Beware of people who try to devalue anything you say, have or do.
Narcissistic personality disorder has been getting more attention. Anyone who seeks to be wise about human nature needs to have a full understanding of this personality type. Narcissists are extremely manipulative, stealthy and dangerous people who target people’s weaknesses. One of their most common and effective tactics is “devaluing”.
Devaluing is usually a long-term tactic that plays out in a committed relationship. Most often in couples, friends or coworker situations where you get regular exposure to someone.
The first step is to build trust. When you first meet this person, they will be very nice, helpful and supportive. They might also overvalue you slightly and make you feel special and unique. This creates both a bond and buys your trust.
The next step is to slowly degrade your self-esteem by devaluing you. This usually takes the form of sarcastic comments, jokes at your expense, and mild criticism of your decisions and choices. It can also take the form of silence when the person ignores what you tell them or acts like what you have to say is not important.
They get away with it because the trust and the bond has been formed. Thus, once you trust someone’s judgement, you are more likely to believe any negative judgement they make about you.
Another reason this works so well is because it’s often done very gradually over a long period of time. Unless you are a highly sensitive person, it can actually go unnoticed for a long time. Yet, your behavior will start to change anyway. You might begin to be instinctively be less open with this person because you sense there might come some form of criticism, backlash or judgement.
Before too long, you might find yourself in a relationship that is mostly or completely on their terms. Any attempts to deviate from their standards will be met with shame, guilt or personal attack. Any conflict that occurs in the relationship will be blamed on you for basically “being you”. They will try to give off the impression they are just barely tolerating you because you are so unbearable.
This tactic is extremely effective at controlling and manipulating people. It is a form of emotional guerrilla warfare. The narcissist plays the role of a Trojan horse. They show up in your life as a friend who comes to do good. Once in the door, they carefully observe you to gather important information they can use to control you later. Once they find weaknesses they can exploit, they proceed to exploit them. You have limited defenses because these people will always aim to attack your Achilles heel.
This is why you will see people in abusive relationships, yet they won’t leave. The abuser has found that person’s weakness and is using it to keep their foot on the victim’s neck. In many cases, these relationships last until the manipulator decides to move on or the victim experiences so much abuse that their instinctual self-preservation kicks in.
The good news is, once you have the wisdom and the foresight to identify these people early, its very difficult for them to successfully sink their claws into you. While there are various warning signs you are dealing with such a person, there is only one sign that really matters: You cannot be yourself around them. Its really that simple. Anyone who makes you feel like you are not free to be yourself is seeking to control or manipulate you into behaving differently.
Respecting the preferences of others should not be confused with control. For instance, if someone says not to call them by a nickname you made up for them, that’s not controlling. Controlling is when someone gives you an ultimatum such as: “If you stay friends with them, I will stop being your friend”.
Being able to identify someone with narcissistic personality disorder is essential to maintaining the healthy and productive relationships you need to thrive. The wise know that a “detox” isn’t just about the body. Its also about the mind and the people in your life.