How To Deal With Narcissism
- Fundamental Steps

There is much written about how to deal with narcissism despite the fact that most people eventually get to the point where they realize that they are better off leaving.

But 'just leaving' is not an easy option in many cases. If someone has been married to a narcissist for many years, the narcissist has made them dependent over that time. I will explain more about this later, but right now, suffice it to say that this dependency explains why people stay in abusive situations for years. It is actually very difficult for them to leave. They literally have phobias about not being with the manipulator.

Family situations is another case where just walking away is not always the first or easiest option. If your boss or co-worker is a narcissist, then simply upping and moving can be tricky, too. Paying the mortgage and eating are important little details!

So what to do?


How to deal with narcissism - the steps

  • Establish that you are dealing with a narcissist
  • Learn about narcissism and mind control
  • Undo the damage, get rid of the pseudopersonality
  • Establish your own identity
  • Decide how much contact you want to have with the narcissist

A couple of important points here. I have listed the steps but they are not necessarily sequential. You can be doing several steps at a time, you may have to go back and do some more or a previous step before being able to continue the step you were on, and so on.

And secondly, you will notice that there is nothing here about trying to control the narcissist, trying to set boundaries, trying to rehabilitate them or get them to change their behavior. This process is all about you. In fact, it's about undoing the changes that they have done to you. Have your family said that you have changed since being in the relationship? Do you feel that you have lost yourself in the relationship? This is what I am talking about. So let's examine the details.


Narcissism or not?

The first thing you need to establish is whether you are dealing with a narcissist or not. This is not an easy task! However, it is vital. Dealing with someone who has narcissistic personality disorder is not the same as dealing with someone who is selfish, anxious, had a bad upbringing, is insecure and so on. The rules narcissists play by are different, so the rules you have to go by have to be different, too.

Another reason for being sure is that you have to determine what the problem is, because if you don't know what the problem is, you won't be able find the best solution.

So what's the problem in deciding? The problem is that narcissists do very particular things to their victims. The narcissist changes the victim's perceptions, thinking, beliefs, decision making, emotions and behaviors. The victim is tricked into thinking, at the start of the relationship, that the narcissist is kind, friendly, helpful, caring and so on. This initial impression is very difficult to shake off.

Over time, the narcissist's behavior changes in the relationship, becoming more controlling, demanding and abusive. Many people think that if someone was cruel and abusive to them that they would leave immediately. However, when one is in an abusive, controlling relationship, the opposite happens. The victim knows what it's like to have nice times with the narcissist, so when there is criticism and humiliation, the victim actually tries harder to please the manipulator in order to get the compliments again. This sounds weird but it is what happens in controlling relationships. You can read more about the dynamics of how this happens in these articles about narcissistic boyfriends and narcissistic husbands.

All the changes I mentioned above amount to a personality change. The narcissist forces a false personality, or pseudopersonality, onto their victims. This pseudopersonality is programmed to believe and trust the narcissist, to look after them, to provide the compliments and adoration that the narcissist strives for. The pseudopersonality is also dependent on the narcissist. Again, this sounds twisted, and indeed it is, but again, it's what happens in abusive relationships.

The thinking of the victim is also affected. The victim is unable to think rationally and clearly about the situation. The victim is typically not aware that they are actually in an abusive situation. They may know that something is wrong, or that things are not as they should be, but they often can't quite put their finger on what the issue is. To learn that the person that they have been in a relationship with for years is actually nasty and abusive is a major shock. The pseudopersonality does not want to believe it. The pseudopersonality is programmed to protect the abuser. The real personality is often relieved to have an answer that helps to make sense of the situation. The thing here is that sometimes the real personality is dominant and sometimes the pseudopersonality dominates. Therefore, the victim feels that a part of them sees the abuse but then another part can't believe it because the manipulator has been so nice at times that they could not possible be abusive. This back and forth can go on for months. Some people feel that they are going crazy. Some days the abuse is as clear as day, other times they seriously doubt themselves and think that they themselves are the problem. This is why it is difficult to recognize a narcissist for what they are.

If you are in this position, where you are going back and forward trying to decide, use this as evidence that you are actually in an abusive situation!


How to deal with narcissism - next step

So how do you deal with the severe doubts? The best thing is education. Learning about narcissism and mind control is the best thing you can do. The more things you see about the relationship, the easier it is to realize that things were bad.

Many things were done to you outside of your awareness and without your consent. Because you didn't recognize the tactics, you could not mentally resist. All these tactics have a cumulative effect over time. Little by little you were changed. You were manipulated into doing and saying things that you would not have done before. Your limits and boundaries were destroyed. You may regret certain things that you did.

It's important that you recognize that you were not responsible for these things, no matter how responsible you were made to feel by the manipulator. (It takes work and study to get to the point where you are able to think and feel that it was not your fault!) Your decisions were not fully informed. You did not have all the information available when you made those decisions. You basically didn’t know what was going on, so you cannot be held responsible for things that happened in the relationship.


How to deal with narcissism - undoing the damage

Learning about the subtleties of mind control means that first you begin to see the techniques, then you realize the effect they had on you and later you get to choose how to respond to them. This often means changing your beliefs and ideas, sometimes one at a time. The information allows you to see things that you could not see before. Your critical thinking ability begins to return. You start making different decisions. You start doing different things. You start to take control of your life once again.

In effect, you are undoing the pseudopersonality. The pseudopersonality had a master program that was determining everything, your perceptions, your decision making, your actions, your responses to situations. This master program was put in place by the narcissist. It benefitted him or her, not you! Chances are that you did things that went against your own best interests, even though this is not typical for people. The reason is that you were mind controlled by the narcissist. You had been programmed to put their needs and wants before your own. Now you have to undo this learned behavior and begin to have your own personality resurface and take over.


How to deal with narcissism - who are you?

Without the master program, many people feel lost. They no longer have a guide for living (if you can call it that!). Without the doctrine, there is no longer a guide. The individual has to start making decisions in a different way.

Some people have been so affected that they have difficulty deciding initially what to have for breakfast, what clothes to put on, whether to have a shower today or not... This can be terrifying. "I'm an adult, how come I can't even decide what to eat?!?" is a common occurrence. Now, if the person has left the relationship but still does not recognize that they were actually in an abusive relationship, this can be very disturbing. "But I am out of the relationship now, that shouldn't be affecting me anymore," is a common mistake.

It's a mistake because in order to make sense of the situation, the victim thinks that the narcissist must be right and they themselves are the problem. Especially if the narcissist had said as a parting shot, "You'll never be anything without me! You will have all sorts of problems!"

If these ideas persist, not understanding the abusive nature of the relationship obviously leads to all sorts of problems. The victim has difficulty trusting others, trusting themselves, making decisions for themselves, concentrating, memory issues, identity issues and difficulty establishing normal, healthy relationships, to mention just a few!

Get professional help!

As long as the pseudopersonality is in place, even partly running the show, the person cannot fully recover. The pseudopersonality was put in place for the benefit of the narcissist. Trying to fix it is a disaster. That will never work. It has to be undone so that the individual's own identity can take over fully again.

Another problem here is that as long as the pseudopersonality is in place, the person is cannon fodder for the next manipulator they meet. This is how people end up in multiple abusive relationships. Did I mention about getting professional help??


How to deal with narcissism - contact or not?

When a person is fully recovered, then and only then can they make a reasonable decision about the level of contact they are going to have with the narcissist. While the pseudopersonality in in place, the dependency makes it very difficult to decide such a thing. The pseudopersonality is programmed to be with the manipulator. Telling oneself not to contact them is never going to work. The pattern of dependency is so deeply ingrained that simply telling oneself not to do it is doomed to failure. This is why so many abused people and battered wives return to the abuser over and over again.

Once the pseudopersonality is gone, it is so much easier for a person to make a decision about how much time they are willing to spend with the narcissist and stick to it.


How to deal with narcissism - wasting your time

Here are some things you will read about in how to deal with narcissism:

  • Set boundaries with them about what is acceptable to you and what is not
  • Sit them down and tell them that what they are doing upsets you
  • Give them enough reassurance to help them settle down, but not too much
  • Pick your battles and leave small insults go
  • Narcissism can be situational, have patience
  • Build your self esteem

These things are usually a waste of time. While you are trying them, the person with narcissistic personality disorder continues to take advantage of you and abuse you.

About setting boundaries, these people will cross lines that most people respect. There are no limits for them. The end justifies the means particularly apples to them. They live to control and dominate. They are not going to be told what to do. You put a limit in place and they see it as a challenge to their dominance and they will set about tearing it down straight away. They are much better at destroying your boundaries than you ever will be at putting them in place.

Letting them know that what they are doing is upsetting is not good advice. It presupposes that they don't already know. What makes someone think that a narcissist does not know that what they are doing is upsetting. They are good at reading people. They have been told many, many times that a particular behavior is upsetting. They are not stupid. All this suggests that they know exactly what they are doing and they are doing it precisely because they know it is upsetting. Telling them it is upsetting is simply another ego boost for them. They must be laughing at their victims, all the time thinking, "I know it's upsetting, you know it's upsetting, but you can't stop me from doing it. In fact, you can't even get away from me and I can keep this up as long as I feel like it."

Give them just the right amount of reassurance. If you are, or have been, in a relationship with someone who has NPD, you know that they are insatiable. The more they get, the more they want. The more you give, the more they expect. What ends up happening is that you spend every waking moment trying to placate them. All your decisions are organized around making them comfortable. Which, of course, is their plan. They are now the center of your universe. Mission accomplished, as far as they are concerned. Your life, however, is no longer your own.

Don't get upset at every insult, just the big ones. This is a disaster. You are letting someone insult you on a regular basis. Repetition is very important here. If three people tell you something, you are very likely to believe it. If one person tells you something three times, it has 90% of the effect of 3 people telling you. Narcissists will repeat things over and over. They know that repetition is important. They will repeat all the important things that they want in your head. Even the little things! Tolerating insults over and over is very bad for your personality. It makes you feel bad about yourself, over and over again. See the information above about pseudopersonalities!

Narcissists can be bad in some situations and not others. Hold on a minute! The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders specifically states that the general criteria for personality disorders includes "The impairments in personality functioning and the individual's personality trait expression are relatively stable across time and consistent across situations." Sure, narcissists can be friendly, helpful, fun and so on, but that does not mean that in these moments they are no longer manipulating. These moments can be the most dangerous for the victims because when the narcissist is being 'normal and friendly' the victims forgive and forget the abusive times.

At the start of a relationship with a narcissist, they will make you feel great. These good feelings are attached to them. Then they begin to chip away at your sense of self. They criticize you at the level of identity as a way to make you feel bad about who you are so that you become willing to adapt to please them. This is the first step in the creation of the pseudopersonality, destroying your identity. With this in mind, simply trying to do things to build up your self esteem is also doomed to failure. If you are not aware of how they are destroying your self esteem, how can you resist that? So many people believe that if you just had more self respect you would never get caught by narcissists. This is nonsense. People who are on top of their game, successful in life, making money and so on, get caught by narcissists. And the first thing the narcissist sets about doing is destroying that self respect. This is why victims talk about being a shell of their former selves. Unless you understand mind control, and what specifically was done to you, you can't hope to just build your self esteem and have things back to normal.


How to deal with narcissism - more reading

You can read more about narcissistic personality disorder symptoms, what a controlling relationship is, what does a manipulator do, the stages of an abusive relationship, leaving an emotionally abusive relationship and narcissistic abuse recovery.

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