On the Internet a lot is written about the treatment of narcissism, about how you should deal with a narcissist. Sometimes I startle when reading those advices, whether written by a psychologist or psychiatrist or a pseudo-expert. Here I would like to share my advices - based on all evidence available and all advices I've read - My advices will be in line with the model of a normal personality that I've presented on another page and in line with behavioral learning theories.
First of all, you have to reflect on the type of relationship you have with the narcissist that you want to deal with. Is it a relatively safe relationship? Or rather a risky one? For example, if you are an ordinary employee of a boss who is narcissistic, then such a relationship is not a wise starting point to deal with his narcissism. Just as risky is the situation in which you are the partner of your narcissistic husband whom you would like to change. This safety has everything to do with power. Many narcissists can only continue with their abnormal behavior because they are very clever in manipulating others to come into positions of power. In such positions they can do things that in another context will not be tolerated by most people. Examples? the surgeon on a ward who terrifies everyone, the CEO of a large company that has to take inhumane decisions, the soccer legend who is considered by many to be a saint and therefore can do almost everything, a leader of a country who has the military backing him so he can oppress his people.
You can only do something against a narcissist if you have put yourself insufficient safety.A second pre-condition for the treatment of a narcissist has - again - something to do with safety. You have to guess how aggressive the narcissist in front of you can be. How are the chances that this narcissist will explode in anger and become violent (either physically or verbally)? This can be determined rather simply by just looking at his/her past. If he had violent outbursts in the past, you can be pretty sure he will get them in the near future as well (especially when he hasn't been treated). You can also look at the possible incidents where he has actually used his power position (status) to belittle people. Because a narcissist does not have to become physically violent. In fact, in this modern world, most narcissists used more subtle ways of violence and power. That would be the so-called white collar narcissist.If your educated guess tells you the narcissist can become violent, you should really prepare your treatment (or attack) of the narcissist.
A third condition in treating a narcissist is that you have sufficient support from other people. Treating or dealing with a narcissist costs a large amount of energy, time and perseverance...and stress. Do not start this whenever you do not have any support, if your mental or physical condition is weak due to recent stress. You will not survive, for sure.
So...are you in the safety zone? are the chances very small that this narcissist will become aggressive? Do you really have full support of others and do you have enough stamina? Then, but only then, please read further to learn how to treat or deal with a narcissist.
1. Work consistently with the so-called I-message. Let the narcissist clearly show that you do not like his behavior. He has to know that he (or she) is tresspassing your boundaries. Because a narcissist does not have enough empathic capacities to feel that he is crossing your borders. You have to provide him with this feedback, clearly and without any doubt. However, do not do this with a frontal attack and never do start with "You are...". Such actions immediately trigger an outburst of aggression that not always can be controlled by the narcissist. And if you are alone with someone like that, well, that's not really safe. However, there is only one exception on this advice. IF it is the purpose to trigger an emotional outburst from the narcissist then you should try a direct, frontal attack. Be sure you have yourself surrounded by other people, some of whom are more powerful than the narcissist. And...you are sure these people will support reason and you, not just the narcissist! In all other circumstances: please begin with the I-message, for example: "I don't like it when you do like this. It hurts me." There is a possibility the narcissist will startle and stop his abnormal behavior. Immediately take the lead and make it clear that when he wants something he can ask it in a different, much friendlier way. When the narcissist continues his abnormal behavior, then just take a time-out and walk away. Be advised though: walking away can trigger even more aggression from a narcissist that has already proven he can become violent. If you know that, just stay and be silent. The downside of this reaction is that the narcissist knows you are afraid and he will very likely do this again. This kind of silent reactions happens a lot in women with narcissistic husbands. They are too afraid to indicate that their boundaries are crossed. And so...this menacing behavior of the narcissist keeps going on. Fear almost never is a good advisor. Staying in such relations is asking for trouble.
2. With abnormal behavior of a narcissist immediately react with alternative behavioral suggestions. For example: "I would not mind it if you would state your wishes in a friendlier way, I would be glad to help you." Or: "I understand you want something from me? Please can you explain it more clearly to me?". In doing this you actually try to teach the narcissist something. Furthermore, you give the signal that you are not letting yourself be intimidated. Doing this with some humor or prudence would help as well.
3. React consistently and constantly on a narcissist. So évery time the narcissist is behaving abnormally, please react and show you do not appreciate his behavior. However, during a meeting with others you can not always react directly because confronting a narcissist in front of others is a real blow to his ego. However, do this right after the meeting is over. Please use the I-message. A reasonable narcissist should do something with this.
1. The biggest mistake and misconception about dealing with narcissism is thinking that we as healthy human beings can not do anything. Because we are afraid, or we think that it all does not work, because it's no use, because we are the only ones who will object to this kind of behavior. 'Take them as they are' is one of the advices on the Internet. A completely wrong advice! I know what was meant here: please do not try to change them, alone. That will not work. However, never, ever, accept this kind of abnormal behavior of a narcissist. Just because we all are too afraid, or highly value a narcissist because he can excel in certain things, these are all understandable reasons not to do anything about narcissist behavior. However, in such a way we all keep this kind of narcissistic behavior going, we condone it, we actually reinforce it. That's not only unethical, in the long term such kind of behavior is getting stronger and stronger. Just as we see today in the western world. We have much more narcissism around than 50 years ago, in my humble opinion. We all build our own graveyards.
2. The second largest mistake is that you deal with a narcissist when he is much more powerful than you are, or when he is surrounded by 'fans', people who support him. You will certainly loose your battle then. Furthermore, at such moments you will surely trigger an emotional outburst because then the narcissist feels very safe and feels he can do what he wants.
3. Never attack a narcissist on his being the person he is. Yould should never do that, with anyone. Such an attack almost always results in defensive behavior: either retreat or attack. Your comment should always be focused on aspects of the narcissist's behavior. Please state that very clearly.
4. Never start to threaten or yell. Do not lower your own standards to that of a narcissist. Never show that such low-life behavior is promising, helpful or commendable. Threatening or yelling at a narcissist can only be helpful in the short term. For example, when you threaten to leave him (a narcissist does not like to be on his own). However, such actions are aggressive and you just show him that aggressive behavior is okay. But it is NOT. Aggressive behavior is only (and always has been) the choice of the weakest, the powerless among us. Because nothing else works, aggression sometimes seems the only option. However, in the long term it has desastrous consequences because it stimulates aggression. And it can be done in a more friendly way. And you can show that it is not about a (whole) person, but about some of its actions.
5. Never try to flatter your way into something you want from a narcissist. I know this is a relatively easy way to get a narcissist's approval. But it just shows that you are afraid of him. And even worse: you condone his power based on fear. In other words: you accept a policy based on fear and abnormal, manipulative behavior. Let's all start with putting a halt to every abnormal, unethical behavior. Only in that way we can all try to eradicate abnormal behaviors. Of course, when you want something temporary from a narcissist, you can just flatter him a bit and this is more effective in the short term. However, when dealing with abnormal, unfriendly, even aggressive behavior, do NOT flatter. The second World War has already shown to what monstrous systems that has led.
6. Never assume you are powerless or helpless! Never loose hope for a change. To be more specific: do not think that a narcissist will change through your actions. That will not happen. But YOU can change and you can change your situation. Do not stay in a relationship with a narcissist who is just being aggressive and abusive. You will only loose. Keep believing in yourself and be strong. Eventually, a narcissist can not cope with strong personalities. Either he will change his behavior or...he will become more and more aggressive. And then it is time to leave.
My whole plea here in the treatment of narcissism is in fact: please DO something about it! Please show that you do not accept abnormal and unfriendly behavior. Be that strong to show your boundaries. Then you are an example for others who are usually too afraid to react. Maybe, only maybe, your actions will trigger more actions to stop narcissistic behaviors and narcissists in our society.
Do YOU have any other suggestions in dealing with narcissists, or even have experienced succesfull actions against them, please report them here. You can add your stories simply by clicking the right link below. You can help others with your story and maybe, just maybe, we can all change the world into a more friendly place to be.
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