Narcissists seek to control, manipulate and ultimately aim to get their own needs met in a variety of ways and by using different techniques.
I liken this to watching a lone fisherman at work and call these techniques ‘bait’. In working with clients who may be experiencing narcissistic abuse I often ask them to try to visualise the narcissist sitting on the side of a bank, fishing. As he or she tries to catch their target, they will try out various different types of bait in order to find and use the most effective. They may have a few personal favourite forms of bait they like to use more regularly and they usually have an instinctive sense for which ones to utilise for different catch. The ultimate aim though, being to get others to bite the bait so they can reel them closer to manipulate and control for their own selfish means and gains.
In learning how to manage this and in moving on from narcissistic abuse, it can be really helpful in the first instance to learn to recognise any bait simply for what it is - an attempt to grab your attention and to pull you in. The second step is as you learn to recognise the various bait, then work to resist the urge to bite! Awareness of what a narcissist is doing, together with self-awareness of how this leaves you feeling can really help with this.
Fundamentally, we can group the various types of narcissistic bait under two main categories - fear & anxiety and guilt & responsibility.
Regardless of what the specific bait is and however blatant or subtle, it will be used with the aim of trying to trigger one or more of the above feelings within you. That is because when we are anxious, scared, feeling guilt or overly responsible we are much easier to manipulate.
Recognising the bait for what it is can help take the power out of its effect.
Some typical examples of bait include:
Fear-provoking & scaremongering - these include any attempts to illicit fear and anxiety in you or others. A narcissist will seem to inherently attune to your specific fears, insecurities or anxieties.
Intrigue - classic narcissistic fishing technique of trying to pull others in. Usually a snippet of info or vague, intrigue-inducing comment is offered in order to trigger the ofter persons anxiety or intrigue. They may or may not elaborate further - thus aiming to provoke more anxiety or intrigue. With this, they have caught you and your attention.
False accusations - this type of bait is one that can often trip people up and keep them locked into an unhealthy dynamic. Like any kind of bait, with false accusations, the narcissist is looking for a reaction. They may or may not even believe the accusation they may make about you, but with this bait they are seeking to rely on our instinctive tendency to automatically defend ourselves, to deny, justify or correct any wrong views others may have about us. (A narcissist will believe what they want to regardless - so you might as well just leave them to it!)
Guilt-tripping - feelings of guilt can go hand-in-hand with then feeling overly responsible. Guilt and fear are two things that can cause a collapse in our boundaries - which is what the narcissist is ultimately and usually trying to achieve when they are attempting to guilt-trip.
Victim - another form of manipulative bait is to portray themselves as the ‘poor me’ victim. With this bait they are seeking to elicit your sympathy, empathy and understanding and avoid taking responsibility themselves. They aim to reel others into a care-taking, fixing or rescuing position.
False-hope - this is the dangling of the carrot on a string specifically about what they know is important to you or what you want in life. The fantasy idea is presented that they will provide you with this but it is just used as bait to make you stay or to control in any other way.
How to manage the bait
First of all it’s important to learn to recognise the bait.
What are the different types of bait you recognise with the narcissist in mind? Be as specific as possible.
Are there certain types that particularly affect you or make holding boundaries difficult? How do these kinds of bait make you feel? Then what do you do?
A powerful shift can occur when you start to recognise the bait for what it is... an attempt to reel you in, catch and manipulate.
You may even be able to begin to predict the next bait tactic.
Don’t take whatever the narcissist does or says personally. Try to leave them to it.
Recognise bait as bait and then more importantly, notice how that leaves you feeling. Notice the immediate urge within you as to how you may want or feel the need to react.
Remember, for any narcissist, any kind of reaction they can illicit in others is a twisted way in which they try to feel better about themselves.
Whilst you (or anybody else) is reacting strongly to them, you are reinforcing the message that they have power and control.
You can learn to manage your own responses by becoming more mindfully aware of them. You do not need to show the narcissist your reaction.
You can also learn to stop biting the bait when you focus more on recognising your own feelings and then attending to that and your own needs appropriately.
All the time a narcissist continues to get a reaction from you, they will continue to do so. The moment you can consistently manage yourself and therefore take that away from them, is the moment you alter the dynamic . You regain control.
For more examples and practical ideas about how to manage ‘bait’ and move on from narcissistic abuse and other toxic relationships, please see the new book - How to Leave a Narcissist... For Good Out now on Amazon, iTunes, and online book stores.