7 minute read
Those with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), feed their self-beliefs by hoarding the attention and admiration from those who surround them. This is known as narcissistic supply and is arguably a form of addiction. This is what narcs live for. Quite literally, everything they do, is to secure supply.
Ideally, supply for the narcissist is positive, where adoration confirms views on their entitlement, grandiosity, and superiority to all those around them.
This isn’t all that makes them tick though. They are also almost equally happy with negative attention. So long as the spotlight is on them, they are being fed, and you my dear, are the feast.
To the non-narc, this is befuddling, and one of the hardest things to understand. How could anyone get a high from making others miserable? From harming those they apparently ‘love’?
Things start to fall into place when we comprehend that whilst adulation is the narc’s juice, so is their need to wield power and control over others. Hence, it makes sense that in the absence of worship, being able to command negative attention via emotional reactions is similarly fulfilling as a form of supply.
In this way, you are still their focus of attention, and they are proving to themselves that they DO in fact have power over you. After all, you probably wouldn’t bother to engage in negative and harmful situations when the person involved is inconsequential to you, right?
Consider just a slice of narcissistic manipulation: gaslighting, triangulation, isolation, devaluation, denial, projection, smear campaigns, control, invalidation, word salads, generalisations, twisting the truth, refusing to take accountability, threats, moving the goal posts, expecting perfection…the list goes on.
These tactics are all designed to provoke a negative emotional reaction in you (that’s right, not necessarily from you – it is sufficient for you to internalise the negativity only), thereby confirming for the narcissist that they retain power and control over you. Sadly, the more you do react to bait and provide them with supply, the more their hunger grows.
This sounds all very much doom and gloom, BUT, it is raising your awareness of what drives their behaviour, and offers insight as to what you can do to begin reclaiming your power from the narcissist.
Here are some practical steps you can take to begin short-circuiting the cycle of abuse by refusing to continue feeding the narc.
Be kind and gentle with yourself as you begin to apply these, know that you have been programmed to think and behave solely focusing on meeting the needs of the narc in your life.
Unhooking from these patterns will take effort and time, but you CAN take these steps to kick-start your recovery journey even while the narc is still in your life. These actions will bring you closer to where you want to be: narc free and full of joy.
1. Educate yourself
In the first instance, make it your personal mission to become your own expert on NPD and associated manipulation tactics.
Read as much as you can – books, articles, blog posts; listen to podcasts; join support groups; check out YouTube. Whatever you can get your hands on, to educate yourself, do it now. Check out the page Recommended Wisdom on the site for recommended literature that is guaranteed to gift you with many eureka moments!
Becoming conversant with the ploys used to undermine you, will make it that much easier for you to identify when it is being applied to you. It also reminds you that IT ISN’T YOU! It is them, and a diagnosable Cluster B personality disorder: NPD. Other than validating the abuse, and that it isn’t you, this information teaches you about the elements of predictability in their behaviour. Arm yourself and get ready for the next step.
2. Observe like a curious scientist
This phase is about beginning to neutralise your naturally highly emotive reactions, and hence shift the bonds of power the abuser has over you. Having started with increasing knowledge that it is not you, you’ve already begun. The second action to complement the internal transformation is to practice adopting the stance of ‘observing like a curious scientist’ the behaviours of your narcissist.
When engaging with them and you begin to notice you are feeling that agitated, anxious, frightened, unsafe inner state, you can be sure that they are applying one of the manipulation tactics you’ve educated yourself on.
So now is the time for you to pause, and begin observing. Ask yourself which of the tactics it might be, and watch them go at it.
Practicing this reinforces that you are copping narcissistic abuse, and it is NOT YOU.
Significantly, your refusal to continue owning and accepting what is being to dealt to you gets under way. This gradually undermines the enmeshment with the narc and your emotional reactivity when under attack.
3. Starve the narc
Remaining under attack is not an option. It is time for you to disentangle, starve the narc, and protect yourself, starting now.
Having prepared yourself with steps 1 & 2, now is the time to stop one behaviour and start a new one.
STOP explaining yourself. Time to shine the light of the curious scientist on yourself. How many times a day do you find yourself justifying every little thing to your abuser? How do you feel when you do this? Is it a programmed reaction where you don’t even think about it being necessary to explain yourself, or does it come from a reflective, mindful place where you think they deserve an explanation?
If you are reading this, automatic justifications are likely to be the primary form of communication from you to your abuser because you have been programmed that this is what is expected from you.
Relating this way whether the narc is your partner, parent, colleague, or friend, leaves you feeling very small and worthless. This is because, when you are in this cycle, you are giving away your power. You are agreeing you owe them whatever it is they are brainwashing you into handing over. It is essentially, A-grade supply for your narc.
START using non-defensive statements. This is similar to stopping the endless explanations, in that your mindset must be in that same place of seeking to unhook and disengage with the games.
Where chronic justifying is a largely pre-emptive strike, just in case the narc may react badly to any given situation (you know, the whole walking on eggshells thing), non-defensive statements are about what to do when actually under attack* and the manipulations are coming thick and fast at you.
Some examples of non-defensive statements are:
- I’m sorry you don’t approve of ‘xyz’.
- You are absolutely entitled to your opinions.
- I accept that your perception is that I am ‘xyz’- this one isn’t about agreeing with them, it is about stating that you are no longer getting into the word salad hell anymore.
- I’m sorry you are angry/hurt etc.
- I hear you feel angry/hurt etc.
- I hear what you are saying.
- That is interesting.
- I see.
It’s a good idea to practice these in regular interactions to counter the programming and ease your comfort with using them when needed with your narc.
If you are also codependent, these are also likely to generally be useful in relationships other than with your narc, acknowledging that these patterns of relating may be particularly challenging for you to break.
Whilst tricky, whether codependent or not, YOU CAN DO IT. Focus on your goals: reclaiming your power, freedom, and a life of joy. Hold these in your heart, mind, and soul. Use them as a mantra to empower you as you take these vital steps in unhooking from your narc.
Warning! The narc will NOT like these inner transformations, and supply being withheld from them. The change in you will make them unhappy. Thing is, your life, is not about making them happy. It is about making you happy. To get to that place, you must take steps to protect yourself and move towards freedom.
You are strong. You are courageous. You are so very worthy. YOU CAN DO IT.
Please do leave a comment below with your insights on these steps and any advice to those who are in the process of educating themselves on narcissistic abuse. Sharing and encouraging others is so very necessary to help all of us on our journey of recovery.
*Note – none of these suggestions are advocated for if at any time you feel unsafe whether that be physically, sexually, mentally, emotionally, or psychologically. Your safety must be your primary focus. Please reach out to authorities and support services in your local area for immediate assistance.
- Beattie, M. (2006). Codependent no more: How to stop controlling others and start caring for yourself. Minneapolis, US: Hazelden.
- Forward, S. (2002). Toxic parents: Overcoming their hurtful legacy and reclaiming your life. New York, US: Bantam, USA.
- Martha Stout. (2005). The sociopath next door. New York, US: Harmony Books.