In writing about how a female narcissist changes you, I am going to assume that you have already worked out that you are (or were) with a narcissist, that you have been taken advantage of and that now you are trying to make sense of what was done to you.
What I want to do here is to point out how such a person influences her victims, changing their perceptions, beliefs, thinking and behaviors.
A female narcissist, or any narcissist or manipulator, is not using special influence techniques known only to the chosen few. Rather they are using ordinary, everyday influence techniques but with a certain intention behind them. This intention, of course, is to dominate and control.
Many of these influence techniques work outside the awareness of people which makes them very powerful, because if you are not conscious of what is happening, you can't mentally resist.
Keep in mind, too, that women can be more devious than men. My grandmother told me so! She wasn't a narcissist but she was a woman, and I trusted her.
I will use the example of an intimate relationship here but you can apply the ideas to, for example, a social situation, a work context or some group environment. Ok, so let's bring some of the techniques into your awareness...
It all starts by making you feel great. Fantastic, in fact. The female narcissist presents herself as the ideal person for you, providing what you want and need while making you feel special. She makes out that she is interested in you and only you.
The effect is that it creates a great impression in your mind of her. You believe she is witty, intelligent and sexy. You want to be with this woman. You want to make her feel good so she continues to make you feel good. You want to do the man thing and take care of her. You want to please her.
This is the first phase of her controlling your emotions, your decision making and your behaviors. This first impression is very important because it is both very strong and very persistent. It creates beliefs in your mind about her. You believe she loves you. You believe she cares about you. You believe she would be a good partner for you. These three things are enough to get you to make life changing decisions such as moving in with her or getting married.
The female narcissist, knowing when she has you captured, so to speak, then switches tactics.
The critical and snarky comments kick in. There are jabs at your appearance, your beliefs, your behaviors. Things that were acceptable before are now used to insult you and attack you personally.
The comments are typically aimed at you, at who you are. You slightly overdo meat on a barbecue and she tells you that you are a terrible cook. You forget to do something and she says that you are pathetic. You can't find what she is looking for and she says you are useless.
The important thing to note here is that she is attacking and labeling you. She is not criticizing your behavior or your ideas, she is criticizing your personality, your identity.
This has several very important effects. It chips away at your sense of self and your self esteem. She repeats these insults so often that you begin to question and doubt yourself and in many cases you end up accepting that these things are true.
The criticism obviously makes you feel bad. You know that when she gives you compliments it makes you feel very different. In abusive situations where there is mind control involved, these types of criticism actually drive the abused person to try and please the abuser. I know this seems counterintuitive, but this is what happens when there is psychological abuse. It pushes you to try harder to do nice things for her so that she gives you compliments again. You prefer approval to insults so you modify your behavior to avoid doing things that you know upset her. The female narcissist is, in effect, modifying your behavior through your emotions.
At the same time she is also modifying your beliefs about yourself. She is pushing you to believe that you are defective in some way, that the way you are is bad and shameful. She makes you feel guilty about who you are. A natural response to this is to try and change yourself in some way. You try and become the kind of person she wants you to be.
Remember this is not your choice to change yourself. It's your best response to the situation she is setting up for you. In fact, by the time these things are happening to you in the relationship, you are probably unaware of what is actually going on. This is why people end up in abusive relationships for years. They don’t see the reality of their situation. You can read more here about why it is difficult to see the signs of a controlling relationship.
All these changes in perceptions, beliefs, emotions, thinking and behaviors add up to a change in personality for the victim. They have a new personality imposed upon them, a personality that is programmed to take care of the abuser. You can read more about this in the article about controlling wives.
Once this new personality is in place, she will use rewards and punishments to keep it in place. Sex will often be used as both a punishment and a reward. There will be more punishments than rewards.
Reciprocity is the idea that if you do a favor for someone else, they will return the favor later. This is one of Robert Cialdini's six weapons of influence.
The female narcissist will take advantage of this in several ways. First of all, without your asking for anything, she will do something and then she will let you know that she has done you a favor. The idea is that she builds in you a sense of obligations. In other words, you owe her.
She will do a favor for you once and then she will expect you to pay her back, repeatedly, forever! "I helped you with your phone bill the first month we were together. Now it's only fair you help me with my car payments any month I can't manage it."
She will also do you a small favor and expect something huge in return. "After my buying you an expensive shirt for your birthday, you can't be bothered bringing me on holidays for a week? How selfish!!"
The female narcissist will also allow you to do her as many favors as you like and she still won't have any sense of obligation in paying you back. They are not responsible creatures. This is especially significant when it comes to divorcing a narcissist. If you think that if you treat her fairly during the separation that she will treat you fairly in return, you would be mistaken. She will take any concessions that you agree to and she will expect more... and she will give nothing in return!
The pity play is a common ploy of the female narcissist. They often have (tall) tales of having being abused, mis-treated, wronged, cheated and so on. This elicits pity in the listener and because we are social creatures, we are driven to help, to take care of the wounded.
The manipulators know this all too well and will use it to dominate and control.
The past history is dragged up when the female narcissist wants to change the mood of her victim. If the victim gets upset, annoyed or angry at the narcissist, the narcissist can turn on the tears to defuse the anger of the victim while adopting the victim role herself.
In situations where you go to challenge the narcissist over something, you may have found yourself apologizing to her for having done the very thing that she did that upset you in the first place! This is how good some of them are at distorting information and controlling your emotions.
There are outright lies, half-truths, lies of omission, and distortion of information to make it more 'acceptable'. Much of the time it is impossible to know what is true and what is not.
One thing that catches many people is when the narcissist provokes a response and then claims to know the 'truth' about the victim.
For example, a female narcissist says something upsetting to the victim, something that she knows is annoying, but she says it in a sweet voice. The victim responds by getting angry and answering back. The narcissist then points out that the victim is aggressive and argumentative, again!
In the moment, the fact is that the victim is angry and arguing. The narcissist then points out how the victim is frequently this way. The victim, because their thinking has been distorted by all the abuse, often has to concede that the manipulator is right. However, what the victim cannot recognize is that it is the manipulator who is provoking the argument and most people would respond in exactly the same way to such provocation.
The victim often comes to think of themselves as argumentative, or touchy, or overly emotional and a whole host of other things that the manipulator sets them up to be. But it's a trick. The victim is not actually this way, but they have been provoked, without their knowledge, to act this way and the manipulator then labels them as such. Remember the ideas above about how they attack your identity but not the actual behavior? Well, this is more of the same.
These ideas about oneself are things that needs to be carefully undone when one leaves a relationship with a narcissist.
If the female narcissist thinks she may be losing control, or that you may be figuring out what is happening, the usual first step is to make friends with you again. She will be extra nice, doing and saying thing that make you feel good.
This reinforces that initial impression and leads you to think that things are actually ok, she is back to being friendly and kind again and that you are going to have more nice times with her.
The rule is that when the female narcissist is being nice, this is a dangerous time. She is working hard at manipulating your impressions of her again. When things are nice between the pair of you, it's hard to be upset with her, it's hard to be angry with her and it's hard to stick to your decision to leave.
Of course, it's all a trick to make you forgive and forget. And as soon as you have done this, forgiven and forgotten, she will be back at the criticisms and abuse all over again.
What's interesting is what happens when the 'making friends' doesn't work. Then the female narcissist will try different things in order to get you back on board. There will be the whole victim thing, with tears, to pull on your heart strings and get you to care for her again. If that doesn’t work, then she will start to cycle through scenarios to get you to pay attention to her. In no particular order she will blame you for everything, she will suggest that you are both at fault, she will say she is sorry, it was actually her fault, then tell you that she loves you, that you won't find anyone else to love you the way she does (thank goodness!!), that you are making a mistake leaving her because you would have had a fantastic life with her, and on and on.
The thing to be aware of here is that she wants a response, any response, because that gives her a chance to continue the conversation, and so the opportunity to continue to manipulate and control you.
The best thing you can do is to leave the controlling situation. As long as you are in the relationship, you will be taken advantage of and abused.
There are lots of words written about how to manage a narcissist, what steps to take to get them to back off, how to tell them that they are upsetting you and so on. I don’t believe that these things work. While the female narcissist has access to you, her motivation to dominate and control means she will continue to treat you as before and that is just not good for you.
You cannot hope to fully recover from the damage she has done while you are still being influenced by her. You need to leave the situation and learn about mind control so that you can understand exactly what she was doing to you and why. Only then will you be able to take back control of your own thinking and decision making and therefore your life. This is often best done with the help of a specialist.
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