When a narcissist wants to gain power and control over you, it is very common for them to spend a significant amount of time isolating you from your friends and family.
As a general rule, narcissists use powerful manipulation tactics such as gaslighting, narcissistic rage, triangulation, flying monkeys, and financial abuse to isolate you.
This article is going to guide you through each one of these manipulation tactics so that you can grasp a comprehensive understanding of how narcissists isolate you.
They Use Gaslighting to Isolate You
When a narcissist doubts or denies your reality, it is called gaslighting.
The reason that they do this is because they want to get you to question your own memories, sanity, and perception of reality.
Gaslighting is by far one of the most powerful manipulation tactics that narcissists use to isolate you from your friends and/or family.
For example, imagine that you are unknowingly in a romantic narcissistic relationship.
One day, you decide it is time for your narcissistic partner to meet your family so you bring them to a family dinner.
The dinner went really well. The narcissist was charming, charismatic, confident, and fun to be around.
However, once you leave the family dinner the narcissist turns to you and says, “I can’t believe that you let them ambush me like that. Why didn’t you tell me that they don’t want us to be together.”
This would be considered gaslighting.
Well, the reality is that the dinner did go really well.
But what is happening here is the narcissist is trying to get you to question your memories, sanity, and perception of reality so that they can manipulate you into believing that your family doesn’t support the relationship.
Over time, this type of manipulation will force you into a space where you feel like you have to choose between the narcissist or your family.
Because of how good narcissists are at convincing people that they are the “perfect” person for them, many survivors of narcissistic abuse end up choosing the narcissist and becoming isolated from their family and friends.
Narcissistic rage is an unpredictable, explosive, and unjustifiable form of manipulation that narcissists use to maintain power and control over their surrounding environment and everyone inside of it.
It can manifest in the form of physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, and/or neglect.
Unfortunately, it is common for survivors of narcissistic abuse to become isolated from friends and family because of the fear that narcissistic rage creates.
For example, imagine that a narcissistic parent goes into a rage on a regular basis.
This narcissistic parent’s family is constantly walking on eggshells around him/her because they are terrified of the parent’s rage.
When the fear of narcissistic rage is combined with the other challenging thoughts, feelings, and emotions that narcissistic abuse creates, it is common for those experiencing the abuse to be scared to stand up for themselves.
What they do instead is slip into a cognitive dissonance.
The term “cognitive dissonance” refers to a theory developed by Leon Festinger in 1957.
This theory suggests that when we experience an inconsistency among information, behavior, and belief, it causes a tremendous amount of psychological tension.
In an attempt to ease this tension, we change one or more of the elements that are causing the inconsistency to make everything consistent.
For those experiencing narcissistic abuse, cognitive dissonance manifests in the form of the justification, rationalization, and normalization of abuse.
When a survivor of narcissistic abuse slips into a cognitive dissonance it is very common for them to become isolated from friends and family as well.
This is because their friends and family are a threat to their version of reality.
Remember, those in a cognitive dissonance justify, rationalize, and normalize abuse.
When their friends and family point out the abuse that they are experiencing, it causes a tremendous amount of psychological tension.
To avoid this tension, they isolate themselves from their friends and family to protect their own perception of the narcissist.
This is cognitive dissonance and it is to blame for the continuation of many narcissistic relationships.
When a narcissist turns a one-on-one situation into a two-on-one situation by involving a third party, it is called triangulation.
For example, imagine that you are having an argument with your narcissistic boss because they have been having you work late but refuse to compensate you for it.
There is no explanation for this situation. Your boss is wrong for having you work late without compensation.
Your boss realizes this and uses triangulation to create a power imbalance by calling one of your coworkers into the room and saying, “Can you please tell (your name) that staying late is part of the job. Everyone does it at one point or another.”
Unfortunately, your coworker agrees with the boss because they are scared of losing their job.
This is triangulation.
The goal that narcissists have when they use triangulation is to create a power imbalance so that they can dominate you.
Unfortunately, this often fills the surrounding environment of those experiencing narcissistic abuse with the narcissist’s supporters, and subsequently, isolates them from friends and family at the same time.
Our article “Who Do Narcissists Surround Themselves With?“ has a lot of helpful information that you can use to better understand how a narcissist could isolate you with triangulation.
A flying monkey is someone who a narcissist manipulates into helping them abuse and/or manipulate another person.
There are three types of flying monkeys that you need to be aware of (images below):
A narcissist will use flying monkeys to isolate you by cutting off your lines of support.
You see, when a narcissist recruits a flying monkey, they target the people close to you.
This is because they know that your family, friends, close coworkers, etc., are the people who will help you escape their power and control.
Flying monkeys are one of the most common manipulation tactics that narcissists will use to silence, discredit, and isolate you.
If you would like more information about how narcissists are able to turn people against you so easily, our article “How Do Narcissists Get Flying Monkeys?“ has a ton of helpful information that will help you grasp a better understanding of it.
One of the most common reasons people who are experiencing narcissistic abuse can’t escape the narcissist is because of financial abuse.
There are three types of financial abuse.
1. Employment sabotage is when a narcissist uses emotional and/or physical abuse to manipulate you into quitting your jobs or to prevent you from finding a job.
2. Economic exploitation is when a narcissist intentionally destroys your financial resources or credit.
3. Controlling the finances is when a narcissist uses emotional and/or physical abuse and/or manipulation to gain power and control over the financial stability of the relationship.
Financial abuse is very common in narcissistic environments because narcissists know that money gives them an unlimited amount of narcissistic supply.
When a narcissist gets control of your financial stability, it is very difficult to escape their grasp and as a result, survivors of narcissistic abuse often become isolated because of it.
Do you suspect that the narcissist in your life is financially abusing you? Our article “34 Signs of Financial Abuse That You Need to Know“ has a ton of helpful information that you can use to figure it out.
About the Author
Hey, I’m Elijah.
I experienced narcissistic abuse for three years.
I create these articles to help you understand and validate your experiences.
Thank you for reading, and remember, healing is possible even when it feels impossible.
Lempert, Lora Bex. “Women’s strategies for survival: Developing agency in abusive relationships.” Journal of family violence 11.3 (1996): 269-289.
Karakurt, Günnur, and Kristin E. Silver. “Emotional abuse in intimate relationships: The role of gender and age.” Violence and victims 28.5 (2013): 804-821.