A Recipe For Disaster: Toxic Word Salad

Sarah Hummell
12 min readJul 22, 2020

Warning: Don’t Eat the Salad, It’s Toxic!

Introducing the first item on the menu at Toxic Cafe, Toxic Word Salad!

Photo by Miguel Castellanos on Unsplash

Survivor Reviews

*If I could give it 0 stars, I would! Will never go back again!

*Left with a bitter taste in my mouth.

*I was physically ill! In and out of the bathroom for weeks!

**Extremely frustrating due to circular reasoning, outright lies, denial, or misrepresentation of events to avoid accountability.

***I left questioning myself rather than continuing to question my abuser!

Photo by Alejandro Duarte on Unsplash

Menu Description

Did you ever attempt to have a conversation with someone, only to walk away from it, forgetting what you meant to talk about in the first place? Did it feel like you were talking in circles? Do you ever come away from the conversations feeling dizzy or nauseous? Does it make you start to question your own sanity? If so, you could be a victim of a form of Gaslighting, called Narcissistic Word Salad. You’re not crazy, just don’t eat the salad anymore! It’s Toxic!

In all seriousness

I can joke about it now, but this is no laughing matter. Narcissistic Word Salad is a real thing, and it affected my entire life. I actually ran a restaurant with my Primary Abuser. While Narcissistic Word Salad was not on our menu, it was served up to me every single day. It wasn’t until we were Ambushed by @Restaurant Impossible that the abuse was exposed to not only me, but the entire world! It took me a year after the show aired to figure out how to leave. It's been 3 years since then, and I am just now healing enough to talk about it.

Photo by Dimitar Belchev on Unsplash

So What Is Narcissistic Word Salad?

Not to be confused with the clinical term associated with schizophasia, simply known as Word Salad. The term narcissistic word salad is used in the abuse survivor community to describe a type of speech that is purposefully confusing.

According to Jackson MacKenzie in his book Psychopath Free, these circular conversations eventually condition victims that horrendous repercussions will result if they so much as infer that they have concerns about their relationship with their abuser.


According to Ross Rosenberg, MEd, LCPC, CACD, CSAT, Author of The Human Magnet Syndrome, it all comes down to one thing:

Narcissistic Injuries: A narcissistic injury occurs when a narcissist reacts negatively to perceived or real criticism, judgment, boundaries placed on them, and/or attempts to hold them accountable for harmful behavior.

According to Rosenberg, it also occurs when a person does not accommodate a narcissist’s insatiable need for admiration, special privileges, praise, etc. The “injury” also occurs when the narcissist over-amplifies and personalizes benign interpersonal interactions. It can also come out when a person with no malintent does not meet the narcissist’s impossible-to-achieve desires for high levels of praise and admiration.

He says the “injury” is often followed by the narcissist’s loss of control over his or her emotional equanimity and a subsequent burst of passive or overtly aggressive vindictive responses.


Just pointing out to an abuser that their behavior hurt your feelings is enough for the Abuser to attack. When they do, it's enough to make your head spin.

Toxic Word Salad Ingredients:

Like the Holy Trinity in Gumbo, there are 3 essential ingredients to this distasteful dish. The abuse survivor community calls them DARVO.

Deny — Abuser willfully believes or pretends that traumatic events or circumstances do not exist or did not happen, even when presented with evidence to the contrary.

Attack-The Abuser commences a persistent attack on your character and continues to punish you until you back down and agree that you were the one that actually did something wrong.

Reverse Victim/Offender- At the end of the conversation, the Victim actually believes or is forced to admit that the Abuser is actually the Victim. The Victim submits to the Abuser simply to make the abuse stop!

Optional Seasonings:

Projection- The preferred method for a Narcissist to attack. The abuser puts their own feelings, actions, or traits onto someone else to avoid accountability.

Projection is especially traumatic for children, who internalize these accusations, and it becomes their inner critic for their entire lives.

According to Rosenberg, projections in actuality, are dissociated feelings of the abuser's own self-hatred and self-loathing that are attributed to a person who threatens the narcissist’s veneer-thin self-esteem. The abuser diverts the realization of self-hatred and core shame by transferring self-judgment and condemnation of the abusers perceived ‘injuring” person, the victim. Rosenberg says projections actually intertwine with narcissistic injuries, it is only academic to separate them.

Double standards- Narcissists often have two sets of rules: one for themselves and one for everyone else, as they think they are entitled to special treatment.

Blame shifting- Avoiding responsibility for an act of wrongdoing by claiming that the act would not have occurred had it been for the actions of someone else (or something else, such as alcohol, youth, stress, or other external factors)

Scapegoat Another form of Blame Shifting. If Someone has to be the blame, scapegoats are typically the ones who take the fall.

This is especially true in narcissistic families. Scapegoats are blamed for the family's problems. They are usually disciplined or punished disproportionately, burdened with excessive chores and responsibilities, and subjected to unmerited negative treatment. Example- Cinderella

Victim Blaming — Ultimately, the Abuser’s goal is to get the Victim to admit that the Abuser’s behavior is actually the Victim’s fault to complete the abuse cycle.

Deflection- The abuser draws attention to the actual or perceived wrongdoing of someone else to avoid getting caught for their own behavior, this is especially true in the workplace.

Narcissistic Fleas- When someone is not a Narcissist but begins imitating or emulating abusive behaviors, it is referred to as “getting fleas.”

While reading this, if you’re questioning whether you are a Narcissist, the answer is NO! The fact that you are even questioning it means you are not. Experts say Narcissists are unable to self-reflect. You might have fleas, though and that’s ok. Through self-reflection, you can work on curing yourself of those.

Smear Campaign Narcissists engage in smear campaigns to discredit others within their family or social sphere.

Narcissists have no shame and are quite calculating in their process of discrediting and socially isolating their target, using innuendo, gossip, and outright lies to family, friends, neighbors, and community members. Narcissists won’t hesitate to smear an ex to their children, a scapegoated child to friends and relatives, or a colleague to other colleagues. The smear campaign usually happens behind the victim’s back, often with the assistance of the narcissist’s enablers or what the survivor community calls Flying monkeys.

Flying Monkeys- based on The Wizard of Oz, what the survivor community calls enablers, these are the servers of your Toxic Word Salad. They are people who act on behalf of an abuser to a third party for an abusive purpose.

These disgusting little creatures are often worse than the actual abuser because they know what they are doing is wrong and willingly carry it out as a follower to the Abuser in an effort to receive praise, legitimacy, or social status.

Crazy-making- A general term used to describe the tactics used that over time, cause self-doubt and confusion, resulting in the victim questioning reality.


  1. Injury: In a salad bowl, you bring to the table a question or concern regarding the abuser's behavior or you somehow made the abuser feel inadequate.

2. Deny: The abuser immediately denies the abuse ever happened or that you made them feel inadequate.

3. Attack: You presented physical evidence backing up your claim, and the persistent attack commences.

4. Reverse Victim/Offender: Now that your abuser has completely broken you down and sucked your soul, you’ve admitted fault. The Abuser now has complete control of the situation, so your submission is rewarded by returning to the Love Bombing stage. This is simply so the Abuser can avoid their deepest fear, being abandoned when you’ve finally had enough and left them.

5. Repeat: You are now trapped in the abuse cycle as the intensity and frequency slowly increase, while your self-worth is slowly broken down.

Photo by Mátyás Kozma on Unsplash

Add Additional Seasonings Until Desired Results:


~ If the abuser lied, you’re now the liar

~If the abuser is being childish, you’re being immature.

~ If the abuser demands reassurance, you’re the insecure one.

Double standards- The abuser thinks they deserve special treatment.

~I’ve seen an Abuser think he was so special he didn’t have to wait his turn. He threw a dirty bar rag at a bartender’s face simply because the bartender didn’t serve him fast enough.

Blame shifting

~ “I was drunk; I don’t remember trying to kill you last night! Honest!”

~“If our Chef hadn’t stressed me out so much, I wouldn’t have gotten drunk and gotten my 3rd out of 5 DWI’s”


~ “I couldn’t have done that! I’m too intelligent to do something that stupid! It must have been Sandy in IT. She’s completely incompetent!”

Victim Blaming

~ “I hit you because you pushed my Jack Ass button!” These were actually said to me; I’m not making these up.

~ “I had to put the gun to your head so you would see the seriousness of this whole thing! It was the only way to get you to listen to me!”

~ “I had to threaten to break your arm because it was the only way to get you to give me the engagement ring back that I bought by finding your social security number and using your credit to finance it!”

~ “Honest officer, I’m not suicidal! I threatened to kill myself and my entire family to scare my wife into leaving. I had to fire the gun before the kids so she would know I was serious!”


~I experienced this while working for a boss who was a Covert Narcissist in the Hotel Industry. Her leadership caused the team to have Narcissistic Fleas. In this instance, our boss led with fear. Our entire team constantly feared that she would fire them over any missed step. I made the perfect Scapegoat since I was the youngest in the company and had a challenging property. It didn’t help that I saw right through our Boss’s mask, so the whole team knew she already hated that. My team members would point out to her specific issues that my property was having, so she would be too busy investigating them to find they had made huge mistakes. One allowed a guest to stay there for 8 months without paying a dime! When she finally figured it out, they quit without an explanation. By then, I was already fed up and gave my resignation.

Smear Campaign

~Narcissists may smear another person because that person sees through their mask.

~They are trying to preemptively conceal their abuse of that person.

~They are taking revenge because the person offended or rejected them.

~They are simply just jealous.

~In my case, all I did was leave! My Primary Abuser figured out the weaknesses in everyone I trusted. He exploited those weaknesses to get information about me from them. For the survival of myself and my children, I had to go No Contact with not only him but anyone who mutually knew him, including my parents!

Crazy-making-What I mentioned above is enough to make anyone crazy, but it goes far deeper. The Abuser's actions don’t match their words. Then, they gaslight or lie about their actions or what they said, and they refuse to discuss problems constructively.

Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

End Results:

Cognitive Dissonance The abuser's externalized, manufactured identity is built on lies and denial. The abuser expects loved ones to accept their version of the “truth.” What this means for everyone else is they are trapped in the “opposite land,” where they are told (usually through a range of manipulative tactics) that “reality” is different from or even the opposite of what they feel and perceive.

This produces a cognitive dissonance in others, who experience a profoundly disorienting gap between what they perceive and what the narcissist says happened — black is white, good is bad, false is true. Particularly in young children, cognitive dissonance is extremely traumatic, leading to self-doubt and disassociation.

Neglect- The abuser needs to have priority over everyone else. This is a passive form of abuse in which caregivers ignore the emotional, psychological, and physical needs of their dependent(s). It can range from insufficient food or shelter to failing to provide affection, supervision, or protection.

In my case, my Primary Abuser had a severe body image insecurity. This was projected; therefore, the entire family could not eat unless hungry, never because he took supplements to suppress his appetite. This was especially true on long trips when he was driving and refused to stop. If we told him we were hungry, we were fat-shamed.

Brain Damage- According to D. Goldman, Narcissists keep their victims in a constant state of anxiety and fear, which in turn causes their victims to react from his or her amygdala. The longer you stay with an emotionally abusive partner, the more deterioration you can expect in your hippocampus. The hippocampus is especially vulnerable to ongoing emotional distress because of the damaging effects of cortisol. When the body endures ongoing stress, cortisol affects the rate at which neurons are added or subtracted from the hippocampus. This can have grave results on learning. When the neurons are attacked by cortisol, the hippocampus loses neurons and is reduced in size. The duration of stress is almost as destructive as extreme stress. Cortisol stimulates the amygdala while impairing the hippocampus, forcing our attention onto the emotions we feel while restricting our ability to absorb new information—sources — Goleman, D. (1995, July 31). Severe Trauma May Damage The Brain as Well as the Psyche.

Learned Helplessness- According to the American Psychological Association, learned helplessness occurs when someone repeatedly faces uncontrollable, stressful situations, then does not exercise control when opportunities for change become available. Victims often become less able to make normal day-to-day decisions. They become used to their controlling Abuser making the decisions for them and eventually become completely dependent on them. This is why it becomes so much harder for victims to leave as time goes on.

There’s No Cure

According to Rosenberg, it is a psychological fact: Due to their inability to self-reflect, few narcissists learn from the outcomes of their abuse. They do not experience empathy when confronted about it and feel their actions were justified. Few narcissists learn from the consequences of their out-of-control narcissistic injuries. Any act of remorse is just a guise to hide their fear of being abandoned by the person they are causing so much suffering. He says the only real cure is for the Victim to find an exit route to the interaction and potentially out of the relationship.

For more information about my story, check out my book liked below:

Disclaimer — I am not a mental health professional. I am simply a victim who experienced the horrors of what is described above on a prolonged basis. I was left to piece it all together with little access to resources. I only wish this information was readily available to the average person. Perhaps that would have saved me years of torment, thousands of dollars in therapy and legal bills, and most of all, the loss of myself at a tender age. Things like this aren’t talked about, and it should be! No wonder Victims think they’re going crazy! Nobody admits it's happening and it is! If you are experiencing any of the abuse listed above, seek a licensed professional's help.

Domestic Violence Hotline: 1–800–799–7233