Given the choice, the best response to when you have a narcissistic personality in your life is to get as far away from them as possible. But that isn’t always a realistic option. That person with a narcissistic personality may be part of your life as one of your loved ones. Maybe it’s a son. Maybe it’s a parent. No matter what, you have to find ways to live with that narcissistic personality and try to get them help. But more importantly, you have to protect yourself.
What Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
A person with a narcissistic personality has an overinflated ego or sense of self-importance that causes them to need excessive attention. They also think they are much more important than they really are, which leads them to expect sympathy from others but have none in return. Everything is about them. This can create major conflicts in relationships where they often become abusive when they feel they aren’t getting enough attention or their ego is hurt.
Identify Abuse Cycle Behaviors
Abuse can come in many different forms: physical, verbal, emotional, psychological, financial, and sexual. For narcissists, abuse can be broken down into four cycles of behavior:
- Feeling threatened
- Abusing others
- Playing victim
- Personal empowerment
When feeling threatened, narcissists can go on a rampage and it’s important to note that their idea of a threat may be real or imagined. It can be as insignificant as someone making a joke at their expense to problems at work or in relationships. They may also feel like a particular situation has left them humiliated. All too often, this triggers them to act out by abusing others. By belittling others, they feel better about themselves. (Note: This behavior can commonly occur in people who aren’t suffering from a narcissistic personality disorder.)
After they strike out at others and abuse them, a narcissist will often pretend to show remorse and twist the truth to make themselves out to be the victim. Maybe they really do feel remorse but their apologies tend to include claims that “you made me do that.” As a result, you get the abuse and they get the empowerment they crave and get to make you feel guilty for your own suffering. This allows a narcissist, once again, to establish themselves in their mind as the superior party. And so the cycle repeats itself and feeds into the narcissist’s ego.
Call It Out When Narcissists Engage in Abuse
If you want to reduce narcissistic behavior, you have to start calling them out for their abuse. There need to be consequences for abusive behavior and negative outcomes when they engage in it. Don’t do it in a retaliatory way, but very matter-of-factly. As long as previous patterns of abuse continue to produce the desired effects, a narcissist will continue to use them against others.
When living with a narcissist, one of the most important steps is pointing out their negative behavior in a nonjudgmental way. When the narcissist attempts to gaslight you–making you feel like your experiences aren’t real–change the subject to how it impacts them without listening to your needs or twist the truth to suit their own. A direct, matter-of-fact approach works best in most situations, and simply telling them they’re being narcissistic often works. They are usually proud of the fact that they have such healthy esteem and narcissistic behaviors.
Protect Their Ego
There are some proactive measures that you can use to reduce a narcissist’s abuse and other negative behaviors. Compliments can help lessen narcissistic anger and reduce their need to engage in abuse. Protecting them from humiliation, as long as it’s reasonable behavior for you, can help reduce abuse as well.
When a narcissist is trying to change, they may exhibit some improvement and positive behaviors. Make sure you positively reinforce anything that shows improvement. Doing simple things, such as complimenting them on how they did something well helps feed their need for the attention they so crave. When you give it to them, the anger that often goes along with this personality disorder can subside just a little bit and make things a little more bearable.
Set Personal Boundaries
Telling someone, without anger or judgment, that their narcissism is showing, acts to remind them of their negative behavior and can help them change for the better. Setting firm boundaries also sends a clear message that you won’t tolerate their abuse. For instance, calmly walking out of the room or leaving the home when a narcissist becomes abusive can be an effective way to stop the abuse cycle when it first starts. Whatever you do, don’t concede to the abusive behavior, such as letting them rewrite the narrative of a problem to make it your fault. Remind them that they are responsible for their own behaviors.
Living with someone with narcissistic personality disorder can be difficult and take a toll on your well-being. Leaving isn’t always an option, however. If you have a loved one or family member that is suffering from this disorder, then they may abuse you to feel better about themselves. They lack sympathy for your problems yet expect you to be sympathetic to theirs. You can reduce the negative behavior with some proactive techniques to reduce their anger and need for more attention from you. Remember to set firm boundaries and don’t be afraid to call out the narcissistic behavior–stand up to the abuse and point it out when it occurs. Make them responsible for their actions, not you. You may be the victim, but don’t expect to get any sympathy from the narcissist. You need outside support to help you live with people who have this difficult personality disorder. We are here to help. Call Everlast Recovery Centers at 866-DETOX-25