How do you cope with living with narcissists? Is it possible to, not only survive, but actually thrive?
As my regular readers know, I’m a huge fan of No Contact. But sometimes, that’s not an option you can or want to pursue.
You may be a minor, reliant on narcissistic parents for food, clothes and a roof. Or you may be married to a narcissist or in a bond that makes you both emotionally attached and/or financially reliant on them. You may want to stay. You may have to stay.
I stayed. For far too long. But looking back on it, there are some coping techniques that make living with a narcissist easier and less painful. Some I inadvertently stumbled upon and they worked, even though at the time I had no idea what was going on. Others, I learned about later. Please feel free to add your own coping techniques in the Comments section below.
Naturally, if you or your children are in danger, leave….leave now, get help, contact the proper authorities.
Keep Your Own Counsel
At the end of the day, a narc is a narc is a narc is a narc is a narc…you catch my drift. While I hold out hope they can change, history is not on my side.
Thriving even in the midst of narcissistic abuse is contingent on one thing: keeping your own counsel. All the other techniques hinge on knowing your own mind and sticking to it come Hell or high water.
- Never forget that they are a narcissist and don’t let them convince you otherwise
- Don’t let yourself be brainwashed to the narc’s skewed point-of-view
- Have your own viewpoint and understanding of life
- Know your strengths and weaknesses (protection against projection of their vices onto you)
- Have your own understanding of people, relationships and inter-human interactions and…
- Act accordingly
I didn’t do this. Big mistake. Huge!
Oh, my intuition knew what was really going on. My gut instincts were spot-on. But I ignored them, allowing myself to be brainwashed to the narcissists’ off-kilter opinions about myself, other people and life as I wrote in my article Mind Control by Narcissists. Once they had their hooks in my mind, controlling me was easy-peasy.
Hang onto your truth and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. This is the foundation for the following coping techniques. Or as Charles Dickens put it, “This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate.”
Let’s get on with it, shall we?
Laughter: You Can’t Defeat Narcs Without It
What’s the one thing a narcissist absolutely can’t stand? I’ll give you three guesses. 🙂
Okay, okay. Here’s a hint from The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis:
“Then, suddenly, it all united and swelled into a great roar of laughter…The unfortunate Rabadash appeared to be suspended from the castle walls. His feet, which were about two feet from the ground, were kicking wildly. His chain-shirt was somehow hitched up so that it was horribly tight under the arms and came halfway over his face. In fact he looked just as a man looks if you catch him in the very act of getting into a stiff shirt that is a little too small for him. …he[‘d] had to jump sideways…And then, in the neatest way you could wish, the tear in the back of his hauberk caught on a hook in the wall…And there he found himself, like a piece of washing hung up to dry, with everyone laughing at him…Strong hands wrenched Rabadash’s sword from him and he was carried away into the castle, shouting, threatening, cursing and even crying. For though he could have faced torture he couldn’t bear being made ridiculous. In Tashbaan, everyone had always taken him seriously.” (emphasis mine)
Aha! The secret key to eviscerating a narcissist’s “power.” A low chuckle. Laughter. Mockery. Ridicule. Mimicry. Chaplin demonstrated this brilliantly in The Great Dictator. And, after all, narc’s are ridiculous and rather funny aren’t they…from a safe distance, of course.
Narcs can’t bear to be laughed at, so prepare for drama and only use this technique if your narc is non-violent.
“But Lenora,” you say, “That’s not very nice!”
Don’t Be “Nice”
Narcissist’s have very high moral standards…for us. They wield them like weapons for keeping us in line, for bending us to their will with “morals” as their standard and “false guilt” as their sword. And the handiest “moral” in their bag-of-tricks is, “Be ye nice.”
There’s just one problem: That’s not actually a moral. It’s not a commandment. About the closest thing is the Golden Rule!? “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”
Now “Be Ye Nice” is usually interpreted by narcissists thusly:
- Abandon yourself totally
- Ignore your own needs
- Act happy no matter how much I abuse you
- Believe the lies I tell you
- Tell me pleasing lies in return
Hold the phone! Would we expect or want anyone “to do unto us” the things listed above!? Of course not!
So it looks like “being nice” isn’t a moral at all. I mean, Jesus wasn’t nice. He called the narcissists of His day “vipers” and “tombs full of dead men’s bones.” Not nice, but very true. And, in a way, that was the most loving thing he could have done. Coming face-to-face with their failing gave them a once-in-a-lifetime chance to mend. To become better people.
We don’t have to be “nice” either.
Treat ’em Like the Cowards They Are
Narcissists are inherently cowardly. Why wouldn’t they be?
So they compensate through various unpleasant methods. At the mild end is the silent treatment. This gives way to nagging leading to full-blown toddleresque temper tantrums. The “adult” version of lying on the floor, kicking and screaming. (Well, sometimes they actually do that!) In other words, they’re bullies.
The drama, the decibels and the beating of fists on hard surfaces give the appearance of strength. That’s what I observed time and time again at home. I was cowed by the show of “strength.” But when met with true strength, they’re the ones to cower and retire, bowing.
I learned the difference between faux strength and true strength from my husband, Michael. He’s quiet, calm and loathes drama. At first, I thought his decisions were wishy-washy because decision-making wasn’t accompanied by yells and the shaking of fists as I’d observed at home. I’ve since learned differently. When he makes a decision, he does it calmly and quietly. But that’s it. Wild horses won’t move him.
As we all learned on the schoolyard, there are two ways to take away a bully’s power.
- Ignore them.
- Meet their dramatic “strength” with real strength.
Ignoring them is probably the safest option. If you choose to meet their “strength” with strength, use at your own risk. The one time I stood up to a narc, fist met jaw. Their fist. My jaw. I never believed it would happen…but it did. So use with caution. If they don’t hit you, they will respect you from then on.
More To Come!
Oh, there’s more! And I’m sure my wonderful readers will share many coping techniques in the Comments section below.
If you liked what you read here, please Subscribe to be notified when Part 2 is published. And don’t forget to check out my wood-burned art. If there’s a particular inspiring or anti-narc cliché you’d like woodburned in oak to hang in your home, drop me a line!
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I leave you with an audio clip from “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. He nailed it!