If you worked with or for narcissists — or Dark Hearts as I call them here at Think Like a Black Belt — you know they have a knack for making people crazy.
Part of the craziness is their slippery, controlling, and manipulative ways to firmly place any blame for the relationship (or anything else) on you. Narcissists are too insecure to handle direct confrontation or blame. They develop a mastery of defection techniques to avoid this, including wielding guilt like a weapon.
I call one example of guilt deflection the “unsolicited action.” If you don’t know how it is used or the effects of it’s use, it can drive you batty wondering why you feel at fault so often.
Here’s how it works:
1) A Dark Heart says or does something nice for you or a family member or friend.
This is often an unsolicited action. It will most likely be something very public or grandiose, such as telling a positive story about you to members of a board or attending an event important to you. But it doesn’t even require your presence. It can be as seemingly innocent as taking your mother a birthday cake.
2) The Dark Heart stores the incident in a memory bank, the one labeled “Look What I Did for You.”
The narcissist cultivates this area of his mind with the care of a master gardener and with the recall skills of an ultimate data storage program.
3) As soon as you do something — anything — that makes the Dark Heart feel inadequate or in less control, he will fire guilt shots at you by bringing up the unsolicited action as a weapon of mass emotional destruction:
- “Just last week I told the board of directors what a great job you have done with the marketing project, and now you say you doubt my skills on marketing?”
- “I spent an hour talking with your dad at Jen’s wedding, and now you act this way toward me?”
- “I gave up my time writing a letter of recommendation for you for our local college, and now that you’re graduating, you want to leave this town?”
This is one reason I call them Dark Hearts: they collect moments in the relationship like a squirrel hiding nuts or a dog burying a bone — all to be dug up later to attack others with constructed and controlling guilt.
What is the self defense against this type of emotional control?
- Recognize it. Kindness doesn’t come with strings attached; manipulation does.
- Realize they prey on insecurities to make this work, so you will need to work on your insecurities.
- Turn it back on them:
“Thanks for talking with my dad at Jen’s wedding, but I thought your kindnesses like that came with no strings attached. Now I feel you are laying a guilt shot on me using that previous action as some kind of leverage in this conversation. I don’t respect that kind of manipulation.”
When you come from a secure place where you can speak truth directly, it creates powerful emotional armor.
Want to know more? Take a look at
The Narcissist — A User’s Guide
Thank you for visiting and learning about self defense.
If you think others can benefit, please pass it on!
Photo credit: Thomas Quine
In an effort to combat spam, comments are closed on posts older than 90 days. If you’d like to join in the conversation, choose a current post from the list in the sidebar. I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.