When we first learn about narcissism, we are introduced to terminology commonly used by people who write or make videos on the subject. If you are still in the beginning stages of educating yourself on narcissistic abuse, here are some common terms and expressions to help you make sense of what you may be reading and watching:
Supply: it’s what the narcissist expects to extract or gain from people. It’s an all encompassing term to describe the narcissist’s need for attention (whether positive or negative) and validation, in order to regulate his or her internal sense of self. Since narcissists lack an adequate sense of self, they are dependent on external input and reactions for internal regulation. Supply is for the narcissist as drugs are to addicts. The narcissist spends his/her life in continuous process of constant search, securement and keeping of supply and its sources.
Source of supply: people, individually or collectively, who provide the narcissist with supply.
Cluster B: refers to a group of 4 personality disorders in the DSM5 (Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders): Narcissistic, Borderline, Hystrionic and Antisocial (commonly referred to as psychopaths and sociopaths). People of all 4 personality disorders are also narcissistic – however, not every narcissist is also necessarily a sociopath, psychopath, borderline or hystrionic, although this, too, can occur and characteristics can overlap.
Gaslighting: a tool used by manipulators to confuse the victims and induce them to question and doubt their reality. Long term, victims exposed to repeated gaslighting start feeling unable to discern between what is real and what isn’t. The term was coined after a 1944 movie called Gaslight. It occurs through denial and/or manipulation of facts the victim knows or assumes to be true, by derailing conversations, inversion of guilt, among other things.
Cognitive dissonance: it’s a state of mind in which a person holds two conflicting beliefs, actions or behaviors. Most commonly, victims of narcissistic abuse experience cognitive dissonance when they realize something bad has or is being done to them, while at the same time holding the belief that the other person is good and loves them. Or when the narcissist’s actions and words don’t match. Since the conflicting thoughts cause discomfort, the brain tries to make sense of them through different types of strategies. Narcissistic abuse victims who are also being gaslighted, end up staying trapped in the relationship, since the gaslighting causes them to justify the narcissist’s negative and damaging actions, behaviors and words. Cognitive dissonance keeps victims trapped in abusive relationship for extended periods of time.
Love bombing: relates to the initial phase in the cycle of abuse, when the abuser mirrors and mimics the expectations of the victim, thus creating an illusion of extreme compatibility and a fabricated (though experienced as genuine) perception of “soul mates”, “perfect for each other”, etc. Love bombing is intense and causes peaked releases of oxytocin, leading victims to become “addicted” to that feeling, which in turn keeps them trying to fix the relationship in search for a way to bring the “good times” back, when the other stages of abuse take place.
Future faking: refers to the false plans the narcissist communicates to the victim, thus creating expectations that will never be fulfilled. This keeps victims longing for the promised plans, while the narcissist manipulates his or her way out of them. Future faking can happen in the beginning of the relationship or any time the narcissist feels like a victim is slipping through his or her fingers, including during a hoovering stage.
Hoovering: coined after the vacuum cleaner brand, it’s a maneuver the narcissist adopts to “suck back” the victim into his or her life and under his/her control and manipulation. When the narcissist discards a victim or is left by them, hoovering typically follows. It may consist of false promises, a new instance of love bombing, lies and manipulative tactics. Hoovering serves the purpose of keeping victims as sources of supply.
Devaluing/Devaluation: one of the stages in the cycle of abuse, following the love bombing, in which the narcissist devalues the victim through criticism, belittling, indifference, shaming, disrespect and guilt.
Final discard: the last stage in the cycle of abuse, in which the narcissist gets rid of the victim. The final discard tends to feel sudden, unexplained, unwarranted, cruel and painful, leaving the victim confused, with no sense of closure.
Ghosting: a manipulative tactic in which the narcissist treats the victim as non existent.
Flying monkeys: people or groups of people the narcissist successfully manipulates in order for them to buy into his version of the facts and keep his public mask/facade. Flying monkeys are used to do the narcissist’s bidding and cause extended abuse to victims by proxy. The term was coined after the notorious flying monkeys in the movie Wizard of Oz.
Smear campaign: a socially manipulative tactic employed by the narcissist to discredit the victim, harm their reputation and avoid exposure. It is done through false allegations, distortions of the truth, shaming, etc. Through the smear campaign, the narcissist not only is often perceived as the victim, but also accomplishes the creation of several flying monkeys, who will also provide him with narcissistic supply.
Word salad: a mostly incoherent sequence or combination of words, phrases, ideas and tangents the narcissist engages in, in order to confuse and gaslight the victim, especially when faced with the risk of being unmasked through suspicion of or confirmed misbehavior, lying, cheating, etc.
Narcissistic rage: a term to describe the disproportionate rage narcissists display and inflict, in response to a real or perceived trigger, big or small. Narcissistic rage can manifest in a variety of scenarios and strikes in response to narcissistic injury. It may range from passive aggressive behaviors and ghosting, to full blown blowups and overreactions that are aggressive and violent in nature, whether verbally or physically. It can also manifest through a smear campaign, personal attacks through social media, text messages, phone calls, destruction of property and other behaviors specifically designed to inflict pain, suffering and damage of diverse nature.
Narcissistic Injury: caused by anything that the narcissist perceives as a threat to his or her sense of self worth, self esteem and imagined grandiosity and entitlement. Leaving a narcissist, for example, causes severe narcissistic injury, which is then followed by narcissistic rage. Note that narcissistic injury can often have no apparent, logical explanation and the trigger could be simply subjectively perceived, instead of blatantly intended. An innocent comment about apparently unrelated subject can throw the narcissist into a quick downward spiral of narcissistic injury.