What is Hoovering?
Hoovering is an abuse tactic frequently used by people who struggle with narcissistic, borderline, antisocial, and histrionic personality disorders. Named after the Hoover vacuum cleaner, hoovering is basically a way of “sucking” a person back into an abusive relationship. Hoovering is typically done after a long period of no contact between the victim and the abuser. In an attempt to regain control over their victims, hoovering abusers will use manipulation tactics that target their victim’s soft spots and emotional vulnerabilities. If they are successful, the hoovering abuser will use their victim until they are bored of them and discard of them once again.
3 Toxic Examples of Hoovering
Let’s take a look at what hoovering looks and feels like:
Scenario 1: Amanda broke up with Steven six months ago and has severed all contact. But one day, out of the blue, she receives a contact request on Facebook from Steven apologizing for all of his abusive behavior and that he wants to be given a second chance because he’s still “in love” with her. Amanda’s heart beats quickly as she writes a response, truly believing that Steven has “changed.”
Scenario 2: Ben managed to escape an emotionally abusive relationship with his partner Robert almost two years ago. When he arrive home, he finds a lavish array of flowers on his doorstep with a note that says “Happy Valentine’s Day!” and a phone number from Robert. Ben starts remembering how much affection Robert used to show him at the start of their relationship. Feeling lonely, Ben convinces himself that Robert must have matured past his paranoid and hateful behavior, and gives him a call.
Scenario 3: Ingrid has just left Scott out of a desperate attempt to regain control of her life. After managing to find solace for a few days from his gaslighting, infidelity, and outbursts of rage, he begins appearing on her doorstep. “You’re the only one I ever loved Ingrid,” Scott whines, “I want to marry you, I only ever wanted to be with you. You’re the love of my life, my soulmate.” After experiencing this behavior for a couple of weeks, Ingrid finally snaps, and rips open the door, “Get out of my fucking life!” she screams and starts to cry. Scott pulls her into a hug and she sobs on his shoulder.
Why Do Narcissists Hoover?
What’s the point of hoovering? To regain a sense of control over you. Narcissists begin hoovering when they want something from you such as attention, validation, money or sex. But the deepest reason why narcissists hoover is because they are completely internally empty. They have a pathological fear of feeling insignificant, unlovable, alone or worthless, so they do whatever they can to fill this empty void and sustain their false self-image.
Narcissists are fundamentally addicted to the attention of others. Without attention and control, they starve. When their reservoirs of narcissistic supply run out, they seek to prey off the old “meat” they managed to catch in the past – and that means you. This also means that they usually have many “backups” (e.g. other exes) to feed off when they begin to feel hungry again.