“Hoovering” is the term used to describe a narcissist trying to re-connect with you after a time of separation. Often, this separation occurs after a time of silence between you and the narcissist.
The hoovering generally happens when you are not making contact, and at times when you are trying to get on with your life.
If you are the one trying to contact and make-up, it is more likely that the narcissist will devalue and discard you. If this is not the case, it is because the narcissist still wants something from you – possessions, money, status, contacts or sex because other sources are momentarily low.
Many people over the years have stated about the narcissists in their life, “Why doesn’t he or she leave me alone?” and “When does it stop?”
Then of course, many people have been incessantly checking their emails, phones and answering machines hoping and praying that the narcissist will contact them.
It is very usual in the relationship with a narcissist to expect, fear and dread hoovering, and then, at times, feel like you won’t survive if you don’t receive it.
Such is the incredible brain-fry when you are stuck in the throes of narcissistic abuse.
Additionally people have been astounded at how – even after the narcissist has moved on with a new partner – that they still make contact, and still try to affect and create reactions.
And that they, non-ashamedly, declare their “love” and “devotion” whilst doing this with another person or multiple people at the same time, or “innocently” parade a new partner in front of the ex-partner in order to hurt them.
With comments such as “She is so wonderful, and it means so much to me to have your blessing with her.”
What is this all about?
Clearly mature, decent adults don’t behave like this.
And why do narcissists after months or years – even if you don’t respond in any shape or form – still “throw a line” to “test the waters” to see if you’ll “take the bait?”
Why do they come up with phony excuses to contact you, in order to attack your weak spots (which of course he or she has studied and known for some time) such as guilt, or defending yourself with justifications against bogus claims, and why does this person text or say things by email that are guaranteed to get your head spinning trying to work out “What on earth did that mean?”
Why do narcissists keep acting out the same behaviour – the cycles of “I want you,” and then repeatedly devalue and discard you?”
And why do they attempt to make contact with issues that normal people would have resolved long ago, or profess “sentiment” or “memories” that do not in any way match the horrific way they treated you?
And why is one response back from you sometimes enough for the narcissist to then disappear again?
Why Do Narcissists Hoover?
The answer, truly, is simply because narcissists are empty voids. They need narcissistic supply to emotionally exist. They need to know that they are affecting someone, or someone hasn’t got over them, and that this person is at their beck and call, and that they are “captured” as a future feed if necessary.
Narcissists are junkies. They tend to keep multiple sources of supply as backup, the same way crocodiles store pieces of meat under rocks when other food supplies fall low.
Creepy but true …
The worst insult possible to a narcissist is when a person creates their own up-levelling, truly detaches and reaches the healed point of: “You Are Not My Reality.” There is no greater threat to the narcissist’s ego than being rendered insignificant and meaningless.
Because the narcissist has no ability to generate, validate or sustain his or her own emotional well-being, people opting out of the narcissist’s stage play confirm the narcissist’s greatest terror – that he or she is unlovable, abandoned and worthless.
These are the very fears that the narcissist has been trying to avoid with the use of these tactics: conquer, punish, out-strategise and control.
When of course this fails, and produces results that are far from effective in granting the narcissist comfort, connection and stability – the narcissist’s twisted perceptions then create the ultimate devaluation that the narcissist’s projected wounds have been playing out all along.
Namely, the narcissist’s despising of you, and malicious attacks, are all to do with him or her trying to destroy the parts of him or herself that the narcissist detests; the parts that the narcissist has assigned as you.
It is unthinkable to most people that someone, after committing such obscene behaviour, could try to hoover and re-hoover the person they have emotionally brutalised back into their life, shamelessly, and often as if nothing at all happened.
That is until we understand the narcissist’s one and only driver – feeding the False Self – getting a hit of attention to stop the narcissist from collapsing inwards and being eaten alive by his or her own tortured inner-being.
Hoovering is NOT about love; it is about necessary narcissistic emotional survival – and everything and everyone is merely an object serving that need.
Hoovering Plays A Huge Role In The Cycle Of Violence
Unfortunately many people don’t realise true detachment with no emotional hooks, or energy, is the true goal – to exorcise the narcissist out of your heart, mind and soul (like detoxifying a psychic virus) so that you genuinely couldn’t care less about the narcissist, and are busy developing and expanding yourself and creating your amazing true life.
Ultimately this is the best way to: a) stop feeding the narcissist, and allowing yourself to be a target to be hoovered, and b) be free of the obsession about whether or not any contact will occur, and c) not react in any shape or form if hoovering does happen.
Naturally, the understandable human model before self-recovery is to hope (despite the repeated evidence) that this person has finally “got it” and will stop the atrocious behaviour. It’s also “normal” when not receiving a genuine “sorry” to be incensed, fight for accountability, and / or try to force this person into being the person you thought you had signed up for (if a love-partner), or be the family member / parent they should be by normal humane standards.
However any attention at all, or the granting of any second, third and multiple chances is only handing the narcissist further narcissistic supply – the narcissistic drug: “The ability to affect another person and get their energy grants me significance.”
Hoovering plays a HUGE role in the cycle of violence. I want to explain what I mean….
The cycle of violence goes like this …
There is a period of CALM, then TENSION builds, then ABUSE happens, and then RECONCILIATION takes place … then this is followed by a period of CALM and the cycle continues all over again.
The horrible thing about the cycle of violence is that the abuse intensifies and the cycle becomes tighter and tighter and more frequent.
You see, abusers who are narcissist don’t learn by their mistakes. They are not genuinely remorseful, and therefore not accountable or capable of real change. Rather than acquiesce to the pressure of the reactions of those around them – in order to self-reflect and reform – they create greater defences and bigger self-maladaptation instead.
The narcissist’s False Self cannot stand being held under scrutiny, because it is above reproach. It is at this time that the narcissistic cracks start opening wider as more fully blown narcissistic tendencies emerge.
If the victim is battered down into submission, then it’s open slather – the narcissist may “make up” non-authentically, “I told you I’m sorry, isn’t THAT enough for you?,” or not at all, and then continue on with narcissistic business as usual – especially if the abused person’s boundaries and self-respect have crumbled.
If the abused person’s boundaries are getting stronger, but are not as yet absolute – the narcissist may have to up the ante, and pull out all sorts of stops to appear repentant, make wild promises, and do whatever it takes to hoover the person back into the relationship.
Either way there is no period of sustained relief for the person who reconnects to the narcissist. Going back after being hoovered is never good.
The person who has crumbled will be punished horrifically for being “pathetic” (narcissists deem other humans “inferior” at the best of times), and for the person starting to lay boundaries, it is only a matter of time before the tables are turned, and the rug is pulled out from under their feet. The previously “totally remorseful” narcissist will switch to, “Who do you think you are for trying to have power and get the upper hand? NO-ONE holds me accountable and gets away with it!”
What remorse? It will be flung out the window like it never existed.
Once the cycle of violence has erupted, pulling away and then returning especially if the narcissist had to say “sorry” means the cruelty will escalate to unthinkable levels.
I myself have experienced the return bouts as horrendous; they happened more and more frequently and violently. This formula has been identically witnessed within this Community time and time again.
This is why it is so important to realise that when people cross the line into conscienceless, non-empathetic pathological behaviour – they have left their soul behind. Definitely an addict who acts like this due to an addiction can reform, if humble personal responsibility is taken, and if they heal and the addiction ceases.
But someone who behaves like this because of an ingrained Personality Disorder – forget it.
I have never known ONE case of a narcissist, who is capable of unspeakable pathological acts, reform and change. The reason being … even if he or she wanted to, the inner disowned wounds that are severely driving the extreme behaviour have taken over the narcissist (the condition of extreme unconsciousness). They are forever bubbling, just waiting to explode up and out, or to be triggered off on a hair-line detonator.
If these wounds are never addressed and healed, reform is impossible – that is the bottom line. The narcissist has NO power to stop such an unconscious wounded force, even if he or she wanted to logically. It would only ever be by meeting and dealing with the extreme subconscious wounds that there would be a chance – and no narcissist will commit to meeting their Inner Being with daily dedication for extended periods of time.
Their whole life is constructed to avoid doing this.
Forms of Narcissistic Hoovering
I put a post up on my Facebook Page about this article, and it wasn’t surprising (as it never is) how many people had experienced the stock standard narcissistic behaviours involved in hoovering.
Here is a list of what I believe are the most common hoovering tactics with accompanying Facebook comments regarding these tactics. Not only will you note the “tactic” used – but also the atrocious behaviour that was often discovered in many instances.
Thank-you everyone for your contributions!
Promising you everything you want
“I had the apologies, offers of marriage, promises to treat me like a princess, happily ever after etc. But the best effort was this ‘I have been thinking hard, and I think maybe I did what I did because I grew up in a love-less family. I want to see a psychologist and together with you I can change. I have no interest in any other women at all; I swear on my children’s lives that I am not speaking to any other women. I will prove to you I will do anything to have you back.’ He then got straight off the phone to me and phoned one of his past supplies to organise a weekend away. I know this because she and I met after he used photos of her in an attempt to make me jealous and want him back.”
Going to any lengths to convince you
“My ex swore on our children’s life.”
“He promised complete transparency by giving me all of his passwords to remotely access his email and social media to show he was no longer contacting other women. But of course he then just opened up more channels of contact and stopped using the ones I had access to.”
Pretending to offer support
“He seems to hoover the most just when I start to find success, happiness and serenity. He claims he wants to be supportive but in very short order he starts to sabotage me with criticism, sarcasm and reminders of past failures!”
Grand romantic or “caring” gestures
“The overly romantic overtures … the dedication of my favorite love song on the radio, which I now can’t listen to without feeling ill. I didn’t peg it before, fell for it hook line and sinker.”
“Gifts like groceries, flowers, coffees, cards and cupcakes for my daughter – at my front doorstep – to offers of exotic vacations – only to turn around and break into my car and house to take special things away. Nasty explicit texts to tell me about his new women, and texts professing love and devotion.”
“One narcissist (child’s father) drew me in to conflict by always making me feel I had to prove myself to him or his friends that I wasn’t the *insert insults here* that he kept claiming I was.”
The “like nothing happened” approach
“For me, it’s the way they would come back into my life expecting me to forget everything happened with no real discussion as to why they did what they did, unrealistic expectations of wanting me to once again drop everything to be with them.”
“He moved overseas for 4 years and then returned thinking everything would be back to ‘normal.’”
Hoovering by proxy
“My narc who I haven’t heard of for six months was out at a bar. One of my biggest and best known clients and friends was there. She decided to go up to him despite never meeting him before and talk to him about me. Texts messages then later followed asking if I was aware they met and how she would love to know what he told me. Of course she will never know, lucky for her.”
“Because I ignore all attempts at contact – such as the many letters he sends my lawyer and me – he drags my daughter into his hysterical dramas. Probably because he knows that I’m going to be pissed at his upsetting her. But the thing is, I refuse to discuss him with my daughter.”
“Buying a big red Bible and attending Church regularly and making sure the children tell me. It’s to make me regret giving up on him. I used to pray for him all the time. It used to be my ONLY prayer!!!”
Hoovering when there is another partner in the background
“The ex jumped into a serious relationship as soon as I left him. Then when he realized I wasn’t coming back he actually told me I had to meet his new girlfriend and I would approve of her!! Then a month later, I met him to get all my belongings, and he looked me in the eyes and told me he doesn’t have a girlfriend. And of course the comments, ‘I’m the only one who loves you,’ ‘We belong together because of our f…..ed up families,’ blah blah.”
“He randomly sends text messages as though we are friends. He continues to dismiss my previous to the point statement that I won’t be his “shoulder to lean on” and he and I would not relate at all anymore. I said I do not talk with men outside my relationship. He replied insinuating I wasn’t being truthful.“
Using your compassion against you
“He used his daughter, putting her on the phone crying wanting to come back home, this always brought me back.”
“The ex Narcopath did many things like suicide threats, and faked serious illness like heart attacks and a stroke.”
“He uses our son. Shows up late for pick ups. Makes huge deals and overreacts about a sneeze but can’t change a diaper. Sends email after email demanding information or creating drama around mundane issues.“
“She plans things for the kids on my days to have them and when I say no we have plans she loses her head and wants to know everything about our plans and brings up anything and everything to try and make me feel bad. She called me childish while she was doing all these things maybe to get a reaction out of me.“
Random ridiculous messages
“Mine tried hoovering with text messages asking where his ‘scissors’ were and oh, why did I have to take them!!! Lol! Weren’t even his scissors I don’t think. Then it was a baking tray!!! Lol!”
NOTE: Random messages may also include the excuse of a special events, pretending to be nice, or using nostalgia such as: “Please wish (so-and-so) my love for his / her birthday.” Or “I hope (name) enjoys his first day of school.”
Or “Are you going to (so-and-so’s) anniversary? Wish I was with you there.” Or “I’m standing in our special place, where we met. Wish you were with me.”
Many of you, who have been hoovered will relate to these common narcissistic tactics.
What is very important to understand is that hoovering is not a compliment. When a narcissist is low on supply, any sources of supply are fair game. Rather than the narcissist deal with his or her own inner emptiness and pain, the phone is picked up and numerous people could be texted in an anxious self-avoidance frenzy.
And several options may be taken up …
There is nothing “exclusive,” “loving,” “loyal,” or “endearing” about hoovering.
I love what one lady posted on my Facebook post … because it is the absolute truth.
“Got an email just this week out of the blue at midnight from the narcissist whom I hadn’t spoken to in months … ’Hi. Just wanted to let you know I was thinking about you. I know I owe you an apology … blah blah.’ Translation: ‘Hey, it’s me … turns out that secondary source of narcissistic supply I rapidly discarded you for wasn’t all they were cracked up to be. I’m currently experiencing a temporary shortage of admirers as I either bore of them quickly or they figure me out. It’s hard being me … even though I’m an expert at it, the acting and keeping my lies straight is exhausting. Soooo, I was wondering if it would be okay if I did that little hoovering thing I’m so famous for. You know, where I pop in and out of your life like nothing ever happened, you stroke my ego, and I get to cause more havoc and destruction all while looking for my next victim. Interested?’”
Our Susceptibility To Being Hoovered
Narcissists know our weak spots and prey on them. This is all a part of the Personality Disorder – to use people’s character against them.
Here are some of our most common gaps that leave us open to being hoovered.
Over-responsibility to others
If you struggle with feeling over-responsible for others, and haven’t as yet healed enough to anchor into responsibility for yourself – you will be susceptible to being swayed by guilt, or feeling it is your duty to help. The narcissist may create contact by pulling on your heart strings regarding third parties or him or herself.
The core wound allowing you to be hoovered, is having felt like a caretaker from a very young age – or that other people’s issues were your fault.
Believing someone else is your “source” of security
If you feel that your survival, security or wellbeing has to be provided by someone else, you will be highly susceptible to the narcissist’s false promises of being the provider of those things for you.
The core wound making you susceptible is the survival and security fears which you took on from your childhood, and / or if you had “controlling” caretakers who did not allow you to develop into your own power to create your own life.
Believing someone else is your validation of being loveable and worthy
If you are carrying the beliefs of “having to earn approval in order to feel worthy” you will be suffering lack of self-love and self-worthiness, and you will be very susceptible to going back to “words” of love, no matter how empty they are.
The core wound causing you to be vulnerable, is having absorbed beliefs of “conditional love” in childhood regarding being worthy only for what you achieved, rather than being loved and accepted for who you are.
Believing you have to justify yourself
If you believe that your sense of self depends on what other people think of you – then you are struggling to fully believe in yourself. This means you will be susceptible to trying to prove your integrity, and that you can be easily hooked by the narcissist making contact with the use of accusations.
The core wound making you hook back in, is feeling persecuted and distrusted as a child.
These are really the main wounds that can keep us in the game, and it isn’t until the healing message is understood, “The narcissist is in my life is showing me my inner wounds that I need to clean up” that we can easily detach and say “No More!”
Such is the case when we evolve ourselves – the agony does not need to continue.
Naturally the hoovering can be reversed. Meaning that the narcissist has devalued and discarded you, and then will not answer your attempts to re-connect.
The reason why we can feel so panicked and terrorised at these times is because of the deep young wounds that many of us carry, namely “fear of abandonment.”
Rest assured that if the narcissist has found out that this is your biggest wound, it will be used against you – in identical fashion to any primal childhood wound you may be carrying.
Ultimately when we have assigned an abusive person (or any person) as the “parent” to soothe and heal our wounds, and we have not yet taken responsibility for and worked on ourselves, we are in for a rough time. Eventually, not understanding consciously what is really going on within us that requires healing, can lead us to an incredibly painful experience with a narcissist.
When We Have Given In To Being Hoovered
Many, many people in this community went back to narcissists after leaving them. I did this too on many occasions.
What I always say now to people, who are in the depths of despair after finding nothing changed and the abuse is happening again is this: “It’s all okay. Truly you just missed something that you hadn’t found and healed yet. Once you do you will break away again, and this time you will be more solid, freer and more healed than you were before this happened!”
If this article resonated with you I would love you to join me for my next free Live Workshop called the 3 Keys To Thriving After Narcissistic Abuse. In this event I share my healing system, Quanta Freedom Healing which has allowed thousands of people from over 80 different countries to break free from narcissistic abuse and start new lives filled with abundance, freedom and joy.
Please know if you have been hoovered back in, you are not back at square one, you are simply co-creating with life all that is necessary to provide the clue of “What do I need to heal now in order to set myself free?”
Such is the wonderful life-affirming purposes of life, when we realise what is really going on.
I hope this article has helped you.
I look forward to answering any comments or questions below.
Latest posts by Melanie Tonia Evans (see all)
- You Can’t Heal What You’re Afraid To Feel - August 19, 2019
- Narcissistic Abuse Is A Journey… But It Doesn’t Take As Long As You Think - August 16, 2019
- What Happens When Narcissists Get Old? - August 13, 2019