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what is darvo

What is DARVO in Narcissism?

DARVO is an acronym coined by Dr. Freud that stands for Defend, Attack, Reverse-Attack, Offend. This is one of the hallmarks of a narcissistic and emotionally abusive individual and is the first red flag to watch out for. So what is DARVO? DARVO is how people who are extremely defensive and out of touch with themselves and their true feelings react when issues or concerns that involve them arise.

Healthy individuals on the other hand, will hold space and listen to the concern that is being brought up, they will attune and empathize, and finally they can take ownership of their behaviors and shift course as necessary. Narcissistic and emotionally abusive individuals cannot do any of these things and their automatic response is to DARVO. Tune in to find out what you should do when you recognize someone using this tactic against you.

What is DARVO in Narcissism?

Understanding the DARVO Phenomenon in Narcissistic Behavior

Narcissism is a complex and often challenging personality trait to navigate in relationships. One of the intriguing and manipulative aspects of narcissistic behavior is a pattern known as DARVO. In this article, we will delve into what is DARVO, its components, and how to address it when encountered in interpersonal interactions.

What is DARVO?

DARVO is an acronym that stands for “Defend, Attack, Reverse Victim, Offend.” It was coined by Dr. Jennifer J. Freud, a renowned psychologist and researcher specializing in the study of betrayal and trauma. DARVO is a mechanism that individuals, particularly those with narcissistic tendencies, employ when confronted with criticism or accountability for their actions.

Breaking Down DARVO: The Components

  1. Defend: The first component of DARVO involves the individual vigorously defending themselves against any allegations or criticisms. They deny any wrongdoing, often dismissing the accusations as baseless or insignificant. This initial defense sets the stage for the ensuing manipulation.
  2. Attack: Following the defense, individuals employing DARVO often transition into the attack phase. In this stage, they shift the blame onto the accuser, attempting to discredit their claims and make them appear as the wrongdoer. They may resort to character assassination or deflecting the conversation away from the initial issue.
  3. Reverse Victim: The next phase involves the reversal of roles, where the individual using DARVO positions themselves as the victim. They portray themselves as wronged, asserting that they are the ones being unfairly treated or accused. This tactic is particularly effective at eliciting sympathy and diverting attention away from their own behavior.
  4. Offend: The final component of DARVO is to offend or provoke the accuser further. This can take various forms, including personal attacks, gaslighting, or minimizing the accuser’s feelings and concerns. The goal is to frustrate and manipulate the accuser into submission.

Recognizing DARVO in Action

Understanding DARVO can be a crucial step in identifying manipulative behavior in relationships, especially when dealing with narcissistic individuals. Recognizing DARVO can help you maintain your emotional well-being and not fall victim to this insidious pattern.

Dealing with DARVO: What to Do

When confronted with DARVO in a relationship, it’s essential to protect your emotional health and maintain boundaries. Here are some strategies for addressing DARVO:

  1. Recognize the Pattern: The first step is recognizing DARVO when it happens. Understanding the components and tactics involved will help you identify manipulative behavior more quickly.
  2. Take a Time-Out: In the heat of the moment, emotions can escalate rapidly. Taking a time-out can be an effective way to disengage from the situation, allowing both parties to cool down and think more rationally.
  3. Establish Boundaries: Set clear boundaries in your relationship to prevent recurring DARVO incidents. Let the other person know that discussions should be respectful and free from manipulation.
  4. Seek Support: Dealing with DARVO can be emotionally draining. Reach out to friends, family, or a therapist who can provide support and guidance as you navigate these challenging situations.
  5. Consider Professional Help: In some cases, seeking couples counseling or therapy may be beneficial, particularly if DARVO patterns persist and disrupt the relationship.

In conclusion, understanding and addressing DARVO in narcissistic behavior is essential for maintaining healthy relationships and protecting your emotional well-being. By recognizing the pattern and employing effective strategies, you can navigate the challenges posed by DARVO and establish boundaries that promote healthier interactions. Remember, you have the power to protect yourself and foster healthier relationships.

To learn how we can help, reach out to us at (206) 219-0145 or info@marriagerecoverycenter.com to speak with a Client Care Specialist

Also read: What is the Impact of Narcissistic Abuse on the Victim

About Dr. Hawkins:

The internet is inundated with hyperbole and misinformation about narcissism, leaving many people confused and hopeless. Get the facts on narcissism and emotional abuse from someone who has been researching, writing about and treating narcissism and emotional abuse for over a decade.

Dr. Hawkins is a best-selling author and clinical psychologist with over three decades of experience helping people break unhealthy patterns and build healthier relationships.

He is the founder and director of the Marriage Recovery Center and the Emotional Abuse Institute which offers education, training and counseling for people who want to break free of, and heal from, emotional abuse. Whether the perpetrator of the abuse is your spouse, partner, parent, boss, friend or family member, we offer practical advice for anyone trapped in a toxic, destructive relationship.

In addition to narcissism & emotional abuse, you’ll learn about the lesser known forms of abuse, including covert abuse, reactive abuse, spiritual abuse, secondary abuse, relationship trauma and much more.


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