The Narcissist’s Twin Lines of Defence
In order to understand your narcissist opponent (and let’s not avoid recognising the fact that we regard you as our opponent) it is essential that you realise that we adopt two lines of defence. It is imperative that our kingdom remains intact, that our rule over you is not impeded, hindered or diminished in anyway. This means that we must always have control. By maintaining control, we are assured of achieving the provision of The Prime Aims so we gain fuel (most importantly) , character traits and the residual benefits.
Imagine, if you will, a motor vehicle. This motor vehicle has a computer which controls the suspension of the vehicle, This computer makes thousands of calculations and adjustments every second so that the suspension alters to take into account holes in the road, rocks, rises, dips and any deviation. The consequence of these frequent and instantaneous adjustments is that the car itself never lurches, dips, rolls, leans or deviates. You could balance a glass of water on the dashboard and it would never spill. The car remains still and steady.
We are similar. We must always maintain control. We have to have control over our environment so that we know there will be no loss of fuel, no reduction in the elements of the construct, no destruction of our empire and the descent into oblivion. To ensure this control, just like ensuring the motor vehicle remains steady, we have to make repeated and frequent adjustments to cater for the vagaries of the environment. We must tackle the challenges, maintain the loyalty, head off the insurrection, put down the rebellions, stifle the dissent, maintain the discipline and whatever changes, alterations and differences occur, control must be maintained. It does not matter if our behaviour, when viewed from your perspective, is inconsistent, illogical, hypocritical, contradictory, abusive, absurd and so forth, so long as the control is maintained. That is what matters above all else. By keeping control, we gain what we need and we continue to exist as we require.
Any challenge to this control requires a defensive response from us and this comes in two distinct forms. We have a twin defence mechanism. The first line is Denial. The second line is Distract and Deflect.
Dealing with Denial. If you challenge us in some way, which therefore threatens our control, then our immediate response will be one of denial. Your challenge may be one which wounds us (therefore you can expect a response by way of ignited fury which encompasses the denial) or more likely, you will be providing us with Challenge Fuel. Thus, you will not be wounding us, you will be giving us fuel, but we not only want to provoke you into giving us more fuel but we also have to assert control and assert our superiority and denial achieves both.
Take such an exchange for example, V is the accusing victim and N is the denying narcissist.
V – “I saw you in a bar this evening, Lorenzo’s, and you were with another woman.”
N – “No, I wasn’t.”
V- “Yes you were, I saw you.”
N- “You could not have done, I was at work, I had a meeting run on, there was a new client and he needed the team and I to sort quite a few problems out for him.”
V – “Stop lying, I saw you with my own eyes.”
N- “Well you need new glasses because it was not me, you think you saw.”
V- “It was. I know what you look like for God’s sake. You were holding hands with a slim woman with long brown hair and she had a green blouse on.”
N – “It wasn’t me.”
V- “It was, stop lying. Just admit it, will you?”
N- “It was not me.”
V- “I saw you, I saw you with her.”
N- “You couldn’t have done. Like I said, I have been in work until now, Ring Tom, go on, he will confirm that I have.”
The narcissist maintains the denial. Challenge Fuel is being received as the victim is either frustrated, angry, hurt or upset. The words used, the tone, the facial expression and the body language all contribute to the provision of fuel. If the victim is the Intimate Partner Primary Source (“IPPS”) then the fuel will be of a high potency. The quantity of fuel delivered is so far low since the discussion has only lasted a minute or so, but the frequency is constant for that minute. The narcissist will continue to deny in order to maintain control and assert his superiority for the purposes of ‘putting down’ this challenge. If the victim keeps asserting the allegation, the narcissist will continue with the denial until the victim gives up with the assertion. The narcissist has fuel and has maintained (or regained) superiority.
Sometimes the first line of defence is all that is needed to maintain the defence of the narcissist’s realm. However, if the narcissist senses that the victim believes that they are gaining the upper hand and thus has in effect broken through the first line of defence of Denial, then the narcissist will move to deploy the second line of defence which is that of Distraction and Deflection.
This second line is vast, extensive and draws on a myriad of narcissistic manipulations. Some of them are subtle and insidious, others are blatant and rudimentary. Nevertheless, they fall under the banner of Distraction and Deflection.
Returning to the example above, the increasingly exasperated victim decides to play the ace card and produces a mobile ‘phone which contains footage of the narcissist with the mystery lady, holding hands and sharing a kiss. The victim plays the footage and the narcissist watches.
The Denial could be maintained and in some instances this does happen. For instance the narcissist will state
“That’s not me, that is someone else.”
however, the narcissist will observe that the victim is displaying the signs of gaining the upper hand. The words used, tone and expression will alter to denote that the victim believes that she has now won the argument and therefore the repeated denial is not going to enable the narcissist to maintain superiority. Yes, he may continue to draw fuel from the victim if the victim continues to respond in an exasperated or incredulous manner, but the superiority has to be achieved also.
Accordingly this is where the second line of defence is activated.
The Lesser may just grab the mobile phone and smash it. This is Deflection and Distraction. Admittedly, it will not win any awards for ingenuity but this is what such an action achieves on the part of the narcissist:-
- The evidence that supports the victim’s challenge to the narcissist’s superiority has gone. In the compartmentalised world of the narcissist if it is not there it does not exist AND moreover it NEVER existed, accordingly
V- “You smashed it because you know I am right.”
N- “About what?”
V- “You kissing that woman.”
N- “What woman?”
v – “The one on the video.”
N – “What video?”
V- “The one I just showed you.”
N- “No you didn’t.”
Note how the first line of the defence has been resurrected. The destruction of physical property (a manipulation, albeit a base one) was deployed as a Deflection and Distraction and then the narcissist, feeling that the challenge has been addressed, deals with the follow-up challenge from the victim by reverting to the first line again and thus engages in Denial.
Returning to what this act achieves for the narcissist
2. The response of the victim to this manipulation will provide fuel;
3. Superiority is maintained through this act.
How might the Mid-Range Narcissist respond to this escalation on the part of the victim? Denial only worked so far, thus the second line of defence is deployed.
N – “What the hell do you think you are playing at?”
V – “What do you mean?”
N- “Spying on me.”
V – “What? I’m not, I am showing you what you have done.”
N- “Yes you are, I am sick of you trying to control me, spying on me like this. And I am not the only one, John said to me only last week he thinks you are very controlling.”
V- “John thinks that? How do you work that one out?”
N- “Oh he is not the only one a few of my friends think it.”
The victim then gets sucked into justifying her own behaviour, trying to defend herself against the imaginary control she apparently exerts over the narcissist. The narcissist has deployed Blame-Shifting, Triangulation and Smearing as part of the second line of defence and it has worked. Fuel is being provided and the initial allegation about cheating has been left by the way side.
The Mid-Ranger could have Distracted and Deflected by walking off and engaging in a silent treatment (absent or present) or accusing the victim of having an affair (Blame Shifting, Labelling, Projection) and therefore all manner of different manipulations can form part of this second line of defence.
How about the Greater, how might he have responded to the production of this video evidence?
He may have adopted the approach of denial to begin with, however, there is a significant chance that the Greater will have either seen what the Victim had been doing, been tipped off by someone as to what the Victim has done or ascertained from the Victim’s demeanour that there is a potential ace to be produced. Accordingly, the Greater would have not bothered with Denial to begin with. His entire confidence in the efficacy of the second line of defence to this challenge means he can dispense with the first line. Thus, the conversation may have proceeded in this manner :-
V – “I saw you in a bar this evening, Lorenzo’s, and you were with another woman.”
N – “Did you, why didn’t you come in and say hello. I was going to call you. That is Jennifer, old friend of mine.”
V- “Oh, I see, you didn’t say you were meeting her.”
N – “Did I not, I think you will find that I did. I told you a week ago about catching up with her, I haven’t seen her in ages. You have met her before, do you remember? It was when we were at the box at the racing, for Ladies’ Day last summer. You had that delightful dress on, you know, the striking green one.”
Away goes the Greater and embarks on a monologue, drawing up details from the past (real or invented), showering compliments and distracting the victim from the thrust of their complaint. In effect the Greater may deploy a Word Salad to Deflect and Distract and thus gain fuel and maintain superiority. The Greater has a vast array of potential ways of deploying the second line of the defence. For instance he might say :-
“Oh that woman, she is obsessed with me. There’s nothing to worry about. Yes she kissed me, rather presumptuous of her but can you see how I broke it off. I didn’t want her causing a scene, she’s a bit of a looney, but you’ve nothing to worry about there. You aren’t going to let someone like her come between you and me are you?” (Blame Shifting, Smearing, Triangulation, Charm)
“I kissed her, so what. If you kissed me more often, this would not happen. You might want to take notice and up your game or you will lose me.” (Threat, Blame-Shifting, Triangulation)
“It really is nothing, she was just being rather zealous. You know people throw themselves at me, it is you that I want. Why else am I here with you and nobody else? Now, let me feel what a real kiss feels like, hmmm?” (Flattery, Charm, Triangulation)
“I was recruiting her for that threesome you said you wanted, you do remember agreeing to that don’t you? Admittedly, you were a little tipsy but you did say you wanted to do it. She will be calling me at 9 o’clock, to come round, but I wanted you to myself of course before she joins us.” (Triangulation, Gas Lighting)
The Greater will invariably rely on his charm and self-confidence to assert superiority and head off the challenge, possibly switching to the issue of threats if required. Either way, the fuel is obtained and the Deflection and Distraction line of defence remains intact and superiority is maintained and thus control with it.
Denial is the first port of call for us to maintain control (though less so with the Greater) and then the range of manipulations from Gas Lighting, Threat, Word Salad, Silent Treatment, Bullying, Intimidation, Labelling and Triangulation and more besides form part of the second line of defence. We will embed Split Thinking, Volte Face, Hypocrisy, Contradiction within this second line in order to maintain control and keep control on an even keel. Such is the breadth and depth of this second line, you will not breach it and we will keep going until you are forced into a retreat, we are fuelled and we maintain that control that is paramount to us. This is why we do as we do.
21 thoughts on “The Narcissist’s Twin Lines of Defence”
Does a N ever get a sense of relief or hope from finding a Fuel Supply that accepts him for the N that he is and willing to deal with it in whatever way necessary?
1. Most narcissists do not know what they are, so there would never be a desire to find someone who accepts the narcissist as a narcissist. If the word narcissist is not used and you just accept the narcissist for what he is and how he behaves, that would not work because whatever you do or say you will at some point stray into the second or third interaction with the narcissist which will necessitate the deployment of an assertion of control.
2. Those narcissists that know what they are are above needing acceptance, to need acceptance hands power to others and that is unacceptable.
3. Any victim that thinks they could cater for the narcissist by accepting the narcissist for what he or she is, is suffering from emotional thinking and is setting themselves up for many problems.
V- after recent discard and hoover upon finding women’s glasses in Mercedes, wow, these are nice, whose might these belong to?
N- those are my glasses, I didn’t realize they had all those decorations when I purchased them.
V- these are expensive thick frames with sparkly designs you are quite discerning with your purchases. Where did you buy them?
N- I don’t remember. Amazon, maybe the drug store on the way to the dentist so I could read the paperwork.
V- These are expensive prescription glasses and if you got them at a drug store you clearly would see the sparkles and they would look ridiculous. We weren’t together anyway it doesn’t matter.
N- You put them there because you are setting me up. If you want to run around with other men in your car then go ahead I don’t give a bleep!
At which time my feelings are hurt because he didn’t care. Lol 😂
The shelf girl and her glasses were revealed 8 months post escape.
Haha. I’m can sometimes be amused by liars, but one that can’t think on his feet unforgivable.
When we talked about it once after getting back together briefly he had mentioned the times I had accused him, I said I chose to let things go in favor of hoping he had changed this time and wanted to go he was free to see others as I would too since I don’t have much free time. He said “oh, you don’t believe me?” I said “no, Of course I don’t, just hoping you won’t bother next time because no reason to.” But of course he did.
I’m laughing at “Vent your spleen,”.
You may know that these same tactics (deny & deflect) are established tools used for media management by execs and politicians trained to do so by top global agencies. Wonder if a founding narc transferred his/her inherent skills long ago?
Just when I was sure mine was not , as I had suspected, a Greater, and had settled with Upper Mid Ranger, I read this !
He TOTALLY responds like a greater.
Why are you teaching us whom you call opponents about your secrets? Are you becoming an inferior empath yourself?
1. They are not my opponents. I do not know the good readers of my work in my private life. Thus what they learn does not adversely impact on me.
2. Why do it? See the about section.
3. Very droll – no I am not, there’s nothing inferior here thank you very much.
What does empathy have to do with inferiority? Where do you see a connection between these two concepts?
Ugh. You are incessantly exhausting.
I am a prisoner to this reality you described in this article. I’m divorced thankfully…. but these 4 kids…. he is the supreme leader….
I just want to be free. Its better than when i wad married for sure…. but those tendrils… still have a mighty grip at my ankles bc of my 4 angels.
Angels w the devil. There’s an irony for u.
A friend once told me that an ex-girlfriend of my narcissist said that he “was the best at Gas Lighting you’ve ever seen.” (Pretty sure she has not met you, HG.) My narcissist would probably be proud of her compliment while denying ever doing such a thing. He certainly had no trouble with manipulation and standing his ground, as shaky as it was.
It amazes me how well they can boldly stand there and deny the obvious truth, barely batting an eye. But if you look closely, you can see them squirm, even if only for a second. It was those microexpressions that gave mine away… as well as that empty look in his eye. When he was lying, his eyes glazed a bit. It was as if he was transporting himself to another dimension.
I made plenty of mistakes, going on and on with my evidence as you displayed in your examples. Shotly after I ended it, we’d still speak, and I found myself bringing up rumors and such of his activities… mainly as a reminder to myself that he wasn’t changing as he proclaimed. But his behaviors still bothered me. So I confronted him but with less intensity, trying to act as though I didn’t much care.
So HG, after we state the evidence and then disengage, what typically goes through the head of a narcissist… once you see that we are no longer willing to play the game or engage in battle?
Does the narcissist typically change his approach in deniability or is this when he goes silent, seeks solace in his secondary sources or simply searches for new?
Does he only want to “prove” his innnocence if we are interrogating him with emotionally-filled questions? You say you keep going until we are forced into retreat, but if we state the obvious and then walk away… is this when he thinks we have him worked out, so he goes elsewhere?
That was thirst quenching. I do appreciate being able to look inside the world of a narcissist because it helps “us” in understanding that “we” are not crazy or that something is wrong with us.
Thank you. I hope a movie is in the works!
You are welcome.
Great post HG, as usual. It’s very telling and true to life. It’s really amazing how a narc will use every opportunity to lie and triangulate in the middle of their denials and deflections. The addition of green (blouse and dress) in your post to suggest the colour of envy or jealousy is a nice touch too.
How should an empath react when faced with denials and distractions?
1. Disengage from the manipulation ; or
2. State your truth once and without emotion and then disengage.
Thank you for the great advice HG.
So… there is no narcissistic inclination toward feeling like this is just all too complicated + too much work?
No, it is instinctive but lower echelon narcissists may find the process tiring after a time, but it still happens because it is an instinctive self-defence.