Why do narcissists punish their victims?


Narcissists are renowned for being charming, engaging and making their romantic targets feel as though they are the most special person in the world.

Until they don't.

Then, the manipulation and the punishment starts.


We've all got an area of self-doubt and emotional flaws. The narcissist is a master at identifying them, then subtly, or not so subtly, chipping away at your self-esteem until you start to doubt yourself, maybe even to doubt your sanity.

What do you value the most? Your family? Your friendship circle? Your career? Your financial security? Whatever you value, they will threaten you with taking it away, to punish you for standing up to them. To anyone who hasn't been in such a toxic relationship it's difficult to understand that it can happen but it does. They manage to manipulate situations and people around them to their advantage, in such a way that the people being played, don't even know it is happening.

In couples' therapy, they manage to convince the counsellor that they are behaving in a perfectly reasonable manner and you, their spouse, is overreacting. They can convince your children that you are unhinged or have a serious mental health issue. They undermine your credibility in social situations. They threaten you with pulling the very fabric of your life out from under you and then, in the next breath, they will tell you they love you, and although they have other options, they choose to be with you because they love you and they are just waiting patiently until you are in a better place yourself. 

So why do they do it?

This is a collection of answers from around the web to the question: Why do narcissists punish their victims?


Elinor Greenberg, Psychologist, Author, Lecturer, and Consultant on Narcissistic Disorders

They punish you, to get even. Literally!

Imagine a giant scale with two pans. One pan represents high self-esteem, the other low self-esteem. Narcissists are always trying to fill the high self-esteem pan with accomplishments, compliments, and other proof that that supports their view of themselves as perfect, special, unique, and entitled.

When you do something that makes them feel disrespected, it goes into the low self-esteem pan. The heavier that pan gets, the more they start to doubt their worth and feel like a “loser,” a piece of worthless garbage.

By punishing you, they regain their sense of power and repair the insult to their self-esteem. The scales are now rebalanced again in the way they like, with all the proof of their specialness (and your worthlessness) righting the scales so the high self-esteem pan is full again and their confidence is restored.


Hamed Bagoury, Filmmaker

Punishment is the Narcissist’s best way to train their victim to not stand up for themselves. Narcissists typically either rage, bully, justify, reject, or fly into defensiveness when a person stands up for themselves against something they’ve done or said (or didn’t do or say). This is how targets get trained not to stand up for themselves. The victim lives in fear of reaction. Fear of massive consequences, drama, chaos, smearing, raging, and the problems that those behaviours cause for them in the rest of their life, including their emotional or physical well-being.


Les Carter, Psychotherapist

A defining feature of narcissism is the need to remain in the superior position. To accomplish this, someone has to be in the inferior position. Punishing behaviour has the effect of placing the narcissist in the high place of power and control, feeding the false notion that human relations operate only with winners and losers.


Mike King, Psychotherapist - PhD in psychology

To keep you dependent.

They exert control by first hooking an individual in with some special talent they have, looks, or sexuality. Then the process of devaluation begins. Nothing is ever quite right enough for them, and the victim is left to try and figure out how they can make things right. They like nothing better than to beat down a victim who they have isolated so that the victim is totally dependent.


Richard B Riddick, Analyst

In the end, the narcissist doesn’t punish you. You punish yourself by continually putting yourself in a position to be punished. Think of it this way, a narcissist is a train, and you are sitting on the track. You know what is coming.

Why do you keep going back and sitting on the track?


Melanie Tonia Evans, Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Expert, Healer, Author and Radio Host.

They punish you because you let them! You play the victim.

The Victim Model creates ongoing trauma, powerlessness and blaming the narcissist.

In all my years helping people Thrive after narcissistic abuse, I have never seen one person operating in this model get better. In stark contrast, I have seen them just get addicted to information about abusers and joining in with other people who are also obsessed with finding out and sharing everything they can about narcissists. 

Here is the absolute truth: You created at soul level contracts for these people to come into your life.

Now there is the ultimate statement that will make people really want to crucify me! And that’s okay because I’ve heard it all before … things like “Melanie, you are telling me I CHOSE this? How DARE you say that!”

Yes, I am saying it’s true … not consciously, of course, no-one would from the limited human logical perspective choose to be abused by a narcissist. What I totally do know, however, is that at a Higher Soul Level we wish to evolve and there is no better way to evolve ourselves than to be pushed into the density of darkness to be forced to transcend it and come out released into the light.

The best way to “get the message delivered” of what it is that we need to heal within ourselves is to have someone else bring these wounds forth for us in such a way that we cannot ignore them anymore.

THAT person is a narcissist. Garden variety abusers aren’t so heartless, exact or punishing, and often we miss those messages.

Narcissists do it more powerfully than any other person until you get the message.

And there is no other solution to your narcissistic abuse experience other than healing your wounds that they are exposing for you. You can’t beat a narcissist with logical defences, righteousness, blaming, trying to expose them, researching more about them or joining groups that demonise them.

And you certainly cannot free yourself from the torture of your inner wounds which have been hammered and activated. 

The truth is this … You can’t stop them; you have to “get the message” and heal yourself – because this isn’t about the narcissist – it is about healing your own wounds.


Published by Divorce Resource


More articles you may enjoy:

How to combat overwhelm and anxiety attacks

Is your divorce turning you into an emotional vampire?

How to spot a narcissist

Exorcising the “I’m a Doormat Demon: How to learn to love saying the word NO

5 things nobody tells you about divorce


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