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Tips for Defending Yourself From a Narcissist


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#1 Kris

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Posted 13 August 2010 - 05:01 PM

Excerpted from Why is it Always About You? by Sandy Hotchkiss

Strategy 1: “Know Yourself”

Our number one tool for dealing with the Narcissist is to examine our own experiences and recognize how our reactions contribute to our discomfort. The goal is to understand what is happening and interrupt the process to protect ourselves..... The narcissist engages us via our own narcissistic vulnerabilities. This is especially true if we have unfinished business with a narcissistic parent.....

Prisms and Projections

The Narcissist has not just a lens but a prism that refracts and distorts incoming messages to avoid the intolerable feeling of shame. This means that you are never in control of how these people perceive you or when you will be assaulted with some defensive maneuver that deflects their shame, prevents their deflation, or reinflates them after a narcissistic injury. Narcissists constantly dump - or project - unwanted parts of themselves onto other people..... They lob it onto you, you suck it in, and for an icky while it’s yours. If you are young, dependent or otherwise vulnerable, their “disowned” parts may stick around and become part of your own self-image.... These are the processes that make encounters with the Narcissist so uncomfortable and confusing. It truly is difficult to know what is about the other person and what is about you. The healthier you are, the more you are able to examine your own shame, and the more you will be able to figure out which of your buttons have been pushed..... You cannot control what others do, but you can learn to contain your own reactions once you understand what is going on. Understanding where your feelings originally came from and accepting them as your own is the first step in protecting yourself against the toxic effects of narcissism.
1) Be aware of your feelings.... you will be in a better position to defend yourself.
2) Ask what buttons are being pushed..... look at your own narcissistic vulnerabilities; it will make you stronger.
3) Think about how your feelings help the Narcissist manage shame in some way... Although it couldn’t feel more personal, it really is not. You’re just a means to an end.
4) Find a way to detach from the feelings of diminishment..... sometimes it helps to think of this person as being two years old on the inside.
5) Resist the urge to retaliate. Don’t try to challenge or enlighten this person either. The Narcissist has a lot at stake in keeping unconscious processes unconscious.
6) It needs to be enough for you to know that you have put the projections back where they belong in your own mind, regardless of how the Narcissist sees the situation.

Strategy 2: Embrace Reality

Unreality is the hallmark of narcissism. Narcissists require accomplices.... What draws us into their web is our own longing to feel more worthwhile, more alive. Just as they need us to regulate their own intolerable shame, we may need them to fill an emptiness of our own.

1) Find your own dream.
2) See people for who they are, not who you want them to be. Idealization ....is childlike thinking..... It is potentially dangerous to insist on someone’s goodness, or good intentions, when that person is exploiting or hurting you.
3) Accept that if a Narcissist lies, cheats, disrespects, or hurts others, betrays confidences, takes advantage, or shows a lack of compassion, sooner or later you can expect to be on the receiving end of that same behavior.
4) Don’t go into a relationship with a Narcissist thinking you are going to change that person.
5) The best defense against intrusions and exploitations of the Narcissist is a good solid grasp on your own narcissistic vulnerabilities and an appreciation of your own assets.

Strategy 3: Set Boundaries

The Narcissist [violates boundaries] routinely, and they do it thoughtlessly and with an absolute conviction of entitlement. Their needs are more important than yours, they know better than you do, and they would be insulted to learn that you find them intrusive or inconsiderate. The Narcissist is unlikely to self-correct this behavior just because you call attention to it. In order to protect yourself, you will have to set boundaries.
1) The operational word is Control - and we’re talking about yours. Since you’re up against someone who may be far more comfortable with exercising control than you are, think carefully in advance of how you want to proceed. What do you most want to accomplish and in what time frame? What have you tried in the past with this person, and what has and has not worked? What, if anything, is different now? Has there been a change in the power balance between you and the Narcissist? Will that work in your favor or against you? Are there others whom you might enlist to help you? Is it better to operate directly or indirectly? How do you plan to enforce your boundary? Be realistic, but also remember that there are very few situations in life where you are truly powerless. Usually there is something you can do to improve your lot, but it is important to consider all your options before you act.
2) ...you may or may not want to confront the problem directly. Ordinary assertiveness techniques are often ineffective with Narcissists because they take it as an assault on their specialness, grandiosity, and entitlement for you to bring to their attention that you are not, in fact, an extension of them and that something they have done, or not done, has upset you. You can also be sure that any confrontation of their dysfunctional behavior will disturb their need to be seen as perfect, evoking shame and its defenses. So if you care about preserving the relationship, you will need to find the gentlest way possible to deliver your message and then deftly repair the shame. Be firm and matter-of-fact, but also kind and respectful. Go ever so lightly with the empathy, however, as this often backfires when perceived as condescending. ...Practice what you plan to say.
3) ...work through any anger you have toward this person before making your approach. Focus on how much better you will feel when you have taken the necessary steps to protect yourself. Avoid impulsiveness and the urge to retaliate for past wrongs done to you..... Choose the time and place thoughtfully, and try to remain calm, even, and emotionally detached as you would if you were setting limits with a small child. You will need your wits about you to respond to the Narcissist’s reaction to your boundary setting.
4) Be prepared for changes in the relationship other than the ones you are requesting. The Narcissist must find some way to cope with the fact that you are taking control of your own life, as this very well may upset his or her internal equilibrium. There may be testing of you in other aspects of the relationship to see how far you are willing to go to create separateness and “be your own person”. There may be distancing from you and a redirection of control elsewhere, which may even feel like a loss. There may be manipulation, coercion, or efforts to seduce you into rescinding your boundaries and restoring the power this person has had over you. All of this may be very strange and challenging if you haven’t been through it before. Take it slowly, think about what you are feeling and what is happening, and plan your responses carefully. Try not to fall into old traps.
5) Once you have set a boundary, keep it. If you back down, you show the Narcissist that you do not need to be taken seriously. You may have to remain forever vigilant... but the space you are protecting is where you will create your own health and happiness.

Strategy 4: Cultivate Reciprocal Relationships

One of the best ways to cope with Narcissists is to avoid becoming very involved with them in the first place. And when you can’t avoid them, try to limit your involvement and surround yourself instead with healthier people who are capable of give-and-take relationships. ....You might also want to avoid the toxic environments in which Narcissists thrive and instead seek those in which differences between people are recognized and accepted, healthy boundaries are maintained, and expectations are clear and realistic.

1) In a reciprocal relationship, each person contributes something and each person benefits in some way.
2) There is flexibility in the roles of giver and taker.... a sense of fairness.
3) Both parties are able to feel valued... and to express appreciation.
4) Separateness and boundaries are valued on both sides.
5) There is no need to”keep score”.

#2 shyloh

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Posted 14 August 2010 - 06:50 AM

AMAZING Kris!! this really breaks it down> Thank You

#3 lionheart

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Posted 14 August 2010 - 09:28 AM

Thanks so much for posting that Kris! This is an awesome book. I read this in the midst of my mind-bending relationship with ex and had so many lightbulb moments I'm sure a transformer blew somewhere. I highlighted as I read and at the end practically the whole book was GREEN!

I particularly like the lessons about Knowing Yourself and Embracing Reality. Once you become aware of and accept your own vulnerabilities and *hot buttons* it becomes so much easier to spot another person's manipulations as they're happening and not take them personally and become reactive.

I remember a particular conversation with ex where we were discussing our future together (*puts finger over mouth to staunch vomit*) and out of nowhere she brought up a particularly difficult and painful issue from my past and said she was REALLY WORRIED about it. While I do admit it's an issue I have struggled with it is really MY issue to deal with. But because of what I learned from that book I was able to see her statement for what it was:

a control tactic
a manipulation
a power grab, pure and simple.

So instead of reacting defensively or with effusive promises about my future behavior I responded, "Well then I guess you have some more thinking to do about that, dontcha???!!!"

:proud:

and I gave her WORRY about my issue right back to her to deal with.

#4 Kris

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Posted 14 August 2010 - 01:16 PM

Oh, that's a great example, LH!

I have to admit, I am so vulnerable to being made to feel ashamed, which is what your ex was trying to do for all the reasons you named. And for some reason, those of us who are co-dependent are especially vulnerable to manipulation this way. What a great response you had!! I am going to remember that one ... since I am sure it could be of use some day!!

Good for you! :good:

#5 renewed8

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Posted 15 August 2010 - 09:41 AM

that is good stuff. i thought i was kinda done buying books on abuse, but i think i'm going to get that one.
thanks.

#6 claudifred

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Posted 16 August 2010 - 11:36 AM

If you haven't read it yet, I highly recommend The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists: Coping with the One-Way Relationship in Work, Love, and Family.

The Chapter "If He Only Had a Heart - The Intimate Love Relationship," had me wondering if the author had a camera hidden in my house. :o

#7 ExpMom

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Posted 16 August 2010 - 02:06 PM

Thanks so much for posting this Kris. It's such a timely post for me. I just finished Wizard of Oz. What a fantastic book - definitely plan on going through and re-reading later. First I have to work on some codependency issues though ;)

The depth of the control tactics used by the N is rather unfathomable to me. I attempted some boundary-setting this weekend and it ended up in a miserable failure - I guess there's still a lot of understanding that needs to be done :(

How are you working through your understanding of things? Have you been able to put the things you've been learning into practice yet?

#8 Kris

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Posted 16 August 2010 - 05:07 PM

I agree, ExpMom and Claudifred ... the Wizard of Oz book is fantastic, too! And again, one of the best things is that it is written from the perspective of how to help yourself if you find yourself in that situation and if, for whatever reason, you choose to remain.

I'm a little sad today.... this "modified silent treatment" does wear me out. And I've overcommitted to things for the next 6 weeks so I'm starting to panic a bit (especially when I suddenly learned just two days ago that I have to make major changes in the way I handle one of my jobs at work. It would have been nice if they had let me know this at the start of the summer so I would have had plenty of time to prepare... then it wouldn't have been a problem at all! And I'm sure they knew about or were planning to institute their new policy then!) So I suppose feeling a bit stressed does not help my overall ability to handle what is otherwise an uncomfortable situation.

However, I've tried to focus on two thoughts about this. One thing is to try to break down all the stuff I've overcommitted to into parts and accomplish some things on each every day. (You know the old adage, "The longest journey starts with a single step....") Sometimes I do find that when I really procrastinate badly it's because I don't really know how I'm going to get the job done so I don't really know where to start. But in the end it has to be done! So the sooner I get going, the better! When I've procrastinated so long that I can't procrastinate any longer, I'm going to hate my first draft at it anyway.... so just do that first draft now -- just get something out already!! ISo I've sort of told myself if I can get through all of these things (which all come to a head around the beginning of October) despite the apparent total loss of support from my partner, I will feel much more confident about my ability to handle things overall. In fact, I'm trying to tell myself that I WILL manage to do everything and it WILL make me a stronger, more confident person! (Or otherwise maybe try to learn from this and not get so overcommitted next time!!)

The second thing I've been trying to do is really savor the small things that are nice. When we suddenly had a break in the weather and it was gorgeous, I made a special effort to enjoy it whenever I was outside. For some reason the local radio station was playing a lot of older songs that Weird Al Yankovic has made spoofs of, so as the old song played, I imagined Weird Al's lyrics in their place and it made me smile. (You know, classics like "Addicted to Spuds" and "I Want a New Duck"). And I do go away with my team for this tennis tournament -- which is making me a little stressed that I'll be away for 4 days when I'm starting to feel things pile up -- but since it's going to happen, I'm trying to just relax and look forward to it. It really will be nice to get away and be with a group of positive people for a while. I think I need that!! I'm trying to focus on the positives of the enthusiasm and simple joy that my dogs have just to greet me when I get home. I don't know.... it sure does help to get some affection from somewhere!! Thank goodness for dogs!!

So I'm debating whether to ask H to re-grip my racket before I go or not. I really should ask him. I am always so reluctant to put people out and I know that this is an area where he has tried to make me feel indebted in the past if I ask for a favor (so I must return a sexual favor.....) But I need to not let myself feel pressured this way. If he would do the favor for me, I will appreciate it but I will remind myself that in a healthy relationship, "favors" are not done with the expectation of anything in return. If he won't do it unless I reinstate his groping privileges, then it would be a good time to remind him about my new boundary and explain that I only want him to do it if he wants to do it to make me happy, not for a payback. (This is the kind of thing our joint counselor had talked about with the "emotional bank account" -- doing nice things for your partner just because you want them to be happy is a great way to put in a deposit, but doing it in order to extract a specific return behavior is more likely to feel manipulative and end up as a withdrawal.) So if he has other motives, then I really don't want him to do it. I know I will hate to even ask him about it, but I guess I really should -- avoiding asking him what are reasonable requests (which I also acknowledge is nothing he is obligated to do for me) will only add to the current awkwardness.

Yep, probably the TWO areas I should next focus on are detachment.... and how to learn to not procrastinate. (But I'll have to do that later..... :wink_smile: )

#9 welfaremomma

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Posted 16 August 2010 - 06:45 PM

Thanks for the great recommendation. I really like this too. It has practical advice for surviving someone like this. And insight into the narcissist. It has a good balance, and good advice for dealing with difficult people in general.

#10 claudifred

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Posted 17 August 2010 - 07:40 AM

So I'm debating whether to ask H to re-grip my racket before I go or not. I really should ask him. I am always so reluctant to put people out and I know that this is an area where he has tried to make me feel indebted in the past if I ask for a favor (so I must return a sexual favor.....) But I need to not let myself feel pressured this way. If he would do the favor for me, I will appreciate it but I will remind myself that in a healthy relationship, "favors" are not done with the expectation of anything in return. If he won't do it unless I reinstate his groping privileges, then it would be a good time to remind him about my new boundary and explain that I only want him to do it if he wants to do it to make me happy, not for a payback. (This is the kind of thing our joint counselor had talked about with the "emotional bank account" -- doing nice things for your partner just because you want them to be happy is a great way to put in a deposit, but doing it in order to extract a specific return behavior is more likely to feel manipulative and end up as a withdrawal.) So if he has other motives, then I really don't want him to do it. I know I will hate to even ask him about it, but I guess I really should -- avoiding asking him what are reasonable requests (which I also acknowledge is nothing he is obligated to do for me) will only add to the current awkwardness.


No chance you can get that racket re-gripped elsewhere? At an equipment store?

I called my STBX a scorekeeper. He kept score on EVERYTHING. And your counselor is right... that kind of scorekeeping behavior turns into huge withdrawals on the emotional bank account. My STBX never did grasp that. He just thought he was being fair. :blink:




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