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5 Gifts to Inoculate Yourself Against the Toxic Effects of a Relationship With a Narcissist

presents photoIf you’ve experienced the trauma of being in a relationship with a narcissist**, the most amazing gifts you can give yourself cannot be bought or wrapped. They are the gifts of self-healing, taking back and guarding your heart and mind, with a focus on restoring your sense of feeling human again, connecting to your life and self, your feelings and thoughts, wants and dreams, and so on, with a mindful awareness of how critical these connections are to your health and happiness.

Narcissism** and psychopathology are severe thought disturbances that, unlike all other mental health disorders, pose risks of harm to others, ranging from narcissistic abuse to Stockholm Syndrome and domestic violence to taking another’s life.

Too often, the fairy tales of childhood lead women, in particular, to believe they must wait for someone out there to rescue them from a lack of esteem, confidence or dissatisfaction with self and life.

In truth, you are the one you’ve been waiting. It is your own self-love and trust and respect that you need, like oxygen and water, to make optimal choices that lead you to continue to grow and thrive. The love or respect of others is a want, you’ll always prefer it, but don’t need it to be well inside.

And thus, nothing is more important to your healing and restoring your sense of self and connection to life in and around you than learning how to inoculate yourself from a narcissist’s willful attempts, past and, or present, to take control of your heart and soul by controlling your thinking. Take back and celebrate everything you are at heart, even growth areas.

In the process you will understand why a narcissist refuses to grow or change, indeed, strategizes and wars against everything you represent that he hates and abhors — and that is being human!

The following 5 gifts support you to guard and hold onto the reins of two of your most priceless treasures for dear life — your heart and mind:

1. You are a human being, and that’s a big deal!

The first gift to recognize, above everything else, male or female, white or nonwhite, young or old, is that you are a human being. And that’s the biggest deal in town, at least the town called Earth! Being human means you are neurologically, biologically, emotionally, mentally, instinctively and more, designed to “operate” in accordance with amazing principles and laws that, like mathematical formulas, operate with precision. You don’t have to be aware of these principles to benefit from them. Your subconscious mind – the operating system of your mind and body – is very much aware of them 24/7.

Celebrate and discover and cultivate your universal miracle-making capacities as a human being. Revere them. See them operate in others. Be in awe. This will expand your human capacity for compassion for self and others, and deepen your joy and awe and meaning to living among the most amazing creatures, warts and all (sorry, the warts are designed to grow; you’ve got them, so does everyone, even your heroes).

Simply put, if you’ve been around a narcissist, you’ve been talking to the wrong person about yourself, thoughts, feelings! Pause and reflect. Learn to respond thoughtfully. They have likely gotten in your head to demoralize, dehumanize, in other words, make you feel more like they do inside, such as miserable, not there, anxious, bitter, and the like. The first step to taking back your thoughts is to remind yourself often, perhaps throughout the day at first, to celebrate that you know what it feels like to be human, and love this most profound and amazing strength!

2. You are designed to feel good about yourself and life!

Your drive to feel good is connected to both your human drive for physical survival, as well as the overarching drive to do more than physically survive, rather to thrive, find meaning and purpose wherever you are. No human being can be healthy or happy merely surviving; each is hard-wired with an emotional drive to create meaningful relationships and moments throughout life, to do and contribute in ways increase your sense of purpose. As a human being, you have inborn striving to be loved, especially as an infant and small child, however, as you matured these strivings shift significantly to yearnings to matter in relation to your life and others, to bring love and feel your love contributes to life and others’ wellbeing in some way.

The drive to feel good can trick and mislead however. What delights your senses can be a wonderful health boost, in cases where you experience an amazing work of art or music or a glorious sunset. But you must learn, often through painful experiences, to distinguish between cheap-thrill, toxic feel-goods that are addictive and harmful versus feel-goods that nourish and sustain and support you to realize your goals and dreams. Pain is often a guide, a signal from your body to make some adjustment, and more often than not, this adjustment involves what you believe or tell yourself you have to have or to do, or others have to do, before you can feel okay or good or happy.

This explains why regardless what you do, or the sacrifices you make, you will never find meaning trying to make a narcissist happy or not miserable; they are intent on staying miserable to keep your wheels spinning, and keep you miserable. (Misery loves company, it’s true with a narcissist or addict in particular.)

In a nut shell, narcissists act with intent to make their partner feel small, insignificant, bad about themselves,  dependent, confused, self-doubting, invisible, and the like. The second step to take back your mind and self is to remind yourself that you are wired, that is you were born with a relentless drive, like thirst for water, to yearn to feel good about yourself and life. Make the decision to give this to your self! To disallow yourself from depending on any one else to give you this gift, narcissist or not. Make it a lifestyle to mindfully observe your thoughts, and shift as needed, to thoughts that inspire, motivate, empower you to live your best life; practice being a compassionate friend to yourself, and among other things, become an ever better version, stay curious!

3. You are wired to grow a wise inner-self, and as such, to be the observer (not a reactive judge!) of your life, inside and out.  

You are much more than your actions or habits, or the beliefs or thoughts you think, or the feelings and emotions your own thoughts and beliefs spark. You are the observer. As an observer, you grow your awareness and confidence in making optimal choices, thus expanding your wisdom.

Once you know this, own and take the reins of this power in present moments. As the observer of your experiences of life in and around, this powerful gift allows you to mindfully regulate your emotions. You do so by remaining aware, gathering data, and using your ability to think reflectively at any moment, and to connect this with your goals, the end in mind, what you already know, plan, choose, and so on. This powerful ability to remain in observer mode, regardless of circumstances around you, allows your higher thinking brain to remain online (versus go offline when reactive thoughts, i.e., judgments that active irrational fears,  activate your body’s survival system). In others words, you have a powerful capacity you can cultivate, and that is to consciously remain in observer mode, and replace harsh judgments, reactive or defensive thinking with thoughts that better serve you.

Truth be told, if you’ve lived or live with a narcissist, you’ve likely been instilled with some intense patterns of self-blame, self-doubt, and other unhelpful limiting thought patterns. Also, though the narcissist may deserve judgments, blame, etc., this way of thinking of him is totally unproductive for you in terms of your growth, peace of mind and retaining a healthy-emotional detachment from the narcissist’s thoughts, beliefs, endless lies and illusions (about himself, you and so on!). Make a decision to practice this awareness of your observer self, and nonjudgmental observations of self and others. This will support you to make optimal choices, and to avoid getting unnecessarily triggered, activating your body’s survival system (sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system). 

4. You are wired to be the choice maker, agent of your life.

Truth be told, you’ve always been in charge of your life, though you may not have been in charge of all or some of the circumstances. Your ability to choose also makes you the creator of your life and its direction and future. This hard wired capacity to create and imagine how you want your life, how you want to show up in life, is one of the most miracle-making abilities humans are endowed with. 

When you understand this, you can proceed to cultivate this capacity in you to choose at any given moment to step into your agency, and consciously take and hold onto the reins. Only you can hold these reins. If you abdicate, and surrender them to another, it’s a disservice to yourself. (And the other by the way.) It’s a disservice because no one can control another person. It’s the biggest illusion in all toxic relationships — and it”s an illusion the narcissist has worked 24/7 to get you to believe.

As you know, the narcissist in your life has worked overtime to get you to mistrust your ability to think, make choices, and to surrender out of fear to serve his interests, and never your own (apart from empty promises or bait and switch games.) Become the agent of your life, learn to trust your ability to make choices, and to learn from making ones that were not optimal as well! Enjoy.

5. You are designed to grow and keep reaching for the stars.

You are hard-wired to grow and expand your capacities from the first breath to the last. And growth always involves (healthy) pain. 

Every goal you’ve realized was a result of effort, and that means discomfort. In every area in which you feel successful, at home, work, school or gym, you have used at least one powerful Life Principle: Use it or lose it.

Nothing stands still, you are either moving in the direction of growth and betterment, or atrophy and relapse. At the gym that means once you stop training or running, you start to lose any gains, right? The same applies to your mental and emotional growth and strengths. Struggling with challenges and vulnerabilities makes you ever stronger, wiser, better and more courageous. This is a very important Principle to keep in mind. How you respond to a mistake or failure can cause you to either avoid what is uncomfortable, on the one hand, or turn you into a champion who loves jumping into challenges. And it’s all about how you perceive events in and around you.

Speaking of perceptions, there is a vast difference between “pain” that grows you, and pain that is needless, which I prefer to label “suffering.” The main difference is that, while pain is essential to grow, suffering is not. In fact, the avoidance of emotional pain is the very cause of all “suffering” or emotional disturbances. In the words of psychologist Carl Jung, “neurosis [anxiety in today’s terminology] is the natural by-product of pain avoidance.”  He also said, “there is no coming to consciousness without pain.

Speaking of growth, in case you didn’t notice, the narcissist you experienced in a relationship with refused to grow or change, and any mention of this, would result in gaslighting and “conversations from hell,” so the speak. You are human. The reason he refused to listen to human reasoning or attempts to get him to participate in growth, empathic understanding and collaborative processes is because, in his view, such human traits are “proof” of a category of persons he targets to exploit and demoralize, abuse and subjugate beyond recognition as separate persons. He’s lost, don’t waste your time trying to reason or “argue” with someone whose sole mission it is to instill perverse norms, lies and illusions of his superiority, dominance and entitlements, to make others think these are biological or god-ordained — just so he and his “false-self” exist!  

Dethrone the lies. They are a house of cards.

It is not subjective to say that acts of intentional hate and harm that, in effect, traumatize a person’s sense of peace and safety and trust, in turn, blocking the formation of a healthy sense of “self” and “the other” in a relationship, and the like, are inhumane and thus perverse as they are against life itself. Similarly, we can know without doubt what is biologically determined or spiritually ordained, by Universe or God, and so on, by evidence that it fully supports all human beings to live in without fear for their physical and psychological survival, to enjoy peace of mind and relative harmony, to thrive and meaningfully connect, uniquely contribute to own and others, create an ever brighter future for all.

Keep growing your wisdom, health and happiness, stay curious, and keep reaching for the stars.


** The words “narcissist” or “narcissism” in this article refer to those persons that meet the criteria for either narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), or its more extreme and toxic version, antisocial personality disorder (APD or psychopathology). 

Photo by queercatkitten

5 Gifts to Inoculate Yourself Against the Toxic Effects of a Relationship With a Narcissist

Athena Staik, Ph.D.

Relationship consultant, author, licensed marriage and family therapist, Dr. Athena Staik motivates clients to break free of anxiety, emotion reactivity, and other addictive patterns, to awaken wholehearted relating to self and other. She is currently in private practice in Northern VA, and writing her book, What a Narcissist Means When He Says 'I Love You'": Breaking Free of Addictive Love in Couple Relationships. To contact Dr. Staik for information, an appointment or workshop, visit, or visit on her two Facebook fan pages DrAthenaStaik and DrStaik

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APA Reference
Staik, A. (2019). 5 Gifts to Inoculate Yourself Against the Toxic Effects of a Relationship With a Narcissist. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 13, 2020, from


Last updated: 28 Jan 2019
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