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Breaking Away From The Narcissist: How to Make it OK For Yourself
Pathologically narcissistic people are very adept at projecting their faults on other people. It's a very complex defense mechanism to explain, but on the surface it's simplicity itself: the essence of this behavior is, "I know you are but what am I?" This creates the feeling in other people that they are solely to blame for the problems in the relationship and that if they would only try harder, they could finally win the love and validation that they have been promised but have never received. It's compounded and reinforced by the fact that when they do capitulate and give in to what the narcissistic person wants, things sometimes to seem better for a little while. This is how people become conditioned to take the blame and to give in. It's the path of least resistance the majority of the time.
This sense of responsibility makes it very hard to walk away from the relationship, because unlike relationships with other types of people, narcissistic people refuse to take responsibility for anything that went wrong - even things that were blatantly and clearly their own doing. There is no closure, no resolution and no way to end amicably most of the time. Narcissistic people feel rejected and abandoned by the relationship ending and are unable to assume any responsibility for the way things have gone. They will rage, detach, give the silent treatment, create smear campaigns, make threats... anything except give people closure. This of course reinforces the idea in the other person that it's all their fault and that if they'd just tried harder, things could have worked out. It's a very seductive idea, but it isn't true. What you've gotten from the narcissist is likely all you will ever get: sporadic episodes of kindness or relative calm followed by trauma, drama, abuse, detachment and whatever else they dish out - over and over again. This is the cycle and without a complete overhaul of their entire mode of thinking, learning entirely new ways to relate to people and all new coping mechanisms, it will not change.
Narcissists are also very adept at forcing other people into taking responsibility for their feelings and their needs. From the day the relationship begins, they condition the other person or people that the sun rises and sets on their emotions and it is up to everyone else to make sure those emotions are cared for, catered to and that their needs are met. There is no room for other people in this equation and the dynamic often turns into one where the other person takes on the role of a caretaker or a parent more than anything else. There is no partnership or family. There is only a screaming ego that must be appeased at all times or things will go badly for everyone. Because of this caretaker dynamic - even if it's subtle - people often feel extremely guilty about leaving. They feel sympathy for the narcissistic person and they have been conditioned over time to believe that all of the narcissistic person's needs are their responsibility.
These things can make walking away from narcissistic relationships of any kind very difficult. It can be traumatic and painful to separate yourself from the enmeshment and trauma bonding with a narcissistic person, even if you no longer even like this person. It's an addiction to the cycle, but it can be broken. We create what we know, and when we know better, we do better. We can learn to create boundaries and only make decisions that reflect a healthy level of respect for ourselves.
When you decide to create boundaries in the relationship with a pathologically narcissistic person, there will often be problems. The relationship may end, either because they've crossed your boundary and you leave the situation, or because they decide to discard you because dealing with people who practice healthy self-care is usually not something narcissists are interested in. If you are truly going to take care of yourself, you have to accept that this in all likelihood will include the narcissist's exit from your life for whatever reason. You have to find a way to make this OK for you. If you don't, it proably won't last and you will find yourself right back in the same situation again, trying to fulfill whatever need you were trying to fulfill in the first place.
Making it OK for yourself usually involves really internalizing and understanding that you are not responsible for this person's feelings. You are not to blame for their failures or their problems and you are not required to fix this person or their life. These ideas are not the truth. They are the result of conditioning. The relationship with a narcissistic person is a type of mental slavery. Mental slavery is defined as a state of conditioning where discerning between freedom and enslavement is twisted, a state of mind where a person becomes trapped by misinformation about the self and the world. You have been conditioned to believe certain things about yourself, to do certain things or to shoulder certain responsibilities. You can break out of this conditioning by challenging it. I have a few episodes of the show about challenging your thinking, so check those out if you're interested.
So much of what people believe is just habit, or reaction - even regarding themselves. People have a tendency to accept their thoughts as facts, but they really aren't. We all have our own coping mechanisms and most of the time, what people are truly conditioned by is not the narcissist or other abuser, but by their own feelings and their own mindset. This is actually a blessing in disguise, because it means that they have control over it and therefore, can change it. Challenging default attitudes and knee jerk reactions leads to living more intentionally. People live so much of their lives on autopilot. Ask yourself, "Why do I believe this? Why do I think this? Why am I feeling this? Why am I saying this?" This helps tune you in with your reactions to things, many of which you might even be unaware of. Once you raise your awareness of your reactions, you can learn to control and change them. A lot of times, simple awareness can be enough to defuse these things and take away their power. You can even tell yourself, "I don't have to react that way anymore. I am not that person anymore."
When you identify what triggers reactions in you and why you react to things the way that you do, you can take the power away from these things. Anger and fear are powerful motivators, for example. How much of what you do or say is the result of anger, or of fear? Do you agree to things you don't want to do because you are afraid? What are you afraid of? For example, let's say someone is putting up with abuse because they are afraid of being alone or unloved. They don't want to end the relationship because deep down - maybe even subconsciously, they feel that an abusive relationship is better than no relationship at all. But when we take fear out of the equation, we see that this person is not avoiding what they are afraid of. They are still unloved. So the question is, why is being abused and feeling unloved preferrable to not being abused but alone and feeling the same way? Behind that question is the real question: why is this person's self-worth so tied up in other people that they feel they have to sacrifice themselves this way in order to be loved? Because it's almost never about the narcissist. Not really. Not in the end. In the end, it comes back to you. The only thing you can do anything about is your part in any situation. You only have control over yourself. You cannot change other people's behavior but you can decide that you are not going to allow it in your life anymore.
The truth is, narcissists for the most part exploit issues and fears that people already have. It's a hard truth, but it's an important one. Yes, the narcissist has issues. Many of them. But so do you. If you didn't, their games would not have been so effective. You would not have accepted their abuse or doubted your own intuition. Once issues have been identified and acknowledged, they can be accepted, addressed and corrected. As the great Bob Marley once said, "Emancipate yourself from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds." There is no stronger prison than the prison of the mind.