Micromanipulation: How Narcissists Use This As A Method of Control


A Method of Control: When manipulation is not enough for narcissists to abuse and trick their victims, they turn to micromanipulations. And sadly, sometimes this works even better than the former when it comes to tricking their victims to believe what they are being brainwashed to believe.

Manipulation is one of the most reliable behaviors of a narcissist. Whether someone is a full-blown diagnosed narcissist or just displays some of the traits, manipulation is a key tactic of achieving an end goal. In some cases, manipulation is easy to identify and can be avoided or ignored; take, for example, a pushy salesperson or even politicians and CEOs. However, manipulation tends to be much more covert when coming from a personally loved and trusted individual.

With love comes vulnerability. In the right hands, our insecurities and self-doubts are safe and respected. But in the hands of a manipulative individual, our kindness and love are taken for granted and twisted into exploitation. Manipulation can be direct or covert; regardless of the style, the intention is to control and hurt.

The Psychological Harassment Information Association describes manipulation as when the abuser is using personal, private, and sensitive information to destabilize the victim (2010). The purpose behind this is ideation, or that the victim is being led to believe something false for the manipulator to gain—or re-gain—control.

Both direct and indirect manipulations are used to keep an individual close and attached. The exaggerated and dramatic tales are meant to maintain attention that may be slipping. It is important to understand that these tactics are not due to the manipulator loving you and wanting you to stay; rather, it is because your love, attention, and attachment are beginning to fray.

Think of a relationship between a narcissist and her partner as a rope. The rope used to be coated in something attractive and comforting and soothing; it was coercive enough to entrap the individual into thinking the possession was love. As the relationship lengthened, the rope got tighter and more in control of the manipulator.

Related: Manipulation Of The Charming Narcissist

But as the rope’s tension increased, the warm and deceitful covering began to wear off and the rope itself began to chafe and burn against the victim. Manipulations are used as an effort to recover the rope in its sheath and keep it from snapping, thus setting the victim free.

Narcissists cannot accept the fact that another person does not want to be with them or even goes as far as rejecting the narcissist. Remember that a key trait of narcissists is an overblown, undeserved ego, and an inner belief that people are jealous of them. To them, it is simply not possible that their partner doesn’t love them and can live happily without them.

If the narcissist loses the attention and affirmations of just one individual that was previously well-controlled, they will go to extreme lengths to regain that control through manipulation.

Some methods of manipulation are direct, brash, and used to incite empathy from the victim. These individuals will not think twice about threatening suicide or even claiming to have a plan for their suicide. The purpose of this is to awaken the caretaker trait in the abused partner and keep them close.

“My ex threatened suicide many times during our three-year relationship,” says one former victim from metro New York. “Any time I attempted to leave the relationship, or he felt I wasn’t catering to him enough or caring enough, he would go on a monologue about how he was going to die because no one cared. 

“He claimed to even have a plan, and that he attempted it once, but he lived. At first, the threats worked, and I yielded and stayed. But finally, I realized it was just a ploy to keep me close. He never got help, never went to a doctor or counselor. We’ve been broken up for a year and he’s still alive.”

Suicide is a direct and scary tool used by manipulators, but its effect can be avoided when the partner recognizes it as a mere tool, not a reality, and then create boundaries. Suicide is not a threat to take lightly; but if the individual refuses help, there is not much more a friend or partner can do.

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Kristy Lee Hochenberger

Kristy Lee Hochenberger is a doctoral student of psychology at Capella University and a member of Psi Chi, the international honor society in psychology. A graduate of prestigious Wells College, Kristy Lee is also a licensed funeral director and co-founder of Salt City Legacy Scholars, Inc, a 501c3 nonprofit organization that awards scholarships and financial assistance to young women across New York State. In addition to her Bachelor's degree, Kristy Lee has an Associate's Degree in Occupational Services as well as a Master of Business Administration. A native of Queens, NY, she currently resides in upstate New York where she is an adjunct faculty member at Syracuse University School of Information Studies (iSchool) and University of the People.View Author posts