One of the reasons that the narcissist in your life has, or had, so much power over you is because of their ability to justify their abusive behavior in such a convincing manner that you subconsciously begin to justify, rationalize, and normalize their abuse.
To justify their behavior, narcissists use gaslighting, baiting, self-victimization, and triangulation to control the narrative of their surrounding environment. These manipulation tactics are incredibly persuasive and often force others to accept their outlandish justifications.
This article is going to help you understand the four manipulation tactics that narcissists use to justify their behavior so you can better protect yourself from narcissistic abuse.
Gaslighting is a manipulative tactic that occurs when someone doubts or denies your reality, but it is incredibly important that you understand that gaslighting is much more than just manipulative lies and deceptive wording.
If a narcissist were to randomly attempt to gaslight someone who has never experienced the intensity of narcissistic abuse, they would most likely be shut down immediately. (example below)
You see, what makes gaslighting such a powerful form of manipulation is the manipulative environment that narcissists create. Through a devastating array of manipulation tactics, narcissists create an environment that has you questioning your sanity and doubting your reality on a regular basis.
When you spend months, years, or even decades in an environment like this, the narcissist’s gaslighting becomes much more effective and allows them to effortlessly justify even the most audacious forms of manipulation and abuse. (example below)
In narcissistic environments, the term “baiting” is used to describe when a narcissist, or an extension of a narcissist such as narcissist enablers or flying monkeys, says or does something manipulative to tempt you to engage with them in a negative interaction.
There are six different types of baiting that narcissists and their extensions are known to use, but Redeeming Baiting is what is most often used to justify abusive behavior. This is when a narcissist says or does something manipulative to get you to engage in a negative interaction with them so they can save their own public image.
Example of Redeeming Baiting Being Used to Justify Narcissistic Abuse:
At ABC Company there is a narcissistic supervisor who is horrible. They are just the most abusive supervisor that you could imagine and they make the work environment unbearable.
One day this supervisor goes into a mild narcissistic rage during a meeting but quickly puts an end to their tantrum when they notice an HR rep observing them from the opposite side of the office.
In a desperate attempt to save their public image, their narcissistic supervisor uses Redeeming Baiting by invalidating, devaluing, and degrading an employee until that employee snaps, throws a bunch of papers at the narcissistic supervisor and quits their job.
The HR rep runs over and asks what is going on. The narcissistic supervisor immediately blames the angry employee and is supported by the other employees because they are afraid of losing their job.
We have an entire course about baiting, and many other topics related to narcissistic abuse in the Narcissistic Abuse Support Platform, but the key takeaway here is that narcissists will use Redeeming Baiting to manipulate you into behaving as irrationally and erratic as they do.
This helps them justify their behavior to both themselves and others by making you look like the problem and themselves as a victim of your “irrational” and “erratic” behavior.
Simply put, self-victimization is casting oneself in the role of a victim. It is a manipulation tactic that narcissists, especially covert narcissists, use all the time.
5 Examples of a Narcissist Using Self-Victimization to Justify Their Behavior
1. Your narcissistic husband complaining about having their needs neglected after you confront them for emptying a joint account.
2. Your narcissistic wife complaining about how “poorly” you treat her after you confront her about the physical abuse she puts you through.
3. Your narcissistic father complaining about his own medical issues after being confronted by your neighbors for beating/neglecting you.
4. Your narcissistic wife blaming her affair on your work schedule.
5. Your narcissistic boss mistreating a subordinate and then claiming the subordinate’s behavior was hurting the company as justification.
One of the biggest reasons that self-victimization is such an effective manipulation tactic that narcissists use to justify their behavior is because the “vulnerable” position they put themselves in through self-victimization can be incredibly destabilizing for you.
To see someone who has, or had, so much power over you in a “vulnerable” position can be so confusing. However, it is important that you acknowledge and accept that you are not responsible for their thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs. Our dear friend Dr. Daksha Hirani, Clinical Psychologist Specializing in Trauma Informed Psychotherapy and Narcissistic Abuse Recovery, provided us with a nice quote to help you remember that.
When someone turns a one-on-one situation into a two-on-one situation by involving a third party, it is called triangulation. These situations could be conversations, arguments, disagreements, feuds, etc., but the point is that the person recruiting a third party is trying to create a power imbalance so they can dominate the situation.
Triangulation creates a lot of self-doubt, paranoia, anxiety, self-blame, fear, and it is incredibly isolating, making it the perfect manipulation tactic for justifying abusive behavior.
Example of Triangulation Being Used to Justify a Narcissist’s Behavior
It is 5pm on a Friday afternoon and you have to work late. This triggers the deeply rooted insecurities and fears that your narcissistic partner has because he/she thinks that you are cheating on them.
You try to prove that you are not cheating but nothing is working. They are determined to paint you out to be a cheater. A few hours go by and you hear a loud bang and your car alarm going off. When you rush to the window to see what is going on, you see your narcissistic partner taking a baseball bat to your car.
When you go outside to calm them down, they are surprised to see you. They truly thought that you were out with someone else. Obviously, you are furious that they destroyed your car but remain cool, calm, and collected when asking why they destroyed the car.
This is a delicate situation to be in because when a narcissist goes into a rage, they accidentally trigger their own suppressed painful emotions and self-loathing attitude because their abuse towards other people contradicts their charming, successful, charismatic, and virtuous public persona.
When a narcissist realizes that they’ve contradicted their charming, successful, charismatic, and virtuous public persona, they often fall into a Shame-Rage Spiral that can last for hours! Our article “How Long Does Narcissistic Rage Last?” has more information about this!
In a desperate attempt to save face and justify their behavior, your narcissistic partner uses triangulation by saying, “It is your fault! I had a nice dinner planned out at home, you never told me that you were going to be working late! I even ignored by ex’s texts so we could have a nice night together. It is ironic because he/she would have never done this to me. I guess I am trying for the wrong person.”
This is triangulation at its finest. The narcissist is bringing in a third party (their ex), victimizing themselves, and projecting the blame onto you. After months, years, and even decades of narcissistic abuse, the self-doubt, self-blame, and confusion that narcissists create allow them to use triangulation in situations like these to manipulate you into justifying, rationalizing, and normalizing their abusive behavior.
What Should You Take Away From This Article?
It is our hope that the information in this article has helped you grasp a comprehensive understanding of how narcissists use gaslighting, baiting, self-victimization, and triangulation to justify their behavior.
Spending time learning about narcissism and narcissistic abuse will help reduce the persuasiveness of the manipulation tactics that force you to accept their outlandish justifications.
Get a Free Healing Bundle Every Week!
Get a Free Healing Bundle Every Week!
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.
Lay, Genziana. “Understanding Relational Dysfunction in Borderline, Narcissistic, and Antisocial Personality Disorders: Clinical Considerations, Presentation of Three Case Studies, and Implications for Therapeutic Intervention.” Psychology Research 9.8 (2019): 303-318.
Stranieri, Giuseppe, Luigia De Stefano, and Anna Giulia Greco. “Pathological Narcissism.” Psychiatria Danubina 33.suppl 9 (2021): 35-40.