By Joanie Bentz, BS, M.Ed., LBS
Have you ever had someone unexpectedly confront you with false narratives about your life, such as your plans, decisions, activities and experiences? Were you stunned by the outrageous lies, or maybe blindsided by how the truth was cleverly mixed in with lies that made this information very believable?
Perhaps it was a family member that said these things about you, or a co-worker. Sometimes, it could be an acquaintance that hardly knows you, and you wonder how this person could make such determinations about you with little contact or communication.
A false narrative is simply misinformation about a person or situation. Gossip about the false narrative is almost always involved. You may have experienced a false narrative that a narcissist created to give a negative impression of you — your identity, mental health or overall character.
Magnification and minimization
Instead of enacting a full-blown smear campaign, which often happens when a narcissist is preparing to or has already discarded their target, the narcissist will employ what I call a “magnification and minimization” tactic, which is more subtle. This method appears far less manic and contrived, plus is not likely to be considered malevolent.
Magnification is when the narcissist takes an evident truth, such as an ongoing abuse situation that you may have endured in a marriage or relationship. Instead of showing care and understanding, the narcissistic may tell others that you were doing things to deserve the abuse and make up scenarios involving you that never happened.
The narcissist could be relating this information to someone with a tone of care and concern. The conversation may begin with, “Oh, I am so worried about so and so…,” or, “Can I talk to you about something that is really frightening, I just don’t what to do…” etc.
Consequently, this could plant a seed of doubt in others who had your best interests in mind, and you may find that family and friends begin to distance themselves from you. One of the narcissist’s goals is to divide and conquer—and isolating you from your supports does just that.
Minimization occurs when the narcissist omits positive details about you or plays them down to others. The narcissist belittles your achievements. For instance, the narcissist may never mention that you sacrificed your personal plans and/or career and went to great lengths to help the disordered spouse/family member. Or the narcissist may even align with the abuser, expressing sympathy for their “problems.”
Why do they do it?
Let’s examine why the narcissist needs to create a false narrative about you:
The narcissist cannot endure that you may be doing something positive in your life, especially if you are improving yourself, increasing your ability to self-examine and making spiritual progress. The narcissist needs to create a fictional version of you to shift focus back to him or her and detract from your accomplishments. The narcissist is in perpetual competition with you to gain more attention, which is fuel to keep them functioning with their fake persona.
For additional supply
It’s exciting for them to have control over the narrative about you. Telling fabricated stories about you increases their emotional supply, which fuels their ego. They are emotional terrorists at the expense of your mental and physical well-being. Ego is all that the narcissist knows; the narcissist is devoid of empathy. The narcissist cannot accept the real you because that would require ownership of their moral bankruptcy.
To gain more flying monkeys
Perhaps the narcissist must expand their fan club with others that go along with their charade without question. The narcissist does not want love. The narcissist wants admiration. If the narcissist’s false narrative of you is gaining more toxic supporters, this behavior will continue indefinitely. It’s difficult to admit that anyone who aligns with the abuser is an abuser as well, but unfortunately, that is the truth.
The narcissist becomes bored quickly, especially if opportunities to create drama are slim. Often, the narcissist will focus on one person, usually a highly empathetic and kind individual that would not suspect that he or she is creating a false narrative for entertainment. Sometimes, their antics can appear sadistic, and it is possible for a narcissist to be a sadist as well, taking pleasure in someone else’s pain. Please see my previous blog article titled Sadists and narcissists — similarities and differences.
Narcissists are very careful about their circle and what others know about them. Narcissists keep outsiders in the dark about their true nature. Sometimes, the narcissist is the leader of their family cult, or perhaps the narcissist operates alone and gives the impression of being the hero or someone who can do no wrong. Usually, this narcissist is idolized by family and friends. Remain vigilant regarding someone who is idolized by everyone. Tell a narcissist “NO” and watch the façade begin to crumble but be forewarned about the consequences of challenging a narcissist. You will inflict narcissistic injury and revenge obsession will be the name of the game. Their contempt for you may create a situation that could harm your person in all kinds of ways.
For money or material gain
Narcissists never have enough money. They will lie and claim they need help financially and say you are hoarding money when in fact they are doing just that, and their cash sits in bank accounts collecting dust and cobwebs. The narcissist never spends it, yet still claims he or she has no money. Other narcissists overspend and try to defraud others to gain more monetary supply. This behavior is a substitute for the love the narcissist cannot feel and is a temporary fix to fill the hole where love should be.
To make you blame yourself
This is what the silent treatment eventually accomplishes. The narcissist wants you to believe that their behaviors are a reaction to something that you are doing. So, if you did things differently, the narcissist would not behave badly. The narcissist may not speak to you for days or weeks so that you will internalize this lie and look to the narcissist for answers. That will give them a chance to manipulate you by not responding to your outreach, which causes you to doubt yourself and your authentic self.
They feel threatened
Individuation, especially in narcissistic families and social groups, is a problem for the narcissist because the narcissist views everyone in the cult/group as one entity. Each person is an extension of another member of the family or group. If you go out on a limb and pursue your goals that do not include the narcissist’s plans for you or what the narcissist deems acceptable, then prepare for a false narrative constructed to imply that you are crazy or selfish for doing so.
Narcissists live in self-constructed false narratives. If you have a good base knowledge about narcissistic behavior, then you are aware that narcissists cannot face who they really are and create a false self to cover up the shame and self-loathing they feel down to their core. In order to project superiority and confidence, this false self takes over their true self, and that it what you and I encounter when dealing with them.
Rewriting history is the only way they know how to cope with the harmful behaviors that they inflict on others. To you and me, this seems like an exhausting endeavor, but the narcissist never seems to tire of it.
The narcissist wants you to fulfill their needs immediately, regardless of what is going on in your life. You could be dying of a chronic illness and the narcissist will still be harassing you about why you did not initiate a family picnic or buy their child a birthday gift.
To the narcissist, your life is meaningless, unless you are serving them in some way.
No longer a target
Maybe you are not the target anymore. Maybe you’ve caught on and detached from the narcissist and their flying monkeys. We must remind ourselves that we are not disconnecting from them to hurt them, but to protect ourselves and possibly others. A new target is needed.
My hope is that the articles I write help you understand that you are not to blame for their behavior. Find new ways to repurpose your life and rebuild your sense of worth.
Narcissists can create a false narrative about you that may take years to de-program in your own mind, due to the conditioning inflicted on you to create self-doubt and a lack of confidence. You are the light that they would like to see dimmed so that you cannot illuminate the darkness they create in other people’s lives, and their own. The dark has nothing in common with light.
Learn more: What did they want? Psychopaths, antisocials and other exploiters in romantic relationships