Narcissistic & Sociopathic Abuse Glossary (A to Z Guide)


It’s a frustrating fact of life that victims of narcissists and psychopaths/sociopaths don’t know what they need to know about what’s going on until it’s too late and the abuse has already happened and the damage has been done. It’s only after the face that we start looking into things and once we do, we start to think “If only I’d known this when the toxic relationship was happening”.

In this guide I want to try and help people get a little more ahead of this curve, and provide an A to Z guide or glossary of key terms relating to narcissists/sociopaths and their general toxic patterns of narcissistic/sociopathic abuse.

I’m not as rehearsed with all the terms and jargon in the recovery space as some might be (it’s possible to get overly obsessed with this jargon as well), but I’ve still got a pretty good grasp of it, to the point where I can give someone new to this entire subject a good start to really boost their understanding in a short space of time, to the point where they can put into more precise words what they are experiencing, or have recently experienced (this is often what we lack when we’re going through it the first time), and start their process of learning and recovery more quickly.

Therefore this A-Z glossary guide is designed to help newbies to this topic especially expand their vocabulary and literacy on this subject in a short space of time, so they can put better words to what they’re going through, or have just been through.

Let’s get started with some key A-Z terms of narcissistic/sociopathic abuse!

A

Anti-social personality disorder – The modern clinical term for psychopathy. Defines those individuals with a psychopathic personality as defined by the Psychopathy Checklist or another approved diagnostic criteria.

Any & All Communication Is An Opportunity For Abuse – Crucial rule that must be understood when dealing with Cluster B disordered individuals, taken from Richard Grannon’s work. They see any and all interactions/communications with people as a potential opportunity for abuse, deceit, manipulation and exploitation. Even interactions or engagements which are only seconds long, or even at distance via phone/email/social media etc, they will be abusive and upsetting if they can be, especially once the mask has come off and they know that you know who they are. Explains why narcissists and psychopaths are so dangerous and toxic to be around long term, and need to be removed completely from your life whenever possible. See also No contact, grey rock.

Apath – Describes the poor quality, apathetic, easily manipulated and easily influenced people that narcissists and sociopaths often co-opt into their smear campaigns and scapegoating of targets. Will side with abusers because it’s easier for them, and not stand up for victims of bullying or call out the toxic person. See also useful idiots and sociopath-empath-apath triad.

Avoidant Personality Disorder (AvPD) – Characterized by excessive social anxiety and fear of connection, intimacy and socializing. Fear of humiliation often dominates the thinking process, and people with AvPD are often extremely isolated. A common personality adjustment victims make following Cluster B abuse. Best worked through with a skilled therapist.

B

Blame Shifting – A process whereby blamed is projected or shifted by a narcissist or sociopath to avoid accountability for wrongdoing, or just to annoy and irritate the other person. Disordered people will often blame shift in argument to invert reality and turn things on their head, leaving the target feeling to blame for something that was actually the abuser’s fault. See also denial, projection, gas-lighting

Borderline Personality Disorder – A formal diagnosis contained with the Cluster B spectrum of disorders which is characterized by extreme emotional volatility and dis-regulation, extreme fear of abandonment, long term pattern of unstable interpersonal relationships and extreme emptiness. Borderlines often fear abandonment so much that they behave towards others in a way that makes this abandonment inevitable. Romantic relationships with borderlines are often characterized by intense sexual contact combined with extremely volatile and unstable interpersonal interactions; a constant sense of turmoil and unpredictability.

Boundaries (psychology) – The way in which we define where we end and others begin psychologically. Defines crucial criteria which allow individuals to either shut down or permit abuse to continue. People with weak or diffuse boundaries will have a high tolerance for unacceptable behavior, an inability to see toxic behavior for what it is, difficulty saying no, difficulty removing toxic people from their lives, a lack of stable sense of self, poor self belief, and so on, and will therefore be extremely vulnerable to gas-lighting and other abuse from Cluster B disordered individuals. Boundary issues must be resolved to prevent toxic abuse recurring over and over in one’s life. See also codependent, Zipper analogy, moral philosophy.

Broken Record technique – Relates to the boundaries term covered above. Broken record refers to a method of setting boundaries, where the same simple, short answer (eg. “no”, or “no comment” or “I’m not engaging with you right now”) is repeated over and over, without elaboration, as many times as is necessary to get a point across, or safely get out of a situation where you don’t want to be drawn into lengthy debate. A great way of setting boundaries with provocative, boundary-pushing individuals who are constantly trying to draw you into debate, explanation and elaboration. Broken record is a simple method to drill to avoid doing this. See also boundaries, DEEP Technique, Zipper analogy

C

Cerebral Narcissist – A narcissist who draws their supply and grandiose sense of self primarily from what they do with their minds (intellect, IQ, academic accomplishments etc). Contrasts with the somatic narcissist (see below). Distinction made by Sam Vaknin.

Cluster B disorders – The category of personality disorders labelled as dramatic. Also characterized by provocative and reaction seeking behavior. Includes the Anti-social personality disorder (psychopathy/sociopathy), Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), Borderline Personality Disorder and Histrionic Personality Disorder.

Codependent – The typical personality profile of who psychopaths and narcissists tend to target. The good natured but weak boundaried person who struggle to adequately set boundaries, say no and shut down unacceptable behavior. Often prone to self doubt, worry, anxiety and handing their power over to others. Extremely vulnerable to narcissistic and sociopathic abuse, and is a condition that must be resolved if victims are to avoid the same patterns repeating again in their lives. See also boundaries, people-pleaser, Zipper analogy.

Content – The actual, objective facts in a situation, or the actual content (words) of an interaction. Cluster B disordered individuals are not so interested in content, and more interested in context (see below). See our article on context vs content with disordered people. See also context.

Context – The interpersonal dynamics or power dynamics in an interaction. Psychopaths and narcissists are much more concerned with context than content in interactions (eg. not concerned with who is right or what actually happened, but whether they’re managing to irritate or exasperate you, and also staying in control.). See also content.

D

Dark Triad Traits – Closely aligned to the Cluster B disorders definition. The dark triad traits encompass psychopathy, Machiavellianism and narcissism. In other words, manipulative and exploitative personality styles. People with dark triad traits tend to see others not as people but as objects to be manipulated and used for their own benefit.

DARVO – Acronym that stands for Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim & Offender. Involves a toxic person denying abuser every took place, attacking the other person for attempting to hold them accountable, and flipping the script by making themselves out to be the victim and the other person the abuser. See also inversion of reality, gas-lighting, denial, projection and blame shifting.

DEEP – Framework developed by Dr Ramani Durvasula to help prevent being drawn into unnecessary engagement with provocative personality types. Don’t Defend, Engage, Explain or Personalize when a narcissist or sociopath is attempting to provoke you. See video here.

Denial – A psychological defense very common with all Cluster B disorders, along with projection. Relentless rejection and dismissal of reality, even when presented with clear facts and evidence. An inability to perceive or accept reality, especially as it relates to accepting legitimate blame and ownership for actions. Refusal to accept responsibility of acknowledge toxic traits. Also common with victims of Cluster B abuse, who remain in denial about the toxicity of the relationship and the abuser, to the amazement of onlookers. See also projection.

Devalue phase – Phase where the relationship with the disordered person starts to turn toxic, where the “honeymoon” period ends, the abuse, triangulation and devaluing starts. See also idealize, discard, idealize-devalue-discard

Discard phase – The final phase of a toxic relationship, when the disordered person breaks off with the victim, and moves onto a new friend or partner, often flaunting this in the target’s face. See idealize, devalue, idealize-devalue-discard.

Doormat – The person with poor boundaries and self respect who lets others treat them badly and has trouble saying no. Often targeted by Cluster B disordered individuals. See also codependent, people pleaser and scapegoating.

Double standards – Very common with Cluster B disorders. A sense of “doing as I say, not as I do”, whereby the standards narcissists and sociopaths hold others to, they do not adhere to themselves. Very common with toxic bosses. See also hypocrisy.

Duping Delight – Describes the pathological smirking that can flash across a psychopath’s face when ostensibly admitting to wrongdoing, or deceiving others. A leaked expression of pleasure at deception, or else contempt towards the person being manipulated or deceived. See our article on the topic. See also smirking,

E

Empath – Common personality profile to describe the highly empathic or sensitive person that psychopaths and narcissists often target, because of their sensitivity and also because they usually have the discernment, intelligence and moral radar to see the disordered person for who they are, when other bystanders can’t. For this reason, the toxic person will often seek to isolate this person and play others off against them to isolate, undermine and ostracize them. See also triangulation, smear campaigns, scapegoating and sociopath-empath-apath triad.

Emotional Flashback – Describes a common problem with toxic abuse survivors, where they can be easily triggered and be sent into a negative emotional spiral of anxiety, anger or other unprocessed emotions. Often similar to a panic attack. Can be managed with awareness and positive self talk. Richard Grannon has some good resources to help with this.

Emotional Literacy – Describes the ability to have an expansive, detailed, nuanced vocabulary of all the main emotions (fear, anger, sadness etc), plus the myriad of sub-emotions stemming from these emotions (eg. frustration, apathy, jealousy, apprehension etc). Being able to describe with precision (not with vague, general, non-precise words) what emotion you are feeling in any given moment. A key tool to aid in recovery from Cluster B abuse. Again Richard Grannon has been a pioneer in this kind of work – see here.

Ethics – see Moral Philosophy

F

Fragile narcissist – see vulnerable narcissist.

G

Gaslighting – The deliberate process of repeatedly invalidating or dismissing another person’s perception of reality, contrary to factual evidence. Often involves saying things were said or done or happened when they weren’t/didn’t, or vice versa. Can also involve constantly contradicting or undermining the person’s perception with “alternate facts” in a relentless pattern, designed to erode confidence. Very common abuse tactic designed to erode a person’s grasp of reality and chip away at their self belief, getting them to start questioning themselves.

Gray rock – Describes a common tactic to handle provocative, dramatic personality types like narcissists and psychopaths, whereby you are as plain, boring, unexciting and non dramatic as possible, so as to bore them away. Be boring, uninteresting and use as few words as possible when interacting with them. Cluster B disordered people are drama, attention and supply addicts, and therefore will not stop long around people who they realize will not “feed” them much of what they want. Great for when full no contact isn’t possible because parental or other responsibilities are involved.

H

Histrionic Personality Disorder – Also contained with the Cluster B spectrum of disorders, but used less often now. Characterized by excessive attention seeking, extroverted, flirtatious and seductive behaviors. Not commonly diagnosed – the narcissistic, anti-social or borderline definitions are used much more often.

Hoovering – Very common tactic with narcissists especially, where ex lovers or friends will often circle back months or years after a breakup or fallout, trying to rekindle the connection you once had with them. A manipulative, insincere and deceitful tactic, motivated by a desire to seek out previous sources of supply. Very important to resist these attempts to reconnect and move on. See also narcissistic supply.

Hypocrisy – Commonly seen pattern of behavior among psychopaths and narcissists, who both have entitled personality traits and will therefore often be seen doing things they have scolded others for. Pathological personalities often believe that the rules do not apply to them and will act as though they are a law unto themselves. In workplace settings, will often pull others up for things they don’t do themselves, or commonly break the rules they enforce on others. See also projection, blame shifting, denial.

I

Invalidation – see Gaslighting

Inappropriate Affect – Displaying context-inappropriate emotions at certain times. For example, smirking, laughing, joking at funerals, or at the breaking of sad or horrifying news. Some personality disordered people have been known to display embarrassingly inappropriate levels of elation at the funerals of their (often long suffering) spouse, such has been their desire to “destroy” or be rid of them. Common with psychopaths especially, but also narcissists. See also duping delight, smirking

Introjection/Introjects – The complement to projection; projection and introjection work in a loop. For someone to successfully project or push out or disown attributes/feelings/emotions/impulses etc, someone else has to introject or take in these projections. Negative introjects are the powerful, toxic inner voices or “critics” that are often internalized within us due to toxic parenting or toxic relationships with narcissists/sociopaths. Since they engage in projection so much, if our boundaries are weak, we will end up introjecting much of their toxicity and taking it on as our own. This leads to those harsh, punitive, critical inner voices after toxic abuse that never seem to “shut up”, constantly interpret what we say or do negatively, attack us for mistakes and generally negatively impact our self image. It’s also why we often feel like the pathological person after being stuck with a pathological person for a long time. We’ve introjected or soaked up so much of their negative projections (attributes, energy, impulses, blame-shifts, accusations, etc) that we start to feel like them. See also projection, psychic vampirism, inversion of reality, gas-lighting, boundaries, codependent, denial).

Inversion of reality – Perhaps one of the most crucial broad over-arching terms. Whenever you are dealing with a pathological inversion of reality in interactions and relationships, you are dealing with psychopaths or narcissists. The psychopathic and narcissistic mindsets are sick and inverted at the core. This is why people in relationships with them often find themselves thinking they are the bad ones, taking on blame and apologizing for things that were the abuser’s fault, and carrying strong negative introjects after the relationship, where they often think they are the Cluster B disordered people, such has the abuser projected and “dumped” their own psychological garbage onto the other person. It’s this inversion that so messes with the head of victims of this abuse. See also projection, introjection, psychic vampirism, gas-lighting, blame-shifting (the mechanisms by which abusive people invert reality)

Idealize phase – That “honeymoon” phase of a toxic relationship where everything seems perfect, you think you’ve found the perfect partner, you’re walking and talking in rhythm, you can do no wrong and they can do no wrong. Entirely fake and simulated when in a relationship with a narcissist or psychopath/sociopath. Precedes the devalue and discard stages. See also love-bombing, manufactured soulmate.

Idealize-devalue-discard cycle – The complete cycle of a toxic relationship, from the idealize (honeymoon) period, to the devalue (abuse) period, to the discard (break off and moving onto new people) phase that disordered people engage in. Sometimes also followed by hoovering. See our article on the topic. See also love bombing, triangulation.

L

Law of Attraction – The idea that like attracts like in psychology, that what you put out in terms of resonance and intention is what you manifest or attract towards you. In terms of toxic personalities, this can be reduced to the general rule “pathological personalities attract other pathological personalities“. Can often be seen in the way that workplaces become toxic when lots of toxic people congregate and cluster together in one company. However, also operates in the sense that victims of abuse who continue to see themselves as victims on a core level, and continue to put out the “resonance” of being a victim, will continue to attract abusers into their life again and again.

Love bombing – Often part of the “honeymoon” phase of a toxic romantic relationship, marked by a sense of bliss, flying high perfection and a perfect connection with the other person. Constant back and forth attention and a feeling of being perfectly attuned, walking and talking in rhythm. Entirely manufactured and simulated when in relationships with psychopaths and narcissists and precedes the devalue and discard stages. See also idealize-devalue-discard, manufactured soulmate

M

Manufactured soulmate – A completely false image a psychopath or narcissist creates of you being their “perfect partner” and vice versa. Achieved through intense mirroring and simulating authentic connection. Not sincere with disordered people and never lasts. See also love-bombing, idealize phase.

Mean-Sweet Cycles – A common patterns whereby narcissists and sociopaths will alternate between pleasant/sweet and abusive behavior, seemingly completely at random. Can be due to their own mood swings and volatility, or deliberate and planned. Has the effect of confusing and wearing down the victim psychologically. See our article on the topic.

Meta-communication – The underlying tone and implication of communication, in simpler terms “the words behind the words”. Certain things can be said to someone in a tone that has negative or positive connotations and intent behind it. Crucial concept to better understand the subtly toxic communication patterns (sly “digs”) often engaged in by disordered people like narcissists and sociopaths. They will often use disrespectful, dismissive or otherwise undermining forms of meta-communication when engaging with, or referring to, people they are targeting. Not so much what is said, but the way and tone in which it is said, and what this implies, is what is referred to by meta-communication.

Micromanagement – A common behavioral traits among workplace managers with Cluster B disorders (especially psychopaths). Such characters are often driven by an excessive need to control their environment and others, and will often over-manage or micro-manage their employees, with perfectionist standards, pouncing on tiny mistakes, making issues out of things that don’t need to be issues, excessive and unnecessary (and selective) interpretations of rules, and so on. Also a common way of provoking employees.

Mindfulness – Paying careful attention to one’s moment to moment internal experience, most often through meditative practice. A crucial practice in aiding recovery from toxic abuse. Helps to develop self awareness, regain connection with one’s somatic space and feelings, and helps with anxiety and other issues that can stem from toxic relationships.

Moral Philosophy – An individual person’s own code of what is right and what is wrong, what is acceptable and what is not (in relationships and in general). Developing a consistent, coherent moral philosophy is crucial to overcoming toxic abuse (and stopping it happening again), because pathological personalities like narcissists and sociopaths consistently seek to erode your moral philosophy, to push at and weaken your boundaries, to get you to tolerate increasingly unacceptable things. You must set and stick to your own moral and ethical standards to protect against these people. See Richard Grannon’s excellent work on this topic.

N

Narcissists – the causal term for a person who is characterized by a grandiose, self important demeanor and manipulative personality. Sees people as objects to be used for their own benefit. See also NDP.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) – The formal diagnostic label for someone classed as having a full blown narcissistic personality style, characterized by a arrogant, entitled, haughty, self important demeanor, a sense of uniqueness and a manipulative and exploitative interpersonal style. See the full diagnostic list here.

Narcissistic supply – The psychological “food” or reinforcement narcissists require to prop of their false sense of self, allowing them to see themselves as superior/special/amazing/unique, or else to disparage a scapegoat or target as being stupid/inferior/worthless etc. Narcissists only value people for the “supply” they can provide (love, adoration, attention, sex, money, status, entertainment etc), not as human beings. Narcissists are inflated and happy when they have their supply, and deflated, depressed and obnoxious when they lose it.

Narcissistic Elation – Describes the euphoric “high” a narcissist gets when a) they are getting really good “supply”, or, more commonly b) when they see an abusive tactic works and they provoked a negative emotional response in their victim, or found a button they can “push”, or file away for later use. See also provocative, reaction seeking, smirking.

Narcissistic Injury – The process by which a narcissist has their grandiose self image temporarily undermined or punctured by someone else. Can be done accidentally or deliberately and often draws a rageful, vindictive response from the narcissist. See our article on some different ways to inflict narcissistic injury.

Narcissist-Empath-Apath Triad – See sociopath-empath-apath triad. Narcissists engage in this behavior as well.

Negative Introjects – See Introjection.

No Contact – The generally recommended rule whereby victims of toxic abuse permanently break off all contact with their abuser with no exceptions (email, phone, social media, apps etc – everything) to completely eliminate the disordered person from their life. Any attempts from the abuser to recontact must also be rejected. Essential to speed up recovery and moving on in all cases where contact is not strictly necessary (ie. where no children or other commitments are involved). Difficult for many people to implement but generally considered to be the best way to recover from toxic relationships. See also hoovering, gray rock.

Numbing – A common defense during and following Cluster B abuse, where the victim’s somatic space shuts down completely as a form of protection from relentless and/or vicious abuse, with the result that they lose contact with their emotions or somatic feedback. Characterized by a flatness and joylessness. Best worked through with a therapist and through meditation. See our article on the topic. See also mindfulness, avoidant personality disorder.

O

Over-management – See Micromanagement

Overt narcissist – Describes the stereotypical, extreme extroverted, loud, boisterous, self important type of narcissist. Has no problems getting and maintaining their supply. Therefore is confident and brazen in their narcissism. Contrasts to the quieter, more insecure covert/fragile narcissist.

P

Passive aggressive – Covertly toxic style of communication, whereby things are said or implied, not directly and openly, but indirectly, subtly and sneakily, without honesty, directness or sincerity. Or when someone says the opposite of what they actually mean internally. For example, a covert narcissist will often say they’re “OK” with something when they’re actually not, that they’re happy with something when they’re not. Over time, passive aggression communication from disordered people creates a crazy-making, schizophrenic dynamic to the relationship, which can be very destabilizing and anxiety-producing in the person caught up in it. Very common style of communication with covert narcissists, borderlines and sociopaths. See also segways, covert narcissist, meta-communication.

People-pleaser – The typical profile of the person psychopaths and narcissists most often target. See also codependent.

Projection (psychology)  – The act of attributing traits, characteristics, behaviors or actions to others which are actually attributable to oneself. Psychologically “offloading” or “dumping” negative things one doesn’t like about oneself onto others. A psychological defense engaged in to some extent at some point by all people, but narcissists and sociopaths project to an extreme and pathological extent. Projection is literally built into their psyche to the point it is automatic and natural for them, with their entire personality structured around the two basic defenses of denial and projection. See here for our article on this. See also denial, gas-lighting, hypocrisy.

Provocative – Describes the general personality style of all the Cluster B disorders, but especially the narcissist or psychopath. Constantly looking to provoke reactions in others. See also reaction seeking and smear campaigns.

Provocation – The act of attempting to generate a negative emotional response in someone. All Cluster B disorders are inherently provocative and reaction seeking. See here for our article on workplace provocation. See also smear campaigns.

Psychic Vampirism – The psychic or energetic component of projection, whereby a toxic/disordered person will often “offload” or “dump” their energetic as well as psychological garbage onto victims. Not covered by mainstream or even most alternative therapists or healers, but a very real phenomenon. The toxic energy of the abuser often remains clogged in the victim’s body long after the relationship is over, and can be very difficult to remove. See the psychic vampirism website for an excellent resource on this topic, including tips for removing this psychic garbage. See also projection, introjection.

Psychopath – Those individuals with a psychopathic personality characterized by a callous lack of empathy and remorse, deceitfulness, manipulativeness, and a host of other pathological traits as defined by the Psychopathy Checklist. See also Anti-social personality disorder and sociopath.

Psychopathy Checklist – The diagnostic criteria devised by criminal profiler Dr Robert Hare for diagnosing psychopathy. Scores individuals on a series of traits, with a score greater than 25 or 30 out of 40 qualifying the subject to be formally diagnosed as a psychopath. See here for our detailed article where we break down all the traits with examples.

Psychopathic Bond – Describes the powerful, addictive bonds psychopaths are often able to make with their victims, that are very difficult to break and lock the person in denial about the real nature of the psychopath and the relationship. See our post on the topic. See also love bombing, idealize, manufactured soulmate, denial.

R

Reaction Seeking – Common traits of Cluster B disorders – to generate negative reactions in others, either for their own amusement or as fuel for smear campaigns. See also provocative and smear campaigns.

S

Scapegoating – The process whereby negative attributes or blame is shifted or dumped onto one particular person, called the scapegoat. Very common in toxic family dynamics and in toxic workplaces, where all the people gang up on a certain target and dump all the blame and negativity onto them. See also sin eater, smear campaigns, doormat.

Secondary gas-lighting – A process whereby onlookers and bystanders add to the gas-lighting effect of the primary abuser by backing them up or defending them, with defenses such as “they’re not like that” or “they wouldn’t do that” or similar. Adds to the gas-lighting effect on the target, because they are further invalidated in their correct perception of the abuser, who may selectively behave in this way towards only vulnerable targets and not towards other people. See our article on the topic. See also gas-lighting and tertiary gas-lighting, plus useful idiots and sociopath-empath-apath triad.

Segue/Segway – Common phrase in communication to describe how someone will use a current topic of discussion to smoothly change the direction of the discussion to something else. They will use what they are talking about now as a bridge to pivot to what they talk about next. Disordered people use segues in a toxic way in conversation, using a topic they’ve pre-selected to transition into a topic where they take covert, sneaky shots at you. Or alternatively, will look to steer all discussions back whenever possible to one or a couple of “buttons” or sensitive topics they keep hammering away at with the target. Very common pattern of toxic/abusive communication with covert narcissists and sociopaths. See also passive-aggressive, meta-communiation

Sin eater – The person most likely to be targeted by Cluster B disordered individuals, because they often accept unwarranted blame and “eat up” the sins of others, taking them on as their own. See also people pleaser, codependent, doormat, and scapegoating. See also projection and introjection.

Smear campaign – Very common abuse tactic engaged in by psychopaths and narcissists, whereby their slander and tarnish the target’s image or reputation to others, either directly or by firstly provoking reactions and then sneaking round to others gossiping about these reactions. Designed to undermine the reputation of their target and isolate them from support systems which might help them escape from a toxic relationship. Also extremely common in toxic workplaces. See also provocation, reaction seeking, workplace psychopath.

Smirking – Common reaction from Cluster B disordered individuals, especially during conflicts or arguments. A leaked expression of pleasure at having provoked a reaction and annoyed or exasperated the target. See also Duping Delight, provocative, reaction seeking, inappropriate affect.

Sociopath – A term roughly equivalent to a psychopath, sometimes carries more the connotation of being made rather than born as such. See differences here. See also psychopath, anti-social personality disorder.

Sociopath-Empath-Apath Traid (SEAT) – A common toxic dynamic whereby a sociopath plays off apathetic bystanders against and empath or other sensitive or highly perceptive person, once this person calls out the sociopath for unacceptable behavior. Very common in toxic workplaces. See here. See also useful idiots, smear campaigns, triangulation.

Somatic narcissist – A narcissist who draws their supply and grandiose sense of self primarily from their body, or what they do with their body (beauty, appearance, sporting or other physical prowess). Contrast with cerebral narcissists (see above). Distinction made by Sam Vaknin.

Somatic Space – Describes the space between your physical body and emotions, and in this space is often the messages your body sends to you (via anxiety especially), that something is “off”, when you are going through toxic abuse. “The body never lies is a another way of putting this. Paying attention to and acting on what your somatic body tells you is vital to spotting and getting away from abusive people and relationships. And ignoring it is what allows toxic abuse to persist, creates denial loops and causes numbing, where this feedback mechanism is dimmed and blocked out, leaving you at further risk. See also numbing.

Stages of Recovery – Charts the path of recovery from narcissistic or sociopathic abuse. There are many different frameworks for this, breaking the process down into as little as two or as many as 9 different stages. In my guide I prefer to keep it very simple and broad – two simple stages – moving from outer/external/abuser focus to internal/mindful focus. The end goal is to reach a place of detachment regarding abusers and get to the point where you are living your life without thinking about them, and forgiveness of oneself for allowing the abuse to happen and not getting out sooner.

T

Tertiary gas-lighting – The process whereby a therapist unintentionally adds to the gas-lighting effect on the victim of sociopathic/narcissistic abuse, by further invalidating the person with suggestions of “that’s your perception” or “is that really what happened?” or “are you sure this isn’t all in your head?”, and so on. Mostly unintentional and often stems from a lack of knowledge on the part of the therapist about Cluster B disorders, but can be very damaging to the client, and will further sabotage their recovery as they are further invalidated by the person they are turning to for support and help. Unfortunately quite common in therapy, which is why selecting a good therapist is important for recovering from Cluster B abuse. See our article on the topic. See also gas-lighting, secondary gas-lighting.

Toxic workplace – A company that has a high concentration of pathological personalities, and a toxic culture as a result, with smear campaigns, scapegoating and bullying common. Move on from these companies as soon as possible once you realize you are in one. See here for our guide on the topic.

Triangulation – Tactic whereby psychopaths or narcissists will play other off against the target, usually to isolate them or make them jealous. In romantic contexts, will often involve openly flirting with other people online or in person. Designed to undermine and provoke and negative reaction in the victim. See also useful idiots, sociopath-empath-apath triad, smear campaigns, discard phase.

U

Useful Idiots – Describes the low quality, apathetic, easily influenced bystanders or onlookers that narcissists and sociopaths often co-opt into their smear campaigns and bullying of targets. Note that the toxic person also often has contempt for these people, but will happily pretend to be friendly with them if it serves their bullying or smearing of a particular target. See also Sociopath-Empath-Apath Triad and triangulation.

V

Vulnerable narcissist – The clinical term for a narcissist who has an inconsistent source of narcissistic supply and therefore often oscillates between grandiose and confident, and depressed and fragile in their mood. Their narcissism is not securely supported or reinforced by their environment and they are thus fragile and vulnerable in their disorder. Contrasts with the overt narcissist; see also Fragile narcissist and covert narcissist.

W

Workplace psychopath – Describes the psychopath once they are ensconced within a workplace that tolerates them. Psychopathic personality traits (manipulative-ness, deceitfulness, callousness, lack of empathy etc) applied to a workplace settings. Dangerous individuals who often destroys companies from within by driving out the best performers while adding little values themselves. See here for a guide.

Z

Zipper analogy – A great concept from Charles Whitfield’s work, which describes the strength of a person’s boundaries via the analogy of a zipper on a jacket being on the outside (weak boundaries) or the inside (strong boundaries). With neuro-typicals with strong boundaries, the zipper is on the INSIDE (THEY control when their boundaries open up). With codependents, metaphorically the zipper is often on the OUTSIDE (OTHER PEOPLE control when their boundaries open up). A useful analogy that refers to how easily manipulative, boundary-pushing people can often “open up” a weak boundaried, codependent person in conversation, because they have poorly developed control of their own boundaries. See also Codependent, boundaries, DEEP Method, Broken record.

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