Imagine that a victim of narcissistic abuse has learned enough about narcissism to be able to identify narcissistic patterns in their relationship.

Being able to identify narcissistic behavior enables them to use the techniques we outlined in Living With A Narcissist When Leaving Isn’t An Option: Complete Guide 2022 like gray rock, and setting boundaries.

Using these techniques means that they aren’t providing any type of narcissistic supply which is significant because for a narcissist narcissistic supply enables them to have power and a sense of control which is essential for their wellbeing.

As they begin to lose their tyrannical control over their victim, they’ll begin to use manipulative tactics like baiting in a frantic attempt to draw their victim back into the abusive cycle. Baiting is a manipulative tactic that a narcissist will use to incite a confrontation with their victim. 

Why Do Narcissists Bait You?

Narcissists are extremely insecure, so when anyone starts to utilize techniques like gray rock, no contact, or setting boundaries they can’t handle the loss of control that these techniques bring. Baiting allows them to exploit chaos and direct the victims anger to suit their needs.

An important detail to remember when understanding narcissism is that narcissistic relationships are superficial. Narcissists despise the intimacy and vulnerability that healthy relationships require.

For narcissist relationships are a tool, they use to regulate their emotions. Being some of the most self-loathing individuals on the planet comes with some heavy consequences, unfortunately, emotional instability is one of them. 

We believe that the best way to understand narcissism is to define it as the projection of one’s own emotional instability onto another human being. 

Baiting is one of many manipulative tactics that narcissists use to exploit their victims. A narcissist inability to address their own emotions causes them to lash out at others which manifests in psychological and physical violence. 

Baiting

Oftentimes in narcissistic relationships, the victim has no idea what is happening to them, the complexity of narcissism makes the abuse extremely illusive. However, once a victim of narcissistic abuse is able to identify narcissistic patterns, and acknowledge what is happening to them is abuse, it’s very common to see techniques like gray rock or setting boundaries being utilized. 

The utilization of these techniques prohibits the narcissist from manipulating their victim which essentially takes their narcissistic supply away.

Narcissistic supply is the narcissist’s insecure need of validation, admiration, and even chaos, which enables them to have a significant amount of power in the relationship and neglect their own emotional instability.

This is why they spend months, years, and even decades, using an onslaught of manipulative tactics to lower the self-esteem of their victims so low that the victim doesn’t believe that they deserve any better in the abuse they are experiencing. 

“… I grew up watching my father abuse my mother physically and psychologically so frequently that I would have an uncontrollable amount of anxiety when the abuse wasn’t happening. He didn’t turn his anger towards me until I was about 10 years old, at least that’s as far back as I can remember. He would say the most horrifying things about my mother, and I would believe him. I remember sobbing four hours one day after he slapped me around and when he came back, I asked him why he hated me so much and he told me that it was because I reminded him of my mother. I hated myself for the longest time because on that day I actually believed him. I believed what he was saying about my mother which made me believe that I wasn’t worth anything more than what my mother and I were going through.” Abby 

When Abby was a teenager, she became very close with a teacher at her school who helped her understand the narcissistic pattern she was going through. Sadly, the teacher transferred across the country so, Abby was left alone with her abuser again. But this time she had a much better understanding on how to defend herself which helped her set boundaries and distance herself from her father.

Because of the boundaries she said her father slowly had less and less power over her, and that is the exact reason why narcissists use the baiting method. Narcissists have an insecure need for power and dominance so when their victims start to use techniques to protect themselves and regain their stability, narcissists don’t like this and will most likely resort to baiting because the other manipulative methods they’re accustomed to no longer have the same impact.

How Does a Narcissist Bait You?

There are many different ways narcissists could bait their victims. Baiting is nothing more than the narcissist searching for a reaction, so it can look like pushing their victims’ buttons, exploiting their insecurities and vulnerabilities, making wild accusations, passive aggressive behavior, or even targeting those close to their victim. 

“…the first three months after my teacher got transferred were pretty tough. I didn’t know how to set the boundaries that we worked on, so I gave in to my father’s manipulative techniques quite often. Looking back, it wasn’t that I didn’t know how to set the boundaries, it was that I didn’t feel like I had the strength to set the boundaries. That all changed when I was able to Skype my old teacher. When I told her what was happening, she was so sad for me, and I felt like I let her and all of her work down. She must’ve reassured me 100 times that this was not the case, but I still felt that way, so I decided it was time to make a change. I set boundaries, I went gray rock, and I even went no contact for a while but my mother getting sick made no contact very difficult, so I had to stick to setting boundaries and gray rock. There were smaller examples of baiting like calling me fat, picking on my acne, throwing my food away and so on… but the real bait was actually my sick mother. He had coerced her into pretending that she was sick. I never got the full story but I’m quite sure he made death threats. There were countless times where he would tell me that I was going to die alone just like my mother, and it wasn’t until he passed away that I found out it was all a lie. I felt ashamed that I let someone come between my mother and me. We never got to have an innocent mother and daughter relationship because of my father…” Abby

Baiting is another way for narcissists to project their emotional instability onto the victim. In our article Why Do Narcissists Need a Scapegoat we mentioned that scapegoating exists in every narcissistic relationship, baiting is no different.

It’s very unlikely that a narcissist will stop baiting you while the relationship is still active. This would require them to not care about having a significant amount of power in the relationship. With that being said, narcissists are novelty seekers, they’ll need new sources of supply, generally speaking… eventually the baiting will stop in many narcissistic relationships.

We’ve previously stated that just because a narcissist has moved on, doesn’t mean they’ve moved on in our previous article, How Can A Narcissist Move On So Quickly, so be cautious. Yes, a narcissist may have moved on and found someone new, but it doesn’t mean that they’re done abusing you. 

Narcissistic Abuse cycle

No matter what technique a victim of narcissistic abuse is using, baiting makes maintaining that technique extremely difficult. It’s very important for victims of narcissistic abuse to do everything in their power to maintain these techniques because narcissists are searching for a reaction.  It’s so important that a victim of narcissistic abuse remains calm and collected during manipulative tactics like baiting.

Are You Being Called Difficult for Setting Boundaries?

One of the biggest obstacles victims of narcissistic abuse have to face is narcissistic enablers. Enablers come in all shapes and forms because they’re essentially people who don’t understand narcissism. 

An enabler could be a therapist who isn’t qualified to handle narcissists, so they fall for the manipulative tactic’s narcissists use. In our previous article The Best Way to Disarm Flying Monkeys: 431 Survivors’ Advice we outlined how friends, family, and coworkers could be manipulated into enablers or enlisted as flying monkeys. For victims of narcissistic abuse who have to process the abuse alone, and there are many, this can be very isolating. 

It is very common for victims of narcissistic abuse to be labeled as passive aggressive, difficult, ignorant, stuck up, and so on when they refuse to take the narcissist’s bait. To endure months, years, and even decades of manipulation and abuse, being ostracized for setting boundaries or gray rocking is absolutely absurd, but it happens…

Baiting backlash

Being ostracized for setting boundaries is a form of gaslighting. It’s important to remember that as a victim of narcissistic abuse, you can’t “win” with narcissists or their enablers. Many have the fantasy of finally being able to shine the spotlight on the narcissist and exposing them to the world.

This incessant need for justice will only bring anxiety, rumination, and pain. Victims of narcissistic abuse can win by successfully going no contact, transforming from a victim to a survivor, to a thriver, and educating themselves on the complexity of narcissism. In our article How to Deal With Gaslighting, we came across some fantastic advice from Ariel Leve which was, “let go of the wish for it to be different.” 

After enduring narcissistic abuse, it’s very common for the survivors to continue to be consumed by self-doubt. It’s important for survivors to remember that being able to identify narcissistic patterns and having the courage to leave the relationship is immeasurable. Stand your ground and continue to set boundaries for yourself.

Get a Free Healing Bundle Every Week!


  • 1 Educational Video From a Mental Health Professional
  • 1 Informative PDF About Narcissistic Abuse
  • 1 Journaling Exercise With Multiple Prompts
  • 7 Affirmations for the Upcoming Week
  • Lifetime Access to Our Private Online Community

Get a Free Healing Bundle Every Week!

  • 1 Educational Video From a Mental Health Professional
  • 1 Informative PDF About Narcissistic Abuse
  • 1 Journaling Exercise With Multiple Prompts
  • 7 Affirmations for the Upcoming Week
  • Lifetime Access to Our Private Online Community

All of the content that Unfilteredd creates is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for clinical care — please visit here for qualified organizations and here for qualified professionals that you can reach out to for help. This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policies.

References:

Interviewing 67 survivors of narcissistic abuse

Narcissistic Disorders of the Self as Addictions – Journal of Addiction Research 2018 by Sam Vaknin

Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited (10th Revised Impression)

Suggested Readings: