8 mind games narcissists play to keep you dependent on them

I hate saying that people who manipulate others are clever, but it’s sort of true. Narcissists are clever in this way!

They may not have much empathy for others, but they know how to get under your skin. They’re pretty good at it, too.

You might think they do this for power and control (which they kind of do). But their behavior usually stems from something deeper.

Insecurity! Narcissists are unbelievably insecure, and they fear abandonment and rejection more than anything.

This is their weakness and their motivation – as it fuels them to play twisted games with you until you feel like you “need” them to live your life.

If you think someone you know is a narcissist, whether it’s someone you’re dating, a friend, or even a parent – watch out for these 8 mind games they might be playing.

Up first:

1) Cutting you off from family and friends

Narcissists prefer to work alone. In a crowd, they feel threatened. They actually lack self-esteem, so they worry that people will turn on them if they do anything too nasty in a group.

Which is why they like to isolate you from your family and friends.

They might spread lies to get you to dislike certain people. They might guilt-trip you into cutting certain people off. Or they might outright say you can’t see someone anymore.

They mostly do this because it’s easier to control you when it’s just you alone. But it’s also because you’re less likely to leave them when you feel like they’re all you have.

Plus, when you don’t see your friends or family, you’re less likely to talk about their poor behavior and realize the mind games they’re playing. Allowing them to maintain the control they have over you…

2) Guilt tripping you into canceling plans

Small doses of jealousy can be good in a healthy relationship. But it can quickly turn toxic if someone crosses the line!

A good partner or friend shouldn’t get jealous if you spend time with other people. They shouldn’t make you feel guilty for “leaving them at home”, either.

But this is something a narcissist will do – and it’s a mind game they’ll play to keep you dependent on them and only them!

If you’re due to see friends, go to a gym class, or spend time with yourself, a narcissist might try to make you feel bad about it.

They might say you’re being unfair or selfish by “leaving” them. Or they might just act sad and depressed until you stay home with them instead.

Either way, you always end up canceling your plans or not doing the things you want to do because of them…

3) Running hot and cold with you

Narcissists struggle with their self-esteem. When they get close to someone, they sometimes like to withdraw to protect themselves (by making you think they don’t care about you).

Something I learned after my experience with a narcissist is that they’ll play dumb if you confront them on this behavior! They might call you crazy or say you’re imagining things. Or they might brush it off and say everything is fine.

I had to trust my gut to convince myself this wasn’t true. It was only when I was out of the relationship, I could see their behavior for what it really was.

If your partner is charming and kind at the party and silent or rude when you return home, this is hot and cold behavior – no matter what excuse they give!

Usually, it’s a game they’re playing with you to make you crave more.

pic1504 8 mind games narcissists play to keep you dependent on them

4) Criticizing things you enjoy

Say you enjoy watching The Disney Channel or going running around the park. These things make you happy and give you a sense of fulfillment in life. They’re also something you do alone.

A “normal” person wouldn’t have a problem with you doing these things. They’d be happy that you’re happy. But to a narcissist, your hobbies are a threat!

When you enjoy things without them or things they don’t want you to do, it makes them feel powerless. They feel jealous and insecure. They also don’t particularly like seeing you happy afterward.

So, they’ll criticize your hobbies. They’ll make fun of them in a nasty way or outright say how “embarrassing” they think they are!

While these comments may seem harmless or “just a joke”, they aren’t. They’re strategic and an attempt to get in your head so you stop doing things you enjoy.

5) Making fun of your appearance

When you feel down, a narcissist feels better. Making you feel self-conscious and insecure is cruel, but it’s something they’ll do to keep you dependent on them.

Their trick is usually to palm off negative comments about your appearance as a “joke”. Like by poking fun at your weight or the size of your nose.

But eventually, these comments can wear away at your self-esteem. They can make you feel like you aren’t good enough or attractive enough to be treated better – and therefore stay in a friendship or relationship with them.

After a while, these “jokes” may turn into this exact comment: You couldn’t do better than me. Not with that nose. Not with that personality. Not with how ugly you are…

6) Saying you aren’t good enough

It’s a sad truth, but the less you have, the less of a threat you are.

If you have hobbies you enjoy, supportive friends, a good job, and possessions you love, you’re probably more likely to be happy in life.

When you’re happy, you feel confident and more deserving of good things. Mostly, you don’t feel like you deserve the poor treatment of a narcissist!

Which is exactly why people with narcissistic tendencies will say anything to put you down! They want you to think they’re better than you, so they’ll play games to make you believe it.

They might say you aren’t good enough to get the job when you’re going for the promotion. They might say the same thing when you consider trying something new.

Of course, what they say isn’t true. It’s just a mind game they’re playing to get you to stay with them and rely on them for everything…

7) Telling you what to do

Narcissists love to be in control. When things go their way, they feel powerful and superior. They feel this way regardless of what it is they’ve made you do!

So instead of guilt tripping you, they might outright tell you what to do. This behavior might get worse over time, or it might be obvious from the start.

They might say you can’t do something you always used to do, like go running or to the gym. Or they might disapprove of what you wear and say you can’t wear those things.

In extreme cases, they might even tell you not to see certain people or follow a certain career path.

8) Taking control of situations in your life

People who love you often get protective over you. They want to look out for you, and they might sometimes cross the line by trying to take care of you.

This doesn’t mean they’re a narcissist. But watch out – as it is the behavior of one!

A narcissist might take control of situations in your life and play it off like they’re “only trying to help”. But really, this is just another game to keep you reliant on them!

Like if you were having problems with a colleague at work. They might befriend this colleague on Facebook and threaten them.

Or they might take over the organization of plans with your family so they get to decide what happens. They might buy new clothes for you and throw out your old ones, without really giving you a choice.

They might even try to sabotage certain things in your life, sometimes without you knowing…

Final thoughts

Figuring out someone you love is a narcissist is no easy task. Even when you recognize these behaviors in a person, convincing yourself they’re toxic is unbelievably difficult!

When you care about someone, it’s easy to look past the bad things they do and stay by their side. You want to see the best in them, and because they’re nice sometimes, it’s easy to focus on the good.

But if you recognize any of these behaviors in a person, don’t keep making excuses for them. These are manipulative mind games designed to hurt you!

No matter what they say, you do deserve better. Always remember that.

Picture of Amy Reed

Amy Reed

Amy Reed is a content writer from London working with international brands. As an empath, she loves sharing her life insights to help others. When she’s not writing, she enjoys a simple life of reading, gardening, and making a fuss over her two cats.

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