narcissistic abuse

word salad

Word salad is a term used to describe disorganized speech that can occur in various mental health conditions, including some personality disorders like Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). In the context of NPD, word salad may not be as severe or disorganized as it is in conditions like schizophrenia, but it can still be difficult to follow and understand.

Word salad in NPD is characterized by a mix of unrelated or loosely related words, phrases, or ideas, which may be used to manipulate, confuse, or maintain control in a conversation. This type of speech may be a defense mechanism employed by someone with NPD to avoid responsibility, deflect criticism, or maintain their sense of superiority.

Word salad almost seems like a kind of pseudoscience or paleological babble that narcissists use to hold the floor with their own agenda, such that anyone who is trying to challenge them can’t even get a word in edgewise. It is a common tactic of emotional predators, who seek to disorient and confuse their targets in order to achieve their hidden agendas and goals.

word salad from a narcissist

Some common features of word salad in NPD include:

  1. Tangential thinking: The person may go off on tangents, bringing up unrelated topics or ideas in an attempt to distract from the main point or issue at hand.
  2. Circular reasoning: The person may engage in circular arguments, repeating the same points over and over without ever reaching a resolution or addressing the underlying problem.
  3. Evasion: The person may use vague language, refuse to answer direct questions, or change the subject to avoid taking responsibility or admitting fault.
  4. Gaslighting: The person may use word salad to make others doubt their own perceptions or understanding, in order to maintain control and avoid accountability.

It is important to note that not everyone with NPD exhibits word salad. However, when it does occur, it can be a source of frustration and confusion for those interacting with the individual. Effective communication with someone who engages in word salad may require patience, setting boundaries, and seeking support from a mental health professional.

Word salad in cults

Word salad can also be used as a tactic by cults and other high control groups to create confusion and maintain control over their members. This technique involves the use of jargon, ambiguities, and convoluted language that might sound profound but is ultimately meaningless or contradictory.

By employing such language, leaders can create an illusion of insight and wisdom, often leading members to believe they must align themselves closely with the group to understand its teachings fully. The confusion created by word salad can hinder critical thinking, making it difficult for members to question or challenge the group’s ideology or leadership. This method thus reinforces dependency and control, ensuring that members remain committed to the group’s principles and less likely to seek external perspectives. In the realm of manipulation, word salad is a subtle but potent tool for influencing thoughts and behaviors.

Know the cult warning signs, and keep an eye on the use of word salad jargon in potential groups you may be considering joining.

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Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a mental health condition characterized by (as the name implies) narcissism, including a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, a lack of empathy for others, and a need for admiration. People with NPD often have an inflated sense of self-importance and believe they are special or unique in some way. They may be preoccupied with fantasies of power, success, beauty, or ideal love. However, behind their grandiose façade, they often have fragile self-esteem and are highly sensitive to criticism or rejection.

NPD is part of the Cluster B family of personality disorders. People with NPD tend to exhibit odd, sometimes bizarre behaviors — including word salad, emotional abuse, and other tactics of emotional predators — that are offputting to others and tend to have serious effects on the individual’s life.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)

NPD diagnosis

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) outlines the following diagnostic criteria for NPD:

  1. A pervasive pattern of grandiosity, characterized by a sense of self-importance and an exaggerated sense of achievements and talents.
  2. Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited power, success, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
  3. Belief that they are special and unique and can only be understood by other high-status people or institutions.
  4. Need for excessive admiration.
  5. Sense of entitlement, expecting to be treated in a special way or given priority.
  6. Exploitation of others for personal gain; using the tactics of emotional predators; narcissistic abuse.
  7. Lack of empathy, an inability to recognize or care about the feelings and needs of others.
  8. Envy of others or a belief that others are envious of them.
  9. Arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.

The symptoms of NPD may vary in intensity and presentation, but they are typically stable and longstanding. The condition may start in early adulthood and may be diagnosed only after adolescence, as it is difficult to differentiate between normal developmental narcissism and pathological narcissism in childhood.

NPD: Lack of empathy

People with NPD may have difficulty in maintaining close relationships because of their lack of empathy and preoccupation with themselves. They may feel entitled to special treatment and have unrealistic expectations of others. They may exploit others for personal gain and may become angry or hostile when their expectations are not met. Additionally, they may struggle with criticism or rejection and may react with rage or humiliation.

NPD is often co-occurring with other mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. It may also be comorbid with other personality disorders, particularly Borderline Personality Disorder, as individuals with BPD may exhibit traits of NPD, such as a need for attention and admiration.

Treatment for NPD often involves psychotherapy, particularly psychoanalytic or psychodynamic therapies, which aim to explore the underlying psychological factors contributing to the disorder. Cognitive-behavioral therapy may also be effective in addressing maladaptive beliefs and behaviors associated with NPD. However, individuals with NPD may be resistant to therapy, as they may not recognize the need for treatment or may be unwilling to acknowledge their role in the dysfunction.

Types of Narcissistic Personality Disorder

  1. Grandiose Narcissism: This form is characterized by arrogance, dominance, and a need for admiration. Individuals may appear self-confident and assertive but are often preoccupied with fantasies of success and power. This is the classic version of the narcissist that most people think of when they think of NPD.
  2. Vulnerable Narcissism: Unlike the grandiose type, vulnerable narcissists are sensitive and insecure, often feeling unrecognized and inadequate. They may harbor intense envy and resentment towards others and are prone to feeling victimized.
  3. Malignant Narcissism: Malignant narcissists combine aspects of NPD with antisocial behavior, aggression, and sometimes even sadism. This type can be dangerous, as they lack empathy and remorse and may exploit or manipulate others without concern.
  4. Covert Narcissism: This type manifests as hidden or masked narcissism, where individuals may not outwardly display arrogance but still harbor grandiose fantasies and exhibit a lack of empathy. They often feel misunderstood and neglected, leading to passive-aggressive behavior.
  5. Communal Narcissism: Communal narcissists see themselves as especially caring or altruistic, often emphasizing their contributions to others. However, these acts are driven by a desire for recognition and praise rather than genuine empathy or compassion.

Please note that narcissistic personality disorder is a complex and multifaceted condition, and these categories may overlap or manifest differently in each individual. If you have concerns about this disorder or would like more detailed information, consulting a mental health professional would be the appropriate step.

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covert narcissism

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a complex psychological condition characterized by a long-term pattern of exaggerated self-importance and grandiosity, an intense need for excessive attention and admiration, and a lack of empathy for others. Narcissists can be classified into different categories, with covert narcissism being one of the more insidious types.

Covert narcissists

Covert narcissists, also known as closet or hidden narcissists, exhibit a more subtle and hidden form of narcissism. Unlike their overt counterparts, they tend to present themselves as modest, self-effacing, or even victimized. However, beneath this humble exterior lies an underlying sense of entitlement, grandiosity, and a constant need for attention and validation.

Key Traits of Covert Narcissists:

  1. Insecurity: They often feel inadequate and may suffer from anxiety or depression.
  2. Passive-Aggressive Behavior: Rather than being openly demanding, they may use subtler tactics to manipulate others.
  3. Victim Mentality: They may cast themselves as the victim to gain sympathy and control others.
  4. Sensitivity to Criticism: Even mild criticism can provoke intense reactions, as their self-esteem is fragile.
  5. Chronic Feelings of Envy: They may resent others’ success or happiness and believe they are entitled to the same.
covert narcissism

Comparing covert narcissists to other types

1. Overt Narcissists:

Overt narcissists are the opposite of covert narcissists. They are open and unabashed about their self-centered behavior, displaying arrogance and a sense of superiority or supremacy. Unlike covert narcissists, who may mask their true intentions, overt narcissists tend to be more transparent.

Differences:

  • Overt narcissists are openly grandiose, while covert narcissists hide their grandiosity.
  • Overt narcissists seek attention directly, while covert narcissists manipulate subtly.

2. Malignant narcissists:

Malignant narcissists are more aggressive and may exhibit antisocial behavior. They often lack remorse and may engage in deceitful and exploitative practices.

Differences:

  • Malignant narcissists are more openly antagonistic, while covert narcissists use passive-aggressive tactics.
  • Malignant narcissists may harm others intentionally, while covert narcissists often manipulate indirectly.

Covert narcissism resources

This curated list of five key resources for understanding covert narcissism provide valuable insights into identifying and dealing with covert narcissists:

  1. Psychology Today
    • Website: Psychology Today’s Narcissism Section
    • Description: This platform often features articles by mental health professionals that delve into various types of narcissism, including covert narcissism. It’s a great starting point for understanding the subject from a psychological perspective.
  2. The Mayo Clinic
    • Website: Mayo Clinic on Narcissistic Personality Disorder
    • Description: Mayo Clinic offers a comprehensive overview of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, including symptoms and treatments. While not specifically targeting covert narcissism, it gives an essential foundation on narcissistic behaviors.
  3. Healthline
    • Website: Healthline’s Guide to Covert Narcissism
    • Description: Healthline’s guide specifically focuses on covert narcissism, providing detailed information on recognizing the signs and understanding how it differs from other forms of narcissism.
  4. Narcissistic Abuse Recovery by Angie Atkinson
    • Website: QueenBeeing
    • Description: This resource is dedicated to helping victims of narcissistic abuse. Angie Atkinson, a certified life coach, offers various tools, including videos and articles, to understand and recover from covert narcissistic behavior.
  5. The Little Shaman Healing (Podcast)
    • Website: The Little Shaman Healing
    • Description: This podcast series by a professional therapist addresses issues related to narcissistic relationships, including covert narcissism. It offers insightful episodes that can be valuable for those dealing with covert narcissists in their lives.

Covert narcissism in a nutshell

Covert narcissists represent a unique and challenging form of narcissistic personality. They are adept at hiding their true intentions and can be difficult to identify, especially when compared to other, more overt forms of narcissism. Their passive-aggressive behavior and tendency to cast themselves as victims make them particularly insidious. Understanding the differences between covert and other types of narcissists can provide valuable insights into their behavior and help in recognizing and managing interactions with them.

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phobia indoctrination, illustrated

Phobia indoctrination is one of the principle ways a charismatic leader will lull potential followers into his thrall, by putting them into a state of perpetual fear and anxiety. They know, either instinctively or through training (or both), that people can be induced into a prolonged state of confusion easily, and that many people in states of confusion act quite irrationally. Abusers, cult leaders, and other controllers use demagoguery and other tricks to hide in plain sight and continue to accrue power while passing themselves off as harmless or extremely patriotic.

These chaos agents use emotional manipulation and other tactics of emotional predators as a tool of control. They whip followers up into a fear frenzy frequently enough to instill a set of phobia-like instinctual reactions to chosen stimuli. In addition to stoking fears of the enemies at the gates, they also inculcate irrational fears of the consequences of questioning their authority — invoking authoritarianism. Any doubts expressed about the leadership or its doctrine are subject to terrifying negative results. Cults use this formula to wield undue influence over followers, and prevent them from questioning or leaving the group.

Phobia indoctrination is a tool of cults

As part of a larger overall program of brainwashing or mind control, cults and destructive organizations use imaginary extremes (going to hell, being possessed by demons, failing miserably at life, race war, Leftist apocalypse, etc.) to shock followers into refusing to examine any evidence whatsoever. A form of unethical hypnosis, phobia indoctrination can now be carried out on a mass scale thanks to the internet and our massive media apparatus. Be sure to be on the lookout for any cult warning signs in groups and messaging all around you.

Sociopaths and other types of emotional predators are taking ample advantage of their advantage in time and distance over the slow pace of justice. The wielding of fear as a cudgel in American politics has reached a fever pitch, with anti-Critical Race Theory hysteria, anti-vaxxers, anti-government types, anti-science, Lost Cause-revival zombie MAGA footsoldiers screeching about the “freedom!!!” they wish the government to provide them for persecuting their enemies, and other social horrors are merely the tip of the climate changing iceberg.

phobia indoctrination, illustrated

Phobia indoctrination tactics

Strategies of phobia indoctrination include Repetition and Conditioning, where fears are built through constant exposure; Misinformation and Propaganda, using false information to paint something as dangerous; Utilizing Existing Fears, exaggerating known fears or anxieties; and Social Pressure and Group Dynamics, leveraging social influences to convince others that irrational fears are common.

Other tactics include Authority and Expert Manipulation, where false credentials are used to lend legitimacy; Emotional Manipulation, appealing directly to emotions; Isolation and Control, where a person’s environment is manipulated; and Media Manipulation, using media to provoke fear.

Phobia indoctrination and cults book list:

Cult Dictionary β†—

We had better get familiar with the lexicon and vocabulary of the coming era, so we can fight the creeping scourge of thought control roiling the land.

Proteanism vs. cultism: The battle between open and closed societies β†—

Cultism as a kind of collective personality disorder; the enemy at the gates is us.

Cult Warning Signs: How to recognize cultish groups β†—

Recognizing cult warning signs can be vital in identifying and understanding the risk before getting involved with a group who may not have your best interests in mind.

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cult warning signs

Cults, in general, refer to organizations or groups that often manipulate and exploit members, typically by using unorthodox beliefs and practices. Recognizing cult warning signs can be vital in identifying and understanding the risk before getting involved with a group who may not have your best interests in mind.

  1. Excessive Devotion to a Leader: Cults usually revolve around charismatic leaders who demand absolute loyalty and obedience. A disproportionate reverence for these figures may serve as a red flag.
  2. Us vs. Them Mentality: Cults often draw clear lines between insiders and outsiders, emphasizing that only they possess the truth. This divisive mindset encourages isolation from family, friends, and society, leading to further control over the members.
  3. Coercive Persuasion and Manipulation: High-pressure tactics are common in recruiting and retaining members. This may include controlling information, employing guilt or fear, manipulating emotions to maintain allegiance, and other tactics of emotional predators.
  4. Excessive Financial Demands: Many cults require significant financial contributions, sometimes even requiring members to relinquish personal assets. This financial control reinforces dependence on the group.
  5. Rigidity of Beliefs and Practices: A cult’s ideology is often absolute, with no room for questioning or dissent. Those who challenge the beliefs are typically met with hostility, punishment, or expulsion. This fundamentalist mentality permeates the entire group’s thinking and behavior.
  6. Unrealistic Promises: Cults may lure individuals with promises of spiritual enlightenment, exclusive knowledge, or personal success, often unrealistic or unattainable. These promises can entice individuals seeking meaning or connection in their lives.
  7. Control Over Personal Lives: Intense control over members’ personal lives, including relationships, employment, and living arrangements, can be a clear warning sign. Such control can erode personal autonomy and self-identity.
  8. Emotional Abuse and Fear Tactics: Cults frequently use fear, shame, and guilt to control members, creating an environment where members feel constant anxiety about meeting the group’s standards or displeasing the leader.
  9. A Focus on Recruitment: Many cults prioritize recruitment above all else, viewing every interaction as an opportunity to bring others into the fold. The pressure to recruit can be relentless and is often a central component of the group’s activities.
  10. Impacts on Health and Wellbeing: The demanding nature of cult involvement can lead to negative effects on mental, emotional, and physical health. This can manifest as anxiety, depression, exhaustion, or other health issues, often ignored or downplayed by the group.
  11. Use of hypnosis and neurolinguistic programming (NLP) techniques

Recognizing these warning signs is crucial for individuals, families, and communities to understand the potential dangers and take appropriate steps to protect themselves. The subject of cults is sensitive, often tied to deeply personal and societal fears, and it requires careful consideration and empathy.

Resources on cults

  1. Cult Education Institute (CEI)Website
    • Overview: Operated by Rick Alan Ross, an internationally known expert on cults, CEI offers extensive resources, including a database of information on specific groups, techniques for intervention, and guidelines to recognize coercive persuasion.
    • Target Audience: Anyone looking to educate themselves about cults, from concerned family members to academic researchers.
  2. International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA)Website
    • Overview: ICSA is a global network of people concerned about psychological manipulation and abuse in cultic or high-demand groups. They offer conferences, publications, and support networks.
    • Target Audience: Researchers, professionals, former cult members, and concerned family and friends.
  3. Freedom of Mind Resource CenterWebsite
    • Overview: Created by Steven Hassan, a mental health counselor and former cult member, this site offers resources on combating mind control in various settings, including cults, terrorism, and human trafficking.
    • Target Audience: General public, mental health professionals, and individuals directly affected by cults.
  4. Cult Information Centre (CIC)Website
    • Overview: Based in the UK, the CIC provides information, advice, and support to those concerned about cults. They offer educational programs and direct help to those affected.
    • Target Audience: UK residents, though the information is applicable globally.
  5. Reddit’s Cults CommunitySubreddit
    • Overview: This online community allows individuals to discuss personal experiences, share research, and ask questions related to cults. Moderated for respectful dialogue, it offers a more informal but still informative perspective.
    • Target Audience: Those looking for community interaction, shared experiences, and casual information on the subject.
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Emotional blackmail is a manipulative tactic used by individuals to exert control and undue influence over others by exploiting their emotions, fears, and vulnerabilities. It typically involves the use of threats, guilt, or negative emotions to pressure someone into complying with the manipulator’s demands or desires.

Forms of emotional blackmail

  1. Threats: The manipulator may threaten to harm themselves, the victim, or someone the victim cares about if their demands are not met.
  2. Guilt-tripping: The manipulator may try to make the victim feel guilty for not complying with their wishes, suggesting that their refusal indicates a lack of love, care, or loyalty.
  3. Fear: The manipulator may use the victim’s insecurities, anxieties, or fears to manipulate them into submission.
  4. Obligation: The manipulator may insist that the victim “owes” them something, such as a favor or support, in order to pressure them into compliance.

Emotional predators use blackmail

Emotional blackmail can be subtle or overt and may occur in various types of relationships, including romantic partnerships, friendships, family, and professional settings. Emotional predators (often people with personality disorders) tends to use psychological manipulation techniques to get what they want from you — without much (or any) regard for your own feelings in the matter, or the ethical dubiousness of doing so.

Recognizing and addressing emotional blackmail is essential for maintaining healthy boundaries and relationships.

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A technique of torture and compliance, brainwashing is used in many contexts to control victims. From personal relationships and marriage to cults, all the way up to the scale of nation-states, removing or reducing independent thinking and action in a person or population gives the brainwasher enormous power and advantage.

The word’s origin is from a Chinese term meaning “forcible indoctrination to induce somebody to give up basic religious, social, or political beliefs and attitudes in favor of a belief system imposed by the brainwasher.” It’s also been referred to as mind control, thought reform, undue influence, or coercive persuasion — and is a form of highly unethical emotional and psychological manipulation.

Thought reform

Brainwashing is essentially a method of inducing a false personality into a target, after breaking them down psychologically. There are many different methods and techniques employed, from disinformation and sleep deprivation to hypnosis to emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. The goal of this “thought reform” project is to remove the individual’s agency and train them to follow the orders of the cult or high-demand group.

Seemingly normal, totally “average” people can fall under the sway of brainwashing techniques in use by cults much more easily than one might think. Cults and abusive organizations prey on people at vulnerable times in their lives, when they are most suggestible and least likely to mount an opposition. People who have gone through a loss, or a major life change, or are feeling particularly adrift may be lured by the sway of a deceptive organization. It can be very exhilarating to feel plugged in to an intense community after going through a period of grief or anxiety — almost irresistable, to some.

7 brainwashing tactics

  1. isolation — separating you from family and friends, or any kind of support network who may provide alternative and negative views of the abuser
  2. monopolization of attention — they seek to have the target orient their entire world around the abuser, leaving them little time to think about anything else
  3. weaken your resistance — wearing down your defenses over time, so their messages take firmer hold
  4. give occasional indulgences — providing temporary relief or even pleasure contributes to the overall program of intermittent reinforcement, to induce dependency on the abuser for stimulation of any kind
  5. demonstrates “all-knowingness” — becomes an absurd moral authority on your entire life, presenting the truth about your inner self and past history with more omniscience than you yourself possess. They know you better than you know yourself — and you believe them!
  6. destroy all sources of joy — the brainwasher needs to ensure that they are the sole source of pleasure and pain, for complete operant conditioning control over the target. All other pleasures in life are eradicated or eroded.
  7. degradation and humiliation — if the target gets close to figuring out the truth about the power imbalance and impropriety of the abuser’s behavior, the abuser will immediately begin a scathing shame campaign to punish the temerity of daring to stand meekly on one’s own

Brainwashing in politics and religion

Use of brainwashing by communist officials in China, Korea, and Vietnam gained attention in the U.S. in the mid-20th century. The brainwashing technique is also used by gangs, cults, and organized crime networks to control both members and outgroups.

Perhaps most commonly it is associated with fringe religious groups like the Peoples Temple, Unification Church (or Moonies), Children of God, Branch Davidians, Heaven’s Gate, Aum Shinrikyo, The Manson Family, and thousands of other cults less well known. Sometimes the brainwashing is intended to limit the followers’ access to the outside world, and sometimes it is about grooming them to perform criminal acts from financial crimes to murder to starting a race war.

Important research

Many interdisciplinary minds across multiple fields have studied the topic of brainwashing and undue influence, or have contributed significantly to our understanding of behavioral influence. Here are some highly consequential thinkers, researchers, and experiments on the subject:

Related to:

  • Mao Zedong
  • Nazis
  • Moscow Trials
  • Jim Jones
  • David Koresh

See also:

  • undue influence
  • thought reform
  • mental predation
  • indoctrination
  • hypnosis
  • Stockholm Syndrome
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Cult leader playbook:

1. Position himself (and the group — his extension) as the benevolent safe haven to turn to when afraid

2. Isolate the follower from other sources of safe haven

3. Arouse fear in the follower

Rinse; repeat.

Qualities of a Cult Leader

  • Narcissistic — highly self-absorbed, they demand excessive admiration and slavish devotion to their whims.
  • Charismatic — they have a way of grabbing attention, whether positive or negative.
  • Unpredictable — erratic behavior keeps enemies on their toes and fans “on edge” with desire to please Dear Leader.
  • Insatiable drive — it could be status, money, sex, power, or all of the above, but they feel they deserve it more than anyone else on the planet.
  • Lack of conscience — they have no shame and will demand things a decent human being would not.

Trump has all the cult leader qualities and follows the playbook to a tee — doing little else, in fact. He should be considered highly armed and dangerous. An emotionally unstable individual with access to the United States’ greatest powers and deepest secrets. A threat to American life and liberty. Dictator Don.

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