The Incredible Sulk
Who is the Incredible Sulk?
Unsurprisingly, he or she is a Mid-Range Narcissist. Lesser may occasionally sulk but it is rare, they are far more likely to explode with heated fury, either lashing out at your by name-calling or windmilling fists. The Greater may also sulk, but that is a very rare occurrence as the Greater regards such a passive-aggressive behaviour as beneath him and would rather use threat and intimidation as the expressions of his heated fury and escalate them from that point.
The Mid-Range Narcissist utilises passive aggressive behaviours in order to draw fuel. Chief amongst those behaviours are pity plays, cold shoulders, baleful glares and silent treatments. There is however a particular manipulation that some Mid-Rangers will use and this is when they become the Incredible Sulk. What are the main features of the Incredible Sulk?
- It is a Present Silent Treatment. The Incredible Sulk is never an Absent Silent Treatment. This is because the Absent Silent Treatment serves two functions. The first is to draw fuel from you as the main victim by making you worry where the narcissist has gone and also to have you trying to effect contact which in turn provides fuel to us. The second function is that it usually (although not always) enables the narcissist to focus on seducing someone else. Accordingly, that two week disappearance or two day vanishing act is being used to upset and anger you, but at the same time this will be used to draw somebody else in. It stands to reason therefore that if the charm et al is being used against someone else there cannot be an Incredible Sulk taking place. Even if (unusually) this absence is not being used to seduce someone else, there is not a sulk in progress. The Absent Silent Treatment is a Cold Shoulder whereby the Mid-Ranger is being more aggressive in his ignoring of the victim.
- The Incredible Sulk occurs when the narcissist remains present to the victim for the whole purpose of enabling the victim (usually the IPPS but will also include family member Non-Intimate Secondary Sources “NISSs”, family NISSs and sometimes colleague NISSs). When the Incredible Sulk is in progress, it is not just a case of the IPPS being singled out for the silent treatment and the narcissist speaking with everybody else, not at all. The Incredible Sulk is with everybody.
- The Incredible Sulk is a manifestation of cold fury. The Mid-Range Narcissist will have been criticised (usually unintentionally) and this has then ignited his or her fury, leading to the silent treatment.
- Whilst it is criticism which is the catalyst for the Incredible Sulk, one of the defining features which remains at the heart of its operation is envy. Just as the Incredible Hulk went into Hulk mode by turning green, the Incredible Sulk is also green, but it is with envy. Huge, visceral envy for others and how they are outflanking, outgunning and outperforming him or her. The Mid-Range Narcissist who is prone to engaging in the Incredible Sulk is one who has a huge envy issue. Envy is a common theme for all of our kind, but especially so for some and if they are Mid-Range it manifests as the Incredible Sulk. The Mid-Range Narcissist will be envious of something said and/or done by the victim (usually the IPPS) and whilst this is part of the criticism it is this envy which is perpetuating the Incredible Sulk. The narcissist will be envious of the victims prowess in some regard, for instance if the victim has passed an examination or secured a new and prestigious job, been given a significant pay rise, been complimented by somebody or has achieved an accomplishment. The spotlight (even if not asked for by the victim) is on the victim and the narcissist hates this. It underlines to him how mean and cruel the world is, how unfair his life has become and it is of course all the fault of the person that the narcissist envies.
- Whilst engaged in an Incredible Sulk the narcissist is sullen, uncommunicative, self-pitying and doleful. There is no baleful glare directed at anybody. There is no curled lip in readiness for a snarl. There is no blackened look. Instead, the Incredible Sulk will stare at the floor as if willing it to open up and consume him. He will gaze with wistful angst from the window or pick up some personal object and fix his eyes on it as he turns it over and over in his hands, depicting how wrought with dejection he is.
- The Incredible Sulk is maintained for a considerable period of time. This is not a fifteen minutes or two hour present silent treatment. This will last for at least a day and most likely longer. Any attempt to communicate with the Incredible Sulk will be met with him or her not responding at all, shrugging or fixing the recipient with a hangdog expression as if every woe in the world is pressing down on and being experienced by the narcissist.
- The Incredible Sulk wants everyone to be looking at him, flocking around him, asking what is wrong, suggesting ways to break this state. He wants his IPPS trying to establish whatever is the matter. He will expect his children to be pulling on his sleeve asking “Dad, what’s up?” If the children are young, their uncomprehending tears will only add to the fuel. He does not care for their upset. In the narcissist’s mind, he feels only dejection, rejection and self-pity. He knows the world does not care about him, but it should and this state is a representation of how he knows the world regards him. Even if the IPPS invites friends, family, colleagues around to try and break this almost catatonic state that the narcissist has entered, those trying to inject a smile or at least some kind of positive reaction in the narcissist will only be met with the doleful stare of the narcissist which seems to saying “There is no hope for me anymore”. It is an instinctive response of the Incredible Sulk and is designed to draw yet more fuel through consternation, bewilderment and redoubled efforts to help.
- There are two reasons why the Incredible Sulk operates by involving everybody around him or her, rather than say the IPPS (which is the usual outcome of a Present Silent Treatment). The first is that the more people which are responding to the Incredible Sulk, the more fuel is available The second reason is that if the IPPS becomes fed up of trying to elicit a positive response, there will still be others (children, friends, other family members) who will keep trying and thus the fuel continues to flow.
- The Incredible Sulk wants fuel from this behaviour. He wants to be fawned over, mollycoddled, told how much he is loved, apologised to and made to feel special. Even when the wound that arose from the criticism has been healed, the Incredible Sulk will keep this behaviour going because it is so effective at drawing fuel. He also regards it as his right to do this – the world owes him it. It should be lauding him, respecting him and idealising him and its failure to do so means that instead he is entitled to withdraw (yet remain) and drink up all of the consequential fuel from the appliances affected by the Incredible Sulk.
- The Incredible Sulk is unlikely to eat (again for effect by making it appear as if there is something seriously wrong), they will miss certain activities they would usually engage in (for instance not going out with friends) in order to draw more fuel appliances into the catchment of the Incredible Sulk and will give the impression that he or she has entered some kind of depressed state. There is no such depression but the Incredible Sulk is content to make it appear so as this will generate more concern and fuel.
- He or she will sit for hours on end in a chair, staring at the television, apparently not really taking in what is going on. Mealtimes will be ignored and even food brought to the Incredible Sulk will be ignored or just picked at. He or she will walk slowly, moping about, emitting occasional sighs of dejection and flopping listlessly into bed or onto the settee.
- The Incredible Sulk has no difficulty in maintaining this state because he or she is initially wounded and then the huge envy that this particular Mid-Range Narcissist suffers from will perpetuate the behaviour over several days. Work will be missed with a concern spouse calling in on behalf of the narcissist, doctors will be consulted and the Incredible Sulk will continue as of course this is all fuel.
- The only way to break the Incredible Sulk is to ignore it wholesale. This means everybody in the vicinity. Nobody ought to pay the Incredible Sulk any attention At first this will cause the Mid-Ranger to respond by trying to draw more attention through loud sighs, slumping, holding his or her head in her hands, muttering under his or breath. These are just further manipulations and should be ignored. Once the Incredible Sulk realises that this showcase silent treatment is not having any effect any more he will slowly emerge from it. He or she will not just snap out of it, but rather emerge like some kind of hibernating creature. Once this happens, resists the urge to ask “what was all that about” as you will only be fuelling the narcissist. Act as if it never happened. This will be difficult to do and offend your sense of empathy to assist someone and establish what was going on, but once you recognise that an Incredible Sulk is in hand you will now how to address it.
- The Incredible Sulk is not just rolled out at home. It might appear in a social setting whereby the Incredible Sulk will suddenly just not speak with anybody and will sit staring at his or her drink, looking through people and appearing as if ‘not there’ in order to garner attention. It might be during a meet gin with colleagues where the narcissist will just look out of the window as if pre-occupied before giving a dejected and puppy dog look at someone as if to say “I am so troubled and you have no idea.” It is all about garnering sympathy and pity. It is not an aggressive sulk that is telling people to stay away, not at all, it is one which is designed to draw people and thus their fuel as they try to work out what is wrong and help.
Thus this is the Incredible Sulk. Just be thankful no shirts or trousers were ripped in the process.
35 thoughts on “The Incredible Sulk”
Haha this is so bloody true. I am laughing at it because of the way it has been worded here. However, to be on the receiving end of this had driven me crazy at that point of time. What triggered my now ex-husband was that I secured a job which paid much more than his did. For a month he did not talk to me. I was almost on the verge of depression. Glad I can laugh about it now.
Growing up with my brother, I recognize so much of this behaviour. I can separate out my own instances of acting this way although my underlying emotion was sadness at being hopelessly trapped, not envy or anger. He constantly exploded, snarked, triangulated, sulked and bragged. All learned from our mother who was busy triangulating us against each other and our father who was busy being a fanatical religious zealot. Mom and dad both passed on and I didn’t mourn either passing. Each time, I took a long shower to wash their essence away. To this day, brother wants nothing more than to destroy me. He’ll never succeed because, well, he hasn’t yet, plus I finally don’t care one whit now that I understand *how* he does it. I can identify it now, I can control my responses. I’ve even come out the other end of a major smear campaign that found me disowned. It used to be about understanding why but I am better armed by understanding how. I am no longer hopelessly trapped.
The Incredible Sulk!! HG you make me laugh!! Brilliant! Who’s in charge of the artwork? The pictures are brilliant too! You do great work….thats the truth…..thank you.
My ex used this type of behavior.
She was a master at bringing everybody’s moods to match hers. She would wake up at the mood was set for the day. When she sulked everyone felt it.
I would get to the gym everyday at 12:00 and I was always in a good mood. You could tell by the way she walked, the way her eyes looked, her frown, and voice. I spent the next few hours trying to figure out was was wrong. I tried everything. Hugged her, held her, tried all the reassuring in the world and it was the same thing sooo many times over and over. I even had to try and reassure her staff that it would get better. I don’t know how they worked with her. Her staff would stay far away when she was sulking. It was a miserably atmosphere. Of course I left in tears.
She even dressed up as the Incredible Hulk for Halloween. She was covered in green body paint.
HG mentioned in one of his posts, that he sulked for 3 weeks, when Anita focused on her work responsibilities. So by his own admission, HG is a LOWER level Narc.
I was not sulking. That was a silent treatment as I explained in the relevant article. A three week silent treatment. Lower narc? Tsk.
D- Al, see me after class.
I know your last sentence is a joke but have you ever been a teacher, HG? I think you once mentioned a group of students of yours. Did I dream it?
I am not a teacher in the formal sense but I educate.
May I know how old the people you educate are?
From the age of majority upwards.
So many memories of my older sister came to my mind while reading this article. Everything is very clear now. I am just very sorry for her daughters. I am not sorry for her husband though.
No. 4 – “The narcissist will be envious of the victims prowess in some regard, for instance if the victim has… been complimented by somebody…”
“…The spotlight (even if not asked for by the victim) is on the victim and the narcissist hates this. …. it is of course all the fault of the person that the narcissist envies.”
This is one of the cases when the victim has done absolutely nothing to provoke the narcissist’s fury, HG.
My brother has always had (romantic) relationships with Mid-Rangers, who seemed to hate me before we had even met. I was never able to understand how his ex girlfriend and also his present wife could hate me without knowing me at all.
One his non-narcissistic friends once told me “Your brother speaks about you all the time.” (I will spare the details but it was something positive and harmless.)
Something similar happened to me with other people in other occasions. Just because someone told a female Mid-Ranger something innocuous like “She’s very friendly” (I was not with them when that happened but I was in hearing range), the female narcissist started turning all people against me, including those who had not met me yet. Not being in the spotlight ignites the Mid-Ranger’s fury.
I would like to add that this happened to me with *female narcissists* only.
Thank you so much for explaining how far the narcissist’s envy can go.
Unbelievable how perfectly this article defines AM, my ex. Through the course of 10+ years he used this a few times. Of course, I did everything you mentioned above; looking back he milked it for all it was worth. It’s amazing H.G. how well you have been able to describe every aspect of my relationship which is why I cannot stop reading your books. As you mentioned in a previous article my introspective self need to understand 100% with whom I was involved with, what really happened, and what it really stood for not the facade. Through this knowledge then I can begin to understand my actions and worse, why I tolerated so much for so long-I am still working on that one. I feel like an idiot for staying so long, why couldn’t I leave earlier when every part of my brain was telling me to. Why do we empaths ignore the obvious lies and excuses? Why do we ignore our truth?
Thanks again-another brilliant masterpiece!
Victoria! Are you the one I know from PF??? It’s me, Free Bird! …good to see you, if this is the same Victoria!!! Big hugs! 😀
Sorry I don’t think it’s me. I am from Florida.
Why do your change your names and what is PF?
I can’t help but laugh every time you mention “The Incredible Sulk” 🙂 (I used to watch The Incredible Hulk TV series.) And then your last sentence: “Just be thankful no shirts or trousers were ripped in the process.” Hilarious! I like your sense of humour. 🙂
No. 5, brought quite the memory. Much earlier on, I had mentioned that two events happened with JN almost back-to-back about 4 months into the relationship, that my then therapist thought caused trauma bonding.
This article triggered a memory of me having an almost near panic attack at work. I just up and left and drove straight to JN’s apartment, unannounced. I was looking for consolation. I couldn’t come in. He gave me 10 minutes in my car. It was exactly as you described. Staring at my car floor (with sunglasses on, no eye contact that day), sullen, and uncommunicative. Barely a few words came from him. The issue I was having was created by him, so his comfort would have been paramount.
About 1/2 hour after I left, I got a text telling me not to ever do “pop-ins” at his place. A 3-4 day silent treatment ensued. I had no clue what I was dealing with then. I just couldn’t believe how cold he was.
I remember this from so many occassions, it always seemed worse when my family was around and i was happy chatting with them… he would just be ‘sulking’ for days. Or on trips with just me and the kids. I guess wheneverge was out of his inner circle, his entourage, then he would seem soooo grumpy /unhappy / sulky. The worst was though when he got Bells Palsy and he woke up with half of his face paralyzed… he sulked and sulked to everyone for months… and never quite recovered from that… I know you don’t believe in karma, HG, but that was definitely a punishment in my eyes for his wrong doings…
I always thought my exhusband was midrange, but your posts have shown me he must be a greater after all. No offense, but I thank God he is not sociopathic.
“Thus this is the Incredible Sulk. Just be thankful no shirts or trousers were ripped in the process”. Funny stuff …and you, HG, know your bible!
So… in “personalizing” (as I was ‘accused’ of doing when given the sulk); I recall at the time of being subjected to the IS – I was thinking the narc was just in another ‘pouty’ mood!
The most extreme one primary narc ever pulled involved him rocking back and forth, saying “I’m in a dark place” and not responding to anything I said, once he realised he wasn’t going to get his own way. It was like a temporary breakdown. I say temporary, as it probably lasted 3-5 minutes.
What do you reckon? Genuine?
Having to fake concern at his fake 3 minute breakdown was pretty demeaning. Of course it was fabricated. The lengths narcissists will go to, in order to avoid consequences (in this case, being kicked out of our home). Quite extraordinary.
How would you describe your sense of pride, HG?
I am proud of my pride Sunshine.
Couple questions then a narcs in action story…… Why is it only envy, lacking something, that triggers the incredible Sulk? Could jealousy, the threat of losing something, trigger it too?
I seen both my parents do this. My Mom once called on friends from out of state because my Dad was sulking for weeks. As soon as they showed up he acted like it never happened and told them my Mom was making things up and exaggerating as usual. My Mom argued to no avail and Fuel was spread amongst all. A Narc Happy Ending. These were the kind of live action bedtime stories I experienced.
Love this article!
My former passive-aggressive, pitiful, sulking “Malcom the Mid-Range Narcissist” often moaned about money. Yet, he never asked for any money from me – and I never gave him a penny.
Any chance a future article could be about the specific ways the 3 types of Narcissists ask for money? Especially online. What do they say?
I have made a note.
Yesssss please. The mid ranger will make comments about being poor and then when offered, their saying “no” actually means yes and it’s guilt tripping. I’ve dealt with 3 mids I think. They all had this in similarity
I believe I already know but a victim can show this behavior to?
Not to this extent and if so based on different reasons.
This was enlightening. I thought my last tangle was with a lesser, but perhaps he is a mid-ranger. Need more reading of past articles to ascertain. Wondering if this is the same as the pity ploy, or an act the victim narcissist may utilize. Latest narc felt he was like the hulk, which I also find interesting…he certainly did rage when set off.
That’s interesting, I actually get a bit like that when I’m really depressed. But it’s not done for effect.