Narcissism has become a widely discussed topic and is also a recognized personality disorder and everyday there are a plethora of articles pertaining to the narcissistic personality and how to recognize it. Chances are, if you are reading this, you already know that there is one in your life and they are causing you some kind of discomfort. You may be anxious, depressed and angry or feel hopeless for a happy future.
Narcissists are vain, attention seeking and disconnected from your feelings. They are manipulative and engage in undermining the efforts of those around them. They can be cruel, insulting and seek to humiliate you in public. They believe they are special and can be arrogant and demeaning. They expect and crave praise constantly.
It is believed that narcissism develops from a dysfunctional past, some type of major insult to the ego that leaves the individual feeling very damaged and inferior. For example, parents that ridicule or insult continuously often produce narcissists. These negative symptoms that emerge are their brain’s way to cope or defend itself. The problem with this defense mechanism is that it usually affects many others across the narcissist’s life span, not just the narcissist himself.
If you are involved with a narcissist you know the day to day emotional upheaval that they can wreak. Making you feel crazy for the way that you feel, diminished in capacity as they tell you how dumb or inferior you are and possibly even somehow physically inferior to their peacock like existence. Your successes will not be celebrated, your feelings won’t matter and you find yourself living the life of a victim of narcissism.
So what to do?
Ideally you would move away from the relationship, whether it be a spouse, parent, boss or friend. Leaving a friendship is easier, however, than leaving a marriage or job. When it is one of those scenarios it may not be possible to leave right away. There may be many practical and real reasons to remain right where you are for now and not stress over it. Major upheavals in life can be incredibly stressful and take a toll on our systems. We usually fare better if we plan them and prepare.
What are some reasons you may choose to stay? A major one is that you may be financially dependent on the narcissist and not in a position to escape right now. You may have given up your job to stay home or not have the skills to get a job that would support you or you and your children. Divorces with narcissists can be long and ugly, draining resources and your emotional energy. Lifestyle, health coverage and ongoing resources have to be taken into consideration.
You may be raising a family and not want to disrupt your children’s lives. That is OK, that is your value system and you should go with it. Your escape can come down the road. Don’t second guess yourself on your built in values.
The narcissist in your life may be your boss or a coworker and you are not in a position to change jobs. That is real.
So what do I mean when i say tap into your own inner sociopath? That may sound a bit dramatic but what I mean is it is time to think about you and stop thinking about them. The clients that I have that struggle with this are nice people. Too nice, in fact, and they are usually the ones that find themselves putting up with too much. To effectively deal with a narcissist you have to come out swinging emotionally. It’s time to be all about you! But you aren’t going to be overt about it right now, the narcissist loves to manipulate and undermine and will seek to thwart your efforts at self help. This is going to be your game, in your mind and you are going to turn things around.
You are not going to be able to change the narcissist. It just isn’t going to happen and you will drive yourself nuts trying. You will feel anxious and can become depressed and feel downtrodden taking in their vile ways day after day. I see clients who drink too much, take mental health medications, gain weight overeating or sleep all day just to avoid the negative feelings or to comfort themselves. All because they live with or have regular interactions with a narcissist. You can’t medicate away a narcissist. Understand this and stop trying to help them change. You are wasting precious energy. It is a nice thing to try and do but you have to stop.
Think how good it will feel to plot against them! When you search inside yourself there has to be some anger at how they have treated you. To have your very own plan that will upend the narcissist and you come out the victor will feel good! This will take time but you have time, you have decided to stay until it makes sense to leave. So begin your plan right now. Think of how much money you will need, nor just for now but for your life, you may be in your 50’s and not have the earning time that a younger person would have. Get a number in your mind and then start engineering the plan. This is the starting place of empowerment whether your narcissist is your spouse or your boss.
Understand perfectly that what you are experiencing is not love. Don’t pretend it is or convince yourself it can be. Narcissists don’t experience love the same way you probably do. It is nearly impossible to love someone who is cruel to you or who humiliates you. You may need them right now but it isn’t love.
Take this time to work on you. Just you. Gain the skills you need to be free, lose weight, stop drinking, whatever negative coping skill you are using right now, get rid of. Block out every negative word and criticism that the narcissist spouts. Don’t allow their words to sink in and hurt you further. They are just lies spouting from a childlike Chucky Doll. They may actually escalate when they see you trying to improve as it makes them feel out of control. Look at them, smile and in your mind think, “Adios Amigo!’. You are now in control of you.
Beyond working on the immediate physical you, work on the emotional you. Chances are you have tolerated the narcissist way too long due to some inner issues. You may yourself be from a dysfunctional family and this dynamic is familiar to you. You may have married your mother or father as they say. You may suffer low self esteem and tolerating emotional abuse seems better than being alone. You may not believe in yourself or your abilities to do better. You may have settled for what was the best you thought you could do. Get these answers for yourself but don’t share them with the narcissist, they will use them against you. This is your private, self empowering work. Be smug about it, revel in it, love the fact that you will be free at the point you have chosen.
Don’t argue with the narcissist, it is a losing game and you are not a loser. Just agree and do whatever or think whatever you were doing or thinking before the argument. This is called being passive aggressive and sociopaths do it all the time. You really no longer need to care about what the narcissist thinks, you are just there planning your endgame. Be clear on that goal. That is your own inner sociopath talking.
No person is an island and friendships and support are necessary. This is where you will be heard, respected and feel part of something. There are many ways to get these needs met, it does not have to come from your spouse. Compartmentalize where these needs will be met and stop trying to get them met from home. You are now taking control of your emotional needs. My last post talked about friendships and support, you can read it here.
Each morning and evening do a gratitude exercise like naming 10 things you are grateful for right now. Some of these things are likely to be things that the narcissist has provided or is part of, thats ok, give credit where credit is due. If there are a lot of things it also makes it easier to stay part of the pattern for now.
In beginning this journey to beat the narcissist, you may find that you are operating from a place of emotional dysfunction yourself.