A narcissist’s use of passive-aggression is one of the most powerful weapons in his arsenal of evil tricks. I never even fully understood the meaning of passive-aggression until many years into my relationship with an N when it finally “clicked”. And I’m a college-educated woman! The truth is that, for many of us, life before the narcissist warranted never having a reason to have to “understand” it and that’s perfectly okay.
Without having prior experience, I didn’t exactly understand the dynamic of a true silent treatment or the real definition of the term “narcissistic”. All my life, I thought the word narcissistic meant conceited or “full of oneself” when – oh my God – it means so much more than that!
Now that I’ve gained the experience, of course, I see that the narcissist is all about passive-aggression whether he uses it all the time or whether he uses it just when he needs it. Passive-aggression is part of the nature of these creatures and this is why, as normal humans who rarely have to deal with it, we don’t grasp what’s happening to us for such a long time. The narcissist’s use of passive-aggression is what causes us to feel that something is “off” in the relationship early on. It’s the “knowing” that something isn’t right with this person but not being able to put our finger on it. It’s the constant – almost paranoiac – sense that a whole lot is going on behind our backs even though we can’t see it, prove it, don’t hear about it, and are made to feel ashamed of it when and if we do happen to mention it to the person we think is causing it!
Probably the best example of the narcissist’s use of passive aggression is – of course – the silent treatment. There isn’t a single person here that hasn’t felt the sting of this mind-crippling rejection tactic a zillion times over. What better way to passive-aggressively tell us we mean absolutely nothing than to silently appear to erase us off the map? Can’t get any more passive than that!
The first time my narcissist pulled a silent treatment, I thought for sure he must be dead. I mean, why else would he ignore my texts, not answer my calls, and not answer his door? It never even occurred to me that the silence was on purpose! As days passed, however, and my worry instinctively turned to something else, I did a midnight drive-by only to discover that his car, much to my horror, was indeed on the move. In other words, he was obviously out and about and very much alive! I didn’t know which was worse, thinking he was dead and rotting in his apartment or knowing that he was alive and well and ignoring me. What I did know was that I needed to puke so, just past his apartment, I pulled into a dark parking lot and that’s exactly what I did. I puked.
Triangulation is another passive-aggressive trick of the mind executed to perfection by narcissistic partners. The narcissist skillfully and deliberately conjures up insecurities in his partner by merely speaking of or interacting normally with anybody and even any THING (think The Cell Phone Game). The interaction described or displayed can be good or bad and have the same effect. For instance, a narcissist, in casual conversation with his partner, can actually speak negatively of a girl at work in such a way that the partner instantly feels that something is going on. At the same time the partner feels suspicious, she’ll often also feel guilty for even thinking such a thing given the conversation. This is the type of narcissist-empowering passive-aggressive posturing that creates insanity! How can we feel jealous of someone whom our partner obviously doesn’t like? Or does he???? Maybe – just maybe – we really are delusional just like the narcissist claims us to be! And the next time it happens, even after discovering that we were right, we’ll still question ourselves simply because the narcissist is so good at what he does. The same thing occurs with The Cell Phone Game. Even after great sex, all my narcissist had to do was glance at his cell phone in front of me and I’d have a wave of anxiety. And he knew this too and that’s why he did it. What’s the matter with you? All I did was look at it.
I could go on and on with examples of the N’s passive-aggressive talents but I’d be preaching to the choir, right? All we need to know is that passive-aggression is the all-encompassing umbrella category under which every single narcissistic behavior can be neatly filed. Future-faking, the game of seduce and discard, giving the nefarious narcissistic blank stare, managing down our expectations, intimidating us into silence…all of this is a narcissist’s way of passive-aggressively bullying us into submission. Even if our narcissist is a screamer, getting in our face over every little thing, it is the passive-aggressive behaviors that cause us the most grief. Why? Because of the covert nature of the attack and because, in the moment, there appears to be no proof of anything even this is false. The proof is in the feeling itself. In other words, our gut feeling – our instinct – IS NEVER EVER WRONG. This phenomenon, of course, is for the Universe to explain but suffice it to say that this IS absolutely true and realizing it will save our souls.
During my N’s first silence, even as I imagined him possibly dead, I still had an uncomfortable feeling that something even more sinister than death had happened…but I ignored it. It took hitting the road in the middle of the night and seeing it with my own eyes to believe it. This being true, how amazing that later, when the narcissist began to hoover, I was so easily convinced to get over it! Like you and me and everyone else reading this article, I always wanted to give my narcissist the benefit of the doubt. Somehow he’d create enough plausible deniability in his story that I’d let it all go. He also, in a quiet and very passive-aggressive way, let me know that if I pushed the issue, he’d just go back from whence he came. I took the easy way out.
I spent years doubting my undeniable intuition rather than accepting the truth – that this person I loved lived an entirely different life behind my back…that everything he said and did had an entirely different meaning on purpose. Passive-aggression is a very clever control tactic but unless you’ve actually experienced it coming from a narcissist, there’s simply no way to recognize its most sinister form.
Remember…to a narcissist, every day – all day – is about what he can get away with. If he can passive-aggressively make you feel you’ve absolutely lost your mind…that you’re just another psycho ex like all the rest…he’s gonna do it.
Think back to every suspicion you’ve ever had about your narcissist– no matter how seemingly irrational – and I guarantee you were spot-on. The bottom line: trust your gut instinct, my friends, because it is never wrong. You are NOT stupid or delusional and you are NOT making a big deal out of nothing. Passive aggression, as clever a tactic as it may be, is still no match for the truth it disguises. If you’re being told the truth, you simply won’t have the intuitive feeling that you’re not. Now, sometimes this feeling doesn’t come right away…sometimes it comes days or weeks or even months later…but it will always come. You won’t just figure it out, the answer will come to you. And when it does, no matter what you are told or how often it’s denied, know that you know the truth…that your intuition is never wrong. And then, act accordingly on your own behalf. If we allow it, the truth will set us free.