Tactics of a Narcissistic Mother by Gail Meyers

Narcissistic Mothers Play the Victim While Vilify the True Victim

Narcissistic Mother Playing the Victim While Vilifying the True Victims by Gail Meyers

© by Gail Meyers
First up in the chronic emotional manipulator's bag of dirty tricks are pleas for pity, playing the victim, martyrdom, and vilifying the true victim. This is the first dirty trick in this series because of the destruction it can cause. This includes immediate results, as well as cumulative effects over the course of time.

Pleas for pity are a favorite of narcissistic emotional manipulators because compassionate people do not want to see people suffer. Manipulators know this, so they often resort to manipulating with pity in an attempt to get what they want rather than taking the honest approach of simply asking and allowing you to freely answer. The first step for codependents is recognizing when and how they are being manipulated. There is a distinction between helping someone who truly needs it and being played by a narcissistic manipulator.

In the mind of a manipulative narcissist, playing the martyr while vilifying the true victim is like killing two birds with one stone. In my experience, it is used in a vast multitude of situations with various twists depending on the narcissist's goal of the manipulation. This can be done so subtly that most may not even realize the reality of the situation.

It can transpire overtly or very subtly and covertly. So you may clearly see what the chronic emotional manipulator is doing. You may just know something is wrong, but not be able to put your finger on it. Conversely, you may not see the dirty trick that is being pulled on you until much later or when you learn about the bag of dirty tricks.

Playing the victim while vilifying the true victim can be used to conceal the wrongs of the manipulator, while simultaneously stripping the true victim of their virtue. It allows the narcissist to avoid responsibility while gathering pity. It is essentially taking you down a notch to make the abuser feel superior and in control while making you feel and look bad. Whatever characteristic you value in yourself, or the manipulator envies, will often be the target in this scenario.

For example, you pride yourself on being a generous person, but narcissistic mother is a con artist. So, they will rip you off, then accuse you of being a lying thief to anyone who will listen, including you. One favorite I have especially noticed is the totally and completely self-centered manipulator accusing you of being selfish.

Secondly, playing the victim while vilifying the true victim is used to conceal the narcissistic manipulator's abusive behavior and project the blame onto the true victim. Virtually every abuser I am aware of tries to blame the victim for their abuse in some manner. This cunning and deceitful maneuver is a double whammy.

You first endure their abuse, then they blame you, then you may also endure the societal disapproval or broken relationships for what is actually their behavior, based on the martyr tale lies they spread to conceal their abuse. This can sometimes lead to abuse by proxy as the manipulator triangulates by lying to and involving a third party in the abusive relationship.


Narcissistic Manipulation with Pity

This is a real life example of what I repeatedly, although completely inadvertently, caught my narcissistic personality disordered mother doing when I was in my twenties. Poor little narcissist mother has been saving her pennies in hopes that one day she can buy this garden statue. She loves to garden and after looking and looking, this is the perfect finishing touch. She works so hard (as opposed to me who only worked at a desk), but she just has not been able to save enough money for it. She is going to keep saving until one glorious day she is able to buy it.

I was a single mother at the time, but she had her heart set on it. So like a well programmed adult child of narcissists, I surprised her by buying it for her even though I could not afford to. A couple of weeks later, just in the general course of conversation, my Grandmother tells me how she gave my mother the money to buy a statue she wanted for her garden. She was so excited to finally be able to buy it after saving for it for so long.

One would think that is shameless enough behavior, but it did not stop there. A few days later I hear my aunt tell how she also bought my mother the exact same statue. She works so hard, but she just could not afford to buy it. So my narcissistic mother accepted all three gifts without telling anyone the other two had already given her the statue or the money to buy it. This is just one more example of why I am astounded by those who claim narcissists just do not know what they are doing! She knew exactly what she was doing. This also fits right in with Dr. Scott Peck's claim of what tightwads narcissists are.

She attacked when she realized I inadvertently discovered her schemes. I really think part of the problem is the average, more honest person just can not grasp the depths of the pathetic behavior. In true narcissistic style, she then set out to convince the two of them this was my negative character trait rather than her repeated manipulative maneuver. Needless to say, I learned the hard way to stop buying her things, especially since I could not really afford to at the time in the first place. However, I do not even know how many times I discovered her pulling this scheme over the years.


Narcissists Vilify the True Victims

In my experience with various emotional manipulators in the extended family, this is an all-time favorite dirty trick. I can not even imagine anyone pulling this off as cunningly and consistently as my narcissistic personality disordered mother. She used it quite a bit with varying little twists.

First and foremost, come hell or high water, my mother wanted to be viewed as the innocent martyr. By this I mean absolutely nothing was ever her fault. Ever. Regardless of what actually happened, she was innocent. Often times she was more than just innocent, she was the long suffering martyr. To paraphrase Dr. M. Scott Peck, in his book People of the Lie, she was intensely concerned about appearing good, but had no desire whatsoever to actually be good. The extreme to which this maneuver was used to accomplish such an appearance is nothing short of astonishing to the average person. No matter who it was or what happened, she was always either the hero or innocent victim in her tall tales.

I am convinced at times she did this purely for her own entertainment. Contrary to popular opinion, this clinical narcissist was not the stereotypical boisterous, bragging loud mouth. My mother was diagnosed by three separate licensed professionals over the course of two decades, but in my opinion she had a full blown inferiority complex too. While it was obvious to me when she was in public, there was no sign of it in private. I truly believe at times she pulled this dirty trick for no other reason than to relish the feeling of power and superiority I believe it gave her. At other times, the motive was more obvious - that is if you were wise to her true nature.


Narcissists Are Always the Innocent Victims

In my twenties and into my thirties my mother was insanely jealous. Even though everyone from my best friend to the preacher's wife told me this, I did not have enough self-esteem at the time to even seriously consider the idea that anyone could be jealous of me about anything - let alone my own mother. At the time I still believed the tall tales that this one and that one attacked her because they were jealous, but she did not have a jealous bone in her body. In truth, she is perhaps the most insanely jealous person I have ever known. It was only years later when I looked back at some of the things she did, that I wondered how I could have possibly missed the fact. It was so blatant and obvious at times, but I just could not conceive of it at first.

My alcoholic pedophile step-father molested me for nearly a decade of my childhood. At 21 years old, I hysterically told my mother of the abuse, thinking at the time that she did not know. Interestingly, in hindsight, her jealous rages had already been in full swing for several years. Of course, she knew about the sexual abuse the whole time. In any case, she would viciously verbally assault me then turn around and tell everyone I was the one who did that to her. She would tell my siblings and extended family members how I had savagely attacked her because she did not protect me from the child abuse.

When I told my mother about my childhood sexual abuse, I broke the toxic unwritten family rule of never telling about the abuse. In this extremely toxic environment, it is not the abuse that is seen as the problem. It is the telling of the abuse that is considered the problem. I realized later that revealing the sexual abuse put me in her highly cherished victim role. I inadvertently knocked her off of her martyr throne, and cast her in a poor light for failing to protect me. I would later discover it was also because she had every reason to know he was a pedophile as early as a few days after their wedding. So it exposed more than I realized at the time. In any case, that was her response to me seeking recovery for myself. She did not want me to have any support or compassion from anyone, but sought to vilify the true victim.

She responded in true pathological narcissistic style by viciously verbally assaulting me, then flipping the tale and claiming I was the one who assaulted her. If you are on the receiving end of this dirty trick, it can be like a triple punch. I first endured her heinous assault during a time when I desperately needed a mother. Then, she breaks down your other relationships with false allegations of savage attacks, which can easily lead to abuse by proxy in toxic families. Thus, some of the people she tells the story to in turn punish or abuse the true victim again for treating their mother so poorly! This can erode or destroy extended family and other relationships both immediately and over time.

Gossips and slanderers can take down a ministry or church in this manner, and we are in the position of being a narcissistic personality disordered mother's child. Notice the sly and deceitful reason she attributed the attack to - that I was angry because she had failed to protect me as a child. That was always immediately followed with more avoidance of any responsibility to protect by her claiming she did not know. Then putting the blame back on me in one form or another. In reality, she was mad as hell I told about the abuse. It forced her to have to leave the pedophile and get a job, because she could no longer convincingly pretend not to know.

So the maneuver accomplishes quite a bit for the cunning, deceitful emotional manipulator:
  1. Her lying conceals her contemptuous behavior.
  2. It causes the true victim to be disparaged by having such vicious behavior attributed to her in the eyes of others.
  3. That damage to reputation is not forgotten by the narcissist or the ones who believe it. The narcissist will continue to build on it later until she destroys as much reputation and as many relationships as she can.
  4. It can deny the true victim any validation or support from others.
  5. It moves the narcissist a little bit closer to her martyr throne. After repeatedly pulling this stunt, she eventually declared how she hopes I heal from the sexual abuse. She really does, but she has done all she can. She just can not put up with being attacked all the time. I was not attacking her in any way, but she was viciously attacking me. I was trying to help her heal!
  6. It moves the scapegoat closer to being ostracized by others who believe the lies.
  7. It allows the narcissist to avoid responsibility for their abuse.
  8. It results in the pity mongering narcissist garnering all of the attention, support and highly prized pity for more manipulation and abuse by proxy.

She pulled the same dirty trick with various people in many circumstances. As I look back over the years, I can pretty clearly see who she was jealous of at the time or who she thought was figuring her out. If you heard a martyr tale about someone attacking her, you could almost be sure she was paying them back for something or she was jealous. (I realize the DSM says "envious," but I think it is "jealous." If envious means I want something you have but I do not mind you having it too, and jealous means I want something you have instead of your having it, then she was jealous not envious. A narcissist wants it all, all of everything and everyone for themselves).


Practical Steps with Narcissistic Manipulators

I like to believe most of us are compassionate human beings, but it is a mistake to assume everyone has normal human characteristics. Some people may communicate in manipulative manners for no other reason than they have never learned healthier ways to communicate. However, there are those walking among us who, for whatever reason, do not possess such human characteristics as compassion, empathy or remorse. In my experience, narcissistic manipulators have no problem using, abusing, conning, lying and slandering even close family members. Actually, they seem to reserve their worst behaviors for those closest to them.

So while in my youth I jumped to help anyone in need, I have long since been practicing more discretion. There are those who are truly in need and authentic victims, but there are others who have just learned to get what they want by playing the victim and vilifying the true victim.

The very fact that you know this dirty trick will cause it to be less effective. Knowing the game can also empower you to handle it better because you see what is happening. If you spot this game, look at what the manipulator is really after in the situation. Think immature and petty, and you will often be on the right path. Then take steps to protect or remove yourself from the situation. Listen to your instincts!

Practice recognizing when you are being manipulated, pressured into doing something you would not freely do if you were asked directly with no pressure. Notice your body, when you muscles tighten up. Seek to strike a balance, between being so protective of yourself as to help no one and so easily manipulated that you are easily manipulated with pity ploys. This balance naturally came in time once I began paying attention to when I was being manipulated. For many years now when someone starts manipulating, it feels to me like I walked into a sticky cobweb.

Next up is the dirty trick of scapegoating, but first enjoy these tips from Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC on how to handle an emotional manipulator.

Photo: Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons


  1. Gail, reading this article was the final step in this 68 year old's recovery. Thank you, thank you, thank you. My husband read it too when I told him I "finially got it" He had a grin from ear to ear. After 40 plus years of watching what my mother did he told her off. He told my siblings off too! Wow, I sure suffered from this one, and now I am smiling. She even told me if I left my husband I could come back into the family then denied saying it lol. This is the best article I have read on the subject. I am very grateful to you. With best wishes to you and all who have suffered at the hands of a Narcissistic Manipulator.

  2. Anonymous, I am so glad you are finding healing! Thank you for taking the time to let me know this article was helpful. Best wishes.

  3. Whatever your troubles are, it's STILL always about the narcissist. My brother tried to commit suicide and went into a psychiatric unit. When the psychiatrist wanted to talk to my mother, she threw one of her famous "poor me, why is everyone picking on ME?" crying fits. When this didn't work on the doctor, she countered with her other trusty weapon, the temper tantrum followed by storming out of the office, screaming that the doctor was trying to turn her child (a 35 year-old man) against her. She was furious that her tricks of the trade didn't work, for once.

    1. My heart goes out to you and your brother. The behavior you have articulated sounds disgustingly familiar to me.

  4. My father had died, so his social security benefits came to me with the money under the control of the money until I was 18. I wanted to save the money for college. Instead, my mother went shopping. Every day when I came home from school, she'd hold up the clothes she'd bought that day with a cheery "Look what I bought us today!"

    Us? We weren't the same size and we certainly didn't share the same tastes in clothes. Every closet in our house was stuffed with her clothes, some not even worn.

    When I turned 18, power over the money reverted to me. I only had $1200 of it left. Not enough for school. What the hell..I went out and bought myself a snazzy used sports car. (Obviously this was many years ago.) I'd just work to get myself through school. I certainly wasn't going to get help from her -- she didn't believe "girls" should go to college.

  5. Thank you Gail for your information on Narcissistic Abuse. It is so helpful and so encouraging!

    I am dealing with a mother and sister who have hated and shamed me for years. No, its more like since the day I was conceived. I am 52 years old and have had to go no contact with these family members because their covert abuse has caused too much emotional damage in my life.

    Unfortunately, at my father's request, I did go to my father's funeral at the end of JUNE. What a mistake that was! BM and BS stepped up their hatred and their attacks again!

    I came to offer care and comfort and BM practically spit in my face while BS ordered her security guard to come arrest my ass because "I AM SUCH A DANGEROUS AND EVIL DAUGHTER"!

    Who in their right mind hires a security guard for a funeral? Oh that's right, healthy and loving people work things out, it's the mafia who hires security guards?

    My children and I see how I was set up and how they spent their time planning my father's funeral, and demonizing and vilifying me as the evil daughter!

    Narcissist choose to vilify instead of handling the fact that I came with love and forgiveness in my heart only armed with a sympathy card and flowers for my BM. The cruel joke is on me. I can still hear my mother telling me how "I need to be the bigger person!" Yeah, so she can continue being hateful and abusive without question?

    A friend who came to support me told me he has never met a more rude and hateful group of people, and that day was one of the worst days in his life!

    To me it is so unbelievably sad and HATEFUL to have people who are suppose to love each other demonstrate that what they truly love is to hurt, damage and destroy others at any and all costs!

    I am glad to come across this forum and all the information you have provided. Thank you for sharing your truth to help those of us coming alongside a better understanding that we don't deserve to be treated so horribly.

    Thank you for giving us insight to provide the courage to help us keep living our lives everyday!

  6. Good educational article, another thing, I hold my resources tighter, when someone wants access to my resources without paying for it or not give me something for my resources, but they say GOD BLESS YOU, I be like HELL NO, I may be cold, but common sense tells you not to be asking for free things, do something to get them.

  7. i have a friend who has insulted me for years, made me believe that i'm ugly and unlikable by men. i confronted to her about all the things that she had told me for these years and she played the priestess. she never explained anything about my complaints but she pretended like she is an angel and i'm the ungrateful one. and finally she said that "after all your accusations, i'm still waiting for your mind to change" and thus she tried to make me feel guilty by imposing that suffering,innocent priestess image of herself. what a garbage-like heart she has!

  8. This is my mother. She has a drinking problem, and we had a falling out after she received a DUI and I told her that this was a wake up call to get help. She sent me the most hate-filled email that I have ever laid eyes on. I was shocked, but shouldn't have been. Anyway, I decided that it was best for my mental health to stop speaking with her. In the meantime, she boo-hooed to my maternal grandmother and other extended relatives who in turn all bad mouthed me for being such a horrible daughter for not speaking to my mother. I am ecstatic that I live over 900 miles away from my hometown. I can't imagine how horrific it would be if I had to deal with them all in person on a regular basis.

  9. Great blog and very helpful post.

    Envy means coveting (desiring) something that someone else has. Jealousy is present in a 3-way relationship (e.g., romantic triangle).

    1. I have also had to deal with the same misfortunes in my life most of my life I have been the scapegoat in our family I am a good person and I have to keep telling myself that because when I'm around my mother and dad I'm selfish ungrateful unreliable and pretty much anything that is negative I've been into therapy to help me deal with this guilt my mother at this point is giving me the silent treatment I realize now that I have let them come into my safety I will choose from this day forward to keep my boundaries at bay no more will I be accused of causing havoc in our family I'm a loving caring successful mother and teacher The disappointments that my mother has expressed have taken so much told on me everyone loves my parents and family so it makes it hard for me to even trust myself but I know that my feelings are real and everything I'm reading here makes perfect sense thank you for sharing and giving me peace about this

    2. Oh my gosh! You are telling my story. So grateful I found this! I'm actually feeling excited and joyful as the burden of guilt is being lifted and my eyes are opening!!! Thank you all

  10. Reading your articles have seriously helped me to cope with coming to terms with discovering my mother is a malignant Narcissist. I never saw it when I was young, I left home just before I was 20 to make my own way in life. I chose to live and create my own family many miles away from my parents & siblings. For many years we hardly had any contact. It wasn't till my late 30's I brought my little family to visit them across the ocean, only visiting with them for a week or so every 3 or 4 years. It wasn't till my Dad died and the family set my Mother up with Facebook that her true colours came to be exposed to me. Everything was fine till I tried to correct her misconception of how Facebook worked. Not only did she call me a liar but proceeded to ignore any advice from me, no matter how kindly I put it. It came to a head when she kept "accidently" ignoring my little family's request for others to respect their privacy settings and to never share personal stuff. When I blew up about it she tried blaming another of my children for starting it. When I pointed out that Facebook noted times of posts actually proved she was the one who started the avalanche of improper shares, she wrote on Facebook "for goodness sake, it's Social Media, who ever doesn't like it should get off". I take heart in the fact that my children do not have much actual contact with her, can easily see what she is really like and treat her accordingly. Now that I know what she is and what she does, I question so much of my childhood! But reading your articles are helping me come to terms! Thank You

  11. I have a question. What kind of manupliation would you call it when you disagree with mom and she gets upset and keeps saying, "Please support me! Please Love me! She does this every time I disagree with her.


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