Dealing With a Narcissist?
Recently, I was discussing the challenges of having a relationship with a possible narcissist. I use the term ‘possible’ as without a true test it’s difficult to say. You can only gauge it based on your personal experience combined with something like a reference chart, such as “Recognizing the Narcissist“. Some of the more popular traits are selective (or lack of) empathy, a strong sense of entitlement and redirection of responsibility. In many cases they are some of the most critical people around. When you have a relationship with someone that has these traits, things can get very tricky as there is a lot of manipulation, control, and conflict, which clouds your perception.
Disarming the narcissist
One of the best resource websites (and book) I found to be most beneficial was disarmingthenarcissist.com. I was in a relationship with someone who resembled nearly every trait on that list. As you can imagine, there was a lot of conflict. At the time, I had stories that I lived by – such as being loyal at my own expense. It was the result of my own conditioning, which was more about self-sacrifice and less about being true to my self. It’s conditioning such as this that suppresses our inner guidance and belittles our self-worth. It’s a far cry away from true self-love. This was perhaps one of the greatest lessons I learned, how to be more self-loving.
Many of us have narcissistic traits, some are just more extreme than others. In most cases, it revolves around unhealed childhood trauma or abandonment. For those that go into this and heal, they have the potential to change. For those that continue to blame and point at others, the struggles perpetuate from one person to the next. Anytime happiness is dependent on someone else doing something, there will be conflict. No self-loving individual would tolerate such abuse. Often its a codependency that allows for both parties to remain together and tolerate the drama. However, to keep the cycles going, both parties must play the game. We stop playing the game when we cease to react and feed the cycles. In doing this we exercise more boundaries and our self-love expands.
If you’re in a situation and looking to gain a deeper understanding on the level of toxicity, start recording your conversations and arguments, either by a hidden phone app or a compact recorder. Do this secretly and keep it to yourself. You might want to share as an attempt to help your friend or partner but that becomes a trap. The recordings are for you and you alone, to help you gain some clarity on the situation. Replay the recordings back for yourself, in your privacy, and remain objective as you listen. Notice if there is repetitive conflict and see what you can do to cease engaging in it. As it’s often advised, the best contact with a narcissist is “NO contact”, but sometimes that is not an option. So, if you are in a situation that you can’t get out of, you can minimize your engagement and simply repeat your answer (no, for example) over and over again. The conversation will eventually stop as long as you remain consistent in your response.
Recording the confrontations (as well as your thoughts) is a great tool to help you coach yourself out of the situation. As you play the recordings you’re able to listen from an outside perspective. This will help you gain more clarity and understanding of your situation. As you listen to the recordings, think about how you would offer advice to another in a similar situation. Whatever you come up with will likely be the advice that you need. Then come up with a plan. Focus on yourself and work to avoid engaging in the madness of it all. Most of the time, they will attempt to bait you back in, but presence sees through all of this. Practice being present throughout your day. Meditate daily, either in the morning or before sleep for at least a few minutes. Doing this will drastically increase your presence and ability to remain centered within yourself. In addition, you’ll remain more mindful of your own thoughts and emotions, providing you with more peace of mind.
The NO Response Test
A quick and simple test to determine the state of another is to say NO when you feel like saying no. It’s a simple NO without any explanation. An explanation is rarely necessary and often only leads to a manipulative debate, as a measure to control the outcome or guilt you into changing your mind. When someone says no to a healthy person, they respond with a simple “OK, no problem” and go about their day. When you say no to someone with narcissistic traits, you will get a reaction as they attempt to manipulate you into endless conversations of whys, how’s, and how ridiculous it is that you can’t do this one simple task. Test it out for yourself. Say no when you feel like saying no. Then notice the response of the people you have in your life and set some boundaries or clean house from that drama. This will help you avoid making choices based on fear or guilt, which are often tied to fear of rejection, conflict, or disapproval. It all goes back to self-worth; for when we are complete with the self, we no longer seek validation and approval of others.
Healing the scars
The biggest challenge is growing beyond an experience of dealing with such relationships. Take some time to really reflect and go deep within. Avoid closing off and becoming cynical towards life. It can be tempting to close off to life, as a measure to hide or protect our self. However, it’s in the closing off that disconnects us from our self, creating an empty void within. The growth and healing occurs as we remain open to life, as it nourishes our inner connection. This will help you release the pains of the past. There is a vast difference between holding onto the pain and holding onto the wisdom. The pain contains the emotion and becomes a familiar state of being. When this state of being is threatened and we are then faced with the unknown, we get triggered. Release it and notice what happens. As we shed the attachment, our mind becomes at peace with itself. Remember, it’s not about them or another, it’s about you. As we direct our attention inward, we change, we heal.
Focusing on you
Often we make an experience with a (possible) narcissist more about them and less about our self. By focusing on others we continue to distract ourselves from healing which perpetuates the existing pain. This keeps us stuck in familiar patterns and causes us to replay the past pain over and over again in our mind. By redirecting our focus back to the self, we gain our power back for healing. In this, we begin to see how we matched them in the first place so we can make the necessary inner changes to avoid repeating those patterns. JP Sears posted an insightful video around this very topic, Dealing with a Narcissist by JP Sears. It’s important to process things so you can work through the emotions and gain the awareness, but then release it so you don’t get ‘stuck’ in the victim mindset, which feeds the cycles of self-abuse. Start focusing on yourself and visualize how you would like to see your life.
Often the lesson brings us back to self-love, true unconditional acceptance and appreciation of all aspects of the self. There is an alignment of some sort that brought you both together and awareness will shed light around this for your own personal growth. Perhaps it’s tied to codependent traits from childhood trauma, or a lack of self-worth, or something deeper within for you to learn in this life. Go back to your heart and work to silence your mind. As you do this, focus on your self in a nurturing and loving way.
Until next time,