Dragon Provocations

It’s Narcissist Friday!

In the new land, you are determined to be strong and to control your story. This isn’t going to be like it was, where you were confused and frightened and manipulated. Now, you are going to be in control.

But the dragon whispers lies. You hear him. He lies to you and to those around you. He does things and blames you, even now. And it gets under your skin. No matter how hard you try to let the lies and the jabs slide off, they still hurt. It seems like the dragon can whisper his lies and taunts without anyone challenging him.

Finally, you respond. You pull your sword to strike the dragon in your anger, but you have little skill. You frighten others, maybe even hurt someone. Now others think you are the dragon. And the dragon laughs.


I’ve watched it happen in my office. I’ve read it in your stories. I’ve felt it in my own experience. I call it “provoking.”

Push, poke, prod. Antagonize, lie, cheat, steal, twist words, and more. The death of a thousand cuts. You feel it coming. Each time you seem to grow smaller. Each time the narcissist seems to gain a little ground.

Friends tell you what they heard, and they wonder if it’s true. You wonder how many others don’t come to you because they believe the lie. The people around you watch as the narcissist “teases” and jabs with little criticisms and cuts, but you say nothing. They wonder if the narcissist is right simply because you didn’t defend yourself.

The purpose of provocation is to move someone to a regretful action. The provoker (or provocateur) does not want to be the one who is seen in a negative light. He/she knows just what to say or do, and just how often or how much, to get you to do something negative. And it usually works.

You finally crack, or break, or blow up. You deny the truth, and the narcissist points out your lie. You cuss, and others hear you demean yourself. You threaten, and the narcissist has the recording. Whatever it is, the narcissist is ready.

It might be in public. You say or do something others see. It might confirm what the narcissist has been saying about you. It might be something even worse. But the provoker will jump on your words or actions to point the finger at you. He/she will tell everyone that the case against you was right after all. Or maybe he/she will just step back and let everyone else judge you as angry, or mean-spirited, or crazy.

It’s a disgusting tactic, but one that is very effective. That’s why narcissists use it so often. If you are the crazy one or the evil one, then anything the narcissist has done will either be ignored or justified. No one will remember what the narcissist has done because the light is shining on you. And the narcissist laughs. That was the plan all along.

After the narcissistic relationship is over, the narcissist will want to look good. The primary way to do that is to make you look bad. If the game is going to end, the narcissist will want to be able to start a new game with someone else. Besides, if you are strong enough to stand up for yourself, the narcissist will want to hurt you. Bringing you down makes him feel better about himself.

It is important for us to understand how well this provocation works. Few of us are able to handle the poking and lies forever. Because the narcissist is ruthless, playing by no rules but his own, and persistent, he/she will usually get satisfaction. We will break, and we will do or say something we regret.

And we do regret those things. We wish we had been able to stop ourselves. We held back for so long; why not just a little longer? Why did we make that post, say those words, do that thing? We blame ourselves, and there is no way to excuse or explain or take back what we did. The narcissist won. Again.

So, what do we do now? Listen: you move on. You stop beating yourself up. It is not unusual for evil to win, not in your life or in history. Those who are willing to manipulate others to make themselves look and feel good often get what they want. It was not your weakness or brokenness that let them win; it was their cruelty and cold-bloodedness. They worked hard to break you, and they are strong.

But that thing you said or did does not define you! You are not crazy. You are not mean. You are not what the narcissist says you are. Fixing this might be hard, and some people may turn their backs, but you must refuse to let it stop you. Pick yourself up; dust yourself off. Keep going.

And when you are in the position to watch someone else finally crack, give them grace. Understand what has happened. Ask yourself if this is consistent with who you know this person to be. Then don’t turn away. Even if you are the one hurt by the explosion, be strong enough to continue to give support.

I think this “dragon provocation” is one of the most despicable tools in the narcissist’s arsenal, but we see it almost everywhere. Learn to recognize it when it happens to you or to others, and be quick to give grace.


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10 responses to “Dragon Provocations

  1. MapleRose

    My heart is pounding just remembering all the times I went through this. Only God helped me stay sane through it all. A very insightful post.

  2. This post is basically the story of my life, for so many years.

  3. Darlene

    One of the hardest things to do is not react to triangulation. But it is one of the most rewarding skills when you master it. 🙂 It’s my super power now.

  4. Wow! This is true in our lives with narcissistic people and it’s true in these times on our national stage as well. It all fits.

  5. kwondercheck

    Do you do podcast interviews? I’m almost finished with Give Her Wings Academy and started a Non Profit with fellow NA Survivor. Our website is: https://hangingontohope.org/

    Would love to interview you on our podcast. Thanks for your time.

  6. Sue

    Terrific article. Seeing this play out…and it’s gonna get worse and stay worse for awhile.

  7. Z

    Thank you Pastor Dave. This post is so filled with truths and deep insight into the evil of narcissistic abuse as well as the anguish of being their target. It doesn’t end with going No Contact. It probably never ends because narcissists can’t take the rejection of No Contact!
    A target can’t win! The lies, smears, false accusations, the abandonments of people who believe the lies-even though I have never reacted or responded to ANY of the narsissists’ tactics except for previously going No Contact for long periods, then accepting and forgiving their false apologies many times, only to be hoovered into the abuses again…
    So I can never win. I did nothing to give anyone the false impression that I am what the narcissists’ continuing lies about me manufacture. My history and known character mean nothing to people who’ve known me all my life. People so easily walked away. I don’t think they believe the lies. I think they are cowardly. Afraid to speak the truth they know about me so they don’t become a target of what they can’t tell is a really toxic person telling them vicious obvious lies. They don’t want that happening to them! So they choose to associate with evil knowingly.
    The narcissists do win. It’s hard to take it and accept it. But my “super-power“ has always been non-confrontation and walking away from toxic people. (It’s how my life has been since childhood and how I survived.) But the toxic people ESCALATED their poison when I walked away permanently and wouldn’t be hoovered anymore (sucked back in). Escalation and retaliation after boundaries are set or permanent No Contact is instituted is a hallmark of REALLY TOXIC, UNSAFE people. And they continue, long after I walked away for good.
    I read Psalm 73 so often to remind myself that this has been going on for ages. “The Prospering of the Wicked” is what the Psalmist laments. But he hears from God and discerns the END of the wicked and the END of the righteous (in Christ) who don’t lose their faith in God’s justice. The end of wicked is destruction and our end is the Lord taking us into GLORY to be with Him forever. That knowledge keeps me sane.
    Good advice and perspective in this post!

    • Z

      *I meant cowardly people who easily walk away from the innocent target “CAN TELL” it is a really toxic person telling them obvious vicious lies about the person they know is NOT any of what the lies say. And they don’t want to BECOME a target of such a toxic person/people.

  8. Singing Eagle

    “….narcissist is ruthless, playing by no rules but his own, ” Excellent article Bro. Dave. Reading these helps me realize I’m not crazy, someone out there knows and understands. Thank you!!!

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