sunk his case from the get-go.

I told you that story to tell you this: Do not expect a narcissistic sociopathic spouse to be any more cooperative during your divorce than she was during the marriage. He/she is not going away quietly. In fact, they get worse. They don’t like losing control, and they go after anyone they think is challenging them, including your lawyer. They become even more manipulative and exploitive, feeling neurotically entitled to get whatever they want. They blame everyone else for their problems, and because they are so self-centered, even while bullying their spouses they often perceive themselves to be the victims. True narcopaths believe they are above the law and feel that the rules do not apply to them, making them notoriously difficult to deal with. It is common during a divorce for narcissists to:

  • refuse to give financial information and documents
  • refuse to negotiate
  • refuse to listen to their own lawyer
  • defy court orders
  • use the children as pawns

Because they are so competitive, narcissists love the adversarial nature of the legal system and excel at manipulating it to their advantage. They project all of their own faults onto their spouse, playing the role of victim and accusing their spouse of lying, cheating, and being mentally unstable. Much to the frustration and detriment of their spouses, narcissists are often good at making themselves likeable and believable to their lawyer, the judge or a jury.

Narcissists find it hard to accept losing their influence over their estranged spouse’s life and will attempt to find ways to control their ex-spouse even after the divorce is final. This is much easier for them to do if there are children from the marriage, so the narcissist will work over-time attempting to control their ex-spouse through child support, visitation time and co-parenting decisions.

With most courtrooms filtering people in and out like cattle, it is imperative that you have an attorney who understands Malignant Narcissism and Sociopathic Personality Disorders, and that they will work diligently to protect you and your children in many ways. Having an attorney who understands NPD will make sure a strong parenting plan and court orders with zero room for manipulation or wiggle room is in place. Dealing with an attorney who isn’t educated on personality disorders is an extra battle that you will not have the energy to fight. High conflict divorces are difficult enough without the added task of educating your attorney.

If I was interviewing a prospective attorney, I would be very straightforward and direct. I would ask them to describe their personal experience working with clients who were divorcing a narcopath. This question offers a lead-in and one can quickly gauge whether the attorney knows enough to properly represent you. I would ask for examples of situations or cases that fall into the high conflict group and specifically, how he handled them. Any attorney who seems annoyed or put off by your questions is not the attorney that you want on your side. Attorneys sometime forget who is working for whom.

Here are the 6 Questions To Ask A Prospective Attorney:

  1. How many High Conflict Divorce cases have you handled?
  2. Can you define sociopathic tendencies and malignant narcissist personality disorder?
  3. Do you believe there is a link between the HCD (High Conflict Divorce) and these personality disorders?
  4. Have you ever won a case arguing “Emotional/Psychological Abuse”?
  5. Do you work closely with psychologists/therapists and/or evaluators experienced in these types of personality disorders?
  6. In past trials, how have you been able to get the judge to understand that the psychology of personality disorders and how the intentional behavior in one party can be solely responsible for maintaining high conflict divorce?”
  • Ask around, and, if you have the opportunity, sit in family court a few days. Watch different attorneys and how they handle themselves in the courtroom and whether they have a good rapport with the Judge. When you’ve narrowed down your choice, ask them point-blank the questions I set out above, and whatever you do, if you aren’t sure what the attorney is talking about, then ask. Don’t assume you know what’s in his mind. The only stupid question is the one that goes un-asked. You are choosing an advocate to represent the best interest of your children. Choose wisely.

What Is Narcissistic Abuse?

images (16)Narcissists don’t really love themselves. Actually, they’re driven by shame. It’s the idealized image of themselves, which they convince themselves they embody, that they admire. But deep down, narcissists feel the gap between the fa├žade they show the world and their shame-based self. They work hard to avoid feeling that shame. This gap is true for other codependents, as well, but a narcissist uses defense mechanisms that are destructive to relationships and cause pain and damage to their loved ones’ self-esteem. (Learn the traits required to diagnose a Narcissistic personality disorder, “NPD.”)

Many of the narcissist’s coping mechanisms are abusive-hence the term, “narcissistic abuse.” However, someone can be abusive, but not be a narcissist. Addicts and people with other mental illnesses, such as bi-polar disorder and anti-social personality disorder (sociopathy) and borderline personality disorders are also abusive, as are many codependents without a mental illness. Abuse is abuse, no matter what is the abuser’s diagnosis. If you’re a victim of abuse, the main challenges for you are:

  • Clearly identifying it;
  • Building a support system; and
  • Learning how to strengthen and protect yourself.

What is Narcissistic Abuse
Abuse may be mental, physical, financial, spiritual, or sexual. Here are a few examples of abuse you may not have identified:

  • Verbal abuse: Includes belittling, bullying, accusing, blaming, shaming, demanding, ordering, threatening, criticizing, sarcasm, raging, opposing, undermining, interrupting, blocking, and name-calling. Note that many people occasionally make demands, use sarcasm, interrupt, oppose, criticize, blame, or block you. Consider the context, malice, and frequency of the behavior before labeling it narcissistic abuse.
  • Manipulation: Generally, manipulation is indirect influence on someone to behave in a way that furthers the goals of the manipulator. Often, it expresses covert aggression. Think of a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” On the surface, the words seem harmless – even complimentary; but underneath you feel demeaned or sense a hostile intent. If you experienced manipulation growing up, you may not recognize it as such.
  • Emotional blackmail: Emotional blackmail may include threats, anger, warnings, intimidation, or punishment. It’s a form of manipulation that provokes doubt in you. You feel fear, obligation, and or guilt, sometimes referred to as “FOG”
  • Gaslighting: Intentionally making you distrust your perceptions of reality or believe that you’re mentally incompetent.
  • Competition: Competing and one-upping to always be on top, sometimes through unethical means. E.g. cheating in a game.
  • Negative contrasting: Unnecessarily making comparisons to negatively contrast you with the narcissist or other people.
  • Sabotage: Disruptive interference with your endeavors or relationships for the purpose of revenge or personal advantage.
  • Exploitation and objectification: Using or taking advantage of you for personal ends without regard for your feelings or needs.
  • Lying: Persistent deception to avoid responsibility or to achieve the narcissist’s own ends.
  • Withholding: Withholding such things as money, sex, communication or affection from you.
  • Neglect: Ignoring the needs of a child for whom the abuser is responsible. Includes child endangerment; i.e., placing or leaving a child in a dangerous situation.
  • Privacy invasion: Ignoring your boundaries by looking through your things, phone, mail; denying your physical privacy or stalking or following you; ignoring privacy you’ve requested.
  • Character assassination or slander: Spreading malicious gossip or lies about you to other people.
  • Violence: This includes blocking your movement, pulling hair, throwing things, or destroying your property.
  • Financial abuse: Financial abuse might include controlling you through economic domination or draining your finances through extortion, theft, manipulation, or gambling, or by accruing debt in your name or selling your personal property.
  • Isolation: Isolating you from friends, family, or access to outside services and support through control, manipulation, verbal abuse, character assassination, or other means of abuse.

Narcissism and the severity of abuse exist on a continuum. It may range from ignoring your feelings to violent aggression. Typically, narcissists don’t take responsibility for their behavior and shift the blame to you or others; however, some do and are capable of feeling guilt and self-reflection.

Malignant Narcissism and Sociopathy
Someone with more narcissistic traits who behaves in a malicious, hostile manner is considered to have “malignant narcissism.” Malignant narcissists aren’t bothered by guilt. They can be sadistic and take pleasure in inflicting pain. They can be so competitive and unprincipled that they engage in anti-social behavior. Paranoia puts them in a defensive-attack mode as a means of self-protection.

Malignant narcissism can resemble sociopathy. Sociopaths have malformed or damaged brains. They display narcissistic traits, but not all narcissists are sociopathic. Their motivations differ. Whereas narcissists prop up an ideal persona to be admired, sociopaths change who they are in order to achieve their self-serving agenda. They need to win at all costs and think nothing of breaking social norms and laws. They don’t attach to people as narcissists do. Narcissists don’t want to be abandoned. They’re codependent on others’ approval, but sociopaths can easily walk away from relationships that don’t serve them. Although some narcissists will occasionally plot to obtain their objectives, they’re usually more reactive than sociopaths, who coldly calculate their plans.

Get Help
If you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, it’s important to get outside support to understand clearly what’s going on, to rebuild your self-esteem and confidence, and to learn to communicate effectively and set boundaries. Doing the exercises in my books and e-workbooks, particularly “Dealing with a Narcissist: 8 Steps to Raise Self-Esteem and Set Boundaries with Difficult People” will help you make changes. If you feel in danger, don’t believe broken promises. Get immediate help, and read, “The Truth about Domestic Violence and Abusive Relationships.”