A desire for control is at the center of many mental health disorders, but perhaps nowhere is it more obvious – and more impactful on others – than in Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD.) The links between narcissism and a desire for control aren’t exactly surprising.
After all, if a narcissist can control the situation and conversation, they can steer the topics towards themselves and their perceived superiority. Unfortunately, recent research indicates that diagnoses of NPD are growing. Recently in the United States alone, the reported clinical cases have doubled.
We don’t know for sure if this means that more people are getting help, or that narcissism is on the rise. What we do know, though, is that more and more people with NPD will try any manipulation tactic possible to feed their desire for control.
In this post, we’ll look at the way narcissists try to control you, and how you can recognize these signs and get yourself out until they get help.
Narcissism and the Desire For Control
The desire for control makes sense once you understand what NPD is all about. Narcissists often feel like all the cards are stacked against them, that others are to blame for their failures, and that they’re the “perfect person.”
If they can control others, they can convince them to do their bidding, to brag about their “skills” to others, and to eventually control larger groups of people. (That’s why, so often, famous cult leaders are also narcissists.) Let’s take a look at some of the most common control tactics of a narcissist below.
Control Tactic One: They Make You Their Confidant
At least at the start, narcissists are known for their incredible charisma and people skills. They’re charming, funny, and maybe even seem to “get” you in a way others don’t. They have to be. In a sense, it’s a part of their “job description” as a narcissist. If their personality isn’t magnetic enough to draw people towards them, they can’t feel superior to those around them.
But this “great guy” isn’t really a fantastic person: he’s just using his wit and charm to manifest his desire for control. If someone starts revealing how much they despise everyone in the office but you, or starts pouring out their life sob story, you might think, “Wow. This person really trusts me.”
The sad reality is that, more than likely, they’re grooming you to fall under their control!
Control Tactic Two: They Shower You With Gifts
Material wealth is highly important to the narcissist. But don’t be fooled into thinking they want to “share their wealth” with you when they give you a gift. It’s far more likely that this supposed “generosity” is all based in their desire for control.
Their tactic is to get you to prioritize the nice things they get you/their lifestyle over your own emotions, time, and energy. In a sense, they’re “rewarding” you for following them or tacitly endorsing their behavior.
In other words, they want to get you so “addicted” to their flashy lifestyle that you’re willing to overlook the harm they do to you and to others. It’s also an effective way for them to draw you back in after they go too far.
They know you’ll see their gift as a means of an apology, and they hope that it lures you right back into their web of control.
Control Tactic Three: They Bring You Down – Constantly
This is a tried and true control tactic often practiced by narcissists. You’ve seen them insult, degrade, and complain about other people, and now, they’re doing it to you. Why? Because their desire for control is insatiable.
If they make you feel terribly about yourself and your abilities, then they believe you will cling to them for “support,” because you’re not capable of getting through the day without them. But this isn’t a real friendship, of course. All this does is feed their egos, while fostering a sense of contempt for you. They simultaneously think they’re the great hero of your life, while resenting you for needing them all the time.
They tear you down not just to make themselves feel better about their own insecurities, but also to make you so aware of yours that you feel like you can’t go at it on your own. This is one of the cruelest tactics of a narcissist, and this is the point where the physical and emotional abuse of a friend of partner often begins. Unfortunately, numerous studies have shown that there is a direct link between narcissism and domestic, physical violence.
(Note: if you are being abused, physically or emotionally, do not worry about “helping” your abuser get better. It is not your job. For immediate help, call the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or visit its website to chat with someone.)
What Should I Do If I Suspect I’m Being Controlled?
First of all, congratulations for not only recognizing the signs of a narcissist’s desire for control, but also for admitting you fell under their spell. You’re not alone, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. The truth is, it can happen to anyone.
When you’re dealing with a narcissist, sometimes a direct confrontation isn’t always the safest route. If you know this person more casually, a slow disengagement may be the best tactic.
If you live with them, however, making a break can be much more complex – especially if there are children involved. It may be best to start working on your exit strategy now, with the help of a qualified mental health professional.
It’s ok, too, to open up to friends and family members about what’s going on. Depending on how long they’ve known the person, they may be surprised initially to learn what’s going on – or they may have similar stories of their own.
There are lots of treatment options available for a narcissist, but they need to be willing to go and get help. If you need more information, please feel free to read our blog. You can also reach out to us if your need help.