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Three ways a narcissist can take control

controlbuttonflickrNarcissists, or Dark Hearts as I call them, know how to manipulate your inner child, play your weaknesses like a fiddle, and sabotage anything that will alter the balance of power.

Self defense in this kind of battle is tough. Your Defense Against the Dark Hearts training must include unveiling the ways of control, power, and enticement the Dark Hearts use. In this post, let’s look at the insidiously subtle ways narcissists take control.

Here are just three ways (more to come in future posts!) the Dark Hearts keep a position of superiority:

Take the parental role
The following three examples, when said by a loving relative or friend, are just conversation. When said by a Dark Heart, the words place the speaker above the listener. My “translations” apply only when said by a Dark Heart.

  1. “It’s nice that young women like yourself are taking more interest in this subject.”
    Translation: I’m older, wiser, and allowed to judge your actions and throw your youth in your face.
    (Compare this to: “It’s great you have an interest in this.”)
  2. “You didn’t want to listen at first, but I’m happy you finally took my advice. Doesn’t making the right decision feel good?”
    Translation: I’m smarter, wiser, and allowed advise you on anything I want and judge you for taking the advice or not.
    (Compare this to: “Things seem to be going well for you.”)
  3. “I’m sure if you take a harder look at this and really apply yourself, you will find the answer.”
    Translation: I’m smarter and allowed tell you when you aren’t measuring up.
    (Compare this to: “What do you want the impact or end result of this to be?”)

You might think these examples are inconsequential or overblown, but Dark Heart ways often leave you feeling like the child in the relationship because of the constant repetition of manipulations. Never underestimate how powerful the subtle, constant digs at your shortcomings or immaturity will slowly affect you over time.

Play the “I’ve done more than you” card
The ability of emotional predators to play the one-upsmanship game is nothing short of amazing. Since they cannot be seen as inferior in key areas of their lives, they compile a whole catalogue or repertoire of card-game-flickrstories to trot out every time someone else seems to have a better story, worse experience, or greater level of sacrifice.

Imagine three Dark Hearts all at one table taking about illnesses. This is how it might sound:

First Dark Heart: “I tell you the Swine Flu nearly killed me! I had to go to the hospital and once there, they realized I needed bypass surgery. What a horrible time!”

Second Dark Heart: “That’s nothing. When I was younger, I battled cancer for a year. I was in and out of hospitals and never healthy enough to avoid every flu and cold. It was awful!”

Third Dark Heart: “I can’t believe you two would complain about such things! When I worked on the oil rigs, a mishap ripped my back to shreds. I went through five different surgeries and during that same time my first wife, kids, and dog all died in a car accident.”

It may be humorous to visualize such a scene, but when you face a Dark Heart who works like this, you will find it hard to argue your side of an argument if you let “glory stories” from the past make you feel second-rate or less capable.

Use verbal skills like stealth weapons
There are too many verbal manipulations to name in a short article, but here’s one that can be quite powerful — I call the black or white game, which is based on the fallacious argument known as the Black & White Fallacy. We all use this from time to time and politicians love using it, but when a narcissist employs it, you can bet it’s a matter of control:

  • “Are you going to act like an adult or a two year old over this?”
  • “You either love America (this job, the company, our family) or you don’t.”
  • “Either you are a good union man like your father who supported us no matter what, or you’re against us.”

In all three cases, Dark Hearts define the “better option” in their own terms, they refuse to allow a middle ground, and they make sure the second option is undesirable. It’s important to not let the argument or discussion become defined by opposite ends of a spectrum.


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

Take away exercise:
Not sure how to tell the Dark Hearts from more functional people? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does talking with the person make you feel empowered or a bit crazed, like you can never get your point across?
  • When you leave the person, do you feel encouraged or do you feel manipulatively challenged to do something you originally did not want to do?
  • Does the person make you feel secure and cared for as a person, or do you have a vague suspicion you are being used?

This is a small portion of what I will be writing about regarding this subject and on this site. I hope you subscribe or return often to discover more about unplugging from emotional predators.


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

Lori Hoeck

Photo 1 – Faramarz Hashemi
Photo 2 – fdecomite

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • janice July 10, 2009, 1:18 pm

    My daughter probably thinks I’m a Dark Heart. Some bloggers may do too. I’m going to have a long think about this one as you’ve defined it here. Thanks, Lori. Fascinating. Scary, but a useful exercise for me. If I spot tendencies in myself, at least I can try to do something about them.

  • Lori Hoeck July 10, 2009, 1:43 pm

    Hi Janice,
    Being assertive, being a parent, being a boss, being forthright, telling it like you see it, setting boundaries — all these are the tougher parts of being a strong person. They don’t mean you are a narcissist or Dark Heart. Even when I’m being bitchy or bossy, it doesn’t mean I’m user, abuser, or a Dark Heart. Dark Hearts have a TOTAL DEDICATION to control and manipulation for the sake of ego and they fit a whole pattern of behavior I can only give a bit at a time because this is a blog not a book.

  • janice July 10, 2009, 1:56 pm


  • Kathy | Virtual Impax July 10, 2009, 5:41 pm


    Amazing stuff. Seriously.

    Sometimes, it’s hard to recognize “safe” people – but you do an EXCEPTIONAL job of pointing out all the “tricks” of the trade.

    When I try to talk about my frustration in dealing with the chicanery of a Dark Heart – I’ll often hear -“You’re reading too much into this.” Or worse yet, “It sounds like YOU’RE the one with the problem.”

    One “theme” I’m recognizing here is that your “intuition” plays a HUGE role in recognizing the manipulations of the Dark Heart. Just as rape victims often say they had a “bad feeling” about what was going on around them – you’ll get a similar “bad feeling” when you’re dealing with a Dark Heart.

    The problem is – if you listen to them tell it – YOU are the one with the problem.

    Lori – correct me if I’m wrong – but it’s my sense that if you SUSPECT you’re a Dark Heart – it’s almost a sure sign that you’re NOT!!!

    Dark Hearts don’t ever see themselves as the “bad” guy and go to amazing lengths to preserve their twisted self righteous image.

    A Dark Heart would twist this post into evidence that EVERYONE around them were the true “Dark Hearts”. It’s been my experience that they see healthy boundaries as an attempt by others to control THEM!!!

    eg. “What – you won’t give me money to pay my bar tab? You’re just trying to get me to stop drinking!”

  • Lori Hoeck July 10, 2009, 8:23 pm

    Hi Kathy,

    Ah yes, the old, “You’re reading too much into this” — I remember hearing those words directed at me.

    They are called People of the Lie by Scott M Peck for a reason. They spend years managing situations and people to their advantage — sometimes so well they appear honorable, respectable, or at least flamboyantly special. A quick smile and a bawdy joke, or a counter attack to muddy the water and deflect attention — whatever it takes. And yes, you are right, that includes insisting everyone else is the problem.

    You nail it right on the head when you write, “It’s been my experience that they see healthy boundaries as an attempt by others to control THEM!!!” and when you note they can’t see any of this in themselves. So yes, if you honestly think you might be a Dark Heart, you probably aren’t!

  • Betsy Wuebker July 11, 2009, 6:23 am

    Fascinating, Lori! And oh too familiar – even though it’s a fading memory for me now. The clutches can be really strong. I’m looking forward to this series!

  • Lori Hoeck July 11, 2009, 8:38 am

    Hi Betsy,
    Thank you!
    I’m looking forward to downloading all this info so others can learn and better avoid what you and I and others have been through with these types.

  • Chris Edgar | Purpose Power Coaching July 12, 2009, 10:20 pm

    Thanks for this post. I’ve been thinking about these issues recently as well because I’ve been reading books on shadow work. When someone says something that (in my view) implies that I’m naive or stupid, what I’m experimenting with asking myself now is “so what if I do have a naive or stupid part?” Would that make me special? Would it make me any different from the person making the accusations? No — everyone is naive and stupid at times.

  • Lori Hoeck July 13, 2009, 10:19 am

    Hi Chris,
    I like the outside-of-the-box approach to what some might see as an attack. Although I haven’t written a post on this yet, I know we mirror or attract certain people — often negatively when we and the other people have insecurities. We can grow when we take a fresh look at our true impact in the world. Knowledge and experience. It’s all about knowledge and experience.

  • Timothy July 18, 2009, 7:33 pm

    Very good points, Lori. People who have been raised with little or no self-esteem are extremely vulnerable to the Dark Hearts of the world. Thanks for a great post–AND, btw, a great book. I’ll give you a free plug!

  • Lori Hoeck July 19, 2009, 4:40 pm

    Hi Timothy,
    Thanks for purchasing my ebook! I’m glad you find it valuable. Free plugs are great!

    Lack of self esteem does seem to be magnetic polar opposite of Dark Hearts, thus creating attraction. Funny thing is, Dark Hearts are the incredibly insecure, but their ego won’t let them know it.

  • ML in Chicagoland July 21, 2009, 2:04 pm

    I just landed here; don’t remember how. This post was just what I needed to hear. There are key people in my life that are Black Hearts (great name). I was told I was being “too sensitive” or “didn’t understand how we communicate”. Now I see how manipulative they really are.

    I look forward to reading the rest of your past and future posts.

  • Lori Hoeck July 21, 2009, 2:23 pm

    Hi ML,
    Thank you for visiting and commenting.

    Glad the post could help! Just remember we all are manipulative at some time or another, but Dark Hearts exhibit an ongoing pattern of it.

  • JJ June 14, 2010, 12:27 am

    Does anybody have any “info or experience with a narcissistic mother, Very tough situation! any leads would be very much appreciated, signed, drained and heartbroken.

  • Lori Hoeck June 14, 2010, 7:08 am

    Hi JJ,
    Welcome to my site.

    Try this site and the links she has: http://www.oneangrydaughter.com/

  • JW June 17, 2010, 2:39 pm

    I have dealt with a couple of former coworkers whom on looking back, I would consider Dark Hearts, especially the last one of the two that I worked with. She seemed nice and outgoing and friendly, but there was just something about her that gave me the creeps. I always felt like she was trying to take the parental role with me and was making subtle comments to undermine my efforts. I most certainly didn’t appreciate it. I think that she probably thought I was too stupid to catch on to her behavior, but I had been observing her tactics since the first week I started at the job so I knew what she was all about, and I wasn’t the only one with whom she exhibited that behavior. I also grew up in the care of several Dark Hearts, who tried to tear down my self-esteem, so I intuitively knew the patterns of behavior to look out for. This blog is reassuring and helpful.