The term ‘grey rock’ is a popular term used to described a method of contact, and a way of being when dealing with a psychopath or malignant narcissist. Psychopaths, sociopaths and malignant narcissists thrive off narcissistic supply. As soon as they wake up in the morning they are off to get their narcissistic supply (attention, good or bad) just like a junkie goes out to find their drug of choice. Without fuel, the narcissist feels weighed down and energy-less; which is why these crazy-makers feel a desire to conjure up so much drama, and use other people’s reactions to play the victim. They need the drama and emotional reactions from other people to survive. Any attention, good or bad lifts the narcissist out of their chronic feelings of emptiness, and gives them the energy to get on with their day. Without constant supply a narcissist becomes what is considered a dilapidated narcissist.
”Narcissist’s need narcissistic supply like a junkie needs their drug of choice.”
What is the grey rock method of contact?
The theory behind ‘grey rock’ is that grey rocks are boring. They fail to attract attention, which means they are more unlikely to be bothered, and sourced out by those attracted to sparkly objects . Their unappealing, boring look, and ability to blend in makes the grey rock unique, and really quite beautiful from the point of view a man or woman wanting to escape a dangerous narcissist who keeps baiting them for a reaction.
What’s so great about the grey rock? Grey rocks remain untouchable.
The shiny, colourful rock on the other hand, stands out, and is far more appealing to the eye. The grey rock in all of its beauty gets left alone on the banks of the river to sit in solace, while the colourful rocks attract visual attention, which leaves them ripe for the picking.
Malignant narcissists love shiny, sparkly people. They love charismatic individuals, sensitive souls, exuberant people, hilarious people, highly reactive people, and those who pull the narcissist up on their terrible behaviour. Its a double edged sword, they also hate these people for their giftedness, and usually end up becoming very jealous of them. However, they love the A grade narcissistic supply they can get from these people.
What is the attraction to these personality traits? People with these personality traits stand out, and attract a lot of people (supply to a narcissist). This could be very beneficial to a narcissist.
Reactive people, emotionally charged people, and those who pull the narcissist up on their vile behaviour particularly stand out to the narcissist as potential sources of supply. Why? Because they engage. They challenge the narcissist, won’t stand for the narcissist’s rubbish, and will often lecture and prescribe advice; advice which goes in one ear and out the other over and over again.
An empath with too much patience will try to teach the narcissist (whom they often love dearly and wish the best for ) how to become a decent person. Patient co-dependent types are fantastic sources of supply, often do not know that they are being played for narcissistic supply, and fall hook line and sinker to the narcissist’s crazy-making behaviour over and over again until they finally have enough. Anybody who has fallen victim to the narcissist has engaged at one time or another, only to be told by the narcissist that their reaction is the problem, not the abuse itself.
After many years of practice, trial and error, I have learned to disengage from narcissists and have become quite skilled at using grey rock as a tactic to get them out of my life. It takes an incredible amount of practice and self-control to hone in on this skill. It truly is a skill, and takes a lot of refining to get it down pat.
The desired result
The idea behind the grey rock method is that once the victim has proved to the narcissist how boring and non-reactive they are, the narcissist will most likely move on and leave their victim alone. The victim is no longer useful and has officially become a broken toy. This is a great method to use when dealing with a narcissistic ex with whom you don’t have children. It does have successful results in co-parenting situations with a narcissist as well. However, it doesn’t fully rid the victim with children to a narcissist, of the narcissist forever.
The grey rock method can drastically reduce the impactful behaviour. Although, it can be a constant battle to keep the grey rock method of minimal contact in place in a co-parenting situation; especially if the narcissist is relentless, or is low on fuel supplies, and knows their target is capable of giving them A grade fuel supply in the form of a reaction.
So many empaths don’t even know that the person they are dealing with is a narcissist
Buying into the crazy-making is what we do when we don’t know we are dealing with a narcissistic sociopath. Victims often think they’re going insane and that they may in fact be the crazy one. It is how one thinks when they are constantly being poked and prodded to the point of feeling as though they’re about to become hysterical.
A victim rarely figures out their ex partner is a narcissist until they go in search of answers. It is in this moment that they may realise that this was all one big game, that they have been losing at the game because they didn’t know how to play the game to their advantage, and that they must now stop giving the narcissist ammunition to scapegoat them with.
I was once given the advice below from a good friend mine.
‘Its like this, the narcissist puts a hole in your boat. Then you have to go and plug it up again. Once you’ve plugged up all of the holes, the narcissist can no longer take control of your boat.’
Anybody co-parenting with a malignant narcissistic ex is going to feel as though their boat is being destroyed, which is why the grey rock method is often one of the only ways a non-narcissistic parent can plug up the holes in the boat.
Malignant narcissists in a co-parenting situation use their exes reactions against them to scapegoat them
If a malignant narcissistic ex knows they can get a reaction out of their target because they have many times before, then they will keep trying until they give them what they want. They are relentless in their pursuit of narcissistic supply. The narcissist doesn’t see their target as a person. They see them as an opportunity for fuel, which is why they may never entirely stop goading, baiting, and provoking their target into giving away a reaction, even with grey rock in place.
How does a narcissistic parent use their ability to goad you against you?
The narcissistic ex will constantly accuse their non-narcissistic ex of being unfair, mistreating them, and doing everything they can to make the narcissist’s life hard. It is just what they do. They need the narcissistic supply that playing the victim role gives them. The narcissist will turn everything around, accuse their target of doing to them what they are actually doing to their target, and will smear their ex-partner (who is probably quite a lovely person) to everybody they can.
I have heard so many stories where the malignant narcissist has used the co-parenting situation to pay the other parent back in any which way they can at every given opportunity. They usually try to turn everybody they possibly can against the non-narcissistic parent, including the children. Very often, everything the parent does with the children, for the children, or in regard to discipline with the children is put down in front of the children. This sets the parent up for negative treatment from the children, who unknowingly act out the narcissistic parent’s angst against the alienated parent.
It is all too common for a sociopathic parent to set the parent up over and over again for big reactions right in front of the children. One narcissistic parent I knew of, would call the non-narcissistic parent while in the car with the children, and leave speaker phone on for the children to hear the conversation. If the other parent became rightfully distressed over being baited and goaded on the phone, then the narcissist would use the incident to scapegoat the parent to the children. This narcissist would use manipulative body language (rolling their eyes, looking sad. and distressed) in the hope that the children would go into bat for them while the narcissist was on the phone. The alienated parent couldn’t understand (until they realised they were dealing with a narcissist) why a parent would deliberately involve the children in adult issues.
The same narcissist would show the children private emails from the other parent. They would manipulate the children into believing that the very assertive, non-abusive email was, in fact, abusive; which would again, ignite the children’s protective instinct over their dangerous parent. The children would unknowingly go against the innocent parent to protect the person in the wrong, the narcissistic perpetrator. Every opportunity possible was used by this dangerous narcissist to scapegoat the other parent to the children.
Other opportunities for narcissistic supply at the non-narcissistic parent’s expense
For example It is not uncommon for the non-narcissistic parent to be smeared to people in positions of authority by a narcissist wanting to infiltrate the children’s circle with a smear campaign against the other parent. Narcissists this malignant almost always pull out the mental health card and suggest that this parent is seriously mentally ill and has major problems.
It is not uncommon for a smeared parent to get the cold shoulder from people they don’t even know, including but not limited to, a child’s music teacher, a child’s counsellor (if they go to one), or even the child’s doctor. A narcissist wanting narcissistic supply will feign victimhood to anybody they can with a smear campaign aimed at turning everybody against an innocent victim for sympathy and allies.
What can one do? One thing a parent dealing with a sociopathic narcissist can do is to become a grey rock and take grey rock to a whole new level.
The problem with grey rock?
I’m writing this article for a friend who has been going through similar scenarios to the ones above with an ex-partner who is claiming my friend is unstable and is infiltrating their children’s circles with lies. We were discussing some of the confusion around grey rock earlier this week.
Grey rock is designed to completely starve a narcissist of their fuel supply so they can no longer affect you, or scapegoat you to such an extent that it affects your mental health and overall quality of life. When the witch was starved of narcissistic supply in the Wizard Of Oz, she melted. When a narcissist can’t get fuel from their victim, they will have no choice but to find someone else to feed off.
When implementing grey rock most people co-parenting with a malignant narcissist drop all phone contact, get a family member (if they can) to do changeovers, only engage in email contact, and only respond to the messages that they absolutely have to. These parents have as little to do with the narcissistic parent as possible. They give simple dull responses and refrain from reacting at all costs. However, a lot of people think this should be enough, and that by remaining dull and boring the narcissist will eventually stop the smear campaign and leave them alone. This is not true. Unless a victim never has to see a narcissist again, grey rock is merely a way to limit contact, and therefore reduce abuse.
When co-parenting, grey rock can be used to gain back some control over the smearing if used correctly. A victim of narcissistic abuse has to think quickly with a narcissist. Especially when it comes to utilising grey rock; because wherever they look the narcissist is trying to turn everyone against them, including the children.
How to cut the narcissist’s fuel supply
When co-parenting with a narcissist, a non-narcissistic parent must never forget that the narcissist wants to destroy their reputation at any given opportunity; which is why it is better to try to get in first before the narcissist in a grey rock kind of way when needing to organise and attend appointments such as the doctors, councillors, or an instructor. This way individuals in positions of power can make their mind up about the non-narcissistic parent without the malignant narcissist’s immediate influence. This is dependent on the situation and is easier when the children are living with the non-narcissistic parent.
A non-narcissistic parent will save themselves a lot of heartache if they plug up the holes straight away, and accept that they have to take back control of their own lives, before the narcissist has complete control over how others see them. Grey rock is all about keeping the boat leak free.
Triangulation is defined as indirect communication where one person (usually the narcissist) acts as a messenger between two others, often fabricating the message to suit the talebearer’s objective. Triangulation is commonly used by narcissists’, and it ties in with gas lighting and projection. In narcissistic families the narcissist will avoid discussing any issues they have with a targeted individual in the family unit. Instead, they will communicate with a third family member, or a few family members at one time, in regard to a problem, which normal healthy adults would be able to resolve by themselves without involving other people. The narcissist’s minions often feel compelled to become a part of the triangle in a bid to resolve the narcissist’s problems with targeted individuals. Usually, this solution to the problem ends in triangulation, anger and passive aggression.
The personality disordered mother or father is without an interpersonal tool box. They do not know how to resolve conflict, do not want to resolve conflict, enjoy drama, and will often create drama by deliberately becoming upset over trivial things which normal people simply do not become upset about. Vengeance will often be taken out against a target (which is usually one of the narcissist’s children) for trivial slights, via triangulation.
In normal families the parents act as leaders. They do not involve other people in their problems, and they deal with any problems they have with their children directly. Healthy parents do not discuss issues they have with one child, with the other children in the family. Healthy parents want their children to grow into assertive, authentic human beings who know how to handle problems head on without involving friends or family in their issues with other people.
How does the narcissistic family handle conflict?
The narcissist is no stranger to divide and conquer. With this strategy, the narcissist will sow seeds of instability between the family members, in the hope of creating havoc, and to eventually turn the entire family against a target of choice (usually the scapegoat). For this strategy to work, the narcissist must share information, or mean spirited comments (real or not), that the target has mentioned in confidence to the narcissist about their siblings. The narcissist thrives on telling each sibling how unhappy their other siblings are with them.
The narcissist uses divide and conquer day in, day out to create conflict. The narcissist is constantly twisting the words of their allies around to suit their own agenda, in the hope of emotionally harming their target. There is always a slither of truth added to the lies the narcissist tells each individual party that the other party has said about them.
Question: What happens in family situations where there is divide and conquer?
Answer: If all of the siblings feel offended by the target’s mean words, they will feel more compelled to triangulate against the target, in the hope of resolving what is now a family problem with the target.
In the narcissist’s mind, they honestly believe that if they can secure allies’ against another family member, than this family member will have no choice but to become submissive to the narcissist, and behave as the narcissist would like them to.
The narcissist doesn’t want to solve their problems directly with the many people they have a problem with. To do so would be to resolve the problem, and narcissist’s do not want to resolve problems. Instead, a narcissist will often create a problem with one of their children, the next door neighbour, or the enabling parent, just to gain attention, adoration, and sympathy from their many allies’. The narcissist feigns victimhood so well, and the narcissist’s allies’ (who are under the spell of mind control, and honestly believe they are helping) often take the problem on as though its their own, and try to fix the problem for the narcissist.
If one sibling can make the other sibling behave appropriately, (usually through aggression or anger) than the narcissist will be happy. However, all that happens here is that the attacked sibling, or enabling parent simply becomes resentful of the narcissist’s ally (usually a brother or sister, or son or daughter) because they have become involved in something that has absolutely nothing to do with them.
The narcissist’s children learn from the narcissist first hand, that the only way to handle a problem with a sibling, or parent is to gossip about this person to another family member, and to try to draw this person into the triangle.
Over time, the gossip spread about each family member behind their backs, is fed back to them through another family member. This becomes the family’s pattern of communication. Confrontation becomes something to be afraid of, which of course, results in a fear based system of communication. This fear based system of communication becomes the catalyst for passive aggressive communication which results in rage.
Where does the problem lie?
The narcissist has the emotional capacity of a three year old, which means that the leader in this family leads the children down the garden path, and ends up passing skills down to their children which will destroy the children’s future relationships. The ‘leader’ in this family is nothing more than a perpetrator, which is why this family often falls apart.
What is the problem with indirectness? Tools of the unskilled
Indirect communication between family members often leads to resentment and discontent in the narcissist’s children. When siblings find out indirectly about a problem another family member has with them through a ‘Chinese whispers’ type style of communication, the affected family member feels hurt, which is often the reason why relationships between siblings often fizzle out. Triangulation makes the narcissistic family unit an unpredictable, and frightening place to be.
Many adult children of narcissist’s eventually grow tired of the chaos that triangulation causes. They eventually realise that they cannot solve the narcissist’s problems, become tired of their own part in the dysfunction, and often walk away from an entire family, deciding that they will no longer have triangulation in their lives.
The narcissistic family’s values and belief systems are topsy turvy. In the narcissistic family set up, the children quickly learn that it is not ok to put up boundaries, behave assertively, or to resolve a problem through direct communication. Yet it is ok triangulate against loved ones, including friends and family.
It is very likely that at least one of the narcissist’s children will take on some of the trouble making behaviours passed down from the narcissist.
Venting or triangulation?
Venting to a trusted friend about an issue with another person can be very helpful, if the intent is to gain advice about resolving the problem. This is a very effective way of handling conflict resolution, and will often lead to the person enquiring, to take their friends advice, and to use it to help to resolve an ongoing problem.
However, involving other people in your problem with another person in the hope that this person will take on the problem and try to resolve it for you is called triangulation, and is one of the narcissist’s favourite tactics.
Confrontation in the narcissistic family
Confrontation is a big no no in the narcissistic family system. The narcissist’s anxiety ridden, petrified children become immune to triangulation, and will often resort to this learned behaviour through fear of confrontation. However, instead of resolving the problem, this fear of confrontation perpetuates the problem and exacerbates the issue even further.
When confronted, narcissist’s can become verbally or physically aggressive, may turn against the victim by implementing allies, and will most likely use the silent treatment to pay the victim back.
The assertive child, teenager, or adult child of the narcissist who dares to assert their needs, says no to the narcissist about an agreed upon arrangement, or challenges the narcissist’s poor behaviour will most definitely be shamed. Authentic children who speak their mind are the narcissist’s biggest fear. Hence, the reason why authentic children are almost always scapegoated, and emotionally crushed beyond belief.
The rule of thumb in this family is that you never ever confront anybody in this family unit. Children in the narcissistic family do not come out unscathed, and often suffer with some big emotional issues of their own. After all, these children have spent their entire childhoods with a narcissistic parent who exhibits a complete lack of accountability, a sense of entitlement, and who refuses at all costs to be wrong. Often the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and the narcissist’s non-narcissistic children often struggle with some of these issues in adulthood themselves.
Damned if you do and damned if you don’t
Children of narcissist’s often hand over their power, back down, and accept mistreatment, in order to stay safe from potentially harmful caregivers, or an angry, aggressive golden child.
However, the problem with backing down, and forgoing the right to assert ones needs is that this ‘child like survival mechanism’ is merely a temporary solution to a very big problem. Not discussing problems with the person concerned, and turning on them instead through triangulation is like stepping on a grenade. Inappropriate aggression, venting, and resentment from the narcissist’s minions towards those triangulated against, is the consequence of an innate fear of confrontation.
Adult children of narcissist’s often refuse to assert themselves around their peers through fear that the people they associate with will react to their assertiveness with the same outrageous response the narcissistic parent once did.
Emotionally healthy families
In emotionally healthy families, parent’s do not recruit third parties (the other siblings), or use messengers to help to settle their differences with their children. Instead, they have face to face discussions with their child, teenager, or adult child.
Emotionally healthy parent’s encourage their children to discuss their issues with one another openly and honestly. These parent’s do not gossip about their children behind their backs with the other children. Instead, they guide their children in conflict resolution.
Cognitive dissonance is an abuse tactic utilised by the narcissistic abuser to confuse the victim of abuse. To be in a state of cognitive dissonance, is to hold conflicting beliefs about the narcissistic abuser. In this state, the victim struggles to make a decision in regard to whether or not the abusive person is ok.
An abused child will experience cognitive dissonance when their abuser says one thing and does the opposite.
To be cognitively dissonant is to have two inconsistent thoughts ruminating within the mind about the person; often consistent with an overall, whole body, negative feeling about something or someone.
Why do abused children of narcissists often become afflicted with cognitive dissonance?
Children of narcissists are continually told one thing, only to experience the opposite. They may be told how loved they are, only to be abandoned when sick. They may be promised a special gift, only to be told when the gift is asked after, that they were never promised the gift.
The child becomes confused and anxious about the parent. They begin to suffer from cognitive dissonance; a very uncomfortable, whole body feeling, which completely takes over the child’s mind and body. Of course, the child often turns the feeling back onto themselves, and blames themselves for the abuse, in an effort to remain attached to their abusive parent.
‘Are they nice? Or are they cruel? Why do they do such lovely amazing things for me, and than hit me? Oh, it must be me that brings the worst out in my parents. Why else would they hit me, than provide for me so well?’
Who is vulnerable to cognitive dissonance?
Small children are especially vulnerable to cognitive dissonance because their minds are not yet developed enough to put two and two together. In fact, anyone, no matter what their age, can be vulnerable to cognitive dissonance abuse tactics. Unless of course, they are extremely intuitive, and knowledgable about narcissistic abuse.
Cognitive dissonance abuse examples:
What does cognitive dissonance feel like?
Cognitive dissonance is a horrible feeling for children to endure, because it leaves them in a state of confusion, limbo, and discomfort. They don’t know which way to turn, or what to do. Do they dismiss the behaviour, and travel on? Or do they accept that their parent is sick, and make plans to leave as soon as they are of age?
Victims of cognitive dissonance often feel as though they are going crazy, turn the cognitive dissonance back onto themselves, blame themselves for it, and believe it is just one more factor which proves that they are the crazy, unstable person.
Researchers believe that the awful feelings associated with cognitive dissonance are the very reason why abuse victims continue to stay in the relationship with the abuser.
How do children of narcissists soothe cognitive dissonance?
Abused children often make excuses for the abusive parent in order to release the anxiety they feel due to cognitive dissonance; all so as they can stay in the relationship with the parent.
The decision the victim often takes is the pathway offering less emotional pain. For victims of abuse, its all about safety; emotional and physical. If they can do everything within their power to please the abuser, instead of angering the abuser, they will be safe. So, they often turn a blind eye to the abuse, deny what they believe could be the truth, convince themselves that its all in their head, and make the decision to believe that their abusive parent really does love them.