Cope with Narcissists: Abandon or Mirror

Uploaded 11/19/2010, approx. 5 minute read

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

No one should feel responsible for the narcissist's predicament. To him, others scarcely exist. He is so enmeshed in himself and in the resulting misery of this self-preoccupation that he notices no one else. Other people are subjects on which he projects his rage, his wrath is repressed and suppressed in mutating aggression, and finally, his ill-disguised violence.

How should the narcissist's closest, nearest and dearest cope with his eccentric vagaries?

The short answer is by abandoning him, or at least by threatening to abandon him. The threat to abandon the narcissist need not be explicit or conditional, for instance. If you don't do something or if you do it, I will ditch you. It is sufficient to control the narcissist, to completely ignore the narcissist, to insist on respect for one's boundaries and wishes, or to shout back at him.

The narcissist takes these signs of personal autonomy to be a harbinger of impending separation, and he reacts with anxiety. The narcissist is tamed by the very same weapons that he uses to subjugate others. The spectre of being abandoned looms large over everything else.

In the narcissist's mind, every discordant note presages solitude, the resulting confrontation with his own self. The narcissist is a person who is irreparably traumatized by the behavior of the most important people in his life, his parents, role models or even peers.

By being capricious, arbitrary and statistically judgmental, these people molded the narcissist into an adult who fervently and obsessively tries to recreate the trauma in order, this time around, to resolve it.

We call this a repetition complex.

Thus, on the one hand, the narcissist feels that his freedom depends upon reenacting these early experiences. On the other hand, the narcissist is terrified by this prospect.

Realizing that he is doomed to go through the same traumas over and over again, the narcissist distances himself by using his aggression to alienate, humiliate and in general be emotionally absent.

This behavior brings about the very consequence that the narcissist so drains, abandonment.

But this way at least, the narcissist is able to tell himself and others that he was the one who had fostered the separation, that it was fully his choice and that he was not surprised by it.

The truth is that, governed by his internal demons, the narcissist has no real choice. The dismal future of his relationships is preordained.

The narcissist is a binary person. The carrot is also the stick in his case.

If he gets too close to someone emotionally, he fears ultimate and inevitable abandonment. He thus immediately distances himself, acts cruelly and brings about the very abandonment that he had feared in the first place.

In this paradox lies the key to coping with the narcissist.

If, for instance, he is having a rage attack, rage back, this will provoke him fears of being abandoned and the resulting calm would be so total that it might seem to you eerie.

Narcissist is unknown for these sudden tectonic shifts in mood and in behavior.

The narcissist's actions. Repeat his words. If he threatens, threaten back, incredibly try to use the same language and content. If he leaves the house, leave the house as well. Disappear on him. If he is suspicious, act suspicious, be critical, denigrating, humiliating, go down to his level, because it's the only way to penetrate his stick defenses.

Faced with his own mirror image, the narcissist always recoils.

We must not forget that the narcissist behaves the way he does in order to engender and encourage abandonment. When mirrored, the narcissist dreads imminent and impending desertion, which is the inevitable result of his actions and words.

This prospect so terrifies him that it induces in him an incredible alteration of conduct. He instantly succumbs and obsecuously tries to make amends, moving from one cold, bitter, cynical, misanthropic, cruel and sadistic ball to another. He becomes warm, loving, fuzzy and gulfy, emotional, maudlin and saccharine.

The other coping strategy is, of course, to do abandon, to give up on the narcissist. Dump him and go about reconstructing your own life.

Very few people deserve the kind of investment that is an absolute prerequisite to a life with the narcissist.

The cor with the narcissist is a full-time, energy and emotion-draining job, which reduces people around the narcissist to insecure, nervous wrecks.

Who deserves such a sacrifice? Definitely not the narcissist. No one to my mind, not even the most brilliant, charming, breathtaking and suave narcissist, has the right to demand such self-sacrifice.

The glamour and trickery were thin and underneath them a monster lurks, which irreversibly and adversely influences the lives of those around him for the worse.

Narcissists are incorrigibly and notoriously difficult to change. Thus, trying to modify them, to heal them, to cure them with love is doomed to failure.

You should either accept them as they are or avoid them altogether.

If one accepts the narcissist as he is, one should cater to his needs. His needs are part of what he is.

Would you have ignored a physical handicap in someone? Would you have not assisted a quadriplegic?

The narcissist is an emotional cripple. He needs constant adulation. He cannot help it.

So if one chooses to accept the narcissist, to live with him, to remain in an intimate relationship with him, it is a package deal. All his needs, demands, requirements included.

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Giving Narcissist Second Chance

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Can You Love the Narcissist and Rescue Him?

Victims of narcissists often resort to fantasies and self-delusions to cope with their pain, believing that they can rescue the narcissist from their misery and misfortune. However, loving a narcissist is difficult, and any attempt to relate to them emotionally is doomed to failure. Narcissists are addicts in pursuit of gratification through the drug known as narcissistic supply, and they hone in on potential suppliers like cruise missiles. Victims of narcissists can become bitter and self-centered, lacking in empathy, and become more like the narcissist over time.

Victim of Narcissist: Move On!

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Narcissists are not drawn to empathic, sensitive people, but rather repelled by them. Victims of narcissistic abuse come in all shapes, sizes, professions, genders, and ages, and there is no specific profile. People should not think of themselves as a "narcissist magnet" and instead review their life in detail to see that they have control over their destiny and can learn from their experiences. Bed relationships, no matter how harrowing, are opportunities to learn lessons.

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Narcissist's Language as Weapon

Narcissists use language as a weapon of self-defense, to obscure, not to communicate, and to obtain narcissistic supply. They talk at others or lecture them, exchange subtexts, and spawn private languages, prejudices, superstitions, conspiracy theories, rumors, phobias, and hysterias. The rules that govern the narcissist universe are loopholeed, incomprehensible, open to interpretation so wide and so self-contradictory that it renders them meaningless. The narcissist, in this respect, is a great social menace, undermining language itself.

Why Can't You Breakup with the Narcissist?

Self-styled experts online exploit victims of narcissistic abuse by pandering to their desire to be seen as blameless victims. They profit from perpetuating victimhood and validating the victims' feelings. Victims may stay with narcissists for selfish reasons, such as seeking validation, feeling needed, or benefiting from the relationship in various ways. The narcissist's control and the victim's own psychological needs contribute to their reluctance to leave the relationship.

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