A question that we didn’t have time to answer during our last therapist-led Q&A session was, “Why do narcissists use hoovering?”

Narcissists use hoovering to control you, protect their public image, get narcissistic supply, manage their fear of abandonment, test your boundaries, isolate you from your sources of support, and to guilt-trip you.

In this article, I will guide you through these reasons so you can better understand the motives behind a narcissist’s hoovering attempts.

1.) To Gain Control Over You

Narcissists feel most secure when they believe they’re in complete control of the narrative of their relationships.

This sense of control helps them soothe their fears and suppress their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

One of the ways they gain control over others is through hoovering.

Suggested Reading: 3 Reasons Narcissists Are So Controlling

For instance, if a former partner tries to establish boundaries by limiting communication, a narcissist might flood them with texts and calls (hoovering).

This act isn’t about rekindling the relationship.

It’s a demonstration to both themselves and others that they can still penetrate those boundaries and dictate the rhythm of the relationship.

If done successfully, meaning they get their former partner to respond to their hoovering attempts, they satisfy their need for control.

2.) To Protect Their Public Image

One of the most important things in a narcissist’s life is their public image.

Because of this, it is common for them to use hoovering to maintain or repair this image, especially when they feel it’s threatened. 

For example, imagine a situation where the person a narcissist abuses leaves them and starts openly criticizing them in a social setting.

Someone exposing the narcissist to others.

To repair their public image, the narcissist might reach out to this person to remind them of the memories of their “good times” together. 

This is hoovering. 

The narcissist doesn’t care about reconciliation; they want to remind the person of the “better” version of themselves to stop them from damaging their reputation.

3.) To Get Narcissistic Supply

At the heart of many narcissistic behaviors is the pursuit of narcissistic supply.

This supply is the validation, admiration, reassurance, power, and control narcissists constantly seek from others.

They use narcissistic supply to suppress their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions to construct a positive self-perception. 

Suggested Reading: What Is Narcissistic Supply?

Now, the biggest and most consistent sources of narcissistic supply narcissists have access to are typically the people they abuse. 

If the person they abuse were to leave or set firm boundaries with them, they would lose a tremendous amount of narcissistic supply. 

For this reason, hoovering is a common tactic narcissists use to get supply.

For instance, after a period of no contact, a narcissist might suddenly reach out with news of a personal achievement or success.

While they may disguise this hoovering as a simple update, the underlying motive here is to get a reaction – be it admiration, envy, or acknowledgment. 

If the person they are hoovering responds in any type of way, the narcissist gets the supply they were looking for and is encouraged to continue to their hoovering.

4.) To Manage Their Fear of Abandonment

It is common for narcissists to use hoovering as a way to manage their fear of abandonment.

That’s right. You are reading this correctly. 

Narcissists are utterly terrified of being abandoned and often use hoovering as a defense mechanism to manage this fear.

For example, imagine a narcissist senses their partner is about to break up with them.

A narcissist sensing a breakup coming.

This realization would trigger their fear of abandonment.

To manage this fear, they might suddenly become affectionate with their partner, showering them attention, compliments, gifts, etc.

This hoovering act isn’t about reigniting romance.

It is an attempt to pull the partner close to manage their fear of abandonment.

5.) To Test Your Boundaries

Narcissists often feel an impulse to see how far they can push or manipulate someone.

This “testing of boundaries” is their way of understanding where the lines are drawn and how much they can overstep without facing consequences. 

Suggested Reading: 7 Ways Narcissists Respond to the Boundaries That You Set

One of the ways that they test your boundaries is through hoovering.

This typically manifests as them reaching out even after being told not to.

For example, if someone has set boundaries by saying they no longer wish to communicate, a narcissist might still send occasional messages or gifts. 

Each hoovering attempt serves as a test.

If the individual replies, even negatively, the narcissist sees it as a successful breach of that boundary and as proof of their power, control, and superiority.

6.) To Isolate You from Your Sources of Support

Narcissists try to ensure that their targets rely solely on them by isolating them from friends, family, or anyone else who might offer support or a differing perspective. 

A common way they try to do this is hoovering.

For example, I want you to imagine that the narcissist in your life has learned that you are trying to move on with your life and develop new relationships.

To stop you from doing this, they reach out and subtly hint that the new people you are building relationships with aren’t trustworthy. 

They say:

“I bumped into [new friend’s name] the other day. There’s just something about them I can’t put my finger on. I hope you’re being careful about who you trust. Not everyone has your best interests at heart like I do.

A narcissist being manipulative.

This is a lie, and it is hoovering.

By casting doubt on your new relationships, the narcissist is trying to pull you back into the narcissistic abuse cycle, which is a space where they are the primary influence.

7.) To Guilt-Trip You

Guilt-tripping is a form of emotional manipulation where the narcissist tries to induce guilt in their target to make them act in a certain way. 

Suggested Reading: 10 Tactics Narcissists Use to Make You Feel Guilty

It is common for narcissists to use hoovering to do this.

For example, imagine a few months after a difficult breakup, your narcissistic ex reaches out with a message like this: 

“I’ve been going through it lately, especially with everything we went through. It’s been tough to handle everything alone without the one who understood me best. I never thought you’d leave when things got difficult. I guess I overestimated our bond.”

In this message, the narcissist portrays themselves as the victim.

By mentioning that they believed your bond was stronger than it apparently was, they are trying to instill guilt in you for “abandoning” them during challenging times. 

Their goal here is to guilt-trip you into reconsidering your decision to end the relationship with them so they can regain power and control over you.

What Should You Take Away from This Article?

So there you have it, seven reasons narcissists use hoovering:

  1. To control you.
  2. To protect their public image.
  3. To get narcissistic supply.
  4. To manage their fear of abandonment.
  5. To test your boundaries.
  6. To isolate you from your sources of support.
  7. To guilt-trip you.

I hope you found this article helpful, have a great rest of your day!

About the Author

Hey, I’m Elijah.

I experienced narcissistic abuse for three years. 

I create these articles to help you understand and validate your experiences.

Thank you for reading, and remember, healing is possible even when it feels impossible.

If you’re ready to heal, visit The Institute of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse to get started.


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