With the goal of helping you learn how to handle a narcissist, I want you to think about the highs and lows of your life’s narrative. There are some experiences, achievements, and relationships that have unfolded rather nicely, and for that you can be thankful. Then there are other situations that have gone poorly, (to say the least) that have generated pain and regret. Some of your life circumstances are quite commonplace and predictable, while others came out of the blue quite unexpectedly. Many episodes in your life could be described as wild, while others would be catalogued as mundane.
In other words, you’ve had to make room for a broad array of people, places, happenings, outcomes, and events.
Now, let’s consider how narcissists tend to respond to the same. Many of them would describe themselves as spontaneous, free-spirited, easy-going, and adventurous. And yet…and yet. Narcissists have a strong need for control, and they are known as self-absorbed. They give little priority to empathy or heartfelt relational blending. When they do not get what they want, they can manipulate, exploit, demand, demean, shame, criticize, and coerce. That’s just what they do.
So despite their frequent proclamations of flexibility or open-mindedness, narcissists can be a fix-minded lot, at least when it comes to the relationship dimension. And there are 4 common issues that can specifically drive them crazy. Understanding these 4 common issues is important in how to handle a narcissist. Let’s take a look at them:
Narcissists operate with a strong agenda about how you should think, feel, or act. Most are smart enough to know (intellectually) that life cannot fit precisely into a tidy box, but once they are “on mission” to get what they want, they insist upon conformity. People who do not do their bidding, or events that do not unfold according to the script are not just small annoyances, they are roadblocks to be removed. Narcissists live with the notion: “You should know what I want, and quit messing up my world!”
Not only do we each experience disruptions, we routinely engage with individuals who have differing needs, feelings, preferences, interpretations, lifestyle habits, cultural influences, goals, and cravings. Each of these matters testifies to the complexity of life. Unfortunately, when individuals perpetuate too much complexity, narcissists can nurse the notion: “Quit expecting me to adjust and compromise. You just need to conform to me!”
As disruptions and complexity persist, we are faced with the prospect of including those in our world who differ. People can be “other.” Healthy individuals can accommodate all sorts of lifestyle anomalies. They appreciate the need for blending and accommodating, knowing that no single group can be expected to act, schedule, prioritize, or interpret in total unison. Narcissists, however, see inclusion of those who are not “in the club” as little more than a nuisance. They want others to blend and accommodate with them, but they have little need to reciprocate.
In the end, narcissists are left to determine what to do with the autonomy of each person. It is a basic fact that every person gets to choose how to think and act as they will. But with that strong need for control, others’ autonomy can be anathema to narcissists. They like the idea of having their autonomy, but they can be quite begrudging when you indicate the desire to choose how you will be.
Disruption, complexity, inclusion, and autonomy…these issues can bring out the crazy in narcissists. They can think:
I must neutralize you.
I must show you who’s boss.
I must break your spirit.
I must fit you into my mold.
I must punish you for being separate from me.
I must have the final word.
When you are the one who creates this disruption and complexity, and you seek a broader appreciation for inclusion and autonomy, how are you going to resist the crazy-making attitudes of the narcissist who wants you to cease being what you are?
Consider these thoughts:
I make no apology for me being me.
I will be crammed into no one’s mold.
I will be forever in a growth mode. Unique experiences not only do not disturb me, they keep me engaged with real life.
I will define myself from the inside out, not the reverse, as you might insist.
When I hear your words, I will measure them carefully, then I will go onto the path that makes sense to me.
I will thrive, I will survive, I will inspire.
Disruption, complexity, inclusion, and autonomy bring out the worst in the controlling narcissist, but that does not have to be the case with you if you learn how to handle a narcissist. You can anchor in a philosophy that recognizes this: As your life is exposed to a broad array of people and events (even the ones that are not pleasant) you can be a better person. You will be postured to become an empathetic and purposeful individual who conveys: “My competence and composure is not dictated by the externals. I get to choose how I will live, just as each person in my presence does too.”
Dr. Les Carter
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