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Adapting to the Narcissist

Uploaded 1/18/2011, approx. 3 minute read

My name is Sam Vaknin. I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.

You cannot change the narcissist, not in the real, profound, deep and irreversible sense that change usually means with other people.

You can only adapt to the narcissist and adapt to the narcissist to yourself to some extent by modifying his more abrasive and grating behaviors.

If you do find your narcissist rewarding at times, you should consider doing the following.

One, determine your limits and boundaries. How much and in which ways can you adapt to him?

In other words, how much and in which ways can you accept him as he is? And to which extent and in which ways would you like him to adapt to you? In other words, accept you as you are.

And then act accordingly. Accept what you have decided to accept and reject the rest.

Change in you what you are willing and able to change and ignore the rest.

Conclude an unwritten contract or even a written contract of coexistence.

Try to maximize the number of times that his walls are down, that you find him totally fascinating and everything you desire.

What makes him be and behave this way? When does he captivate you? Is it something that you say, something that you do? Is it preceded by events of a specific nature? Is there anything you can do to make him behave this way more often? Positive reinforcements, negative reinforcements, praise, criticism, withholding of narcissistic supply, the provision of narcissistic supply?

There are many ways to manipulate the narcissist and to condition him so that he repeats behaviors that you find not only acceptable, but also pleasant.

But remember, sometimes we mistake guilt and self-assume blame for love and committing suicide for someone else's sake is not love.

Sacrificing yourself for someone else is not love. It is domination. It is co-dependence, it is counter-dependence, any number of things, but it is not love.

You control your narcissist by giving as much as he controls you via his pathology.

Your unconditional generosity sometimes prevents him from facing his true self and thus healing.

Think about withholding. If you really care about him, if you really want him to change.

It is impossible to have a relationship with a narcissist that is meaningful to the narcissist. It is of course possible to have a relationship with a narcissist that is meaningful to you. This is a very important distinction.

You modify your behavior in order to secure the narcissist's continuing love, not in order to be abandoned, of course.

This is the root of the perniciousness of this phenomenon.

The narcissist is a meaningful, crucially significant figure in your life, but you are an insignificant other to him, an interchangeable part, a device, a function, a machine, an extension of himself.

This is a major asymmetry in the relationship. This is the narcissist's leverage over you.

Since you are usually very young, when you make the adaptation to the narcissist, it all boils down to fear of abandonment and of death, the absence of care, absence of sustenance.

But you should realize that you are getting none of this from the narcissist. At best, you are obtaining simulations of these things from him.

Your accommodation of the narcissist is as much a wish to gratify one's parent, or narcissistic parent, as it is the sheer terror of forever withholding gratification from one's self.

It's a very complex dynamic, and understanding it is crucial not only to the longevity of the relationship, but to your own survival as an intact, psychologically functioning person.

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