Narcissism is an extremely destructive personality disorder that can literally ruin your life. If you’re in a relationship of any kind with a narcissist, they will take advantage of you by using manipulation to control you. They can leave you with low self-esteem, take all your money, and even have you doubting your own sanity. It’s critical to know how to respond to their abusive manipulation tactics so they won’t ruin your life, but how?
To stop a narcissist from ruining your life, it’s vital to use several proven techniques to set firm boundaries, moderate your expectations, and heal your own issues so that they can’t use them to manipulate you. Most of all, you need to remember you’re a good person who deserves better treatment.
To prevent narcissistic abuse, it’s critical to understand how this personality disorder develops and how it affects the behavior of the narcissist. You also need to know the manipulation tactics narcissists will use so that you can recognize when they’re attempting to control you. It’s also critical to heal your own emotional issues so you can stand up for yourself and take good care of your own needs.
What Causes Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)?
The tragedy of narcissistic personality disorder, or NPD, is that it typically results from abusive treatment suffered in childhood. As a child, the narcissist was treated in such a way that they came to view their true self as shameful and worthless.
This self-loathing is what’s at the heart of this devastating mental condition. Because they view their true self to be worthless, they bury it deep inside, but they need a way to interact with the world around them. It’s for that reason that they construct a false self, but the false self is like a house of cards.
In their desperate need to feel good about themselves, the narcissist, who is still a child at this point, infuses the false self with what they wish they were — omnipotent and omniscient. The problem with the false self, however, is that it is not a substantial identity structure like the true self.
The false self is unable to provide the narcissist with internal support; it can’t help the narcissist to self-soothe nor can it support the narcissist’s self-esteem. For that, the narcissist needs external validation and support from the people around them.
They need an almost constant flow of adulation from family members, friends, and colleagues. They need to be praising the narcissist and telling them how much they love and need them. In real life, however, the people in your life don’t constantly demonstrate their adoration or admiration for you.
There are times when they validate you, but mostly you and the people around you are going about the business of living your lives. While that’s happening, your own healthy ego is what props up your self-esteem and helps you get through any difficulties you might encounter. The narcissist, however, doesn’t have a healthy ego.
How Will a Narcissist Ruin Your Life if You Let Them?
Narcissists lack the ability to feel empathy for their victims, and therefore they don’t really understand how their actions affect other people. Moreover, they see other people as mere extensions of themselves.
This is because they rely on external validation to prop up their own self-esteem. It causes them to see other people as part of their own identity. This means they feel entitled to the narcissistic supply they get from those people, and they don’t feel any need to give back to them.
To the narcissist, you are merely another part of them and you should act accordingly. They will use and abuse you as they see fit, and they don’t see any reason you should complain about that. They are focused solely on their own needs, and in their mind, you should be too.
For that reason, they will take everything they can get from you and give virtually nothing back. It’s wholly a one-sided relationship. What’s more, they will feel no compunction about criticizing you if you don’t deliver what they need quickly enough or with enough passion.
They will cheat on you, lie to you, ruin your relationships with other people, take all the money you will give them, isolate you, and do all of this while telling you how worthless you are. Narcissism is extremely damaging to a relationship, and it can leave the victims of narcissistic abuse feeling completely devastated. This is how a narcissist can utterly ruin your life, but when you try to call them out, they often explode in narcissistic rage.
How Does a Narcissist React When Enraged?
Narcissistic rage is another manipulation tactic that narcissists will use to distract you from whatever you might be talking about with them. If you say something that hits a little too close to home for the narcissist, they will fly into a sudden, explosive rage. It’s a veritable ‘shock and awe’ defensive maneuver to distract you.
The suddenness and ferocity of their rageful response often does the trick. It distracts the victim and discourages them from bringing up the subject in the future. Once they know it works, they will use it again and again.
It’s also possible the narcissist can become physically abusive. Of course, not all narcissists will physically abuse their victims, but it’s one possibility. It’s an extension of this rageful response.
From the victim’s point of view, this is a very confusing situation. The narcissist’s rage seems to come out of nowhere and be disproportionate to the conversation at hand. You don’t think you’re talking about something that serious or maybe you’re just joking around, and suddenly, you’ve got a raging narcissist in your face saying all kinds of terrible things.
What is the Devaluation Stage of a Relationship with a Narcissist?
Relationships with narcissists typically pass through three stages: Idealization, Devaluation, and Discard. The idealization stage is the one that likely caused you to fall in love with this person. This is where they seem to be idealizing you.
During the idealization stage, the narcissist will be very loving, incredibly supportive, intensely interested, and exceptionally charming. You’ll think you’ve truly met your soulmate, and in fact, many victims of narcissistic abuse say just that.
Unfortunately, the idealization stage can’t last. The narcissist can’t sustain such focus on you forever. They need you to start focusing on them. During the idealization stage, the narcissist is busy learning everything they can about you, and when they think they have gotten everything they need from you, they will start demanding your focus.
Narcissists were exposed at a young age to unrealistically high expectations, and they have the same unrealistically high expectations of you. You’ll never be able to satisfy the narcissist, and when you don’t, the relationship enters the devaluation stage. This is when the narcissist will begin to criticize you, and that criticism will become more severe over time.
If the narcissist gets everything they possibly can from you or if they sense you are ready to leave them, this is when they will move on to the discard. They will often leave you, sometimes suddenly, and disappear from your life…for a while. Make no mistake about it, however, they will likely be back.
The devaluation stage is what is particularly damaging to the victims of narcissistic abuse. It can leave you with low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression, and it can cause long-term mental and physical health problems.
How Does this Behavior Affect a Narcissist’s Victims?
Narcissistic abuse can have several long-term effects on the victim’s mental and physical health. The manipulation tactics a narcissist uses can leave their victims with something called narcissistic victim syndrome.
Their lies, gaslighting, projection, and triangulation along with their characteristic rage can leave victims insecure, anxious, depressed, and doubting their own sanity. They come to feel as though they need to walk on eggshells to avoid setting the narcissist off.
This treatment can be a nightmare for victims, and it can be difficult to recover from this kind of abuse. It can take years of therapy to work through the problems this kind of abuse causes. What’s more, narcissists often manipulate their victims into giving them all their money or other property.
In short, narcissistic abuse can leave you distraught, depressed, anxious, and broke. Moreover, even when you think you’ve gotten rid of the narcissist, they will usually come back into your life and try to get you to become involved in their drama all over again.
You might not think you would ever do that, but remember, the narcissist can turn on the charm at will. They will work hard to hoover you back into their drama. It makes them feel powerful to think they can convince you to take them back.
They will work hard to convince you that they have changed, and if that doesn’t work, they might even take to stalking you to get you back. It’s a nightmare for the victim.
Can a Narcissist Change?
The narcissist will make claims that they have changed, and it might even seem as though they have, but remember, narcissists are expert liars. The truth is that a narcissist can’t change without years of psychotherapy.
It is possible for a narcissist to change, but there are several factors that work against that possibility. The first is that a narcissist, who is full of self-hate and shame, is very sensitive to any kind of criticism. That’s part of the reason they will fly into a rage if you dare to criticize them.
For that reason, the narcissist is not able to accept responsibility for any flaws they might have. Remember, their fragile false self is incapable of any internal support for their emotions or ego. Highlighting their flaws means the narcissist’s house of cards may all come tumbling down.
They constantly fear being exposed for that hateful true self they buried long ago. That fear drives their desperate need for external validation If they are exposed, they often will suffer a complete mental breakdown known as a narcissistic collapse.
This all means they are extremely unwilling to admit they have flaws. If, for some reason, they are able to do that, then they must be willing to commit to years of intense therapy and face their worst fears in order to actually reduce their narcissistic tendencies.
There are therapeutic methods that can help them, but all of them require the narcissist to work hard and long to make those changes. Even if they start therapy, narcissists frequently quit before any real change occurs. This all makes it very unlikely a narcissist will ever change.
What Can You Do to Protect Yourself from a Narcissist?
While you can see the tragedy of narcissism from the narcissist’s point of view, the reality is that they can still ruin your life, and you don’t deserve that. You’ve done nothing to deserve the kind of abuse the narcissist will heap on over the course of your relationship with them.
Probably the best thing you can do to protect yourself from a narcissist is to go no contact. In fact, retired psychologist Edward Tierney states, “The torture will only stop when you leave. I wish more people understood this.”
Leaving them means no contact…ever. It means blocking them on your social media, blocking their phone, alerting your workplace to potential problems, telling your family not to contact them, and telling mutual friends that you don’t want to see or hear from them or about them ever again.
You’ll have to take such strong measures because they will come back and try to reinsert themselves into your life. Unfortunately, not everyone can choose the no contact option. You might share children together or a business or there may be other reasons you can’t leave them behind forever.
In that case, you’ll have to employ several techniques to ensure that they cannot continue to manipulate and control you. Let’s explore each of the steps you’ll need to take to stop them from ruining your life.
1. Don’t Take the Bait
This essentially means that you have to stop reacting to the narcissist emotionally. They are trying to get a reaction out of you, but you’ve got to stop giving them what they want. That likely means limiting your encounters with them and controlling your reactions when they try to bait you.
There’s a technique called the “Grey Rock” technique. It means becoming as uninteresting as a grey rock. The goal is to make the narcissist bored with you so that they will move on to other people.
It will be difficult, but you need to always respond calmly to them and use logic and facts to explain yourself when there’s an interaction. You never want to respond on an emotional level.
You need to shut them down when they try to bait you in with a calm demeanor, but you also don’t want to give them anything they can use against you. Be selective with what you might decide to share with them because they will use it against you if they can.
2. Clearly Communicate Your Needs
The next step to prevent the narcissist from ruining your life is to clearly communicate what you need and what your boundaries are, and you should do this in writing. You will need to present this information in a clear, concise manner to the narcissist so they know what you will and will not accept.
Give the narcissist a printed copy and make them read through every word. You need to drill your boundaries into them, and you need to make clear what consequences a boundary violation will have. You also need to enforce those consequences every single time there’s a violation.
If you’re discussing your boundaries and the narcissist interrupts you, shut them down immediately. This is another manipulation tactic they employ to distract you and get you onto another topic.
Setting and sticking to your boundaries is your superpower! It’s the only way you can stop the narcissist from doing whatever they like to ruin your life. If you’re not prepared to leave them for boundary violations, at least be prepared to leave the room and stop all communication until the narcissist complies with your needs.
Make a list and check it twice. This list should consist of if/then statements for every boundary you set. This is an essential part of setting and maintaining boundaries. It not only tells the narcissist how you will respond, but it also gives you a solid plan to follow.
Simply fill in the following sentence: “If the narcissist does/says_______________, then I will do/say______________.”
Do this for every single boundary you set and for every type of behavior from the narcissist that you want to stop.
4. Accept the Narcissist As Is
So many people just continue to hold out hope that the narcissist in their life will change, but that’s such an unlikely event. You might think that if you just love them enough, they will want to improve their behavior.
The problem with that is that their mental condition prevents them from accepting they have done anything wrong, ever. They will only apologize to you for their behavior if it gets them what they want, and if you apologize to them, they will use that against you for the rest of time.
They will see it as an admission that they are perfect and you are not. Your apology will do little more than feed their ego, and you’ll never get a genuine apology in return. You must think of the rest of your relationship with them as being just exactly what it is right now. They won’t change, so make sure you take care of yourself.
5. Adjust Your Expectations and Take Care of Your Own Needs
The next thing you need to do is adjust your expectations for the relationship. The narcissist will never be someone who lovingly considers your needs and responds with kindness and empathy. They don’t have the ability to empathize with you which means they don’t have the ability to understand how their actions impact you.
You must accept that, and you must accept that you deserve better than that. While you might not be willing to go no contact with the narcissist in your life, you will need to understand that you won’t get your emotional needs met by them. You’ll have to get those emotional needs met elsewhere perhaps with good friends and loving family members.
Part of understanding that you deserve better also means taking care of yourself mentally and physically. Practice positive affirmations, meditation, and exercise regularly so that you maintain both your physical and mental health.
These practices need to be regular, and you need to set a boundary with the narcissist about having the time and space to practice self-care. You deserve to treat yourself right and to be treated with respect and love. This is something you can never forget.
If you must stay in a relationship with a narcissist, you’ll need to take steps to prevent them from ruining your life. Even if you leave them and go no contact, you’ll still need to take steps to prevent them from turning your life into a disaster.
Probably the most important thing you can do for yourself is to realize that you deserve to be treated better. Then, take the steps to ensure that you are treated with respect and dignity. That also means recognizing that you will not change the narcissist. No one can except for the narcissist themself.
If you’re involved with a narcissist in any way, it’s critical that you understand how they think about their loved ones. You’ll need to read this post about whether or not a narcissist cares about their family. It has important insights into how they view even the people with whom they are the closest, and it will help you consider carefully what to do to protect yourself.
If you want more tips for dealing with narcissists, setting boundaries, and managing emotional triggers, make sure you subscribe to my youtube channel