When A Narcissist Knows You’ve Figured Them Out
*We may earn a commission for purchases made using our links. Please see our disclosure to learn more.
People with narcissistic personality disorder frequently engage in manipulative behavior to create a toxic relationship where they have complete control over the other people in their life. They do this because they live in constant fear that their flawed true self will be exposed for the world to see.
Their abusive behaviors become obvious to most victims at some point in the relationship. So what happens when they know you’ve figured them out?
There are often several reactions the narcissist has when they know you’ve got their number. They may engage in verbal abuse, give you the silent treatment, and use other techniques of emotional abuse to frighten you. This attack mode is all part of a cycle of abuse that results in a discard.
It’s common in relationships involving a narcissist for trauma bonding to occur between the toxic person and their victim. They use the trauma bond to further manipulate their victim.
This works especially when the narcissist is a parent of their victim. Here’s what you can expect when the narcissist knows you know.
What Happens When the Narcissist Knows You Know?
A common tactic narcissists use when they realize you’ve got them figured out is to launch a campaign of abuse. This can include the following examples of appalling behavior you might see:
- Anger attacks, also known as narcissistic rage – the idea here is to deny and distract
- Gaslighting to try to distort your reality
- Triangulation to create divisions between you and your family members or friends
- Smear campaigns against you to try to destroy your credibility
When they fear you can see through to their true self, which they believe to be hopelessly flawed, they will basically engage in abuse to max capacity to prevent you from exposing that reality to the world. It results in awful abuse that no one deserves.
The narcissist is not really a bad person, they’re an injured person – a wounded child who has developed an inflated sense of self to try to feel good about themselves. Their bad behavior is an attempt to maintain control over their narcissistic supply.
Narcissistic supply is the adoration they get from other people that they require to prop up their grandiose false self-image. Their sense of reality is skewed by the childhood trauma they suffered. That trauma created a narcissistic injury they have never overcome.
It’s sad, really, but that doesn’t mean that you deserve the narcissistic abuse they will inflict on you to control and manipulate you. You deserve a healthy relationship, but a toxic narcissist can’t give you that.
What is the Cycle of Narcissistic Abuse?
When you become involved with a narcissist, there is a cycle of abuse that most relationships with them pass through. This involves several changes in personality that the narcissist will go through as they engage in the manipulation they believe will result in a never-ending narcissistic supply.
Here are the stages that most relationships involving a narcissist go through:
This is the early stage of any relationship with a narcissist. It even occurs in parent-child relationships. During this stage, the narcissist is very charming and idealizes their victim.
They also use this stage to draw you in, to get you to love them so that you won’t want to abandon them. It’s one reason the narcissist often marries quickly.
“Life’s rollercoaster of love with a narcissist is a treacherous ride, filled with emotional wreckage and tears that stain the heart.”
— Patricia Edwards, Narcissistic Survivor, Author and Passionate Blogger
Many ex-partners of narcissists often describe thinking they met their soulmate and they agree to marry quickly because they think they’re the perfect couple. They soon find out, however, that the person they married is deeply wounded.
With narcissistic parents, the pattern is that they idealize their children in the early years of their life. It’s when the child gets old enough to think for themselves that the next stage occurs.
As the relationship with a pathological narcissist progresses, they develop unrealistic expectations for the person they have idealized. These are expectations that no one can be expected to fulfill, such as a narcissistic partner who expects their lover to read their mind.
When the narcissist’s victim fails to live up to their unrealistic expectations; however, the narcissist begins to devalue them. They become increasingly critical of their victim. One type of narcissist – malignant narcissists – enjoys the pain they induce in their victims with their devaluation.
For the victim, this abuse is extremely confusing. They don’t know what happened to the loving, supportive person they thought they knew. For a child, an abusive narcissistic parent can create deep wounds in their psyche that result in lifelong trauma.
Many times, the victim of narcissistic abuse will initiate the discard as the devaluation becomes more extreme. But if they don’t, the narcissist may initiate a discard once they believe they have gotten what they need from their victim.
An abusive narcissist has also learned through the years that people grow tired of their bad behavior, and they will initiate the discard as a way to ‘quit before they get fired.’
No matter who initiates the discard, however, it’s important to realize that it’s more likely than not that the narcissist will come back into your life at some point. Check out this video to learn more about if it will be permanent.
Can You Protect Yourself When the Narcissist Knows You Know?
There are definitely steps you should take to protect yourself from any kind of narcissistic abuse. It’s vital for your own mental and physical health to do so. There are several things you can do. Here are a few examples.
- Tell the narcissist what you will not put up with
- Never put up with physical abuse
- Enforce the consequences you determine for boundary violations consistently
- When the narcissist engages in unacceptable behavior, leave the conversation, the room, or the house
- If you can’t leave, become like a grey rock – don’t react emotionally, and don’t argue
- Show the narcissist what empathy looks like and tell them how to show empathy for you
- Talk to the narcissist about therapy and encourage them to get help
- Get therapy for yourself
- Get away from the narcissist regularly
- Spend time with a loving support network
- Spend time in nature
- Go no contact if they won’t stop their abusive behavior
You don’t deserve the abusive treatment a narcissist dishes out; no one does. Protecting yourself needs to be your priority, and if that means cutting the narcissist out of your life, do so as soon as you’re able.
The average person can’t hide it when they see through the abusive treatment they receive from a narcissist. When a narcissist realizes their victim has seen through their facade, they become consumed by fear their true self will be revealed for all the world to see. That creates a cascade effect of numerous abusive behaviors designed to distract, discredit, and destroy their victim.
That’s why it’s vital that you take the appropriate steps to protect yourself from further abuse. That may mean going no contact, but it definitely means setting and maintaining firm boundaries.
You can’t fix the narcissist, but you can get them to modify their behavior around you. If you have to continue being in a relationship with them, that is probably the best you can hope for, but it’s better than putting up with the abuse.
Perhaps the most important thing to know is that you did not cause what’s happening to you. This is the nature of narcissism, and it’s not something that you deserve.
If you want more tips for dealing with narcissists, setting boundaries, and managing emotional triggers, make sure you subscribe to my youtube channel