“Dog whistling is a gaslighting abuse technique where an abuser can cause suffering to another without others being aware of what is occurring. When the abused tries to speak up against it – it is dismissed by others as they are not being hurt by the action.”
One of the major dog-whistle tactics that some of the narcissists I’ve known over the years (as well as some I thought to be my very close friend), was the way they’d know how to trigger my insecurities through questions and comments innocuous to some people.
Recently one such person asked blatantly (infront of many of our colleagues) right after I announced my pregnancy and was getting congratulated, “so how old is your boyfriend?” The said person, she, knew that I have insecurities about being much older than my partner (as I truly am) and she disliked very much that she was not under the limelight after being elected to a committee while my pregnancy was being celebrated (while I ordered a round of drinks for all). Of course to a normal person who doesn’t know me as well as the said woman does, it would sound like a simple question, while what it actually communicates is something more insidious either to a subset of the audience or outside of the audience’s conscious awareness – a covert appeal to some noxious set of views. After I confirmed my partner’s age she further peeped “it’s a good age to become a dad”, with a smirk on her face, which was an unnecessary comment (that she decided to make anyway) knowing well enough that the pregnancy was unplanned hence causing some road blocks for him as well as I, and yet we both wanted to go ahead with it. Note, this was the first time we communicated after a month of silence.
Of course her dog whistle tactics were simply a cry for “why am I not in the limelight when I just scored a massive win”. This was also a vindictive move from her, right after I pointed out personally (a month before this said meeting) about her tendencies of being uncannily selfish and self-centred almost to becoming an ungrateful person who refuses to see the damage she does while bulldozing over people with her own imagination, paranoia, and assumptions based on situations. As all narcissists, she too remained very sensitive to criticism, despite her high self-esteem – which again rises from her:
• having an inflated sense of self.
• needing constant praise.
• taking advantage of others.
• not recognising or caring about the needs of others.
Needless to say, she kept stressing me out with minor issues throughout my pregnancy and despite me asking her to lay off she pushed and pushed till I actually became sick. You might come across such people in your daily life too and wonder how to deal with narcissists in everyday life as they keep using dog whistle to derail you? Internet has all answers! And this is how I dealt with her. Here goes:
1. See them for who they really are! Narcissistic personalities are pretty good at turning on the charm, enticing you with ideas and promises. This makes them very popular as well. You will at one point forget the harm they do to you and genuinely get pulled back into their whole bubbly personality. Recognising that pattern helps you see them for their actual self.
2. Distance yourself by breaking their spell and stop focusing on them! It took a while for me to realise that whether it’s negative or positive attention, those with narcissistic personalities work hard to keep themselves in the spotlight. Often you will find yourself accommodating their needs – pushing aside your own needs to keep them satisfied. It’s all about them saying “I don’t appreciate that” and you bending over double to make sure they feel appreciated. To only discover that – what remains true as an applied rule with you and your actions, will be another rule for a different person (possibly their next victim). Don’t do that. Tell them off. Distance yourself without any fight (if possible).
3. Speak up! Set clear boundaries! You owe it to yourself to show the world that this person is toxic. To do that keep tabs on specific actions from them and remaining consistent about what’s not acceptable and how you expect to be treated. Sometimes they will turn around and play the victim themselves – prepare yourself for the fact that they will tell behind your back some imaginary stories to make you look like the perpetrator. Cause their whole focus would be to put you down. Especially if the narcissist has ADD induced hyper focus and BPD – you are pretty much screwed if you can’t keep your calm and move away. They would also try to control you by often telling you how you should feel. Maybe they even give you unsolicited advice and take credit for things you’ve done. Or consciously embed memories in peoples mind to shift focus from your success to highlight their position in it all. Once they’ve “helped” you with something – you are in a tangled web of no boundaries with them.
4. Expect them to push back! Most of the time they do so with the help of someone who feels gratitude towards them. Like someone they helped getting a job, or someone lonely who gets constant messages and calls from them – someone who is fully engulfed by their spell. So once you speak up and set boundaries, they may come back with some demands of their own. Often ganging up on you with the help of this other person. They may also try to manipulate you into feeling guilty or believing that you’re the one being unreasonable and controlling. They might make a play for sympathy. Make sure that you stand your ground at this moment. Don’t let them get away by harassing you. Don’t let them gang up on you.
5. Insist on action, not promises! Rest assured that the promise is nothing more than means to an end for someone with a narcissistic personality. Once they get what they want, the motivation is gone. You can’t count on their actions matching their words. For example, the said narcissist promised that everyone will get equal opportunity at the table and no one would be unhappy to attend events presided by her. Once she was appointed the head of the committee, at the end, this end of the bargain was not kept and a valued member decided to withdraw from being active as she pursued him like a dog with a bone. Very meeting, every event ended with her convincing colleagues that he was bad news for the organisation and everything was about him and his attitude. Pushing the member more and more to the edge where his reactions were nothing but playing into her Dog Whistle abuse.
Other warning signs to watch for in the other person include:
• blaming you for everything that goes wrong.
• monitoring your movements or attempting to isolate you.
• telling you how you really feel or should feel.
• routinely projecting their shortcomings onto you. What I like calling “pulling the trigger with the gun resting on your shoulder”.
• denying things that are obvious to you or attempting to gaslighting and dog whistling you.
• trivialising your opinions and needs.
• manipulating and controlling you.
At the end of it – tactics a narcissist use is far more screwed up than simple bickering. This colleague once said “if I want to destroy you, I will make sure you will be feeling alone even while being seated in a room full of people”. When I confronted her about it, her reply was “no one will believe you cause no one else heard me say that to you. Do you have any written proof?” That was the moment I realised how blindly I facilitated this narcissist into being accepted within my group of friends and for the first time regretted having met her and allowing her to perpetrate my life.
Most importantly, learn to forgive yourself. Their actions is not your fault.