Typically speaking, narcissists are not people you should seek to be associating with. Anyone who does is likely to sustain emotional – and sometimes physical – harm that they may never fully recover from.
You might not realize it, but Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is actually a fairly common diagnosis. A 2008 study in the US of more than 34,000 adults, concluded that as many as 6.2% of the adult population are sufferers of this disorder.
With narcissism being so prevalent in society, there is a good chance that you have encountered one or many in your life (and that you will encounter more in the future). You may not always be able to spot them, however, because of their ability to mask the more malevolent aspects of their personality. They often come across as quite charming and friendly people.
That being said, when you have identified narcissism in an individual, and you are wondering how to deal with a narcissist, there is only one sure-fire way to prevent any further hurt on your part.
If you want to avoid getting tangled up with a narcissist; if you want to dodge the mental, emotional, and physical harm that comes from dealing with one, then you have no choice but to refuse to engage with them on any level.
To reiterate this crucial point: the only way to effectively deal with a narcissist is to not deal with them at all.
You must put as much distance as you can between them and you if you want to prevent their maleficent influence from seeping into your life. You must break all ties, stop all communication, and eliminate as many (preferably all) of the ways that your paths may cross.
It may sound like an extreme solution, particularly if you haven’t yet experienced the full spectrum of narcissistic behaviors, but no other method is guaranteed to result in your freedom from their control.
Here are the two primary reasons why a full and total blockade is so necessary when dealing with a narcissist.
The Addiction Of Narcissistic Supply
Narcissists feed on the feelings of others; they grow stronger by making others feel weak. To them, the only thing that ever truly matters is their own self-gratification, and one of the easiest ways to attain this is by degrading any that cross their path.
Whatever the relationship may be – romantic, family, co-worker, or mere acquaintance – a narcissist will seek to manipulate and dominate you in order to reinforce the grandiose vision they have of themselves.
To them, you are nothing more than a source of attention, adulation, and praise. They need you to supply these things so that they continue to support their inflated, false sense of self.
Alternatively, should positive reinforcement not be forthcoming, narcissists will just as happily settle for conflict because it, too, gives them the limelight they so crave.
Arguments and disagreements provide the narcissist with opportunities to manipulate; they make other people vulnerable to persuasion and more likely to do things they would not otherwise do. If a narcissist can maneuver their opponent into doing or saying something, it gives strength to the belief they have in themselves as powerful and superior beings.
Whichever way it is achieved, attention is a primary source of narcissistic supply and one that a narcissist must have on a very regular basis if they are to function.
The very name “narcissist supply” hints at its addictive properties and it is not hard to see the similarities between it and the need for drugs and alcohol in those suffering from substance abuse.
Indeed, the study linked above makes reference to a level of co-occurrence between NPD and substance use.
What does this mean? Well, to a narcissist, you and the attention you provide are addictive; they have to receive a “fix” every now and then in order to satiate their ego. Without it, they will struggle to maintain their carefully tailored outer image.
This is much the same as someone with a substance addiction who can function perfectly well when they’ve had a dose, but fall apart in sobriety.
If you continue to give them what they want, they will continue to subjugate you to their needs and wishes. As long as you are an effective source of supply, they will continue to keep coming back to receive their hit.
This is why it is so vital that you cease all forms of communication in order to break free from a narcissist. You are the drug that keeps a narcissist going, but if you stop offering yourself up to be used, they will be forced to seek it elsewhere.
Slip up in any way, though, and all of a sudden you’ll find that the narcissist will hook their claws back in without a moment’s thought. It’d be like an alcoholic who has stayed sober for years taking a swig of vodka – the urge to take another suddenly amplifies in their mind.
You must go cold turkey from the narcissist. You must remove every trace of them from your life and you from theirs. You must break the cycle of demand and supply that forms the only real bond you ever shared.
Let’s be clear: narcissism is a personality disorder and not a mental illness. Because it does not result from a chemical imbalance in the way that, say, depression does, it cannot be treated – at least not effectively – with drugs.
Narcissism occurs because of altered brain structures that form over time as a response to events and stimuli. The connections that correspond to narcissistic tendencies grow stronger over time as they are reinforced with narcissistic supply, and so the condition is very difficult to reverse.
There are limited signs that therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy might help in reducing the need to display narcissistic traits, but there are few, if any, documented cases of narcissists overcoming their condition.
This is precisely why you should make a clean break from any narcissists that you encounter. Their true behavior (and not that which they pass off as their false self) is highly unlikely to change and you should not expect it to.
A narcissist will probably remain a narcissist until their dying day because they are simply unable to see anything wrong with what they do. They do not have the necessary powers of self-assessment and self-reflection to realize that their behavior is not standard and not acceptable.
What’s more, if you have some sort of faith that you may somehow be able to help the narcissist change, you are mistaken. Your role in the whole spectacle is nothing more than a supplier.
A narcissist is only capable of changing when they are able to look at themselves from an external viewpoint, and this ability to observe as a third party is beyond their capacity to understand.
You should also consider the possibility that your desire to help them is not rooted in their behavior, but in your own personality and needs. Such a discussion is beyond the remit of this article, but suffice to say that you might be drawn to narcissists almost as much as they are to you. Just another reason to steer well clear of them.
So far we’ve talked about the two main reasons why you should cut a narcissist out of your life completely, but why is it so effective?
The answer is simple and it comes back to the comparison between a narcissist seeking their supply and an addict seeking theirs. If you cease to be a source of supply, a narcissist will have no choice but to look for it elsewhere since they are not willing to risk withdrawal for too long.
It is a sad state of affairs, but in all likelihood, if you deny them what they need, a narcissist will be forced to find someone or something else to provide it for them.
While they may try, again and again, to lure you back into being a source of supply, eventually they will seek to devalue you in their minds and move on to more willing targets.
To a narcissist, one source is generally as good as another, but to save face, they will convince themselves that you weren’t worth it in the first place; that they deserve better. You will become no more than a stain on their memory, of little consequence and of no interest (unless something triggers their desires towards you once again, such as a chance encounter).
Generally, then, if you can hold out against their initial attempts to reinstate you as a source of supply, a narcissist will get bored and move on.
Some people may argue that this strict approach is, in itself, a form of passive-aggressive behavior and that it punishes the narcissist for being they way they are, even if this wasn’t a choice they made consciously.
Perhaps, on the surface, there is a little truth in this. Cutting all ties with a narcissist will, for a short while at least, cause them a degree of pain. This pain is, however, no more than withdrawal from the narcissistic supply you provided.
This method of dealing with a narcissist is ultimately a full and total acceptance of who and what they are. It doesn’t seek to sugar coat the truth or make excuses for anyone – it just acts as the most efficient way of bringing things to a close.
Neither should you confuse this with running away from your problems. It is true that facing your problems is the best way to overcome them, but in the case of handling a narcissist, the problem is not yours to overcome; it’s theirs. You are in no way capable of tackling the issues and so you shouldn’t feel guilty by running away from them.
At the end of the day, a narcissist is not a healthy companion for anyone, and the best thing you can do is to try and remove them from your life and move on.
If, for any reason, going no contact isn’t a viable option (perhaps you have children with them, or they are your boss), try to implement the Gray Rock Method to deal with them in a way that will put you at the least risk of getting hurt.
Have you had dealings with a narcissist? Did you manage to cut all ties with them? Leave a comment below and share your story.
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