How to Deal With a Narcissist

As a psychiatrist, I strongly believe that it is important to know about the narcissistic personality so you can have realistic expectations when dealing with coworkers, friends or family members who may have some of these qualities.

In "Emotional Freedom" I describe how to recognize a narcissist. Here are some ways: Their motto is "Me first!" Everything's all about them. They have a grandiose sense of self-importance and entitlement, crave admiration and attention. A legend in their own mind, the world is reflected in their image. They'll corner you at a party, recount their life saga. Some narcissists are unlikable, flagrant egotists. Others can be charming, intelligent, caring -- that is, until their guru-status is threatened. When you stop stroking their ego or beg to disagree, they can turn on you and become punishing. Once you catch onto this pattern, a narcissist seems about as charming as a banana peel.

These people are so dangerous because they lack empathy, have a limited capacity for unconditional love. Sadly, their hearts either haven't developed or have been shut down due to early psychic trauma, such as being raised by narcissistic parents, a crippling handicap both emotionally and spiritually. The damage of narcissistic parenting is outstandingly detailed in Alice Miller's "Drama of the Gifted Child." Hard as it may be to comprehend, these people have little insight into their actions, nor do they regret them. Though often highly intuitive, they mainly use intuition for self-interest and manipulation. As the Hassidic proverb cautions, "There is no room for God in him that is full of himself."

To find out if you're dealing with a narcissist, ask yourself the following questions from "Emotional Freedom:"

QUIZ: Am I in a Relationship With a Narcissist?

  • Does the person act as if life revolves around him?
  • Do I have to compliment him to get his attention or approval?
  • Does the person constantly steer the conversation back to him or herself?
  • Does he or she downplay my feelings or interests?
  • If I disagree, does he or she become cold or withholding?

If you answer "yes" to one or two questions, it's likely you're dealing with a narcissist. Responding "yes" to three or more questions suggests that a narcissist is violating your emotional freedom.

Narcissists are hard nuts to crack. With these patients, the best I can do is align with their positive aspects and focus on behaviors that they agree aren't working. Still, even if one wants to change, progress is limited, with meager gains. My professional advice: Don't fall in love with a narcissist or entertain illusions they're capable of the give and take necessary for intimacy. In such relationships you'll always be emotionally alone to some degree. If you have a withholding narcissist spouse, beware of trying to win the nurturing you never got from your parents; it's not going to happen. Also, don't expect to have your sensitivity honored. These people sour love with all the hoops you must jump through to please them.

If a narcissist is draining you emotionally, use these methods to get your power back.

Lower Your Expectations and Strategize Your Needs

  • Keep your expectations realistic.
    Enjoy their good qualities, but understand they're emotionally limited, even if they're sophisticated in other ways. Accepting this, you won't continue asking something of friends, family, or coworkers they can't give. Consider this definition of insanity: when you repeat the same actions but expect a different response.

  • Never make your self-worth dependent on them.
    Don't get caught in the trap of always trying to please a narcissist. Also protect your sensitivity. Refrain from confiding your deepest feelings to someone who won't cherish them.
  • You can also watch Judith's video: Dealing With A Narcissist: Emotional Freedom in Action

    Comments

    k 18th November 2010 1:19 pm

    Great insight. Like Jennifer's story of the frog and the scorpion, people act according to their natures and we have to learn not to be a victim.
    I think the greatest love a person can find is within themselves. Working on going deep inside of ourselves and as the sufi mention so much, finding our Beloved, we are not captured by the sever need to find love in people who are not able to give it.

    bettina 19th November 2010 5:41 am

    Hi Conni,
    I can relate to what you are going through, because I am. Or,should I say 'am working through' not being in the same place. Friends and family do not understand why I have feelings for this man. After years and years of 'come here, go away', my heart feeling like a yo yo, I finally got it with the help of a good therapist. Being a 'sensitive' helps other people, but oft times we cannot help ourselves. Hope is never lost...I turn it in to prayers for him. He has the most beautiful soul and I hope some day 'he gets 'it''. But until then and for my own sanity, I had to take some 'healing time' out for me and learn how to turn my love inward for a time. Be well and at peace.

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    Author Information

    Dr. Judith Orloff

    Judith Orloff, MD is author of The Empath's Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People, upon which her articles are based. Dr. Orloff is a psychiatrist, an empath, and is on the UCLA Psychiatric Clinical Faculty.

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