Hi everyone, it’s the holiday season. That means that if you have a narcissistic parent or another family member, they are going to try to suck you back into their toxic family dynamic. Today we are going to talk about what is hoovering, what can we do if we are low or no contact and the narcissist tries to suck us back in, and what can we do if we are alone on the holidays.
The terms narcissistic, sociopathic, or psychopathic are not being used as a diagnosis. These terms are being used as descriptors of patterns of behaviors that are exhibited by individuals. This blog is not intended to diagnose or treat anyone. This blog is strictly for awareness and educational purposes.
What is hoovering in narcissistic abuse?
Hoovering - the term hoovering is a metaphor for a vacuum cleaner that will suck you back into the relationship with the abuser(s) - is a form of emotional abuse and emotional blackmail. Narcissists often use this form of manipulation to control their victims and manipulate their ability to stay no contact or even to establish some boundaries, like staying low or limited contact, to keep their sanity.
A narcissist can either:
1) Shame you, which will cause you to feel guilt, remorse, and sometimes fear. This involves blackmail and pushing your buttons to make sure you are triggered, invalidated, and it also possibly includes a smear campaign and slander against your name. This is often a hoover technique to suck you back into the abuse by causing an aggressive and angry reaction, which quickly gives the narcissist supply.
2) They will love bomb you to give you the validation they know you’ve been searching for, which in turn may make you think that the narcissist has changed their ways. The narcissist will pretend that nothing has happened and will send you gifts, write letters filled with confusion as to why you aren’t talking to them, and love bomb you with words you’ve desperately wanted to hear for years. The narcissist knows what you have been wanting for years. They did not spend time reflecting on what happened in the past and thought they should change. The narcissist just chooses to ignore your wants and needs as a human being because they, themselves, always come first in their mind.
Holiday hoovering is a narcissistic person's specialty, when you have gone no contact or low contact. Holidays are perfect opportunities, in the narcissist's eyes, to try to guilt trip, love bomb, and shame you back into contact where the narcissist has gained control. Hoovering can begin if you’ve been no contact for a few days or even several years. Navigating through holidays, birthdays, or special events can be difficult and even triggering, until we learn how to effectively shut out the narcissist - if that is our goal.
What do I do if I am being hoovered when I am low contact?
For whatever reason you are remaining in low contact with a narcissist, you are still allowed to decline family events - even the holidays. You are not obligated to attend events with family. You can always say that you have work, you’re sick, you’re not feeling up to it this year, or not respond at all. It’s important to know the narcissist and what their typical behavior is. If it is risky for you to decline, gray rocking is the best option. Keep all conversations surface-level. The narcissist needs to know nothing about your personal life. If they ask, “How’s work?”
You can say, “it’s good.”
“It's the same as it always is,”
Then you direct the conversation to them. Ask them how they are. What is happening in their life? With narcissists with a lot of grandiosity, they will love that the spotlight is on them. Let them have it and let yourself have that bit of peace until you’re able to go home. If this doesn’t work, remain short-worded, and don’t give out too much information about yourself. Maybe suggest watching a movie or something that can take the attention off you, if that’s something you’re able to do. If you are overwhelmed, ask to go to the bathroom. Even if you don’t need to use the bathroom, it can give you some time to relax if you feel like you will react to the toxicity of the narcissist.
What do I do if I am being Hoovered and I’m no contact?
If you are being hoovered by a narcissistic family member - and their flying monkeys - the best response is no response. You are no contact. you are not obligated to respond or contact biological or nonbiological parents and family members if they have harmed you in any way, shape, or form.
This is really hard.
We are feeling guilt, anger, sadness, pain, regret, and other emotions bottled into one. It’s hard to function - especially if this is your first holiday no contact. Let me tell you that it gets better. This is just the withdrawal. We have to remember that holidays with the narcissist are harmful to us and we are protecting ourselves. We are not punishing anyone. We are protecting ourselves and possibly our children from toxicity.
What should i do if the narcissist sends me something for the holidays while no contact?
If the narcissist sends you mail or presents, don’t return to sender. That is another form of contact in the narcissist’s eyes. Negative shutdowns often drive narcissistic behavior and can cause the narcissist to grow frustrated, angry, and even more bitter than they already are.
You can keep the gift if you would like, re-gift gifts they send, give them to goodwill, or donate somewhere else to someone who may need whatever was gifted to you. If the narcissist has sent cards with money and you are no contact, do not cash checks. They will be able to see that on their bank statement. That will be seen as a “response." You are also not required to even open the cards or gifts. You can just throw them away if you want.
But personally, I keep the Hoover cards I get. They are not only evidence, but they can be powerful reminders of why you are no contact. You can see their fake efforts of trying to show you love. You can see them ignoring responsibility for their actions. The choice is yours to keep the Hoover cards or if you want to toss them out. Choose what gives you power.
You are now in control.
What do I do if I’m alone during the holidays?
If you are alone for the holidays, you can begin to make your own traditions. You don’t have to celebrate at all if it feels weird to you. Sometimes it can take a while before you begin to feel okay to celebrate without feeling triggered by the dates. It’s okay to take your time. Everyone is at a different stage of recovery. You will get there soon if you aren’t already.
Remember that pets are family and supportive friends can be family too.
Stay safe during this difficult time. Know that you are never obligated to people who have harmed you.