As you learn to manage your responses to a narcissist, a starting assumption can be this: Narcissists are psychologically needy. More than normal wants, their neediness takes on a strong sense of urgency. They need your affirmation. Narcissists need your tight agreement with their self-serving agenda. They need dominance over you, which also means they need your submission and compliance. They need you to play the role of enabler. And they need you to make them look good with others.
Alongside these many needs come all sorts of undesirable traits. Clearly their neediness is behind their superficial efforts to be nice, accommodating, and helpful. (Their motives will be revealed a bit down the road.) Worse, their neediness fuels anger, criticism, rage, and passive aggressions. In their neediness they draw you into griping sessions, circular arguments, and complaints. Likewise, it prompts them to use sales tactics (like persuasion and pleading) in their discussions with you. Of course, when you fail to comply, they punish you with shame, the silent treatment, and whining.
Over time, a gnawing feeling can grow inside you that leads to the conclusion: “This is absurd. There is no good reason for me to put up with this neediness.” The narcissist’s dysfunction can override your prior willingness to engage.
You find yourself asking questions like:
- “Exactly how is this benefiting my quality of life?”
- “Am I a better person because of my association with this person?”
- “Do I feel appreciated?”
- “Wouldn’t it be more accurate to describe my feelings as being used? Or dismissed?”
- “Could I ever expect this person to have my back in times of need?”
You’ve tried to explain your thoughts and feelings clearly. You have indicated a willingness for constructive dialogue. You’ve given the narcissist plenty of chances to shift gears. And yet few, if any, changes occur. So, it only makes sense that your mood sours. And that’s when you conclude that this is a relationship you are no longer interested in.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you and the narcissist could just amicably part, each peacefully going your own separate ways?
But here is the rub: Over time, the narcissist usually senses that you are pulling away, and it is then that your problems take on a different form. Narcissists hate feeling that they might be rejected or that you might conclude that they are defective. So, they go into compensation mode by turning the tables. They want to make it clear that you are the loser, while they are the winner.
They may not speak these words out loud, but their actions and attitudes imply:
- “You can’t one-up me.” (By the way, that’s not what you’re doing, yet they think in competitive terms.)
- “I’m The Victim.”
- “I’ll make you pay.”
- “Look at the raw deal I got.”
- “You’re such an ungrateful person.”
All the while, you can be thinking: “I was just seeking some respect, and it became clear it was not going to happen.” And another thought can settle in: “If the narcissist is so down on my case, why is that person still so insistent upon my allegiance?”
There are certain truths that narcissists simply cannot accommodate. Among them:
- Differences are inevitable.
- People are not commodities to be used.
- Respect can be found as you choose to give it away.
- Conflict can be managed cleanly.
- Perfection is not possible, but love and acceptance in the midst of imperfection is.
So, when you become disinterested in propping up a narcissist’s neediness, and when the narcissist insists on complaining and putting shame on you, brace yourself. You’re dealing with a pitiably insecure person. But as that narcissist persists in sidestepping personal responsibilities while peppering you with falsehoods, a certain truth can become abundantly clear:
“You are illustrating why I have become disinterested!”
To watch the video version of this topic, please click here.
~Dr. Les Carter