Triangulation can occur in any relationship but it is very common in a relationship with a narcissist. It may happen at home, at work, with friends, or within [a] family of origin. [An abuser/narcissist] may pit you against…any other person they can get to engage in their “victim-playing,” who is willing to serve the role they assign. They may also [temporarily] adopt the role of Persecutor to assign blame or Rescuer to maintain control of their image. In the end, this travel around the triangle is how they dump shame and find someone to blame for their misery. If there is always a role to play there is always a way to escape responsibility by shifting the position on the triangle.
The answer to the exhaustive push and pull of a triangulated dynamic in a relationship with a narcissist is to simply step off the triangle and refuse to play. It’s a game you cannot win.
Control by Triangulation:
If all else fails, the abuser recruits friends, colleagues, family members, the authorities, institutions, neighbors, any third party – to do their bidding. They use them to cajole, coerce, threaten, stalk, offer retreat, tempt, convince, harass, communicate and otherwise manipulate their target. They control these unaware instruments exactly as they plan to control their ultimate victim. They employ the same mechanisms and devices, and they always dump their props unceremoniously when the job is done.
Another form of control by triangulation is to engineer situations in which abuse is inflicted upon another person. Such carefully crafted scenarios of embarrassment and humiliation provoke social sanctions (condemnation, opprobrium, social exclusion and shame) against the victim. In this instance, society becomes the instrument of the abuser. By clever seduction, through words and posturing, they entice their pawns to do their dirty work for them. Unaware… [and] being persuaded by [the narcissist’s] rendition of truth, they take up their cause and they right and align themselves against the one they control.
The malignant narcissist creates perpetual triangles around the one they desire to control. They see through these eyes- eyes with no empathy – that perpetuate constant, residual torment, for their [victim]. Claiming that they are being tormented by the victim, they create rescuers who then torment their victim, thinking they are protecting them from the “bully.” Doing this through their friendships, family members, associates and whoever they can entice, they remotely view their operation like a director of a movie. In other words, they will frame a picture and put their secondary supply in that frame – the borders always being the shape of a triangle and the picture within being a distorted truth they propagate. Usually, the claims they make of their victim is the truth [about themselves] and while hiding behind their, victim they will spin, doctor, and gaslight until they get their desired result. Defamation of character and destroying the credibility of [their victim] is their goal. They convince their pawns that their victim is the persecutor and they are the victim.
The naked eye cannot see this game of illusions and that is why they [are able to engage] others in their web. They do for them what they orchestrate in secret. You may notice that both the Persecutor and Rescuer are on the upper end of the triangle. These roles assume a “one-up” position over others, meaning they relate as though they are better, stronger, smarter, or more-together than the victim. Sooner or later the victim, who is in the one-down position at the bottom of the triangle, develops a metaphorical “crick in the neck” from always looking up. Feeling “looked down upon” or “worth-less than” the others, the Victim usually rebels.
Starting Gate Persecutors (SGP’s), on the other hand, do see themselves as victims in need of protection. This is how they can so easily justify their vengeful behavior: “They asked for it and they got what they deserved for questioning me,” [is] the way they see it. Their core belief might go something like this: “They can’t be trusted so I need to get them before they hurt me.” This attitude sets them up to think that they must strike out in order to defend against inevitable attack, even when there is no attack.
Arguing with the malignant narcissist is, in their self absorbed eyes, a threat. They see the victim as a threat to [themselves], [and believes that the victim will] possibly expose [their hidden true self to their rescuers]. The victim may or may not have threatened the SGP, but the chance of being ‘found out,’ by those looking from the outside…the picture projected is the SGP’s denial ploy. They are afraid that the real picture will seen by all. [They] cannot face [exposure] or the reality of what they are doing and must project what they perpetrate. Ultimately there is no regard for anyone here, for all player’s involved are their pawns. Therefore, the victim stands no chance of recovering in this triangulation. Convincing their rescuer(s) that their victim is persecuting them, [the narcissist is able to trap the] rescuer(s) [in their] web. [And the rescuers all] become persecutors for the narcissist while believing they [are rescuing him]. [And the narcissist] actually believes what he creates to be the truth.
The rescuer(s), unbeknownst to the narcissist scheme, become persecutors of the [true] victim as well. Believing [the perpetrator’s] deception, they do his bidding and become an extension of him. [Rarely?] meaning to do any harm, they have become his right hand, and very likely, the hand(s) that strangulate his victim. The smugness of the narcissist becomes more intoxicating to himself in his superiority to manipulate all. How brilliant he feels in the evil he has masterminded. Feeling disdain, for even his rescuers, he is loyal to none. They feed on their own view of being above all those they puppeteers.
Inevitably, the victim will do one of four things:
1. Strike back, in defense and self preservation.
2. Further submit to the abuse,thinking it must be their fault.
3. Try to negotiate and convince the rescuer(s) that the narcissist is the persecutor.
4. Flee the triangle(s) and leave the relationship.
Another Term for Triangulation is Proxy Recruitment:
Definition: Proxy Recruitment is a way of controlling or abusing another person or establishment by manipulating other people into unwittingly ‘backing up,’ the abuser or “doing their dirty work” for them.
Description: The goal in proxy recruitment is to gain the upper hand in a relationship or in a conflict by getting other people involved. This often takes the form of the perpetrator engaging others to” help” through innuendos, false accusations, smear campaigns or distortion campaigns in which the victim is portrayed as an abuser.
Proxy recruitment can be an extremely powerful way of establishing control over another person. It forces the victim into a defensive posture – justifying or denying their own behaviors to friends, family, neighbors, acquaintances and authority figures. It often attempts to reverse roles in the eyes of others – casting the abuser as the victim and portraying the victim as the real abuser. It deflects attention away from the abuser and provides cover or justification for further abuse to occur.
Proxy Recruitment is much easier if the abuser assumes a position of authority. The infamous narcissist will project himself as the authority figure, speaking as though the victim is incompetent or inferior in judgement.In 1961 and 1962, Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram performed a famous series of experiments which demonstrated that about 2 out of 3 people will perform a cruel action towards another person if instructed to do so by someone whom they regard as an authority figure. This demonstrated that most people are prone to doing something they do not want to do, even something they would normally regard as “wrong,” just because they are told to do it by an assertive or authoritative person or persuaded by them in a form or mind control.
Proxy recruitment isn’t just the domain of people with personality disorders. It is a universal reaction to recruit allies when engaged in a conflict situation. However, it becomes abusive when the truth is misrepresented or the recipient is being hurt. Those recruited will partake of the abuser’s plan, thinking they are doing the right thing. The narcissist abuser undermines the recruited to demise the one he objectifies. Objectification is when the narcissist reduces the one he controls to an object, having no feeling or empathy for the one he degrades. He influences those around him to objectify [the victim as well]. Presenting himself as though he is the one whose perception is the only credible one, he masterminds the demising of his victim [by] using whoever he constitutes [will] execute his purpose. Proxy recruitment or triangulation is a form of gas-lighting, otherwise known as covert abuse…It is so covert that unless your eye is trained to recognize this mode of operation it [can] go unnoticed. This is extreme malignant narcissism – the kind of narcissism that has the ambiance of a murderer per say. I call it “the narcissist web of triangulation by strangulation.” They strangle their victims through the hands of the rescuer(s). Likening it unto murder, the narcissist’s “cover up” is so discreet and subtle [that] even upon investigation and thorough discovery, sociopathic intelligence and lack of remorse seem to indicate innocence along with lack of association to the crime at hand…The [narcissist’s denial] is what makes him the monster…The victim may be screaming out in pain, yet somehow these persecutors twist a whole series of events to flatter themselves in the eyes of their rescuers. The victim being left no defense and no one who understands what literally is transpiring is murdered, hypothetically speaking. There is a slow killing of the mind and soul in progress. Picking up the pieces of their lives is difficult after this conditioning and most times, in these cases, the persecutor will have taken away all their credibility.
If they cannot paint them as a liar because the victim’s character does not lie, [then the narcissist] will paint their victims as unstable, lacking in judgement, mentally delusional or “damaged goods.” The unseen goal, even many times to the narcissist is death to the victim’s individualization.Hence, no matter what the victim does to be heard or believed, the very people who could have intervened don’t simply because they have become persecutor(s) themselves. The reality here is [that] the outsiders join in the narcissist’s parade of [neutralization/traumatization] of his or her chosen sufferer.