There are three basic ways to protect yourself from narcissistic abuse.
- Avoid all narcissists.
This is the least practical method.You need to study narcissistic personality disorder and learn enough to diagnose someone as a narcissistic personality disorder without knowing them very well.
In addition, many of us have narcissistic people in our lives that we cannot avoid – family members, bosses, work colleagues.It is likely that at some point in our lives we will experience some form of narcissistic abuse.
- Go away as soon as someone mistreats you – narcissist or not.
That sums up the matter.The main reason people want to avoid narcissistic abuse is to avoid abuse. You don’t need to know a person’s diagnosis to realize that you feel abused by the person’s treatment. Trust in your gut feeling.
If you don’t like how you feel near that person, when they say nasty things to you or about you, this is not a good person for you.
- have limits.
If someone crosses them in a way that feels abusive, tell them nicely to stop. If they don’t stop right away, go or hit back.
I am sometimes asked, “What do you mean by fixed limits?” If you have fixed boundaries, you need to be aware of what you don’t like and you will refuse to tolerate.A border is like a protective circle that you put around yourself. If someone crosses the border, politely tell the person that you don’t like this behavior and ask the person to stop.
Here is an example from my life:
I don’t like being teased.I find that most people tease to be a covert way to rebuke me about something, under the pretext of being tender or funny. I prefer someone to be with me directly and say, “I love you, but please stop doing x, y or z because I don’t like it.
One day, when I was in my late 20s, I finally had enough.I was sitting with a group of close friends – that’s what I thought. A woman in the group said something about me in a curious way, which made me feel very bad.
I felt so hurt and confused, as if time had stopped.I could see people talking around me, but I was so shocked I couldn’t watch. I realized that I had to say something, or that my whole evening would be ruined, as would our friendship.
I said to the group, ‘People, I’m sorry I’m let in, but I realised I can’t focus on what you’re saying.There’s something I need to check out. Marilyn, did you want to hurt my feelings by saying that?
The group stopped talking and looked at us both with anticipation. Now it was up to Marilyn to look shocked.It was obvious that she never expected her to be secretly evil for me.
Marilyn denied that I intended to hurt myself.but… She never said anything unpleasant to me again. I had drawn a line and successfully defended it. And I was willing to do so as often as I needed to.
Headline: We cannot always avoid narcissistic abuse, but we can draw a line and defend it.Most often, once the other person realizes that you are serious, they will stop harassing you and go after a lighter prey.
Elinor Greenberg, PhD, CGP
In private practice in NYC and author of the book: Borderline, Narcissistic and Schizoid Adaptations.