OK, we’re back, and I have four more aspects for you to look at to help you in dealing with the narcissist in your life.
6. They Make You So Very Confused
This also relates to my previous point about them telling you an issue is X, but it’s actually something very different, usually behind the scenes. But it’s not just that.
Octopii flood the water with ink to defend themselves from predators. To a narcissist anyone who can see them clearly feels like a predator. That’s way too vulnerable for them.
Their kind of ink is mental confusion. The confusion they create is its own reward for them, they get more room to pretend and to manoeuvre and to make out that the facts aren’t the facts. It’s a win, win, win for them.
They have various methods, the most well-known is gaslighting – where they essentially make you doubt that a fact is a fact and at the extreme end make you doubt even your own sanity. Because they are so brazen it can be hard to spot them doing it, especially as we all make some allowances in differences in communication between individuals. Surely they can’t really have meant that, tends to be the general feeling.
Often they have nothing to back their arguments up with so instead they use a sense of their own superiority as a battering ram, accompanied by a vague phrase meant to override your well-explained arguments or evidence. These may include: “you clearly don’t understand/ are exaggerating/ misunderstood/ wasn’t my intention” etc etc – anything that is so vague they can use it as an excuse not to provide any actual information, but with a tone that conveys that specifics are beneath them. You are beneath them.
This is just one example of the extremely slippery nature of dealing with communication with a narcissist. And although the mechanism is interesting, it’s really the effect we should focus on. The mental confusion.
If you leave a meeting or read an email etc and all you feel is a brain fog, or a sense of disorientation, or other confusion, that feels much more untethered than normal confusion, you need to take a step back.
Take a moment, centre yourself, breathe.
Have someone else read the email, or listen to you recount the conversation. See if there is any clarity to be found. Are there any answers there? Or was the main purpose to make you feel confused?
“Why are they causing confusion now?”, you may ask. Perhaps they’re about to lose face, perhaps they feel threatened. It doesn’t matter. Get back to a sense of clarity within yourself, grounding yourself in the facts and breathing, then if you need to continue with communication, stay polite and stay clear. I’m a big fan of short sentences and numbered points. People who are refusing to give you information, or want to confuse you, will struggle to do that more with numbered points, probably because there is more pressure to give solid facts in answer to each.
7. You Feel Strange Emotions That Are Hard to Process
When you pick up other people’s emotions, they’re really hard to process – probably because you don’t know where they’re from or have any information on what caused them.
If, for example, someone drops something on your foot and you get a rush of self-protective anger, that usually passes easily (if the person apologises and there’s no lasting damage).
But if someone dropped something on a narcissist’s foot and it triggered them and they felt rage, but they supressed it because they were with someone they wanted to impress, but the rage lingered and then they took it out on you – you wouldn’t have any of the context to deal with the rage they had shifted onto you. It’s kind of – sticky. (And icky).
I think that often what the narcissist is trying to make you feel, that’s how they feel deep down inside. So if, when you’re dealing with them, and you feel small, insignificant, uninteresting, wrong, strange, unattractive, for example, – perhaps that’s how they feel deep down about themselves.
But let’s shift the focus back to you again. You may be feeling some emotions that are strange for you, or normal emotions but of an unusual intensity.
Your mind is probably stuck on the details of the conflict, and while it is, it’s really hard to deal with the underlying dynamic that’s going on and to work through the emotions that have been put on you/ engendered in you.
This isn’t about avoiding responsibility for our own feelings, it’s about the difficulty of navigating feelings we have, that were probably the underlying goal of a strange interaction. This is something a lot of us are unprepared for because we think people are using communication to share information with us, rather than to hurt us. In this context communication becomes something else.
But back to the emotions! Something is dropped on your foot – “ow! Hey! “sorry”, “OK”, is my very rough summary of this. But if anger is dropped on you from out of nowhere, it lingers, circles, confusing us, making us stub our toes, drop things, we just don’t know what to do with this foreign body. We don’t even know it’s not of us.
So here’s a rough guide to dealing with these “foreign body” emotions:
Step 1. Acknowledge the things you are feeling that are unusual for you, and what you think was the trigger. If it’s been going on for a while, see if you can spot a pattern of triggers and the emotions that result.
Step 2. is to understand the dynamic that is leading to these feelings and then gracefully bow out. If you do not accept the emotions it is harder to put them on you, and this is easier when you can clearly spot what is happening. You can even try saying “no thank you” when you feel them arising and visualise releasing them back to their rightful owner. You should feel a shift, and feel lighter, freer or clearer.
(If these steps don’t work for you, you can also try processing your emotions using the methods I’ve spoken about previously on this blog).
If you already have a wound that fits that feeling, it’s much easier for someone to make you feel it. In this case you can wonder when you first felt this way, to find a clue for inner-child work you might benefit from. Working with a therapist can help a lot in this area.
8. You May Find Yourself Addicted to The Struggle/ Relationship
Whatever situation you have found yourself in with the narcissist – whether it’s romantic, work, family, or other. It may be addictive.
The drama, the highs and lows, the desire to win, the lovebombing or breadcrumbing, the intensity of it. It can really make you feel like it’s the biggest deal in the world.
I understand. When someone hurts you really badly and you just want to win your power back. When a narcissist withholds love and attention but then shines that spotlight on you just as you’re about to leave, and you feel all the love you were hoping for. That desire for vindication, for validation of the effort you’ve put in or the suffering you’ve endured.
All that can never come from a narcissist.
Sure, they convince you that this connection is the thing, that they’re important, that you need them to love you or approve of you, or that you are powerless unless you “win”.
All of that is fake. The only victory worth winning when it comes to narcissists is to get away as cleanly as possible from them. And then have, or keep having, a great life.
Of course, there are exceptions – you could win back a sum of money, or they could be fired, or face other consequences of their actions.
But your power lies within you, that’s where it has been all along. You can’t wrestle it back from them – they don’t have it. Your power is in you, your passions, your goals, your sense of self. That’s all within you.
So if you believe on any level that you may have become too caught up in a relationship or a struggle with a narcissist, try the following steps (if it’s too much just do the first two).
- Take a deep breath, let it out. Do that a couple more times.
- Think about the things that are really important to you, the things that give your life meaning and the things that make you feel joy.
- Say to yourself “I choose where my power goes and how I use it”, feel your power within you.
- Call to mind the connection with the narcissist briefly and say to yourself “I am ready to let go” and feel that in your whole being. Visualise the connection floating away into the distance and disappearing.
- Bring your attention back to your power. And now also to the things that are important to you. Visualise your power flowing towards the things that are important to you.
9. They Try and Get Into Your Idea of Reality and Mess It Up
This ties in a lot with several of the points above – the mental confusion, making you think the explicit issue is the issue when it isn’t, undermining your power.
But I want to talk about your sense of reality as a separate issue before we finish because it is such a common theme with everyone I’ve seen who has had to deal with a narcissist.
Even the really level-headed clients I’ve had, who have had a run-in with a narcissist where they had ample evidence and support to back them up as well as an infrastructure that made dealing with them fairly simple. Even their sense of reality had a ding in it afterwards.
It is most likely the gaslighting, but I think it is often also the damage to their sense of reality is that they had an idea of what was a minimum of good behaviour or professionalism – and then that was thrown out of the window. Because narcissists try to make everyone stoop to their level and normalise bad behaviour, many find their ability to assume the best in others and trust people is damaged afterwards.
In the worst case scenarios the narcissist causes the person to doubt themselves, their worthiness, abilities and even their knowledge of who they are. The damage to their reality – to how they experience themselves – can be long lasting and painful, and usually needs professional help to get over.
For others it’s just a lingering confusion around what happened – like however much they puzzle over it, they can’t get it straight in their mind.
If you’ve had an interaction, a struggle or a relationship with a narcissist – how has your sense of reality changed? Think about both your experience of the world, and also of yourself.
If you can’t grasp the answer, try casting your mind back to before you met this person. What has changed?
So, in these two pretty long and eclectic articles I’ve tried to cover many of the most important dynamics of dealing with narcissists. Although understanding their actions and behaviours is very important, it is often the underlying dynamics that I see eroding people’s wellbeing the most, so I hope you have gained an understanding of how to deal with these more explicitly.
At the end of the day, it’s very sad that people suffering from narcissism are wounded and will most likely die with those wounds, never fully knowing themselves, because they hardly ever seek help. But we have to release ourselves from any responsibility for their lives. We can only ever really be responsible for our own lives and we can only bring all of the gifts we offer into the world if we stay intact and healthy enough to do so.
The healthier our cultures become, both psychologically and in other areas, the less narcissists will be able to victimise others and benefit from aggressive behaviour. So, I believe effort is best spent keeping ourselves healthy and contributing to the growth and evolution of the cultures we are a part of, rather than trying to “fix” narcissists. That is best left to the professionals.
If you’d like to know more, I enjoy Dr Ramini’s videos on youtube. There are some amazing books and other resources out there also, but if you’ve been badly affected I think your first stop should be to see a therapist if you haven’t already.
If your wellbeing has taken a beating from dealing with a narcissist, I also have an exercise for boosting self-love you can try here.
Finally, if you know someone who has been affected and you think this article could help, please share it with them. I love helping more people.
And as always, take care!