Narcissistic relationships are suffocating. Narcissists want to control the who, what, where, when, and how of any given situation. If they aren’t allowed to, they throw themselves into a narcissistic rage or childish silent treatment until their victims give into their insufferable need for control. It is exhausting and leaves many victims of narcissistic abuse wondering, why are narcissists so controlling?
Narcissists are so controlling because they want to control their victim’s thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs. If they are able to do this, they can turn them into a reliable source of validation, admiration, and reassurance and use them as a repository for their negative emotions.
This article is going to give you all of the information that you need to grasp a comprehensive understanding of the reason that narcissists are so controlling. To start things off, we’ve created a short video (see below) that explains how a narcissist’s emotional instability causes them to be controlling.
A Short Video That Explains How a Narcissist’s Emotional Instability Causes Them to be Controlling
Why Do Narcissists Need to Control Your Feelings and Emotions?
Feelings are the sense of touch or something experienced through touch or emotion and emotions are a complex experience of consciousness, bodily sensation, and behavior that reflects the personal significance of a thing, an event, or a state of affairs. It’s really just a fancy way of saying that feelings and emotions are a product of our interactions with other people, animals, things, and ourselves.
Having feelings and emotions of our own are really important because they help us to construct a realistic sense of self, perception of the world, and direction in life. It is for this reason that narcissists work very hard to control our emotions and feelings.
Narcissists are incapable of constructing a realistic sense of self, perception of the world, and direction in life and this is believed it is believed that this stems from an upbringing with unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent primary caregivers who didn’t them the validation, admiration, and reassurance that is needed to construct a realistic sense of self, perception of the world, and direction in life.
You can learn a lot more about this upbringing that narcissists had in our article How Are Narcissists Made, but this level of neglect forces narcissists to become heavily dependent on the validation, admiration, and reassurance they get from their external environment, relationships, workplace, social media, social groups, to construct a sense of self, perception of the world, and direction in life.
This approach to life is dangerous because it causes them to develop a deeply rooted hatred for their true sense of self, perception of the world, and direction in life because the neglect that they experienced from their primary caregivers has left them feeling inadequate, weak, abandonable, and unloveable.
They will use their new sense of self, perception of the world, and direction in life, that has been built of the validation, admiration, and reassurance of their external environment, to suppress all of their negative emotions and then subject their victim to an insane amount of manipulation and abuse to remain in power and control of the victim’s thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs.
The manipulation and abuse that narcissists subject their victims to allows the narcissist to destroy the victim’s sense of self, perception of the world, and direction in life. Then turn them into a repository for all of their negative emotions. This often manifests in the form of gaslighting and projection.
Gaslighting is simply when a narcissist denies reality. Over time gaslighting will cause the victim to question their own sanity and perception of reality, making it easier for the narcissist to remain in power and control of them. Projection is when the narcissist takes unwanted aspects of their own identity, all of their negative emotions, and places them onto others.
This is done through months, years, and even decades of the narcissist invalidating, devaluing, humiliating, dehumanizing, and degrading their victim on a daily basis. By making their victim feel as badly as they do on the inside, they are able to project all of their negative emotions and emotional instability onto their victim because it quite literally gives them someone to point their finger at and tell themselves, “I’m not the inadequate, lonely, scared, and weak one, they are!”
Why Do Narcissists Need to Control Your Thoughts?
Your thoughts, also known as your ideas, opinions, and beliefs about yourself and the world around you, are very important. They help you define and/or organize the experiences that you have. If used correctly, they can help you articulate your words and determine your actions in such a manner that keeps you both physically and emotionally safe.
For a narcissist to manipulate you into being a viable source of narcissistic supply and a repository for their negative emotions, they have to be in power and control of your thoughts. If you are allowed to think freely on your own, they won’t be able to manipulate you into a state of cognitive dissonance to keep you under their power and control.
Cognitive dissonance is a theory that suggests that when we experience an inconsistency among belief, behavior, and information, it causes a lot 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.
Cognitive dissonance is what keeps narcissistic relationships together and it manifests in the form of the justification, rationalization, and normalization of abuse. The reason it happens in narcissistic relationships is because of the manipulative pattern that narcissists put you through in the beginning stages of the relationship.
We highly recommend that you read our article Is Trauma Bonding Intentional for a step-by-step through this manipulative cycle but what happens is in the beginning stages of the relationship, narcissists try really hard to be the “perfect” person for you.
With manipulative behaviors like mirroring, a technique where a narcissist will absorb a ton of information about your identity and use the information to create a falsified identity that is designed to fill a void in your life, or future faking, when a narcissist makes a false promise for the future to get what they want in the present, they are able to appear to be the “perfect” person for you.
This is true for any type of narcissistic relationship but what happens next is once the narcissist senses that they’ve got you hooked on the idea that they are someone you can grow, be happy, and be healthy with, they will drop the act and begin their abusive pursuit of validation, admiration, and reassurance, also known as the devaluation phase.
What this means is that in the beginning stages of the relationship, the narcissist showed the victim the behavior and gave them the information that they needed to believe in the narcissist and the relationship that they had.
Once they begin the devaluation phase, they change the behavior that they are showing and the information that they are giving, leaving the victim with only the belief that the narcissist is the “perfect” person for them.
This is what triggers cognitive dissonance and as we walk you though in our article Why Do Trauma Bonds Feel Like An Addiction, narcissists have many manipulative techniques that are designed to keep the victim in a state of cognitive dissonance by justifying, rationalizing, and normalizing the abuse.
To sum up everything that has been said in this section, narcissists control your thoughts because they need to keep you justifying, rationalizing, and normalizing the abuse that they are subjecting you to. They know that if you have control of your own thoughts, you would be much more likely to escape the narcissistic abuse cycle.
Why Do Narcissists Need to Control Your Needs?
Remember, the two things that narcissists want out of their relationship with the victim are for them to be a viable source of narcissistic supply and a repository for all of their negative emotions. In other words, narcissists want their victim to give everything that they want and they want them to take all of the narcissist’s negative emotions so that they can chase their fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, and/or ideal love.
After gaining control over your feelings, emotions, and thoughts, the best way that they can do this is by gaining power and control over your needs by manipulating you into living vicariously through them. This means that you enjoy the experiences and achievements of the narcissist instead of your own experiences and achievements.
The narcissist will want you to spend every moment of your life fixated on their thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs. When they are happy, they will expect you to be happy for them. When they are angry, they want you to take the blame. When they need something done, they want you to bend over backwards to make it happen.
To a narcissist, you are nothing more than a tool that they can use to improve their own life. You deserve so much more than that but narcissists are really good at manipulating you into believing that you don’t. The abuse that you are experiencing is not your fault, but the happier and healthier life that you deserve is your responsibility to reach for, that is a really important thing to remember.
Narcissists control your needs because they want to shape you into a person who lives vicariously through them. They want you to be a tool that they can use to regulate their negative emotions and build their grandiose sense of self.
What Should You Take Away From This Article?
The reason that narcissists are so controlling is because they need to be in power and control of your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs. If done successfully, they will be able to turn you into a repository for their suppressed negative emotions and a viable source of validation, admiration, and reassurance.
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.
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Strauchler, Orin, et al. “Humiliation, manipulation, and control: Evidence of centrality in domestic violence against an adult partner.” Journal of Family Violence 19.6 (2004): 339-346.
Solomon, Robert C.. “emotion”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 9 Nov. 2021, https://www.britannica.com/science/emotion. Accessed 20 June 2022.
Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopedia. “feeling”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 3 Jan. 2012, https://www.britannica.com/science/feeling. Accessed 20 June 2022.