It’s well established that narcissists have a high need for control, which also means they need you to become acquiescent and subordinate. They can be relentless is the pursuit of dominance as evidenced by their unbending attitudes, bossiness, refusal to admit wrong, blame shifting, and the like.
As you are routinely exposed to this pattern, you will observe how they insist upon setting the pace for your relationship style, and before you know it, you begin acting in ways you do not like. And what’s worse, you can crumble in emotional disarray as you flounder to make sense of it all.
For instance, how often have you argued with the narcissist knowing your words would not register?
Or how commonly might you complain to a friend about how impossible the narcissist is? Or have you caught yourself muttering beneath your breath about how you can’t stand the ways you are treated? Or do you just keep your valid thoughts to yourself just to prevent the narcissist from hassling you?
Narcissists famously wish to wear you down to the extent that you just huff quietly, then dejectedly whisper those two words of defeat…Why bother? That, of course, is exactly what pleases the narcissist even as you are left with feelings of dejection and demotivation.
Time reveals that the narcissist is unapologetically using various tactics with you as they seek their ultimate goal of dominance. For instance, they will:
- Relentlessly criticize your ideas, plans, and priorities
- Insist upon conformity, even when the issue is irrelevant
- Minimize others’ positive regard toward you
- Refuse to cooperate or coordinate with your plans
- Idealize someone else while demonizing you
- Prioritize their own habits that are detrimental to you (addictions, hobbies that take them away for significant time, etc.)
After much repetition, their attitudes and behaviors take a toll on you to the extent that you are no longer the kind of person you want to be. You can develop increasing cynicism or negativity in general. You may find yourself becoming rebellious, abandoning your core values. Perhaps anxiety, depression, or social withdrawal become prominent. You might give up on your preferred initiatives like going on a separate social outing or participating in a favorite activity.
Each time you yield (in fear or annoyance) to the narcissist, you lose a piece of your soul. The narcissist wants to empty you of yourself, filling you with their presence. Your individualization is a threat to that person, though that is not something a narcissist would admit. And the longer you yield, the harder it is to reverse the trend. Nonetheless, you’ll need to cease yielding. Narcissists are filled with turmoil and you cannot afford to let them determine who you will become.
That being the case, listen to your disgruntled feelings.
What’s the message you are sending to yourself? Count the cost of caving in. Know that it’s necessary to practice self-respect by living according to your well-conceived preferences. And when the narcissist predictably puts pressure on you to yield, expect it…then don’t defend. Be who you are anyway.
There is only one you, and it is your privilege, your responsibility, to take care of your Self. You have a good mind, so use it. And when the narcissist insists on being dominant over you, remind yourself that you are never very effective when a tormented soul takes over your decisions. In fact, the narcissist’s chronic insistence upon your acquiescence is a major red flag indicating that this is a toxic relationship that you either need to end or minimize.
A narcissist’s notion of dominance/subordination is wrong on many levels. That is not likely a truth you can discuss with the one initiating it, but it is a realization you can take to heart. Accept that anyone who persistently feels the need to subjugate you is disturbed and deluded. Then, as you acknowledge that truth, move straight ahead in your determination to be true to yourself. Don’t yield. Move forward.
~Les Carter, Ph.D.
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