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Posts from April 2014

How to Protect Yourself from a Narcissist's Manipulation

Two techniques for dealing with narcissists which people have shared with me and I have found helpful are "Medium Chill" and "Robot Mode".   There is a lot of overlap in the two concepts.  I present them both because most people identify more easily with one than the other.  Take what you like.

Medium Chill

I cannot find a good description of Medium Chill on the web which is openly accessible.  Basically, Medium Chill is a technique for dealing with narcissists.  Some people advocate it for life in general.  That is not my recommendation.  I only recommend this as a strategy for dealing with narcissistic abuse.

Basically, Medium Chill is  something you utilize to allow the narcissist's attempts to get inside your head to flow over you without effect.  You want to wall off your emotional responses and protect them from manipulation.  Maintain a flat expression, or perhaps even a vaguely pleasant expression and block off your emotions so they have no way of telling that they're having an effect - and chill.

The theory behind Medium Chill is that a narcissist's goal is to provoke an emotional response from you.   They crave having power over you and seeing the disruption to your mind that they're able to exercise.  They emotionally manipulate you to get an emotional response from you.  And it doesn't matter what the emotional response is.  A fight is as good as a cheer of encouragement, a screaming curse as good as a flowery compliment.   They just want a reaction.  They just want attention.  And they do not care how much it upsets you or affects you because they have no empathy.  It's all about them.  

Provoking an outburst from you also allows them to write you off - to themselves and others - as the crazy one.  You are the one behaving badly.  All they said was...    and you just went off!

However, give them no outward sign that you're affected by their manipulations and they move on to someone more easily manipulated.

Robot Mode

Robot Mode works much the same.  I do not advocate the use of either method as a way of manipulating narcissists or as an offensive move, only as a defense.   The best thing is to get away from them.  If you can't, Robot Mode may be helpful to protect yourself.

It consists primarily of locking away your emotions and intellectualizing about what is happening between you and the narcissist - instead of feeling it.  You must realize that the narcissist is reading your emotions and calculating responses based upon what they read.  If you stop thinking about what your feeling and block off your emotions from the predatory narcissist, then you are free to analyze what is happening with a cool and detached mind and make better decisions about how to respond - or not to respond. 

Remember, the narcissist is an emotional manipulator whose goal is to provoke you to react, or even better, overreact.  Then they can derail you from the point you were trying to make, or the bad behavior which you were confronting them about, or the boundary you were trying to set.  If they can provoke you to behave badly enough, they can cast you as the crazy one.  

Also remember that a narcissist's emotions are very limited and very shallow.  They feel no empathy and no remorse.  (I have been told they only experience fear and anger.  I have not seen this disproven yet.)  Given that they experience no empathy and no remorse, trying to "connect" with them is futile.  If someone feels no remorse and no empathy, what is there to connect with???   Because their emotions are extremely limited, or non-existent, they view people who have emotions as being "weak" and easily manipulated.  They resent the fact that you feel and realize there is something missing in them because they do not.  But they will never own this, nor are most of them even conscious of it themselves.  This is what is happening on the subconscious level. Consciously, they just sneer at you for being so "weak" and get off on exerting their power over you by manipulating your emotions.

Also, because they experience no remorse, they are not bound by conscience, morality, ideals, principles or "doing the right thing".  They are not loyal friends, lovers or parents.  They are not fair bosses.  The right thing for a narcissist is whatever suits them at the moment.  What effect that will have on others is absolutely unimportant to the narcissist.  It's all about them and what they want.  How do you interact with someone like that?  Robot Mode.

By putting your emotions out of reach and blocking them off you take away their ammunition against you.  They are unable to "read" you.  By cutting off your emotions, you are now on the same playing field with them.  You can coldly calculate your next move,  just as they do.  You are now talking to a Robot as a Robot.  Robots don't emote.  They don't react.  Robots don't care.  Robots can't be guilted, or shamed, or bullied.  

It's important to point out that Robot Mode is not about dissociation, spacing out, tuning out or "leaving the room" mentally.  It's about being more present, more aware, more in the moment.  You have to stay with your body and in your mind in order to protect yourself.  It's about walling off your emotions so they are protected, not disconnected.  It's about staying on guard.  It's about putting up your defenses and protecting the sensitive, caring, empathic part of yourself the narcissist seeks to manipulate.  

Switching it Up

Just before I realized I was caught in a relationship with a narcissist I accidentally stumbled upon something which was an epiphany.

A little history first.  I'll try to be brief.  Growing up, raised by a narcissist, I was constantly told how angry I was.  My mother told me I was angry when I came out of the womb, which is interesting because I've never heard of babies being born pissed off.

I have since come to realize that she projected her own anger onto me.  Pregnant with her first child (me) which my father had talked her into having in order to keep up with all their friends who had gotten pregnant, she then found out he was cheating on her.  And out I popped.  A perfect target for her rage.  So I grew up being scapegoated and being told how angry I was.  And I believed it and acted accordingly.

Now fast forward to the present.  I'm in this relationship and I'm angry.  I've expressed serious concerns only to be placated and patronized by someone who could care less how I feel - a narcissist.  So we're having another dispute and they are actively trying to illicit an emotional response from me.  But I'm determined not to lose my temper.  I'm seriously trying not to be the angry one.  So I think hard and come up with an idea.  My partner never loses her temper.  Ever.  She's always laid back, easy going, no worries.   How does she do it?  I try to think what she would do if the roles were reversed.  If she were trying to get this job done and here I came trying to start something, what would she do?   She would smile and nod and agree with everything I said while continuing to do whatever the hell she wanted.  She would pleasantly, agreeably, blow me off.  So I decided to try that - to keep my cool.  I'm tired of being the angry one.  I'm tired of blowing up.  There must be something wrong with me and I need to take responsibility for it.  So I brace myself and go tackle the job I have to get done.

Sure enough, here she comes, trying to start something.  But I'm determined.  I will not blow my top.  I will not lose my cool.  I will smile, and agree and just keep doing the job until I get finished, then walk away - without getting angry.

OMG.  I did not stop to think what she would do.   I was so focused on not being angry I never anticipated how she would react.  She EXPLODED!  She was furious.  But I kept my cool and kept working - stunned at the reaction I was getting.  She yelled and screamed and accused me of placating her and blowing her off.  Uh, well, yeah.  That's how it's done, right?

OMG.  I'm still trying to make sense of this.  If I treat her like she treats me when I get "angry" and she gets angry, could it be that I'm having an honest reaction to how she's treating me?  Could it be that I'm not "the angry one" but that I'm reacting to treatment that would make anyone angry?  

This was several months ago and I'm still puzzling over this revelation.  

I'm alone, but then I always was...

Having pulled back from a narcissist I now feel completely alone in the world.  My entire life was wrapped up in them and their issues.  Absorbing their emotions, worrying about their problems, working on their goals I now have nothing but myself.

But then I never did.  When you're with someone who has no empathy and no remorse, someone who gaslights you when you try to set a boundary and attacks you when you are trying to tell them that something they are doing is hurting you, then you're not really with someone.  You are just by yourself with another body.  And a narcissist body sucks up all the oxygen in the room.  
Now that I'm by myself, I feel really alone, but a lot less stress.  After years of being told how "angry" I was I now realize I was absorbing their anger which they projected on to me.  I was also carrying my own anger because they gave nothing back, they played mind games on me and had absolutely no regard for me; my thoughts, my ideas, my beliefs, my concerns, my feelings.   Not only was I alone, but I was being emotionally manipulated.  At least now I am without the manipulation.  

Success! I figured out the Chore Chart Dilemma

Some wise person suggested a chore chart for adult children of narcissists.  I thought that was brilliant!  Having been raised by wolves I was never taught self care or good habits.  So I latched onto this idea of a chore chart as a method of reparenting myself.

Since I was the scapegoat of the family I had a long list of faults I wanted to address with this chart so I got busy listing them.  But then came the dilemma.  A chore chart requires that you REWARD yourself when you complete your chores.  Uhhhhhh......  I had no idea how to do that!  I couldn't even think of anything I liked to do.

So, a week and a half later I finally figured it out.  I LOVE smells!  So I ordered some Yankee Candles and made the rule I would let myself burn some interesting new scent when I complete my chores. 

My candles arrived last night and I spent an hour taking them out, smelling each one and picking out the "best" one for today.  What a delight!  I got up this morning, jumped on my chores and burned my first candle. It worked!

Silly maybe, but maybe it will help someone else.  And I'm really happy!


Narcissists are Masters of Projection

I'm always amazed at how audacious, and yet oblivious, insults from a narcissist can be.  If you listen carefully, they tell you exactly who and what they are:

"You are so selfish!"

"You are so cold and unfeeling!"

"You don't care about anyone but yourself!"

"Your such a liar."

"You just make things up."

And so on.  My mother spent my entire childhood telling me how angry was.  She also spent my entire childhood violently raging against the entire family.  

Listen carefully to their accusations and you will find out who you are really dealing with.  And what is mind boggling - they don't even realize what they are revealing.



Narcissists are Never Happy for You

I have to learn this.  They have no empathy and are coming from a place of self loathing so they will never rejoice with me for anything.  Nor will they be empathic enough to "get" that I am happy about it and celebrate with me.  They resent my triumphs and revel in my tribulations.  

Welcome to Healing from Narcissistic Abuse

Raised by narcissists, it has taken me more than 50 years to figure out the source of my messed up life.  I had assumed it was all me.  I had believed I was the crazy one.  I had no confidence in my own thoughts, feelings, beliefs, perceptions, observations, ideas or even my own five senses.   I'm learning about gaslighting, denial, projection, personality disorders, antisocial behaviors, borderline behaviors and most of all, narcissism.   

I have 50 years of pain and bewilderment to get out of my system.  So please forgive me if my first posts are rants about what I've discovered about my parents, the people I surround myself with and narcissists in general.  Once I'm through venting though, I hope this blog will also document what I do to heal.  

If you are on a similar journey, and find this blog helpful, then my efforts will not be in vain.  It is my most sincere wish that I can save someone else from wasting 50 years of their life.