During the love bombing phase a narcissist will use narcissistic mirroring to absorb a ton of information about their victim’s identity and use the same information to create a falsified identity that is designed to fill a void in the victim’s life. With that being said, the love bombing phase with a narcissist doesn’t last for very long and what comes after it often traumatizes victims of narcissistic abuse for life.
Once the love bombing phase has ended a narcissist will begin the devaluation and discard phase which can be characterized as inconsistent, devaluing, invalidating, dehumanizing, and chaotic. The devaluation and discard phase destroys the victim’s sense of self, self-esteem, and core values.
The devaluation and discard phase is very dangerous. We strongly recommend that victims of abuse who are going through this phase seek out the guidance of a qualified professional to address the trauma that comes from the phase. It is also really important to be able to identify the narcissistic behavior patterns that plague the devaluation and discard phase so this article is going to help readers identify ten of the most common behavior patterns.
10 Narcissistic Behavior Patterns You Can Expect In the Devaluation & Discard Phase
The importance of being able to identify narcissistic behavior patterns is immeasurable. It puts victims of abuse in a position from which they can dismantle the manipulative structure that keeps them trapped within the narcissistic abuse cycle.
This section is going to guide you through some of the most common narcissistic behavior patterns victims of narcissistic abuse can expect to experience during the devaluation and discard phase. Readers will also be provided a resource for some really helpful boundaries one can set to protect themselves from a narcissist and their forms of abuse.
With that being said, it is still strongly recommended that readers seek out a qualified professional to help guide them through the devaluation and discard phase as well.
When a narcissist makes a one-on-one situation into a two or more-on-one situation, it is called triangulation. It’s all about indirectly turning people against each other and it is the most common way that narcissists accumulate power, control, and narcissistic supply.
Readers should check out our article 6 Insightful Examples of Triangulation In Narcissistic Relationships for more context but triangulation can manifest in both very subtle and obvious ways.
Triangulation In a Relationship
A subtle form of triangulation in a relationship would be a narcissist liking the photos of fitness models on instagram to trigger his/her partner who is already insecure about their health/appearance.
An obvious form of triangulation in a relationship would be a narcissist cheating on his/her partner and justifying their betrayal by claiming that the victim wasn’t there for them when he/she needed them to be.
Triangulation In a Family Setting
A subtle form of triangulation in a family setting would be a narcissistic parent playing favorites with his/her children.
An obvious form of triangulation in a family setting would be a narcissistic parent singling out one of their children as the scapegoat and another as the golden child.
Triangulation In a Work Environment
A subtle form of triangulation in a workplace would be a narcissistic boss purposely leaving some employees out of an email list or team meeting.
An obvious form of triangulation in a workplace would be a narcissist giving their “favorite” a promotion even though others have performed much more efficiently.
A common misconception about narcissistic rage is that it is just rage or anger from a narcissist. This couldn’t be further from the truth. You see, narcissistic rage is a manifestation of a narcissist’s emotional immaturity.
When they experience any form of authenticity that either directly or indirectly contradicts their falsified identity they attack it in a desperate attempt to protect their falsified identity. The fragility of a narcissist’s ego makes narcissistic rage terrifyingly explosive and unpredictable.
Suggested Reading: 15 of the Best Examples of Narcissistic Rage
The need for revenge, for righting a wrong, for undoing a hurt by whatever means, and a deeply anchored, unrelenting compulsion in the pursuit of all these aims which gives no rest to those who have suffered a narcissistic injury – these other features which are characteristics for the phenomenon of narcissistic rage in all its forms and which sets it apart from other kinds of aggression -Heinz Kohut
It’s important to ensure that you don’t let the definition of narcissistic rage blind you to its many forms. For example, the silent treatment is a form of narcissistic rage even though it isn’t exactly what one would define as explosive.
The thing about narcissistic rage is that it is really just an extreme response to any given situation. It can be an over the top rage that could get violent or it could be a narcissist completely shutting down and going into a silent treatment.
Suggested Reading: What Happens During Narcissistic Rage (Survey With 100 Survivors).
Intermittent reinforcement is the delivery of a reward at irregular intervals. It is a very powerful technique that narcissists use to keep their victim trapped within the abuse cycle and it starts with narcissistic mirroring in the beginning stages of the relationship.
Through narcissistic mirroring, a narcissist is able to manipulate the victim into believing that they have a healthy, happy, and secure bond with the narcissist. When the narcissist begins the devaluation and discard phase, the victim is left lost and confused.
The person they had a happy, healthy, and secure bond with has been replaced with an inconsistent, devaluing, invalidating, dehumanizing, and chaotic abuser! There’s only so much of this trauma that one can take before they physically and/or emotionally leave the relationship.
Narcissists don’t want this to happen because they desperately need the narcissistic supply, validation, admiration, and reassurance that the victim is providing them. So, they use intermittent reinforcement to manipulate the victim into believing that the healthy, happy, and secure bond is back.
Sadly, abusive relationships are so emotionally starved that the slightest amount of empathy can manipulate the victim into having a false sense of hope.
You can learn more about this in our article Why Do Trauma Bonds Feel Like an Addiction but intermittent reinforcement, along with a few other techniques, makes the “reward” that narcissist give the victim’s only known source of happiness and they remain stuck in the relationship because they’re constantly chasing the feeling they get from the “reward” of intermittent reinforcement.
When a narcissist makes a false promise for the future to get what they want in the present it is called future faking. In the traditional definition of future faking, it is portrayed as a verbal statement but a future fake can also be done through the narcissist’s behavior as well.
For example, narcissistic mirroring is a behavior where the narcissist absorbs information about the victim’s identity to create a falsified identity that fills a void in the victim’s life. This manipulates the victim into envisioning a healthy, happy, and secure bond with the narcissist. This false sense of hope that narcissists manipulate their victims into having right before they begin the devaluation and discard phase is a form of future faking.
We covered this in our article Why Is Arguing With a Narcissist a Horrible Idea but one of the reasons that narcissist’s welcome confrontations is because it gives them a chance to reassure their false sense of self.
Narcissists have a very grandiose, larger than life, celebrity-like perception of themselves even though they’re insecure, fragile, and vulnerable. The reason that they believe in this falsified identity is because an unhealthy/abusive upbringing has caused them to develop a deep hatred for their true identity and incapable of regulating the negative emotions that stem from their obscured hatred of themselves.
So the way that they avoid imploding on themselves is by convincing both themselves and others of their greatness. Winning arguments, confrontations, and disputes reinforces their sense of greatness and allows them to suppress their negative emotions even further in their psyche.
There will come a time where victims of narcissistic abuse use defensive techniques like setting boundaries, the gray rock method, or going no contact to avoid arguing with the narcissist or simply give up on trying to tell their side of the story altogether.
Narcissists don’t like that. They need the gratification they get from “winning” arguments. So, they use the victim’s vulnerabilities and insecurities to bait them into an argument. Meaning that baiting is when a narcissist weaponzies the vulnerabilities and insecurities of their victim to get them to react.
When a narcissist doubts or denies reality, it is called gaslighting. If victims of narcissistic abuse are exposed to gaslighting on a regular basis, it causes them to question their own sanity so severely that they’re unable to conceptualize a realistic sense of self without the opinion of their abuser.
It’s tragic and really hard to manage because of how versatile it is. There are six different types of gaslighting that we covered in detail in our article 6 Powerful Examples of Gaslighting In Narcissistic Relationships but it can also manifest in every single narcissistic behavior pattern imaginable.
When learning about gaslighting it is important to know that just because someone says a phrase that might be considered “gaslighting” it doesn’t mean that they’re an abuser. We say that because many of the gaslighting phrases are quite normal for people to say in an argument, confrontation, or disagreement.
But as a general rule, what makes it gaslighting is that narcissists are purposely doing it to manipulate others into accepting their convoluted version of reality where everyone is expected to neglect their own thoughts, emotions, feelings, and needs to ensure that the narcissist’s needs are met at all times
Suggested Reading: 119 of the Most Common Gaslighting Phrases That You Need to Know!
Cognitive dissonance is a theory that suggests when we experience an inconsistency among our beliefs, knowledge that we have, and behavior that we experience, it creates a tremendous amount of psychological tension. To ease this tension, we will change one or more of the elements that are causing the inconsistency to make everything consistent.
In narcissistic relationships cognitive dissonance manifests in the form of the justification, rationalization, and ultimately normalization of narcissistic abuse. In fact, cognitive dissonance is to blame for the continuation of an astonishing amount of abusive relationships.
With that being said, cognitive dissonance isn’t a behavior patterns that narcissists use but it is something that their abuse creates.
Due to the nature of the narcissistic abuse cycle, cognitive dissonance is inevitable. Through narcissistic mirroring a narcissist is able to place their victim up on an emotional pedestal where they can see a healthy, happy, and secure future with the narcissist just long enough for them to believe it, then they kick the metaphorical pedestal out from under them when they begin the devaluation and discard phase.
This leaves the victim caught between acknowledging that this person who they feel knows them better than anyone else is actually a manipulative abuser or finding some shred of evidence that the healthy, happy, and secure future they once saw is real.
Unfortunately, narcissists are really good at using manipulative behaviors like intermittent reinforcement and future faking to manipulate the victim into justifying, rationalizing, and normalizing the abuse in the pursuit of the healthy, happy, and secure future they desire.
One of the ways that a narcissist regulates their suppressed negative emotions is by projecting all of them onto their scapegoat, a person who is essentially a repository for all of the narcissist’s negative emotions.
They get the worst version of the narcissist. Anything that goes wrong in a narcissist’s life automatically becomes their scapegoat’s fault or problem. In a relationship, the narcissist’s partner is their scapegoat. In group settings like a family or a work environment, a narcissist chooses their scapegoat based off of their own insecurities and vulnerabilities.
What does this mean?
We spoke about this in our article How Do Narcissist Choose Their Scapegoat but scapegoats often antagonize a narcissist in a very specific way. By no means does this mean that the scapegoat is to blame for the abuse they’re receiving. It means that something about the scapegoat’s identity triggers the narcissist’s suppressed negative emotions and reminds them that they’re living a lie.
The scapegoat is a threat to the narcissist’s falsified identity which is why the narcissist degrades the scapegoat as frequently as humanly possible.
When a narcissist says or does exactly what their victim needs to hear or see to give them another chance, it is called hoovering. It occurs when the victim has either positioned themselves to leave the narcissistic environment permanently or physically left the environment altogether.
It’s essentially an upgraded version of the love bombing phase only this time the narcissist knows their victim extremely well and knows what to say or do to get them back into the narcissistic abuse cycle. We covered this in our article Do Narcissists Use Flying Monkeys to Hoover but narcissists use other people to hoover the victim as well.
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
A flying monkey is a person who supports the narcissist’s narrative that portrays the narcissist as the victim and the victim as the abuser. To recruit a flying monkey a narcissist will spread lies and gossip about the victim to others. With that being said, not all flying monkeys are the same, there are three different types.
Flying Monkeys Who’ve Been Forced Into the Role
These types of flying monkeys are very common in social narcissistic environments like a work environment or a narcissistic family. The reason being that the characteristics and personality traits of a narcissist often enable them to climb to the top of a social hierarchy like a narcissistic boss or narcissistic parent.
Under these circumstances a flying monkey could be forced into the role out of the fear of becoming the target of the narcissist’s wrath if they don’t support the narcissist or they could be forced into the role because going against the narcissist has a significant amount of consequences that outweigh any moral compass they may have.
Flying Monkeys Who’ve Been Manipulated Into the Role
An argument could be made that these types of flying monkeys are similar to flying monkeys who’ve been forced into the role but there’s an important distinction between the two that readers must be aware of.
Forced flying monkeys are aware of how abusive the narcissist is, flying monkeys who’ve been manipulated into the role are not.
A narcissist’s ability to mirror those around them and use the information they absorb to create a captivating falsified identity that portrays them as admirable, charming, charismatic, intelligent, desirable, successful, and genuine is mind-boggling but it is also the way that they’re able to manipulate others into becoming flying monkeys.
The obvious reason for this is that the characteristics of their superficial identity, charm, charisma, intelligent, etc., make it easy for them to tell convincing lies but there’s another reason as well.
Experiencing narcissistic abuse on a regular basis destroys the mental and physical health of the victim. The reason being that narcissists are masterful at manipulating their victim into neglecting their own thoughts, emotions, feelings, and needs to ensure that the narcissist has their needs met.
We spoke about this more thoroughly in our article What Does Gaslighting Do to the Victim but this level of manipulating will cause the victim isolate themselves from those they once confided in. So, while the victims’ health gets worse and worse, the ones close to them are left without any explanations as to why.
This makes it very easy for the charming, charismatic, and intelligent narcissist to spread lies and gossip about the victim to create flying monkeys.
Flying Monkeys Who Have Volunteered For the Role
These types of flying monkeys are people who have a significant amount of narcissistic traits themselves. They’re often very superficial, have sadistic traits, they’re extremely loyal to the narcissist, they lack empathy, and are often obsessed with materialistic and trivial aspects of life.
They’re extremely difficult to deal with because they haven’t necessarily become flying monkeys because they believe in the narcissist’s narrative, they have become a flying monkey because they get a tremendous amount of joy out of chaos.
What Should You Take Away From This Article?
There are a lot of terrifying forms of abuse that one should expect after the love bombing phase with a narcissist. The inconsistency, devaluation, dehumanization, and invalidation can cause a significant amount of trauma that should be addressed with the guidance of a qualified professional.
For those in a relationship where they are experiencing the narcissistic behavior patterns we listed above, we suggest that you check out our article What Are Some Boundaries You Can Set With a Narcissist to put yourself in a position from when you can protect your mental and physical health.
This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policies.
Willock, B. (1987). The devalued (unlovable, repugnant) self: A second facet of narcissistic vulnerability in the aggressive, conduct-disordered child. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 4(3), 219–240
Kotyanaya, M. “Bridging the evidence-based gap: From pathological narcissism to narcissism survivors.” The Science of Psychotherapy (2020).
THIS INFORMATION IS FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND IS NOT INTENDED TO BE A SUBSTITUTE FOR CLINICAL CARE.
IF YOU’RE IN THE UNITED STATES AND ARE SUFFERING DOMESTIC ABUSE, PLEASE CONTACT THE NATIONAL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HOTLINE AT 1.800.799.7233 OR YOU CAN VISIT THEIR WEBSITE FOR MORE HELPFUL CONTACT METHODS.
WE URGE YOU TO ENSURE YOU’RE IN A SAFE ENVIRONMENT WHEN YOU DECIDE TO REACH OUT FOR HELP. FOR THOSE WHO CURRENTLY RESIDE IN THE UNITED STATES, VISIT NATIONAL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HOTLINE’S LOCAL RESOURCES TO FIND HELP IN YOUR AREA.
FOR THOSE OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES, BE SURE SAFELY REACH OUT TO THE PROPER AUTHORITIES.