Narcissists have an uncanny knack for creating an adversarial atmosphere. To them, winning is crucial, and even when simple differences appear, they become belligerent rather than seeking objective wisdom. (Do you ever think of a narcissist as wise?).

Built into the narcissistic equation is the desire for control, raw selfishness, a lack of empathy, entitlement, and the need for dominance. This leads to predictable traits like chronic stubbornness, being argumentative, close-mindedness, and belittling. As a result, you can be the recipient of all sorts of abrasive messages and treatment.

Over time, you can conclude: “This is more than I signed up for, I can’t keep doing this!” That’s when feelings of defiance build inwardly…and that can be a good thing. Simply put, this emotion serves as a reminder that you do not deserve to be persistently diminished.

When your defiance is noticed

As narcissists sense your defiant feeling, however, they become predictably defensive. Having no desire to know and understand you, they reflexively treat you with antagonism. They assume The Victim position. (“Look at how you’re insulting me!”). Then they use all sorts of tricks to punish and diminish you.

In other words, in disagreements, narcissists are bullies.

In the meantime, your defiant feelings remain, and you’re left with the question of how to manage yourself, knowing it will not be pleasant when you act independently.

It is essential to honestly assess what you are up against. Keep in mind, the narcissist is going to be angry, judgmental, and closed no matter what you say or do. It’s what they are. Any attempt on your part to fix differences will be temporary at best. Narcissists are not willing to receive guidance. Instead, they will forevermore deem you as stupid and a nuisance. And the narcissist will show no interest in preserving your dignity.

Understanding that, your nagging feeling of disdain toward the narcissist persists. What behaviors and attitudes will arise? You could be loud and abrasive. Or you can insist and persuade, offering evidence for your valid perspectives. You can ask cornering questions. (“Do you really think it’s a good idea to do that?”). You can solicit outside reinforcements as you plead your case. Perhaps you will go rogue, becoming wildly rebellious. Maybe you will collapse in defeat.

You always have choices.

What if you decided, though, that you don’t want to be emotionally dysregulated as you act upon your defiant feelings? What if you decided not to play the adversarial game? Also, what if you decided that the narcissist’s victimization feelings are bogus, and you’d prefer to move on? What if you decided: “I like myself best when I am patiently self-affirming, especially as I’m expected not to be”?

Despite the narcissist’s proclivity to be condescending and manipulative, you can choose to stay out of that loop and hold onto calm defiance.

Here’s how it would work:

  • Instead of repeating my words incessantly, I’ll explain myself once. If that person is eager to coordinate, brevity is a reasonable approach.
  • I accept the narcissist’s pronouncement that I am defective. I don’t have to agree with that pronouncement, but it is nonetheless how that person thinks.
  • I have no need for that person’s endorsement as I make my free decisions. Despite the narcissist’s misgivings, I make sense, so I’ll stand upon the strength of my own merits.
  • I’ll claim my uniqueness in small decisions, large decisions, and decisions in between. And when the narcissist is displeased, I’ll proceed nonetheless.
  • I offer no apologies simply for being me. I’m not very effective trying to act like someone I am not.
  • I’ll offer no excuses or lame explanations when the narcissist insists I have to defend myself. Decency is my calling card.
  • I’m no one’s inferior, nor do I feel the need to treat others as such. I don’t play that game.
  • My worth is not subject to a vote.
  • My opinions, preferences, experiences, and priorities belong to me. Let’s call them my intellectual property, and the narcissist has no right to take them over.
  • I get to interpret myself any way I deem appropriate.

As a defiant person, you are not required to be rude, mean, or insulting (like the narcissist). But you will choose to be resolute. You will choose to listen to yourself. You will choose to follow your initiatives.

In the end, you are responsible for being true to yourself. And you will find that indeed your steady, self-respecting, non-combative demeanor is your ultimate superpower. The narcissists will predictably diminish you for being true to yourself. Oh well.

Defiantly, calmly, you can think: “I still vote yes for myself.”

~Les Carter, Ph.D.

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