The Wheel

It’s Narcissist Friday!  


I recently discovered something many of you may already know about: the Power and Control Wheel. This may be a very helpful tool to print out and share with others who are trying to understand the reality of abuse other than physical or sexual. It’s from a group in Duluth, Minnesota, called “Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs.” I know little about the group, but I think their illustrations look helpful.


I might have some things to add to the wheel. For example, under “Isolation” I would add moving away from family. And for our purposes, I might remove the words “Physical VIOLENCE Sexual” on the top and bottom of the wheel. I suspect their point is that these kinds of control often lead to violence, but it may be misleading for some. Many of the folks we deal with have experienced neither type of violent abuse, but are still truly abused by their narcissists. You might see other things you would add or change.

All in all, I think this could be very helpful as something to give a person you suspect is a victim.

Another wheel has been produced in contrast to the Power and Control Wheel. The word is overused and loaded with political connotations, but it is called “The Equality Wheel.” It gives a contrasting picture to show what a loving and reciprocal relationship would look like.


From time to time I hear from people who wonder if their relationship is abnormal. As they describe what happens, it is easy for me to see that theirs is a broken and, possibly, narcissistic relationship. But they can’t see it as clearly. When you are in the midst of this kind of relationship, perhaps for many years, you simply see what is normal for you. The verbal and emotional abuse is just part of your life. Or if you come from a narcissistic home, you may not realize that this kind of cruelty isn’t something everyone experiences.

But it isn’t. Many people have good relationships with family, friends, and spouses. The pain suffered in narcissistic relationships is not normal, nor is it right. Maybe these wheels will help someone to see that their pain indicates that something is wrong.

I could see someone giving these to a friend, perhaps to explain your own spousal or friendship relationship. Or maybe you have the opening to ask the person to examine their own relationships in this light. Maybe someone will have the courage to copy these and post them on the church bulletin board. 😉


You should be able to click on these jpg files to enlarge them or to print them for your use.   I would love to know your thoughts about how you might use them.


There is blanket permission on the website to copy and distribute these images. The site is:


Filed under Narcissism

25 responses to “The Wheel

  1. Love this post and the “Equality Wheel”! First time I’ve seen it, but a very good way of contrasting normal vs abusive relationships! Reblogging this ❤
    (Oh, for anyone reading this comment, please don't try to show these to your abusive partner. It would likely set you up for a nasty character attack, or even aggression).

  2. Reblogged this on Let Me Reach with Kim Saeed and commented:
    David scores another bulls-eye! I don’t re-blog very often, but this one is share-worthy. If you’ve already seen the Power and Control Wheel, this blog post includes the new Equality Wheel. A wonderful visual to help in determining which kind of relationship you have with your partner. I would like to add, though, don’t try showing these to your partner if they’ve shown the signs of emotional or physical abuse. It won’t end in well…

  3. crashdavis777

    Thank you for this post it helped me. If I can add one thing narcissism comes in degrees with these people and some are worse than others. Some you will only experience some of these things and others are full blown narcissist, and you experience the whole wheel of abuse. It’s is a relief to find out that I had narcissism in my family and was conditioned to this, and that you need to know why you keep having the same relationship over and over, I might have never figured it out and I am thankful I did. The bible says have nothing to do with this type of personality, and I see why, I am sorry for these lost sheep they need help, but there seems to be no way to help them.

    • Where does the bible say this? I’d like to read it as I thought the bible was all about turning the other cheek.

      • Mark

        I Cor 5:9-11
        9 I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; 10 I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. 11 But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one.

        Now, this passage is speaking directly about professing Christians whose life contradicts their profession. There are conclusions that can be drawn from clarifications of the law. For example, Jesus says that the commandment against murder covers a spectrum of offenses, down to calling your brother a fool. If you apply the same logic to ‘self defense’, then people have the right to defend themselves in appropriate ways from things like name calling and disrespect.

        I think we make the biggest fuss over the most unclear passages. Jesus often spoke in hyperbole. For example, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:26). My question is, if you are going to interpret “turn the other cheek” literally, then why don’t you interpret hating your own father and mother literally?

      • Trying To Understand

        Thanks for that Mark. Does that mean we should shun alcoholics, or are we not meant to take it literally?

      • Mark

        I think the big takeaway I’ve gotten from the Bible in the last ten years is that each situation is different. I think our sinful nature wants a sin checklist (I was there) that we can know for absolute certain what we should and should not do in every situation. But I find that confidence less and less in the Bible. I find that there are overarching principles and the call for us to trust God to provide us with lots and lots of wisdom to apply those principles in various situations. I knew everything about marriage and parenting until I got married and had kids. Not surprisingly, those who have the most to say in our marriage class in church are the singles.

        Look at movies. Some want to say all movies are evil. Some want to come up with a Christian rating system of which movies are safe to watch. Then you have movies that are considered safe for kids vs. those that only adults should watch. Then, some people are more affected by the content of the movies – some violence, some sexual content, some the philosophy or the attitudes expressed in the movies.

        Don’t get me wrong, I think sin is clear to God and the Bible gives us the direction we need to understand it, but our sinful natures are so devoid of spiritual wisdom that we struggle to apply Biblical principles correctly. This is specifically why we need to avoid prooftexting (i.e. picking one verse out of context as a spiritual baseball bat to beat others into submission).

        To your specific question, there are really two questions. First, what is “association” and second, what people are in the group? Paul makes a distinction between associating with “the immoral people of this world” and “so-called brothers”. My opinion is that our association with brothers is one of trust and openness, and our association with the world is one of protection and concern. We expect our churches to be “safe” and we expect the world to be unsafe. We expect our Christian brethren to be “safe” and we expect non-Christians to be unsafe. How that applies specifically to how we interact with them is a matter of wisdom, but Paul is saying there’s a difference.

    • UnForsaken

      Trying To Understand, I don’t know much about interpretation, but the word ‘drunkard’ here seems to mean something more like ‘ willful partier or carouser’, not an addict subject to the substance.

  4. Eleanor

    Thanks for the input Dave! I have seen similar wheels and agree they are very helpful tools to help people “see” what’s going on in a relationship. I have personally found them helpful.
    As someone who has , until recently, suffered in a long term emotionally abusive marriage, I have found that sometimes the categories are pitched at the more extreme end of behaviours and I think people may think “oh that’s not me” which is what you were also getting at in your follow on comments. For example under “coercion” it would be helpful to have something about relentlessly nagging until you give in to what they want – this could be about anything but is particularly damaging in the arena of sexual intimacy.
    I would like to see another wheel that is the next progression on from equality.. what does a thriving, healthy relationship look like? Perhaps things like ‘rejoices/ delights in the other person ‘celebrates their differences’ could be in there. What would others include in such a wheel?

  5. St.Pat

    Long time reader, first time commenting. I just wish there were a gender-neutral version of the wheel. I first saw this illustration a month ago as I (the husband) went into a domestic violence evaluation because of the false charges my narcissistic wife has leveled at me during our divorce proceeding. As it turned out, my evaluator believed everything my wife told him and I have been recommended for DV treatment. She has also been required by the court to undergo mental health assessment (which is a rarity in these cases) so when she has completed that it will probably change the court’s view of my DV eval. But this wheel is so centered around the abusive man, that many people forget that there are woman narcissists too. I’m sure that’s the case with the fellow who evaluated me. And it’s not just a matter of changing everything from “her” to “him” – female narcissists have a different set of characteristics, they are less physically violent and more emotionally abusive.

    Just the same, thanks for posting Dave. I cherish your Friday posts as they are helpful and reassuring that others understand!

    • Pat, thank you for this comment. You are certainly right. The folks who made these wheels admit that there are many narcissistic women, but say that most abusers are men. Rather than make the wheel generic, they chose to address the overt and violent abuse. Interestingly, even though far more women post here about their N husbands, it seems to me that most of those who refer to N parents indicate an N mother. Like you, I think women tend to be more covert. Much of this is what our culture expects and allows.

      So, here’s an idea: how about putting together a chart to help men identify narcissistic abuse in marriage or intimate relationships? I would certainly be willing to work on such a thing with you. If you aren’t interested, I might do it myself, but I would present it here for input.

      • Kitkat

        My narcissistic now ex-friend is a woman. And she is definitely more covert, which makes it all the more difficult to see what she really is. I think this is a great idea. I looked at the wheel and there definitely is room to add things specific to women Ns. But I don’t know if you should make it gender neutral, or if should be done as typical N male and typical N female. This would be so helpful for people who experience a narcissistic personality for the first time.

  6. Thank you for this 🙂

  7. That equality wheel sounds too good to be true. It is completely what I expected when entering into marriage; not at all what I found when I got there; and exactly what I was told was unrealistic by my husband, older women in the church, and our marriage counselor.
    Relationships like that really can exist? I almost wish I didn’t know it was possible, because it seems so unfair that such a relationship isn’t meant for me. (I’m in a lonely and selfish mood tonight. I want that. I want to share a life with someone. I love the comment above about delighting in one another–just being interested in and happy to be doing life with someone else. But it seems it just isn’t meant for me. When loneliness hits, that’s a hard reality to face with contentment.)
    And I experienced every single segment of the abuse wheel. I still can’t understand why no one else was willing to call it abuse for 18 years, until I said it myself after finding a list of the continuums of abuse online and seeing a pattern between my husband as abuser and me as a PTSD sufferer.

    I can’t regain those lost years, or dismiss the damage that was done. But there’s still grief over having all my youth spent that way, just staying alive and hoping it would get better, become that ideal if I just worked at it hard enough.

  8. Calendula

    Living it was, as long as I spent my focus time and energy stretching myself beyond human capacity to make sure he was attended to.
    That meant cooking, cleaning, sexually, social graces to his friends and family, worrying if he is comfortable, stressing, needs a ride, needs a glass of water….not only was it endless, it was also incrementally increasing.
    It got to where he would need 3 or 4 wives to perform at the level I was performing at, until my soul burst apart and hemhorraged under the burden. Naturally, that was not acceptable to him, but when he carried on with his demanding, begging, and threats, I looked at his antics like a store clerk watches a baby in a retail shop throw himself on the floor and wail from not getting a candy today.
    The point is that perhaps each section of the wheel could imply the acceleration of each of these behaviors. Maybe mention how it becomes a black hole of of you giving and their taking, then demanding more. About how whatever you just busted your hump to make happen was never enough, or with the right attitude, or at the right moment, or in the right color. How they have to keep your stomach in a knot worried about how you could actually please them next time, if only, if only, if only.

  9. Ann

    Pastor Dave: “I might have some things to add to the wheel. For example, under “Isolation” I would add moving away from family.”

    We always lived away from family. Came home once every one to two years for a holiday, but made quite a few of the visits miserable for me. Everything from being pushed to the side while he sought out attention from my family, speaking in charming tones to the women to out right verbal abuse and physical intimidation. I asked him to please look for a job back near my parents, because they were in their early 80’s; he always made some excuse why we couldn’t live there. He told me after 20+ years of marriage that actually he hated going to visit my parents and would never want to live in the north. Then when a job opportunity HE wanted came along, all of a sudden living in the north was no problem and it was plenty of states away from my family. He never kept me from friends or going places where we lived, but my large extended family, the people other than my children that meant the most to me, he kept me from them.

  10. Mark

    Not sure where to post it, but I’m starting to look at some of the tools of church abuse. Two weeks ago, I was listening to Paul David Tripp pontificate about anger in marriage. His point was if your anger isn’t pure desire for the Kingdom of God, then your anger is sinful. 10 years ago, I would have sucked this up, but that day I actually spoke out against that logic. The elders apparently sucked it up because they swarmed me after the video to tell me that I was a horrible husband, a great sinner and that I had no right to respect. I got them trapped in a logical circle, which of course they couldn’t answer, but they couldn’t accept either. The reason is that one of the best tools of oppression is equivocation. In this case, we equivocate on the meaning of sin.

    You see, sin practically has two definitions. Just as there is the visible and invisible church, there is visible and invisible sin. But, the Bible doesn’t explicitly talk about either. It took centuries to develop the idea that theologically the Bible makes these divisions.

    So, when we talk about selfishness and selflessness, we are talking about hidden sins. But, that selfishness and selflessness can come out in different ways. I don’t think there’s a magic formula. If I’m selfish, but express my anger in terms of the “Kingdom of God”, I’m still selfish. If I’m selfless, but express my anger in terms of “disrespect”, I’m still selfless. The trap is that we know that our sinful nature is sinful, so church leadership can always construe any action we take as sin (e.g. selfishness).

    The question I asked, then, is whether anyone can ever meet Tripp’s standard. No matter how concerned for the Kingdom of God I am, there is always going to be some amount of selfishness in my anger, so how is that not sin? On the flipside, even if my anger is mostly selfish, there is still some truth to the fact that we are created in the image of God and that being disrespected is, in fact, against the Kingdom of God. How can we say that this anger is sinful? They can’t answer the question because it requires them to divide external action from internal thought, and it even requires them to recognize that our desires are a mixture of sin and non-sin, instead of somehow being black and white.

    • Mark, I would love to talk with you about this directly. I have found this to be a manipulative tool and have some thoughts about its use and ways to counter it. You are welcome to contact me at dave at orrison dot net.

  11. UnForsaken

    This is a great tool, but so generalized we have to stretch the mind a little – or a lot – for each individual person. Ns know how to be whatever works, and that can look So different in various situations.

    But it’s a good start. I had to read it several times to realize my covert N has shown all but the coercion and using children. ( I wouldn’t put it past him if they were in the picture.) But on first reading I thought only male privilege applied. It doesn’t really hit the ‘milder’ forms, so perhaps a seperate wheel for them would be good. However, it helped a lot to have the Ns goal of Power and Control being at the center.

    I’m with you Repol, on the ‘equality’ wheel looking totally amazing! My sister says these should be the basics, which explains why she is such a jewel to me. Yes, relationships like that can exist ! I think they blow us away because we aren’t used to seeing people seek Christ first toward another person. It’s O.K. to regret. Remember the possiblity for you to have an equal relationship is 50% higher because of Your wonderful spirit. Take hope!

    • Thank you, Unforsaken. You are so kind and optimistic.

      I think I’m just in some stage that involves acceptance that the past was a lie, and grief over something… broken ideals? Lost time? Uncertainty?
      Hard to believe, on this side of an N relationship, that people consider those on the equality wheel “the basics,” but I do remember that I used to think that way, expect it. The N can erode everything a little at a time. I can’t believe how much my thinking changed just to try to keep the relationship together and survive in it. It was a slow but steady fade.

  12. Trying To Cope

    Every day I wonder is the relationship abnormal…Every day I wonder is it me that’s abnormal and every day i am convinced it is him that is abnormal.

    I am the discarded one. Every day I am made to feel like I am not worthy of speaking to. Just me. Every one else is worthy. The mind game here is as some of you have heard me say…the people that are worthy of his presence now, he used to back stab. It has played a horrible mind game on me and I can’t break free. My N is in the work place. I refuse to give up my way to support my family just to avoid him.

    This wheel does an excellent job showing the way things should be. Of course in this instance the N is at work so some of the examples do not apply. But I think any tool that can help someone assertain if this is normal or am I going crazy is a good tool.

    Today Was a horrible day and my soul took a trampling. I don’t know why I let it get to me. My friend no longer feels I am worthy of being spoken too. I am hurt beyond words that one human being would do this to another. Some days he acts almost normal…crazy making I’ve learned. I just want so much to not care. To be able to turn the other cheek. I have learned here that confrontation is useless. And it is. What I can’t learn here is why me? Why would someone pretend to be a friend and then just quit without warning. i’m hurt. I know I know the answer I have well over a year of wondering how someone could do this. So a good year later and I am still miffed and hurt and he is toying with me. You have all given me great tools to try and cope. Today I just couldn’t i am asking for strength. I don’t want to quit my job but I am sick of being made to feel like dirt on the soal of your shoe. My self worth has just taken a beating. I pray for strength, wisdom, guidance. And to all of you that I know suffer way worse that I…Be strong my friends. We all fight our own kind of battle but it is against the same enemy it seems at times. Trying to cope is not coping well today.

    • Ann

      Why do you call this person a friend?
      I think your getting tripped up thinking “the old him” was *truly that good*; he wasn’t, you were played, duped, pure and simple. You care for a phantom. You loved a liar. And he continues to play you with ignoring you. Cut this person out of your circle of care. This cannot be good for your marriage; your family probably senses your pain and sadness over this loser. Stop lying to yourself—-you do *not* need him. Have you no other friends at work? Is there one person there you can at least have casual conversations with?

  13. Kitkat

    I agree with Ann. He wasn’t really your friend. I am in the same boat, however, I have determined to wash my hands of this false friend. I am getting rid of everything that she has ever given to me, so that there are no reminders. There is now no contact, whatsoever. I know this is hard for you as you work with the guy. But try to view him as a non existent person. When he comes into a room be very clinical, no emotion, because for you, he must not exist. Build friendships with other people. No one should have that much control in your life that he is your only friend. Are there other people in your office that have trouble with this same guy?? I also would seek some counseling from an outside source to help you deal with this situation. You need to find out why this guy means so much to you, what need he was filling in you that you can’t let go of him. If you saw someone physically abusing someone would you have anything to do with them? Would you want them back into your life?? You must look at this the same way, he is an abuser. He takes great joy in watching you suffer. You must not let him know how you feel and you must cut the emotional tie you seem to have with him. It is not real, it never was real. Concentrate on your home life, your husband and family. I hope you find the peace of mind that you seek.

  14. Kitkat

    One other thing, Trying to Cope, you are worthy! The Lord sacrificed Himself for you, and His acceptance of you makes you worthy, Period! If there was one thing that I wish someone would speak on, is who we are in Christ. Pastor Dave, hint, hint. I believe that so much of the hurt we feel would be less bothersome, if we truly knew how much the Lord loves and cherishes us. We need to function from the perspective of knowing who we really are. It is a place of great power and love. But it is hard when in this life our vision is clouded and we need that extra touch of warmth, just to reassure us that we are truly loved by someone. So we reach out to something tangible that we can relate to in this life, our friends and family. But God is Spirit, and we must be His hands and heart to those that are hurting. And when we are deceived by the evil and evil people in this life we must rest in the knowledge that God is the only true lover of our souls and we should put no other before Him. Because when you do, they are taking the place that belongs to Him and Him alone. May God’s Great Grace care for us all.

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