An earlier post of mine described the 8 mind-games that narcissists all love to play. (Please be aware this was actually a reblog of someone else’s post). One of the more popular games, played by both covert and overt (grandiose) narcissists is “Gotcha!”
“Gotcha!” can be played two different ways, but both have the same devastating effect on the narcissist’s opponent (victim). Both are intended to bring your mood down as low as it can go and at the same time, reward the narcissist with supply (which you provide with your emotional reaction) which makes them feel better about themselves.
Here are the two versions of “Gotcha!”
This game is most popular with overt narcissists because it allows them to exercise their grandiosity and turn it into a handy weapon and suction tube for feeding.
In “Bug,” the victim always goes first. You start the game by feeling down, depressed, or worthless after some misfortune. The narcissist is good at faking empathy and love bombs you by spreading that phony sh*t on thick. Eventually you let your guard down and confide in the narcissist all your woes, misfortunes, and feelings of dejection. You tell them your whole life story, feeling like you have found a kind shoulder to cry on. A patient, empathic person who cares about you and wants to help you.
Not so fast, there! Your narcissist is already planning their next move, and it has about as much to do with empathy as a Canadian Mountie has to do with a Taliban terrorist. What is that next move, you ask? They’re about to pull a bait and switch on you. The next time you confide in them about losing your home, your spouse, your job, or your mental health, they will callously “share” with you all about the exotic vacation they’re planning to take, the big promotion they just got, or the new romantic partner in their lives. They will crow about how blessed they are (“blessed” is a favorite term used by narcissists as a subtle envy-generator) and how unfair it is that others aren’t as fortunate as they are (this last is a snide put down, implying that you’re not one of the chosen people that God has chosen to shower his bounty on).
Of course you’re not an envious person, but hearing all about their perfect, blessed life at a time like this when you are suffering is too much. The narcissist doesn’t care. In fact, they may actually be lying to you about all those wonderful things. They want to see you suffering and envious of them, because (1) your suffering provides them with a comparative ego boost (hey, at least they’re not as unfortunate as YOU!) and (2) your envy inflates their ego even more. They feed off your pain like a pig rolling in slop.
To them, you are just a bug, not worthy of respect or any real compassion. Maybe they’ll getcha with some pitying contempt though: “Oh, I feel so SORRY for you!” It’s intention is to make you feel shame. When you’re already down, expect to be stepped on and squished under the heel of the narcissist’s boot until there’s nothing left of you.
This is a game almost always played by covert narcissists. The tactics used to win the game are very different than “Bug,” but the end goal is the same: to make you feel like shit.
As in “Bug,” you (the victim) begin the game. (Of course you don’t know it’s a game, but that doesn’t matter.) You think you’ve found a friend in the narcissist because they seem so interested in you. You just found out some great news–you got that promotion, your book is going to be published, you just found out you’re pregnant after months of trying, you won the lottery.
Naturally the narcissist doesn’t like your good news. To them, it is very bad news, because in their minds, the good fortune of someone else diminishes them. Life to them is a zero sum game. There can only be one winner and it has to be them. For something good to happen to you means it didn’t happen to them which means they hate your guts because you have something which they do not. It doesn’t even have to be something they want: the fact you have something good at all is an affront to them. They must find a way to ruin it for you and in effect, bring you down closer to being as miserable as they are (evening the score).
So after a phony congratulations (maybe), the narcissist becomes a concern troll. Out of “concern” for you (and always for your own good), he or she just has to “warn” you about the dark side of your good fortune (and if possible find a way to put you down too, or tell you why it doesn’t count). So if you got a promotion, you’ll get a speech about how much harder you’ll have to work and how you’ll probably lose all your friends stil in lower positions. Or you’ll be told why your promotion doesn’t really count because it’s one of those “honorary” titles or it’s really just a “lateral” move. If your book just got accepted by a publisher, you’ll be told that publisher is a crook or their business is failing and you’ll never see your royalties; if you found out you’re pregnant they’ll tell you all about how horrible pregnancy is and about all the drudgery and loss of freedom you’ll be facing; if you won the lottery, they’ll trot out stories about people whose lives were ruined after winning the lottery or they’ll remind you that “you did nothing to earn it; it’s only chance–I could have won too!”
Of course, after you listen to the narcissist’s “advice,” your heart will feel heavy and your smile might have disappeared. You might even be gnawing the sides of your fingernails in anxiety over all the things that could go wrong. Checkmate! The narcissist won and now he can feed off your new worries too.
A variation of “Wet Blanket” is actually the mirror-image of “Bug.” After you’ve shared your great news, the narcissist brings down your mood by telling you how terrible their own life is and how they never get any breaks at all. The intention is to make you feel guilty for having so much while they have so little.
Whether it’s guilt, shame or envy the narcissist is trying to induce in you doesn’t matter. They just can’t stand to see anyone happy and must take you down to their level or obliterate you like a bug if you’re already down.