In a perfect world, each person would be dedicated to the process of actualization, a lifelong commitment to becoming the most balanced person you can be. Unfortunately, this is not an ideal world, and even if you are one who seeks actualization, it is certain that some will not only stay on the sidelines, but will be antagonistic toward your goal.

Narcissists, being entitled and self-promoting, are offended by your desire to become anything that does not meet their criteria. They live, not for actualization, but for satisfying their own personal agenda, period. And in the process, there is one primary belief they hold, which indicates how profoundly they do not understand or appreciate you. A narcissist doesn’t get it.

In a nutshell, a narcissist’s approach to a relationship with you can be summarized by the notion: You need to be controlled.

In a wide array of circumstances, but especially in moments of conflict, they illustrate their misunderstanding of you by presuming it is best to give you directives you either don’t want or need. Being full of themselves, they naturally conclude: “You need to comply with my Agenda.”

Pause to consider the rationalizations attached to their mindset:

  • I’m special, you’re not.
  • I know the truth, you don’t.
  • My priorities matter, yours do not.
  • I’m quite adequate, you’re inadequate.
  • When we differ, you’d better have a good excuse
  • If you’d just do as I say, your life would be so much better.

As they stubbornly press forward with an attitude of control and enlightenment, they fail to recognize the bankruptcy of such a strategy…so they persist. Unaware or dismissive of the insults accompanying their initiatives, they rationalize the necessity of keeping you in line. Your growth efforts are threatening to them, while their need for dominance is paramount. A narcissist just doesn’t get it.

When narcissists illustrate their fundamental lack of understanding of you, all sorts of negative repercussions await. For instance, they create instant distance with you. Arguing becomes too common. Rebellion can result. Emotional dysregulation can become common. And all the while, the narcissist thinks, “This proves why you need to be controlled. You don’t get it, but I do. Just think and prioritize as I declare.”

A narcissist is oblivious to the reality that he or she is the one who doesn’t get it.

That being the case, drop the expectation of being known and understood by the narcissist. But then remember, when narcissists invalidate your feelings, interpretations, and preferences, it does not mean you are actually invalid. When they trash your character, it does not mean you are trash. And when they imply they are superior, it does not mean you are inferior.

A narcissist’s inability to get you, to understand you, has nothing to do with who you are and everything to do about how they interpret the world in front of them. It is essential for you to depersonalize their negativity as you understand how inaccurate they are in interpreting you.

Ideally, as you engage with others, you should be honored and respected. You should be regarded as worthy. You should be heard, consulted, and affirmed. And even when you err, you should be allowed to make reparations.

But when a narcissist presumes you should be controlled, they are not at all concerned with honoring you, or respecting you, or treating you worthily. In that moment, you are merely a player on the narcissist’s stage, and the narcissist would think the same if another person filled your role. It’s part of their pattern of life.

Narcissists are unaware people, and they are unaware of their unawareness.

When narcissists falsely act upon the need to control you, remember some key options:

  • You have your own independent mind. Listen to it.
  • You can be a curious person. Follow where that might lead you.
  • You have competence. Make plans based upon your capacity for maturity.
  • You are capable of wisdom. Become grounded in it.
  • You are a person of dignity. Relish that notion.
  • You have the capacity for integrity. Build upon it.
  • You are meant for love. Learn to love who you are, and pass it along toward others.
  • You have your own unique blend of skills, pluses and minuses, life experiences, hopes, dreams, and aspirations. Accept all of who you are.

Narcissists will predictably inform you how you are supposed to filter your plans through them. They are naturally bossy, stubborn, givers of unsolicited advice, and closed to input. So, factor that in.

But in the meantime, instead of buying into their control messages, you can determine to be controlled in a very different way. You can be controlled by your own well-conceived standards, your values, your spiritual practices, your talents and interests, and your commitment to wholeness.

And when the narcissist still thinks you need to be controlled (and just doesn’t get it), know you are in the presence of a misinformed soul. As a self-respecting person, you cannot afford to filter your life through one who truly does not get you.

~Les Carter, Ph.D.

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