Glossary Of Terms

The following are some of the most important words and concepts associated with narcissism and narcissistic abuse, as well as the impact it has on relationships.

Cluster B Personality Disorders Mental health professionals group personality disorders into three clusters. According to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), there are four Cluster B personality disorders, including narcissistic personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, and histrionic personality disorder. Often an individual with one personality disorder will exhibit traits of one or more other disorders.

Coercive Control An act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten a victim. This controlling behavior is designed to make a person dependent by isolating them from support, exploiting them, depriving them of independence and regulating their everyday behavior.

Fawn Response Fawning refers to consistently abandoning your own needs to serve others to avoid conflict, criticism, or disapproval; also called the “please and appease” response.

Flying Monkeys Like the flying monkeys who served the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz, flying monkeys in the narcissistic family are enablers who help with the narcissist’s dirty work, often to avoid being targeted themselves and/or to benefit from a certain level of bestowed privilege. The most manipulable types make the best flying monkeys. They may be children or other relatives.

Gaslighting This is a form of psychological abuse in which narcissists systematically undermine other people’s mental state by leading them to question their perceptions of reality. Narcissists use lies and false information to erode their victims’ belief in their own judgment and, ultimately, their sanity. Common gaslighting techniques come in the form of denying and projecting: After an abusive incident, narcissists refuse responsibility, blame the abused, or outright deny that the abuse took place. They may say things like, “You’re too sensitive,” “You’re crazy,” “That’s not what happened,” “Why can’t you let anything go,” or “You made me do it.” The term gaslighting comes from the 1944 Hollywood film Gaslight, a classic depiction of this kind of brainwashing.

Gray Rock Method Going “gray rock” is a boundary-setting and conflict-avoidance strategy that can be effective in dealing with narcissists. It simply means making yourself dull and nonreactive, like a colorless unmoving rock. In gray-rock mode, you engage minimally with the narcissist and his/her circus of enablers/flying monkeys. You do not show or share your thoughts or feelings. You do not react to antagonism and manipulation. In short, you make yourself of little interest to the narcissist.

Hoovering Since narcissists are by nature pathologically self-centered and often stunningly cruel, they ultimately make those around them unhappy, if not miserable, and eventually drive many people away. If people pull away or try to go no contact, narcissists may attempt to hoover (as in vacuum suck) them back within their realm of control. They try to hoover through a variety of means, from promising to reform their behavior, to acting unusually solicitous, to dangling carrots such as gifts or money. However, if they find replacement sources of supply they may simply walk away from old ones.

Love Bombing The term love bombing is now used to describe narcissists’ over-the-top courtship tactics when they are chasing someone that they are trying to seduce or make fall in love with them. It is wildly romantic behavior that includes constant praise, promises of undying love, thoughtful little gifts, late-night texts, and anything and everything that the narcissist thinks will secure the love of the person he or she has chosen. This intense positive attention is often accompanied by pressure for a quick commitment. Unfortunately, once the narcissist actually secures the person’s love, the love-bombing generally stops and is eventually replaced by devaluation or indifference.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) This is a Cluster B personality disorder characterized by: overreliance on others for self-definition; overreliance on others for regulation of self-esteem; lack of empathy; exploitative of others; grandiose delusions; exaggerated entitlement; excessive attention seeking; and excessive admiration seeking.

Narcissistic Supply People with narcissistic personality disorder depend emotionally on others to sustain their sense of identity and regulate their self-esteem. They get their narcissistic supply either by idealizing and emulating others or by devaluing and asserting their superiority over others. Anyone they can manipulate is a potential source of supply. Without suppliers, narcissists are empty husks. If a source of supply pulls away, they may attempt to hoover them back and/or look for other sources.

Negging An act of emotional manipulation whereby a person makes a deliberate backhanded compliment or otherwise flirtatious remark to another person to undermine their confidence and increase their need of the manipulator's approval.

No Contact People who have been abused by a narcissist may choose to cut ties altogether with that person. Typically, people who end up going no contact have had their boundaries violated in traumatic ways that eventually push them to shut down all communication with the narcissist.

Pseudomutuality A façade of happiness and perfection projected onto the public in order to hide the manipulation and continue the abuse privately.

Trauma bonding is a psychological response to abuse. It occurs when the abused person forms an unhealthy bond with the person who abuses them. The bond is created due to a cycle of abuse and positive reinforcement. After each circumstance of abuse, the abuser professes love, regret, and otherwise tries to make the relationship feel safe and needed for the abused person.

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