A narcissistic breakup is messy. There will be many painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions that you will have to process and overcome, but you’ll also have to learn how to protect yourself from the post-separation abuse if you are to have a successful healing journey.

After a breakup, a narcissist will use manipulation tactics to protect their grandiose sense of self, soothe their fears of abandonment, and to regulate the painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions that they struggle with.

In this article you are going to learn about the reason why narcissists rely on post-separation abuse to manage the fallout from a breakup and some of the most common tactics that they use to abuse/manipulate their exes.

Narcissists Are Abusive After a Breakup Because They Need Narcissistic Supply

Sadly, for a narcissist, all you are is a source of narcissistic supply. They couldn’t care less about your thoughts, feelings, emotions, needs, wishes, goals, or aspirations. They just want to extract as much narcissistic supply (i.e. validation, admiration, reassurance, power, and control) out of you as possible.

It can be really hard to accept this fact but keep in mind that it says nothing about who you are as an individual. It just goes to show how abusive narcissists really are. You deserve someone who nourishes and protects your thoughts, feelings, emotions, needs, wishes, goals, and aspirations, not exploits them.

Here are some examples of narcissistic supply:

1.) Being publicly awarded for an accomplishment

2.) Achieving a level of fame for an achievement

3.) Achieving a level of infamy for behaving in a problematic way

4.)Being seen as a powerful or important member of the community, even if there is no real evidence of this

5.) Having family members fawn over them and meet their wants and needs

6.)Being feared in the home, as the narcissistic may see this as an accomplishment

7.) Having a respectable job that pays well

8.) Having a luxury car and a pricey home

9.) Fitting in socially in the community

10.) Having a relationship that appears happy

11.) Having a child or children that can accomplish goals that seem valuable

12.) Belonging to a group or organization they deem special

Their Childhood Upbringing Caused Their Desperate Need for Supply

Many mental health professionals believe that narcissism originates from an abusive/unhealthy upbringing with emotionally unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent primary caregivers. 

This belief has a very broad spectrum of possibilities that could range anywhere from primary caregivers who are physically abusive (e.g. slapping, punching, spanking, etc.) to those whose emotional availability, responsiveness, and consistency is unhealthy (e.g. too much pampering, being overprotective, lack of boundaries)

It is very important to remember this when you are learning about the origin of narcissism because we often associate the terms “unhealthy” and “abusive” with physical abuse, and more evident forms of emotional/psychological abuse (e.g. invalidation, devaluation, degradation, humiliation, etc.).

With this being said, when the narcissist experienced the emotional neglect that comes with an unhealthy/abusive upbringing with emotionally unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent primary caregivers, it prevented them from getting the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they needed to develop a realistic sense of self and have a healthy cognitive development.

The reason why this happens is because emotionally unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent primary caregivers are incapable of mirroring the thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs of their children.

As such, without healthy parental mirroring (e.g. ​​a primary caregiver’s accurate reflection of a child’s expressed thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs) narcissists were left to figure out both their internal and external environment on their own. 

The Emotional Neglect That They Experienced Caused Them to Develop a Very Negative Self-Perception

The emotional neglect that comes with an unhealthy/abusive upbringing with emotionally unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent primary caregivers also causes the narcissist to develop many painful emotions about themselves (i.e. feeling like they are unlovable, unwanted, inadequate, worthless, and weak). 

This is mainly due to their primary caregivers’ neglect, which taught them that their true identity wasn’t good enough to be validated, admired, or reassured.  

Consequently, the narcissist began to hate themselves but had no way of managing their self-loathing and other painful emotions because of the unhealthy cognitive development that comes from the emotional neglect of an unhealthy/abusive upbringing.

Therefore, to prevent themselves from crumbling under the pressure of their self-loathing attitude and painful emotions, narcissists mirrored society to create a falsified identity ( i.e. a public persona) that could accumulate the validation, admiration, and reassurance that their emotionally unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent primary caregivers could not give them. 

When speaking about narcissism and narcissistic abuse, the term “mirroring” refers to a narcissist’s ability to absorb an extraordinary amount of information about someone’s or a group of people’s (society) identity and use that information to create a falsified identity that allowed them to appear “perfect” to others. 

On paper, this approach to getting validation, admiration, and reassurance seems like it would work.  However, for narcissists, all it did was make them more emotionally unstable as they are not able to be their true authentic selves; only a version of themselves that they believe others would admire

The reason that they became even more emotionally unstable was because the unhealthy cognitive development that they had left them so emotionally stunted and immature that they were incapable of looking past society’s superficial, materialistic, and trivial exterior during the mirroring phase.

Narcissists Rely on Narcissistic Supply to Develop a Positive Self-Perception

Since narcissists were incapable of looking past society’s superficial, materialistic, and trivial exterior during the mirroring phase, they constructed their falsified identity (i.e. a public persona) out of the most superficial, materialistic, and trivial aspects of their life.  

An example of this would be a narcissist using the validation, admiration, and reassurance they get from their external environment for being the most popular boy/girl in their school to construct a sense of self and build up their self-esteem.

A narcissist's emotional state becomes even more emotionally stunted, immature, and catastrophic when the narcissist uses their newly constructed sense of self and self-esteem as their primary form of emotional regulation by suppressing all of their genuinely painful emotions and self-loathing attitude with it.

A narcissist’s approach to emotional regulation was never going to work because of how superficial, materialistic, one-dimensional, vulnerable, insecure and weak narcissists are. But narcissists do not have a choice because they lack the emotional intelligence and sense of self that is required to use healthy forms of emotional regulation. 

Instead, they are condemned to a lifetime of a mindless pursuit of narcissistic supply (i.e. validation, admiration, reassurance, power, and control) so that they can support their superficial, trivial, and materialistic lifestyle and keep their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions suppressed.

Being Abusive After a Breakup Helps Narcissists Regain the Narcissistic Supply That They Lost

The biggest source of narcissistic supply that narcissists have are the people they have power and control over. When they go through a breakup, they lose that steady flow of narcissistic supply that they desperately need and they experience a massive narcissistic injury which triggers all of their suppressed painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions!

Given the severity of their emotional incompetence, narcissists can’t use healthy forms of emotional regulation to manage the fallout of a breakup. So what do they do? They rely on invalidation, devaluation, degradation, humiliation, power, control, and manipulation to protect their emotional stability from their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

When a narcissist invalidates, devalues, degrades, humiliates, etc., you, they are figuratively pointing their finger at you and thinking to themselves, "I am not the unlovable, inadequate, unwanted, worthless, and weak one, they are." This behavior/way of thinking provides them with the narcissistic supply that they need after a breakup.

7 Abusive and Manipulative Tactics You Should Be Prepared for After a Breakup With a Narcissist

Here are seven of the most common manipulative tactics that you should be prepared for after a breakup with a narcissist! If you would like to take a deeper dive into narcissism and narcissistic abuse, we have dozens of courses, masterclasses, and much more, over at the Narcissistic Abuse Support Platform that you should check out!

Flying Monkeys – The term “flying monkey” refers to a person that a narcissist has manipulated into assisting them in the invalidation, devaluation, and degradation of the person that they are abusing. 

Generally speaking, narcissists use flying monkeys to manipulate others into reconciling with them, to invalidate, devalue, and degrade others, to support their twisted perception of reality, and to push past any boundaries that others may have set to protect themselves.

Projection – The term “projection” refers to a defense mechanism that occurs when someone unconsciously takes parts of their identity that they find unacceptable and places them onto someone else.

Projection allows a narcissist to place all of the painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions that a breakup causes onto their ex. (e.g. "It is your fault we broke up, not mine!" or "You are the one who was neglecting MY needs. I gave everything I had to us!")

Hoovering – The term “hoovering” is used to describe a manipulative technique that occurs when an abuser will say and/or do exactly what the person that they are abusing needs to hear and/or see to give the relationship that they have with the abuser another chance. 

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.

New Supply – The term “new supply” refers to the narcissist’s next victim. After a breakup with a narcissist, the new supply will likely be a new girlfriend/boyfriend.

For narcissists, relationships are merely tools they use for emotional regulation. So, you should be prepared for them to move on VERY quickly. They need to have another source of narcissistic supply as quickly as possible in order to protect their emotional stability.

Gaslighting – The term “gaslighting” refers to a manipulative tactic that occurs when someone doubts or denies your reality. Over time, gaslighting causes you to doubt your reality and question your sanity.

Narcissists gaslight to remain in power and control of the narrative, to destroy your sense of self so that they can regulate their negative emotions, and to protect their falsified identity from contradictions.

Baiting – The term “baiting” is used to describe when the abusive person in your life says or does something manipulative to tempt you to engage with them in a negative interaction. 

Portraying you in a negative light allows a narcissist to convince themselves, their flying monkeys, and their enablers that you are the problem and they are the victim of your abusive/manipulative behavior.

Narcissistic Rage – The term “narcissistic rage” refers to an unpredictable, explosive, and unjustifiable response that narcissists often have when they experience a narcissistic injury. It can manifest in the form of physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional/psychological abuse, and/or neglect. 

Narcissists go into a rage when they experience something that contradicts their falsified identity (e.g. a breakup). Contradictions trigger their suppressed negative emotions which causes a lot of psychological tension that they attempt to regulate by projecting the negative emotions onto others through narcissistic rage.

What Should You Take Away From This Article?

After a breakup with a narcissist, you should expect them to be just as abusive and manipulative, if not worse, as they were during the relationship. Remember, they feel entitled to remaining in power and control of your thoughts, feelings, emotions, needs, wishes, goals, and aspirations for as long as they see fit.

They view you as a source of narcissistic supply and that is it. You and I both know that you are way more than just a source of narcissistic supply, so please take care of yourself, stay safe, and keep the narcissist out of your life as much as you can!

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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:

Hart, Will, John Milton Adams, and Gregory Tortoriello. “Narcissistic responses to provocation: An examination of the rage and threatened-egotism accounts.” Personality and Individual Differences 106 (2017): 152-156.

Seidman, Gwendolyn, and Brooke Schlott. “Narcissistic admiration and rivalry and reactions to romantic breakup.” Personality and Individual Differences 186 (2022): 111342.