3 People to Know if You’re a Victim of a Narcissistic Smear Campaign
Out of the corner of your eye, you see acquaintances point at you and whisper. This is perhaps your first inkling that something is wrong.
People you’re supposedly friends with give you funny looks. They shy away from you. They “just happen to have to get up and leave” the minute you take a seat next to them.
Finally, a friend — a true friend — gives you a heads-up. Someone has been gossiping about you all throughout your friend group or community. They’ve been taking minor, meaningless things that happened, exaggerating them, blowing them up into massive transgressions you made. Where exaggeration fails, they outright lie about you.
The person spreading the rumors seems to be playing the victim, trying to turn people against you, trying to take your own support network and leave you with nothing. Worst of all, the person engaging in all this gossip is someone you believed thought a lot of you. Previously, they seemed to idealize you, to have you on a pedestal.
If any of this rings true, you may be the victim of a narcissistic smear campaign. The effects of such a campaign can be far-reaching and can be devastating to a victim’s psyche.
In this article, we will look at three allies you need to find. These allies can help you minimize the damage, both the psychological effects and the damage to your reputation.
Before we get started: Things you must understand about the smear campaign
It’s already further along than you realize
Have you ever seen the pest control commercial that says, “For every one cockroach you see in your house, there’s 10 more that you don’t see”?
That applies to narcissistic smear campaigns. By the time you are aware the narcissist is trashing your good name to one person, they have most likely trashed you to 10 more.
You see, even back when they were love-bombing you, making you feel like the most special person in the world, they were making an index of who’s who in your life. They conducted considerable research on social media to determine who around you would be the most gullible — who would fall for their playing the victim.
It’s designed to get a reaction out of you
The campaign’s purpose goes beyond spreading false and disparaging information about you to friends, family, and/or co-workers. Yes, the narcissist starts off smearing you behind your back, but they are fully aware that sooner or later, you will find out. In fact, they can’t wait for that moment to happen.
After all, this is a person you thought adored you. Here they are bashing you and lying about you, and doing it in front of the people you care about most. It can be unnerving, rattling that they would stoop so low. It can pull the rug right out from under your reality. The narcissist is counting on that.
What would a normal person do in that circumstance? They’d react emotionally. They’d be rightfully angry. They’d raise their voice. They’d contact their friends and colleagues in an attempt to get the truth out there, and they’d probably seem a bit desperate about it.
The narcissist, then, paints the victim’s quite natural reaction as an overreaction and uses it to reinforce their narrative. “See what I’m talking about? He (or she) is the crazy one. There’s no telling what he/she might do next. I need help! I need to be protected from this lunatic!”
It’s designed to turn those close to you against you
By the time the smear campaign starts, they’ve already figured out who in your sphere they might be able to enlist as a flying monkey, someone who actively participates in the abuse against you.
They’ve also figured out who will be a narcissistic enabler. While enablers don’t participate in the abuse, they are aware it is going on and don’t bother to intervene. They take the attitude, “well, yeah, what happened is unfair, but the victim needs to just get over it.”
The more people they turn against you, the more people who should stand up for you but don’t, the more it shakes up your reality. That results in you turning to poor coping strategies, lashing out at those who care about you, wondering who you can trust anymore. That gives the narcissist even more ammo to use against you as the loop of abuse plays again and again.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, it’s time to introduce the 3 people victims of narcissistic smear campaigns should meet as quickly as possible.
1 — A therapist who is familiar with Narcissistic Personality Disorder
When I was deep in the throes of a narcissistic smear campaign, I had a friend suggest I seek counseling, not so much for what was happening to me, but because I was dealing with the abuse by drinking too much. Since I had free counseling as part of my work insurance plan, I agreed to give it a go. The problems, however, were
- At the time, I had no idea what Narcissistic Personality Disorder was. I thought a “narcissist” was someone who stared at themselves in the mirror all day long, who bragged about how good they look. Since the person attacking me was the covert variety, she did not seem to fit that definition at all.
- The counselors available for these free sessions were generalists — they understood how to help with basic problems like depression, addiction, and grief, but they had very little specialized training.
So I went in and met with my counselor and spent 40 minutes telling him everything that happened. I’ll admit, even that was therapeutic — very few of my friends had afforded me the time needed to tell my full story. When I got done, I hoped the counselor would have some kind of insight I was missing, some kind of “a-ha” moment for me.
“Wow, that’s some shit, man,” was his response.
REALLY? I thought. That’s the best you can do?
He then went on to give me tips on how to control my drinking, treating the drinking as a root problem when it was really a symptom. He scheduled a second appointment for me but I canceled it and never went back. He was useless.
When finding a therapist or counselor, I would recommend getting them on the phone and asking if they understand the definition of the following two terms: gaslighting and flying monkeys. If they can adequately define these terms without having to search online, they are probably reasonably qualified to counsel you about narcissistic abuse.
Psychology Today has a search feature where you can find a narcissistic personality therapist. If that doesn’t work, try “npd (name of your city)” or “narcissistic (name of your city)” in Google.
2 — A lawyer who is familiar with Narcissistic Personality Disorder
I hope this is a resource you never have to use, but it’s one you need to cultivate well in advance.
Narcissists can be litigious people. They are known to falsify police reports, accusing the victim of the very things they do themselves (projection). They’ll petition for protective orders and other court rulings that limit the victim’s ability to see the people and places they enjoy — even their own children.
They’ll look for anybody who can help them. Should they happen to meet a police officer, a lawyer, or a judge, you better believe they’re going to find a way to bring up their poor-me story and paint an ugly picture of horrible, abusive you. It’s easy to get blindsided by these narcissistic allies, disconnecting the true victim — that’s you — even more from reality.
You need to be prepared to fight fire with fire. You need an attorney who can educate a judge on NPD and show that your opponent in court exhibits the behaviors (one good thing: narcissists pretty much all behave similarly, which makes proof easier).
Where do you find such an attorney? Well, this is why I advised you to find a therapist with experience in NPD first. They may be able to give you a referral. If not, ask a divorce attorney for a referral; most of them have been through enough trials to be aware of the signs of NPD.
A lawyer familiar with NPD is someone you want to identify even if there is absolutely no evidence that the narcissist plans on any legal action. What you want to avoid is getting blindsided and having limited time to pull resources together.
3 — Others who have been through narcissistic smear campaigns
It’s important to read about and possibly even connect with others who have been through similar smear campaigns. This will help you in the following ways:
- It will convince you that you’re not alone. For a long time, I thought nobody in the world could possibly understand what I had been through.
- It will convince you that you are not actually crazy, as your narcissist would like everyone in your circle (including you) to believe.
- It will help you understand that narcissists have remarkably similar behavior patterns. It’s almost as if they have a script they follow. Once you understand the script, you’re well on your way to becoming free of their manipulation.
Where do you go to find others who’ve been through what you’ve been through? My top recommendation would be Quora, the website where anyone can ask a question, and anyone can answer a question. Here are some starter searches you can try:
- npd smear campaign
- npd flying monkeys
- npd gaslighting
Start off by reading questions others have asked. After a while, you may want to ask your own. Because anyone can answer a question, you can get a variety of viewpoints — victims who’ve been through the abuse, therapists who help victims get better, lawyers who’ve advised victims. There are even some recovering narcissists on Quora who contribute their unique outlook.
A smear campaign is designed to do more than damage your reputation among your friends and in your community. It is designed to blindside you. The narcissist wants you to react in the heat of the moment. They will then use your own emotions, your shock, and your anger against you as proof that you are exactly the crazy person they say you are.
By the time you realize a smear campaign is underway, for every one person you’ve found out has heard the smear, assume there are 10 more. Assume they’ve researched your friends and family members, and they have a list of who is most likely to believe them and turn against you.
Because of these factors, you need three people/types of people in your life:
A therapist who understands NPD — Not just a generic therapist. For me, going to a counselor without training in NPD was worse than not going to one at all.
A lawyer who understands NPD — Hopefully you never need their services, but it’s important to identify well in advance who can adequately represent you. This takes away the narcissist’s ability to blindside you with police or legal action.
Others who have been through smear campaigns — From these resources, you will learn that you’re not alone and you’re not crazy. You’ll also learn that narcissists tend to have a script they follow. Once you understand the script, you’re free. It’s like a computer that uses an algorithm to play chess — once you’ve figured out the algorithm, you can win every time.
I hope you have found the information here useful. Keep in mind I am neither a licensed counselor nor an attorney, so use the information herein at your own risk. If you have any questions, feel free to drop them in the comments.
Let’s keep in touch! Feel free to sign up for my newsletter. Here’s an article on the covert variety of narcissists: