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Manipulating Narcissists: It Is Ever OK?

The Little Shaman is a spiritual coach & specialist in cluster B personality disorders, with a popular YouTube show and clients worldwide.


When people ask how to manipulate narcissists, question for them is, "Why would you want to do that?" There could be a time where this is necessary - such as if you are in mortal danger - but the majority of the time, people want to do it for revenge or out of desperation to keep the relationship together. Neither of these things is a very good reason. They are understandable for sure, but not good.

That's really one of the biggest lessons we can learn from narcissists. They believe all their behavior and abuse is justified, don't forget. They've convinced themselves that people deserve it. Justifying something doesn't make it OK. It just makes it easier.

When someone is abused or mistreated, they are often very, very angry. And that's normal. Of course they're angry. Anybody would be. Many times, people become fixated on revenge. They want the narcissistic person to hurt the way they have been hurting. That's totally understandable. It's doubtful anyone would say they didn't get that. But is it OK to actually do that? To manipulate and trick someone - even an abuser - with the sole purpose of hurting them? That is a question only the individual can answer, but there is certainly no moral high ground to be claimed in saying, "You hurt me so I'm going to hurt you back." If anything, it puts you on equal ground with the narcissist. You may or may not be OK with that.

Some people disagree with this and that's fine because they are the ones who have to live their lives in their shoes and with their actions. Maybe they are too hurt to care about that in the moment. That certainly would not be uncommon. However, we often find later that when people engage in behavior that is motivated by revenge, they regret it. Not because the narcissistic person didn't deserve it, but because of what they believe it says about them or how it makes them feel about themselves. After an abusive relationship, many people work hard to regain their self-respect. It isn't really worth risking what you've worked so hard for just to punish someone who can't learn from it, understand why you did it or even truly care anyway.

It's understandable to want to hurt someone who has hurt you. But revenge is not justice. Justice is justice, and justice in this situation is you living a good life free of abuse. Hurting a narcissist is basically pointless and to be honest, it's a pretty unfair situation. It's like an adult purposely hurting the feelings of a little kid. No, they are not children but that is how thin-skinned and fragile most of them are. Most narcissistic people are walking around as one giant, festering wound anyway. Even if you did succeed in hurting them, it would be unsatisfying because of the way they project and deny everything. It's like throwing a boomerang at somebody. It might hit them, but it's going to come back to you eventually.

A pathologically narcissistic person is probably not going to sit there and ruminate on the fact that you hurt them because they did you wrong. They will probably not feel guilty and blame themselves. They will likely not even connect these things together. They will most likely choose to believe you hurt them because you're abusive, evil, crazy, or whatever else they might come up with. You're not going to get what you want. All you will do is damage your opinion of yourself.

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Another reason people want to know how to manipulate pathologically narcissistic people is because they are trying to do anything they can to keep the relationship together or try to somehow trick or otherwise induce the narcissist into not being abusive. This can seem like the only option to a desperate person, but the truth is, it doesn't work. You can't manipulate someone into being a decent person or trick them into loving you. The only thing you can really do is possibly convince them to stay around longer, but even if this were to succeed, it would be at enormous personal cost to yourself. A relationship should not be worth your self-respect. If it is, there's another - much larger - problem.

The truth is, manipulating narcissists in the short-term is not difficult. Because of their magical thinking, high reactivity, grandiosity, irrational fears, anxiety and other problems, it's not hard at all. It's like manipulating a child. It's easy to play on the fear or the gullibility of a child, and it's often easy to do this to narcissists, too. The question is not whether you can do it, but rather, whether you should. You may feel you need to for whatever reason, or you may feel that you want to because it could make things easier. You may feel that it's not a quandary for you because they deserve it and they didn't care about you, so who cares about them? And that's certainly understandable. But it isn't about them. It's about you and what kind of person you want to be, or what kind of things you can live with - especially considering the fact that even if it did work, it will not work for long. Narcissistic people are generally suspicious, paranoid and abusive as a matter of course. They often become suspicious of this kind of thing very quickly. Is it really worth it? That's up to you to decide. Most people do find that, in the end, it wasn't.

Something else to consider is that every time you engage in this kind of behavior, it makes it that much easier to justify the next time. This is a slippery slope to get started on, and it doesn't end up anywhere most people want to be. Friedrich Nietzsche said (to paraphrase), "Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you."

Remember: when you dance with the devil, the devil doesn't change. The devil changes you. This is more true than most people might realize. It's a shame but we often see people bragging about manipulating, upsetting, hurting and essentially torturing narcissistic people in their lives. It makes me so sad to see that, because either those people are actually narcissists and don't know it, or they are victims who have been so hurt and so damaged or so accustomed to an abusive environment that they have basically become abusers themselves. It's just a terrible thing either way. We need less suffering in this world, not more.

Manipulation is not OK. It's about attempting to control other people. It's not OK when narcissists do it. It's not OK when anybody does it. It's important to hold on to your empathy, your humanity, your compassion, your sense of fairness and all of the other things that make you a decent, caring person. Otherwise, what is the difference between you and a narcissist?

Now, there could be - and often are - situations where you have to do what you have to do, and there is no judgement here about that. We all do what we have to. This is just providing another point of view. It's easy to justify something to yourself when you have really strong feelings about it, so it's important to be brutally honest with yourself about what you are doing and why. If you're OK with the honest truth about your behavior and your motivations, then you are. But be honest. It helps save regret. Just remember that when you look back on your actions later in life - when those strong feelings are no longer present - you may feel very differently about your actions. You're dancing with the devil here. Hold on to who you are.

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