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Stop Trying to Control the Narcissist

Updated on December 19, 2017
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The Little Shaman is a spiritual counselor, hypnotherapist, and a specialist in Cluster B personality disorders.

We often hear people saying things like, "How can I get this person to stop doing this" or "How can I convince this person of X-Y-Z?" The truth is, you can't. Whether someone is a narcissist or not, you can't control other people or make them do anything they don't want to do. It makes dealing with all people easier when you remember that you can't control them. If they don't want to do something, they won't. If they don't want to believe something, they won't. Understanding and really internalizing this is the key to helping you to stop focusing on the other person and focus more on your own behavior and your own actions, because these are the things you can control. Healing begins when we stop focusing on the abuser and start focusing on ourselves.

In our culture, there is a lot of focus on the other guy. For most people, it's easier to look at somebody else and see what they are doing wrong. And yes, absolutely, abusers are wrong. They are doing bad things and they should change. However, many of them do not and people can waste years of their life trying to force this person to become what they want them to be instead of accepting who they actually are. The fact is, people are who they are, and the faster we accept who they are, the sooner we can decide whether or not this is something we want to be involved in. If it isn't, then we have to decide what we're going to do, because people don't have to change - for us or anybody else. This can be sad and it seems unfair, but it's just the way it is. People are going to do what they want to do, and sometimes they want to do things that are not good for those around them, or themselves.

Sometimes a person may not understand the impact of their actions on others, but sometimes they just don't care. This is what we usually find with narcissists. Loved ones may spend years trying to get through to their narcissistic loved ones because they are laboring under the misconception that narcissists don't understand what they are doing to others. They believe, as any decent person would, that if the narcissist could simply understand what they are doing to others, they would stop. It is people's own intrinsic humanity that prevents them from understanding that this person doesn't have a problem understanding; they just don't care. People spend years explaining and pleading and proving and demanding, trying to hit on that magic formula that will somehow get through to the narcissist when the truth is staring them in the face the whole time: this person does not care. They basically can't care, and no amount of explaining is going to change that.

Not only are narcissists destructive to others, they are self-destructive. This is one of the reasons many people find it so difficult to go no contact with narcissists. It can be very difficult to watch someone you care about do things that are hurting themselves or ruining their own life. They may spend money recklessly and be constantly on the brink of financial disaster or homelessness, self-medicate or drink too much, have sex with people they don't know very well or put themselves in dangerous situations, engage in criminal activities, mess up good jobs and many other things that are hard to witness. However, unless these things directly impact you, there is very little you can do about it. Even if it does directly impact you, often the most you can do is simply leave the situation so that it doesn't anymore. Regardless of how much someone maybe should change, they won't if they don't want to. This can be very hard to accept, but the truth is that it is dangerous and unhealthy to want something for someone else more than they want it for themselves. If we accept that other people are individuals, then we also have to accept that they have the right to make their own choices - even bad ones. We don't have to participate in it though, and we don't have to stick around to watch it.

This is how many interventions with addicts work. Everyone that loves the person gathers together to say how much they love the person and that they want the person to get help. If the person does not agree, the family and friends often say they will no longer be a part of their life. This can be difficult and it may seem harsh, but unfortunately, it is what happens when people truly accept that they cannot control others or force them to change, even if they are hurting themselves and others. Just remember that you have every right to walk away from toxic or abusive people, no matter who they are. Maybe this will help them see that there is a problem, but even if it doesn't, it stops the toxicity and abuse from affecting you.

It's ultimately up to each individual what they will and will not agree to have in their lives. For example, some people may choose to continue to live with an alcoholic spouse or an addicted parent and simply try to have a life anyway despite this person's constantly problematic behavior, while others may decide they don't want this amount of toxicity in their life and leave the relationship. Either way, no matter what you decide, it is important to remember that you can only control your own behavior and you can only change yourself. No amount of love can make someone stop drinking or using drugs, for instance. No amount of love can stop someone from being abusive or manipulative. There is nothing wrong with caring about others or worrying about them, but again: it is dangerous and unhealthy to want something for someone else more than they want it for themselves. It's also extremely unrealistic.

Until that person recognizes for themselves that there is a problem, that the problem is with them and that they have the power to change things, nothing is going to change. You will simply spin your wheels having the same conversations and arguments and problems every day for the rest of your life until you decide it's enough and leave the situation. You cannot control another person, you cannot change them and you cannot make them care - about anything, including themselves. Whether or not you want to stay in the situation and wait for them to realize something they may never realize is up to you. Just remember that you do not need to sacrifice yourself to make someone else happy, nor should you. Their happiness is not more important than yours. It's supposed to be equal.

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