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Defense Against the Dark Hearts

Have you ever dealt with:dragonshadow

  • Friends who frequently sap you of energy
  • Co-workers who make your life miserable
  • Family who drive you crazy with silly arguments
  • Teachers who make you always feel insignificant
  • Bosses who make you feel like you have to walk on eggshells around them

Sometimes these people are unavoidable, and we put up with them for awhile because we have to for one reason or another. Family is family and a job is a job, right?

Yes and no.

It is natural for dysfunctional people to buzz into our circle of relationships, and we deal with them as best we can. (And hey, let’s admit it, sometimes we are the dysfunctional ones.) Dysfunctional people are a part of life that helps us grow emotionally and spiritually as we learn to deal with our anger toward them or we let go of needing to control them.

But then there are those who purposely and continuously work relationships to their advantage. On one level they are users, taking more from a relationship than is healthy. But on another level they are abusers. Scott M. Peck calls them People of the Lie. Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend, in their book Safe People, refer to them as “unsafe people.” Your friends may call them exasperating and frustrating. You may know them as emotional predators or vampires.

I call them Dark Hearts.

In this blog, I refer to self defense against their ways, “Defense Against the Dark Hearts,” an allusion to one of the classes that book and film character Harry Potter attends at a witches’ school. His class is called “Defense Against the Dark Arts.”

One of Harry Potter’s teachers, Severus Snape, says, “The Dark Arts are many, varied, ever-changing and eternal. Fighting them is like fighting a many-headed monster, which, each time a neck is severed, sprouts a head even fiercer and cleverer than before. You are fighting that which is unfixed, mutating, indestructible.”

Fighting a Dark Heart can seem very much like fighting a many-headed monster, because Dark Hearts spend all their lives perfecting their manipulation skills. The worst ones are virtuosos at human psychology. They will use:

  • sales techniques such as pushing your hot buttons or laying down a challenge
  • false argumentation skills
  • lessons learned from books meant to help relationships, such as Games People Play by Eric Berne or Winning Through Intimidation by Robert J. Ringer
  • any of The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene
  • your own emotions and insecurities

I’ve known two extreme narcissists, and I can certainly vouch for this addition from the character Severus Snape (paraphrasing), “Your defenses must therefore be as flexible and inventive as the {Dark Hearts…}”

With each new post I write on this subject, you will discover the methods of these Dark Hearts, both subtle and gross. It would take a book to cover them all, but let’s start with a sneak peek inside the secret lives of Dark Hearts:

First and foremost, an accomplished narcissist isn’t just a control freak or egomaniac. As a dysfunctional survival skill, narcissists create a false self early on in life. Perhaps they were abused, betrayed, or shamed in front of their friends, but something snaps just a little inside, and they think they need another — more powerful or more charming — self  to deal with the world. They invest so much in this self, they think it is real, and most likely nothing you can say or do will change their minds.

Narcissists must constantly pump up this fake self like a balloon with a slow leak. Anything and everything else is expendable. For them, the self image equals life, and to diminish that self equals reduction of life. What’s worse is they need others to fill that balloon for them.

Perhaps now you can see why they spend a lifetime perfecting their manipulations skills. They need to feel on top of the situation and in control of any relationship so other people can be used to fill the balloon.

To Think Like a Black Belt with the Dark Hearts, we need to start recognizing when someone is tapping us to fill the balloon for them. In my next post in Unplug from Emotional Predators or Defense Against the Dark Hearts, I will explore the tell-tale traits of narcissists.

Want to know more? Take a look at
The Narcissist — A User’s Guide

Take-away exercise
Think about how you would handle the following type of person.  The description is from Cloud and Townsend’s book, Safe People:
“Critics are people who take a parental role with everyone they know … They often deeply love truth and righteousness. Because they are clear thinkers, they can be good people to go to for information. But don’t go to them for relationship, for their truth often comes ‘poisoned with judgmentalism’.”


Like this post? Similar articles on this site:

Signs and traits of emotional predators
The Blame Game of emotional predators


Thank you for visiting and learning about self defense.
If you think others can benefit, please pass it on!

Lori Hoeck


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Barbara Swafford May 29, 2009, 3:15 pm

    Hi Lori,

    What a fabulous piece. I’ve known a few narcissistic people in my lifetime, and after being burned once, I learned to stay away from them. Oh, what a web they weave.

    P.S. I LOVE your new site and the topics you’re discussing. I’m also looking forward to your follow up posts on “dark hearts”. Sounds fascinating.

  • Laurie May 29, 2009, 3:38 pm

    I can’t wait to read your next post! I know several of these suckers!

  • Laurie May 29, 2009, 3:41 pm

    PS I tried to subscribe but it didn’t work. Please email me when I can subscribe!

  • Lori Hoeck May 29, 2009, 8:56 pm

    Hi Barbara,
    Thank you for commenting! The Dark Hearts do indeed weave a web, don’t they? Great way to put it.

    Hi Laurie,
    Thank you for visiting and commenting. My next post could be on physical or mental self defense, but I will get back to these Dark Hearts soon!
    I don’t have email subscription, just RSS at the moment — you might try that. Thanks.

  • Joanna Young June 2, 2009, 4:56 pm

    In response to your exercise / challenge… I think perhaps I’d imagine myself with my two bare feet, on a mat in a ring, grounded, balanced… and smiling with confidence. I’d know that my inner strength… and smile… was enough to deflect the blows of their judgement (and maybe even my mean inner critic, worse than anyone I’ve ever met!)

    PS Great stuff on getting the site going, it looks great and I know the content will be power packed

  • Lori Hoeck June 2, 2009, 7:12 pm

    Hi Joanna,
    Thanks for checking out the site!

    That inner critic can be a battle, yes indeed. I like the inner spirit I see in you when I imagine you grounded, balanced, and smiling!

  • Davina June 3, 2009, 1:59 am

    Hi Lori. This is an excellent post. I’m glad to see you back and I am looking forward to reading more about Defence Against the Dark Hearts. The metaphor you’ve used “to start recognizing when someone is tapping us to fill the balloon for them” is one that I’m going to start practicing. Thank you.

  • Betsy Wuebker June 3, 2009, 5:00 am

    Hi Lori, This post just blew me away with its prescience. I’ve never seen a better description of a narcissist. I can’t wait to read more of the series you’re planning! Congratulations on being NBOTW at Barbara’s site – from the looks of things, the spotlight is very well deserved. I’m subscribing. 🙂

  • Tricia June 3, 2009, 7:20 am

    Great post and wonderful insights. I look forward to reading and learning more here.

  • Lori Hoeck June 3, 2009, 8:56 am

    Hi Davina,
    Thank you for commenting and visiting my new blog. You’re welcome for the word picture. Hope you pass it on to any who need it.

    Hi Betsy,
    Thank you for the feedback. I’m glad the description hit home, and I’m glad you are interesting in the upcoming post on the same subject, because I’m excited to write them!

    Hi Tricia,
    Thank you for dropping by. I popped over to your site, too. The bully article is outstanding (though I’d never take fighting back off the table completely. That’s where a good karate instructor can help teach proper response). Your post really hones in on the insecurities of the bullies and their targets and how to help kids gain confidence. So very needed since a lot of parents have trouble with that themselves.

  • jan geronimo June 4, 2009, 1:31 am

    I love this post. And I love the way you tease us so we’d check out upcoming posts about the dark hearts. “,)

    I’m still relatively new at blogging myself. It pays to be grounded as well on the these dangerous types of people by knowing how to deal with them. This rings a bell to me – I have met a couple of them in my blog. I’d check out your future posts. Sound promising to me. “,)

  • Lori Hoeck June 4, 2009, 2:20 pm

    Hi Jan Geronimo,
    Thank you for the visit and Twitter thumbs up. Hey, the more good guys and gals who know this stuff, the safer we all are.

  • janice June 5, 2009, 8:50 am

    Brilliant! I’m looking forward to using what I learn here to deal with all my own dark heart traits as well as learning how to apply your techniques to others. That last quote was so good it nearly made me cry. It could have been written for Virgos like me. But tomorrow’s a new day.

  • Lori Hoeck June 5, 2009, 5:00 pm

    Hi Janice,
    I think we all have a little dark heart in us — it’s not like the Dark Hearts are aliens, just dysfunctional in a specific way.

  • MV Welsh June 18, 2009, 7:01 am

    Congratulations. So interesting and helpful. I’m eager to see more.
    Amazing poetry and story.

  • Lori Hoeck June 18, 2009, 10:51 am

    Hi “M”
    Thank you for dropping by the other site, too, and for letting me know your thoughts!

  • Kathleen O'Keefe-Kanavos August 30, 2009, 12:48 pm

    What a great article to help people recognize between emotional vampires (as I call them in my book SURVIVING CANCERLAND: The Psychic Aspects of Healing), temporarily dysfunctional friends and true friends. If we cannot tell who is who it is more difficult to make intelligent choices about people with whom we asociate. All friends start as associates, then the association grows into a more substantial relationship. Sometimes learning what you don’t want in relationships is as important as knowing what you do want.

    We know who is good for us and who is not. Our body tells us with symptoms. Sometimes we simply don’t believe ourselves. It is time to stop ignoring what we know and make healthy choices.

    We all know we should not eat bad food. It is not good for us. Yet, we stay with bad “friends.” Friends are food for our soul.

    Your article helps people choose good “soul food.” Thanks for sharing your thoughts and insights.

    Kathleen O’Keefe-Kanavos
    Twitter- PsychicHealing and PsychCancerland

  • CAROL March 4, 2011, 4:51 pm

    Dear Lori, I have recently just realized that I have been dealing with these types of people all of my life. My Grandmother and Mother. I am in shock at the moment. It was very difficult to read your short book. The realization after all these years of trying to figure out what was wrong with me, not them. I am so relieved and at the same time still in disbelief. I now suspect that my Son also has this problem. I am fearful that I too possess this personality disorder. How do I know I will not carry on this behavior in my family with my children and grandchildren? Any comment will be welcomed and appreciated. Thank you, most sincerely, Carol G.

  • Lori Hoeck March 7, 2011, 1:50 pm

    Hi Carol,

    A very active forum on narcissism can be found at The Web of Narcissim

    You may like this post from another blogger: How to Handle Toxic Relationships

    I also like this writer’s perspective and posts (and she has good tweets on Twitter, too): So Much More Than a Mom.