Relationships with narcissists tend to follow a pattern that plays out again and again. They draw you in close, then when you least expect it, they abruptly withdraw. When they are done with you, they will dump you. Usually, for a reason that seems due to no fault of your own.
However, the narcissist often returns when they think they have something to gain from you again. This is known as the idealize-devalue-discard-hoover cycle for how narcissists approach relationships.
So although it may seem like your narcissist is finished with you when they dump you, it’s likely that they’re not done meddling in your life. In order to be completely rid of them, ignoring them might be your only option.
In this article, I will outline why you should ignore a narcissist who dumped you, how best to ignore them, how they might react, and how to deal with this reaction.
What happens when you ignore a narcissist who dumped you? Let’s start with why you would want to ignore a Narc?
Why Ignore a Narcissist?
If you want to finally break the narcissistic cycle that you’ve found yourself trapped in, ignoring your narcissist might be the best thing to do. This is especially true if your narcissist has been abusing you, physically or emotionally.
Why you should ignore a narcissist who dumped you?
If you’ve been through the cycle a few times now, it’s likely that you’re exhausted. Completely ignoring the narcissist may be the only way to get the space that you need to heal.
Narcissists love to get a reaction and as soon as you give them this, you are handing your power away. This is how they get their kicks, knowing they have affected you. In order to be free of them you need to stop giving them a reaction and totally ignore them. This means giving them zero of your energy – positive or negative.
Those with NPD feed their self-beliefs with attention and admiration from those who surround them (1). We know this as narcissistic supply and it is arguably a form of addiction (2). Whilst you’re still feeding the narcissist with supply through your reactions, you will remain in the cycle of abuse. Breaking the cycle starts with emotionally unhooking.
Nothing hurts a narcissist more than being ignored as it makes them feel insignificant and meaningless, which is their greatest fear. However, you shouldn’t ignore your narcissist purely to hurt them or to elicit a response.
Ignoring them will only work if you truly want nothing more to do with them, otherwise they will play you at your own game and probably end up winning.
You’ll want to check up on them and may be tempted to look at their social media or contact them to see if your ignoring them has really hurt them. But it’s crucial that you don’t do this; as if you do they will know they still have your attention.
How to Ignore a narcissist?
There is a method known as the ‘grey rock’ method when dealing with narcissists. This encourages victims to make their life seem as dull, motionless and static as possible, in the hopes the narcissist will eventually get bored and leave the victim alone.
Another method is the ‘no contact’ method, which obviously involves cutting all communication with the narcissist. If this is not possible then you should try to ignore the things they do that trigger you and avoid reacting. Basically, the narcissist should believe they are no longer the center of your world.
What Are The Effects of ignoring a narcissist?
All narcissists have some characteristics in common – that’s how they can be defined as a narcissist. However, there is no ‘one size fits all’ as each individual narcissist is different. I will first discuss the different types of Narcissists and how they are different from each other. Then I will discuss how this influences the effects of ignoring the narcissist and what the effects of ignoring a Narcissist exactly are.
The 2 Different Types of Narcissists
How your narcissist will react to being ignored depends on what type of narcissist they are. They can go a few different ways, depending on their personal style. One might shrug off being ignored while another might feel like their world has ended.
It has been suggested that there are different levels of narcissism, with some narcissists reacting in more extreme ways to being ignored than others. Some have tried to put narcissists into categories; however, even these cannot predict exactly how your narcissist will react to being ignored, although, they may provide a useful framework.
Cooper (1981) suggested there are two subgroups of narcissists:
- Extroverted or ‘oblivious’ narcissists – need to be the center of attention at all times and will react extremely badly to being ignored
- Introverted or ‘timid’ narcissists – the inhibited type whose narcissism mostly plays out in fantasy, so will not act out as much when being ignored(Also known as vulnerable narcissist)
How a narcissist will react to being ignored
If you want to try and predict how your narcissist is going to react to being ignored, try to examine how they have behaved in the past. Although, we cannot predict exactly how a narcissistic individual will react, there are some typical reactions that have been observed:
- They mimic your behaviour and ignore you right back – at first, a narcissist won’t try to reach out and find out why you’re ignoring them because they don’t care about your feelings. They will want to ‘one-up’ you by doing more of the same or at a higher intensity. This is them trying to reassert their power. Behaviours might include purposely ignoring your texts or blocking you on social media.
- They will lash out – narcissists thrive on using others as a source to make them feel important. If you ignore them and deny them of their source, they may become enraged. They will essentially have a tantrum and throw insults and threats at you. In pronounced cases, behaviour can resemble sociopathic traits and may even get violent. Expressions of this ‘out of control’ rage will vary but may include:
- Stalking you on social media
- Stalking you physically
- Sending angry, nasty text messages
- Trying to gain information about you from your friends and family
- Flaunting a new partner to get back at you
- They will use calculated and controlled manipulation – following narcissistic ‘out of control’ rage, they may shift back to more calculated and controlled manipulation. We know this as the ‘cruelty’ stage and aims to show you that they still have complete power over you. They do this to punish you and cause harm. In the mind of the Narcissist, they are entitled to do this and you deserve it. Common strategies include:
- Baiting – deliberately provoking and antagonizing you
- Gaslighting – making you question your own sense of reality and/or mental health
- Withholding or stonewalling – removing your access to information and emotional/physical resources
- Smear campaigns – spreading false information and gossip to discredit, undermine and isolate you.
Reading Suggestion: How to deal with The Narcissist’s Smear Campaign?
- They manipulate you by showing false kindness and respect – they will try to trick you into thinking they have changed. Narcissists can’t bear to lose and they may see you ignoring them as a loss. This is too bruising to their inflated egos so they will pursue you even harder, using charm and flattery to lure you back in. They might tell you that they miss you and try to ‘love bomb’ you again and use other ‘hoovering’ techniques. But once they get what they want, this will all disappear and they’ll go back to their manipulative ways.
- They will make you feel guilty – this is to appear the victim so that you might return to the relationship with them. They may show remorse and pull at your heartstrings with promises to turn over a new leaf. They may even threaten to hurt themselves or worse, to guilt you back in to doing whatever they want
Some narcissists may even try all of these steps in succession to try and get you back under their control.
Why Narcissists React to Being Ignored
Narcissists actually have incredibly fragile egos, although it might not seem like it as they overcompensate for this. When ignored they will react to protect themselves from seeming vulnerable.
Positive or negative engagement is a win for a narcissist; this is why they will try different techniques to get any sort of rise out of you.
Ignoring a narcissist causes a re-enactment of a core wound in their inner child. When parents fail to satisfy developmental needs, pathological narcissism can be the result (3), as well as psychological barriers to protect themselves from pain (4). This is also known as a ‘contact-shunning personality’ (5). Losing the admiration that they are addicted to will make them feel rejected, betrayed and lonely, and their self-esteem will take a huge hit.
The narcissist’s true feelings about their self are disastrous, so they have created a fictitious character to hide their inner wounds. This character is known as their ‘ego’ or ‘false self’ and allows them to cut off from their emotions. Anything you do that challenges the reality of the false self is a threat and must be eliminated (6).
When narcissists are being ignored, the only way they know how to regain control and get back to feeling safe, is to re-establish power over you. Invalidating you validates their false selves (7).
How to deal with a narcissist’s reaction to being ignored?
You are bound to find ignoring your narcissist quite difficult at first. Particularly if you have been in and out of relationships with them for a number of years or if they have emotionally damaged you into thinking you need them to survive.
You’ll probably be tempted to engage them, but it’s important to stay strong. You need to be completely determined and ready to rid yourself of the narcissist. It’s important to surround yourself with supportive friends and family who know about your situation and who you can talk to.
Go full no contact. This means no calls, emails, texts and especially no in-person meetings. You must continue to ignore them indefinitely until they move on. If your narcissist reacts in a particularly violent or aggressive way to being ignored you may want to consider:
- Changing your phone number
- Removing them from social media
- Contacting their friends and family
- Staying away from them and places they may go to
- Involving the police
- Filing for a restraining order
Does Ignoring a Narcissist Work?
This depends on what you would like the outcome to be. If you’re hoping to make your narcissist have feelings for you, it’s probably not going to work, as they don’t feel emotions the same way as you do. Emotions are simply tools the narcissist uses to manipulate others. But, if you just want to finally be rid of your narcissist, ignoring them might achieve this.
They will move on to another source of Narcissistic Supply if they realize you are really done with them and can no longer be manipulated into doing what they want. If they see no gain from continuing to pursue you, they will finally leave you alone.
If they don’t have another source of supply lined up, they could go into ‘narcissistic collapse’ and enter a state of physiological withdrawal, not unlike people who are detoxing off hard drugs (8). If you take away their supply and they can’t find it anywhere else, they may break down which could cause them to realize their narcissistic ways and seek help. In this way, we can say that ignoring a narcissist works.
However, ignoring a narcissist who ignores you can actually encourage them to ‘hoover’ as they know you want their love and respect and they can easily trick you into thinking they have changed.
But ultimately, if the narcissist realizes their game is truly up and you no longer represent usefulness, they will discard you for good. Although, they will only do this once they know you have figured them out and they no longer have anything to lose.
References used for this article
1. Lakey, C. E., Rose, P., Campbell, W. K., & Goodie, A. S. (2008). Probing the link between narcissism and gambling: the mediating role of judgment and decision‐making biases. Journal of behavioral decision making, 21(2), 113-137.
2. Diamond, D., Clarkin, J. F., Levy, K. N., Meehan, K. B., Cain, N. M., Yeomans, F. E., & Kernberg, O. F. (2014). Change in attachment and reflective function in borderline patients with and without comorbid narcissistic personality disorder in transference focused psychotherapy. Contemporary psychoanalysis, 50(1-2), 175-210.
3. Watson, P. J., & Morris, R. J. (1991). Narcissism, empathy and social desirability. Personality and Individual Differences, 12(6), 575-579.
4. Kohut, H., & Wolf, E. S. (1978). The disorders of the self and their treatment: An outline. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 59, 413-425.
5. Banai, E., Mikulincer, M., & Shaver, P. R. (2005). ” Selfobject” Needs in Kohut’s Self Psychology: Links With Attachment, Self-Cohesion, Affect Regulation, and Adjustment. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 22(2), 224.
6. Greville-Harris, M., Hempel, R., Karl, A., Dieppe, P., & Lynch, T. R. (2016). The power of invalidating communication: Receiving invalidating feedback predicts threat-related emotional, physiological, and social responses. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 35(6), 471-493.
7. Wetzel, E., Brown, A., Hill, P. L., Chung, J. M., Robins, R. W., & Roberts, B. W. (2017). The narcissism epidemic is dead; long live the narcissism epidemic. Psychological science, 28(12), 1833-1847.
8. Vaknin, S. (2019). Narcissists, Narcissistic Supply and Source of Supply.