What if your parent or your child or your spouse (or coworker or boss) turn out to have gaslighting/emotional manipulation tendencies (see previous post) or other narcissistic behavior? You can't always just leave or quickly end a relationship and even if you do end a relationship there may be ongoing co-parenting and custody or other shared responsibilities to work out together.
No Contact may be the best solution for personal mental health or physical safety, (see affirmations for going No Contact from an abusive narcissist, by Shahida Arabi), however it may not be possible immediately or at all, especially if the person is a coworker or boss, or parent. You can look for a new job but might need a recommendation from the boss, you can wait to grow up but that takes a while and then going No Contact with a parent is still painful. So what to do in the meantime?
Severe narcissism often has to do with the person's childhood when they may have been bullied themselves or devalued. Coping with their defense mechanisms as adults often means modeling healthy behavior yourself. The narcissist may not really have experienced healthy communication in their own past and the defense skills that may have developed can be infuriating - literally. The subconscious goal of gaslighting/emotional manipulation may include trying to provoke an emotional response which may give the emotionally abusive person a sense of power or control, or feed their need for attention. So the most important coping tactic may be the last one mentioned in the article "How to De-Escalate a Fight with a Narcissist," by Elinor Greenberg, PhD, PsychologyToday,com.
"Do Not Take the Bait." - The narcissist likes attention & is used to battling for it. They will/may say nasty and provoking things just to get a reaction -showing their ability to ruffle you. Stay calm & soothing.
"Do not worry about right or wrong." - It is about feelings for the narcissist - they may never admit they are wrong. It would harm/prove their inner shame from childhood that they can't cope with.
"Empathy teaches empathy," "Empathize with their feelings." -They may be extremely wrong but lose/lose point, it may just provoke them more to try to force their side. Soothe their feelings & don't bother mentioning your feelings, they don't get it.
"Take Responsibility for Your Part" - Narcissists likely grew up in a household that devalued and shamed them leading to the defense mechanisms, so model appropriate, non-defensive responsibility, they may not be familiar with it.
"Use We Language." - They can't accept blame because it would attack their inner child shame but they may be able to more gracefully accept a "We" statement - for the good of the country We need to work together on this important topic.
"The No-Fault Do-Over," - an invention for coping with narcissism by the article's author Elinor Greenberg, PhD. - since trying for an apology or admission of blame is a no win possibility trying to move forward anyway is a strategy that may work: "Let's just take a No-Fault Do-Over & start again."
"Ask a Question about a Topic that Interests Them." Change the topic - narcissists like to feel admired and exhibit their knowledge so distracting them can be fairly easy.
"Flattering True Statement + a Question" Flattery can work to switch the mood and a question can then serve to distract.
"Ask for Advice" & "Tell Them Something True and Complimentary about Themselves" Obvious flattery/exaggerated may be taken as sarcasm and just be more to battle about. Asking for advice will show respect for their value and help heal their inner child.
Why should you soothe them instead of trying to force them to recognize their own fault, or demand an apology or just leave? - because sometimes you can't walk away and not deal with them at all and even adult children need love that they may not have gotten as a child. Protecting yourself is important too. Escalating a lose/lose battle is a lose/lose for stress levels.
If the narcissistic person is your own child it may help to examine what behavior you or other adults in the child's life are displaying as role models or society as a whole. Commercial advertisements and story lines in TV shows and movies often give messages of buying the best, being the best and only the best is worth valuing.
Research suggests younger generations are suffering from increased levels of depression and anxiety and that social isolation may be a result of the pressure to excel. "Michelle Chen: The issue with millenials isn't narcissism but our depressing culture of mass consumption."nbcnews.com.
Other research found increased responses agreeing with statements suggesting narcissism and decreased with statements suggesting empathy. "Why is Narcissism Increasing Among Young Americans?" ,PsychologyToday)
Children may need plenty of play time with caregivers and with peer groups to learn social skills and the value of activity over collecting things.
/Disclaimer: This information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes./