Narcissists are in desperate need of external validation. They need other people to prop up their grandiose ideas they’ve imposed on the false self they constructed in lieu of a true sense of self. When that narcissistic supply is taken away, they engage in a tactic called hoovering to draw the victim back into their life.
Narcissists can be very persistent at hoovering. If they’re making headway, they can continue for as long as it takes to get you back into their life. It’s only when they come to realize they’re not making any progress that they will stop, though they may begin again if they see you’re vulnerable.
It’s common for the victims of narcissistic abuse to be drawn back in by the narcissist’s charm, even after a long time apart. It’s vital to understand how a narcissist is able to draw their victims back into a cycle of emotional abuse if you ever want to escape.
What is Hoovering?
Hoovering refers to the attempts that a narcissist will make to bring you back into their life following a period of distance between the two of you. Usually, the narcissist will wait for a while to see if you are really serious about trying to create that distance.
When they see you are serious, that’s when they turn on the hoover. The hoovering behavior frequently starts with the narcissist turning on the charm and telling you how much they love and miss you. They will often try to remind you that the two of you had a wonderful relationship.
They will then move on to telling you that they can’t live without you, and they might also make themselves out to be the victim. They will tell you how much they need you to rescue them.
These are all the initial manipulative techniques they will use to try to draw you back in. It’s easy for victims to fall prey to these tactics since they often miss the narcissist. They may have felt that the narcissist was their soulmate in the early stages of their relationship.
They want to believe that the person they thought they knew is returning. They want that person who really seemed to understand them back, and when the narcissist turns on the hoovering, it seems as if they are back.
What are the Other Hoovering Tactics a Narcissist Will Use?
Hoovering usually begins with a random excuse for the narcissist to get back in touch with you. This can even happen years after you’ve separated from them. Their reason for suddenly contacting you might not make sense, but for the narcissist, it’s just the start.
After re-establishing contact, the narcissist may then begin to make the case for why they want you back in their life. This will initially include telling you how much they’ve missed you and love you, but it can then progress to more manipulative behavior such as trying to make you feel bad.
They may also try to convince you that you misinterpreted the situations that resulted in your separation. This gaslighting behavior can result in an attempt to break down your self-esteem and your ability to trust your own perceptions.
At this point, they may lie and distort the facts to try to make you feel as though you’re a horrible person and that it’s your perspective that is distorted, not theirs. If this is successful, they may even have you feeling grateful that they want you back in their life.
Proclamations of Change and Undying Love
Another common tactic the narcissist will use is to try and convince you they’ve changed and they simply can’t live without you. They will make use of any weak points they may see in you to try and suck you back in.
They will make you feel as though they’re the victim in this case, and they may even beg to try and get you back into their life. What’s more, they will continue to try hoovering more than once. These techniques can be extremely successful even to the point of getting victims of physical abuse to come back into their narcissistic abuser’s life.
How Long Will a Narcissist Hoover?
The simple answer is that a narcissist will hoover as long as they see they’re making progress. For them, progress may simply mean that they are disrupting your life. If they see that you’re emotionally distraught, that may be enough for them.
Being able to swoop back into your life gives the narcissist a sense of power, and that encourages them to continue. Essentially, the hoovering behavior will go on as long as you allow them to affect you. As social worker, Starla Moore states, “A true narcissist will always play the Hoover game when the relationship ends. Most victims of their heart-wrenching tactics will usually respond and that’s why the cycle continues.”
It’s only when the narcissist realizes they are not getting anywhere that they will finally give up. Before that happens, however, they will use every manipulation tactic at their disposal to try and get you back. They will lie, gaslight, project, beg, and promise change. They will play the victim and try to guilt you back into their life.
The only way to get the behavior to stop is for you to stop reacting to their drama. You want to not only stop allowing them to trigger you, you also want to become boring, someone they no longer wish to be with. If you can do that, they will stop.
Will the Narcissist Change?
Though the narcissist will tell you time and again that they have changed, it’s unlikely to be true unless they have been engaging in intense and long-term psychotherapy. For a narcissist to change, they must first realize they have a problem, and most narcissists do not see that they are the cause of their own troubles.
On rare occasions, narcissists can have enough insight and self-awareness to realize they have a problem. When they do and if they can commit to long-term therapy, they can make positive changes to reduce their narcissistic behaviors.
Most narcissists, however, don’t realize they are the ones with the problem, and even if they do, they are terrified of having to dig deep to address wounds that were created in their childhood. They are so frightened by the prospect of having to confront their feelings of shame and worthlessness that they would almost rather die than embark on a journey of self-discovery.
Narcissists desperately need external validation and are loath to let the people in their life go. They need them to validate the false self they constructed long ago and imbued with grandiose ideas of being powerful and all-knowing. When they lose someone who was a valuable source of the narcissistic supply of admiration and adoration they need, they will engage in hoovering behavior to get them back.
The hoovering behavior can start even years after a separation, and it will continue for as long as the narcissist believes they are getting somewhere. They will also use numerous manipulation tactics to get you back. The only thing you can do to prevent that is to not react to their tactics and show no interest in returning to them.
If you fear you will experience a narcissist who is hoovering, you need to learn more about whether they always return and what you can expect when they do. This article has some vital information to give you more insight into the behavior of a narcissist.
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