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Stop Protecting The Narcissist

Updated on April 24, 2018
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The Little Shaman is a spiritual coach & specialist in cluster B personality disorders, with a popular YouTube show and clients worldwide.

While it's not uncommon to find that pathologically narcissistic people have chased everyone in their lives away with their bad behavior, it's also common for them to be surrounded by people who go out of their way to protect and cushion the narcissist from any negative consequences.

For example, let's say the pathologically narcissistic person has racked up a large amount of parking tickets and is going to face legal consequences. Rather than allow this person to face the consequences as they should, someone takes money they don't really have to pay the narcissist's bill off so they don't get in trouble. Or say the narcissist foolishly spent money they needed for the electric bill and now it's going to be shut off. Rather than let the narcissistic person endure the loss of a pretty important utility service, someone around the narcissist pays the bill.

This is the difference between helping and enabling. If someone had an unexpected emergency come up like a car repair and they cannot pay their utility bill, that's one thing. In that situation, a person might truly need help. But if someone just throws their money away, they don't need help with paying bills. What they need is to face the consequences of their actions so that they will learn to do the right thing. That would be best for them. And if they never learn, then it's what it is. Protecting people from their own bad decisions isn't really protecting them at all.

People learn from making mistakes and facing negative consequences. If they are never permitted to do so, they will never learn. Many times, people take responsibility for the narcissist's mistakes or bad decisions out of fear, because they don't want to deal with the temper tantrum that will result if they don't do it, but people also protect the narcissist from consequences out of a misguided sense of responsibility. Pathologically narcissistic people are very good at using guilt and at blame-shifting. They spend a large part of their lives pushing the responsibility for their feelings, decisions, behavior and lives on to other people. Sometimes the reasoning they use sounds absolutely ridiculous to people, but it will often work on those that care about them.

For example, using our previous example about the utility bill, if the person who is being asked for money attempts to chastise the narcissist for spending their money before paying bills, the narcissist may say something like, "Well, if you hadn't held me back, I'd have a better job and I could afford it!" or "I guess my kids won't have any heat because you don't care!" This is of course absurd and even stupid; it's obviously the narcissist who doesn't care but people who love the pathologically narcissistic person may be affected by it just the same. They care about the narcissist and don't want them to be upset or hurt. This is understandable but it's a mistake. Giving in out of fear is an even bigger mistake. When you give into bad behavior, you reinforce it. Worse than that, you are teaching the narcissistic person that they never have to take responsibility for anything because someone will always be there to rescue them.

Consider this situation. A narcissistic person routinely wasted their money. Bought what they wanted and ignored their bills. The grandmother continuously paid for everything and came to the rescue in every crisis so that things didn't get cut off or repossessed. If she resisted - which was rare but did happen - there were huge temper tantrums and even violence, such as smashing things and kicking in doors. If the grandmother did not have the money or resources to rescue the narcissist at a particular time, others in the family would step in so that the narcissist would leave the grandmother alone. After decades of rescuing the narcissist repeatedly, the grandmother passed away. The narcissistic person had never been forced to face consequences or learn how to actually manage their own life and lost everything. Until yet another person in the family stepped in to take over where the grandmother had left off.

It isn't just about money, either. We see this same dynamic at play in many situations regarding consequences. For instance, let's say the narcissistic person is being totally out of control. They are screaming, they are accusing, they're saying absolutely horrible things in front of your children, or even to your children, they have worked themselves up into a frenzy. You simply cannot deal with it anymore and you throw them out of the house. For the rest of the day, they are calling or sending you text messages about how you abandoned them, you're evil, how can you do this, they're homeless now, it's freezing out here... everything they can say to make you feel guilty. Instead of forcing them to face the consequences of their behavior, you let them back in. And because you do that, they behave that way again and again and again, using the same tired lines to get back in every time. By not forcing them to face the consequences of their behavior, you teach them that there are none.

This is especially common in situations where pathologically narcissistic people are being violent or when they are threatening suicide. What should be done in these situations is that the authorities should be called, but this sometimes does not happen because people want to protect the narcissist. They may not want the narcissistic person to get in trouble, be embarrassed or lose their job. People often take more responsibility on themselves than they should here, believing that whatever consequences the narcissist faces will be their fault because they made the call.

We hear that all the time. "The narcissist is in jail because of me." or "I feel bad because I ruined the narcissist's life. They lost their job because I had them arrested for attacking me or they were put into a psychiatric facility because they were threatening suicide." This is not the case. The responsibility here falls on the narcissist. They ruined their own life. They are in jail or a residential treatment facility because of their own behavior. Many people have ended up dead or attending funerals because they didn't want their loved one to get in trouble, so just remember that. Sometimes it needs to be done.

In the example of the enabling grandmother, nobody ever called the police or any authorities at all. The narcissist was able to terrorize the grandmother for years and years with no consequences whatsoever, That's wrong and it should not have happened. The grandmother had no peace and the narcissist never learned how to take care of herself. She still doesn't know how, and now that none of the original enablers can help her, she bullies and manipulates money out of her children. It never ends if someone doesn't do something.

Pathologically narcissistic people will take as much latitude as you will give them. It's important to create and enforce strong boundaries so that you are not taken advantage of and so that you are helping your loved one in the best way possible. The truth is that you cannot protect a person from their own bad decisions or the consequences of them. And you shouldn't. You're not helping. People - all people - need to take responsibility for their own lives and their own decisions. It is the only way they can become a successful adult. They need to learn that there are consequences for their behavior.

If you really want to help, stop helping. Deal with the guilt and do what is best for everybody by refusing to be an enabler any longer. And if once you stop, they still cannot learn that there are consequences for their behavior, to be perfectly honest, that's their problem. It's not your responsibility. You just need to remember that.


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