How the narcissist hooks you: Hoovering & baiting

10 minute read

The madness and harm the pathological narcissist causes can keep you hooked and baffled for years. Whilst in the cycle of abuse, you lose bits of yourself and your life is hijacked. But here’s the thing. When you are wise to how the narcissist hooks you into this cycle of abuse, you CAN make the choice to break free.

This piece examines the key techniques used by the pathological narcissist to hook you in: hoovering & baiting. Unhook yourself. Get wise to their games and refuse to play. Set yourself free gorgeous one.

How the narcissist ‘relates’ to others

The reason there is so much out there on Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is because of the horrendous damage narcissists cause others they are in relationships with.

Whether this be with an intimate partner, family member, friend, colleague…doesn’t matter. The abuse sustained in close relationships is devastating.

But you already know that, don’t you? Else, you wouldn’t be busy reading all you can to find out what makes them tic. Let’s dive in to deepen this knowledge.

The relationship pattern of the pathological narcissist follows idealisation, devaluation and discard which takes place over periods of years, months, days, and at times, flip flopping between phases in a matter of hours, even minutes.

These relationship phases are hallmarks of NPD reflecting the psychology of the narcissist in how they relate to themselves, and those around them.

This is how it works…

The role of splitting in idealisation & devaluation

Pathological narcissism is underpinned by splitting which is an inability to tolerate ambiguity in the self or others, resulting in black & white thinking.

The mind of the narc is only capable of classifying people (and events, places & things…) as extremes of the one concept. Intellectually they cannot cope with seemingly contradictory positions belonging to the same entity.

For example, one cannot have both positive and negative aspects. They must therefore be either ‘all good’ or ‘all bad’.

Splitting applies to themselves, just as much as it applies to you.

This is evidenced in their constructions of ‘self’. Their false-self is superior, omnipotent, grandiose and entitled (see Glossary for full list of traits and refreshers on terms used throughout this article).

This fabrication is ‘all good’ and created to deny their true-self that possesses opposing qualities of being weak, out of control, and replete with feelings of ‘less than’. Psychologically the narc therefore rejects their true-self that they have labelled as ‘all bad’.

splitting in narcissistic personality disorder

Similarly, this dichotomy is painfully apparent in the roles you are assigned in the phases of narcissistic abuse.

During idealisation you are classified as perfect, yet in devaluation you are completely defective. There is no in between.

At the outset of the relationship, you are in the ‘all good’ phase of the cycle of narcissistic abuse.

You are idealised, worshipped and adored. You are love bombed receiving incredibly fast declarations of undying love, and continuous reinforcement of your perfection.

When devaluation hits, your imperfections have become visible to them and shattered their classification of you as being ‘all good’. Hence, you must now be ‘all bad’.

The role of supply in idealisation & devaluation

Let’s move from the basic structure of the mind of the narc in terms of polarised thinking and how this applies to you; and turn to what they need to pull from you to prove to themselves this thinking is not flawed.

This, gorgeous ones, is supply.

In addition to the traits noted above, those with NPD crave attention. No surprises here, huh?

Specifically, the attention they hunger for, is anything that feeds that set of beliefs regarding their false-selves. Getting these hits of validation is what they live for.

In fact, they cannot function without it. To do so would mean annihilation to the pathological narcissist given their rejection of who they really are.

It’s important to note that it’s not just positive supply through flattering attention they hanker for.

It is also negative supply, the stuff of abuse and most commonly sought hit during devaluation.

Negative supply is the product of triggering an emotional reaction from you through invalidation, which confirms their power and control thereby validating their disordered belief system (for more on this read Invalidation and narcissism: Why they slowly erase you and Narcissistic Invalidation: How to stop them erasing you). Because if they can retain power and control over you (and others), they convince themselves they are in control of themselves.

So, in this way, in their minds, they win. Specifically, they win the battle with themselves, but sadly the war is externalised, and you gorgeous one, are the punching bag.

How the narcissist hooks you in

This backdrop is necessary to understand that hooking you is how they secure their hits of positive and negative supply, depending on a) which phase of the cycle of narcissistic abuse you are in; and b) whether you are handing over what they require in terms of supply.

Hoovering & baiting are the techniques used to hook you.

Do not get sucked in. Particularly with hoovering. It isn’t about wanting you although they may verbalise this.

It is 100% about securing back in, to source either negative or positive supply as needed.


The hoovering hook

What is hoovering

Hoovering is the technique used to suck you into the narcissist’s world of make believe, where you are on board with them being God’s gift to humankind. And clearly, when you are on ‘team narc’ you are a veritable font of positive supply.

Hoovering hooks range from the obvious to the truly bizarre. Some examples are below. To simplify how to spot it in action, the hoovering hook is any behaviour designed to have you engage.

It is anything that opens up communication in the belief that once they have this locked down, manipulating you further back into your role of steady source of supply is but a heartbeat away.

When to expect hoovering

It could be said that love bombing, that over-the-top worship which takes place during idealisation is the original, most powerful hoover.

It is ‘hoovering’ let loose, 24/7. A deluge of adoration, attention, kindness, promises etc. until you are well & truly hooked. This was your first hit. The first high of the drug the narc got you hooked on.

They know the potency of the hoover. They know how to target your deepest needs, wants and desires…and that by supplying you with a little bit here and there, this keeps you under their control.

How the narcissist hooks you: Hoovering & BaitingThis explains why during devaluation the narc ensures they give you a taste of it every now and then by using intermittent reinforcement. This keeps you hooked, a.k.a. trauma bonded.

They also use the hoover whenever there is any possibility that their control over you may be waning.

Do not be fooled gorgeous one if the hoover hits post discard. It frequently does. It does NOT mean they have seen the error of their ways (this will not happen – read When hope is killing you: Narcissistic abuse and Proof the narcissist abuses you intentionally and will never change). It DOES however mean that they have run out of alternative sources of supply and are sussing out whether you are up for it.

In ANY scenario, hoovering is the first test applied to assess how much residual supply you have left for them, by assessing the strength of your boundaries (for more on this read Narcissists love boundaries: Exposing the fallacy).

Hoovering examples

  • Telling you what you really want to hear. These might be:
    • an apology and false acceptance of accountability (see The narcissist’s apology: Sorry, not sorry)
    • future-faking with promises of changing their ways…they’ll go to therapy…that they will do ANYTHING to make things work
    • declarations of undying love…or that they miss you…or the quick revisit to that spell that worked so well during love bombing, ‘we are soul mates, we are meant to be together’
  • Pity-plays, where your empathy and compassion are targeted, knowing that these are REALLY tough for you to resist when manipulated, with vulnerability subsequently guaranteed. These include:
    • asking for help with overcoming their issues or addictions
    • using guilt to coerce you into engaging by playing the victim
    • threats of self-harm and suicide
  • Testing the water communications like:
    • brief ‘hey just checking in on you’ or ‘thinking of you’ text messages
    • ‘accidental’ random text messages e.g.: ‘I’ll be there in 5 minutes’ where they will claim to have meant to send it to someone else, or call hang ups (the purpose of these are just to see if you will respond)

The baiting hook

What is baiting

Baiting is the narcissist’s deliberate act of provoking emotional reactions to confirm their superiority and power over you.

As with hoovering, the aim is to have you engage with them, however, in this instance the mask is set aside.

When baiting sets in, the façade of ‘truly I’m a good person who cares about you’ is left behind. The pathological narcissist intentionally triggers you for negative supply.

When to expect baiting

The narc will ordinarily test you first with hoovering, and if this proves unsuccessful in getting a hit of positive supply due to strength of boundaries, they will then move onto the second test: baiting.

There are essentially two levels of baiting testing.

Level 1 is when they raise the stakes switching from idealise to devalue (or sweet to mean as is also often used), to get that emotional reaction & negative supply.

If boundaries still hold strong, narcissistic rage/injury is risked for them, and level 2 baiting is reached.

This is when they go for the jugular.

Baiting examples

Level 1 baiting:

  • Pushing your buttons by intentionally exploiting your vulnerabilities and trigger points
  • Overt nastiness such as shaming, mocking, humiliating, taunting, ridiculing, minimising and dismissing.
  • Projective jibes including:
    • seemingly random and unfounded accusations that instead reveal truths about themselves – ‘you sleep around’, ‘you’re on drugs’, ‘you’re obsessed with xyz’ etc.
    • playing the victim which differs from ‘pity-play’ described in hoovering. When used for baiting purposes it is centred on blame shifting. YOU are the abuser. YOU are the crazy one. YOU need help
  • Intimidation and outright threats in efforts to keep you compliant
  • Sowing the seeds of the smear campaign where insinuations of your abusiveness/craziness is disseminated. During level 1 baiting, the smear campaign is strategically deployed to allow the narc wriggle room to return to the external status quo of the relationship should you comply and begin handing over supply once more.
  • Triangulating by leveraging their smear campaign efforts stating ‘they all think you’re crazy/everyone agrees with me’

Level two baiting:

  • All hell lets lose, all you hold dearest is targeted. If it’s your children, then they will fight for sole custody. If it’s your career, they will poison your reputation. If it’s your home, they will take it away from you. The fury of the narcissist is unequalled. Be prepared and read What happens when the narc knows you’ve figured them out for insight on narcissistic rage.
  • Shifting the smear campaign into overdrive to sabotage all areas of your life they can get at. No more hedging bets, just in case they can pull you back in as supply. At this point they know you’ve got their number, so you must pay. Family, friends, professional relationships, religious networks…NO ONE and no falsehood will be considered out of bounds. The sole aim is to destroy (read Narcissists and smear campaigns: Why they do it & What can be done to stop the narcissist’s smear campaign).

Unhook yourself & break the cycle of narcissistic abuse

Unhook yourself from the narc

You may wonder what the point of level 2 baiting is when unquestionably these actions burn their bridges with you.

Well gorgeous one, in the mad escalating frenzied ‘you must be controlled’ world of the pathological narcissist (particularly malignant ones), if you take the bait and react, the negative supply you hand over is nothing short of orgasmic for them.

Is this not vile?

Yes. It. Is.

Is there any room in your life for this deeply damaging abuse?


The only way to avoid the harm is to break the cycle of abuse and unhook from their games.

You are now wise to the techniques they use.

Make the choice. No more reacting to hoovering & baiting. No more handing over supply.

Reclaim your life. Set yourself free. Now.

For more tools & knowledge building pieces on the issues in this article read:

As always, please share your thoughts, experiences, and insights on the issues in this article in the comments below. The more we share, the more we teach & help one another in reclaiming our freedom.

With gratitude,

Maggie x



Althoff, C. (2009). Social implications of entitlement, a cautionary tale. Journal of Philosophy & History of Education, 59, 88-91.

Kernberg, O.F. (2007). The almost untreatable narcissistic patient. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 55(2), 503-39.

Stoeber, J., Sherry, S.B., & Nealis, L.J. (2015). Multidimensional perfectionism and narcissism: Grandiose or vulnerable? Personality and Individual Differences, 80, 85-90.

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)

Zlatan, K., & Herlache, A.D. (2017). The narcissism spectrum model: A synthetic view of narcissistic personality. Retrieved from

6 thoughts

  1. Who Knew… Mine was one too.
    So, is completely right on, as if all this was written about him exactly. Shockingly awakened, just in time.. Thank You for the strength to see through it all.
    2 yrs & counting.. he still comes back every other month or so via txt hoovering, today I copied the txt he sent with his supposed discrepancies of my worth & personality. I sent it right back to him changing me to him. Result below.
    His Txt to Me.
    I have come to the conclusion that you cant handle a man that won’t be bullied, when he says something like pull over lets find it on the map or I’m not going to talk about it right now! You need a girlie man, that you can boss around and act like you own him, you need a guy that never says a word and just wags his tail like your dog, lol

    My Reply
    I have come to the conclusion that you can’t handle a woman that won’t be bullied, when she says something like lets pull over & find it on the map, you jump out of the car or say I’m not going to talk about it right now! You need a girlie girl that you can boss around and act like you own her, you need a gal that never says a word and just wags her tail like your dog, lol
    Marcy Rose⚘💋

    His Response
    Hardy Har Har..

    Haven’t heard from him the rest of the day.. Round One.. I Win..

    Thx for the Advice.. to keep the lesson & throw the baby out with the bath water..

    Marcy Gorgeously Rose

    Re: Johnny Angel to Johnny Was to Johnny Gone..

  2. Wow. Pretty sure this was my life.. with my ex. I mean all of these articles. I am the distraght one and even still after reading endlessly regarding this I’d still take her back. She put me through hell. But there are many moments she progressed. It was like a war between her heart and mind. Often distrustful she’d end up verbally hurting me.. badly. It’s such a long, complex and emotional roller coaster of a story. But she doesn’t seem to be missing me too bad. I just thought she’d always be there this time.

  3. I do not really agree with this article. All humans use black and white thinking and good and bad to see other humans. Look at the news any given day. It is uncommon not to do these things.

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