If you’re involved with a narcissist, chances are you’ve experienced a range of unpleasant emotions as a result. Most of my clients who have been on the receiving end of narcissistic abuse have made attempts to distance themselves from their abuser but time and time again, they’re drawn back into the narcissist’s orbit. Narcissists need people who reflect back to them how incredible, victimised, or misunderstood they are. They want to control people and inflict hurt and pain. Narcissists thrive on drama and having people to victimise or to depict as a persecutor. No matter how low the narcissist in your life might make you feel, if you’re fulfilling their needs in some way, they want you about. Being highly skilled in manipulation, they will do all they can to reel you back in, including hoovering.
Narcissistic hoovering refers to attempts made by the narcissist to bring you back into their life – often after a period of distance on your part. Especially if this is a new behaviour for you, the narcissist might hold off for a short while to see if you’re really serious about creating that distance. If it turns out you are, they’ll turn on the hoover.
Tugging at the heartstrings
When it comes to hoovering, narcissists will take full advantage of your emotions. They’ll tell you how much they love and miss you, what a wonderful relationship they had with you, that they can’t live without you. They may play the victim who needs you to jump in and rescue them. In short, they’ll emotionally manipulate you at the deepest level. You may well have been involved in an unequal relationship with the narcissist in the past and feel yourself being drawn back to a role that is familiar to you.
Using a random excuse to get in touch
Tonya told me, “My sister and I had not communicated for years, following a major fight. She then, randomly, phoned me at 7 a.m. one morning to tell me that a cousin had died. Whilst I was sorry for him, I hadn’t seen him since I was about 10. Far more significant things had happened over the years, including my mother ending up in the hospital on my sister’s watch. She didn’t make a phone call for these events. I felt it was highly manipulative behaviour”. Narcissists may take full advantage of potentially emotional situations to suck you back in.
They make you feel bad
Mark told me that his dad had tried to manipulate him by telling him how much trouble he had caused and that the only way to sort out the situation was to come back to the family. “Dad told me how much I’d upset mum – dad and I had fallen out because of his abusive behaviour towards mum. I was being blamed for the entire family falling apart with the only suggested solution being to re-establish contact with my narcissistic dad. I’d made it clear that I didn’t want any further contact with my family and yet, here I was, feeling like I had to go back to him to sort out this mess”.
They gaslight you
Whilst you might find yourself on the receiving end of gifts, compliments and declarations of undying love, you might equally be hoovered in with gaslighting behaviour. The narcissist may contact you with the intention of destroying your self-esteem and making you question your version of events. They’ll blatantly lie, distort the facts, and convince you that you’re a horrible person whose perspective is skewed. You may even feel grateful that they want to have anything to do with you.
They convince you they’ve changed
“My ex-girlfriend sent me a long text saying she had worked on herself and that she had changed. She begged me to return and promised things would be different. They weren’t. Within a couple of weeks she’d started acting in the same old abusive ways”, Daniel told me. Narcissists have very little compunction when it comes to lying and will convince you of anything if it will get them what they want.
The point of hoovering is to get you back. The narcissist will know what your weak points are and whether bullying you, begging you or playing the victim is the most effective means of sucking you in. You may find yourself in a hoovering situation more than once. And, for some people, even once is enough to pull you into a place of danger, for instance, where domestic violence is involved. If you need help in separating yourself permanently from a narcissist, please seek out the support you require.