How to Handle the DARVO Method

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    DARVO is an acronym that stands for deny, attack and reverse victim offender. It’s a very effective tactic for a narcissist as it can confuse the Hell out of their victims and can shame, sometimes even frighten them into silence. So the following are just some ideas that you might find helpful. And as I’ve said in previously, particularly around managing boundaries, whatever you do, it begins with being very careful and making sure you’re safe. Because sometimes you could just be dealing with the kind of person who wets the bed and blames the blanket. Other times, you could be dealing with someone who is vindictive, callous and sadistic.

    And sometimes there is no way of telling how a narcissistic person will react to being challenged. So you always make sure you’re safe. This is not about trying to antagonise anyone. Secondly, and I think this is an important point, this isn’t about winning. If you’re thinking about trying to win you probably won’t. You won’t in the sense that a narcissistic person is not going to accept any evidence you may have. They can be very elusive when it comes to accepting responsibility. The reality of their behaviour is just maybe too shameful for them.

    Their defence mechanisms kick in so they will reject whatever you say whatever you have against them outright and go on the attack. So it’s not about winning. It’s about showing that DARVO doesn’t work on you anymore. And I’m not going to claim that any of this is easy, because it isn’t. It hurts to be lied to, to be manipulated, devalued, invalidated, even threatened. So somethings that might make it easier is to not expect them to change, not to accept that they were wrong or to acknowledge their behaviour. If they were to that might cause a narcissistic collapse, hence the defence mechanisms.

    Also try to find safety and support from people who care about you. People who will listen to you, advise you, validate you and encourage you. Now this could be in therapy. It could be from friends, family, support groups, even online forums. Utilise whatever support you can get. And also be kind and compassionate towards yourself. There is no shame in having been on the wrong end of a narcissist, there is no shame in being lied to or lied about.

    So when it comes to dealing with the DARVO method, probably your greatest asset is knowledge. In other words, you know the strategy, DARVO. They will deny it. They will attack you, they will attack the evidence. They will claim that you are bullying them. They are being victimised. You know the pattern which prepares you for what’s to come. And when they are employing this tactic, they will try to make it about you, about your character, about your personality. Try to remember it isn’t because they will do this with anyone, so try not to personalise it.

    And you keep that knowledge in mind. There’s less chance they are going to blind side you. There’s less chance they will suck you into a word salad, circular reasoning argument that there’s no way you can win. And remember, you can pick your battles. You do not have to engage at all. You leave them as they are, they are what they are. But if you do have to engage, for example, you have to point out their behaviour, then you state your case. You be brief, factual, to the point. You don’t necessarily give an explanation. Because remember a common tactic with narcissism is to pretend they don’t know what you’re talking about. The more you explain yourself they’re behaving as if this is news to them. The more information you give, the more you explain, the less they understand, and that could drive anyone insane. And it also gives them more ammunition, more things to pick holes in, more things to attack you.

    If you have to repeat anything, just say the same thing again using your best customer care tone of voice. Don’t try to reword it in the hope they will understand. If they’re using DARVO they probably already do understand. If you re word it they might claim that you’re changing your story, you’re lying, or you’re confusing them even further. So don’t fall for it. And expect the denial. Of course they’re going to deny it. The D in DARVO stands for deny. If know you think about it, they could be covered in chocolate, it’s all over their face. You ask,  “Did you eat the chocolate?” they will say, “No.” It doesn’t matter how ridiculous they look or sound. But once they deny it, you know what’s going to come next, and that’s the attack.

    You expect them to attack your character, your memory, your motives, your mental health. They will pull anything out of the bag they can. They will play on your insecurities, your doubts, your past errors, mistakes, even your regrets. Remember the attacks are aimed at shutting you down. Now if you said what you need to say, you don’t necessarily have to go any further. You can disengage from there. But if you do have to continue, then it’s the same thing. You’re brief, you’re factual to and to the point using your customer care tone of voice. Try to stay focused on the issue at hand regardless of what they come back with. This can be difficult, especially if others are present, but try not to defend yourself against their allegations. Don’t try to get into it a debate, they will probably accuse you of gaslighting. Try not to get into an argument, especially one with raised voices, they will use that as evidence of you being abusive. Keep bringing it back to the actual issue.

    Next is the role reversal from them being the aggressor to them being the victim. Now if you have maybe set boundary, for instance, you tell them the only communication has to be in written form or maybe with a neutral third party present. Then you stick to it. Now to them this will make you unreasonable, it will make you unfair, it will make you controlling. Remember DARVO relies heavily on emotive language. It relies on emotive behaviour in order to shame, guilt trip, sometimes even threaten. Let me put it to you this way, pointing out their actions, the impact of their actions, setting a boundary, to them is the most cruel, selfish, unkind, evil thing anyone could ever do to a fellow human being. If they honestly think that that’s being unreasonable, then just be unreasonable.

    Again, as hard as it is stand your ground and hold onto your integrity. Disengage if you have to. Remember it’s not about winning, it’s just about showing them that DARVO doesn’t work. You’ve made your point. You set your boundary whether they accept it or not. Now another thing that DARVO relies on is the victims fear of other people’s opinions. And this can be a very painful thing to deal with. I often think that’s why narcissistic people often threaten their victims they’re going to tell other people about them. But the things they threatened to tell are often false allegations. But they threaten to contact their victims friends, family, workplaces, they threaten to put things out there on social media.

    They’re relying on the victims fear of a loss of status, not being believed, being rejected, and the fear of being isolated even further. Which is why I said at the beginning, make sure you have a good support network around you. If you were in a long term relationship or an environment, we were psychologically and emotionally abused for a long period of time you might recognise the abuser often used others to triangulate and to mob you, to further their narrative, to carry out the abuse on their behalf. These people are commonly referred to as flying monkeys. Again, this might be difficult, but it might be prudent to minimise the contact with their supporters as much as possible. Now that might have to mean coming off social media, or maybe blocking some people on social media so that you don’t have to look at their comments. Again, yes it can hurt like Hell when your character is being assassinated, but sometimes keeping that distance is the best thing to do to help with your recovery.

    What you’re doing is you’re minimising the effect of the blame shifting, you’re not wasting energy in defending yourself against lies. You’re putting that energy into where it needs to be, into your recovery, into managing your boundaries.

    And lastly, a lot of people find it helpful to keep a record of what has happened or what has been happening. Now you might never do anything with those records, you’re certainly under no obligation to show them to anyone, but they can help keep you sane. That could be keeping a diary. It could be keeping screenshots of messages, keeping texts, emails, anything. Because when things are denied, whenever you’re being blamed, whenever the evidence of your own eyes and ears is being called into doubt you have a record of things that help keep you grounded and keep things in perspective.

    So lastly to summarise, the best way to deal with the DARVO method is to first of all know what it is, how it works, what it relies on, and how to counter it appropriately. You stay safe, you don’t antagonise. You utilise every bit of support that you can muster. He accept they are what they are, you accept they will deny it. You don’t engage with the attacks and you avoid the role reversal. You stand your ground, you keep your integrity, maintain your character and try to minimise the impact of other people’s opinions of you. And as I say it can be easier when you don’t have to go through it alone.

    This article was written by sentientcounselling