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Don’t Get Sucked Back into the Vortex: Hoovering Is Not A Compliment

“The best karma a narcissist can receive is actually the weight of your indifference and success after you leave them.” – Shahida Arabi, 30 Kickass Affirmations for Going No Contact with an Abusive Narcissist


Didn’t a wise person once say “being forewarned is forearmed?” Indeed, the (U.S.) holiday period between Halloween (October 31) and Valentine’s Day (February 14) is prime “hoovering” time for psychological abusers.

Just what is “hoovering,” for those of you who are late to the bandwagon of the latest buzzword (i.e. narcissism) to modern times?

Hoovering: (definition)- noun– The state in which a psychological abuser (typically an individual manifesting symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder or perhaps a blend of other Personality Disorders) returns to attempt to abuse a former source of narcissistic supply (i.e. ego fuel) via text, email, phone or in person (Schneider, 2015). The term “Hoover” refers to the vacuum (by the Hoover brand), as an analogy to suctioning up and reconnecting with prior sources of ego gratification by the narcissistic abuser.

As is typical of a relationship abuse cycle with a psychological abuser (i.e. specifically with a malignant narcissist), the cycle of idealize, devalue, discard, hoover is virtually predictable in most romantic entanglements with said abusive personality styles (Arabi, 2017). After a period of silent treatment by the narcissistic abuser, the abuser often returns to tap prior sources of narcissistic supply, particularly if the abuser is running low on this ego fuel (attention, adulation, affection, sex, money, a couch to crash on, etc) (Schneider, 2016).

The survivor of emotional abuse often mistakes the “hoover” as an attempt by the abuser to reconcile, apologize, or reengage in a romantic relationship (Thomas, 2016). Unfortunately, the hoover is merely a hook to ensnare prior objects of affection/business/friendship/romance into providing the abuser with the ubiquitously sought after fodder to bolster their fragile ego and precariously balanced, externally validated frail state of functioning.  A near universal collective sigh of helping professionals in the abuse recovery field resoundingly utters a knowing ” do not be fooled by the hoover.”

As life coach Kim Saeed of conveys in her abuse recovery program, the psychological abuser is not coming back to restart a relationship/connection/friendship or any authentic and trustworthy human exchange. The psychological abuser circles back, like a shark smelling blood or a wounded animal, to take a bite out of that flailing and vulnerable target, only to extract attention, affection, adulation, praise, confirmation of affection/love by target, or anger/passion/frustration/negative reaction (Saeed, 2016).

It is imperative for the survivor of psychological abuse (often narcissistic abuse, specifically) to go No Contact when the survivor of psychological abuse determines that the relationship with a narcissistic abuser ends. No Contact protects the survivor from further psychological harm and exposure to further tactics by the abuser such as the silent treatment, projection, gaslighting, pathological lying, and smear campaigns.

With qualified psychological support from helping professionals who understand relational trauma, survivors can and do heal. Targets of emotional abuse benefit from clinical support addressing complex PTSD, including trauma-informed interventions such as EMDR and other evidence-based modalities by licensed clinicians/therapists. Life coaching by trained and informed professionals can also be beneficial to reduce isolation and increase validation, psychoeducation and empowerment as the survivor heals, in addition to providing access to online support forums.



Arabi, S. (2017). POWER: Surviving and thriving after narcissistic abuse: A collection of essays on malignant narcissism and recovery from emotional abuse, Thought Catalogue Publishing.

Saeed, K. (2016). Retrieved November 24, 2017 from

Schneider, A. (2015). Soul vampires: Reclaiming your lifeblood after narcissistic abuse; Bookbaby Publishing.

Schneider, A. (2016). Retrieved November 24, 2017 from the Mind’s Journal: The Silent Treatment: A Narcissist’s Trick of the Trade of Emotional Abuse

Thomas, S. (2016). Healing from hidden abuse: A journey through the stages of recovery from psychological abuse, MAST Publishing House.


Photo by SantaRosa OLD SKOOL

Don’t Get Sucked Back into the Vortex: Hoovering Is Not A Compliment

Andrea Schneider, MSW, LCSW

Andrea Schneider, MSW, LCSW is a licensed clinical social worker in private practice in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is currently the Lead Counselor at Cal State Maritime Academy, where she counsels college students and leads Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at the integrated Student Health Center. In her private practice, Andrea provides psychotherapy for individuals experiencing trauma and loss. She is also a writer, educator, and podcaster. Website:

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APA Reference
Schneider, A. (2017). Don’t Get Sucked Back into the Vortex: Hoovering Is Not A Compliment. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 19, 2020, from


Last updated: 28 Nov 2017
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