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Coping With A Narcissist

What It Means To Be With a Narcissist and One Way of Coping

About You

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.

Doing Nothing

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.

A Door

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

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Ann Bradley

7 Comments

  1. I Have daughter that im 99 percent sure she is a narcissist.We have been bumping heads for 3 years now and im so lost i dont know what to do.It hurts me so much i dont know what happend to her.She is 33 years old .Please help me to help her .

    • Hi Marianne. It’s hard to tell if your daughter is a narcissist or what to do about it without knowing more. But even with that, from a distance the best I can tell you is to try and keep control of your emotions – as difficult as that is right now – and do some reading about the kind of behavior and actions she is exhibiting. Go to amazon and look up narcissism and family. I’m wondering if perhaps the last three years of difficulties have arisen from another source other than narcissism. Many women at her age are wondering about their life paths – perhaps this is happening to her? Just a guess – and that mom happens to be a reminder of her own life in some ways. Maybe she doesn’t yet have children? Or she does and is unhappy. Consider other possibilities. But do try reading more…it is a good foundation for understanding and goes into more depth than can be done here, especially since you and only you know the intimate details and the depth of the issues/problem. Best, Ann

  2. I have a family of narcissistic people. I recently was given this information and after 41 years, I finally see that it wasn’t me. I went through years of feeling unloved by everyone in my family no matter what I did or how hard I tried to please everyone.. I feel like the runt animal that gets passively aggressively picked on about my weight, my faith, my husband, my kids and who I am. I am called “too sensitive” if I ask them to stop and if I get mad, then I am a bitch.
    Once I was aware and did research, I was okay at first. Now I am recognizing really bad things that happened to me. I am remembering how unloving my mother was to me and how I was always dismissed.

    I fell in the street on a 4th of July when I was a kid and my face was road rashed. I remember running all the way home screaming. My mother took a look at me and said “was that you screaming? That is ridiculous, go wash your face and knock it off”. I can list so many times that response as if I was a nuisance or a pain in her side.

    When my parents divorced, she would say things that made me feel like I did something to cause it. I have a relationship with my dad currently and all my siblings hate me for it as I always have to hear how “fake” our relationship must be.

    I am a mother of 4. My daughter 21, son 17 then my two new children from my new marriage; daughters 4 and 5 months old. I am in a constant state of anxiety that I am treating my kids this way. I obsess over it because it is horrible and I think I need counseling from what happened to me.

    I don’t know who does that kind of counseling but it has taken over my life (lack of sleep, stomach issues, stress and chest pains). I don’t want to be to “sensitive” but I think counseling is the only way I can get past this and move on without guilt or shame. Thank God for my patient loving husband.
    good luck to all of you put there who have been abused in this way.
    love…daughter of narcissistic family

    • Im very similar to you CT above. I have a twin sister who is a narcissist and my mother was. My father left and I was alone dealing with them. It was a nightmare and I only now realize how bad the situation was. I feel for you and am here for you.

  3. So sorry to hear this. I am currently in a narcissistic relationship and my spouse is verbally abusive and lacks empathy for anyone or anything. He talks down on his co workers and acts like he is the smartest person that ever existed. We had some issues about 2 years ago when I met some guy that was really nice to me and got to talking. Before I knew it…my spouse had my car tracked, hacked my emails and phone conversations and hid recorders in my car, my bag and recorded my conversations…He then went onto play the recordings to my friends, his friends, my family and told every body I was a whore and a bitch and how I was screwing around…My friends and family are very supportive of me and know most of the verbal and emotional abuse I had been going through and also the fact that most of the conversations were were distorted and he only heard what he wanted to hear. We have 2 little kids and so decided to work on our relationship and get counseling. We did about 5 sessions and we’re doing okay only for me to realize he had been cheating on me for a long time…caught emails and hotel reservations he had all over the place and confronted him in a peaceful manner and he said that the person was somebody who had helped him in the past during a difficult time and so he Wes paying her back by sleeping with her … We decided to work through it especially because of the kids and the kids were beginning to ask a lot of questions ” mommy did daddy hurt you” ” mommy , are you and daddy still friends?”…etc. they live their daddy so much even though he barely has time for them….they are always trying to impress him hoping he will spend time with them. We had been doing well until recently when he started staying out late and when asked he will become angry. He was buying expensive gifts for the person and when asked who the gift was for told me it was none of my business and that it is his money and he can do whatever he wants to with it…. I let it go….but it he got out of hand when I asked him to give me access to our phone contract and he kept giving me the run around one excuse after another. I finally asked for his phone so I could make the call to the phone company and he was about to give me another excuse. I asked him if he was hiding something and he became very defensive and brought up the issues we had 2 years ago and went on and on and on about it…I called him out on his affairs and the hotel reservations and the gifts and he became somewhat abusive. Now he goes out and comes back in the wee hours of the morning…continues to lie about his whereabouts to his sister and actually came back home at 9 am the other day. He barely talks to me and always has this angry look… I have tried to ignore him and just work on myself so I don,t feel victimized.. The saddest part is that I love this man and will really love for this relationship to work out especially for the sake of my kids. He comes from a broken home and is so bitter about it. I on the other hand come from a very close knead and supportive family. I tell that I don’t want the kids to end up in a broken home and grow up to have such anger like he does now. He barely talks to his father and lost his mom some years after his parents separated and is still angry that his mother died from the fact that his father was narcissistic and treated her horribly that she became so depressed and eventually passed away. He still has not forgiven his dad for that…..The sad part is that he is turning out to be just like his dad and it is scary….
    I love this man but I am scared I can not change him…I want to work on myself so I am not victimized and so I can be there for my kids and help them not become like he has become……I need to be strong for myself. I m thinking of talking to my pastor in church. He does not go to church and does not like to listen to any kind of advice…..I really need help from a support group…so I can be strong for my selfish and for my kids…..P,ease help…I can not afford a counsellor!!.
    HELP!!!!!

    • Please – love yourself first. You seem to be attached to an abuser and call it love. Your goals are worthy ones for you and the kids but getting there with this man isn’t going to happen. Re-read what you wrote. This is your story – but it needs an ending that doesn’t have you loving an abuser but being loved and cherished for the fantastic person you are. Marriage is an economic unit – find out what rights you have to money. (do this stealthily). Please find a way to plan an exit and plan a life – what you have now is abuse. There are many groups – start searching and you will find helpers. Your idea to work on yourself is the right one – and you have a supportive family. You know love. You know you deserve it and this isn’t it. Start online but be sure and delete your history and searches so he doesn’t find what you have been doing. By all means talk to your pastor – maybe he knows of a group. You are a super person – take care of you. Best, Ann

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