What It Means To Be With a Narcissist and One Way of Coping
It isn’t easy being you. You might be unsure yourself if you are with an abuser because they can so easily turn on the charm or maybe they might say, “C’mon, aren’t you being too sensitive? What’s the matter with you?” And there you are again, back in the cycle of abuse. You might be questioning yourself and asking, “Why can’t I make him happy? What am I doing wrong?” It isn’t easy being you when he says, “You make me be this way.” And it isn’t easy being you when you wonder if you’ve wasted your whole life and if it has any meaning. And it isn’t easy when you think about leaving and get scared because you don’t know any other life.
It isn’t easy being you whether the abuse is overt or not. Your abuser doesn’t have to yell at you – he or she can be condescending, make jokes at your expense, can find ways to slight you in so many different ways.
So there you are, confused, or maybe not – perhaps you are sure at this point that you are with a narcissist. You may be trying to figure out what to do and how to proceed. You are scared, anxious, maybe feeling sorry for yourself, and probably angry.
Now is the time to do….nothing. Counterintuitive as this may seem, it is the best thing you can do. Acting from anger of neediness can lead to some really bad decisions. You may walk out, threaten divorce or some other act and all of a sudden you are in a major war with no resources.
You’ve spent so many years feeling down, maybe feeling worthless, and now you want to take action. That’s good – but it has to be done with your strengths and not from your weaknesses. And most important it has to be done from a calm mind – one that is not blaming or angry. If you think of your emotions like a 5000 lb elephant (thanks to the psych professor and author who came up with this idea) and you are the rider, you must always keep the emotions under control. Let them go, just a bit and you can be in for a dangerous ride.
Positive psychology is one relatively quick intervention that can allow you to get in control to make decisions. Take the concept of what you say to yourself. Think: ABC. A is the adversity in your life, B is the belief about that adversity and C is the consequence. B is also known as self talk. How you describe the adversity determines the consequences. If, instead of saying, “this is the worst thing that can happen to me”, you say, “This is not a good situation, but there is a way out. It may be difficult but I can find it.” the consequence is that instead of becoming entrenched in the belief you are doomed, you begin to train yourself to look for answers and possibilities. Do this enough and you are training your brain for optimism instead of pessimism. Optimistic people feel in control.
This is not “The Secret”
Positive psychology is not positive affirmations and visualization. It is an empirically based method that makes lasting changes in people and enables them to respond to difficult situations in a manner in which they can feel control. It is based on the original work of Martin Seligman on learned helplessness. He found that dogs could be trained to “unlearn” helplessness and so could people, and when they did their depression was gone.
Depression is not anger turned inward. This Freudian concept is no longer accepted as being correct. Depression is loss of feeling in control, which leads to sadness. Being the victim of a narcissist or sociopath is a fast track to depression. Being able to control your emotional response to a situation is the beginning of taking back control.
Positive psychology never disputes reality, it makes reality easier to handle. The feeling of having some control is the difference between continuing to feel traumatized or not. No matter how controlling or abusive your partner, and no matter how long the ‘learned helplessness’ it has been proven that beginning to exert control jumpstarts the process of “relearning” and loss of control feelings diminish.
Optimism is critical in abuse. It does NOT mean you do not see how bad things are. It means that optimists have better outcomes in negative situations and that is your goal. There are solid reasons why this is so and methods to obtain this outlook. This is not to be confused with Vaknin’s phrase “malignant optimism”. By that he means an outlook based on unrealistic hopes and dreams of a better life, changing the abuser, and you the victim, learning to be a better person. These are indeed useless acts. You will not change the abuser.
Pessimists see the causes of failure as permanent (it’s going to last forever), pervasive (it’s going to ruin everything) and personal (it’s all my fault). Optimists dispute pessimistic thoughts: if this becomes a habit, this skill stays with you and the changes take place in physiological ways such as brain patterns letting you calm down enough to think more rationally and logically. It also allows you to become resilient. The next “bad thing” will depress you for a shorter period of time. You will think of options, you will bounce back quicker. You will take risks, and by doing so, begin to take control.
Coping with a narcissist is not impossible