This Is The One Trick Narcissists Use That Keeps Us Hooked Forever
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Narcissists have perfected the one trick that animal trainers use, and casinos know all about.
It is an emotional tool referred to as intermittent reinforcement, and it’s what narcissists use to make sure they keep you hooked.
Out of the Fog gives this definition for intermittent reinforcement, “Intermittent Reinforcement is when rules, rewards or personal boundaries are handed out or enforced inconsistently and occasionally. This usually encourages another person to keep pushing until they get what they want from you without changing their own behavior.”
Let’s take a look at how this works with parents and their children. If a parent says “no” 90 percent of the time, then it is due to the remaining 10 percent when that parent gives in and says “yes” that makes the child believe that whining, throwing tantrums, and nagging child will illicit another “yes” in the future
Even animals have shown that if a behavior is intermittently reinforced (like a dog hitting a button and occasionally receiving a reward or treat) an intermittently reinforced behavior will prevail for much longer after the reward is completely removed than if the behavior had been consistently reinforced (such as a reward on every try).
Gamblers are also sucked into this trap. They know that random pay out will eventually happen, and it is what keeps them sitting at the slot machines the whole night. The majority of those who play slots (which contribute to 70% of casino earnings) will return the small and medium-sized winnings right back into the machine and continue playing until they become bored or run out of money. That is the entire concept of intermittent reinforcement at work.
Those friends of yours who are obsessed with their own photos on Facebook and scour their page for hours waiting for the “likes,” or negative comments know exactly what I am talking about.
They might be a narcissist based on their obsession with themselves, but they also fall victim to the intermittent reinforcement of random validation.
Narcissists are talented manipulators. Right when you are about to pull away, they give you that drop of validation you were searching for. They keep you tied to a relationship that serves their needs and theirs alone- typically the expense of your well-being.
You go through bad experience after bad experience, and then there will be the radiant good… but the good is designed to be fleeting, at best. That is intermittent reinforcement.
You know how this works. You meet them and they smother you with compliments. They say you are witty, creative, intelligent, and beautiful. Your walls fall down and you open yourself up to this wonderful person who sees all these amazing qualities within you.
Then, without any warning, the narcissist changes entirely.
Suddenly, everything you do and say is wrong, wrong, wrong. The qualities they once found pleasing are now your biggest flaws. They’re bored and disinterested.
What did you do wrong? Everything was going so well and then this happened…
It’s not your fault, you are simply caught up in the cyclone of their toxic behaviour. They hate themselves, so guess what? They want you to hate yourself too. Why should they be the only miserable one?
Try saying goodbye, or walking away. They will deploy intermittent reinforcement. To try and stop you from escaping their toxic grip, they will do a complete 180 and *bam* you are their number one priority and they love you like no other ever could. Once again, everything is okay and you can breathe. Your life is comfortable, just as you like it.
You already know this, but I’m going to tell you anyways. It’s not going to last. It never does.
Many of us will try to desperately hold on to a relationship that can not be salvaged. But we believe it can be, because our still being together is evidence of that. The effort, love and care we have dedicated to this other person is an investment that can not easily be tossed aside.
So we hang in there through the topsy-turvy roller coaster ride and know that yes, it is a scary decline right now, but soon we will be soaring to new heights. The inevitable rise. The inevitable turn around.
But here’s the problem. Well, here’s one of the problems with that. Over time, the frequency of intermittent reinforcement will decrease. Eventually, it will solely be disappointment and pain. There won’t be any positive words of love, and the hope will fade away. Do yourself a favour and get out while you can.
For those who have children or are finding it difficult to leave these toxic individuals, I suggest you read HOW TO LOVE A NARCISSIST WITHOUT LOSING YOURSELF. There are some very helpful tips in there.
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