A smear campaign is the systematic spread of a mass of lies or deceptive information in order to render somebody unreliable, disgraced and consequently isolate them. Narcissists and the other emotional manipulators are often unlikely to walk out of your life quietly and without trouble. Whether they are leaving you on their own free will or it’s you trying to set boundaries between yourself and them, it is possible that the narcissist will try to humiliate you by spreading unimaginable lies or misleading information about you as a result of a possible separation, thus damaging your reputation. While it is possible for the narcissist to spread false rumors about you during the relationship, the smear campaign gains speed and aggression during and after the separation.
The narcissist may try to ruin your relationship with your family and friends, spread rumors that may affect your business life, and do not hesitate to lie before the court if there are legal issues such as divorce and custody of children. Interestingly, the narcissist may not even be really eager about the things they are fighting for. For example; during a divorce, they may lie about you on everything and compete fiercely with you for custody of the children, but they may not even want to spend more time with the children. Or the fact they’re ruining your relationships with other people may not gain them anything. So the purpose behind a smear campaign is not always to get something.
Why Do Narcissists Run Smear Campaigns About You?
– To protect their image and remain in control: What other people think of them is extremely important to narcissists and they wish to be in control even after a breakup. Everybody can have the desire to keep things under their control for a certain degree in order feel safe and at peace. However, the narcissist’s lust for control is way beyond that. No matter how confident they seem from the outside, because of their deep toxic feelings of shame, worthlessness, and malignant motives; they strive to control what others will think of them, especially in situations that may affect their image. When you start to see their real colors and want to get away from them, the prospect of you spreading the truth about them and spoiling their public image terrifies them. Therefore, they try to undermine your credibility and ensure that no one believes what you might say about them. They try to dispel their fear of rejection by pulling you down.
– To heal narcissistic wounds: When you try to leave a narcissist or at least put some distance between yourself and them, it is possible to activate the narcissist’s feelings of worthlessness and rub salt into their narcissistic wounds. And when they are hurt, they want to hurt you in return.
– To win: Narcissists play to win in any situation. They have to be right about everything and their “truth” must be adopted by others. In addition, because of their inability to empathize with others and the fact they don’t feel responsible of their actions, they can easily tell lies that may seem extremely unreal to you and twist the truth.
Narcissists can run the smear campaign themselves or, as I mentioned in my previous article, they can gossip and spread lies about you through their flying monkeys without getting their own hands dirty. Although not every single narcissist may run smear campaigns about you, there is a possibility of facing such danger especially when you try to set boundaries or when you follow the no contact rule.
The smear campaign can be run very explicitly and threateningly, or in secrecy. For example, people who run a smear campaign may say that they only want to protect you and that they do not intend to harm you in any way.
What Should Be Done Against the Narcissist’s Smear Campaign?
– Try not to get involved: Do not fall into the same trap as the narcissist and remember that the thoughts of others about you do not define who you are.
– Do not react emotionally: It is quite natural to experience several different emotions such as anger, sadness, disappointment, shame and confusion when a person who had an important place in your life tries to bring you down in such a horrible way. However, when you reveal these feelings to the narcissist, you also admit that their behavior and actions still affect you and that means their smear campaign has achieved its purpose. This situation will make the narcissist want to continue the smear campaign. Besides, the narcissist can base their smear campaigns on how angry, how overly emotional and uncontrolled you are, how sudden and unnecessary you react, or simply how crazy you are. In that case, if you lose control and end up shouting at them, you will only be supporting their theory by making yourself look bad. Don’t let the narcissist provoke you.
– Do not trigger the narcissist’s jealousy: Instead of giving negative emotional reactions, you might want to get into an overly positive mood and prove how good your life is without them, and you may feel the need to show how little you care about their actions. However, this type of behaviors are still an indication that you are trying to prove yourself to them.
– Find people you can trust: Make sure your lawyer and other people around you are familiar with manipulative people and can predict what kind of behavior they may display, especially if you have to take legal action against the abuser.
– Focus on demonstrable behavior: If what the narcissist says about you leads to sanctions, such as causing you to lose your child, explain yourself as much as possible through behaviors that you can prove. Instead of telling them how horrible the narcissist is and what a liar they are, go through the behaviors with concrete evidence. Emotional and psychological abuse is hard to see, don’t expect people to be able to look at things through your eyes. Otherwise, you will be more likely to fall into an unfair situation while being right all along.
– Do not attack them with their own weapon: When faced with a smear campaign, you may be tempted to do the same exact thing and think about spreading hurtful lies about them in return. This situation is problematic in many ways. First of all, our major goal should not be just kicking the narcissist out of our life, we should also remove all the toxicity around us. However, by following in the footsteps of a narcissist and behaving just like them, you do not only fail to do that but also cause the poison to infect you further. Although the narcissist can be hurt by the rumors you spread, in the long run you will be trapped in a vicious circle. Also, trying to give the narcissist a taste of their own medicine is always troublesome. Remember that they haven’t started playing this game just recently, they are people who probably learned how to manipulate others back when they were a mere child and have mastered it over time. So stop imitating the narcissist and try to retaliate, and continue doing what you think is right.
– Do not try to persuade others: People will believe what they want to believe. You may not be able to persuade others whenever somebody lies about you. If you feel like some false information has been spread about you, try to explain yourself but also accept that you cannot change other people’s minds. And if you think that you’re dealing with individuals who are under the influence of the narcissist, do not even bother yourself and simply put some distance between yourself and them. Instead of going after the things you can’t change, focus on what you can change.
– Get ready for projection: Be prepared for the narcissist to reflect what they are doing as the things you did. No matter how unrealistic it may seem, direct projection is a common method of narcissists. You may suddenly face a situation that makes you look like an abuser and them as a victim.
– Do not despair: A narcissist can explain themselves to any available listener, but remember that there will always be some people who’ll see right through their lies. Do not lose hope and do not condemn yourself to loneliness.
– Realize that you are lucky: No matter how difficult your situation may look due to the narcissist’s smear campaign, be grateful that they finally showed you their true colors. It is not so easy to do, but it will always be healthier for you to be able to see the facts as they are than lead an artificial life with them. Remind yourself that these dark days will eventually come to an end and a time will come when you start to feel more like yourself.
– Do not try to justify them: You might feel like the reason why they’re running a smear campaign is because you hurt them so very much and that they’re not themselves at the moment. If you still have feelings for them, if you still believe that they love and value you; when you encounter the narcissist’s smear campaign, remind yourself that this has nothing to do with love and care. Somebody who can empathize with and values the person in their life would never stoop this low no matter how hurt they are.
– Don’t go back to your old mistakes: Don’t criticize yourself and stop blaming yourself for what happened. Emotional and psychological abuse was not your fault.
– Get help: The smear campaign can affect your friendships, family life, and economic situation, but it is your psychology that it affects the most. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from a professional, a friend who can understand you, a loving family member, or even a stranger who has experienced the same things as you.
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You can also find the articles on https://medium.com/@narsistsiz:
Streep, Peg. Psychology Today. Dealing with the Narcissist’s Smear Campaign. Access 27 Haziran, 2019. https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/tech-support/201906/dealing-the-narcissists-smear-campaign
Narc Wise. Narcissists and smear campaigns: Why they do it. Access 25 April, 2018. https://narcwise.com/2018/04/25/narcissists-and-smear-campaigns-triggers/
My other articles on the subject: