Hoovering is a behavior pattern associated with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), and its more extreme manifestation on the spectrum, antisocial personality disorder (APD) or psychopathology.
Narcissists** are known to make contact with one or more past partners, or perhaps all, after a period of separation or when they perceive them as getting on with their life.
What sets hoovering apart from the otherwise “normal” behavior of contacting an old friend are the ruthless intentions.
Here are 7 narcissistic reasons a narcissist engages in hoovering.
1. A narcissist returns because, in their mind, they perceive people as objects and in this case possessions.
To a narcissist, a partner is mere prey, an object serving their pleasure. From this deranged view of human relations, a narcissist regards failure as a threat. To him****, it’s inconceivable to lose control of someone they intentionally trapped with the full range of tactics of narcissistic abuse. He’s back to prove who’s “superior” and who’s “inferior” by re-establishing possession. He returns to display he has control, for example, the power to destabilize another’s life, to con and love-bomb them with lies into believing more fairy tale illusions, once again, merely to let them down, to exploit and use them like punching bags, and so on.
In the mind of a narcissist, a possession is always a possession. Leaving is never an option. Objects don’t leave; they don’t have a mind of their own. They serve the whims of owners. In the case of malignant narcissists (APDs), this explains why leaving them, or demanding they leave, is when they post the greatest danger and risk to others.
2. A narcissist is an addict, and thus always preoccupied with their next fix.
A narcissist views others as objects to exploit for own gain. He hoovers to reengage a tried and true drug-source, heartlessly re-opening a past partner’s old wounds to “re-enable” the supply. To him, a previous partner is nothing more than a place to get a “fix,” and they return when running low in getting fixes, or in times of scarcity — but also, like a juggler, to keep an supply-source spinning and available. Now you may say, why would someone do that? Don’t they have a life? Based on a narcissist’s thought-disordered worldview, using others to get a fix is it, what life and pleasure is all about.
Each fix, to a narcissist, is a victory, one that adds to his false-self sense of superiority. And that is his fix, period. And when he acts and says caring and loving things, it is not love, it is love-bombing, a tactic used as part of the larger strategy, in this case, to disarm and bait the “human” types they prey and look down on with scorn, in order to gain their trust. Remember, they study and know their prey, mostly women. When they love-bomb, they intentionally talk in ways that make women swoon — with an ulterior motive to exploit them. Everything he says and does serves to get the next fix, then the next.
3. A narcissist’s drug of choice is based on violating the rights of others.
Narcissists are chronic abusers. At minimum, emotional and psychological. Like addicts, they intentionally seek to inflict pain or violate their partner’s rights. From this disordered mindset, if a person can be conned and get “hurt,” that makes them weak and stupid — and the narcissist strong and smart. Violating others with no remorse is linked to a rigid belief system that, in varying degrees from boyhood, shames men to display a callous disregard for their partner’s feelings to prove they deserve the status of belonging to the “cult of masculinity.”
To them, superiority and strength are proven on the basis of how heartlessly one can re-capture, deceive and subvert the will and mind of an old partner, for example, to raise their hopes only to dash them, to throw them off course, to prove who’s still got the top dog status by, once again, tearing down a past partner’s sense of self, value, and instill them with shame, doubt, fear, confusion, not to mention rejection, abandonment, worthlessness, and the like. Domestic violence, sexual assault, rape, pedophilia, mass shootings all have one thing in common: they are patterns of behavior displayed by (mostly) men that identify and work 24/7 to enforce the rules for “toxic masculinity.“)
4. A narcissist returns to prove (what he perceives as) “entitlements” to exploit and abuse with impunity.
To a narcissist, a past partner is a sex object he’s entitled to exploit forever. He returns to prove he’s still has the power to both mistreat her as he wishes, and in return expects she treats him as infallible and entitled. And, he is always on guard to protect and maintain a double standard when it comes to entitlements. Gaslighting is his favorite tool to derail the focus of any conversation to serve his goals. He gaslights, and relishes the power this gives him (providing she remains unaware of her truth and his lies) to turn every conversation into a nightmare, and to condition her step by step to silence herself, to never bring up her pain, wants, needs, and to blame herself for his misery.
Based on his belief in male dominance and superiority, he feels entitled to hoard the benefits and pleasures in the relationship. It’s all a con game, and in this case, the art of erecting illusions and implanting false-self images of themselves as having godlike powers, while tearing down their victim’s sense of self and agency, is based on scientifically proven methods of thought-control. All cult leaders by the way, religious and secular, are malignant narcissists, meeting the criteria for narcissism on the extreme spectrum of narcissism, which is antisocial personality disorder (APD) also known as psychopathology. Meanwhile certain romanticized fantasies women are conditioned to believe from childhood make them easy prey for narcissists.
5. A narcissist returns to keep a past partner trapped on an emotional roller coaster, manipulated by lies and illusions, caught in the same patterns of hope-then-let down and powerlessness.
A narcissist can only be understood from their worldview, never yours! He is proud to be known as ruthless, callous toward women’s pain, a fierce competitor vying to hold onto every bit of the power in a relationship, and to render his partner powerless. (A covert narcissist does this in hidden ways, painting himself as a nice, laid back guy, controlled and emasculated by his partner.) He lusts to hate and be hated, and is pleased to no end when he can get his partner to say she hates him, and to act out violently toward him. (Unlike him, she will likely feel bad afterward; this gives him double pleasure, and makes it easier to blame and fault her.) Thus he works to make her feel every bit as miserable, self-loathing, scheming, vying for power, ruthless, unfeeling, detached, and so on, as he is. He works hard to make her fear and hate him.
Though he’d deny it, he fears emotions of vulnerability as signs of weaknesses and inferiority, and works hard to deny, reject, suppress them in himself and other males. These emotions consist of his true-self, at least when he was born. His upbringing that him to fear and reject his true-self! It means his false-self does not exist! He’s been shamed from boyhood, conditioned to train himself to deny and disown any of emotions of tenderness — that would prevent him from displaying “real” man feelings such as no remorse and callousness toward a woman’s pain!
6. A narcissist returns for the sadistic pleasure of hurting the person who tried to love him.
A narcissist is hooked on deriving pleasure from hurting others, making them feel bad, raising expectations to dash hopes. Call it what it is, narcissistic abuse! This form of abuse consists of intentional acts of harm, to the degree, it causes a set of symptoms, similar to PTSD on the one hand, and Stockholm Syndrome on the other, and a disorder, not yet listed in the DSM, some refer to as: narcissistic abuse syndrome. By rigidly holding fast to this disturbed mindset, narcissists condemn themselves to live a life of misery and self-loathing; and since misery loves company, that means a life of working hard to make others feel like they feel inside: miserable, alone, fragile, guarded, disillusioned, confused, stuck, powerless, etc.
Making those they deem week squirm to please, spin their wheels, etc., is a drug that provides relief — their best friend, like a bottle of whiskey is to an alcoholic. Their drug of choice numbs the pain and misery inside, and like addicts, they vehemently deny any responsibility for their misery. They are addicted to deriving pleasure from making others feel miserable. A sad bunch, they believe the lie that this proves their superiority. (This explains why truth is their biggest enemy, and they fear nothing more than truth and truth-tellers.)
7. A narcissist returns to reinforce the lies he wants his prey to believe about self and him, life and others.
In a narcissist’s view, humans exist in dichotomous and adversarial categories of superior versus inferior, strong versus weak, meant-to-rule versus meant-to-be-ruled, male versus female, white versus nonwhite, and so on. Thus, narcissists return to reinforce the illusions and fantasies they devise to play god. They are active illusionists, on 24/7 so to speak, strategizing to alter and stay in control of how others to think, what they believe, how the world of relationships work, etc.
The narcissist lies about things, big and small. In contrast to “regular” lies that are defensive or protective, most of the lies of a narcissist are offensive in nature. They lie to promote a worldview in which their “false-self” superiority is real, a view that normalizes violence and cruelty as means for “strong” men to maintain dominance over the “weak.” This explains why a narcissist refuses to change! To change is to not exist. To them, “healing” is talk only the weak engage in. Indeed, their greatest fear is the true-self of self and others — human being! They desperately seek to deny or pathologies human yearnings for intimacy, closeness, collaboration. They need lies because their false-self does not exist in a world of truth about the power of love and creativity, collaboration and human connection!
In conclusion, previous partners beware! A narcissist does not regard a past partner as a human being. Indeed, he feels scorn for human traits and ideals. The identity of a narcissist is married to acts of violating others, and in the process, making themselves seem like the “normal” ones, while smearing their victims or critics to make them appear emotionally crazy or evil.
The belief system he holds drive his actions and the pathological patterns of behavior, the underlying thoughts and physiological feeling states. Identify and get to know the traps they set, the bait they throw, and avoid these like the plague.
What do you need to heal and set yourself free?
To get to a place where your main goal is to so love and respect and honor yourself and life, that your highest goals is to let the narcissist go, refuse to give them any space in your heart, mind and soul — except to thank the Universe for learning from the experience to better love and accept yourself and life!
This may mean working with a trained therapist, do whatever you need to learn and train yourself to take smart-actions to stop feeding the narcissism, and instead nourish and cultivate your authentic self and life.
** The terms narcissist or narcissism refer to those individuals that meet the criteria for either narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) or its more extreme version on the spectrum, antisocial personality disorder (APD).
**** The use of male pronouns is supported by decades of research showing domestic violence, sexual assault, rape, mass shootings, pedophilia, and other acts of violence rooted in establishing power and male dominance (over females and others, i.e., “weak” males), are not gender neutral. See post on 5 Reasons Narcissistic Violence Are Not Gender Neutral.