We are masters of the back-handed compliment, the flattery which is actually a form of provocation, the kings of seemingly pleasant comments which are really put downs. We appear with that radiant and broad smile as we then slip a stiletto knife between your ribs with deft ease. Nobody else sees us do this. It appears to everyone else, as we stand there with our false smile plastered across our faces, that we are giving you a loving hug. Our outside appearance to the world and the maintenance of our façade remains intact as we slip through your defences and land a blow against you. We revel in seeing you smiling in return, your eyes lighting up with delight at our benign manner towards you only then for you to realise the import of what we have actually said. As the metaphorical dagger pierces your skin, you realise what is actually meant by what we have said to you. It appeared as a compliment but in actual fact we have told you something which will trouble you, upset you or anger you. Your eyes narrow with confusion and we see that look of uncertainty cross your face as you cannot quite believe what is happening. Did you hear what we said correctly? Have you misinterpreted the comment that we made? Did we really just say that? We can see how you are torn between wanting to accept the supposed compliment and then that sinking sensation as you realise that we have just made a barbed comment which appeared to be a pleasant one. The look on your face is akin to the look of bewildered astonishment that one might see on a wildebeest as it is brought to ground by a hungry lion and is eaten alive from behind. It cannot quite comprehend what is happening and neither can you.
What makes it worse is that to everyone else we appear to be smiling, hugging you and being pleasant. You want to react. You want to push us away from you. You want to chastise us, lash out and reprimand us for what we have just said, but the way that we framed this back-handed compliment means that you would appear mean, ungrateful and churlish if you did so. Just as we remain close to you, holding you, dagger still lodged between your ribs as we slowly twist it, you can do nothing but remain where you are as everyone else looks on thinking that we are being pleasant to you. We know that because you are a decent and pleasant person you are conditioned to accept the compliment and not rail against it, even when you realise that it is actually hurtful. This allows us to see just how strong our control over you is. If you react to the barbed comment and lash out at us, crying or shouting at us for our remark, then we gain fuel. If you remain silent and confused by it, unable to mask your hurt and disappointment, we still gain fuel but we also derive a significant indication of our power over you. We are able to make a hurtful remark seem like a compliment and have you accept it. This is a useful way for us to put you down whilst appearing to be pleasant. It also allows us to reinforce our perceived superiority over you through the application of this control. This technique also utilises our favoured mechanism of plausible deniability. There is a degree of ambiguity whereby if you attempted to pin the blame on us for precisely what we have intended to say, we would be able to reject that assertion. We are able to accuse you of reading too much into it, twisting our words and over-reacting. All favourite methods of rejecting you intended blame and of stoking the emotional fires further. We can feign hurt by stating we were paying you a compliment and you have taken it the wrong way. Again. We then want you to apologise, soothe us and feel guilty for trying to suggest that we would do anything other than be pleasant to you. Of course, this technique where we come with smiles as we plunge our critical knife into you, is one which we revel in deploying and is just part of our arsenal that is designed to mess with your thinking. Did we say what you thought we said? What did we really mean from that comment? Are you in fact over-analysing it or should you trust your initial judgement here? All of these factors unsettle, confuse and undermine you, eroding your confidence and clouding your judgement. It is all par the course and entirely why we behave as smiling assassins. There are numerous ways this is done and here are seven of the often used back-handed provocations.
We will talk to you in a condescending tone for the purposes of belittling you, making you feel inferior and causing us to look far better by comparison. We offer unwanted advice, talk to you from the position of always knowing what is right and what is best. Of course, should you challenge this overly paternalistic approach to the way we deal with you we will point out that we only want what is best for you, that we are only trying to help you and so have your best interests at heart. Is it a crime to do that for you?
- Insider Jokes
We will engage in making comments which cause members of our devout coterie to laugh and giggle but you are left in the dark as to what is so funny. We will use terms that amuse us and our followers considerably but seem meaningless to you. This will make you feel uncomfortable and isolated and if you should commence some kind of protest we will point out that we have not involved you because you would be bored by the silliness (thus inferring you have no sense of humour but making it seem as if you are above our schoolboy sniggering and this is a good thing) or that you would not be interested in our style of humour because you are too highbrow for such base comments and observations.
- Our Ex
We will repeatedly mention that our ex is still in love with us, indeed he or she still tries to contact us and they leave messages and have telephoned us a few times. Of course we tell you that you have no need to worry because that was in the past and we are with you now, you are the person that matters. This is designed to make it appear like we can brush aside the presence of our ex because we are in love with you. In fact, although it sounds like this, we use it as a means of securing carte blanche for mentioning the ex on many occasions so it unsettles you. Of course you are hamstrung from saying anything because that would make you seem insecure and you do not want to show that this is true. Thus we feel free to keep making mention of our ex and continue to triangulate them with you.
- Ignoring You
We ignore you and dole out a silent treatment with all of the fuel providing and control ramification which arise from this particular manipulation. Should you even begin to protest we point out that we are so glad we are with you because you understand our need for space and some time to ourselves. This appears like a compliment and is designed to flatter you into allowing us to keep doling out these silent treatments as and when we want in order to ignore you because we can then focus on gaining fuel from other parties when we are apart from you.
- The Ex Again
We talk incessantly about the qualities of the ex, highlighting all of their many wonderful attributes (which of course is a sudden change from when we were calling them demon spawn when we first seduced you but that’s all changed now). We babble on about how marvellous they are, the funny things they said, how beautiful they looked, the achievements they secured and so on before telling you that we are so pleased that you are so understanding that we can talk about past relationships with you. This supposed compliment restricts you from commenting adversely but we know that inside you are fuming and desperate to reprimand us in some way. How we delight in knowing this and seeing you trying to maintain a pleasant smile when inside we know you are dying.
We flirt shamelessly and we know you see us doing this. We also know how it hurts and angers you but we fire a compliment your way by telling you that it is refreshing to be with someone who allows us to be ourselves, someone who is not jealous and someone who is so trusting. These compliments are designed to keep you quiet as we get on with doing what we please. We draw fuel from those we flirt with and all the while we keep casting backward glances to the trusting you seeing the gathering anger in your eyes.
- Spending Time with Others
We spend time with other people. It may be chatting someone up in the bar, hanging out with our friends, chasing down new prospects, wowing the crowd at a work function and so on. This blatant fuel-gathering is crucial to us and when we wander in later after our third consecutive night out we head you off at the pass by praising you by saying how lucky we are to have someone who understands that because they get all of our attention most of the time, we need to be able to spend some time with other people. Once again, this comment is designed to back you into a corner and have you standing, arms crossed and fuming, teetering between our control and providing us with even more fuel.
The word ‘discard’ is well-known in the lexicon of the narcissistic world. I prefer disengagement since it is more accurate. Our rejection of you is temporary. However, for the sake of familiarity, this article will persist with discard.
The discard forms one of the four cornerstones of the traditional narcissistic embrace. The seduction, the devaluation, the discard and the hoover. There are many variations on this, something that many commentators and victims do not realise, but that is a matter for a different day.
Discard brings with it a sense of finality. The impression that we have extracted everything we can from you and that we are finally done with you. You have served your purpose and we no longer have any use for you. I do not think discard is an accurate description. We certainly toss you aside with no concern for your well-being or emotional state. We suddenly stop communicating with you. You cannot contact us as we vanish, walking off the face of the earth. If you receive some kind of half-baked explanation, then you ought to consider yourself as lucky to receive even that. We are, however, never done with you. The discard as such is a temporary cessation to the dance that you and I engage in.
I have written elsewhere of the main reasons why we discard and chief among them is the fact that we have acquired a new toy. You are old, stale and no fun anymore so you are left at the bottom of the toy box as we become infatuated with our new shiny and glittering toy. Of course your discard is not permanent. Once I selected you, you had a role to fulfil for the rest of your life when it comes to me. You have no choice, so far as I am concerned, in respect of this role. I assigned it to you and I regard you as obligated to carry it out forever. I may decide that I require you again for the purposes of triangulation. I may want the new primary source to pump out even more positive fuel because they feel threatened by your re-appearance. Like some corpse, we resurrect you in order to unnerve the new primary source. We will hoover you and tempt you with the prospect of winning our favour once again. When we triangulate you in this fashion you can rest assured that what is being said to you will be said in a similar way to the new primary source. We may comment to you: –
“She is just someone to pass the time with, she is nowhere near as special as you are to me.”
Around the same time, we will be telling your replacement primary source,
“Don’t worry about her. She cannot let go. I am not surprised really because I did so much for her, but it is you I want, you are so special, far more than she ever was.”
You are spurred on by such encouragement and double your efforts to please me in the hope of winning me back. The replacement is spurred on by such encouragement and she doubles her efforts to keep me and ensure you prove to be no temptation to me.
We will bring you back if the new prospect turns out to be less effective than we thought. We decide that they need to be consigned to the scrap heap quicker than usual and therefore we will turn to that person we know. You. We know all about you and how you will react and therefore it is far easier to return to you and hoover you than seek someone new again. This has the added benefit that the passage of time will have allowed you to recover from our abuse but also the longing that we imbue in you, when we discard, will continue to gnaw away at you and thus when we decide we have ended the “discard” you are easy to hoover.
We may be utterly delighted with your replacement but decide we will end the “discard” in order to punish you further. At this stage we have no interest in engaging in a romantic and intimate relationship with you again. Your replacement serves that role most effectively. No, we want to punish you. We will hoover you in an unpleasant and savage way, smearing you and parading your replacement around to all and sundry and explaining how wonderful it is to be with someone who truly understands us, loves us and is not abusive as you were.
We may toss you aside and come nowhere near you for weeks, months and even years. We know that the nature of this “discard” is such that no matter how hard you try; you remain vulnerable to being sucked back in. This is because you have not been able to cope with the ever presence we created and your frequent reminders of the golden period. It is also because you want answers, finality and understanding and because we flounced off the face of the earth, you did not get those things and the desire to receive them remains strong even years later.
We do not truly discard you. We push you to one side but you serve many purposes afterwards. You recover so your fuel provision increases again, you are the provider of both positive and negative fuel, dependent on how we hoover you. You are needed for the triangulations we wish to deploy. This cycle of picking you up and putting you down again, as and when suits us, is one that will go on and on until such time as you decide to break the pattern of “discards” and escape instead. Of course when you try to escape us we do not regard this as ending our binding arrangement. You are mis-guided, perhaps listening to the biased voices of others which is affecting your judgement. You, in our minds, do not get to choose when the arrangement ends. All the way through our lives, we will use you and then push you to one side before coming back again at some future point. If you allow us the means of contact by drifting into our sphere of influence again then we will hoover you, because the opportunity is too good to pass up. You are then drawn in, the cycle commences once more and a further “discard” will happen. You can see by the repeated nature of this process that there is no real discard, only a temporary cessation to our entanglement, but one tendril always remains wrapped around, continuing the connection so that we can draw you back in at our choice.
Even if you take steps whereby you expose us for what we are or reveal us to other people who accept what you say, we will withdraw to lick our wounds but this discard is temporary also. We still want your fuel and we want it badly. We also have a desire for revenge. We may not resume matters in a benign method when this happens and instead opt for the malign approach in order to extract fuel, but the entanglement will begin again at some future point.
We put you down but you can always be picked up again. Rest assured that this will happen repeatedly and even if you think the nature of the discard was so harsh, so savage and seemed so final, it was not. We will return, if able and do it all again.
The only true discard of our toxic entanglement is when one of us dies. Only then is there finality.
The first battle that takes places post disengagement is the Emotional Battle. That is a battle that you are always destined to lose. You will always fight at least one Emotional Battle because you do not know any other way. In all likelihood, you will face several of these post disengagement battles because you will keep being hoovered back into our grasp until such time as you learn to recognise what you are dealing with and understand what you must do. Eventually and this may take several Emotional Battles before you realise this and are capable of achieving the appropriate response, you either evade the Emotional Battle by escaping as opposed to being disengaged, or you prepare yourself for the eventual disengagement in a manner which means you no longer have to ensure the Emotional Battle. Instead, you move on to the next post disengagement battle, that of Head versus Heart (“the HvH Battle”).
The HvH Battle (also known as the Logic v Emotion Battle) is a battleground where you stand some chance of victory. This battleground is one where you have gained understanding. It might be through your repeated exposure to our kind so that eventually something has “clicked” into place or more often than not it is as a consequence of an external agent who has explained matters to you. It might by a therapist, a friend, the content of a book, something you saw on YouTube or even something that I have written. Whatever has caused this understanding to increase, it is this which provides you with the fighting chance to win this HvH Battle.
You have been disengaged from and run the gamut of emotional fall-out thereafter. You may understand what we are. You may understand some of the things that we have done. You may be familiar with the fact that we will try to hoover you back into our grip. You may even be starting to comprehend that what has happened was all predicated on an illusion. The degree of understanding will vary but what is important for you is that you are allowing logical thought to be heard above the raw heat of your emotions. You once again will not just be battling against us but also yourself. We will be looking to hoover you in order to draw you back into our grip or perhaps we will be unleashing a malign hoover since we are unable to draw you back into our false reality and therefore we opt to keep extracting negative fuel by way of punishment for your treachery. You have us as an opponent, but you will also be fighting yourself as your emerging logic grapples with the still churning emotion. You have learned many things and you know you should apply what you have learned but still there is the emotional pull that you experience. You are not removed or detached from your emotions, they have not dimmed either, they are still there, raging away. The hurt, the love, the longing, the passion, the fear and the upset. An ocean of emotion which you once tried to cross but that was the First Emotional Battle and you had barely taken four strokes as you began to swim before you were engulfed by the emotion and sank to the bottom of this sea, drowned by your own emotion. Now you have built a vessel. It is made from cool, hard logic. Critical thinking, once a stranger to you during your savage devaluation, has re-appeared. You can analyse and assess. It is unlikely you are able to do so at the level you once enjoyed before we came along but it is there. Whether this vessel is a tiny raft, a dinghy, a boat or a hulking great liner depends very much on the extent of your understanding. The choppy emotional seas will smash against your vessel of logic. A wave of sorrow will buffet you, a tsunami of longing will threaten to swamp you once again. Wave after wave of emotion will try and capsize your vessel as you try to navigate this emotional ocean. Chances are your life raft will be smashed to match wood and you will be tipped into the sea to drown once again as emotion subsumes you and you find yourself back in our hold. Your clipper may be holed beneath the waterline and you start to take on board more and more emotion as steadily you sink beneath the emotional waves once again. It is during this HvH Battle as you try to cross the emotional ocean, because what you must do is reach the dry land beyond and in effect put an ocean but you and us, you will be subjected to the push and pull of your emotions trying to guide you, to control your decision-making, your head will tell you one thing as your heart screams something else at you. This is probably the harder battle for you to fight. In the Emotional Battle, you do not stand a chance and your defeat is swift and total. During the HvH Battle you will make gains, suffer losses, seem to making a breakthrough and then out of nowhere a tidal wave will flip you from your boat and into the churning ocean and you drown once again. All the while we will be whipping up the waves, firing our torpedoes at you as we endeavour to cause you to sink into this emotional ocean yet again and you fail to cross it and win this battle. How might this HvH Battle manifest in the real world?
- You will know you ought not to contact us but you need to send a message to see if we respond.
- You will keep checking our social media profiles to ascertain if you are mentioned, if we are with somebody else and/or to find out what we are doing.
- You will ask about us to our coterie and lieutenants, often unwittingly doing so, so this is fed back to us.
- You will go on dates but find you are always comparing this new person to us and they are always found to be wanting.
- You know what the outcome will be but you just want one more night with us.
- You realise that we are unlikely to change but if you do not try you will ever know, so it is worth one more attempt to talk isn’t it?
- You understand much of what we did and said was a lie, but surely it could not all have been an illusion? There must have been times where we really did love you and you need to ask us about this.
- You know we are bad for you, but you cannot help what you feel. Surely it would be better to stop this pain from being there all the time and just have it occasionally?
- You know you should not reply to our messages but it feels so good to have a conversation with us again. It has been too long.
- You know we are using you, but it feels so damn good.
- One kiss cannot hurt can it?
- You know better now, so going back will be different because you know what to expect. Armed with this new knowledge you can enter the lion’s den again but be better prepared.
- You know we are bad for you but you cannot bear the thought of someone else being with us and perhaps being the one to work.
- What if this time the apology is sincere and the desire to change is real? If you walked away from that, you would only be denying yourself happiness wouldn’t you?
- You understand engaging with us is dangerous but there are things you really need to tell us.
These and others besides are all examples of the inherent tension that arises in this tug-of-war between your cool intellect and your burning emotions.
Can you win this battle that rages post discard? Unlike the First Emotional Battle which you can never win, you can be victorious. You may have to fight this HvH Battle many times before securing the win. In the beginning you may be clinging to little more than a log as you desperately try to sail the emotional ocean and you are swept from it. However, by reading and understanding, by disciplining yourself to apply logic, to prevent your emotions from engulfing you, by reading more and increasing your knowledge you will begin to increase your logic vessel. From log to raft to dinghy. Still you may be swamped and drowned again. But then it becomes a small boat, a yacht, a clipper, a steamer, a passenger liner, a frigate, a destroyer and a super tanker. Each time you rebuild, better, bigger and stronger as you learn more, making the vessel more seaworthy. You begin to chart routes so you avoid the most tumultuous emotional areas, finally beginning to steer through calmer waters until there it is, on the horizon, the sight of land and the final battle that occurs with our kind post disengagement.
The HvH Battle is not an easy battle. You will fight it several times, but each time you should be better prepared to cross the emotional ocean and improve your prospects of success. Sometimes you are taken unawares by some of our provocative tactics and dumped unceremoniously into the water once again, but it is a battle you can win through the dedicated application of knowledge and understanding.
Everything we do is regarding as a battle. It is a zero sum game. What you lose, we gain. There may appear to be a “win/win” scenario during seduction but it is not the case. Believe me, we are getting what we want, positive fuel in huge quantities and the repeated binding as we draw you closer and closer to us. You are made to feel like a queen but you will be deposed and beheaded or defenestrated in due course. You always pay for the golden period we shower you with. We draw up our battle plans when we ready ourselves to seduce you. The greater of us adopt the approach of every battle is won before it is fought. The lesser of our kind remain effective but they rely on being a blunt weapon, not possessing the intellectual finesse of us greaters. The lesser plans less and relies on the visceral (unknown) need for fuel to drive his battle strategy. His is all about reaction and immediate response, an automatic adjustment, which is invariably successful because he has been blessed with those tools, blunt as they may be.
Our engagement with you is not love. It is war. We conquer, overrun and blitzkrieg you into submission. We occupy you so that your heart and mind fall to us within moments. This army of occupation does not stop there as it raids the land it now resides in. Your resources become our resources and we ensure that our supply lines are fed from your assets. The occupation eventually takes a savage turn through devaluation as we slash and burn, looking to grind you into the dirt before leaving you a stripped, bomb-blasted shell and setting off for a new campaign against some unsuspecting target. The theme of battle and your entanglement with our kind being a battleground, is one which is repeated throughout your engagement with us.
This is especially so once the callous disengagement has taken place. It is then that you find yourself confronted with three battles which take place one after the other. Not only do you have us as our foe but in an especially unappealing turn of events you find that in fact you are actually fighting against yourself. The first battle following disengagement is the emotional one. You have been left with no explanation. If one was tendered it made no sense. You cannot reconcile where you are with what has been. The descent from gilded pillar into the dust has been swift and merciless. Every day you have run the gauntlet of scores of emotions, which has drained you, eroded you and taken a significant toll on your well-being. Your emotions are red raw, heightened and easy to trigger. Your pain is extensive, agonising and brutal and it is during this emotional battle that your ally of cool, detached thinking has not fled the battlefield, it never turned up to begin with. Your ability to assess, rationalise and consider you position with the necessary critical analysis evades you. All you are left with is a cauldron of emotion, which serves only to heighten your distress and your confusion. Nothing makes sense and you have not been left in a position to make any sense of what has happened. This is entirely deliberate. I know so many of you use the phrase “hot mess”. This is entirely apt. You are a mess. Your life is a mess. The heat comes from your raging emotions as you veer between hysteria and anger.
Of the three battles that you fight post disengagement, the emotional battle, the first, is the one which you invariably end up losing. This is because you are utterly ill-equipped. If you were an army your troops would be sharing guns, you would not know which way to face, your supply lines have been overstretched and in some places broken and the enemy seems to appear at will. The fog of war obscures your vision. Is that us advancing or just the silhouette of a tree? You cannot tell. Once you could, but no longer. It is a tortuous place and one which has been created through our design in order to ensure that when return (and we will) you will be in no position to resist. Weakened, governed by emotion rather than intellect you will be overrun easily. This is when the hoover operates. This battle, where all you have is emotion, means that you want the pain to stop. You want the golden period again. You give no consideration or thought to what might be the price of such desires, or whether it really is the golden period once more. You are ruled by emotion and this proves to be your downfall. We know this and this is why we ensure you are a churning, broiling scorching crucible of emotion. We create it, we want that. This is why your first attempt at no contact (without the benefit of specialist input) nearly always falls. You are not equipped to prolong it because in this emotional battle all it takes is for us to come galloping over the hill once again, offering terms of the golden period and you surrender in an instant allowing us to occupy your territory once more in the understandable but ultimately forlorn hope of a peaceful co-existence.
As you drown in the emotional sea once again, you will feel a rescuing hand grab you and haul you out. Your relief is immense. The rescuing hand belongs to us and such is the effect of your emotional thinking that you will return into our grasp. The hoover that we deploy as we rescue you from the emotional sea succeeds so readily because you want to escape the turmoil and the quickest way to do so is to return to you. What makes it worse is that as your rescuer we grant you a new golden period and thus your emotional thinking cons you further by telling you that it was absolutely fine to go back because ‘look everything is as it once was’. You have been rewarded for agreeing to return and therefore that was the right decision wasn’t it? Your emotional thinking rules supreme again as it cons you into thinking that this is the best outcome. Your immersion in the emotional sea has permeated throughout you, any logic that was trying to gain a foothold to make you see clearly has been flooded out. Logic cannot make itself heard and you are drawn back into our grasp once again.
How do you win this first emotional battle? You cannot. You are in such a position that we always win this battle. The key however is not to participate in this battle but rather avoid it altogether. If you know there is a battle you cannot win, why would you ever fight it? You would not. You would evade your foe, take steps to bolster your defences and seek to avoid this emotional battle. This is what you must do. Once you have gained awareness of the foe you are engaged with, possibly during seduction or more likely through the period of devaluation, you must then take those steps to prepare yourself. You either avoid the emotional battle altogether by escaping rather than being discarded. Alternatively, you steel yourself for the inevitable discard so that the emotional fallout is massively reduced and instead you find yourself transported to the second battle that takes places post discard which I shall expand on in a further article.
If you have been disengaged, then you face the emotional battle and you will lose. You must avoid the emotional battle in its entirety or engage on terms in the second battle which follows post disengagement.