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.
8 thoughts on “The Narcissist’s Twin Lines of Defence”
Where you will find a narcissist, many times you will find a co-dependent enmeshed with that narcissist. The co-dependent person is like the flip-side of the same coin. They are the narcissist’s appliance. They can live in the narcissist’s shadow and be that person’s sidekick for years, decades or even a lifetime. All that time spent under the narcissist’s control and domination means they have very weak defences, no sense of a defined self, and no experience of thinking autonomously and living independently.
Being in the company of the narcissist for a long time means they even adopt some of the same narcissistic ways. They see nothing wrong with the dynamic and will fall in line with the narcissist’s views and opinions. They will manipulate, criticise, become jealous of, and play on the weaknesses of others in solidarity with the narcissist. They will also try to evoke sympathy, guilt and obligation because it becomes the norm in terms of how to relate to other people. They don’t do it in the same relentless domineering way the narcissist does, however, they don’t reject the behaviours as unhealthy either. They even defend the narcissist when others try to tell them the dynamic is harmful for them.
The sad thing is that if the narcissist leaves them or passes away, they are left alone and ‘lost’. They’ve never learned to live independently or from outside their narcissist’s shadow. It seems they can’t manage their lives alone. They are like fully grown helpless children.
In your opinion, are they as helpless as they seem? When alone and no longer under the control and influence of the narcissist, can they learn to become more autonomous and less co-dependent? If people help or support them, will they want that person to take the place of the narcissist in order to continue the same kind of control-based dynamic?
A co-dependent does not adopt the behaviour of the narcissist, rather their own narcissistic traits come to the fore owing to the wearing down of their empathy. The book Chained answers your questions.
Thank you HG. I haven’t read ‘Chained’ yet, but it sounds interesting. I’ll put it on my list of your books I want to read for better understanding.
The reason I ask is that I don’t know whether to support the co-dependent person or not. Does support actually translate as enabling them? Does that give them more ‘energy’ to keep doing what the narcissist wants? Or would it be better to be ‘cruel to be kind’ to them?
I will read ‘Chained’ to understand this better.
WiserNow If you haven’t already done so you should read chained. Being co-dependent myself I didn’t get it the first time I read it. It wasn’t until I learned for sure that I was co-dependent (and accepted it) and read it a second time that everything seemed to make sense.
Thank you foolme1time. I will read Chained to get a better understanding. It sounds like a great book, an eye-opener that would answer a few questions I have.
WiserNow. Your welcome. I hope you find the answers your looking for.
Great comment, WN.
Thank you nunya biz 🙂