The narcissist’s word salad: Stop biting now

6 minute read

Have you ever wondered what on earth is going on when trying to talk things through with a narcissist? Does it feel like logic, rationality, and relevance to the actual topic are all completely absent? When this happens, gorgeous one, you’re most likely copping a serve of the narcissist’s word salad.

Undoubtedly, this gaslighting tactic is crazy making! On the flipside, it’s also an opportunity to truly see the madness in unabashed action.

The word salad is a big, fat, red flag that a) the discussion will go nowhere, b) neither will the relationship (it cannot, if working through things together is impossible), and c) your conversational partner may just be pathologically narcissistic.

Recognise the narcissist’s word salad by learning how to spot the key ingredients outlined in this piece. Refuse to bite from now on and take one more step towards breaking the cycle of abuse.

For more tips on how to detach from the narcissist, read Emotionally unhook yourself & starve the narcissist of supply: Here’s how.

The narcissist’s word salad

Although the term word salad is used in the narcissistic abuse recovery community (a.k.a. ‘narc speak’), within clinical settings it references disordered speech patterns as potential indicators of disorders including schizophrenia, dementia, some forms of autism, and bipolar.

Following the narcissit's word salad is like finding your way out of a mazeIt is recognisable through circular conversations & repetition, lack of logic, sweeping generalisations, use of words that are disjointed or unrelated to context, and contradictions. Essentially, it consists of a lack of semantic fluidity.

When used in the clinical sense, this linguistic symptom of a mental disorder is involuntary. This isn’t the case with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).

The pathological narcissist uses word salads intentionally, to manipulate and control by inducing that confused, addled state you know so well.

It is a form of gaslighting, the ‘go to’ method for brainwashing to foster loss of trust in reality and yourself. As such, as well as the markers above, the narc’s word salad also includes blaming, denial, shaming and aggression.

Word salad triggers

When healthy individuals work towards resolving conflict the aim is to find a balanced position for all parties. This mindset is accompanied by communicating in a mindful, respectful, and open manner.

Gradually, through a process of reciprocal listening and sharing, compromises are nutted out.

Although often challenging, the motivation to reach mutually beneficial outcomes works because there is genuine care for the other party and investment in finding solutions.

Not so with the abusive narcissist. The NPD mentality does not encompass qualities nor motivations needed for collaborative and compassionate engagement.

Efforts to address any issues that might cause you difficulties, no matter how you go about it, is intensely threatening for the narcissist.

This is because the narcissist’s existence revolves around reinforcing the belief system constructed to support their false-selves.

Anything which challenges the authority, dominance, superiority, or entitlement of the narcissist is taboo and incites defence mechanisms.

Hence, attempts to hold the narcissist to account or refusal of any given demand, triggers a serve of the word salad (amongst other abusive reactions).

The manipulations embedded in the word salad expressly and intentionally prevent the narcissist from confronting a reality where they might just be problematic. To retain their delusional beliefs they push ownership of any issue entirely onto you.

Through any means necessary, this is how it works…

Key ingredients in the narcissist’s word salad

Projection and Blaming

Clear examples of the desperate measures undertaken by the narcissist to protect themselves from reality are projection and blaming. Both are forms of denial.

Projection is evident when the narcissist handballs their flaws onto you. Whatever is unacceptable within them is attributed to you. You know it’s happening when their very own traits are being flung at you. ‘You’re so selfish’, ‘all you do is lie and deny’, ‘there’s something wrong with you, you are mentally unstable’ etc.

Similarly, any relationship difficulties must be the fault of others. Specifically, yours.

They go to any extent to construct a reason, or excuse as to why ‘the thing’ is your fault. No matter how completely bonkers their finger pointing may sound, you are blamed for everything.

‘It’s your fault I’m yelling at you, you’re making me do it’, ‘of course I’m sleeping around you are not attractive enough for me’ blah, blah, blah…

You must always be wrong

Any thought of both being on the same team, is not be shared by the narc.

Everything to the pathological narcissist is a matter of competition.

There must be a winner and there must be a loser.

This philosophy is central to the word salad and fuels the relentless need to prove you wrong about absolutely everything. What the issue is, what happened, how you feel, what you think. E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G.

Does this sound familiar? Ever tried explaining how you feel to a narcissist? What happens? Yep, even then, you’re wrong. Either for feeling the way you do, or that in fact you don’t know how you feel and they know better.

The reasoning is:

  1. If you are wrong about everything, then it follows you must also be wrong about any concerns you have about them.
  2. Correspondingly (to their black and white, polarised way of thinking) if you are always wrong, they must always be right.
  3. Ergo, they remain perfect and beyond reproach.

Madness.

Circular discussions

Obviously, an additional outcome of a mindset centred on competition, is that a solution focused outlook is not an option for narcs.

Consequently, two-way open and constructive discussions are deliberately obstructed.

For this reason, circular conversations are a primary marker of the word salad being served. Just when you think you have moved passed an issue, it is resurrected. Ad infinitum.

The rationale with this strategy is to demonstrate that there is no solution. None that they can be a part of. Because YOU are the entirety of the problem.

To their minds, tirelessly looping through the same issues teaches you this point.

It’s also kinda handy that endless, fruitless repetition eventually wears you out and you give up in exhaustion.

word salad exhaustion

Denial

As I’m sure you know by now, the preferred approach to handling life for the narcissist, is denial. The word salad is a prime example.

It isn’t just about contradicting you so that the fact of your wrongness can be confirmed, it is also about the negation of actual absolute and unquestionable facts.

There is no concrete evidence solid and indisputable enough that the narcissist in their hubris will not deny its existence.

They make bold statements one second, and in the very next sentence proclaim, ‘I never said that’.

Before your very eyes they undertake an act only to hold your gaze steadily and pronounce ‘that never happened’.

You may look at irrefutable proof like a written document in their own hand, or even footage of them busy at something, and they assert ‘it wasn’t me’.

Denial is all about protecting themselves from reality due their inability to cope with who and what they really are.

It’s also gaslighting in action. Repeatedly denying fact has the pleasing effect of having you question your take on reality, and whether you are indeed the problem.

Deflection

All word salad tactics are deflections. Anything to divert your attention away from their flaws.

In addition to the techniques outlined above, the abusive narcissist chucks in inappropriate, unreasonable, and illogical verbal or behavioural responses to throw you off.

Examples are overt aggressions including rage, intimidation, yelling, threatening you verbally and/or physically; and the more covert aggressions like ridiculing, patronising, condescending, shaming, and belittling you.

This is also where the gobbledygook comes in.

the narcissist's word salad is 100% nonsensical

A few choice placements of segues to utterly irrelevant and unconnected topics here and there and rather than staying on topic, you find yourself redirected where the narc wants you, or fully occupied trying to make sense of their nonsense.

Either way, they win. You’re no longer tackling the original issue and the possibility they fall short of perfection is avoided.

The word salad’s poison

It takes a level of detachment to begin spotting these tactics. The word salad is designed to destabilise you into submissiveness, and this is precisely what it achieves.

To begin the process of disengagement, take note of how you react and feel. These are your most powerful indicators that the poison of the narcissist’s word salad is hitting the mark.

Clear signs are:

  • You feel super confused and have no idea what just happened
  • Despite having raised a concern yourself: a) the conversation is exclusively focused on you, b) you found yourself defending yourself constantly, and c) throughout the discussion you were seeking their validation
  • You find yourself repeatedly trying to explain basic human emotions and experiences (to a grown adult no less)

Once you recognise these warnings in yourself start taking note of the techniques when you interact.

Reflect on the intentionality of the narcissist in applying these strategies to gaslight you into taking ownership of all issues*.

Do you really want to spend your precious time, energy and wonderfulness on someone who toys with you in this way?

Gorgeous one, change and growth towards a healthy relationship isn’t going to happen when this is the response to conflict, or your right to set a boundary.

When your own denial shifts, and you start accepting this fact, you will begin letting go.

Your detachment from the games, are the key to reclaiming your freedom.

You’ve got this gorgeous one.

As always, please share your insights, tips and experiences on gaslighting and the word salad. The more we share, the more we teach one another and help those in need to take their step towards freedom.

 

With gratitude,

Maggie

bir4d

*For more on the narcissist’s intentionality & gaslighting, read: Proof the narcissist abuses you intentionally and will never change, and 5 ways to counteract the narcissist’s gaslighting.

Bibliography

Salzinger, K., Protnoy, S., & Feldman, R.S. (1964). Verbal behavior of schizophrenic and normal subjects. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 105(15), 845-860.

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)

Wang, H.G., Jeffries, J.J., & Wang, T.F. (2015). Genetic and developmental perspective of language abnormality in Autism and Schizophrenia. The Neuroscientist, 22(2), 119-131.

Zosky, D. M. (2001). The role of projective identification with domestically violent males (Doctoral dissertation). Loyola University Chicago. Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations. (Order No. 3001640)

19 thoughts

  1. Word salad. Soon to be ex’ favorite tool.
    After I was awarded custody of our three daughters (he’s alienated my (over 18) son from me and his sisters – with some word salad and a sprinkling of lies), we moved out. He immediately locked me out of the house and I remained locked out for four months. Had nothing but our clothes and an air mattress, yet he still claimed in court that I robbed him blind. (More word salad that allows him to be the victim).
    Here’s an excerpt from my journal about my court ordered packing day.

    During my move, I had collected about 2 dozen boxes for packing for months and was intending on leaving them in the garage at the old house. He told me to move them because he needed to park in the garage (never parked in the garage in 22 years). So I moved them to my old garage which he watched me do and gave me approval to do. I went back on a court ordered access packing day and they were gone. This was our conversation.
    Me- the boxes that you made me move from your garage to my garage aren’t there. Did you move them somewhere?
    Daddy delusional- boxes? I didn’t see any boxes.
    Me- you watched me move them. You told me they couldn’t stay in your garage because you needed to park in it.
    DD- ohhhh. Wellllll……. there were some really big boxes and then some wine boxes. And there were two that said amazon and then some really small boxes.
    Me- yeah??? There were about 20 of them. You remember seeing them now?
    DD- yeah.
    Me- where did they go?
    DD- well there was some really huge ones. And then a whole bunch of wine boxes….. and then there were some really small ones….. and two said amazon….
    Me- I know what they looked like. I brought them here. Where are they?
    DD- I recycled them.
    Me- you recycled them?
    DD- well, yeah!
    Me- so you didn’t see any boxes, yet you know what they looked like and then you recycled the boxes that you didn’t see?
    DD- yup.
    Me- helpful! Thanks.

    I’m probably dumb for engaging in his twisted tales, denial of reality and projection of evil. Sometimes I just can’t help myself.

    1. Dear Soozie, I had to laugh, I hope you will forgive me. What absolute drivel. I’m loving what I sense is a wee bit of humour in your message despite the horrendous ordeal he has clearly put you through. What a woman you are! What a force! Such a perfect example of the nonsensical, looping, words stuck next to each other that really don’t mean anything at all, word salad. I cannot comprehend how they get away with it. Congratulations on your upcoming freedom Soozie. I wish you every wondrous thing your heart desires, I have no doubt it’s all coming to you in spades. Maggie x

  2. Thank you. At this minute in time you have no idea how everything Maggie and youball have written has helped me. Xxx

    1. Dear Cat, I’m so glad. Sending you all the light & love you need right now as I’m guessing you must be going through the awakening, getting ready to free yourself. You’ve got this Cat. Take care of you. Maggie x

  3. I’m currently in a relationship like this, I want to leave but don’t know how. Every time I try to talk to him he goes all puppy dog eyed and starts being sweet and super greasy nice. He says he will change and tells me I need to tell him if something is bugging me which I do but he makes promises to change, everything is great for a couple of months then he will be back to normal. He is also constantly trashing my parents behind their back and did the same for all my friends. My workmates are all I have left to talk to and they are encouraging me to leave. It’s so hard though!! I used to be so confident and outgoing but now I just go to work and come home. I can’t go anywhere unless I keep my phone in my hand constantly in case he messages me because he freaks out if I don’t reply within a few minutes so I don’t go out anymore it’s just too much hassle.

    1. Dear Sharalee, thank you for sharing. What do you think is stopping you from leaving? Is it the control mechanisms in place? And the isolation? Or is it something inside you…maybe a bunch of things? Are you maybe a little torn? If you’d like to brainstorm ways of leaving with support, feel free to email me at maggie@narcwise.com. Whatever you want to do, you can make it happen. Often the first step is being really clear on what that thing you want is, then all falls into place. Sending you light & love, Maggie x

  4. narcwisemaggie,

    I am curious to know about female Narc after discarded by husband before her to be discarded him. It seems and or sensed that alternative supply is ready on hand. What could the ending life of Narc, how one can foresee her future life and or ending life

    1. Dear Nizar, I’m not sure I’m clear on this one. I’m understanding that you are wanting to explore alternative sources of supply for narcissists when they discard their main source of supply; and perhaps how living the life of a narc impacts on them longer term? I’m not sure, my apologies. I’m wondering if seeking support locally might be helpful to really get stuck into talking through questions? Alternatively, I do offer coaching services which I can give you information on if you are interested. My email is maggie@narcwise.com. Take care of you Nizar. Maggie x

  5. Any help assistance can guide me about any group or gatherings in late evenings in Euless, TX as am new in this country and don’t find as such. Feel so much lonely. I wanted to come out of trauma bond.

    1. Dear Nizar, I hear you, and this sounds like a fabulous thing to pursue. Can you follow up local services for some referrals as to what is available for you? Some ideas are to contact social workers, counsellors, and calling the national Domestic Violence hotline. I’d love to give you the information you’re seeking but unfortunately, I am not located in the US, and don’t have contact details of providers in your neighbourhood. You definitely will be able to find the right group for you by reaching out to the suggested touch points, they will help. Light & love to you Nizar. Maggie x

      1. I am constantly searching free help on net but unfortunately not getting through. Am new in this country and no help and assistance is available to me. Since I am with very limited source and fighting to survive some how, living day to day life. At times feels helpless.

      2. Dear Nizar, I urge you to follow up on the Domestic Violence hotline. They will help you. First you must reach out. You can do this, even with little resources. Do it, make the call! Maggie x

    2. Hi Nizar, I’m in the DFW area and maybe I can help. Metrocare has an office in Grand Prairie, and that’s not too far from Euless. They’re on South Carrier Parkway, if that helps you to look them up. They may be able to help with counseling, or refer you to group sessions for people in your position. John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth is the county hospital for Tarrant County, where you are, and they might also have referrals to groups like you’re seeking, some even have a sliding scale fee… you pay either nothing, or a fee that’s affordable to you based on income or how much you can afford. Hopefully that will get you started and into some help. Good luck, and blessings!

      1. Dear Shellie – thank you for reaching out to Nizar. This information is fabulous. It’s people like you who make all the difference! Maggie x

  6. Dear artfromperry, welcome to the Narc Wise community! Thank you for sharing your view with us all here. No Contact is definitely an approach advocated for across the broader narcissistic abuse support community, where possible. The reasons are all very sound. Many are explored in check it out if you are interested in ‘No Contact’ as a healing mechanism. Look forward to hearing more of your views artfromperry. Light & love to you. Maggie x

  7. Dear Maggie,
    Thank you, thank you, thank you!
    This is the first article of yours I have found and will be reading the rest. I married a narcissist who lied and cheated throughout our marriage and he NEVER came clean. When we divorced, he and his family did their best to take my children including making fake reports. We ended up in court several times but thank God I documented the craziness and the judge saw it clearly.
    I have been to hell and back and never knew such evil existed. I’ve had an awakening. I’m happily married now, but it took 15 years to work through that nightmare. Thank you again for writing,!

    All love and light to you!

    1. Dear Jennifer, thank you for sharing some of your story. There is much that lies beyond these words. It’s so very uplifting to hear stories such as yours of coming through and rebuilding a life of happiness. You are one strong, gorgeous spirit. Please do share more as you read the articles – inspiration from thrivers is always welcome! And thank you dear Jennifer for your kind words regarding this work. I am grateful. Love & light right back at you gorgeous one. Maggie x

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