Narcissism is more than a collection of undesirable traits within a person…it is a mindset, a worldview. To compensate for the fear of being a nobody, narcissists have convinced themselves that it is reasonable to control you, to be entitled, to deprioritize your needs, and to demand your deference. Of course, they would not characterize it quite that directly, but we call it their Alternate Reality.
Within this Alternate Reality, there are certain requirements they have of you, the one whose usefulness is to prop up the narcissist’s fragile ego. By way of criticisms, brainwashing, throwing tantrums, and discounting your logic, they insist that you cave into them, buying the lies and half truths they perpetuate about their superiority.
Naturally, you can protest, but narcissists are a persistent lot. Over time, they can prove quite persuasive, and eventually you find yourself acquiescing to all sorts of dangerous notions. (By dangerous, I mean destructive for you.) The longer you are under a narcissist’s influence, the more your resolve can wane, and before you know it, you become a shell of the person you were meant to be.
It is essential that you understand the erosive effects of a narcissist’s Alternate Reality and how it impacts your thinking. Part of your recovery from narcissistic abuse is to become aware of the telltale signs that you have indeed capitulated to their demands. You can assume you have collapsed into the narcissist’s false versions of a good life when you hear yourself making these dangerous assumptions.
The 7 Dangerous Assumptions
1. I must have the narcissist’s cooperation.
The narcissist wants, needs, your conformity. Repeatedly they will call into question your loyalty, insisting that you are not a good person if you are out of the box. In reverse, you can think the same. When you presume that coordination and cooperation with your controller is essential, it is a sign that you are inside that person’s spell. Narcissists don’t cooperate, they compete.
2. If the narcissist doesn’t understand, I must make that person understand me.
Recall how many times you have pled your case, insisting that the narcissist has to know how you feel and think. In the process, you over-explain, pushed by the notion that without being understood, bad things will happen. Although it is quite natural to wish for understanding, with narcissists, that is a pipe dream at best. Your insistence that it must happen implies that you have placed so much value upon that person’s responses that you diminish yourself.
3. I can’t cope because of the narcissist’s impossible attitudes.
Narcissists are highly controlling and entitled, which means they are not team players. It is all about them. When you bring an “us” desire to the relationship, you set yourself up for hurt, anger, despair, and anxiety. Repeatedly, narcissists will respond stubbornly, leading you toward a “woe is me” reaction. This indicates that you have placed too much power into that person’s hands, forgetting that your coping skills exist with or without that person’s endorsement.
4. This person has ruined my life.
When you prove to be too “other” from the narcissist, that person will resort to punishing tactics. You will be derided and criticized. Others will be told how difficult you are. Plans will be altered. The narcissist will make your misery Goal #1. No one should have to endure such treatment, so it is only natural that you’d feel pain and disillusionment. But when you reach the point of assuming you have nothing left to draw upon, it shows you have been pulled all the way into the narcissist’s lie that you are little more than an inept, useless person.
5. I must be the problem.
Narcissists, by definition, are troubled people who predictably bring ruin to relationships. But at the same time, they are blame shifters. Unwilling to take responsibility for strains with you, the blame for problems will be squarely placed upon your shoulders. Of course, it is entirely inaccurate to make one person the foil, but that is what narcissists do. When you collapse in agreement with their low opinion of you, it is another indicator that you are inside that person’s Alternate Reality.
6. My dignity has been stripped from me.
Narcissist crave affirmation and admiration. It is their way of compensating for their hidden insecurities. In a strange way of thinking, they presume that they have higher worth if they can find someone who is lower. That’s where you come in. By denigrating you, they feel special. Go figure. Narcissists want you to forget that your worth, your dignity is not a matter of opinion. It is not up for a vote. Your dignity simply exists. It is your birthright. By presuming you have no dignity because of the narcissist’s pronouncements (usually many times over, as in the case of brainwashing), it illustrates that the narcissist’s falsehood has infiltrated your thinking.
7. Because of my past with this person, I am unable to move forward.
Sure enough, your experiences with the narcissist can have a long hangover effect. That person was in a position of trust in your life and misused it greatly. It will take time to reorient your thinking and to reconnect with others in a more gratifying manner, but it can happen. Assuming otherwise indicates that your thoughts are still tarnished by a troubled soul who failed you greatly.
Challenge the assumptions
Moving forward, you will need to challenge each of these assumptions that have settled into your mind, reorienting your thinking. For instance, it will be most necessary and therapeutic to remind yourself:
- You are unique and were never meant to fit inside someone’s entitled, predetermined mold.
- You are capable. The narcissist does not think so, but consider the source.
- You get to choose who you will be…beginning today.
- The narcissist’s manipulations and rejection of you says more about that person than about you. That is not your problem to solve.
- You don’t have to perform your way into dignity. It is yours to have and keep. Dignity is.
- You have indeed experienced brokenness, but your brokenness does not have to become your identity. It is never too late to begin the healing process.
- Bullies make poor teachers. You were under the influence of a master manipulator, but remember…that person was and continues to be inside Alternate Reality, which is a kind way of saying that person is delusional.
Narcissist carry chaos and confusion within, so it is essential for you to remember that their Alternate Reality does not have to become your truth.
~Les Carter, Ph.D.
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