Narcissists have an exceptional ability to push our buttons, make us mad, and draw us into their emotional drama. To live with them, heal from them, and overcome them, we must learn how not to take their bait. Here is how you react to a narcissist, so they don’t get to you.
Make Everything with the Narcissist a Game
The best way to disarm accusations, over competitiveness, or put-downs from a narcissist is to make your interaction with them into a game that you are playing with them.
By playing a game, I mean to have fun with them:
- Misunderstand what they say in a humorous way
- Take their attacks as if they are in jest, just part of the game
- Laugh and smile when they speak
- Play off what they say in a wild or exaggerated manner
The key here is to enjoy it and use the energy of silliness and humor to overcome their dark and abusive tone.
The reason this works is the same reason a comedian can overcome a heckler. Having a good time is a much more powerful position than being someone on the attack or defense. When you are laughing, they can’t wound you. It saps them of their manipulative forcefulness.
As you practice with this, and it will take practice to get right, your mood and energy will only improve. Eventually making you near impervious to abuse and a powerful force to be reckoned with.
See the Narcissist for What They Are
When a narcissist would abuse me, and I had no recourse to respond or talk back, I used my imagination to overcome them. The idea is simple.
The narcissistic personality is very closely related to that of the wounded child. They want attention, they are overly judgmental, and they demand love. See this article for more detail on where narcissism comes from:
By understating narcissism’s nature, it is easy to imagine the narcissist as a little hurt child as they are talking. Sit there watching them, and picture as vividly as you can that this child is speaking to you through the mouth of the narcissist. Because it is.
The stronger your imagination, the more sad and ineffectual the narcissist’s efforts will seem. It’s hard to take the misguided whines of a small child seriously. More importantly, it allows you to treat the narcissist with levelheaded compassion rather than succumb to their fantasies and delusion.
Learn to Breath Powerful Breaths
In an emergency, when you feel you are falling into anger or fear in the face of a narcissistic assault, the breath is the last line of defense.
Use your mind to focus on your breath. Observe the pattern, depth, speed, and quality of the breath deeply and profoundly. Make no attempt to adjust it, slowing it down or speeding it up. Let the breath be as it is.
By doing this, your mind will probably bring your attention to the pain or anger you are feeling. It will likely be located in some part of the body, particularly the heart or chest.
When this comes up, observe the feeling as you followed the breath. Don’t try to change it, resist it, or banish it. Let it be and feel that feeling to its core. By not grasping or pushing away, we let the feeling flow through us and eventually subside. Follow the sensation until it is gone, or your attention is brought to another location. Deal with each emotion in turn and return to your breath when the feelings are all gone.
This practice is a powerful mindfulness technique that has worked great for me both in stressful situations and at home alone in meditation.