Narcissism: “dog whistling”
Have you ever heard a dog whistle when it’s blown? Don’t worry if you haven’t. It wasn’t created for you to hear. It was created to produce a frequency too high for human ears (you may hear a hissing sound) but clear enough for dogs to hear it and react. Depending on how hard it’s blown, it can simply grab the dog’s attention or cause intense pain to his ears.
The purpose of a dog whistle is behavior modification. It may be used to stop an attacking dog, blown to teach a dog to not bark at night, to stop another unwanted behavior, or to encourage it to do another behavior. At the end of the day, it’s often seen as a training tool.
Narcissists continually work on their victims to keep them “under control” so that they do the intended behavior the narcissist desires. Narcissists enjoy destruction – the more disastrous, the more they enjoy it. Crowds make a great background because they can create chaos and then look innocent. So how do they “dog whistle” people?
Imagine you and your narcissist friend are having company over for dinner. It’s your turn to make dinner. For most of the last couple weeks, she’s complained about how your food is prepared incorrectly. She’s found a way to complain without directly telling you that the only reason she eats your food is because starving to death is the only other option. You’ve tried to take suggestions, offered alternatives, and are always told to keep cooking since it’s not as bad as it sounds.
On this night, several of you are at a table, and your narc friend starts making movements and expressions she makes to you when she thinks you’ve done something wrong. No one else notices, and she continues making comments that seem benign to everyone else but you understand are direct jabs at you. Then, she starts acting and being more bold:
Narcissist: (Coughing loudly and repeatedly clearing her throat) “Could someone get me another glass of water, please? I don’t know why my throat is so dry.”
This comment is her way of reminding you of her complaint earlier that night about your cooking. At this point, you get up from the table, tell her to cook her own food if she dislikes yours so much, and storm away. The guests are stunned, and your narc gets to play surprised or victim. She may say, “I have no idea where that came from! I didn’t even say anything about her food. I just asked for a glass of water.” Or she may say, “This is what I have to put up with. I can’t even ask for something to wash my food down without her blowing things out of proportion.”
Narcissist gets two wins:
1. Angered you enough to get you to react and embarrass yourself
2. She’s viewed as the innocent victim with a good heart for putting up with you as a roommate
Your night is ruined, and she’s the center of attention…just as she likes it.