This is Part 2 of a two-part article on living with a narcissist.
Narcissists get their name from Narcissus who, according to ancient Greek mythology, fell in love with his own gorgeous reflection in a pool of water and died pining for his own unobtainable love.
People diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) have an inflated sense of self, require constant praise, take advantage of others, and don’t give a toot about the needs of others. They tend to be haughty, vain, self-centered, and either oblivious or uncaring about their own hurtful behavior.
Following are the remaining six of nine steps to help you deal with the narcs in your life – the first three steps were outlined in Part 1:
- Define the limits of tolerable behavior.
To narcissists, the world revolves around them. They are so self-absorbed that they can’t put themselves in other people’s shoes, figuratively speaking. They will, however, go through your closet and literally try on all your shoes – and perhaps take the ones they like.
Narcissists love to boss you around, tell you how to feel, give advice you didn’t ask for, take credit for your accomplishments or hound you to discuss private affairs in public. You must set behavioral boundaries and stick to them – or else the narc will call your bluff the next time.
- Expect resistance.
If you’ve gotten this far with the narcs in your life – put your needs first, set boundaries, and followed through on consequences to their hurtful actions – you have probably gotten their attention. And not in a good way.
A true narc will counter with their own needs list, try to guilt-trip you, go for sympathy or tell you that you are the one who is manipulative and unreasonable. Don’t believe it for a second – and NEVER CAVE IN or else, once again, the narc will know you aren’t serious.
- Stay positive about yourself.
People with NPD may be incapable of apologizing because to do so would mean admitting they were wrong about something and must accept responsibility for their own behavior. Instead, a true narc will turn the tables and blame you for what she/he did to you.
Be strong and stand up for yourself. Remind yourself that you are in the right and that you are not the narcissist in the room.
- Find strength in numbers.
If you must interact with narcissistic people, limit your time with them to avoid psychological vampirism. Seek out the company of other people who aren’t on a colossal ego trip.
Build healthy relationships in your life around family, friends, clubs, classes, community activities and/or volunteerism. Set yourself up for success despite the narcs in your life.
- Realize the narc may need professional therapy.
One of the hardest things I ever did in my life was admitting to myself that my own family is full of narcissists who haven’t yet been diagnosed and are unlikely ever to be so. They truly believe that I am the problem, not them. They have called me crazy and demonized my beliefs. In the next breath, they tell me how much they love me.
In some cases, you could suggest (gently, but firmly) that a narc might benefit from talking to a therapist. But don’t hold your breath. Remember, people with NPD have the mistaken self-belief that they can do no wrong. That doesn’t mean you have to play the doormat and let narcs walk all over you. Above all, don’t let a narc wear you down emotionally and make you sick (mentally and/or physically).
- Know when to abandon all hope.
Make no mistake about it: narcissists are abusers. They resort to name-calling, insults, public humiliation, yelling, and threatening. They are patronizing, jealous, and sling accusations.
They love to blame you for everything that goes wrong, monitor your movements or attempt to isolate you, tell you how you really feel or should feel, routinely project their shortcomings onto you, deny things that are obvious to you, trivialize your opinions and needs or attempt to gaslight you (manipulate events and situations in order to make you believe that you are the crazy one).
When possible, be prepared to move on if the narc is abusing you verbally, emotionally, physically – or is making such threats. Likewise, put on your traveling shoes if you feel manipulated, controlled or isolated; if the narc shows signs of mental illness or substance abuse, but won’t get help; or if your mental or physical health is suffering from their mental disorder.
Narcissists only pay attention to you when your speech or actions impact them directly. Stay calm, be perfectly clear, stand firm, and be prepared to exit, stage right.