We repeatedly provoke. The act of provocation is one which is designed to cause a strong and often unwelcome emotion in the recipient. On one level, it can be said that everything we do is provocative because we are always looking to cause you to be emotional, to react in an emotional fashion to what we do and as a consequence give us the fuel that we need. Thus when we tell you that we have finally found our soul mate, we are provoking you into generating an intense feeling of being loved (or at least thinking that you are being loved) which causes you to exhibit your love towards us and thus we gain our fuel. We pay a friend a compliment in order to provoke that person into at least thanking us, thus a small dollop of positive fuel or more hopefully (and indeed more likely because this empathic secondary source is well-mannered, honest and decent) we pay them a compliment so they will pay one to us and thus more fuel is garnered. There is no unconditional giving with our kind. We only give to receive.

Thus all of the things that we say and do, the manipulations, the chicanery, the machinations and the mind games are all designed to provoke you into giving us fuel. However, in its strictest sense, we provoke you in order to generate that intense response and one which is negative in nature. We provoke you so that you will explode in anger, erupt in a stream of profane insults and vent your frustration through a slap to the face or a mug hurled towards us.

We will push and push and push. Yes, many of you have a remarkable capacity to absorb these pointy sticks which jab you. Your kind are well-versed and skilled in the turning of the cheek, the adoption of the high ground and the making of allowances. You will bury the hatchet and we will dig it up again in order to give you a dig from the sharp point. You will let bygones be bygones and we will resurrect the memory of an age-old issue in order to rankle you.

Nothing is off limits in terms of provoking you. It might be focusing on a vulnerability of yours that we know about (having acquired this information when we seduced you) so that we remind you of a frightening episode from your childhood or capitalise on your terror of spiders. It might be homing in on your sensitivity about the size of your nose, the shape of your head, the bright red of your embarrassment. If you owe us money, we shall remind you of it and comment on your poor financial position. We may flirt because we know how much you hate the notion of us being unfaithful. We may repeatedly turn up late because you are an advocate of punctuality. We may criticise your parents, your choice of film, your culinary skills, your attempts to loser weight; whatever we have identified as a means for causing you to erupt at us we will do it.

We know which buttons to press. We have a knack and an instinct for doing so. This is because we are able to gather information about you when we seduce you which will be stored away and used against you at a later stage. This is also because empathic individuals are more likely to respond in an emotional fashion. Yes, you will soak it up at first by making allowances for our behaviour and indeed making excuses, exhibiting this selfless understanding for which you are famed. This will not dissuade us. We know that everybody has a limit of what they can take before they snap. Sometimes it is bursting into tears, running from the room or screaming. Other times it is exploding with a volley of curses, coming at us with flailing arms or shouting and screaming at the top of your voice about how awful we are.

Push, prod, niggle. Aggravate, rile, irritate. Ruffle, vex, bug. Irk incense and annoy. We will chip away at your defences, jabbing and poking as we look to make your blood boil, get on your nerves, get under your skin,  work you into lather and try your patience until you can take no more. We can sense the emotion rising in you. We notice the slight tells, the narrowing of the eyes, the rolling of the eyes, the sighs, the shake of the head, the hands on the hips, the raised palm, the jutting jaw and so on. The more you try to tell us that we are not getting to you, the more we are encouraged. We know that your emotion is building up inside of you. We know that it is increasing and no matter how much you are trying to maintain that cool exterior, we understand what is building up.

We not only have a medley of ways by which we provoke you, but we are experts in choosing precisely the best (worst) time to engage in this behaviour. Do any of these instances seem familiar?

When you are trying to get ready to go out.

When you are trying to have a telephone conversation with somebody else.

When you are trying to cook.

When you are trying to perform some chore.

When you are trying to get to sleep.

When you first come through the door after a long day.

When sat next to us in the car on a long journey.

When sat across from us in a restaurant.

When at some event of your choosing.

We will pick an inopportune time to commence our provocation so that you are caught off guard, when you are tired, when you are hungry, when you are anxious or stressed. The moment must be right for us and wholly inappropriate for you and then we can unleash the relevant form of provocation. We know what really gets to you. It may be the subject matter. It might be the way of conveying it, for instance patronising you or acting in a condescending fashion. It could be jabbing you with a finger on the shoulder to punctuate or words or giving you a dig in the back as you lie on your side in bed, after each savage sentence.

Eventually comes the eruption. You can only take so much and invariably when this provocation comes allied with an emotional state which makes you more susceptible to our provocations the explosion is all the more satisfying. Copious amounts of negative fuel fountain from you as you shout, scream, bang doors, slam your hand on the work top, swear and so forth. Inside we are soaring with the power that comes from the provision of this most excellent fuel. You, the paragon of virtue, the most patient of saints has been brought to boiling point and we achieved it. You have responded to our control. Our superiority is once again affirmed, we are the puppetmasters, we are omnipotent in our actions and you have responded as we wanted. Such marvellous fuel that sprays from you and we relish every drop.

Of course as it fountains and flows from you we will not want it to stop and the provocation will continue. Not only are we ensuring that we get to bathe in your overflowing fuel, we are using this eruption as evidence of how unhinged you are. Do not be surprised if this niggling, poking provocation occurs where others will see it. You can expect the whispered and insidious provocations to be used, the acts which are open to interpretation (although we both full well know exactly what was meant by our remark, our look or our gesture) and our good friend plausible deniability will be given an airing.

“Who me officer? I did nothing. She just exploded. I get this all the time, she has an anger management problem. John here will confirm she just went mental and started hitting me.” (Cue obliging Lieutenant).

“I don’t know what gets into her dad, she just erupts. You saw what she was like at mum’s birthday party. That is what I have to live with.”

“I feel sorry for you Mrs Johnson, having a daughter with a temper like that.”

We will provoke you. We will draw the delicious fuel that you will provide to us and then we will use your eruption against you as evidence of your unhinged mind, nasty temperament and unbalanced mental state.

Provocation is a mainstay of our behaviour. It comes in many forms, it is used in many different ways and on a range of occasions but its effects are always the same.

  1. The provision of a massive dose of negative fuel from a primary source;
  2. The exertion of control over you;
  3. The reinforcement of our image of superiority, lack of accountability and omnipotence;
  4. The creation of an emotional state in you which hampers your ability to think clearly and logically;
  5. The creation of a situation where you can later be made to feel guilty for erupting in the way you have at us;
  6. The manufacturing of a scenario which is used to reinforce our façade – we were calm and bewildered by this outburst.
  7. The manufacturing of a scenario which is used to smear you to third parties.

Provocation is a very useful tool to us. It is used extensively and repeatedly. Know why it is being used. Do not try to outlast it and exert your capability for patience, tolerance and understanding. You are just goading us to try harder. Remove yourself before your threshold is reached to avoid giving us points 1-7 above.

Provocation will always be used against you.

Anyway, who do you think you are looking at?


19 thoughts on “Provocation

  1. Lou says:

    I really like this article, HG. It describes the very core of narcissistic behavior. My mother tried to provoke me last weekend and cause more damage to my relationship with my younger sister (which truly behaves like a narc towards me, but I still think she is not. But that’s another story). My Darth Moeder loves to provoke so that she can get negative fuel, feel superior, in control and have material to smear me even more and maintain her façade.
    I did not react to her manipulation. However, I know she uses my no contact to smear me too (“she is bitter, unhappy, jealous, immature, emotionally unstable, has mental issues… Who would not speak to their mother? I care and worry about her”). I am laughing as I write this, which I take as a good sign of my recovery.
    So NC can also be a weapon to smear the victim. However, I suppose it is by far the lesser of two evils (she does not get all the benefits listed above and I protect myself against her)
    Go narc yourself and starve mother..

  2. Mary says:

    Clarece, NarcAngel and Jess:

    I appreciate all of you providing feedback. NarcAngel, you did not say anything to make me feel bad. I do however, find myself making excuses in my head for him again, but believe this one is legit.

    He does a lot for my folks. He has fixed my mom’s computer countless times voluntarily, and he has even gone to my cousin’s house to help him, when he was in that town for work. I wouldn’t know how to do these things, and to me, buying cards for family members on both sides and mailing them seems like a small price. He does all of the yard work, and any lifting that is needed due to my chronic pain. He cooks way more than me because he likes to. We each do our own laundry. Some women don’t have it that good. In many ways, it feels like he has to cater to my needs so that’s why I feel guilty when I fail at something. But the fact is I already feel guilty and don’t need him driving the knife in further. And he has given me shit about having pain in the past, and being forgetful. (Taking antidepressants, beta blockers and a muscle relaxer daily will fuck with a person’s memory. I’ve reminded him of that. He said, “Well, whose fault is that?” He later said he was kidding.)

    So on one hand, I’m sharing what he does and asking what y’all think. On the other, I’m defending him. He does a LOT for me and it would be unfair if I didn’t say that. But it doesn’t excuse the cruel nature of his comments. Also, he gives zero emotional support when bad shit happens. My dad died, and he did not come to the funeral until the very tail end. He was working, but he has a job where he can schedule most things around and be there if something is important enough. (But churches and family gatherings make him very uncomfortable. But I was never all that close to my Dad. Still, it sucks he was not there until the very end. But maybe I should be thankful he was there at all.) This is the back and forth I go through every time something hurtful happens, feeling like he is insensitive, then feeling like no, I’m expecting too much. No one is perfect. God knows I’m not.


    1. Mary
      So everything he does is a gift and appreciated and all that you do is expected and not good enough in the end? I thought the idea of 2 people in a union is that they assist one another, or do things for each other without keeping score, not waiting for an opportunity to cite disappointment and instill a feeling of failure in the other. Must be one of those fairytales we were told. You seem determined to provide him with excuses and berate yourself. Part of his conditioning of you (and who knows who before him). Only you can change that if you want to.

      That is what it looks like to me from out here. I wont comment further.

      1. Mary says:

        Hi NarcAngel,

        You are right, there is conditioning in me to give infinite excuses. Score keeping is definitely not healthy or okay. A lot of things have happened that are NOT okay. I have attempted to make a change. This January, I looked at a few apartments. However, not wanting to blindside him, I shared with him that I was doing so, and he modified one or two behaviors so it feels like he is trying. I don’t know that he is trying out of genuine love, because he never really acknowledged what I confronted him with, but it’s like he thinks he can suddenly act better and that suddenly sweeps under the rug past behavior that he never fully acknowledged why he did it. I can understand and forgive a lot if I understand someone’s reasons.

        This kind of behavior, the giving “just enough” to feel like he’s making an effort, is very confusing, and that is why I go back and forth, but i know it’s frustrating for anyone here listening and trying to help, because of that constant see-sawing. Please know I do hear you and take to heart everything you have said, here and on other threads.


    2. Jess says:

      This is understandable Mary. If they didn’t do positive things for us then we would definitely leave them. They know this. These things are often what keep us staying put. They like to take over responsibility so that we don’t feel like we can ever leave them. Who would mow the lawn, pick up my kid from school, cook for me? “I’m a terrible cook. I would starve!” They count on these things.

      Also, I noticed you mentioned chronic pain. I’m a nurse and massage therapist. (14 yrs) Many victims are often misdiagnosed with chronic pain. The constant stress of the push/pull, verbal assaults and insults will cause an inflammatory response in your body. It will manifest as pain or will worsen existing pain conditions like back/neck injuries or arthritis. Pay attention to how your body feels when he is stressing you out.

      Much love Mary.

      1. Mary says:


        That makes a lot of sense, that narcs would take care of so many practical things to create a dependence, and a fear of not being able to make it without them. It looks (to others especially, but also us) like they must care, but their motives aren’t that simple.

        I appreciate your thoughts on how the relationship issues contribute to pain conditions. To fill you in a bit, I have fibromyalgia (due to muscle spasms in shoulders) and also have some bulging discs, one in my neck, one in my lumbar spine. The low back pain tends to come from muscle spasms and tension around the bulging disc, I guess. Epidural steroid injections helped a ton, but as you know, can only be repeated so often. I also have intermittent a-fib which causes shortness of breath, and am only 41 years old. The fibro began in my early 30s, and the a-fib in late 30s. I do think the a-fib is triggered by the flexeril taken for fibro, but anytime I try to stop taking flexeril, am unable to function due to pain. So it’s a catch 22. To hubby, it seems unbelievable that anyone this young would have all these health issues and look fine.

        It does feel like certain symptoms worsen at times when things are tense with us. On the other hand, sometimes I think my being in pain triggers him to be an asshole. For example, he decides (after months of zero affection) THAT is when he wants to have sex, and when he sees me struggle to reach something I dropped, he is standing right there and doesn’t help pick it up because he is HOPING I’ll bend over and he can see down my shirt or something. It’s seriously fucked up.

        So you can see why I haven’t left. It’s hard to think of moving on and starting over, when my body is so inflamed and exhausted. But that is quite possibly the best argument for leaving!


  3. Ting says:

    I am divorced from my narc but I had a dear friend of mine pass away. I went to the viewing and there were two of his lieutenants at the viewing. Neither one of them knew my friend, had never met her. The narc was not there yet, but I knew he had his lieutenants there to cause me pain. He thought if I saw them I would blow up and cause a scene and make myself look crazy (he told everybody I was mentally unstable). Of course, nobody else gave them a second look, never wondered why they were there, and he wasn’t there yet, so it was nothing he did. I never said a word. I paid my respects, talked to the family and I left quietly. I pretended I never saw them. No, nothing is below them. Even the death of a close friend was a way for him to try and validate the things he said about me and gain fuel. It didn’t work, but only because I have learned so much over the past couple of years. Thanks HG.

    1. HG Tudor says:

      You are welcome

    2. Mary says:


      I’m so sorry for the loss of your friend, and it really is sickening that the narc tried to hurt you further at a time when you were already grieving. Nothing is off limits to them. They really is no level they won’t sink to. Thank goodness you saw this attempt for what it was, and did not take the bait. Ignoring them was a smart move.

      1. Chrissie says:

        I have to admit that when I saw them, my anger flared and I would have loved to have let them have it, but I would never have disgraced my friends memory like that. It also bothered me that nobody else saw it except me, but that was how it was lots of times. Only I got the “true” message he was sending. I didn’t realize what it was at the time, but I do now.

  4. Sherry says:

    If any article could clearly articulate the mind of what a 2 year old toddler is thinking, it would be this one.

    1. Truth 🙂

  5. Mary says:

    At the store yesterday, I mentioned to my hub that we need to find his dad a card for Father’s Day. He said “There’s no point. It will never get there on time.” This felt like a dig/provocation because I had sent the Mother’s Day card to his mom later than intended, and I think it arrived one day late. I felt like he was deliberately trying to make me feel like a failure, and rather than say one word, I just walked away.

    He had a right to say something. I am kind of bad about buying a card early, and then forgetting to mail it. But saying it just when I was looking at cards felt like a provocation, and like it had no constructive purpose.

    1. Clarece says:

      Wow Mary! I think you should tell him he is now in charge of the purchasing and distribution of his parents gifts and cards.

    2. Jess says:

      It was an attempted provocation and it seems he didn’t get a reaction but succeeded in making you feel guilty. Empaths feel guilty about things and it keeps them in a state of negative self reflection rather than pointing out the narcissists abuse. It was his mother…he should have sent the card on time. Atleast you were thoughtful enough to send a card.

      1. NarcAngel says:

        Mary and Jess
        It was also his Fathers card and he could mail it. I would have just said ok when he said not to bother as it would have been late. Let him explain to his Father that he left the card buying and mailing to someone else. He has you conditioned Mary to catering to all of his needs and by extension even those he is responsible for. He sets you up to fail and feel guilty. Let me ask you this: does he buy your Moms card and mail it on time? No? Then in my world he can just shut the fuck up and buy his own card like a real man and son would do. But he is not in my world and he should be grateful to you.

      2. Jess says:

        100% agree with you. Fuck. That. We’re empaths and feel guilty about enough. This was abuse and even if he didn’t get fueled from a reaction, Mary feels guilt unnecessarily. He was not within his right to say something like that to her. His parents = his responsibility. He’d be sending his own damn cards from now on.

        It breaks my heart and drives me insane to see empaths misplacing guilt on themselves. I hope that what I’m saying helps you Mary and doesn’t make you feel worse.

        1. NarcAngel says:

          Jess and Mary

          Yes, good point Jess

          Mary. It was not meant to make you feel bad in what I said either. It was to point out that you need not bear all of the responsibility or feel guilt in being set up to feel the weight of failure. Even reminding him to get a card is gracious of you and should not be an expectation. You are going above and beyond already.

    3. Bubbles 🍾 says:

      Dear Mary,
      Mr Bubbles buys his own choice of card, as we have different tastes, you know blokey cards for his brothers …. writes on them and posts them himself … I do the same with my lot. If we have mutual friends we choose together. Celebrations we attend ….. we hand deliver with a gift. We usually shop together but for cards we buy in quantity for the year from our birthday book so it gives us more time for bubble baths …..haha

      At Xmas time, Mr Bubbles has always had his own list and I have my list and he’d send his and I’d send mine and we each pay for our own ….simple, we’ve always done it . Then there’s no blame game, it’s never too late to start new systems my sweet. The comments I’ve read here appear to be most constructive and supportive.
      I’ve found a lot of people don’t do cards anymore …. everything is on Facebook .
      All the best with that Mary and I hope you find a good compromise.
      Bubbles xx
      Ps … you can always blame the shocking postal service … haha

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