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What is Narcissistic Hoovering?
If the term “hoovering” brings a vacuum cleaner to mind, then you’re on the right track. The term ‘hoovering’ was coined after a popular brand of vacuum cleaner due to the nature of this psychological ploy mimicking the sucking action. While a common trait for narcissists, the tactic of “hoovering” is used by a number of personality types, particularly those with manipulative tendencies or a complete disregard for the disruption they cause in other’s lives.
Narcissists often find themselves in an endless game of cat and mouse in their social lives. The cycle typically tends to go:
- Ideation (The building you up or putting extreme expectations on you phase)
- Reality Check (The point in the relationship where the narcissist realizes you have flaws or are no longer willing to kill yourself to please them)
- Devaluation (The breaking down of your self-esteem, confidence, and sometimes sanity)
- Discarding (The abrupt and cold process where the narcissist simply disappears)
While the cycle itself tends to be fairly common the tactic of “hoovering” can come into play once a discarding phase has occurred. Narcissists who struggle to find a new source of personal service from another individual and those that create a repetitive cycle through a select social group will often employ the hoovering tactic in order to lure another victim into their web of manipulation and destruction. Any time a narcissist begins to feel the need, he or she can and will often return to previous sources of narcissist supply in order to achieve their desires.
How does “hoovering” happen?
Narcissists are, by nature, individuals with a higher presence of controlling tendencies. Hoovering allows the narcissist to utilize their exceptional skills of manipulation in order to achieve the goal of controlling another person’s presence in their own lives. It also allows them to feel as though they have the ultimate control over their target.
During the hoovering phase, the narcissist will go to any length, explore any opportunity, and exploit any weakness over their target, manipulating their goals, hopes, dreams, desires, and insecurities in order to establish a sense of dominating control.
Ways hoovering can begin
Opportunity – Maybe you have decided to completely disengage from the narcissist in your life, cutting them out from every possible opportunity to be involved. To some narcissists, this is simply seen as a challenge of their superiority and they will look for any angle open to worm their way back into your life. Often, their goal is simply to see if you are still an option for their own fulfillment. This can begin with something as simple as an accidental run-in at a local coffee shop, a Facebook message saying hello, or even a surprise visit at your home.
Whispers of sweet nothings – For some narcissists, if even the slightest glimmer of hope is perceived, the narcissist will turn on their wit and charm to try to persuade you into believing that he or she has changed their ways. They may shower you with compliments or tell you how perfect and wonderful you are. They may buy you sweet gifts and engage in random acts of kindness towards you. This is one of the popular techniques used by narcissists to work their way back into the lives of someone they have hurt.
Downright Rude – Other narcissists may look for opportunities to devalue you to the point that you believe that you are lucky they even speak to you. This is a tactic used often by narcissists as it allows them to simultaneously establish their own superiority while also working to manipulate you into believing that you don’t deserve them and should be grateful for their concern, criticism, or care. They may spread rumors about you to your shared friends or send incriminating photos of you to explicit websites. In this tactic, the narcissist will take advantage of their knowledge about you to try and destroy your entire life, inside and out.
The ultimate combo– Still there are narcissists who choose a different approach to bringing you back into their abuse. In many cases, the narcissist will use a combination of all three of the previously mentioned tactics in an order that allows them the fullest extent of control possible over their target. They may begin by exploring opportunity, then moving into the sweet nothings phase before taking over and completely devaluing you once again, to increase their overinflated ego and crush your self-worth and will to leave them.
Whatever tactic or combination of tactics the narcissist chooses for the hoovering phase, their aim is to convince their target that they are now the person they should be, leading room for their target to have hope or belief that they can be together again. More often than not, however, this is simply a ploy to use up whatever energy their target is willing to give to them once again.
- Contacting you for unrelated reasons such as ‘what was that one movie we watched?’
- Reaching out in order to ask for help with a work project, house project or a variety of favors.
- Showing up at places you frequent that they normally don’t.
- Befriending your friends that they weren’t friends with during the relationship.
- Buying gifts and other random acts of kindness.
- Any action that attempts to ‘reopen communication’ may be hoovering.
*It’s important to note that when some relationships end that these behaviors may be common among people even without narcissist personality disorder being present.
How to avoid being hoovered by a narcissist
Despite their charm and seemingly good intentions, most narcissists are simply uninterested in finding ways to establish or maintain any form of intimacy, whether romantic or simply social interactions. Narcissists are self-serving and everything they do is only to benefit themselves and their own desires.
If you have walked away from a narcissist and believe that he or she will or is trying to hoover you back into their lives, there is only one way to avoid this:
Avoid. Block. Run. – The only sure way to avoid being the target or victim of narcissistic hoovering is to simply establish a no frills, no exceptions policy for the narcissist in your life. Once you have left the situation, take any means necessary to get them out of your life permanently. Change your gym or gym time, block them on all social media, delete and block them from your phone and email, and avoid going to places that you know they frequent (going no contact). The more you lessen the chances of running into them or receiving that seemingly innocent hello, the less you risk becoming a narcissistic hoovering victim.