Triangulation is one of the most reliable forms of manipulation that narcissists use to accumulate as much power, control, and narcissistic supply as humanly possible. After studying the way that narcissists interact with others, it becomes very clear how valuable triangulation is to a narcissist.
Before we get into why triangulation is so valuable to a narcissist, it is important that readers know that narcissists spend their entire lives operating under a falsified identity because they’re terrified that their true identity, which is vulnerable and insecure, makes them undesirable, unlovable, and more likely to be rejected by society.
So, they work extremely hard to create a falsified identity that portrays them as charming, charismatic, admirable, desirable, inspiring, and so on.
Unfortunately, their disgust for their true identity has come from an unhealthy/abusive upbringing. This upbringing has caused them to be so emotionally stunted that they’re unable to regulate their suppressed negative emotions or build their self-esteem in a healthy/reliable way.
As a consequence of this sad origin story, they’ve developed a very, very fragile ego. So fragile that any type of feedback has the potential to contradict their falsified reality by triggering all of their suppressed negative emotions. This is a huge issue for them because their emotional stability is dependent on their ability to maintain their falsified identity to others AND to themselves.
In addition to this, narcissists also have a very insecure need for power and control and a scapegoat to project all of their negative emotions onto. You can learn more about this in our articles Why Do Narcissists Need a Scapegoat and How Is a Scapegoat Chosen but narcissists are heavily dependent on their scapegoats because they’re are essentially a repository for all of the narcissists negative emotions.
From a narcissistic perspective, why is triangulation so valuable?
Triangulation simultaneously protects the narcissist’s falsified identity, places them in a position of power and control, effortlessly recruits flying monkeys and narcissist enablers, and allows them to project their emotional instability onto their victims.
Narcissistic abuse is designed to plague the victim’s psyche with a huge amount of self-doubt and self-blame and triangulation is all about making one-on-one situations into two-on-one situations.
Victims and survivors have so much self-doubt and self-blame embedded into their psyche from the narcissistic abuse that triangulation causes them to rationalize, justify, and ultimately normalize the abuse they’re enduring. This protects the narcissist’s falsified identity from being exposed because victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse are often the only people who know the narcissist’s true identity.
Even though it is not their fault, by rationalizing, justifying and ultimately normalizing narcissistic abuse, the victims and survivors become the narcissist’s biggest enablers. After months, years, and even decades of being forced to enable abusive behavior, their self-esteem will be at an all time low which allows the narcissist to project their emotional instability onto them.
What about flying monkeys and narcissist enablers?
Triangulation has an incredibly toxic social dynamic, especially in environments similar to workplaces, families, and friend groups. Narcissistic leaders love triangulation because it puts them in a position of power and control while enabling them to effortlessly recruit flying monkeys and narcissist enablers.
How is this possible?
It’s really important to acknowledge the ripple effect that narcissistic abuse has in group settings, especially those where there’s a hierarchy. For example, growing up in a narcissistic family is such a powerless feeling. While everyone can see how abusive the narcissistic parent is, people rarely feel powerful enough to do something about it.
Young children are at the mercy of their narcissistic parent(s) and by the time they do reach the age where they can leave or attempt to stand up to the narcissist, the psychological damage they have from years of abuse often requires an intense amount of guidance from a medical professional to process in a way that enables the person to confront the narcissist.
For the spouses of narcissists, if they aren’t narcissistic themselves, it’s nearly impossible to escape the narcissistic abuse cycle unscaved. There’s no limit to a narcissist’s brutality when they feel rejected, discarded, and/or unwanted.
Custody battles are a nightmare, narcissists will manipulate the children into turning on their spouse and each other, and the family court system doesn’t acknowledge emotional abuse in the way it should so victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse are often forced to find justice, closure, and peace of mind elsewhere.
Navigating a narcissistic work environment is incredibly challenging as well. The reason being that narcissistic behavior is often rewarded by society, especially in competition-based environments like a workplace. Narcissists are already really good at justifying their abusive behavior but the dynamics of a work environment give narcissists many other excuses.
It’s really tough to navigate the social aspect of narcissistic abuse because nobody wants to become the target of a narcissist’s wrath so it is really easy for narcissists to use triangulation to recruit flying monkeys and narcissist enablers.
As if that isn’t bad enough…
Another reason that narcissists are able to effortlessly recruit flying monkeys and narcissist enablers with triangulation is because there will be times where a narcissist will cross paths with someone who is narcissistic themselves or just drawn to drama filled environments.
Since the dynamics of triangulation often creates cliques in environments families and workplaces, people who are drawn to drama filled/toxic environments are easily recruited by the narcissist.
6 Examples of Triangulation In Narcissistic Relationships
Before diving into these six examples of triangulation that are commonly seen in narcissistic relationships, it’s important to remember that triangulation is all about the narcissist remaining in power and control. It makes victims and survivors feels as if they aren’t good enough while simultaneously making them feel as if they have to compete with others for the narcissist’s approval.
There are many different ways that triangulation can manifest but by grasping a comprehensive understanding of it readers will be able to strip the narcissist in their lives of the power and control that they so desperately need!
Triangulation In Family Settings
When it comes to family settings, triangulation can be incredibly damaging because oftentimes the family members of the narcissist don’t have a safe option when it comes to the refusal of being triangulated against one another.
What ends up happening is that the family members of the narcissist will allow the triangulation to happen by turning into the narcissist’s flying monkeys or enablers in an attempt to avoid becoming the target of their narcissistic wrath.
Triangulation In the Workplace
From a narcissistic perspective, triangulation in the workplace is by far the best way one can place themselves in a position of power and control. Narcissists are masterful at walking the fine line between abuse and “joking”, especially when it comes to social environments like work, friend groups, and families.
It’s very common for narcissists to turn co-workers against each other by holding secret meetings, purposely leaving people off email lists, and excluding others while organizing events. It can be really hard from a non-narcissistic and/or toxic perspective to navigate these types of environments because the narcissists forces them between reporting very subtle forms of abuse and potentially jeopardizing their livelihood or remaining silent and going with the flow of things.
Triangulation In Intimate Relationships
Triangulation in intimate narcissistic relationships is often portrayed as the narcissist constantly making comparisons between his/her current partner and ex. Or the narcissist bringing friends and family into conversations that should be kept private between the narcissist and their victim.
Infidelity is actually a hidden form of triangulation. When narcissists justify unfaithful behavior by blaming the victim, they’re triangulating the victim with the person they were unfaithful with. It makes the victim feel as if they aren’t good enough which is a hallmark of triangulation.
Triangulation On Social Media
We live in an era dominated by social media, which happens to be the most prolific sources of narcissistic supply ever. Narcissistic supply is the validation, admiration, and reassurance that narcissists extract out of others and with social media, all narcissists need to do is post a picture and watch the supply roll in.
With that being said, social media is also a very common form of triangulation that narcissists use. It could manifest in very subtle forms like liking inappropriate photos that push the boundaries of their victim or making very direct comments about someone’s appearance to put their victim down.
Triangulation With Flying Monkeys
A flying monkeys is a person that a narcissist manipulates into participating in their smear campaign of the victim by spreading lies and gossip about the victim. There are many different reasons that someone may become a flying monkeys that readers can learn about in our article Why Do Some People Become Flying Monkeys but it’s important to remember that they’re all equally as dangerous!
What does this have to do with triangulation?
Well, flying monkeys are a form of triangulation. You see, the reason that narcissists recruit flying monkeys is to prevent their victims from exposing how abusive they are to others. It’s important to remember that victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse are often the only ones who know how abusive the narcissist really is.
If a narcissist is able to turn those close to the victim into flying monkeys before the victim is able to tell everyone the truth, they’ll be able to remain in power and control of the narrative which is very important for their fragile egos.
Triangulation With Narcissist Enablers
A narcissist enabler is someone who doesn’t understand narcissistic abuse so they approach the situation as they would a healthy relationship. Their ignorance often leads them to gaslighting the victim or survivor of narcissistic abuse back into the relationship or a crippling level of self-doubt and/or self-blame.
What does this have to do with triangulation?
Narcissists are by far some of the most two-faced people on the planet. They’re masterful at portraying themselves as charming, charismatic, respectful, admirable, and desirable when out in public but be ridiculously abusive behind closed doors.
What ends up happening is that they indirectly triangulate narcissist enablers against the victim because to those on the outside of the relationship, the relationship is perfect.
So, when the victim goes to confide in a narcissist enabler who has only been exposed to the superficial exterior of the narcissist, the enabler mindlessly gaslights the victim back into the narcissistic abuse cycle or a crippling state of self-doubt and self-blame.
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