How Narcissists Hook their Prey in Three Steps: Love Bombing, Devaluation, Discard

By Hope Jay

shutterstock_651701389So many people have gotten involved with an NPD believing they are a truly wonderful person in the beginning of the relationship. The thing is, NPD’s don’t lead with abusive behaviors. Most people would not stick around very long if right off the bat they were being treated poorly. For an NPD, hooking unsuspecting prey, or “narcissistic supply,” is their primary life goal because they need to feed on others adulation, admiration and loyalty in order to stave off the deep seated darkness of their core selves.

Narcissistic supply is essential in the life of an NPD. They are incapable of self-soothing, or being alone because of their inner pathology. At the very root of it an NPD is a seething and ungrounded mass of desperate insecurities and bottomless need. Much like predators in the wild, NPD’s have an uncanny ability to sense the vulnerable among us; the “givers,” “fixers,” “co-dependents,” and “empaths,” people who because of their own unresolved wounds tend to focus on and make primary the needs of others.  The most perfect match for an NPD is a non-self-aware co-dependent, who is primed by his or her own life experiences to dismiss their own needs in favor of the needs of the NPD. And much like a frog in a pot of water on the stove which slowly reaches a boiling point, the co-dependent who has been seduced by the narcissist doesn’t realize the exact point when “love” morphs into abuse.

If you have done any reading on narcissistic abuse, you will be familiar with the term “love bombing.” But what is it, exactly? Love Bombing is the first stage of abuse, when the NPD is totally focused on you to the exclusion of anything or anyone else. I can only describe this feeling like being enveloped by the sun. This is when you are placed high upon a pedestal, and you can literally do no wrong. Skilled NPD’s are masters at this phase. You are the answer to all their problems. No one who came before can hold a candle to you. You are the smartest, most beautiful woman in the world.

You may be treated to “narcissistic mirroring,” which is when they take on the likes, habits or hobbies that you enjoy simply to convince you that they are the one for you. None of it is genuine. NPD’s are chameleons with no real sense of self; this mirroring phase is geared to make you believe that you have so much in common. It is another tool of seduction.

Many NPD’s (and this is a major red flag) will just pummel you with niceness-grandiose gestures, gifts and compliments. My Narc was especially talented and skilled at this because he had unlimited resources and money at his disposal. Not a day went by that I didn’t receive a gift, each one more extravagant than the next. He would come over in the morning just to “kiss me”. He would send flowers to my office every single week. He once booked an entire weekend at an expensive hotel, a spa day where he treated the entire staff to lunch, and rose petals in the bathtub and champagne every evening. He very early on would call me his “soul mate” and say things like “God made you just for me” (also red flags). What woman wouldn’t be flattered (and overwhelmed) by this level of attention? But that is what they are counting on, that you are so disarmed by the flattery that when it stops, you are left wondering what happened to that wonderful person I fell in love with?

But even more importantly, they are counting on you blaming yourself for their sudden shift in behavior.  When you enter the devaluation phase, it’s as if the person you knew and was so loving and caring suddenly ceases to exist. It may start subtly, or it may shift dramatically based upon a “narcissistic injury” that he or she has suffered. NPD’s are experts at blame shifting, and as they begin to devalue you suddenly every single thing that is wrong or upsets them is your fault. Since most of us have a conscience and empathy we cannot fathom a person who will not ever take responsibility for their behavior. Who will not ever apologize. Who will not ever want to discuss problems to find solutions, but rather to find ways to blame you for every problem that exists in the relationship.

It becomes a grueling and exhausting way to live, because you find yourself “walking on eggshells” all the time fearing that you will say or do the wrong thing and upset them, and be treated to another round of narcissistic rage or the silent treatment.  You begin to live in fear, and with constant anxiety, and literally have no awareness that you are absorbing all their toxicity as you grasp at ways to hold on to the relationship and to make the person you fell in love with appear again. The truth is that person never existed. The narc may return to love bombing again in short phases just to keep you hooked, like an addict chasing their next fix-but the reality of a relationship with an NPD is that you will just keep cycling through the phases of abuse until you hit the final phase: the Discard.

The Discard is the most painful part of the cycle of abuse. Most NPD’s will discard you with dramatic flair and when you are at your most vulnerable and broken, keeping with their sense of superiority and need to control the situation. At the time of the discard you will likely find out things that inform you that your entire relationship was a lie. My narc was having an affair with our tenant who lived in the carriage house on our property, in our backyard, right under my nose and with our five children living in the house. Almost always they will have another source of supply lined up before they discard you, because the reality is you were always replaceable and they have zero capacity for loyalty or empathy for the wreckage they leave in their wake. The discard can involve threats of violence, and will immediately launch into a smear campaign against you as they try to turn everyone in your life against you-in my case, he tried to turn my own CHILD against me. It is emotional guerilla warfare and until you have been discarded by an NPD you have no idea what hell exists or what lengths a person will go to who is personality disordered and full of rage.

If you are lucky you will go “no contact” and allow the discard to be the first day of the rest of your new, narc free life. But many people go through this cycle of abuse for years, sometimes decades, until they find the strength to leave the narc for good. It takes a great deal of time away from the toxic relationship, and many months or years of no contact, before you are able to see with clarity the reality of the consequences of narcissistic abuse in your life.

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