In this article, we’re going to talk about seven mind games that actually work, unfortunately. And I’m going to cover the most important part, which is how to tell if somebody is genuine or manipulating you. Let’s get to it.
So today, we’re talking about some really tricky mind games, and these can be really dangerous because they play on how the brain is wired. And really, when somebody is manipulating you, that’s what they’re manipulating. They’re manipulating your wiring, and that’s why it works. So if you have fallen for it before, if you have been manipulated or been with a narcissist, don’t beat yourself up over it. It’s not your fault.
So let’s jump into the top 7 Tricky Narcissist Mind Games That Work.
1. Intermittent reinforcement.
Now, Intermittent reinforcement, we’re starting with because it is the most dangerous and it is the most often used. Every narcissist will use intermittent reinforcement, whether they do it knowingly or not, they will use it for the purposes of control.
So, what is intermittent reinforcement? It’s when you get positive feedback and then negative feedback, and then positive feedback again—approval, love—negative feedback—anger, jealousy, rage, silent treatment. What feels like kindness and love, and rinse and repeat. The nature of intermittence is that we don’t know when it’s gonna come, and we’re always hoping for it, we’re always looking for it. So, this creates something that is akin to addiction.
And it sounds like this would be one that’s easy to spot, but it’s surprisingly difficult because it can happen at first very subtly. So, if you notice someone who is sending you mixed messages, that could be a major, major red flag. So, let’s say somebody just started dating and everything seems so great, and maybe you date for a couple of months, and then all of a sudden they ghost you and come back, or they just start acting cold for no reason, and then they start acting nice again. We like to give people the benefit of the doubt, but that can sometimes get us into trouble.
Now, this can also be a friend who is really nice, and you have so much fun together, but every once in a while, they just say something really mean or they make fun of you and embarrass you in front of a group of people. It’s kind of that Jekyll and Hyde effect. It’s that love-hate push-pull that really is the hallmark of an abusive relationship.
Baiting is another mind game that narcissists like to use, and usually, it goes down like this: if a narcissist knows that they can say something that will trigger you, they’re going to use it, and they’re going to use it to their advantage. So, why do they do this? Well, if they can get an emotional reaction out of you, that serves two purposes. One, it makes them feel powerful, it makes them feel like they have control over you because they can push your buttons and they can get you to act exactly how they want you to act in the moment. It’s predictable.
Another reason a narcissist will use baiting is to make you look bad. So, if they can get an emotional reaction out of you, if they can get you to act erratic and maybe fly off the handle, you look like the bad guy. It looks like you’re the one who’s not in control of your emotions and maybe you’re the bully, when in reality, it’s really the other person. But they know how to time it in front of an audience to make you look like you’re the problem.
3. Intellectual Bullying.
The next mind trick that narcissists use is called intellectual bullying. And this intellectual bullying is when they’ll throw a lot of information at you to kind of throw you off your game. And this could be information about a topic or it could be word salad, like literally just words strung together that make no sense in the context of what you’re talking about. And they usually imply you’re inferior because you somehow can’t understand the nonsense.
And so, this kind of leaves you trying to figure out what’s going on, like what are they talking about? When you’re in this discussion, you probably have a goal in mind, like “I want answers” or “I want you to admit that you did this thing that I know you did,” but all you’re getting is just a whole lot of talk and a whole lot of information being thrown at you. And so, this is a mind trick to kind of get you on the defensive because you’re really stuck in that place where you’re trying to make sense of what’s going on, and it doesn’t make sense. So, it becomes a little bit more difficult for you to have an intelligent conversation because there’s just so much going on.
Read More: When You Ghost A Narcissist (Expect This!).
Breadcrumbing is a mind game that narcissists use, usually early on in a relationship or later on in their relationship after a discard, and probably before a hoover. So, in that in-between stage, they like to know that you’re on the hook. So, they will give you just enough communication, just enough positive reinforcement, to keep you interested and wondering whether they’re going to come back. Ultimately, it’s to keep you thinking about them. It works because we tend to think that things we have to work harder for are more valuable.
Triangulation is another mind game that narcissists love to play, and they’ll play it in any type of relationship that you might have with this person. They’ll do it in a friendship, in a parent-child relationship, even if you have a narcissistic boss. And what they’re doing here is they are pinning people against each other. And so, a narcissist will act like somebody is their favorite and the other person is trash. So, this happens in a parent-child relationship when there is a golden child, a child who seems like they could do no wrong, and then there’s a child who might be a scapegoat or just can’t seem to live up to the parent’s expectations. And sometimes narcissists will switch roles, so sometimes the golden child will be one child and sometimes it’ll be the other child.
But really, it keeps the children striving for that attention and that approval from the narcissist. And this works in every relationship. In romantic relationships, it’s often an ex who’s put up on a pedestal. And triangulation can also be used in a smear campaign, so pinning people against someone else. And in this case, the people who are pinned against someone else are feeling like they are worth more, like they are on top of the world, they are untouchable. And if you know a narcissist, it’s easier to be in that place than it is to be in the other place. So, a lot of people will end up going along with it.
Another mind game that narcissists use, that unfortunately works, is exaggeration. And this is something that we see a lot in gaslighting. So, let’s just say you were a little bit annoyed about the narcissist’s behavior, and you brought it up in a calm, mature manner. Now, from their perspective, you approached them disrespectfully and you had a bad attitude, and there was no way this conversation was gonna go well because of the way you behaved. It’s an exaggeration. You were not happy with them, yes, but their retelling of the events was not accurate.
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So, I mean, you could say it’s a lie, but really, there’s a kernel of truth in there. You were not happy, and you wanted to have a discussion about it. They tend to blow things like this out of proportion so that you end up questioning yourself and questioning how you behaved, instead of focusing on what you initially wanted to focus on. Also, the more you question yourself, the less you’re going to trust yourself, and if you don’t trust yourself, you will be more likely to take on their reality and what they’re telling you to be true. And this can have a really, really negative impact on your self-esteem and your sense of self-worth.
Narcissists are also known to exaggerate their own good deeds, and they’ll do this if they’re trying to get you to like them or if they just are trying to make themselves feel and look more important. Now, the last one is the trickiest and it’s the most difficult to spot, but I wanted to talk about this because it is a thing that narcissists are very well known to do.
For More: 7 Ways To Get A Narcissist To Respect You.
The last thing I want to talk about is mirroring, and mirroring is dangerous because it’s something that we learn to do before we’re born. This is called limbic synchrony, and it’s what babies do in the womb. They mirror the mother’s heartbeat and body functions, and this is the first connection that we form, and then we continue to do it after we’re born throughout our lives. If you were to witness two people who had an intense connection, you would notice that they’re mirroring each other, and it’s going to look very natural. They’re probably going to have similar postures and body language. They might even be using the same tone of voice or speaking at the same speed or volume.
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Now, this happens naturally when we have a good connection with someone. If you’re really vibing with someone, you’re going to get that. You’re going to start mirroring, and they’re going to be doing the same. You kind of just play off of each other, and that just reinforces the connection that you have with that person. Unfortunately, this is something that manipulative people know, and it’s something that can be faked. So, a manipulative person will often fake mirroring. So, they’ll mirror your body movements and your tone of voice, the speed and volume at which you’re speaking. But with a manipulative person, what you’ll also notice is that they are much more likely to mirror your interests. So, it’s not just going to be what’s going on the body language and the tone of voice, but it’s going to be everything or almost everything. And it might feel like it’s too good to be true.
Related: 9 Demeaning Things Narcissists Say.
And so, here’s the thing. It’s possible that you can meet somebody and have such an insane connection that you share all the same interests and that you’re mirroring each other and just really vibing. So, don’t get too caught up in looking for this one. But if you notice this, if you notice a little bit of awkwardness here, if you notice that they seem to almost intentionally be copying you, that is a major, major red flag.
So again, some of these mind games aren’t really mind games, it’s how the mind works. But they are turned into mind games when somebody is trying to manipulate you because they know that it will work. Mirroring is a great example of that. So, this is not about being cautious of everyone you meet or thinking that somebody you have a genuine connection with is actually trying to manipulate you. Really, what it’s about is just paying attention and just looking for the red flags, and using your intuition to help guide you.
Read More: 5 Ways Narcissists Weaponize Shame Against You.
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