I had a coach several years ago who asked me, “Edie, if I were the police walking into one of your arguments with Kerry, would I know which one of you to take away?” My mind raced with images of what our arguments looked like, and in an instant, I realized how I was getting set up to participate in these depleting exchanges. Reluctantly, I replied “no”. I had gotten completely sucked into these arguments, and my behavior (reacting to the provocation) was no better than his! Then, of course, once provoked, Kerry would point to my behavior and blame me for everything. And I had subscribed to all of this! It was the role I was used to: I’m the bad one, I should feel bad about myself for asserting my need - it’s all I had ever known.
This manipulation is commonly referred to as “Baiting,” and one reason a narcissist instigates a fight is to gain control in an attempt to escape his/her own feelings of inferiority. It’s a great way for the narcissist to garner attention from you, after all, it shows you care, right? This is called narcissistic supply. Oh, if only the narcissist knew that your care has more to do with your own insecurity than actually caring about him! When we realize that we deserve to surround ourselves with kindness, it doesn’t matter how much we care about another, we know we need to care for ourselves first - by steering ourselves away from those who don’t know kindness.
Personal Journey Through Baiting
After gaining awareness of the baiting, the challenge became having to stand up for myself without engaging. This was very difficult for me as there were many different emotions coming up that I had to learn to recognize and deal with. Doing this, and getting good at it, took lots of practice.
I've included a text exchange between Kerry and I myself as an example of trying to strike that balance of setting a boundary, without getting dragged into the drama. In hindsight, I could have done much better but at that time, I thought i was doing well because I felt I was being "compassionate" while Kerry continually degraded me for my choice in attire.
The manipulation and control may seem subtle to some, while obvious to others. Also, you’ll notice that because Kerry didn’t get his way, he resorted to the punishment of abandonment (commonly referred to as “silent treatment”); although I stayed connected and called him a couple of hours later when I got home as I promised I would, he disappeared until the next afternoon.
Protecting Yourself and Your Loved Ones
It can be so challenging not to take the bait, but it is so important for your own health to keep yourself safe and not to engage in these psychologically and emotionally abusive exchanges. It’s also crucial for your kids to be safe. Once, I met a woman who allowed herself to be “baited” into an argument with her husband while she was in the midst of cooking a chicken for dinner. He was downright mean, and she had gotten so angry that she ended up smashing the chicken in his face. Apparently, as she did so, her fingernail nicked his face, resulting in a small but noticeable scratch. The husband called the police, and when they arrived and saw the “evidence” of his recall of the incident, she was arrested. After that, he got full custody of their children, and she was only allowed supervised visits once a week. Unfortunately, the husband was able to manipulate the children to the point where they didn’t want to speak to their mom. Many narcissistic men threaten to take the kids away from the mother, but the truth is they cannot do that on their own - they need you to participate in making that happen. Do not let the narcissist be in charge of your behavior. As challenging as it may be, take deep breaths as you walk away into another room - even if it’s the bathroom - to keep yourself calm.
Empowerment and Recognizing When to Seek Professional Help
Navigating the complexities of relationships, particularly those entangled with manipulative tactics like baiting, is challenging. As a life empowerment coach, I am passionate about supporting individuals on their journey towards strength, clarity, and personal growth. In this spirit, I am currently offering complimentary coaching sessions to help you develop strategies for healthier relationships and personal empowerment.
It’s important to note, however, that empowerment coaching is distinct from professional psychological therapy. If you find yourself grappling with deep emotional or psychological issues as a result of your experiences, I strongly advocate seeking the expertise of licensed mental health professionals. They possess the necessary tools and knowledge to provide the specialized support you may need.
Remember, taking care of your mental health is paramount, and you deserve to be in a supportive and respectful environment. Seeking the right kind of help is not just brave but an essential step towards healing and empowerment.
Interested in Complimentary Empowerment Coaching?
If you feel that empowerment coaching can assist in your journey towards self-awareness, resilience, and making life-affirming choices, please feel free to reach out. I am offering a limited number of complimentary sessions aimed at helping you to navigate your path, establish stronger boundaries, and make decisions that resonate with your core values and well-being.