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The 'drama triangle': How narcissists manipulate you with a simple game.

Narcissists hate people, but love their attention.

That’s why they will do anything it takes to be in the spotlight, whether that be positive or not.

Psychologist Stephen Karpman discovered in the 1960’s that narcissists participate in a “drama triangle”, meaning they are always either a victim, a persecutor or a rescuer.

So what’s the issue?

Narcissists flip between these personalities incredibly quickly, meaning their victim is never quite sure which version of the narcissist they will encounter.

Have you ever had a friend who you always felt like you were walking on eggshells around?

Psychologist Perpetua Neo says narcissists want you to feel this way.

“You’re always walking on eggshells, [so] you never know how to respond,” Psychologist Perpetua Neo told Insider.

“So let’s say they are playing the victim, and you’re responding with empathy — they will flip to persecutor. So you know there’s no way you can win, even if you’re not playing to win, or you’re not even playing,” she added.

One way the narcissist will manipulate their victim is through “love bombing”, which is the process of bombarding a new relationship with excessive attention, and showering the victim with gifts and positive reinforcement, only to take it all away.

It works. The victim often internalises blame, and wonders what they did wrong. The brain purposefully focuses on the positives, so it is important to be wary.

“Know they are going to tug at your heart strings,” she said. “These are all manipulations,” Neo told Insider.

But don’t panic, there are signs that the person you are in a relationship with is a narcissist that you can spot almost immediately.

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Bullying expert Shahida Arabi wrote for Mamamia that there are five signs of a narcissist.

Virtue Signalling. 

Arabi explained that some narcissists and sociopaths purposefully emphasise values they don’t have at the beginning of a relationship so that you see them in a good light. For example, they might excessively discuss how much they value transparency, honest and integrity, when an honest person might not feel the need to bring this up.

Oversharing. 

We are all prone to an overshare every once in a while, but Arabi says narcissists purposefully overshare to encourage their victims to disclose personal information. She says they use this information to assess weaknesses, strengths, and desires, so that they can use this information against you later.

Evidence of a harem.

Arabi writes for Mamamia that narcissists often groom several people at once, so if the person you are dating is consistently flaking out on the date, be careful.

“Never mistake flakiness or a lack of follow-through as a “mistake” – if it happens persistently, you can bet that there is usually someone else in the picture the narcissist is grooming or even a secret significant other,” she writes.

She also warns against the perpetrator having one too many “close friends”, who might include ex-girlfriends, whose sole purpose is to stroke the abuser’s ego.

Overly flirtatious and attention-seeking behaviour.

We’ve all been attention-seeking after one too many wines. But the narcissist needs to be the centre of attention at all times, whether that means flirting with the waitress or monopolising conversation.

Arabi also mentions love-bombing as a tactic used by narcissists.

Stay careful and trust your gut, if you believe you are in a manipulative relationship do not hesitate to seek help. Support is available.

If this article brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service.

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