Games Narcissists Play
I’ve decided to try to put together a list of games that narcissists play to help others recognize when they are BEING played. It is my hope that you can gather the tools, and then the courage, to stop playing with these nasty narcissists!
I published this before I was done so some don’t have much description but I will add to them as time permits. I suspect you’ll recognize the games anyway though…I’ve learned that most narcissists play the same games and use the same language (some more viciously than others with lots of open hatred) but the subtle language appears to be rather “rote” and “common” — which of course, if they knew you thought them to be boring, common and average, would make them nuts.
This is a game that YOU learn to play. They hate it. One of the most important things to recognize is that they will NEVER cop to the fact that any games are being played so it IS up to you to stop playing.
This means you don’t try to bring up past stuff because you’ll always be told you’re wrong, they are right and you need help. You don’t try to get them to acknowledge — let alone take responsibility for — their words or actions because, according to them, they didn’t do it.
Most of them literally can NOT see what they are doing to you (or WILL not see.) They might (sort of and quite grudgingly) appear to acknowledge that they’ve said or done bad things but they’ll never stop or change (unless they seek serious therapy and most will not because nothing is wrong with THEM you see. It’s everyone around them.)
Yes, they might sort of acknowledge…but you will pay the price for your attempts at bringing the relationship into a healthy place. In their unconscious mind, they are dirty, evil, flawed and horrible. They usually cannot acknowledge this fact but are driven by a compulsion to make others feel the same way. They are filled with envy and rage and trying to get them to acknowledge these facts will bring out a monster…with you being the victim they fully intend to eat. Remember, fake acknowledgement is only a way to keep you in the game.
A support group or therapist is usually very helpful to those of us who choose to stop playing the games. Total NC (no contact) is the ultimate form of “Keep Away” and completely stops the games but some people don’t feel able to do that (and that’s okay, we’re each on our own journey and need to do the things that are the best for us in healing and learning self care.)
If you are in a love relationship, you CAN walk away from the toxic narcissist in your life. If your boss is an abusive narcissist, you CAN find another job. You CAN walk away from your parents too but you will get a different reaction about that from society, especially if you are a Christian. If you choose to stay, one way to STOP playing their game is to not respond to jabs, barbs, pleas, put-downs and the like.
It’s REALLY hard to do but think of it this way: If you’re playing a game of catch with a ball, the only way to stop the game is not to catch the ball when thrown, or not pick up the ball and throw it back. (Of course, in a normal game of catch, most people won’t try to stab you to death if you want to stop — which a narc will do in some way or another — but it IS possible to stop playing. Just be prepared for an onslaught of negativity, accusations and histrionics.)
Ignoring them drives them nuts but ignoring inciting words, keeping your mouth shut and not responding to inciting words, hanging up the phone (with proper notice such as “I’ve got something I need to do” — not slamming it down in fury!) or leaving the location are all ways for YOU to refuse to catch the ball, or put the ball down / choose not to throw it back. This is “Keep Away” — you stay away, walk away and refuse to play.
You do NOT have the power to change them but you can walk away from the games…YOU have the power to stop playing. The scissors to cut the apron strings are scissors YOU own, not the dull pair that don’t cut; the ones that your narc mom owns. Daddy’s toxic lap is one you can choose to step down from. If your spouse wants to play, you can choose not to. Lay down the ball, walk away and enjoy the temporary rest.
I say “temporary” because they WILL be back to play another day. They WANT their dose of narcissistic supply from you (and feel eternally entitled to it.) Only you can withhold that. They will do EVERYTHING in their power to tell you that you do NOT have the right to stop playing. Only you can stop playing because they won’t. NEVER. EVER. You are the only one in the game who can play “Keep Away!”
I think it’s their favorite…YOU are crazy any time you try to confront them, talk of past issues or behaviors, bust them in the middle of doing something awful or just when they feel like being complete pukes. The games sounds like this: You are told that you have a very vivid imagination, that you don’t know what you’re talking about, that they have no idea what you’re talking about, or that you’re simply making things up to hurt them or cause problems. Because, you see, it’s obvious that YOU are crazy. Just ask them, they’ll tell you (and tell you that everyone around you agrees with THEM that YOU are crazy.)
They will claim not to remember even very memorable events, flatly denying they ever happened, nor will they ever acknowledge any possibility that they might have forgotten. This is an extremely aggressive and exceptionally infuriating tactic called “gaslighting,” common to abusers of all kinds. Your perceptions of reality are continually undermined so that you end up without any confidence in your intuition, your memory or your powers of reasoning. This makes you a much better victim for the abuser.
You’ll hear words and phrases like: “You just took it wrong.” or “You always take everything I say out of context.” or “Why do you always have to live in the past? Why can’t you move on like normal people? Maybe you need to see a therapist.” or “You’re remembering wrong, it didn’t happen that way.” or “I swear I am constantly walking on eggshells with you; you are so oversensitive!” or “You’re crazy if you think…”
“You’re just imagining things; you are so oversensitive!” or “Maybe you should see a therapist; I’ve tried and tried to help you but you just don’t seem to want my help. We really need to move on; this isn’t healthy for you.” or “I was there and you are overdramatizing the situation…it did not happen that way.” or “Just ask so-and-so, they’ll back me up…you are wrong.” or “No one else in the family feels the way you do about this so you need to just think about that; about what you’re doing to us all with this constant drama and trauma….maybe you should see a therapist…”
Get the drift? Basically you are wrong, your perceptions are wrong, your memories are wrong, any bad memories you have are imaginary, you need help, they’re only trying to help you, no one in the family agrees with you and so on. You’ll also hear words like “always, never, ever, constantly, forever” and other dramatic ways of expression such as “You always try to make me feel bad; I can’t change the past so WHY do you have to constantly bring this stuff up?” or “You never seem to be able to…” or “Why are you forever doing…or saying…” or “I never did any such thing; you’re just making that up to hurt me.”
Whatever it is that you are “always, constantly or forever” doing usually has to do with you trying to get them to understand, and take responsibility for, THEIR part in it. Whatever it is that you “never” do most likely has to do with refusing to play their game. “You NEVER give me the benefit of the doubt!” or “You NEVER give me credit for all my hard work.”
Or “Why can’t you EVER see my point of view; why does everything have to be about YOU!” This one is one of my favorites because if you’ve gotten them to that point of frustration by having the bad taste to bring up their bad behavior, their mask will slip. The one thing they hate is something not being about THEM…as long as they can be the wonderful one, of course. Anything bad about them simply does not exist and YOU ARE CRAZY to think otherwise.
DEATH BY A THOUSAND CUTS
This is a really fun game ALL narcissists like to play! It involves shredding your soul, your ego, your accomplishments and any belief system you have that does not agree with theirs. The way the game is won is for them to try to turn absolutely everything about you, and everything you do, into a complete failure. Extra points are given when they can take all credit for anything good that has ever happened and put it all in their pot. There are double extra points when they manage to put all blame for anything bad onto the other players.
THE PITY PARTY.
I read on another blog about the Pity Party and they added: (Longest. Party. Ever.) I laughed and promptly adopted it. It’s SO true for all victims…the neediness of a narcissist seems bottomless, does it not? Sheesh, they are SO boring and their parties suck.
In this popular game, you are not allowed to ever reach 21. Even if you are 50 years old, you will still be treated like a child (a stupid child, a bad child, a silly child, etc.) You don’t get to have face cards and if YOU get an ace, it’s only worth 1 point.
THE KING / QUEEN GAME
The most important part to remember about this game is that no one can know the rules except the King or Queen. Either the King or Queen gets to make up rules as they go along, they don’t have to tell the other players and can change the rules whenever it suits them. They ARE, after all, the King / Queen and therefore always win the game too (even when you play fairly by that day’s rules.) You can be penalized for breaking the rules, even if they choose not to tell you the rules.
SPITE AND MALICE
This is a kind of competitive patience (solitaire) game for two players. It is also known as Cat and Mouse. The cards are arranged from low to high with the Kings being wild. Suits (normal order of things and / or common societal rules) are irrelevant in the game. The game ends when someone wins by playing the last card of their pay-off pile. The game can also end if the players run out of cards, in which case the result is a draw.
This is one my son found for me on the internet when we were talking about this post and the analogies are numerous and fun. Spite & Malice (or Cat & Mouse) is a perfect game for a narcissist because 1) it is actually a form of solitaire, 2) it requires “one upmanship” and pulling out “better” cards to beat the other player with. Oh, how many times have you experienced this game, dear one?
It involves a “pay off” and for the narc, that usually means hurting you somehow. They keep track of real or imaginary things you do, have done or might do. This is their “pile” and they nurture it, obsess over it and dump it on you whenever possible.
All people with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) play this game superbly. They are consummate liars. Their entire persona, their world and their very selves are completely based in lies. They are truly empty shells in most respects (except what IS in the shell is truly evil, toxic and ugly.) The good stuff is all made up in order to get OTHER people to give them praise, worship, adoration and accolades…their much needed narcissistic supply…their daily dose of fresh blood that keeps them going. Of course, other people have to bleed for them to feed but who cares? They don’t.
The Devil is a liar and narcissists are his beloved evil children.