Coping with a narcissist is NOT an easy task. In fact, it can be nearly impossible. That is most likely why so many websites say no contact is the only solution. In many cases, no contact is the best solution. That does not mean that it is a possible solution for everyone, however.
There are many people who do not wish to sever ties with the narcissist in their life. There are others who wish to, yet do not feel able to do so at present. Both types of people are the people I hope to help the most, because you are also the ones under the most scrutiny and judgment, and who receive the least amount of support.
If this describes you, you probably feel a great deal of shame. If so, please know there is no good reason to feel that shame! Every person has their own unique path to walk, and there is nothing wrong with it.
I too have been in the position of feeling as if I wanted to go no contact with my narcissistic parents, but was unable to do so. I just knew it was not the right timing. People told me “just go no contact” or “Why don’t you just stop speaking to them?!” Yet, I could not. Something in me knew it was not right at the time, in spite of them hurting me constantly. Thankfully, God showed me how to handle the situation until the timing was right for no contact. He can do the same for you. And, I want to share with you some things that helped me get through that extremely difficult time.
The best thing I learned about how to cope with a narcissist is to deprive them of their precious narcissistic supply. To do this, you need to understand narcissistic supply. Narcissistic supply is anything that…
- makes a narcissist feel unique and/or special.
- props up a narcissist’s self-esteem.
- makes a narcissist feel powerful.
- keeps them at the center of attention.
So what does these things? Here are some scenarios that narcissists love…
- When someone admires a narcissist’s looks, this makes narcissists feel special.
- If a narcissist has a talent or is known for helping other people, this props up a narcissist’s self-esteem.
- Being able to make a person love or hate the narcissist, or make a person furious or obsessed with them gives narcissists a false sense of being very powerful. After all, they can influence a person’s emotional state drastically. That must mean they are powerful, right?!
- Anything that gets a narcissist attention is good in their eyes. Even if that thing makes them look foolish or disgusting, that is not important. What is important is that all eyes are on the narcissist.
Depriving narcissists of their coveted narcissistic supply is often referred to as The Gray Rock Method. I think of it as becoming boring to a narcissist. However you think of it, it is a very helpful tool in dealing with any narcissist.
You too can become boring to the narcissist in your life. Think about this person, and you will come up with some creative ways to deprive him or her of that narcissistic supply. Below are some of my own thoughts to get you started…
- No doubt you have noticed many times when you said or did something, this person responded with a certain look. That is a sign of a narcissist receiving their supply. I remember when my narcissistic mother would say things that cut me to the quick. As soon as I got angry and started to react out of that anger, she would get a smug and satisfied look on her face that I saw at no other time. My ex husband did the same thing. My late mother in-law was a bit different. She would immediately morph into the innocent victim, completely shocked I was upset with her when, according to her, all she wanted to do was help.
- Show NO emotions around a narcissist. If you are happy, a narcissist will ruin it. If you are angry or sad, a narcissist will make you feel worse. Your best bet is to maintain strict neutrality in the presence of any narcissist. It is hard at first, but it gets easier when you realize your emotions are only feeding this person. You will come to appreciate a stoic manner, and be able to maintain it when you see that not doing so only causes you pain. (Of course, once you are away from the narcissist, then you need to vent. Holding emotions in is NOT healthy, beyond doing so for the short time you are around a narcissist.)
- Respond, never react. Reactions require no thoughts, and happen immediately while responses take thought and wisdom. Reactions only show a narcissist that he or she has power over your emotions. Rather than do that, take a moment to react instead. When you struggle with this, and we all do sometimes, take a deep breath. Release that breath slowly. This act helps to calm your body down while giving you a moment to collect your thoughts. It is a simple yet effective tactic.
- Never forget that this person is a narcissist, and not a normal person. The things you can expect from a normal person do not apply with narcissists. You cannot expect a narcissist to react normally or feel things normally. They see the world through the skewed view of their narcissistic lens.
- Keep expectations low/non existent. If you keep thinking this time will be better or surely this person will see the error of his/her ways, you are only setting yourself up for disappointment. Hope for the best but prepare for the worst as the saying goes. Pray for this person to improve, but be prepared for the likely scenario that he or she will not change unless it is to get worse as the person ages.
- When good moments happen, do not expect them to last. Narcissists are rarely horrible 100% of the time. They throw their victims crumbs of kindness periodically. This keeps victims off kilter wondering if the narcissist is really so bad, and makes the victim easier to control. When those good times happen, remember their purpose. It does not mean the narcissist has changed or genuinely loves you.
- Consider your conversations with the narcissist. Are you divulging personal information? If so, STOP!!! Do NOT tell any narcissist anything personal about you. I do not care what the information is, stop sharing it. Even if it is something innocuous like you have a doctor’s appointment, do not share that with a narcissist. If you do, that person will want to know why you are seeing the doctor, what medication you are on and even what time and where your appointment is. While such details may seem innocent to share, nothing is innocent with narcissists. They can twist anything around to make a victim look bad, and I do mean anything. That doctor’s appointment example? A narcissist could tell people that you have it because you contracted a terrible disease due to your promiscuous ways, when the truth is you have a simple sinus infection and only need an antibiotic.
- Keep all topics of conversation off of you and superficial. Talk about the weather or your shared hobby, but do NOT discuss anything about you with a narcissist. If the narcissist in question wants to know things about you, do not give up that information! Change the subject. A good way to avoid sharing personal information is to turn the topic back to the narcissist. Ask him or her something about his or her interests. How is that person’s favorite relative doing? How are things going at work, church, the club that person belongs to? No narcissist really wants to pass up the chance to talk about his or herself, so you might as well make that work for you.
- Remember, many narcissists love shock value. This means they will do anything to bring attention back to them. During a conversation with other people, if they are being ignored, they may do something outrageous such as loudly start talking about some unrelated and inappropriate topic. They also may burp loudly or even break into song (my mother has done this). When this happens, your natural reaction will be to pay attention to the narcissist. That is why they love shock value. Instead, stop yourself and continue with what you were doing as if the narcissist did nothing.
- Narcissists will use the telephone as a way to garnish them the attention they crave. If you do not take their call, you can expect them to call you 7,000 times in a row followed by another 8,000 texts. OK, maybe that is an exaggeration, but not by much. This sort of behavior is an attempt to force you to deal with the narcissist. I also think of it as bullying. Basically it is someone saying, “You WILL take my call and I will make your phone ring until you pick up that phone, no matter how long it takes!” It can be incredibly hard not to take their call or respond to the texts just to make it all stop, but I am telling you, do NOT do it! Any time you give in to a narcissist, it shows them that this tactic will work. Once they realize that, they will use said tactic repeatedly to get whatever it is that they want. Do NOT give them that power! Instead, ignore your phone. Shut it off or turn off the ringer if it helps. Only respond when and if you feel up to doing so.
- Limit your exposure to the narcissist. Too much time spent with a narcissist never ends well for the victim. You end up tired, emotionally drained and irritable, even possibly mistreating those closest to you out of sheer frustration or exhaustion.
- You may find it best to end the relationship with the narcissist. Sadly, often this is the only solution. If you are considering it, please read this link for more information: Should I Go No Contact?
What ideas do you have after reading mine? If you do not have any just yet, relax. They will come to you. Do not forget to pray, too. If you truly are drawing a blank, God can help you to have some creative ideas.