How Narcissists React When They Lose Power Over You

Understanding and recognizing the tactics of a narcissist can be empowering. When they can no longer control you, their reactions can vary significantly.

Some may resort to more aggressive manipulation tactics, while others may retreat and focus their attention elsewhere. It’s important to remember that their reactions are not a reflection of your worth or character, but rather a result of their inability to cope with their own insecurities.

So, how does a narcissist react when they can’t control you anymore?

The answer is as complex as the disorder itself. They may withdraw completely, giving you the silent treatment in an attempt to make you feel guilty and seek their approval again. Here are few tactics that they will use when they are no longer in control

Increased Manipulation

In situations where a narcissist senses they’re losing their grip on you, they may escalate their manipulation tactics to recover their control. One such tactic is gaslighting, a manipulative strategy intended to make you question your own memories, perceptions, and even sanity.

They may also increase the frequency of their lies or concoct intricate tales designed to alter your viewpoint. Another typical tactic is inducing guilt – they manipulate you into feeling remorseful for asserting your boundaries or not adhering to their directives. Essentially, these tactics are all desperate attempts to reassert the narcissist’s dominance and control within the relationship.


When a narcissist senses they’re losing control over you, they may resort to aggression or intimidation. This could manifest as raised voices, harsh words, belittling comments, or even physical threats. Their goal is to instill fear or discomfort in you, making you more likely to submit to their will to avoid conflict.

It’s a form of power play, where they use hostility or the threat of it to maintain their perceived superiority and control. It’s crucial to remember that such behavior is not only inappropriate but can also be abusive. If you find yourself in such a situation, it’s important to seek help from trusted individuals or professionals.

Silent Treatment

The silent treatment is a common tactic used by narcissists when they feel they’re losing control. This involves ignoring you, refusing to engage in conversation, or withholding affection and attention. The goal of this manipulative strategy is to make you feel guilty, neglected, or desperate for their approval.

It’s a form of emotional punishment designed to make you conform to their desires or to make you feel responsible for the conflict. Essentially, they’re using silence as a weapon to manipulate your emotions and regain control over the relationship. It’s important to recognize this behavior for what it is: a control tactic, not a reflection of your worth or the validity of your actions.

Playing the Victim

Narcissists often resort to playing the victim when they feel they’re losing control. In this scenario, they twist the narrative to portray themselves as the ones being wronged and you as the aggressor. Their tales of woe and injustice are designed to elicit sympathy from others and manipulate you into feeling guilty for standing up for yourself.

This tactic serves a dual purpose: it diverts attention away from their own harmful behavior while simultaneously making you question your actions. By painting themselves as the victim, they hope to regain control by making you feel obligated to cater to their needs or make amends. Recognizing this manipulation tactic is crucial to maintaining your own boundaries and mental well-being.

Smear Campaign

Narcissists may resort to slander or spreading false rumors about you when they feel their control is threatened. This tactic, known as a ‘smear campaign’, is designed to damage your reputation and isolate you from your support network. By tarnishing your image, they aim to make others doubt your credibility, making it easier for the narcissist to manipulate the narrative in their favor.

Moreover, by isolating you from others, they hope to make you more dependent on them, thereby regaining their lost control. This underhanded tactic underscores the lengths a narcissist might go to in order to maintain their dominance and control.


The term ‘hoovering’ in the context of narcissistic behavior is derived from the Hoover vacuum cleaner, known for its powerful suction. This metaphorically represents the narcissist’s attempts to pull you back into the toxic relationship that you’re trying to leave or distance yourself from. They might do this by making grandiose promises of change or showering you with unexpected affection and attention.

The goal is to make you believe they’ve transformed or that they genuinely care, thereby manipulating you into re-engaging with them. However, these are often empty gestures used as a control tactic to regain their lost power, and the harmful patterns are likely to resurface once they believe they have regained control. Recognizing this tactic can be crucial in maintaining your boundaries and protecting your emotional wellbeing.


When a narcissist feels they’ve lost control over you, they might resort to a tactic known as ‘discarding’. This involves the narcissist abruptly cutting ties with you and moving on to someone else they perceive as easier to control. The discard phase can be particularly hurtful as it often comes without warning, leaving you feeling confused and abandoned.

However, it’s important to understand that this behavior is not a reflection of your worth but rather a manifestation of the narcissist’s inability to maintain a relationship without dominance and control. Their swift move to a new target is an attempt to regain the sense of power and superiority they crave.


Narcissists often use a psychological defense mechanism known as ‘projection’ when they feel their control is slipping away. This involves them accusing you of the very behaviors or attitudes they themselves are guilty of. For instance, they might accuse you of being controlling or manipulative, even when these traits are more characteristic of their own behavior.

By shifting the blame onto you, they deflect attention away from their own shortcomings and wrongdoings. This not only confuses you but also serves to make you feel guilty or defensive, thereby diverting your focus from the narcissist’s inappropriate behavior. Recognizing this tactic can help you maintain perspective and avoid being drawn into unnecessary self-blame.


Narcissists may employ a tactic known as ‘triangulation’ to maintain or regain control. This involves using another person, often in the form of a romantic interest or ex-partner, as a tool to provoke jealousy or insecurity in you. They might compare you unfavorably to this person, flaunt their interactions with them, or even fabricate a relationship where there isn’t one.

The aim is to make you feel threatened or less-than, thereby shaking your confidence and making you work harder for their approval. This creates a triangle of tension and competition, which the narcissist manipulates to their advantage to maintain control. Recognizing this tactic can help you resist getting drawn into these manipulative games.

Love Bombing

This is a manipulation tactic known as ‘love bombing’, where the narcissist showers you with excessive affection, compliments, and attention to reel you back into their control. If their other tactics fail, they might resort to this strategy to make you feel special and desired.

However, this sudden influx of affection usually doesn’t last and is only employed until they feel they’ve regained their hold over you. Once they believe they’ve secured your emotional investment again, the affection often dwindles and the cycle of manipulation resumes. Recognizing this pattern can be crucial in maintaining your boundaries and protecting your emotional well-being.

Final Thought

Narcissists rely on control because it reinforces their inflated sense of self-importance and protects their fragile egos. When they lose control, it’s as if their entire world is crumbling, and they can react in unpredictable ways.

Understanding these dynamics is essential in dealing with a narcissist. By recognizing their manipulation tactics, you can take steps to protect yourself and reclaim your own power. This might involve setting firm boundaries, seeking support from trusted friends or professionals, or in some cases, ending the relationship altogether.

Remember, it’s not your responsibility to manage the emotions of a narcissist or to endure their abuse. You deserve respect, kindness, and understanding in all your relationships. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and take back control.

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