How to Survive a Narcississtic Relationship
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How to Survive a Narcississtic Relationship


Do you have someone in your life that is you believe is narcissistic?  Is it all about them?  Are they just selfish, self-centered or do they have Narcissistic Personality Disorder.   Narcissistic Personality Disorder is characterized by a long-standing pattern of grandiosity (either in fantasy or actual behavior), an overwhelming need for admiration, and usually a complete lack of empathy toward others. People with this disorder often believe they are of primary importance in everybody’s life or to anyone they meet. While this pattern of behavior may be appropriate for a king in 16th Century England, it is generally considered inappropriate for most ordinary people today.

People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder often display snobbish, disdainful, or patronizing attitudes. For example, an individual with this disorder may complain about a clumsy waiter’s “rudeness” or “stupidity” or conclude a medical evaluation with a condescending evaluation of the physician.

In laypeople terms, someone with this disorder may be described simply as a “narcissist” or as someone with “narcissism.” Both of these terms generally refer to someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

In general, a personality disorder is an enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior that deviates from the norm of the individual’s culture. The pattern is seen in two or more of the following areas: cognition; affect; interpersonal functioning; or impulse control. The enduring pattern is inflexible and pervasive across a broad range of personal and social situations. It typically leads to significant distress or impairment in social, work or other areas of functioning. The pattern is stable and of long duration, and its onset can be traced back to early adulthood or adolescence.  This can be difficult to diagnosis because a person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder tends to believe they are not only perfect but smarter than the average mental health professional.

How can you defend yourself against the tyranny of the narcissists?   Here are some strategies for dealing with the narcissistic relationship in your life: 

  • Know yourself:  How you react to the Narcissist is largely determined by your previous encounters with such personalities.  If you had a Narcissistic parent you may find yourself more vulnerable to intimidation and you may more sensitive than someone who hasn’t had that experience.  In a strange way you may find yourself drawn to the Narcissist because of their larger than life persona and the way they make us feel when we are included in their grandiosity.  Be aware of your feelings when in the company of someone who repeatedly shames you, evokes anger and discomfort.  When you have uncomfortable or intense feelings in the presence of a Narcissist, ask yourself what buttons of yours are being pushed?  Think about a time in the past when you felt this way and, from this more emotionally distant perspective, consider why you are responding the way you are.  Detach yourself from the feeling of being diminished by the Narcissist.  It may help to think of the person as behaving as a two year old.  Deflect the shame projected on to you by the Narcissist and resist the urge to retaliate.  Retaliation will only escalate the situation.  This may help because you have put the shame the have projected back onto them, if only in your own mind.
  • Learn to life in reality: A Narcissist lived in an unrealistic world.  Whether they are expecting idealization, perfection, manufacturing images of themselves, illusions, outright lies or other kinds of exaggerated delusions of grandeur, a Narcissist requires accomplices for their grandiosity.  They want to be an admiring public persona.  Instead of hitching your wagon to their star, find your own dream.  See people for who they are, not who they want you to believe they are and no matter how special you feel you are to be in their favor.  Learn to accept the Narcissist for who they are despite their lies, disrespect and betrayal.  Don’t believe that because you love them enough or that your relationship is special and they will spare you.  Don’t go into a relationship with a Narcissist believe that you are going to change a person, or that he or she will change because of the way they feel about you.  Remember life in the reality of the relationship and of their Narcissistic behavior.  
  • Set boundaries: We all get along better when we set good boundaries.  A Narcissist will routinely violate and disrespect your boundaries.  If you were not taught to set good boundaries it may be especially hard to recognize this behavior.   When setting boundaries remember that it the most important thing is your control.  You may not be comfortable with being in control and that is why you are comfortable with a Narcissist.  You will be going up against someone who is much more comfortable with being in control.  It is important to think about how you can improve your lot and what your options are.  You should think about what you are willing to risk and who has the real power in the relationship.  The ordinary assertiveness is often ineffective with a Narcissist.  You may need to go gentler in your approach if you wish to preserve the relationship.  However, this is where you need to evaluate what is important to you and what you decide you can accept in a relationship.
  • Avoid relationships with Narcissists:  This may seem like a simple strategy, just avoid narcissistic people.  When you can’t avoid them, which may be difficult if they are family members, a boss or significant other, you can limit your involvement and instead try to surround yourself with healthier people who will support your dreams and who are capable of more give-and-take relationships.

Unfortunately, Narcissists are everywhere, if you can’t avoid them, you will have to take stock of your own options and evaluate your limitations and vulnerabilities, be realistic and set boundaries.  Ask yourself what you need and want.  You have choices and it is your responsibility how you choose to live your options.  Cultivate reciprocal relationship in your life and be grateful for the healthy relationship you have.  If you desire to improve your own self esteem to fortify yourself against falling into a relationship where you lose your voice and your power find a therapist who can help you develop your coping skills and resilience.

   


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