The dictionary meaning of hoover is: suck something up with or as if with a vacuum cleaner. In this case it means sucking the dirt and grime into the vacuum cleaner but if we are talking of a covert narcissist hoovering then it means a person’s capacity to suck you off all kinds of emotions, self-esteem and self -confidence, leaving you drained and empty and in doubt of yourself.
Covert narcissist is a person who is essentially an introvert– someone who does not advertise his inflated ego but can use his victim as an object to meet his physical and psychological needs. In other words he could be as dangerous as an overt narcissist but it takes a longer time to understand that since he is not the chest thumping, shouting from the rooftops kind.
Psychologists look at hoovering as an abusive tactic by which a person returns to your life after a long period with the intention of throwing it off track over and over again.
So when you have a covert narcissist hoovering it could be a lethal concoction. There will be hoovering narcissist signs and covert narcissist can use indirect techniques of hoovering that we will talk about in this article.
What Is Covert Narcissist Abuse?
Let’s talk about a scenario where Ray fell madly in love with Agnes on their very first date. Smart but not arrogant, sweet but not sugary, Agnes had a simplicity and normalcy that attracted Ray like a magnet. Within months they had moved in together but then Agnes changed.
Overnight she became a control freak who would go through Ray’s phone, check his messages, his emails, keep a track of where he was going all the time and would get extremely upset if he decided to hang out with the guys from work at the bar.
Gradually Ray became so paranoid of Agnes’ temper tantrums that he started cutting off himself from all social contact. He had no idea how to deal with his control freak partner. Before he even knew he was completely in Agnes’ control and she always said, “This is the love I always wanted.”
Covert narcissists have a great capacity to put up an act of a totally different personality till you are within their control. Then they want the entire relationship on their terms and they hate it if you are trying to create boundaries.
Healthy relationship boundaries are not their thing. They would use different techniques at different times to keep their victims under control and this has a terrible impact on the victim. And by the way, a covert narcissist can be your partner, your sibling, your best friend or even a parent.
Coming back to Ray. He started developing sleep disorders, would have panic attacks and his extrovert, happy personality underwent a complete change. That’s when he decided to take things in his own hands. He took a transfer and moved out of the city cutting off all contacts with Agnes.
Ray finally realised that he was being abused by a covert narcissist. So he mustered the courage to call it quits.
Bestselling author of the book Becoming The Narcissist’s Nightmare: How To Devalue The Narcissist, Shahida Arabi writes, “What is really baffling is the addiction we form with our narcissistic abusers, created by biochemical bonds and trauma bonds that are also unlike any other relationship we experience.”
Related Reading: 5 Signs Of Emotional Abuse You Should Watch Out For Warns Therapist
Covert Narcissist Hoovering Tactics
Now we come to the real thing. For most people involved in a relationship with a covert narcissist it does not really end. There is always a possibility of the narcissist coming back to their life because they cannot let go off that control in the relationship.
And as time passes the memories of the abuse could fade to some extent and that’s when victims get caught in a narcissist’s hoovering hellhole.
Shahida has researched extensively and spoken to survivers to write her book. She says, “Narcissistic partners employ numerous stealthy tactics to devalue and manipulate their victims behind closed doors. These partners lack empathy and demonstrate an incredible sense of entitlement and sense of superiority which drives their exploitative behavior in interpersonal relationships.
“Their tactics can include verbal abuse and emotional invalidation, stonewalling, projection, taking control of every aspect of the victim’s life, gaslighting and triangulation. Due to the narcissistic partner’s “false self,” the charismatic mask he or she projects to society, the victim often feels isolated in this type of abuse and is unlikely to have his or her experiences validated by friends, family and society.”
Just as it happened with Ray. The hoovering tactics can involve dropping texts to exs, apologizing profusely and wanting to build new bridges.
Agnes took her covert narcissist hoovering tactics to a new level. She dropped Ray an email saying she was suffering from cancer, had only a few days to live and her last wish was to see him.
Ray should have known he has just been the victim of a dangerously abusive manipulative technique called hoovering. But victims have a tendency to fall prey to this emotional blackmailing called hoovering tactics and Ray, without checking if there was any semblance of truth in Agnes’ claims, took the next flight out to her.
She did have false medical reports ready, had cut her hair short to show effects of chemo and it worked. Ray was back in her life, taking care of her, feeling terribly guilty for leaving in the first place. Agnes must have been smiling in the mirror thinking of how her hoovering tactics worked wonders.
Related Reading: 7 Reasons Why Narcissists Can’t Maintain Intimate Relationships
8 Signs Of Covert Narcissist Hoovering
If a victim gets out of bounds narcissists also move on to the next victim. That’s how they end up having many exs and hence a list of people to prey on. They have a tendency to come back and their greatest pleasure is they end up getting what they want.
Shahida writes in her book: “You should employ traditional and alternative methods to begin to detach and heal from the addiction to the narcissist. There are methods to rewrite the narratives that abusers have written for us so we can begin to reconnect with our authentic selves and purpose.”
The most important thing for a hoovering narcissist is getting a reaction out of you and then derailing your life. Here are 8 signs of covert narcissist hoovering you should be careful of.
1. They always get back in touch
Many exs try to get back in touch, siblings you have fallen out with also do, but when it’s a narcissist how is it different? Just check the timing. It could be inevitably flowers arriving on Valentine’s Day so that the narcissist could go out with you and not feel lonely.
It could be a text just before a birthday. They miss the expensive gifts and could be hoping to get back in terms just in time for another gift. And they would make the excuse of an occasion to weaken you emotionally and try to get back in touch.
Reese was not in touch with her narcissist sister for 4 long years and then she texted her just before her birthday. Reese knew her sister too well since she had always thrown her sister’s extravagant birthday parties. The text came just a week before her birthday. Reese just deleted it.
If you can look through a narcissist’s hoovering techniques then you can save yourself from a lot of emotional blackmail, manipulation and drama.
2. They keep apologizing
But if you accept that apology you are dead meat. Apologising is a lethal hoovering tactic and a narcissist would go to any extent to convince their victim that they have changed. But if you look back at your relationship you would see that when you were together you were the one who was always apologizing so if you are falling for the “sorry” trap then God help you.
If we look at Rajkummar Rao’s character in the runaway Bollywood hit film Queen it’s a great example of hoovering with an apology. When he felt he called off the wedding and didn’t bother about the plight of his fiancée played by Bollywood superstar Kangana Ranaut, and then when he felt like it he wanted her back and went apologizing to her.
The way Kangana handled him is the best way to handle this kind of hoovering we guess. She just said no. She refused to have anything to do with him, although he played vigorously on the emotional and love angle. As Shahida says, she rewrote the narrative the abuser had written for her.
3. Being vulnerable
A great hoovering technique is to talk about ill health, about how they became depressed after you left or talking about a job loss and how they have been down in the dumps. Covert narcissists hoovering techniques include everything that would show them to be completely vulnerable and you would react to their situation.
This was the technique Agnes used so successfully with Ray. They could drunk text you saying they cannot find their way home, they could tell you they have been in an accident and call you frantically for help saying they are being tailed by an unknown assailant.
What would you do? Jump and run to their rescue? Think again, ask a few more questions and then you will get clarity on how the covert narcissist is using hoovering techniques on you.
4. Sending gifts
The gifts would be thoughtful so that it would bring back your memories. It could be a box of chocolates from the choco place you used to frequent or a table napkin from the restaurant that was your favourite haunt.
Don’t be surprised if you are bombarded with these gifts, sometimes left at your doorstep and sometimes sent in the courier.
Arianna had bought a beautiful wedding dress that she had planned to wear when she married Aron. But she couldn’t deal with his control and left him, months before their wedding.
A year later Aron was back at her doorstep with that saree and Arianna was crying on his shoulders. So there you go.
Gifts are not just material objects, these have the capacity to trigger memories, make you weak in your resolve and get you back in their life.
Related Reading: How Not To Fall For A Narcissist And Suffer In Silence
5. Being manipulative
Covert narcissists know how to hoover with manipulation. They are master manipulators, and there is no way out. You wouldn’t even know how much they know you inside out and how much they could manipulate you to get you back in their control.
Narcissists often recruit flying monkeys, a psychological term used for people whom them meet after a breakup and convince them that how horrible their ex was and then they could manipulate and use them to hoover for them.
These new people will be compassionate towards the narcissist and will try to help him in every way. They wouldn’t even know what they are up for.
Sophia was always the golden goose for her mother. From the day she had started working she was buying her everything she wanted. At 30 Sophia finally realised what her mother was doing and she moved out. But her mother knew Sophia too well and she kept using her manipulative techniques on her till she was back in the same house.
An oft repeated phrase used by her mother was, “How could a girl like you not do her duties towards her parents and stay away from home?” Her mom had a flying monkey who would call up Sophia everyday and urge her to return. It was her mom’s new neighbour.
6. Creating drama
If there is something narcissists are good at that is drama. They could cut their veins and stand in the storm and write on the wall or sink into a pool of tears to prove a point.
Vincent stood in front of Zinia’s house for two days in the rain till she asked him to come inside. Now it’s Zinia who often gets kicked out of the house by Vincent in the rain, when he is in a rage.
A hoovering narcissist can land up at your workplace and create a scene by drowning themselves in tears and you can be marked off by your colleagues as a person who has no heart. They could try to take your parents on their side and keep going to their place doing their chores and errands so that your parents would end up being a flying monkey for them. These are in fact indirect techniques of hoovering.
When you land up at your parent’s house they could create drama and try to suck you back into the relationship. But you have to be very careful and you have to use your brains to find techniques of countering this hoovering.
7. Showing fake emotions
Showing fake emotions is a great hoovering tactic. Covert narcissists can convince you how much they love you, how much they missed you and how miserable they were without you.
A regular text that Tina receives is: “I am standing where we met for the first time. There isn’t a day I don’t come here.”
They would show you how they have kept all the cards and gifts that you gave them, carefully in their bedroom dresser drawer, so that it’s always close to them.
Around you they would look vague, sheepish and lost. They would do this to show you how lost they feel without you. But it’s fake love dear. Don’t fall into the trap of a hoovering narcissist.
8. Building stories with lies
This is something they are brilliant at because their whole existence is around lies. They do not use lies to defend themselves but they use it to create an illusion to the victim about a self that has changed and healed.
Sammy was told by her boyfriend that he went to an Ashram in the Himalayas and meditated and healed after she left him. He convinced her that he was a changed man. Six months later she found out he was in India no doubt but he was actually in Goa during that period doing Ecstasy.
There are ways narcissists hoover around you and this is one great way they always use – building a web of lies where they would tell you how they have suffered, how they missed you, how they changed and you would get tangled in that web unable to reject the hoovering techniques.
How To Respond To A Narcissist’s Hoovering
The first thing that a person should do is reject all hoovering attempt. It’s important to stay strong and never relent.
These are the things you should do to deal with hovering:
- Block the narcissist on phone, email, social media. Taking a new number is a good idea
- Remove oneself physically from the narcissist. If he ends up at the office cafeteria or at your doorstep take measures so that you don’t get to meet him again. Take help of office security or the police if need be
- Sever all sentimental ties with the hoovering narcissist. This is the most important thing to do otherwise you would be caught off guard
- Keep the signs of hovering in mind always. That would keep you safe
- Read on narcissists, their behavior patterns and if need be take help from psychologists
Trust us it is not worth it giving in to hoovering. You have to hold your own. If you had enough self control and self-esteem to move away once, you needn’t fall into the trap again.
A narcissist hoovers with the purpose of derailing your life. Even if you don’t go back to them if they see you emotionally distraught their job is done. They feel powerful enough. They can be quite relentless but being impatient beings they cannot continue for very long if they see they are not making any kind of headway.
Yes, when they see that they are not getting any kind of success and no lies, emotional drama, manipulation tactic is working on you, they move on.
You have to be careful they might try to harm you. If not always physically, they might try to tamper with your reputation or try to manipulate your relationships with your dear ones. They might not give up very easily once they are focused on you.
You can hoover a narcissist when you use similar techniques on them. For instance when they hoover tell them you have a life-threatening contagious disease and you are glad they can take care of you now. Then see the effect.