When we have a Narcissist in our lives we quickly learn how manipulative, difficult
and unpleasant they are.
What we often find hard to learn is how to deal with them so that we remain in
control and as undamaged as humanly possible. I speak from bitter experience
The first thing we have to do is to let go of any hope that they will ever become
the reasonable, balanced human beings we would like them to be. That just isn’t
going to happen. They don’t have either the will or the capacity to change and no
amount of being reasonable or reasoning with them is going to make it happen.
Letting go of that hope is a huge relief. It means that we accept the reality of
what they are and we don’t have to waste emotional energy trying to make them
‘normal’ any more.
So how do we deal with them? First you have to set your own limits on what you will
and will not accept - boundaries. You have to make these very clear to the
Narcissist, you have to be prepared to repeat them endlessly (they will never learn
or accept them) and you have to stick to them rigidly. I have found that it is best
to deal with their behaviours one ‘symptom’ at a time, one day at a time.
The first and easiest boundary I set with my Narcissistic mother was about what I
am and am not prepared to listen to. Like most Narcissists she can be incredibly
negative and nasty about people, including me. Working on the principle that people
can only hurt you if you let them I decided not to listen to any of her hurtful
nonsense any more. We have the power to control what we listen to by putting the
phone down or walking away.
The first time I set this boundary we were out on a jaunt to a local market town,
some 12 miles from her home and with poor transport links. Her endless bitching and
negativity was wearing me down and I lost it with her. I told her that I was sick
of hearing it and if one more negative thing came out of her mouth I would leave
her and she would have to make her own way home. She spent the rest of the
afternoon looking like a goldfish. Every time she opened her mouth to say
something, she realised, stopped herself, and shut her mouth again.
I have repeated this scenario in many different ways since then, often sounding
like Joyce Grenfell in the Nursery School sketch. We are, after all, dealing with
emotional infants here and things have to be repeated time and time again.
She will start, I will say, “I am not prepared to listen to this,” and if she
continues I say “That’s enough, goodbye,” and put the phone down or leave.
I have set another boundary by refusing to be manipulated by her. I have made a
game of this and I confess that I rather enjoy it. I have told her many, many times
that if she wants anything of me, she has to ask. Like many Narcissists she is very
arrogant and imperious and thinks that I should anticipate all her wants. She
believes that she should not have to ask for anything, that asking is demeaning so
she tries manipulation.
I deliberately don’t get it and we can go on for ages, going round in circles
with me trying hard not to crack up laughing! Let me give you an example of the
type of conversation that we have had many, many times:-
Mother:- “J’s family take her shopping every week.”
Me:- “That’s nice of them.”
Mother:- “Every week without fail.”
Me:- “Good for them.”
Mother:- “Lots of people here [sheltered housing complex] have families who take
Me:- “That’s nice.”
Mother:- “You don’t take me shopping.”
Me:- “You never ask me to.”
Mother:- “I shouldn’t have to ask!”
Me:- “I have told you many, many times Mother, if you want me to do something
for you, you have to ask. If I can I will. If I can’t I will tell you I can’t.”
Mother:- “I shouldn’t have to ask!”
Me:- “But you do have to ask.”
Mother (now childishly petulant):- “ I do my own shopping.”
Me:- “Good for you.”
Mother:- “ I go to Aldi with J.”
Me:- “That’s funny. I thought you said that J’s family take her shopping every
End of conversation, usually with her declaring that I am just being difficult.
and me trying hard not to laugh out loud.
Another aspect of refusing to be manipulated is learning not to be damaged by
the fact that she will issue poisonous diatribes about me to anyone who will
listen. This vicious bad-mouthing is extremely common with Narcissists and it, or
the threat of it can pin down many people in the victim or scapegoat position for
years. So, you just have to move away from it, emotionally.
My mother has done this more times that I can count, spectacularly ruining
Christmas a couple of years ago by viciously bad mouthing me to my mother-in-law.
That was when I determined never to host them in my own home again. She does it
with her friends and the way I look at it is, if they are the kind of people who
are prepared to listen to and believe all that bile, they are not the kind of
people I want contaminating my life.
These are just a couple of examples of ways that I have found to deal with the
Narcissist in my life. Maintaining minimal contact helps a lot, for Narcissists are
such HARD WORK. Many people find that no contact is the only way to protect
themselves, but minimal or no contact, the important thing is to do what you can to
L.J. - Daughter of Narcissistic Mother