In regards to narcissistic abuse, hoovering is when a narcissist will say or do exactly what you need to hear or see to give them another chance. It is one of the most effective forms of manipulation that narcissists use so it is important for you to develop a strategy that you can use to protect yourself but to do so you’ll first need to understand what causes a narcissist to hoover.
Hoovering is caused by a narcissist’s insecure need for power, control, validation, admiration, and reassurance. A narcissist uses hoovering to reassure their fragile sense of self, suppress their negative emotions, and fulfill their insecure needs.
This article is going to guide you through the most common triggers of narcissistic hoovering. We’ve also created a short video below that guides you through the reason that narcissists are often able to hoover their victims back into the narcissistic abuse cycle which is important to be aware of when trying to protect yourself during the hoovering phase.
A Short Video About the Reason Why Narcissistic Hoovering Works?
A Narcissist Will Hoover When Their New Supply Isn’t Meeting Their Expectations
One of the most confusing phases that most victims of narcissistic abuse experience on their healing journey is when the narcissist in their life finds a new supply. We wrote about this in our article Why Does the Narcissist Look So Happy With Their New Supply but what makes this phase so confusing is how quickly the narcissist is able to move on.
Seeing the narcissist “having the time of their life” with a new supply can cause a tremendous amount of self-doubt and self-blame within the victim, even if they were the ones who discarded the narcissist. This phase where the narcissist is “having the time of their life” is most commonly recognized as the love bombing phase.
It is a term used to characterize the beginning stages of a narcissistic relationship where a narcissist will use mirroring to create a falsified identity that is designed to fill a void in the victim’s life. It makes the relationship exciting, full of intimacy, appear healthy, happy, and secure, and is one of the clearest manifestations of a narcissist’s preoccupation with fantasies of the ideal love.
The negative emotions that originate from seeing the narcissist having “the time of their life” with their new source of narcissistic supply need to be managed immediately because it makes victims of narcissistic abuse extremely vulnerable to hoovering. You see, the love bombing phase doesn’t last forever.
In our article How Long Does the Love Bombing Phase (Case Study) a study among 221 survivors of narcissistic abuse revealed that the average duration of this phase is 5.5 months. The end of this phase means the end of a lot of the narcissistic supply that comes with it.
When this happens it is very common for the narcissist to try to hoover their old supply back into the narcissistic abuse cycle to make up for the supply that they lost. If the old supply has any type of self-doubt or self-blame embedded within their psyche, they could be hoovered back in the narcissistic abuse cycle.
The Narcissist Will Hoover Because You Are Moving on in Your Life
When a narcissist sees or hears about their old supply healing and rebuilding themselves after the relationship has ended, it contradicts core aspects of their identity, like a sense of specialness and uniqueness, which triggers the deeply rooted vulnerabilities and insecurities they have about themselves.
To regulate these emotions it is very common for narcissists to try to hoover their old supply back under their power and control which would serve as a reminder that they are as special and unique as they think that they are and reassure their fragile sense of self at the same time. That said, it is really important to understand why this happens as well.
We spoke about this much more thoroughly in our article How Are Narcissists Made but it is widely believed that narcissism originates from an unhealthy/abusive upbringing with primary caregivers who are unavailable, unresponsive and inconsistent.
These types of primary caregivers are incapable of mirroring their child’s thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs, which means that the child doesn’t get the validation, admiration, and reassurance they need to develop a realistic sense of self and have a healthy cognitive development.
Sadly, this forces the child to depend on their external environment for the validation, admiration, and reassurance that their primary caregivers couldn’t give them, which usually manifests in the form of praise for the things that they’ve done like doing well in school, winning an award, or being good at a sport.
This is really dangerous because it teaches the child on a subconscious level that something is wrong with their true identity because it is clearly not good enough to get the validation, admiration, and reassurance of their primary caregivers.
This will push the child into prioritizing their external world over their internal world simply because they’re constantly being shown that the things they do are more important, loveable, and desirable, than who they are.
This creates a person who has an extremely unstable internal environment, is emotionally inadequate, has a fragile sense of self, and a deeply rooted hatred for their true identity that they hide behind a grandiose falsified identity that is designed to accumulate as much validation, admiration, and reassurance as possible.
This makes narcissists vulnerable to ANY form of authenticity, like their old supply moving on with their life, because it contradicts their falsified identity. In their mind, they are so special, unique, successful, beautiful, wanted, and loved, that nobody in their right mind would be able to, let alone want to, “survive” without them.
A Narcissist Will Hoover Because of the Thrill That They Get From Seducing You
A narcissist’s grandiose sense of self-importance, envy of others and belief that others are envious of them, arrogance, need for excessive admiration, and sense of specialness/uniqueness makes them love putting on a performance for everyone to see.
They love, and feel entitled to, being the center of attention at all times. It is very common for narcissists to hoover their old supply simply because of the thrill that they get from being able to manipulate them back into the narcissistic abuse cycle.
This type of hoovering is slightly different from hoovering that originates from a lack of narcissistic supply or seeing their old supply moving on with their life. With that type of hoovering it is very common for the narcissist to be almost apologetic with their approach.
“Mike showed up unannounced to my parents’ house with a thoughtful gift that he made chronicling our time together. He put on an amazing display in front of my entire family. This was the performance of his life. He talked about how he had gone to therapy for his mistakes. He detailed how he had worked hard to change his habits, and he told us that he could not imagine a life without me, and on and on. There were tears, and his grand gestures succeeded in winning me over. Perhaps of even more importance to him, he succeeded in winning my family over as well.” Heather Kent, Registered Psychotherapist & Trauma Recovery Specialist In Her Book Heal from Your Narcissist Ex: The Ultimate Guide to Finding Safety and Sanity
However, when it comes to hoovering that originates from a need to put on a performance, it is very common to see a lot of triangulation involved. In abusive relationships triangulation is when the abuser purposely makes one-on-one situations into two or more-on-one situations.
A few simple examples of this would be a narcissist texting or talking with their old supply and “accidentally” calling them their new supply’s name to get them jealous. It could be a narcissist “reconnecting” with their old supply and then posting pictures on social media of their new supply just days later to make them jealous.
Or it could even be a narcissist lying to an old supply by telling them that mutual friends and family blame the old supply for the downfall of the relationship to make them paranoid, self-conscious, and doubtful.
The list can go on and on but the point is that narcissists love to involve a ton of different people who they have power and control over when they are hoovering to feel the thrill of manipulating their old supply back into the narcissistic abuse cycle.
What Should You Take Away From This Article?
While reading through this article you probably noticed that the tone of the article was directed at romantic narcissistic relationships but it is important to know that the information in this article applies to all different types of narcissistic relationships.
Hoovering is a universal form of manipulation in the narcissistic realm. It could manifest in the form of a narcissistic boss promising an employee who is on the brink of leaving the company a better salary if they stay or it could be a narcissistic parent promising to pay their child’s college tuition if they transfer to a school closer to home.
Regardless of the scenario, hoovering is one of the clearest manifestations of a narcissist’s insecure need for power, control, validation, admiration, and reassurance at all times. If you’re looking for a complete guide for handling a hoovering narcissist, check out our article How to Deal With a Narcissist Who Is Hoovering for more information!
This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policies.
THIS INFORMATION IS FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND IS NOT INTENDED TO BE A SUBSTITUTE FOR CLINICAL CARE.
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