Narcissistic Controllers Use and Abuse

Narcissistic Controllers

Narcissitic controllers inevitably use and abuse others. That’s one reason I describe them as more than mere narcissists in Character Disturbance. They are more accurately labeled agressive personalities. But it’s their particularly virulent form of narcissism that lies at the root of their capacity for abuse.

Like all narcissists, narcissistic controllers think the people and things they desire in some way belong to them. They regard the objects of their desire as property. Accordingly, they feel entitled to do as they please with what or whom they perceive they own anyway.

Now, it’s very important to remember that narcissism is a spectrum phenomenon. There are many varieties of narcissists. Some are more malignant than others. But even relatively benign narcissists tend to use and abuse. Sometimes, however, the ways they do that can be difficult to appreciate at first.

Not All “Controlling” Types are Narcissists

Some “controllers” among us are not only benign but also quite helpful. If you need brain surgery you want a surgeon who is both meticulous and demanding. And you want them to have control over their environment and team of attendants. Wanting things a certain way, and wanting others to share your passion for exactness is not synonymous with narcissism. Narcissism adds a different dimension to a person’s character. At its core, it’s pathological self-love. It’s egocenticity on steriods and a sense of self-importance completely out of whack. And that makes narcissistic controllers a different breed.

Different Types of Control

Different narcissists, covert-aggressives, and other disturbed charcters control in different ways. Some use power, intimidation, and threats. Others play carefully on weaknesses and needs. But as odd as it may seem, some use tactics that don’t even seem like control tactics. Such is the case with narcissists who know how to seduce and charm. (See:  Narcissistic Charm Can Easily Blindside.) Their end game is the same. But their technique is more subtle – even appealing! Perhaps that’s what makes these types just as dangerous, albeit in a different way.

Now, let me be clear. Charm and seductive capacity are not toxic in themselves. But they’re deadly tools for those who only want to possess and control. Overall character is what makes the difference. That’s why discerning character – especially in our times – is so critical. And when it comes to narcissistic controllers, as long as you comply things can go smoothly. But just try to declare some emotional independence! That’s when things can get nasty – and sadly, even deadly. It all depends on what type and degree of narcissist you’re dealing with.


Today’s livestreamed Character Matters program is available on my YouTube channel. As soon as the recording is encoded, it will appear with all the other podcasts.

5 thoughts on “Narcissistic Controllers Use and Abuse

  1. This is timely for me.

    As some of you may remember, I have been estranged from my controlling, abusive daughter for a couple of years now. (I left her controlling, abusive – alcoholic – father when she was 3).

    She’s tried many tactics to bait me into a conversation/respond to her (fake emergencies/crises) (she doesn’t want to talk about her abuse – she gets abusive when I do that, she wants things to go back the way they were, or switch it up and talk about how I’m the problem).

    She’s also very big into image management. She pretends to really care about me in front of other people. But when were alone, she’s often neglectful and emotional and verbally abusive.

    She’s very aware of her two sides. She told me her boyfriend hasn’t seen that side of her. (That was some time ago, perhaps he has now).

    The last time she contacted me also felt like a hoover/bait and an incredibly cruel one. My sister had stage 4 lung cancer and was going into the hospital. She sent an email as if she was going in and would be dead that day or next.

    I felt conflicted because knowing her, I wouldn’t put something like that past her. But, as she knew well, wouldn’t want to take the chance that it was actually that serious. I responded (as she knew I would!) It turns out that it wasn’t a life or death experience. She used that opportunity to tell me what she wanted/needed. Pushing me to go to therapy with her – I’d already told her no. Then, she wanted to know if I wanted her to keep me updated on my sister. I said no and that I had reached out to my sister and if she wanted to communicate with me – or not – I respect her choice.

    My sister chose not to and I really do accept and respect that choice. It’s hard growing up with Narc parents and she wanted me to be her parent and caretaker and hated it when I required her to be an adult/and/or be reciprocal in any way. It’s on me for allowing it to continue as long as it did. I did it out of guilt.

    My sister passed away on Tuesday, 4 months after that email and my reaching out to her.

    My daughter sent a very respectful and considerate email. Expressing her condolences and telling me where/when the services were being held. She also said if I needed her support she’s be there for me. She wouldn’t know what to say, but would listen if I wanted to talk. She immediately sent a follow up one saying that she would be at the service and didn’t want me to be caught off guard and that we didn’t have to talk.

    She does appear to be trying…but, she does know how to behave, always has, she knows the difference between right and wrong.

    So many emotions and conflicting feelings.
    I’m been preparing for this news, but of course it’s still very difficult. My sister is pain free now and hopefully has peace.

    It would be so much easier for me to deal with the service if my daughter wasn’t going to be there. I don’t trust her. She takes vulnerability/needs and weakness and exploits it. She’s the Machiavellian type. She uses threats and intimidation when she thinks that will work and switches to playing on weakness and needs at other times. She has said before that the ends justify the means and she truly seems to believe it.

    There’s no way I’m going to go to her with my hurt and vulnerability. She will play the concerned daughter and cousin at the funeral and part of me will despise her for it. The other part of me will want to help her see that’s an awful way to live and it’s not right. (another part of me, smaller part, wants to believe she’s changed – can change – will change). My guess is I’ll end up looking like the terrible, cold, mother/sister because I choose not to play into it.

    Shortly after her email, I received a call and didn’t recognize the number and though it was a new doctors office. The guy said his name. I repeated it confused – like do I know you? Didn’t recognize his voice, but it was my ex! He seemed annoyed I didn’t know it was him. Anyway, he asked if he could go to the service. (didn’t say anything about being sorry or ask how I was! Right to his agenda!) I said yeah, okay. (It’s not my place to say who can go or not). Now, the real reason for the call. He wanted to know where it was. I was confused. Didn’t (insert our daughter’s name here) tell you? No, she told him if he wasn’t planning on staying the whole time, to not bother going. I calmly let him know that I didn’t want to get in the middle of them and that he’ll have to work that out with her. He tried to guilt me. No sale. Talk to your daughter, not getting in the middle. (the guys lucky I’m even talking to him- last time I talked to him – another time he was using a time of grief and playing on my vulnerability – let him know to never contact me again). Tried again with the guilt, then switched to anger when I told him again I’m not getting in the middle of you two. Then did his typical – dismissive attack. “Spare me your psychobabble, I’m hanging up” . I just laughed out loud. I don’t know how in the world I did not see through this guy – it’s so easy now. The great thing is how easily I moved past the call. It would have bothered me for days before. Wondered what I could have said/done differently. Nope. Same guy, same sh&t, different day. He’s not grown up, has not changed.

    He does not care about me. He sees me as a useful tool, a means to an end, that’s all. I was a useful beard when we were married. Unfortunately, our daughter learned his tactics well and improved on them.

    Possess and control – just an object/image management tool…..

    It’s amazing how much destruction narcissists cause.

    That’s my third sibling that’s passed away young. She made it to 61, the other two didn’t. The stress of surviving that environment and the after effects is very toxic to the mind, body and spirit.

    I know going is the right thing for me despite what I’ll face. I know I don’t have to stay the whole time. My guess is that they won’t be wearing masks and that in itself makes me uncomfortable and unsafe (I’m immunocompromised and unvaccinated). They still don’t know about my cancer diagnosis/treatment.

    It’s an awful realization that you cannot share your hurts and vulnerabilities with the people who are supposed to be your closest allies/safe people. I feel very much alone in my grief. I was the person every one came to when they needed something. The reliable/trustworthy one. Then when I learned to say no, stick up for myself, that was it. I’m the enemy/bad guy. Devastating lessons.

    Sorry for the long post. Thanks for reading.

  2. Mindful,
    That is such a tough situation. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Theres no winning with narcs, always a losing battle. The only winning is getting away from them. My daughter has some narcissism, not to the same degree but I can never show vulnerability to her, and don’t really tell her whats going on in my life, she isn’t interested anyways so the conversation always focuses on her, that way is best I discovered. I am very sorry about your siblings. It is amazing how much destruction narcs cause. I am lucky I have a close sibling I can talk to about these things and she very much understands – she has seen for herself. One thing I learned in alanon is I cannot control what is outside of myself – not others opinions, beliefs, behaviors. Not to have expectations of others because they lead to disappointment and possibly grudges. This is a tough situation but you will get through it. Take care of yourself and treat yourself gently, you deserve it.

    1. Kat,

      That’s so true that the only way to win (keep yourself safe/sane) is get away from them.

      Read that the best way to deal with cluster B personalities is just that – focus on them, talk about them and do not share your vulnerabilities (and get away as soon as you can). Be boring.

      That said, as you likely know, sometimes easier said than done when you’re in the swirl of chaos, grief and pain.

      So glad you have a close sibling and that she understand this stuff too. I think it’s essential to have an ally like that.

      Control and expectations – they are key. Self control vs other control. And watching your expectations of yourself as well as others. Make sure they are realistic. However, I think that one of the favorite tactics of these folks is to constantly try to get you to lower your expectations of their behavior (reset normal to awful levels). And we can lose, or if raised by narcs, never really understand and demand healthy behavior/expectations. i.e. I expect you to include me in decision making when making plans that affect me, I expect you to be faithful, etc..

      Like most things, I think it takes thought and balance. Two of the things they do not want you to do/have. Dysregulation seems to be a big tactic for them. Thankfully, the more I’m away from them, the more I meditate and get quiet and sure of my needs, wants, expectations, the less they are able to push me off balance.

      I gathered up my strength and courage and went. My ex and daughter didn’t go. My daughter told my niece that her flight was cancelled. I received a warm welcome and my niece thanked me several times for coming. Unfortunately, I was the only one from our side of the family that came. I felt bad for her. She did a really great job on the the service. I’m glad I went and grieved with at least some family and was able to support her in her grief.

      My niece and I intend to keep in contact. We’ll see how that goes, watching my expectations on that. She seems grounded, rational and has good self control, perhaps she dodged the bullet mental health wise.

      Been grieving privately and taking this easy and being gentle with me.

      Thanks so much for you kind words of encouragement and support, Kat. I appreciate them and you.

  3. Thats good that it worked out like that. Yes, its so easy to get off balance when being pressured or from their bad behavior. I find myself at times trying to defend myself to my daughter by giving reasons why I think something or why I do something and my daughter looks for that, thats just information she can use to discount my ideas or beliefs. I am usually on guard about it but sometimes I slip up and her response is a reminder that I can’t let my guard down unless I want to be belittled.
    For me expectations have been a big eye opener, I found I had unrealistic expectations that were causing me a lot of disappointment and anger and a lot of other negative emotions.
    Yes control and expectations I agree are so key to improving our own lives. Take care.

  4. In the wise words of Shania Twain “You’re a fine piece of real estate, and I’m gonna get me some land”

    It adds a whole other meaning to the song “I’m Gonna Getcha Good!”
    when you decide it’s about Ownership of a person, not love.

    I’m gonna getcha, it’s a matter of fact
    I’m gonna getcha, don’tcha worry ’bout that
    You can bet your bottom dollar, in time you’re gonna be mine
    Just like I should I’ll getcha good

    I talked about how Collectivism plays a big role in the Belonger role when I was designing The Circle of Slaves.
    Where you are owned by the group.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *