Feel Like You Were Brainwashed by the Narcissist?


You were.  Through manipulative psychological techniques that effectively condition your subconscious mind.

Narcissists use subtle clues and suggestions to guide you towards things that are not in your best interest by subverting your thought processes.  It’s all about making you act how they want you to, and do what they want you to.  Below is a sampling of subliminal persuasion techniques employed by Narcissists and other emotional manipulators.

Building Rapport

It started with love-bombing.   It’s often been noted that in the first stages of a relationship with a Narcissist or other Cluster-B personality type, it seemed he or she showed a genuine interest in their target.  Manipulators generally take the time to scope out the characteristics and vulnerabilities of their potential victim.  It further explains why Narcissists seem overly sweet, polite, and caring when first meeting them.

To establish rapport with potential victims, manipulators know they need to match their target’s nonverbal behavior, leaning forward, listening carefully to their target’s words, and intentionally using similar language. In so doing, manipulators build rapport with their target and, hence, increase their chances of collecting pertinent information to exploit the victim when entering into the one-sided relationship.

Playing the Victim

Once the Narcissist successfully establishes rapport, barriers fade and trust develops.   It’s typically during this phase that the Narcissist shares some “sob story” from their past regarding horrible exes, battling depression, a traumatic childhood, and how they’ve generally been down on their luck.  This is also when the target opens up about their own obstacles and uphill battles (shared in all sincerity), which are, sadly, used against them at a later time.

Narcissists also play the victim to manipulate the conscientious.  People with a conscience typically feel badly when they have to confront someone who appears to be depressed or has supposedly had a rough life.  In fact, sincere and honest people often feel an obligation to care for and forgive such a person.  If the Narcissist can further manage to get into an intimate relationship with the conscience-bound, then all the better.  This particular technique has been the ruin of many a codependent.

Playing the Parent

Psychological studies have shown that such things as tone of voice, mannerisms, and other non-verbal behaviors play an important role in communication.  Many women who’ve had a Narcissistic partner report that their abuser dictated what they wore, who they could be friends with (if anyone), gave them a curfew, insisted they wear little to no makeup, sneered at them if they fixed their hair, and generally wanted them to appear unkempt.

These requests weren’t conveyed in a civil, diplomatic way.  No, the Narcissist typically raged and shouted until their target acquiesced.

What typically happens when someone talks to us as if they were a parent, in a ‘fatherly’ tone of voice? Chances are it will affect our mindset, our sense of liking the person, and our emotions!  Manipulators are often very aware of these things and in an instant can transport another adult back to childhood with the associated emotions of wanting to please and feel loved and accepted.

Robert Cialdini studied manipulators and he realized that they were doing things to control others’ emotions, for example, create a sense of obligation in others, create a fear of loss, or make people feel a sense of subservience to authority.  In Narc terms, this is the FOG (Fear, Obligation, Guilt).  Most targets are unaware that this is going on. This weapon of influence works outside of people’s normal consciousness and makes this technique incredibly powerful.

Fear-then-Relief (or Hurt and Rescue)

This tactic preys on a person’s emotions. Here, the manipulator causes their target a great deal of stress or anxiety and then abruptly relieves that stress.  The most common tactic used by the Narcissist in this category is the silent treatment, which evokes their target’s fear of abandonment.  When the Narcissist finally returns, the victim experiences a rush of euphoric relief.

The silent treatment is executed by the Narcissist when his or her victim attempts to establish a boundary or shows displeasure at something the Narcissist says or does.  This might include having another lover, a porn obsession, overspending, irresponsibility, and/or being mean to children in the household.

Repeated cycles of fear and relief are emotionally exhausting.  This is the same method used in police interrogations to get a person to confess, sometimes even when they are innocent!  When the Narcissist returns after numerous stints of the silent treatment, their victim is emotionally defenseless and more prone to accepting the unacceptable in order to avoid having their fear of abandonment triggered.  Further, this often leads to the victim pleading and apologizing, begging for the Narcissist to stay, even when the victim has done no wrong.

The fear-and-relief cycle, along with trauma-bonding and biological addiction, explains why emotional abuse victims experience cravings and obsessive thoughts once No Contact has been executed.  According to an experiment inspired by Langer, Blank, and Chanowitz (1978), and recently conducted by Dolinski and Nawrat**, when the stimulus that provokes and justifies one’s experience of fear is suddenly removed (implementation of No Contact), we may experience a short-lasting state of disorientation. The action produced by fear is no longer functional in the new circumstances (removal of silent treatment due to No Contact), and a new program has not yet been instigated. Their assumption is that during this period of disorientation, people function automatically and mindlessly, engaging in automatic, pre-programmed actions.

Emotional Manipulation is Abuse

The above examples are only a scratch on the surface of emotional manipulation techniques used by Narcissists, Sociopaths, and Psychopaths.  If you constantly wonder about the status of your relationship, ruminate about what you could do differently, feel like the problems with your partner fall on your shoulders, constantly obsess about your relationship, are constantly fearful and anxious, and/or feel like less of a person than before you met your partner, then it’s highly likely you have been the victim of emotional manipulation.

The good news is that you can untangle yourself from the toxic relationship.  However, it’s important to understand that the aftermath of emotional trauma needs to be taken seriously.  Books can help, but the most effective programs for recovery include going No Contact (with the help of a coach, if necessary), finding a licensed therapist who specializes in emotional trauma, incorporating energy healing techniques, and recovery from codependency.


** Dolonski, D., Ciszek, M., Godlewski, K., and Zawadzki, M. (2002) Fear-then-relief, mindlessness, and cognitive deficits. European Journal of Social Psychology.

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  1. kimraya

    Thank you for your kind praise, Mary. I am happy to know my writing gave you a little boost <3



  2. patrick marks

    i love the narrcisstic mother of our gorgeous 15 month old son.she is lovely in lots of ways including been an excellent mum,but totally destructive in other ways which recently cultimated in me calling the police to her house as she was physically trying to steal my phone,then bit a chunk from my chest when i tried to stop her…she lied to the police saying i assaulted her and it was me who got locked up for the day.so what do i do now?try to re assure her things can work if we both try harder and i give her more securiry?or cut all contact and try to move on?the latter would be near impossible as i love and want a relationship with my son?any advice would be most welcolme(07719120387)thanks,patrick

    1. Kim Saeed

      Hi Patrick, thank you for stopping by and sharing your experience.

      I’m starting to see a pattern regarding female narcissists in that they also seem to exhibit traits characteristic of BPD – which makes them especially unstable and dangerous.

      I know you probably feel that showing forgiveness, empathy, and compassion would improve the situation, but narcissists don’t care for our empathy, and instead use it to dominate and control us.

      She sounds very unstable. If you have any emails, texts, voice mails, etc where she has threatened you, you can take your evidence to an attorney should you choose to file for custody of your son.

      Hope that helps!

  3. Nancy Ahrens

    This is posted on my daughter’s face-book page, with reference to me as her narcissistic parent. We are both very independent women, who leave abusive relationships without feeling dependent on our abusers. Remarks above do not reflect her experiences or mine with men who have taken unfair advantage because when they try, we don’t allow it. She is hurting now, because ex-husband has stolen her daughter, his plan since their divorce when child was two, written into divorce at his insistence. Courts ignore her attempts to keep her child, now age 12, without claiming jurisdiction. Child is gifted, sees her dad as inferior, which upsets him, career military, now retired, he says, but tells her she will be reprogrammed at a camp in Utah. Narcissistic claim is a rationale for disappointment that her military dad turned against her, when she refused to decide between us, in favor of her little sister. Long story short, I left him to protect them both, he later got custody when I left the state, due to legislation he helped write, as part of a men’s group he helped organize. I got both children back, due to abuse in their father’s home from the step-mom, for which I got the blame. Both daughters have distrusted me ever since, because my own family told them I was in the wrong, for leaving their dad. Now, daughter asks me to friend her on face-book, and posts this post.
    Not surprised. I’ve been scapegoat of my own family for 81 years, explained to daughters, but it’s beyond their comprehension. NJA.

  4. Ben

    My wife was a “victim” of this and pursued a 6 month affair with him. As a loving husband, this is the hardest thing I’ve had to deal with and try to understand. On the surface she seemed happy but underneath that seems like it wasn’t the case. I struggle to grasp what she was feeling. I am told it wasn’t love or anything like it. I am told that her emotions were not her own. I am told that the experience was not enjoyable for her. However these statements are sometimes hard to reconcile. We have been in counseling ever since the affair ended and are doing very well, but there are days when I struggle carrying this and I know she hurts as well. Thank you for your blog, the way you describe things has been extremely helpful for me to try to understand what happened.

  5. Elizabeth Caldwell-Bissell

    I don’t know what to say, I am 67 with twins, by girl age 38 and a daughter age 50. I am ostracized by all of the including the children of the oldest. The youngest has a 7-4- 1 1/2 year old and a son on the way. I am not in their lives any longer. (BTW, my twins father was Manic Depressive with Borderline Schizophrenic Tendencies, that was on a papers I found AFTER we married and I had twins by him, he didn’t bother to tell me before hand) which kept him out of the Service.
    It is a long story of Sabotage, devalue and discard, even hit me and pushed me. It is all so unbelievable. I had to buy and air mattress to sleep on because the one they had lost all it’s air and the 18 mo. old was moved to the queen bed in her room which I was to sleep on while babysitting during birthing of her new girl last May. I said I would pay for it and she had a fit in the hospital swearing they wouldn’t pay for it when I had said I would. After a meeting with my daughter in the hosp. bathroom her husband followed me out to the parking lot where I was switching cars to drive their Jeep with the car seats in it and he pulled a bunch of bills our of the console saying he needed small bills for the hospital and he was very nervous, he put a fifty in there and then we argued because he wanted me to take it, I said no the M would be angry. He kept saying take it, I said if you want me to have it then you give it to me. He said he had to get back up to the room or she would get upset. I went against my gut and took it. It was a trap! I figured out later he had his Schizophrenic father who lives with them, (they are wealthy) check to see if the $50 was there, it wasn’t so instead of me taking the Jeep to pick them up his Dad took it back to them and drove the husbands work vehicle back, I was left without knowing what was going on and they wouldn’t answer my calls.
    They arrived home and the 2 girls and I were asleep, I had spent 3 nights without a bed because the frame poked holes in the air mattresses, I took one back and got another all the while cooking and taking care of the girls.
    I was setting on the sofa with my daughter and I said I will see you in 3 days per our agreement, the mom in law would help for 3 days and then me for 3 days, She said never mind, I will just get Linda. I was angry, she pits us against each other, then she accused me of stealing from her! She wouldn’t let me talk and say what happened, this was in front of his mom and nephew. She used guilt on me for saying anything in front of the kids, she spoke over me when I tried to set with her and explain what happened.
    I went upstairs to pack and she accused me of creating a scene, she came upstairs when I was packing up the air bed and put her hands on my chest to block me from getting around the bed. I went left she went left, I went right, she went right and put her hands on me again to hold me back while spewing accusations and exaggerations and lies. She went back downstairs and I broke down and cried harder than I ever cried in my life. Her husband then played the Caregiver and was trying to comfort me! I later realized he couldn’t fulfill my request that he tell her he told me to take the money because he was in on the Scam!! I gave a $50. to him when I went downstairs and I did what they asked, I calmed down and stayed for Pizza. So the Pizza is delivered and one of their big dogs jumped at the guys car so my daughter gave him a $20 tip in case it was scratched! The irony of that is just…
    So I left and called my husband on the way home. He was in shock! I strarted calling my son in law, asking him to tell my daughter that he told me to take the money, he was not cooperative. It took a while but I finally realized I was scammed. There was little contact, no birthday party invites I was left with returned birthday cards. The last time I saw my grand girls was April when she brought the kids up to where we live because they like the kids museum here. We are 2 hours RT from them. My daughter wouldn’t set by me and treated me like scum.
    Next came the hate mails from my oldest daughter, B, who cut ties and now I have missed my twin granddaughters weddings. One was Oct 18, 2014 and the next is Dec. 13, 2014. Her girls unfriended me on FB and I am blocked on both daughters FB.
    I was stalked on FB by my sons 18 yr. old daughter, a minion of my daughters. She unfriended me a couple of years ago because she said she heard both sides of the story from her Aunt. Her mom and I were still friends on FB so my granddaughter used her Smartphone to go to my Timeline and then shared something I said which had no names mentioned but she passed it to my daughter M and viola, a Hate Letter without a return address and no greeting or ending. This is how I found out she is pregnant again.
    My son in law was busy sending Hate emails to me which I didn’t read, my husband read them for me and gave me the gest of them, “There is nothing wrong with my wife”.
    I have gone 7 mo. No Contact which was the longest period. We were on a business trip in their town and I got a phone call from my daughter M. She swore the baby, her first, was playing with her cell phone and accidently called me. I know now that was a lie. It is now 7mo. since I have seen them and now the Holidays are here. I have a box I am putting there returned cards in but I don’t want more hate mail so I am going to write them but not send them.
    This has gone on for 29 yrs. since they, my twins, J & M were 10 yrs. old. They changed. It has been a living hell and I won’t go into my son who has been in and out of Jail due to child support for 3 children from 3 different mothers now age 16, 17, and 18. Two boys and a girl.
    I am alive which at times was iffy. I think I have 3 Narcissistic children and a son-in-law! He has a lot of Mental Illness in his family. The more I think about my experience with my daughter B’s father the more convinced I am. So I was attracted to Narcissists? I believe that.
    I needed to write this and hope it helps someone.

  6. Pingback: Blogging is Hard Work and Defining Narcissism | One Rambling Mind

  7. This is what I went through at the last church I left…very controling and manipulative..shaming, guilt….cold shoulder treatment..
    I dont even want to read the bible …because I feel manipilated…sounds like them

    1. Kim Saeed


      I can relate. I remember church as a child and I was absolutely terrified listening to all the violent stories of fire, brimstone, and gnashing of teeth. I don’t believe in that “religious” point-of-view any longer.

  8. Dr. Nicholas Jenner

    Reblogged this on Dr Nicholas Jenner PsyD MA and commented:
    You were. Through manipulative psychological techniques that effectively communicate with your subconscious mind.

    Narcissists use subtle clues and suggestions to guide you towards things that are not in your best interest by subverting your thought processes. It’s all about making you act how they want you to, and do what they want you to. Below is a sampling of subliminal persuasion techniques employed by Narcissists and other emotional manipulators.

  9. Elisabeth

    Very good post. Now I understand it is true he talked to me in a very fatherly way. It was all manipulative stuff. Sometimes I said to him ‘c’est le ton qui fait la musique’. I didn’t know I had it right. Now after eight months of No Contact I am still obsessing about the whole situation. Not as much as in the beginning, but still. I am lucky he has a new girlfriend and he is going on with his live. So he doesn’t try to contact me at all. But he leaves his ‘messages’ here and there. Just to show how wrong I was in leaving him.

  10. Surayya

    i have question to all here. Did anyone of you succumb to emotional eating? I did and try hard not to go back to it but i find myself in the kitchen most of the time. Any help how do I get over it. Why do I behave such manner?

  11. Heidi Piette

    I am in hell. Some days I am flooded with images of the love that I thought was true and then remembering when he choked me; and cheated on him which is how I escaped. he latched on to a new supply but not leaving me alone for three months until I changed my number and followed through with no contact.  I am deeply wounded. Beyond words

  12. Janet McGuffey

    this is so amazing- I am in the middle of his “silence withdrawal treatment” because I expressed (unusual for me) displeasure at something inappropriate he had done- it involved sexy postings of other women on facebook and rarely communicating we me in a give and take conversation….I felt proud of myself (I had always tried to see it “his way,” you know all the explanations and justifications)- but how I am desperately feeling the loss of someone who always left me unsatisfied! But….there was that amazing relief when he would “reappear” after punishing me for past ” infractions”- the relief felt like a drug fix; but soon, back to being an “afterthought.” My narc never was jealous or cared what I did (should have been a red flag)- but we did have mainly an on-line relationship, due to distance…I always wondered what he was up to all the times he never showed up for “planned chats.” He just felt no urgency for contact and I would wait hours with baited breathe- only to usually be disappointed….I am in therapy but it still baffles me how I can be so addicted to someone who is charming….but still disappears as he pleases….I pray I can be strong enough to leave this behind, should he re-enter my virtual “world.”

  13. Surayya

    Why am I so bitter? Firstly, my ex narcissist was from my religion and culture. He gets away with his crime and behaves like nothing has happened, sleeping away with his different supplies. But I live with my parents, they are old and worry about me. Culturally , a woman of my age (38) if divorced is known as untouchable anymore. A divorcee is looked down upon and especially with the rumors out there why I divorced, my parents worry no one will ever ask for my hand in marriage. That is why I have my days where I am fuming under my breath cursing him away, how could he , why did he? He could have found himself other women who are willing to throw themselves for him or even have one night stands, why come to me and make false promises , even win my parents heart . It hurts me lot to see my parents hurt for me. I am the only child of my parents. Some of you ll are parents, how do you ll feel when your kid is in pain. I catch my mother on her prayer mat crying away , she hurts why a man would hurt her daughter? She wishes him ill too. And he will get it oh i wait!!

  14. Surayya

    Oh reading this post brought the UGH in my heart !! you described my ex narcissist to the dot. He too would comment on me not having enough make up. I fought back ” you ain’t got a good looking face yourself” I d fight at this remarks ! I am so glad I got rid of him. I can’t wait to receive call he has fallen so hard I will go pick him up and throw him trash, it is where he belongs. And Shawn , same here, all his Friends his boss his co workers think I am the foolish bad one he is the angel. He still gets around stating he is single, when he isn’t he has many supplies and he sets the stage for his new supplies to believe he is single. Such a person ugh! My family could not understand why I stayed for so long but I thank them for encouraging me to dump him . They saw how he treated me and how fake he was . They assured me if i leave him they will be there to help me recover and support me and I am grateful for my family. An old man like him ugly face, does not deserve a nice woman like me, thank god i did not have his kids . Imagine how the situation would have been for me.

  15. Shawn

    One of the things that strikes me in reading this is that there is no one in my life who understands what he did to me. Everyone still thinks he’s such a nice guy. I have to come on line and find other survivors. What’s worse, is no one cares. They don’t want to hear it. I am glad there are articles like this an online forums to help me. I might be dead without them. I am barely hanging on to my sanity. He is gone, long gone, but the pain remains. I keep taking advice from survivors. I keep getting up and slogging through the mud. I feel like maybe I’m starting to come out of the fog. I still have such bad days. Yesterday was a good day. Today is a bad day. And I still feel so alone because there is not physical person I can turn to for understanding and comfort. Thank you for writing this article.

    1. Kim Saeed

      Shawn, I went through a similar experience. The reason no one can understand it is because they’ve not experienced it. This is truly a case where one would have to have been in a toxic relationship to be able to relate and empathize. My friends and family also got tired of my sharing with them, and I eventually stopped. They couldn’t understand why I stayed. I couldn’t either, at least not back then.

      How long have you been out of the relationship?

      1. Shawn

        Thank you for your reply Kim. I’ve been out almost a year. I worked with him for five years, was friends (I thought). He spent six months working overtime to groom me. I was not interested in getting involved with him and in the end I couldn’t imagine living without him. I was a transitional target, so he didn’t work as hard as I’ve seen him work since. His lies caught him fast and when I called him on it, he was gone. It was so fast. It took months to wrap my brain around what happened. Recovery is slow. I am amazed at the impact they have on us. I’ve done the same as you and just quit talking about it, but people can tell something is wrong. My mom recommended a book to me called “Expectation Hangover”…like it was a simple matter of my expectations being too high and then I was disappointed. That is when it occurred to me, there will be no one I can talk to in my life about this. That is why I’m grateful for places like this. It gives me hope. Thank you.

    2. Surayya

      Oh Shawn , I feel your pain. I have been there too where I felt so alone because there was no physical person , anymore, to share joyful moments together. Oh I missed that a lot, But whenever I would have flashback of our moments together I realized after we d have a good time he would immediately turn to a different person and start criticizing me especially my looks. Oh what a devil. He isn’t no Tom Cruise nor Brad Pitt, so why does he feel he needs to have a woman with perfect body and looks. It was tough to live with such a character. So after I dumped him I would remember our moments together , whichever room I would be in I d feel , sense him there , but as I would reminiscence, every particular moment together , I d see the moment he d be all critical about me so I would give a sigh of relief. “This is why you left him Surayya, thank god you don’t have to hear all those harsh remarks and criticisms again.” Such men also crush our self esteem , oh how hard it was for me to get myself back, my identity back. But I can say for sure , I am not sure about others, I am not the same person anymore. This incident has taken a toll on me big time.

      1. Shawn

        Thank you for saying that Surayya. I would agree that I am not the same person anymore. I hope and pray that this will make me stronger. I hope it does you too. I know it will make us wiser.

      2. Weecy

        I completely understand. It seems like we’re talking about the same man and same relationship. This guy was so awesome when we first started dating. We dated for a year, I got pregnant, and bamm…the narcissistic behaviors appeared and slammed me. I am no longer in a romantic relationship with the narcissist, but we now have a child together; moreover, we work together so it’s difficult for me because I’m always in contact with him. I’m in the process of applying for a transfer, so I can at least have some separation at work. But for the most part, I pray and try to remain emotional detached. Another obstacles is my family. They always invite him to family events. My family doesn’t understand the emotional strain I’m under because they think he’s such a great guy who’s fun to be around. I have good days and bad days. It’s a battle, but it’s getting better. I’m starting to gain control again, and I’m slowly returning to the person I used to be. I’m a strong will person and refused to be broken, so that helps. Also, my relationship with God strengthens me.

  16. Fi

    Where do they learn these tactics? Are they actually aware that they are using these tactics or is it automatic for them?

    1. Kim Saeed


      I think it depends on the individual narcissist. Some do it intuitively, while some practice and hone. Ultimately, it’s all psychological manipulation, and they target specific personalities with very distinct vulnerabilities.

    1. Kim Saeed

      I’m sorry 🙁 Let me know if I might be of help…

  17. KMC

    I am on my 3rd day of no contact. I was doubting my decision to leave my boyfriend of 6 years. Your blog reminded me why I left. Years of manipulation, cruelty and emotional abuse…. After the love bombing he sucked me into his web and years of silent treatment to follow. I feel like such a fool. How did I fall victim to this? Thank you for the reminder and more courage to make it to day 4. It is indeed just like breaking and addiction.

    1. Kim Saeed

      KMC, thank you for reading my post and for commenting. I’m so glad to know my article is helping you maintain No Contact. You are right, it IS breaking an addiction. The physical withdrawal symptoms typically last 1-2 weeks, but the psychological withdrawal takes longer. It’s important to take very good care of yourself during this time.

      Kudos for going No Contact. It WILL get better if you can stick through it.

      1. Surayya

        Kim , you are so right the psychological withdrawal takes longer, but I am getting there . I went NC six months now, he has called me off and on in between, but as I stated in my earlier posts in other blogs, I would ignore and block which ever number he would call me. It was effecting me emotionally , his calls, he wasn’t allowing me to move on and one fine day I let it all out and threatened him have him arrested for harassment , two days ago marked one month he has not contacted me. Oh I can’t wait for that day when I don’t know of his existence No memories, no pain,. Oh when will that day come, I wish I could fast forward my life to next year.

      1. You’re articles on narcissism are absolutely excellent! Thank you! I’m in limbo and keep blaming myself because I have issues of my own. For example, I’m an ACoA (adult child of an alcoholic) and with this comes some issues very similar to narcissism. The difference is I have empathy and care so very much. He does not. I feel so worthless now….this all is like a replay of my childhood…only now, I am 33.

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