Narcissists and smear campaigns: Why they do it

8 minute read

What is it with narcissists and smear campaigns??? If you’re reading this, you are most likely at the receiving end of a nasty, calculated and deliberate operation to poison your networks, driven by an abusive narcissist.

How is it possible that this can be happening? How can it be that on top of all you’ve suffered, you are now also facing losing family, friends, colleagues and/or community connections at the hands of the narcissist?

And all this, at a time when you’ve never needed support more.

Narcissistic abuse is devastating. There are no two ways about it. The narcissist comes at you, your identity, your life, like a wrecking ball smashing everything to pieces.

The smear campaign is just one more of the abusive narcissist’s tools custom built to destroy you.

Sense-making is so critical to your recovery journey. It is an instinctive reaction to any trauma in moving towards resolving the inexplicably awful.

As a victim of narcissistic abuse, you are also wrangling cognitive dissonance on a grand scale (check out the Glossary for terminology refreshers).

These factors combined are producing your voracious hunger for answers and researching narcissism.

Whilst no real sense can ever truly be made of pathological actions for the victim, this article intends to give you some answers.

We will look at what the smear campaign is; and why and when narcissists use this as a go-to strategy.

What is the ‘smear campaign’?

It is the intentional and systematic dissemination of deceptive information designed to undermine, discredit, and further isolate you.

The narcissist paints you in a misleading and toxic light using strategies including but not limited to exaggeration, instigation of rumours, slander, and lies.

narcissists and smear campaigns: gossip

The spreading of misinformation is not necessarily restricted to verbal communication. Some may go so far as to falsify documentation to substantiate their wild claims.

To get you where it really hurts, they target any person available to them who matters to you. No one and nothing is off limits to the narcissist.

This encompasses your family members, all friends both mutual and non-mutual, employer and/or co-workers, and members of communities to which you belong (e.g.: church, volunteering organisations, sporting teams etc.).

Anyone accessible to the narcissist in your professional and personal networks is fair game.

This will be mind blowing to you – how could they possibly go there? Your family? Your friends? How could they?

The answer is simple: because of their complete lack of boundaries and respect for yours or anyone else’s.

Why do narcissists and smear campaigns go hand-in-hand?

There will never be an adequate explanation for the horrendous act of being smeared with such vindictiveness. Particularly from one who either has, or still does, profess to care for you.

No reasoning will ever excuse the narcissist, nor account for the betrayal and broken trust you feel towards those in your previously solid support network who have lapped up the narcissists lies.

Having said this, understanding the motivations of the narcissist may help you acknowledge what kind of person they really are.

What makes them tic

Those who have Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) ‘discarded’ early on in life their true selves, replacing this with a false self as a protective mechanism.

This invented self is one built on beliefs of superiority, omnipotence, and entitlement.

Maintaining their delusion and the validity of their false self is a matter of survival (for their ego of course…). Because without this, there is no ‘self’ to the narcissist.

To sustain the beliefs attached to the false self, the narcissist constantly hunts for external reinforcement that they are correct. This is what fuels the narcissist, a.k.a. supply.

Asserting power over others through manipulation is how the narcissist proves to themselves that they are in control, and that they are indeed superior, omnipotent, and entitled to all they desire.

These mechanics are at the core of all the things the narcissist does. Including the smear campaign.

Let’s have a look at how it plays out.

Smear campaign triggers for narcissists

Scenario 1: Paving the way for discard

When the narcissist has sufficiently groomed their next target, and made the decision to move on to them, the inevitability of your discard looms.

This triggers their ‘go to’ set of well-used steps to make this happen.

As an abusive narcissist, they know that they have an established pattern of devaluation and discard in relationships.

They also know that to succeed in getting away with this repetitive cycle takes active management on their behalf.

In other words, to be able to keep doing it, they need people on side who won’t blow the whistle when they target and replace victims, one by one.

For the narcissist, the smear campaign is a handy strategy to mitigate the possibility of anyone asking questions, including the new target.

Specifically, questions around what kind of person would ditch their current partner (that they have been actively abusing and hence is suffering a bunch of psychological, mental, and physical symptoms which may be apparent to others), for someone they have been wooing as a replacement for quite some time?

And not just once, but over and over again.

Too many questions of this sort could place their choice of lifestyle, and any given primed & current source of supply, in jeopardy.

In addition to preventing this, and of equal importance to the narcissist is avoiding having their integrity questioned. The effect of this for them is tantamount to denying their superiority, omnipotence, and entitlement….a narcissistic injury in the making, and one to be avoided at all costs.

Clearly, protecting their abuse and discard lifestyle is paramount.

Being completely aware of all of this, the narc begins the smear campaign.

In this scenario, once the replacement is identified, and before discard takes place, the narcissist begins sowing insidious seeds of doubt in people’s minds.

Initially, subtle hints are suggested casually, and intricate tales involving some element of truth for believability are dropped here and there. For example, these could be weaving together evident facts to fit a fictitious tale, or exploiting your vulnerabilities.

the narcissist will exploit vulnerabilities in smear campaigns

As the need to discard becomes imminent, momentum gathers.

Having pinpointed receptive audiences in those who have not established a boundary with the narcissist, gears shift, and overt statements are made.

The narcissist at this point openly makes claims that are completely fabricated, as well as frequent projections detailing events that have actually taken place…except that upon their retelling suddenly you’ve both swapped roles. A reality switcheroo: you are the abuser, and they are the victim.

This is the aim of the game. To portray the narcissist as long-suffering at the hands of your crazed and abusive mind.

This way, the risk of being held accountable for their behaviours and actions is minimised. And, the likelihood of understanding from others of their need to break free from you, and receptivity to their new target, is increased.

Scenario 2: When you set yourself free

Believe it or not, the pervasive attitude of an abusive narc enacting Scenario 1, is one of nonchalance, almost of laziness. An entirely dispassionate (though thoroughly entertaining to the narc) and meticulous assassination of your character.

The purpose of the demolition is to remove you as an inconvenient obstacle to reaching their goal of replacing you with the new target.

In Scenario 2, the same basic mechanics take place as in Scenario 1, but the intent contrasts starkly.

See, here, you’ve upset the apple cart.

If you leave them, or have otherwise caused a significant narcissistic injury, the framework they cling to is fractured.

For a moment, annihilation takes place. Very briefly, the reality of their false self as a fabrication surfaces.

Narcissistic rage kicks in, and the drive to re-establish control and power over you, goes into hyperdrive. Their approach here is far more manic and backed by pure malevolence.

In this scenario, making you suffer in any way possible for daring to breach their delusional belief system is what consumes them.

Either way, the actions of one who seeks to malign the support networks, and character of one who is already hobbled from the suffering endured from their abuse, is beyond cruel. Monstrous in the extreme.

The choice

Pretty horrifying right?

If you have set yourself free and are facing the narcissist’s smear campaign, I hope that this information is some comfort. Of course, not for the fact of the gross losses you are coming to terms with, once again because of the narcissist.

The solace lies in knowing that you have made the choice to remove from your life a person capable of such calculated maliciousness. You can now begin your healing having cut the cancer out.

If you are reading this while still entangled with a narcissist, you may have reached for this article as part of weighing up your options in setting yourself free from the abusive relationship. As part of finding out what happens when you do walk away.

You may read this and think, ‘thanks for that big, fat deterring warning of the perils that await me if I break free – no way I’m doing that!’

But gorgeous one, if so, pause for a moment and think about this decision.

I mean really think about it.

In choosing to stay because of your dread of the smear campaign, and a million other very frightening possibilities – what are you choosing?

You are acknowledging what this person is: an abusive narcissist that you should indeed be fearful of.

A cruel, damaging human being, who will actively pursue harming you (Read Proof the narcissist abuses you intentionally and will never change for more on this front). And  you are actively deciding to stay because of this.

This is not cause to stay.

These are the very reasons you must break free as soon as possible. Think of it as your mitigating action to prevent ongoing harm by staying.

walk away from narcissists and smear campaigns

If you are fearful of your safety in any way, whether physically, psychologically, financially, in whatever way…reach out to your local authorities and support services for domestic violence to support you in breaking free. 

But do this you must. For you.

There is no denying the difficulties at hand in breaking free (read Why is it so hard to leave an abusive relationship with a narcissist? & Why narcissistic abuse and trauma bonding is so powerful for codependents for more on these topics).

Yet the sooner you surmount these (again, with support if needed), the sooner peace, freedom & joy will settle into your being.

You’ve got this gorgeous one.

As always gorgeous ones, please do share your insights, tips and experiences on the narcissist and smear campaigns. The more we share, the more we teach one another and help those in need to take their step towards freedom.

With gratitude,

Maggie x

bir4d

A couple of notes on this article

1. Although this article is framed for those in intimate relationships with an abusive narcissist, it is applicable for any type of narcissistic relationship. Whether within families, amongst ‘firm friends’, workplaces, or schoolyards – the bully shaped narcissist can be found anywhere, leaving a trail of smear campaigns behind them.

2. Read What can be done to stop the narcissist’s smear campaign next for the solution to mastering the situation with dignity and integrity.

Hungry for more?

As with most topics I write on that expose the ugliness of true NPD (at the malignant end of the spectrum), I recommend the following key works on malignant narcissism/ Antisocial Personality Disorder’d (APD) individuals: The Sociopath Next Door by Dr, Martha Stout, and Psychopath Free by Jackson Mackenzie. Check them out, they are eye openers on spotting those to stay away from, and how to protect yourself. Mackenzie’s  work also explores the path to healing. Read up now!

(If using link/s provided to purchase, you’ll receive free shipping and titles heavily discounted. You’ll also be supporting my work in providing you free resources on this site, by earning a very small commission, at no extra cost to you – thank you 😊)

Bibliography

  • Currier, J.M., Holland, J.M., & Neimeyer, R.A. (2006). Sense-making, grief, and the experience of violent loss: Toward a mediational model. Death Studies, 30, 403-428.
  • Hotchkiss, S. (2005). Key concepts in the theory and treatment of narcissistic phenomena. Clinical Social Work Journal, 33(2), 127-144.
  • Lutgen-Sandvik, P. (2008). Intensive remedial identity work: Responses to workplace bullying trauma and stigmatization. Organization, 15(1), 97-119.
  • Mackenzie, J. (2015). Psychopath Free. New York, US: Penguin.
  • Smith, M.M., Sherry, S.B., Chen, S., Saklofske, D.H., Flett, G.L. & Hewitt, P.L. (2016). Perfectionism and narcissism: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Research in Personality, 64, 90-101.
  • Stout, M. (2005). The sociopath next door. New York, US: Harmony Books.
  • Trifu, S., & Raluca, Z. (2014). The concept of narcissism in psychosis and in severe personality disorders. Euromentor, 5(1), 120-127.
  • Vitek, J.A. (2000). Aggression and differentiation of self in narcissistic subtypes(Doctoral dissertation). The Wright Institute Graduate School of Psychology. Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations. (Order No. 9970787)
  • Weber, D. L. (2008). Information processing bias in post-traumatic stress disorder. Open Neuroimaging Journal, 2, 29-51.

Leave a Reply