Have you ever had a narcissist keep tabs on you? The phrase “keep tabs” means to carefully watch (someone or something) in order to learn what that person or thing is doing. It is very common for a narcissist to keep tabs on the people in their surrounding environment.

Narcissists keep tabs on you because they feel entitled to remaining in a position of power and control in your life. Keeping tabs on you gives narcissists the information that they need to control their surrounding environment and place themselves in a position from which they can continue to attract the narcissistic supply that they need to feel emotionally stable.

The information in this article is going to help you understand how keeping tabs on you is beneficial for the narcissist in your life.

3 Reasons That Narcissists Keep Tabs on You

Before we go through the three main reasons that the narcissist in your life keeps tabs on you, there’s something important that you should know. A narcissist keeping tabs on you can quickly turn into stalking or cyberstalking. Both stalking and cyberstalking are huge indicators of potential violence and/or homicide. 

Someone teaching a class about stalking.

Suggested Readings:

Our article Will a Narcissist Try to Get Revenge? has helpful information about stalking and cyberstalking and our articleHow to Know if a Narcissist Will Kill You (16 Signs to Keep You Safe) has important information about the indicators of potential violence and/or homicide.

We are going to start unpacking the three main reasons that the narcissist in your life keeps tabs on you now. If you feel threatened by a narcissist in your life who is keeping tabs on you, here is a short clip from Karina Ramdath, a Registered Social Worker and Therapist, about creating a safety plan (see below).

Karina Ramdath, a Registered Social Worker and Therapist, Shares Her Advice About Creating a Safety Plan

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They Want You as a Backup Source of Narcissistic Supply

Narcissistic supply is the validation, admiration, reassurance, power, and control that narcissists receive from their external environment. They need narcissistic supply to construct a positive self-perception and to feel emotionally stable. The people that narcissists abuse are their largest and most valuable sources of narcissistic supply.

Suggested Reading:

In our article What Do Narcissists Want In a Relationship? we put together a lot of helpful information about the things that narcissists look for in a relationship (i.e. narcissistic supply). Understanding this information will help answer many of the questions that you may have about the abuse that you, or someone you know, experienced.

As we mentioned before, narcissists need narcissistic supply to feel emotionally stable. So, when the relationship that you had with them ends (i.e. a friendship, family member, romantic partner, colleague, etc.) they will get a new source of narcissistic supply very quickly.

A narcissist moving on to a new source of supply.

However, them getting a new source of supply (i.e. another person) doesn’t mean that they are finished with you. Since you were once a source of narcissistic supply for them, they feel entitled to remaining in power and control of you for as long as they see fit.

What this means is that there’s a strong possibility that the narcissist in your life is keeping tabs on you just in case their new source of narcissistic supply doesn’t fulfill their needs.

They Want to Watch You Suffer

You know how narcissistic supply is validation, admiration, reassurance, power, and control? Well, one of the biggest sources of narcissistic supply that narcissists can get comes from the pain that they cause others.

You see, deep down narcissists have many painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions that they can’t regulate through healthy forms of emotional regulation because of their emotional incompetency.

A narcissist with many painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

Suggested Reading:

Our article How Are Narcissists Made? has really, really, important information about a narcissist’s origin story. However, it is believed by many mental health professionals that a narcissist’s painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions originate from an unhealthy/abusive childhood upbringing.

One of the ways that narcissists protect their emotional stability from their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions is through projection. Projection is a defense mechanism that occurs when someone takes parts of their identity and places them onto someone else.

A simple example of this would be a man wrestling with the urge to steal, who accuses his neighbors of trying to break into his home and steal his stuff. For narcissists, the parts of their identity that they find unacceptable are their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

But by invalidating, devaluing, and degrading others, they are able to project the painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions that they have onto others.

A narcissist insulting someone close to him.

Seeing someone in pain allows them to figuratively point their finger at that person and think to themselves, “I’m not the unlovable, unwanted, inadequate, weak, and worthless one, they are!”

What this means is that the narcissist in your life could be keeping tabs on you because they want to see the pain that they caused you.

Whether that be the grief that comes from a break up, the sense of loss that comes from losing a family member or friend, or the financial instability that comes from losing your job, narcissists want to see you suffer so they can figuratively point their finger you and think to themselves, “I’m not the unlovable, unwanted, inadequate, weak, and worthless one, they are!”

They Want to Control How Others See You

Narcissists are terrified of the people that they abuse. Absolutely terrified. You see, narcissists spend their entire lives building and protecting their grandiose public persona.

A public persona is the personality that a person presents in public and that they are known for by most people. Generally speaking, a narcissist’s public persona portrays them as charming, charismatic, confident, intelligent, articulate, attractive, successful, etc.

A narcissist ensuring that her public persona is positive.

This public persona allows them to accumulate the narcissistic supply that they need to develop a positive self-perception and feel emotionally stable. However, the people that narcissists abuse are able to see straight through this public persona because of all the abuse that they have, or currently are, experiencing.

This is terrifying for a narcissist because they know that once they lose power and control over the person that they are abusing, that person can expose them to others and dismantle their grandiose public persona.

Suggested Reading:

Our article Why Are Narcissists Nice to Others? does a really good job at explaining a narcissist’s public persona and how important it is to their emotional stability.

One of the ways that narcissists prevent this from happening is by controlling how others see you through flying monkeys. A flying monkey is someone that a narcissist manipulates into helping them abuse others. They are designed to isolate, discredit, and silence the person that the narcissist is abusing. 

A narcissist recruiting a flying monkey to keep tabs on their ex.

So, one of the reasons that narcissists keep tabs on you is to control how others see you, meaning that they want to isolate, discredit, and silence you. Obviously, this is much easier to do when they know the whos, whats, wheres, whens, and hows of your life, hence their tendency to keep tabs on you.

Suggested Reading:

Our article What Are Flying Monkeys? has a ton of helpful information that you can use to grasp a comprehensive understanding of flying monkeys. This is important because flying monkeys are one of the toughest adversaries that you’ll come across on your healing journey.

What Should You Take Away From This Article

A narcissist’s tendency to keep tabs on others just goes to show how unhealthy and abusive they are. A common mistake people make when they find out that the narcissist is keeping tabs on them is assuming it is because the narcissist misses them or cares about them.

Sadly, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Narcissists don’t care about your thoughts, feelings, emotions, or needs. They believe that they have a right to remain in a position of power and control in your life so they can keep tabs on you.

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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:

Ménard, Kim S., and Aaron L. Pincus. “Predicting overt and cyber stalking perpetration by male and female college students.” Journal of Interpersonal Violence 27.11 (2012): 2183-2207.

Lowen, Alexander. Narcissism: Denial of the true self. Simon and Schuster, 2004.