7 Ways to Survive a Narcissist
Anyone who has dealt with a Narcissist before knows that it is a full time emotionally draining and mentally taxing job. You can never be fully prepared for it, Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) categorised as Cluster B Personality Disorders — according to the American Psychiatric Association, is a serious mental disorder where an individual has an inflated sense of self, a deep need for excessive attention, admiration and lacks empathy for others. They wear a mask of extreme confidence but underneath lies a fragile self-esteem that is vulnerable to even the slightest criticism.
At their very core, they are pathologically envious, fearful and shame driven individuals. This in turn eats at their inner being and is the reason they exaggerate themselves by holding on to the fake self to cover up what is really going on inside. The deep-rooted fear and shame drives them to lie, cheat, steal, manipulate and control others.
Seeing people genuinely happy and productive in life triggers them because they know they are incapable of achieving this for themselves, they must go through life lying, manipulating and displaying dishonourable behaviour whilst building a victimhood story, creating a sense of entitlement.
There is vast information on Narcissistic literature out there but here are the seven ways I personally discovered how to survive and effectively take back my power from my Malignant Narcissist.
1. Document Everything
Here I am assuming the Narc is a former intimate partner. It is imperative to document all two-way communication with the Narcissist as they will consistently manipulate authentic dialogue and believe me, there is no line they will not cross. This means all forms of communication, leave no stone unturned; phone calls, emails, letters, texts, voicemail, random social media friend requests, direct messages etc.
They will twist your words, lie and gaslight you in an attempt to make you go crazy. It is really sickening what you experience during communication with a Narcissist once the mask has slipped, you’re experiencing a totally different person, someone who possesses no morals, integrity, decency or self-respect.
At first, you will ask yourself, is this person for real? The mind games they play constantly are so out of this world, you start to think, how did I not spot this sooner?! But you did spot it and chose to ignore the tell-tale signs and red flags.
Sooner or later your mind will deceive you by remembering the person you once thought you knew during the love-bombing phases at the beginning of the relationship. Your mind will try and downplay the abuse and make excuses for them even though reality paints a clear-sighted picture. This is referred to as Cognitive Dissonance and is why documenting everything is vital to breaking out of this mind fog to view the facts of the situation, calling a spade a spade.
Documenting everything is important for your sanity as it will greatly help you in moments of weakness. If you maintain no contact they will bombard you with so much abuse, you won’t be able to fathom the sadistic nature of their work, hence why document everything as it will give you something to recall upon during times of doubt, because believe me those times will come.
2. Ignore, Ignore & if in doubt Ignore — No Contact
This, in my personal opinion, is the most important for survival. You cannot underestimate how crucial this is, your emotions will get the best of you and you will feel like reacting harshly, in fact, you will react harshly to them at some point, I totally get it, you are human with real feelings and real emotions. But this is a big mistake, reacting harshly to them only feeds their fragile ego and further enables their victimhood story. I made the grave mistake of reacting harshly to my Narc, a mistake I will live to regret as I let myself down and played right into their hands. This cost me a great deal; my character, integrity and morals. Do not make the same mistake I did — go completely no contact as soon as possible.
A Narcissist cannot process their emotions, they have poor communication skills and project their deep-rooted feelings of shame onto you. They will consistently blame you for their wrongdoings whilst taking no accountability for their actions as they want someone else to be responsible for their bad behaviour.
The way to combat this is to not take anything they do personally, it has absolutely nothing to do with you, it’s a behaviour which they adopted early on in childhood as a coping mechanism to deal with trauma. This is where no contact is crucial, so you do not take on their emotional garbage and attacks.
These individuals live and breathe for supply (fuel that feeds their fragile ego) they are comfortable with negative or positive supply, meaning any emotional response you give them empowers them and enables them to abuse you further. There were times when I fell for this trap by simply reacting which led me to be labelled a “Harasser” when in fact I was simply fed up and chose to react to the constant lies, gaslighting and manipulation.
They thrive on conflict and drama and are so well versed in influencing events, people, circumstances and authority to suit their narrative. No contact is so pivotal in maintaining your dignity, character, safety and wellbeing. Do not justify or prove anything to them, do not explain, do not get upset and do not react!
There is always a hidden agenda and a sense of deception with them due to the Machiavellian Nature they possess. Do not take them at face value, there is always an ulterior motive to deceive you and make you fall into their trap of disarray. Do not allow your emotions to overshadow your intelligence.
If you must communicate with these individuals, in the event where you may have children with them or live with them, always remember to observe and not absorb, respond calmly without reacting emotionally. Use what is known as the Grey Rock method — being as impervious as a grey rock, not engaging, not saying much, not showing an interest in them or anything they say, not arguing, not giving them any form of supply.
You simply stand there and do nothing with a blank look on your face. This will stop them in their tracks as they have nothing to attack and no supply to gain, causing a Narcissistic injury as you would have forced them to reflect on themselves and their actions which they utterly hate and in turn triggers their inner child wound.
The only power they have over you is the power you give them. Maintain no contact!
3. Accept them for who they really are, not the false self they present
The person you thought existed is not real. Accept the true self, though this is a difficult pill to swallow. I know you may still love and care for them greatly but to survive you have to cut off all emotional connection to the Narcissist.
Nothing prepares you for the unveiling of what is behind the Narcissists fake mask. It is one the most daunting, mind-bending experiences you will ever go through, the only way I can put it into words that will paint the picture vividly; it’s the equivalent to realising you are in the sunken-place, (from the movie Get Out) — here, you will see the most horrific, disgusting, and shameful scenes your eyes will ever witness.
There are no warnings, there will be no flashing lights or fluorescent signs pointing out the hazard. It will make you sick to your stomach how this individual ever got so close to you. This is where they will let loose the full onslaught of their chaotic nature as the mask is fully off and you are in the presence of pure vile. They will do the most twisted and hideous things to you because you have seen past the fake façade, and in my case, tore off the fake mask exposing the true self.
The hardest part to accept is that you never mattered to the Narc. You were just a tool to be used and abused and then taken out like last week’s trash. The Narc may have meant a great deal to you, you may have had a life with the Narc and even planned a future with them, unfortunately, they did not have that same intention or care for you. You were, to put it simply, a means to an end. It is so hard to comprehend, let alone accept, that you are not a person to the Narc, but instead a measly object.
This for me was by far the hardest hurdle and lesson I faced dealing with my Narc. It takes real inner strength and fortitude to handle the realisation that the person you once knew and loved, never existed. It was all an illusion and ploy to con you. They knew their intentions right from the beginning and how it was all going to go down, planning each step of the way. They have been doing this for a long time, so it’s nothing new to them, they simply move on to the next victim and repeat the same cycle: (Idealize, Devalue, Discard).
Once you see it, you can’t un-see it, detach emotionally from them, focus on yourself and never look back.
4. Set Clear Boundaries
The person you are dealing with is emotionally regressed, entitled and lacks the capacity to not objectify human beings. In reality, you are dealing with a petulant child in an adult body. You cannot take them seriously, everything they do is to stroke their ego and garner supply. Setting and enforcing boundaries is the only way to effectively communicate with these disordered individuals.
You need to set your boundaries and not divert from them, because believe me they will try their hardest to tear them down so you can meet them at their low vibrational level. When communicating with them, keep it very factual, minimal and remove all emotions as they can sniff out feelings a mile off. Always trust your instincts, these will never let you down.
Work on your internal healing, deal with your inner wounds and heal them fully. Do not go toe to toe with a Narcissist, they know your weak points, after all, they have meticulously studied you, mirrored you and slowly drained the vital and vibrant energy you possess in preparation for your discard.
You have to take your power back wisely, when they provoke you, do not react with anger or defend yourself, instead turn the mirror on them and be very calm, stating how they really feel inside, don’t take their actions personally, they will do the cruellest things to the people closest to them. It has nothing to do with you, it is part of their disorder, their behaviour is about protecting the fake self.
By setting effective boundaries you starve the emotional vampire of their energy source of choice — supply. Do not reason with them, for you cannot negotiate with a terrorist, the more you attempt the weaker you become.
Do not expect the transition to take place overnight, it will take time and you will have to be courageous in changing the way you operate with these individuals. Accept them for who they are, do not for one second underestimate the damage a Narcissist can cause, it is a very severe personality disorder. It’s not about winning or competing with a Narc, it all comes down to no longer playing their game, giving them no power over you by setting solid boundaries.
5. Be prepared to lose “friends”
Not everyone will align to your way of thinking or see the Narcissist in question for who and what they really are. Bear in mind some friends and acquaintances have been conditioned to believe the lies and falsehoods of the Narc. You will have also, more than likely be subject to a brutal smear campaign behind your back.
The Narcissist will spread lies and blame to favour their narrative and tell events solely from their twisted perspective to slander and discredit your character. What I’ve learnt is that your true friends will always have your back and know who you really are and if in doubt they will come and find you to hear you out.
The Narc is very skilful; spreading rumours, lies and manipulating information to benefit their victim story. You must stand firm in your truth and accept that those who are easily beguiled by the Narc will fall for the false narrative.
Narcissists are great actors who come across as very caring, charming, believable, the life of the party and are charismatic individuals. Their behaviour is very callous while seemingly covert, so you won’t recognise the abuse at first. Remember that, you fell deeply for them and the false self they presented to you so do not take it personally when others do the same.
They have constructed this grandiose false sense of self perfectly and will do whatever it takes to get others to believe in this elaborate charade. The Narcissist will try to isolate you from your friends and family so that you won’t have strong allies, people who can validate your experience and know who you really are. They do this to create superiority and to ensure you have no one to run to but them.
You have to accept that you will lose some friends in the ordeal and it can be painful at first but you later realise those individuals were never truly friends and you learn to make peace with that.
6. Cut Ties with their Family & Enablers
Once you wake from the spell of a Narcissist, you realise that your instincts about them were right from the start, as though something wasn’t right about them, that feeling of “too good to be true”, but you just couldn’t figure it out or put the pieces of the bizarre puzzle together. In the back of your mind, you always knew something was wrong but your good nature wanted to help them, be there for them and support them.
Well, I am here to tell you that you should have listened to your inner voice, that feeling in the pit of your stomach warning you that something was terribly off. Once you stop sipping on the spiked Narc Kool-Aid you fully see the nature of the beast and the list of red flags you repeatedly chose to ignore, all the signs from people who warned you of their troublesome nature, including their so called friends and even the flashbacks of the constant struggles with them for common decency. It all makes sense once you are sober.
You become akin to the truth that you have been dealing with a Narcissist who has been this way right from the start. Now the interesting thing is the family of the Narc (assuming here, you and the Narcissist are not in the same family) know exactly who and what the Narcissist is, they choose to be ignorant and pretend they don’t see the chaos even though they are fully aware of the cruelty but expect you to continue on with the Narcissist just as they have all these years.
They presume you will take on the Narc’s nonsense as it’s a much-needed release to the family for someone else to take on the bad treatment of the Narcissist. The family of the Narc were always aware of their dysfunctional behaviour and when they saw that you hadn’t figured the Narc out, they jumped for joy and welcomed you in with hugs and smiles while knowing the exploitation and torture you would endure in the future at the hands of the Narcissist.
You must remember the Narc didn’t just somehow become a Narcissist randomly. The family are the people she/he learned their bad behaviours and cowardice traits from. Traditionally this begins very early on in their childhood where their Narcissistic Parent, would have abused the child mentally, emotionally and sometimes physically causing severe psychological damage, creating a deep void and chronic injury to the child.
This would then bring about trauma, neglect, abandonment and shame issues. All of which are deeply planted in the child, who would then grow up to embark on a crusade of abusing and hurting people to cover up the distress they suffered greatly as a child by their caregiver.
It is best to not engage with the family as they will most likely maintain a ‘perceived’ united front, invalidate your experience and make you feel worse. There are some family members that will reach out to you privately, plead and beg with you to stay with the Narc and even guilt trip you to excuse their bad behaviour, these are what you call the enablers. They have known all along what one day you will figure out for yourself, but they were not anticipating your awakening to educate yourself, expose the truth and view the Narc, their Family and Enablers for who they really are; parasites.
The enablers are those who know the Narc very well, often these are their closest friends who know of their abusive behaviours but choose to turn a blind eye and reward the Narc for their bad conduct. The Narc will cloak their enablers with deception so they are none the wiser to the Narcs tactics. This further strengthens the Narc as they have cheerleaders who won’t challenge them or hold them accountable for their duplicitous nature.
The enablers have been programmed to believe the Narc’s simulation is a reality even if they have seen the mistreatment and glitches with their own eyes. They will remain loyal to the Narc, similar to how Cypher was loyal to the Agents even after realising the simulation was fake. (from the movie, The Matrix) These individuals are as toxic as the Narcissist and can also be Narcissists themselves.
When you stand in your truth and implement no contact, this is the ultimate threat to a Narcissist as it rocks them to their core, they simply cannot fathom the thought of a victim breaking free, standing up to them and wanting nothing to do with them. The Narc will do anything to prevent this from happening. They simply cannot accept that they are broken individuals and far from the “perfect” image they present to the public.
They will do whatever it takes to make sure people see them as the victim and you as the delusional person who is just over sensitive with a wild imagination. You are labelled crazy once you no longer can be manipulated.
Once you want nothing to do with the Narcissist, their family will discard you expeditiously and act like you never existed because you have escaped their matrix and see fully what they were hiding from you in plain sight.
In the beginning, they welcome you in with open arms, future fake you, adore and spoil you and welcome your relationship with the Narc with great enthusiasm, sometimes even rushing the relationship to marriage in order to seal the deal.
Your heart will feel full of support and perceived kindness, particularly if you never had a sense of family growing up but this is just a sinister ploy to get your defences and boundaries down so they can destroy you and leave you a shell of your former self.
7. The Narc’s abusive tactics and mind games
Outsmarting a Narcissist is very difficult as you are not dealing with a sane person, they lack empathy and emotional intelligence, you’re dealing with a mastermind manipulator with years of experience. Their nature is pathological and behaviour deeply engrained within their DNA so they see no wrong in their actions. They change the story as they go along and always see themselves as a victim.
The only thing that matters to a Narc is self-preservation, they will do anything and everything to defend the false self, they have an arsenal of tactics at their disposal for this; word salad, diversion, outlandish lying, hoovering, denial, moving the goal post, smear campaign, silent treatment, gaslighting, love bombing, stalking, triangulation, projection, flying monkeys and blame-shifting to name a few (phew!)
Below are the main tactics I experienced but you can simply Google the examples given above
Gaslighting: By far the Narcissist’s favourite tool of choice, they will use this without fail.
“I never said that!”
“You’re the one that’s lying”
“You’re making things up in your head”
“You’re so sensitive….my gosh”
“Everyone thinks you’re crazy and delusional”
“It’s not what it looks like, you’re upset over nothing”
“You’re so lucky to have me, no one will ever love you how I do”
This is their way of invalidating your experience, making you question your perception of reality. They lie, cheat and accuse you of doing and saying things that you know you didn’t. This is a form of psychological/emotional abuse where the Narcissist manipulates situations to antagonise the victim into doubting his/her own memory, perception and sanity.
The way to protect yourself in this situation is to not believe what they are saying to you, remember the grey rock method, and be ok with them not believing or validating your experience. Within them, they know you are telling the truth and know you are not the crazy one.
Silent Treatment: The Narc will purposely ignore you to cause emotional harm and gain control over your mind and emotions. Pleading with them for authentic communication will not work, they lack compassion and cannot communicate like a normal human being. They get a huge power trip when you’re begging for their approval/attention. The silent treatment is a weapon used to punish a victim.
The trigger is initiated when a victim asserts his/her boundaries to thwart the Narc’s incoming mind control. This causes an internal wound to the Narc and they do not know how to process it. They would rather shut down and behave like a child. They want you to react emotionally which will give them the needed supply to feel important and superior again.
To counter, you must remember your boundaries and do not react to their drama, they absolutely love drama, it gives them an escape from their miserable lives and existence. The silent treatment only works if you are hurt by being ignored.
Word Salad: This is where the Narc will speak in riddles and make sweeping statements and accusations that have nothing to do with the topic or discussion at hand. It will absolutely make no sense what so ever. This is a coping mechanism she/he uses when someone threatens their authority, dominance, superiority and entitlement. It is often triggered when you try and hold a Narc accountable for their actions, it’s their way of escaping facts and reality to remain in their delusional beliefs, causing confusion and frustration within the victim.
When dealing with this be crystal clear and direct in communication, preferable via email so you have proof of everything they say.
At first, the word salad will drive you up the wall, it’s a complete mindfuck as they are simply talking a whole heap of shit (excuse my French) but once you understand and see it for what it is, you will laugh in disbelief at how an adult can speak in such nonsensical dialogue.
Hoovering: The Narcissist will try their very best to suck you back into their abusive cycle once you have successfully escaped or when they feel their control over you is slipping;
- Reaching out on important dates, such as prior anniversaries, birthdays or milestones
- Asking for help where your physical presence is required by them
- Verbally attacking you and assassinating your character
- Using flying-monkeys to contact you
- Contacting mutual friends and acquaintances to spread lies
- Acting concerned about you and as though they want the best for you
- Guilt-tripping you over your past actions
- Spreading false gossip in the hope it gets back to you, so you react
- Messaging you through fake accounts on Social Media
- Pretending nothing happened and reaching out to you directly on irrelevant topics
All this just to get you back to abuse you even worse than before. The key here again is no contact. Narcissists condemn themselves to a life of misery and self-loathing; since misery loves company that means a life of working hard to make others feel how they really feel inside. Do not allow the Narc to project their real feelings on to you.
Smear Campaign: Once the Narcissist has lost complete control over you and you have gone fully no contact they take this as the ultimate insult, how dare you walk away from their toxic nature and put yourself first?! The smear campaign is brought about to spread false narratives about you to undermine, discredit and further isolate you. The Narcissist will paint you in a toxic light by exaggerating stories, spreading rumours, slander and lies. This is done to get you where it hurts and ensure no one believes your truth when you finally break free.
They target anyone who means something to you, no one is off-limits to a Narcissist. The goal of the smear campaign is to maintain their delusions and validate their false self to keep the real truth hidden, this is a matter of survival for the Narc. They do not want anyone around who can expose them for who they really are. Your best defence against the smear campaign is to simply ignore and disengage whilst recognising it for what it is: Rumours carried by haters, spread by fools and accepted by idiots.
I hope you find some solace in this post and are able to discover ways in which to regain your power, wherever you may be on your journey. Focus on the elements within your remit of control. Time will always catch up with the Narcissist as they always create their own demise. You may not be around to witness it and it is not your duty to ensure it happens, but it will come, they leave a devastating trail of destruction throughout their lives and will face the consequences for their actions.
Life is what you make it, not what the Narcissist says your life should be, get out there and enjoy your life.