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