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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 😊)
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- 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.
The narcs I run into are always social and I seem to attract them! It’s always women who are very good at lying and manipulating and using. My other friends and I who watch the smear campaigns go on have literally decided that the only way they can do it is by lying about me and somehow she is the victim. Not one of our mutual (many became mutual through her insatiable drive to put a wedge between myself and anyone that she has access to in our social circle) so called friends will tell me what she’s saying. I can’t ask 😂. I’ve learned that much. The number of monkeys on protective patrol for her are increasingly insane. She really has done a number on my social and work life which is in social media and promotions. I’m astounded almost daily at the people she has at her beck and call. No wonder they think they are perfect! Everyone tells them they are. She thinks she has reinvented herself, we think, how long will these fools fall for this crap! 😳
Dear Rj, how awful. I’m so sorry you’re experiencing this. It must be so very hard when it is impacting all areas of your life. It sounds like you are quite grounded about it all despite the unfairness of the situation. Kudos lady. This is no easy feat. There is definitely a hint of humour in your message, and you are no fool. You know that asking what is being said, is engaging and very likely precisely what this person is seeking. Refusing to engage not only foils their plans, it protects your sweet self from what can only be poisonous. Like I said, you are no fool. Take care of you Rj. Light & love, Maggie x
I had let my narc Ex I had been married to for 12 years in the past back into my life after 10 years apart. He acted differently, even paid for his own flight ticket here, pretended he had changed. Forward 4 1/2 months later when I allowed his narc mother to move in. She started triangulating, his demeanor reverted back to his own self within a week, after a very bad day when I didn’t feel well and did not want to go grocery shopping (I have Meniere’s, bilateral vestibulopathy resulting in balance dysfunction 24/7, am almost deaf and a breast cancer survivor of 4 years) and he flipped out after his mother wasn’t sure if she wanted to go, he had a temper tantrum saying I don’t want to go, I don’t want to do this by myself and that after he had first been understanding and said I will go no problem before his mother not being sure and it went downhill fast they ganged up on me, in the evening he said let me know when you’re ready to talk, I said I am ready he said you be quiet and listen to what I have to say, no interruptions – his usual introduction to us “talking it out” and of course it drives me up the wall – in the end he said if you are already breaking down now, it will get worse the longer my mother is here as she is old, the. I will have to make other living arrangements (knoknowing it would cause anxiety) and don’t expect things to be rosy right away! The next morning I was fuming and evicted them both gave them 4 days then 3 days days to leave. The 3 last days were horrible, he laid on the bed with his mother on one side of my house all day long they looked like a couple, I was isolated on the other side of my house. I asked him if we could talk he said only if you listen, I said OK, he was silent for a second then barked at me I don’t have anything to talk about and went into the room his mother was in. She prevented us from talking. At one point t she had put her elbows on the kitchen counter covered her ears and closed her eyes shaking her head tuning me out when I was upset .the day before they left I was crying asked them to please take an uber and a motel room they said no, she leaned forward with a smirk on her face I told her i hated her. Anyway after they left a cousin for d their gofundmepage that they had on that day I asked them to get another and not created with a sob story shredding my character to pieces and lying and ask g for 1000 dollars. She gets 2100 he gets 830 a month ! They succeeded with their sob story and got 1600 within a day so they upped the requested amount from 1000 to 2500 ….which obviously proved to be fatal as nobody donated anymore. In the text they told people I had a psychotic break, that I had kept the house cold and the bedrooms didn’t get any heat (the bedrooms are the ones that get the heat, and she had a space heater) how they were stuck 180 miles from the nearest airport when it in reality is 55 miles away…. the smear campaign was vicious. He and his mother are both narcs he is the son husband substituting for a husband.
Dear Cheyenne, how awful. I think from your message that these people have now left your home. I pray for your peace from this point forward. Your health, your home, your peace, these must be your focal points. Only light & positivity for you in your life from now on. Cut out all else. Take care of you. Light & love to you. Maggie x
Dear Maggie, thank you. Yes, they have left my house. What I am still grappling with is ho people can be so uncaring knowing that the other person has been dealing with severe health issues. But then, I also remember that when I had labyrinthitis, and it took 5 weeks before I could function again, what a lousy and uncaring caregiver he was, and yet he complained to me how when he had his heart attack, his daughter and her boyfriend got mad when he told them something was wrong and he had to go tot he hospital and they refused to take him ….. he raised a narcissist in his own daughter and that very well … and how they had come just for 5 minutes for a visit – he does not make the connection that he did exactly that with me by not being caring and it being an inconvenience for him. I have cut out all negative people, it sure does get very lonely at times (I live in a rural area in a community of only 128 people and with my vertigo conditions am often not able to do a lot). Cheyenne
I am reading this post due to a smear campaign by a narcissistic sibling. I already went through the narcissistic ex 15 years ago. (Have not remarried.) In both cases I established boundaries and enforced them. In the case of the sibling, after a carefully designed plan of five years, with monkeys flying, I was ostracized by family. I do have a “goldsibling who “remains firm in the knowledge of who I am.” To lift myself up when needed, I summarized the following inspiring message from your post. I plan to read it as needed. Thank you.
“Those who know your character, your history, your identity, yet still choose to hop on the narcissist’s bandwagon are just not worth your lovely self. You are not a juicy tidbit, or story to be chewed on for fun. This is your one, precious life being toyed with. Completely not OK in any way, shape or form.
Weeding out toxic people is a fundamental step in designing your best life. Every person you lose from the lies told, are necessary losses for your passage to your best life where freedom & joy awaits. No matter how much you might want these people to be part of your journey. You cannot simultaneously keep darkness in your life and seize the light that is waiting for you. Those who remain firm in their knowledge of who you are, are gold. These are the keepers, the joy bringers that are definitely a part of that best life of yours.
Let the horror of the smear campaign serve as a concrete reminder of the narcissist’s capacity for cruelty. Mark it up now in your mind and let it serve as an antidote to any potential future moments of weakness when you are in danger of being hoovered back in. No more. The narcissistic abuse you have endured has drained almost every drop of your precious vitality. Whatever you have left, you must greedily store away for your own self and healing. Again. No more. Cut your losses. Set yourself free. Walk proudly with dignity, integrity, and your ‘joy bringers’ in the direction of your very best life.”
Dear GB, I’m sorry you have endured this within your family, and with your ex. The pain of experiencing this from those who call themselves family, is I think one of the biggest hurts one can experience. How vile. How traumatic. And how deeply saddening. Dear GB, you must be quite the warrior to have come through what you have. A fierce spirit lives in you. Do hold tight those words, and keep reminding yourself of the ‘joy bringers’. No more poisonous ones for you. Only ‘joy bringers’. Take care of you. Never lose sight of who you are. Light & love to you dear GB. Maggie x
Excellent article. Spot on as well I know. Just endured the result of my narcissistic ex’s smear campaign. He laid the ground work for it for over a year. Enlisted the help of my sister and only sibling, who I love but have had a stressful relationship with. When did his malicious smear campaign come to light and when did the narc ex choose to the worst damage to me? It was as my father lay dying and later that week during Dad’s funeral. Only a coward and deeply disturbed individual kicks another when they’re already devastated. When it is mentioned on this article that a narc as no boundries or remorse believe it.
Thank you for writing this article. Although it’s aimed at romantic relationships, it’s really helped me to understand the problems I’ve been having with my mum recently.
I am a 34 year old man and 6 months ago I finally stood up to my narcissist mother.
It’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do and she has tried to rip my life apart as a result. Nothing is off limits, including abusive messages sent to my wife, involving our children and contacting friends and family to pass messages on to me.
It’s been hell but reading this kind of thing helps to see it as her illness rather than something I’ve done wrong.
I guess I just wanted to say thank you.