What is Narcissistic Supply?

See Psych Central Article Here
By Sharie Stines, Psy.D

(Note: I am using pronouns he, his, him, for simplicity. Narcissism applies to both genders.)

Secure attachment in infancy creates a solid foundation for a person’s entire life.  It creates a feeling of “confidence and trust in the goodness of me, you, us” (Divecha, 2017). This secure attachment is created by the comingling of reflection, attunement, empathy, and love between mother (or other primary caregiver) and infant. It is created when the mother is present, consistent, kind, reassuring, and soothing. With secure attachment, a person learns to trust others and love others for the rest of his life.

Narcissists do not know how to “trust the goodness of me, you, and us.” Narcissists are all about protecting the self – at the expense of the other. Because of the narcissist’s inability to connect in a healthy way with another person, he uses a system of relating that is created in order for the narcissist to take care of himself. Instead of healthy connection, a narcissist seeks for “narcissistic supply.”

People with narcissism usually suffer with a form of early childhood attachment trauma (interpersonal abuse.) At some point in early childhood the narcissist was not properly attached to, or was insufficiently loved. Because of this, he learned how to survive in relationships using a sort of barter system, rather than relying on “normal” human connection skills (because these were not properly internalized in his psyche.)

Narcissistic supply is a form of payment given by others in order to be in a relationship with a narcissist. In essence, when a young child is not sufficiently attuned to or attached with, emotionally soothed and protected, he develops self-protective survival skills. These survival skills come in the form of emotional manipulation and alternate-personality development.

Realize that in essence, people with early attachment trauma, are developmentally delayed – particularly with respect to interpersonal relationships.

Have you ever noticed how your loved one demonstrates behaviors akin to a three year old having a temper tantrum?  This is probably because he was triggered by not getting his way somehow and then he emotionally regressed to an earlier stage of development (one which he has not completed the development phase of maturing through.)

In essence, a narcissist has not properly matured through each stage of early childhood development resulting in stunted emotional growth.

Narcissists are never satisfied.  Once they receive the narcissistic supply for the moment, they soon become empty again; it isn’t lasting. A narcissist’s emotional or “narcissistic supply” tank is always running low or on empty. It’s as if there are holes in the bottom of the narcissistic supply tank. No matter how much you try to love your narcissist well, it is never going to be enough.

What are some common forms of narcissistic supply?

  • Attention
  • Compliments/Praise
  • Accomplishments, such as winning
  • Feeling powerful (having power over you)
  • Feeling in control (being able to control you, and thus, his environment)
  • An addictive substance or activity
  • Sex
  • Emotional energy (can be positive or negative)

The list is not exhaustive and narcissistic supply can be as unique as the individuals involved.

What are some things the supplier of this narcissistic “food” can do to feed the narcissist?

  • Do whatever he wants
  • Lose your autonomy; yourself
  • Praise him/compliment him
  • Be a good “object”
  • Be compliant
  • Be controllable
  • Give up your power

How do narcissist’s obtain this supply from their “victims?” They use some primary tools; these are seduction, manipulation, anger and bullying behaviors.

Realize this truth:

“In a narcissistic encounter, there is, psychologically, only one person present. The co-narcissist disappears for both people, and only the narcissistic person’s experience is important” (Rappaport, 2005).

You can see how this quote applies to this concept of narcissistic supply. The entire purpose of the relationship is that everyone in it has one goal – to feed the narcissist. This form of psychological manipulation works, because when the narcissist is “fed” everyone involved is lulled in to a false, albeit brief, sense of security.

Narcissistic supply is any substitute form of temporary supplier of “satisfaction.”  Most likely, this “food” is in the real form of the neurotransmitter dopamine – the “feel good” brain chemical.

What the narcissist really needs and has needed all along is true human connection. But, since the want of that is a serious threat to the narcissist’s psyche, he has learned to accept narcissistic supply as his source of sustenance.

 

(If you would like to receive a free copy each month of my newsletter, the psychology of abuse, please send me your email address and I will add you to my subscription list:  therecoveryexpert@gmail.com)

References:

Childress, C. A. (2016.) The Narcissistic Parent: A Guidebook for Legal Professionals Working with Families in High-Conflict Divorce. Claremont, CA: Oaksong Press.

Divecha, D. (2017). How to Cultivate a Secure Attachment with Your Child. Greater Good Magazine. Retrieved from: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_to_cultivate_a_secure_attachment_with_your_child

Rappoport, A. (2005). Co-narcissism: How we accommodate to narcissist parents. The Therapist. 16(2).36-38.

It is a well known fact that those that suffer from PTSD are at a much higher risk for falling into substance abuse. Many people with PTSD often find themselves going for the bottle or something else harmful to help quickly find relief from their pain. But could early substance abuse actually lead to PTSD? […]

via Could Substance Abuse be Causing PTSD? — Beva’s PTSD Blog

Helping Others Get The Psychological Support They Need

See Psychology Today Article Here
By George S. Everly

According to many authorities, currently there is a mental healthcrisis. School shootings, workplace violence, random acts of violent rage, even some acts of terrorism have been associated with, and even blamed on, acute psychological distress, depression, or more frank mental illness. Data from the National Institute of Mental Health suggests that roughly 10 million individuals in the US suffer from some form of severe mental illness characterized by severe impairments to their daily lives. But it has been further estimated that up to another 30 million people may have to deal with psychological conditions that serve to mildly or moderately interfere with their ability to most effectively function socially or at the workplace. How does society begin to address such a problem when traditional approaches are sometimes disappointing?

Clker-Free-Vector-Images/Pixabay
Source: Clker-Free-Vector-Images/Pixabay

Using psychological first aid (PFA) to foster resilience may be one nontraditional approach. This is the third in a series of three discussions of PFA. PFA may be defined as a supportive presence designed to achieve three goals: 1) stabilize (prevent acute stress from worsening) 2) mitigate (de-escalate and dampen acute distress) 3) advocate for and facilitate access to professional assistance, if necessary. Two previous discussions in this series have addressed the first and second goals. This discussion addresses the third goal, facilitating access to supportive psychological care, if needed.

EXPANDING THE REACH OF MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT

Getting friends, family, and others for whom you care the psychological assistance they might need is not always easy.  The first step is recognition. Family members, friends, co-workers, healthcare providers, and educators all have the potential to reduce the stigma associated with seeking mental health care. Furthermore, they have the potential to help others seek professional guidance when needed. This is achieved by serving as compassionate frontline advocates for the pursuit of such professional mental health support.

Kahll/Pixabay
Source: Kahll/Pixabay

EARLY RECOGNITION

As noted, the first step to removing the stigma associated with seeking mental health support as well as expanding the reach of mental health services is recognition of the  problem. Listed below is a sampling of psychological or behavioral patterns of concern. Recognition of signs and symptoms such as these is a foundation of PFA.

1. Depression: Everyone gets sad, but depression is another matter.  The warning signs of a significant depressive episode may be a persistent sad mood for a couple of weeks combined with a loss of appetite, chronic fatigue, awakening early in the morning (often around 3am) with difficulty falling back to sleep, and a loss of libido. We become especially concerned when there is a questioning of the value of life, and the loss of hope or a future orientation as these may herald suicidal ideation and even self-injurious or suicidal acts. Professional care in such cases is imperative.

2. Debilitating Fear: Fear may be thought of as apprehension and stress arousal in response to a specific threat or challenge. Most people have fears of one kind or another. We become concerned when those fears become debilitating interfering with one’s personal or occupational lives. Persistent phobic (irrational fear) avoidance can be crippling. For example the fear and avoidance of crossing bridges or of flying can be quite debilitating.

3. Anxiety: Anxiety may be defined as apprehension and stress arousal in response to an ambiguous threat or challenge. Anxiety can be especially challenging because of its ill-defined nature. It too can be crippling. When it becomes so, it is time to seek a professional opinion.

4. Posttraumatic Stress and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD):These are perhaps more correctly envisioned as posttraumatic stress injuries (PTSI): Stress following the exposure to a trauma, usually thought of as either direct or vicarious exposure to a life threatening experience, can be intense and disorienting, but that stress reaction usually diminishes within weeks and resolves within months. When one becomes acutely disabled or continues to vividly re-imagine the experience, becomes psychologically numb or depressed, and experiences irritability, anger, or impulsiveness which interferes with one’s personal or professional life for more than a few weeks, it is then important to seek professional assistance.

5. Strange, erratic, or self-debilitating behavior of any kind, including self-medication: In the final analysis, whether it is crippling depression, anxiety, phobic avoidance, posttraumatic stress reactions, or self-debilitating behavior of any kind that interferes with one’s happiness or personal and professional life, the guidance of a mental healthcare provider should be sought.

Ricinator/Pixabay
Source: Ricinator/Pixabay

COMPASSIONATE ADVOCACY

Beyond recognition, what else can be done? If you recognize a perceived need for professional mental health guidance or support in someone you care for, work with, supervise, or mentor, compassionate advocacy may be useful in facilitating access to such care.  Listed below are some simple steps to assist.

1. Stressful life experiences can make one feel alone and overwhelmed. Make it clear there is no reason for anyone to endure distress alone.

2. Anticipate barriers to seeking professional support and be prepared to address them.  Barriers include such things as stigma, a perception of weakness, or a misunderstanding about what mental health providers actually do. Help the person reinterpret getting help as a sign of personal strength, not a weakness. Reframe seeking professional guidance more as a means of fostering resilience, less as seeking treatment. Create a positive and hopeful expectation of improvement or recovery. Point out that delaying intervention can lead to a needlessly  prolonged period of distress or inability to function effectively. Lastly, suggest that getting professional support is a sign of respect and concern for others, such as family, friends, and co-workers, as well as well, as themselves.

3. Be prepared to address practical and logistical concerns such as where and how to seek professional services. Be prepared to offer specific options about trusted providers, pastoral counseling options, telephone hotlines, financial counseling services, community-based mental health services, employee assistance programs, or other employer-based services.

4. Use encouragement in a compassionate and supportive manner, but be persistent in your encouragement.

© George S. Everly, Jr., PhD, 2019.

The Perfect Ten Sentences of Seduction What is really meant when we say these words. 1. I love you and I always have My need to seduce you is considerable and therefore I will use language which will appeal to you and be so outlandish that it will blow you away. I do not…

via Ten Seductive Sentences Used By The Narcissist — Knowing the Narcissist

How Narcissists Keep You from Grieving

See Psych Central Article Here
By Christine Hammond

Margie was devastated when her mother passed away. Her mom was diagnosed with cancer one month and then gone by the next. She had a close relationship with her mom and frequently leaned on her for support in her marriage, parenting her kids, and balancing family and work. The loss left a huge hole in her heart that she tried to grieve but couldn’t.

The day of her mom’s funeral, her husband complained about being sick and asked Margie to go to the pharmacy for him. His “sickness” prevented him from helping her get the kids ready, straighten up the house, and answer phone calls from relatives. The one day she wanted to spend celebrating her mom was overshadowed by his neediness and refusal to assist her. When friends would express remorse for Margie’s loss, her husband would interrupt and talk about how much he was going to miss her. She tried to get away from her husband but she would find her and talk about how bad he was feeling. There was no show of empathy for her.

Years later, during a counseling session, Margie’s therapist pointed out that she had not yet grieved her mother. Within months of losing her mom, her husband got a job change and moved the family from Margie’s childhood neighborhood. Margie was thrust into doing all the arrangements for the move, finding a new place, transferring school records, and establishing their new residence. After that, there was one thing after another that keep Margie from taking the time to grieve. Worse yet, every time she tried, her husband would make things about him. It wasn’t until counseling that Margie realized just how narcissistic he was.

While the narcissism alone was difficult to manage, Margie had not realized how he had prevented her from grieving. Looking back over their marriage, there were other times when Margie had significant emotional responses such as joy, anger, excitement, fear, contentment, and sadness but she never felt the freedom to express herself. As a result, she shut down emotionally and appeared in therapy with a flat affect. How does this happen?

The Narcissism Mask. At the heart of every narcissist is deep-rooted insecurity. Their grandiosity, superiority, arrogance, and selfishness make up the mask the narcissist puts on to hide their pain or fear. This mask makes the narcissist look perfect, charming, engaging, and even entertaining. But it is a façade and they will do whatever it takes to protect it including lying, deceiving, manipulating, and taking advantage of others. However, their insecurity prevents them from caring for their mask alone. Therefore, they need help from others to keep the mask in place. The only help they want is daily attention, affirmation, adoration, and affection. This feeds their ego, protects the insecurity, and solidifies the mask.

The Narcissistic Threat. Any event, circumstance, trauma, or even abuse that could detract the narcissist from getting their feeding is a threat. When their spouse has arranged a gathering of their friends, the narcissist will often throw temper tantrums just before leaving. Knowing they will not be the center of attention at the event, they draw attention to themselves prior to the event. Even though the narcissist has a wonderful time at the event and finds ways to absorb attention, they still repeat this pattern the next time. This is especially true when the event is about their spouses such as a funeral, awards ceremony, or office function.

The Narcissistic Cycle. Any attempts to call the narcissist’s attention towards their selfish behavior will be met with quick abuse such as a verbal assault of name calling – “You’re a …”, a threat of abandonment – “Fine, you can go without me”, or the silent treatment – “I’m not going to say anything.” When their spouse fights back, the narcissist becomes the victim and guilts the spouse into apologizing, acquiescing, and accepting responsibility for the narcissist’s behavior. This is sometimes repeated numerous times before an event. It is an abusive pattern designed to remind the spouse that no matter what happens during the event, it is still all about the narcissist.

The Result. The spouse shuts down. After numerous cycles before, during, and after an event, the spouse concludes that it is better to not express any emotion or even tell their spouse about achievements or successes. Because the narcissist treats all events with the same resistance, drama, and abuse cycle, the spouse stops engaging. This is where the marriage begins to fall apart as the spouse becomes a shell of their former selves. The narcissist has successfully molded a mask for the spouse to wear so they too can share in the façade. Having someone join them in mask wearing is comforting at first but ultimately becomes a new source of jealousy. And so it all begins again with another cycle.

Margie finally got it. She started seeing the cycle, ignoring his threats, calling out his abuse, and refusing to accept his responsibility. More importantly, she began the grieving process of her mom’s death, from the move out of her childhood neighborhood, and from the realization that her husband was narcissistic. It took some time to process all of this but as she did, she got stronger and stronger. Eventually, her strength became unattractive to her husband who moved onto a new relationship and then filed for divorce.

That’s right. Stop wasting time arguing because they will drive you to the point of insanity. They can’t lose. They can’t be wrong and if you fuck with their facade they will try and destroy you. Trust your gut and walk the very first time you catch them in a lie or when you have […]

via Stop wasting time arguing with narcissistic people — Share our story to end the violence…

5 Signs That You Are In A Toxic Relationship

See Author Article Here

1. You always aim to please

While you should aim to make your partner happy, it shouldn’t take over your relationship. If you’re spending all of your time trying to be perfect and being afraid of making mistakes, it could be a sign that the relationship is toxic.

2. You are constantly criticized

Bickering and arguing are part of any relationship, but constant put downs and criticism should not be accepted. Your partner is there to elevate you and make you the best person you can be, not the opposite. If you are constantly being criticized and not complimented, it may be time for you to leave.

3. You are never alone

With social media and instant messaging, it is now easier than ever to know where your partner is. While this can offer peace of mind, it can also lead to control and manipulation. If your partner is constantly checking where you are, how long you will be and doubting everything that you say, it could be a sign that they are becoming controlling.

4. Your needs are not being met

Relationships work both ways, so it’s important that both of you feel valued and listened to. If your partner is not listening to your concerns, talking over you, or not valuing your desires and needs, it’s time for you to call out your partner on your issues with the relationship.

5. Coercive control

Part of being in a secure relationship is being able to feel free and enjoy yourself. However, if you are in a toxic relationship, this liberty may have been taken away from you. A red flag to look out for is whether your partner allows you to handle your own money and allow you to have financial security. If they handle the cash and only give it to you when you ask, warning signs should begin to flash!

How Narcissists Conduct Psychological Warfare

See Author Article Here
By Erin Leonard

Narcissists often lack a conscience, so climbing in the ring with one is like bringing a knife to a gun fight. Wielding cruelty and abuse like it’s their right, the narcissist easily wounds a person with a conscience who often feels guilty for firing back. The guilt perpetuates feelings of responsibility and self-doubt, frequently causing the person with a conscience to surrender. So how does a person create a fair fight? The most effective way is to fully understand the narcissist’s most lethal weapon, projective identification,and to disarm it.

It’s truly amazing how unfair, underhanded and malicious a narcissist can be, but rarely do they feel true remorse for their deeds. Readily deflecting, distorting, and projecting, they alter their perception of reality, freeing themselves from accountability while simultaneously projecting blame onto another. Their line of unconscious defense mechanisms operates like a force field around their ego, excusing them from deep and sincere feelings of remorse, insight, introspection, and accountability. Thus, they feel like they are never wrong.

Occasionally, when their back is against the wall, the narcissist may act as though they feel sincere remorse. However, this may be a trick to regain the trust of the person whom they are manipulating. Also, operating from a victim stance assists him or her in controlling others through guilt.

Projective identification is the most powerful psychological mechanism in a narcissist’s arsenal. It is what creates the toxic chemistry that psychologically chains an empath to a narcissist. Projection, which is the first component of projective identification, is a psychoanalytic term used to describe the unconscious process of expelling one’s own intolerable qualities and attributing them to someone else. For example, an individual who routinely acts rude may call someone else rude. This person does not see the quality in himself or herself but perceives it in others. Narcissists utilize this defense mechanism routinely. In couples counseling, for example, I often hear the narcissist in the relationship “diagnose” their partner as the narcissist.

Identification is the second component and is the empath’s role. An empath’s access to deeper emotions such as insight, introspection, deep remorse, accountability, and empathy, automatically qualifies them as less rigidly defended. Most of the deeper capabilities cause the ego to experience a tinge of pain, so a person who has access to the deeper emotions has a stronger ego. It requires fewer defensive structures be activated. As a result of this “open heart,” the empath unknowingly absorbs the projections from the narcissist and unconsciously identifies them as their own. As the narcissist projects his or her shameful qualities onto the empath, the empath instantly feels, shame, insignificance and incompetence.

These feelings cause a tremendous amount of self-doubt in the empath. Suddenly, he or she is vulnerable to believing the distortions communicated by the narcissist. Eventually, they are convinced they are the root of the problems in the relationship, so they begin to cater and appease, giving the narcissist control. The narcissist takes advantage of their power and intensifies their tactics to isolate and cause conflict with the empath’s friends, family, and work relationships. The empath’s sense of self slowly erodes, and their support system wanes, so they begin to feel dependent on the narcissist, ensnared in the lethal cycle of projective identification.

Breaking the chain of projective identification requires the empath to become consciously aware of this unconscious dynamic. Once the insidious psychological mechanism is illuminated, the empath’s knowledge protects them from believing the narcissist’s distortions about who they are. After recovering elements of their sense-of-self that were lost, an empath regains the strength to strive for space and independence from the narcissist. Once the empath has succeeded in creating distance in the relationship, he or she is safe from the narcissist’s projections.

Which Mental Illness Is Most Disabling?

Psychology Today Link Here

While there is no consensus on the exact definition of disability (especially psychological disability), there is greater recognition these days that, like physical disease, psychological conditions can cause functional impairment and dysfunction—some more so than others. In a paper, published in the November issue of Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, Edlund et al. conclude that among the 15 mental health conditions examined, mood disorders (e.g., depression) are associated with the greatest functional impairment and disability.1

The Mental Health Surveillance Study
Data for the present research came from the Mental Health Surveillance Study (MHSS). The MHSS is a sub-sample of 2008-2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), an annual survey of non-institutionalized US civilians 12 years or older. MHSS, however, includes only individuals aged 18 and over.

For the Mental Health Surveillance Study, researchers conducted phone interviews with participants, utilizing the Structured Clinical Interview for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-IV-TR. Of the original NSDUH 2008-2012 sample of 220,000 adults, 5,653 completed the MHSS interview (48% men; 67% White, 14% Latino/Hispanic, and 12% Black).

Using these interviews, researchers attempted to determine if participants met the criteria for any of the following 15 psychiatric conditions:

Mood disorders (major depressive disorder, mania, and dysthymic disorder), anxiety disorders (post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia, social phobia, specific phobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder), alcohol use disorder, illicit drug use disorder, intermittent explosive disorder, adjustment disorder, and psychotic symptoms.

Other conditions (e.g., eating disorders) were not examined because of their low prevalence in the sample.

Three measures of disability
Functional impairment was assessed using three measures (modified for this investigation):

Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF)
Days-out-of-role (DOR)
World Health Organization Disability Assessment Schedule 2.0 (WHODAS)
Scores for GAF range from 0 to 100 (higher means better functioning). GAF scores are based on both functional impairment and symptom severity (whichever happens to be worse).

StockSnap/Pixabay
Source: StockSnap/Pixabay
Unlike GAF, which is determined by clinical judgment and thus has a subjective element, WHODAS and DOR are based strictly on objective criteria and the patient’s responses.

DOR measures the number of days in the past year when an individual could not function at all because of mental health issues.

WHODAS assesses cognitive abilities (e.g., memory, concentration), social relations, social participation, self-care, and ability to do one’s duties (whether related to work, home, or school). In this study, a 0-24 score range was used, with the higher score meaning worse functioning.

Mental illness and disability: Results
Descriptive statistics revealed the sample’s average…

GAF = 74.1 (median 75)
WHODAS = 3.5 (median 1)
DOR = 6.7 (median 0)
Researchers performed a series of regression analyses, and concluded that among 15 mental health conditions, mood disorders were associated with the greatest functional impairment; anxiety disorders, with intermediate functional impairment; and substance use disorders, with less functional impairment.

For instance, in the fully adjusted model, the greatest decrease in GAF scores was seen in psychotic symptoms (22), followed by depression (16), and mania (13). In WHODAS modeling, mania (9), depression (6), and social phobia (5) had the largest coefficients. And, in the final analysis, only depression, adjustment disorder, and panic disorder, had a significant association with DOR.

These results are comparable with those of a 2007 study, which also included a nationally representative sample, used DOR, and employed similar statistical methods. In that investigation, mood disorders resulted in higher days-out-of-role than most other disorders examined.2

Commentary on use of disability measures
Aside from suggesting that mood disorders are associated with the greatest disability among conditions examined, the present investigation highlights the importance of using multiple measures in determining disability.1

Employing a single measure paints a misleading picture. For instance, as mentioned above, the median value for days-out-of-role was zero. Indeed, 70% of participants with one mental disorder, and over half of those with two disorders, had zero days-out-of-role. Only 3/15 disorders were statistically linked with DOR scores (8/15 with WHODAS; all 15 with GAF).

Therefore, DOR was the least sensitive of the three measures used. If we were to rely only on days-out-of-role numbers, we would miss significant dysfunction and disability.

darkerstar/Pixabay
Source: darkerstar/Pixabay
While GAF is likely the most sensitive of the three measures, it does not always assess functional status. As mentioned, GAF scores depend on functional impairment and symptom severity; when there is disagreement between the two values, GAF score is determined by the worse of the two. For instance, if symptoms are severe but functioning is okay, GAF scores will still be low.

Thus, it is important to use complementary measures of disability; doing so allows clinicians to achieve greater accuracy in determining a patient’s needs and in monitoring a patient’s progress. Use of complementary measures can also inform public policy and resource allocation. Physicians, politicians, and the public cannot make informed decisions about how to improve functional impairment if they fail to recognize disability in the first place.

Healing the Effects of a Narcissist: Putting the Focus Back on You

PsychCentral Article Here

I recently wrote about why you can’t win with a narcissist. Many readers asked what steps one would take to handle the narcissist in their lives. However, that all depends on the situation.

Relationships are complicated. There’s no one surefire way to deal with a narcissist, but you can focus on yourself and heal the hurt they have caused.

The narcissist in your life may be your elderly mother, the father of your children, your boss, even your adult daughter. No one can tell you when to leave your job, your relationship, your town. These are all decisions a person has to make on their own. Likewise, no one is going to tell you exactly how to handle a narcissist. It’s a personal choice.

Can you throw this toxic person out of your life for good? Of course, and you don’t need permission to walk away. On the other hand, there are a million reasons why you would continue to have contact with the narcissist, and there are many ways that relationship can offer some level of satisfaction. That said, it’s time to finally put the narcissist aside and deal with yourself first. If you do that, you will begin to reorient your life.

First and foremost, setting healthy boundaries is key to self-care. If you’ve been emotionally abused and manipulated, it’s time to set very clear boundaries in the relationship. This means taking time for yourself.

Are there things you stopped doing because the narcissist didn’t approve? Are there old friends or family you avoid? Maybe there’s something you’ve always wanted to try. Perhaps you just want to paint your kitchen purple. It’s time to embrace the things you like, even if you’re not sure what they are.

Don’t let the narcissist’s opinion bring you down. If you finally join a bowling league, keep them out of your head. Don’t worry if you never make a strike, if your bowling shoes are hideous, or if you ate a chili dog and fried macaroni and cheese on a stick between frames. If you feel that ever-present mocking gaze and grow painfully self-conscious, remind yourself, “I’m just being me, and I have a right to be me.”

If it turns out you kind of hate bowling (I always leave with broken nails), don’t beat yourself up about it. The narcissist likes to scoff at anything new, especially when it excludes them or is something they aren’t familiar with. But unlike the narcissist, you’re not afraid to pursue your interests and try something new.

These activities are identity-affirming. Remember that if you subjugate your needs long enough, you’ll begin to lose your sense of self. Years ago, I went on a trip with a woman who had separated from her husband just six months earlier. Despite the fact that she knew he had been cheating for years, she still spoke about him with great enthusiasm. Nearly everything that came out of her mouth for the entire two weeks was about her ex’s life. Everything she saw, every story she heard or person she met reminded her of something her ex did or saw or said. It was as if he was there, not her. It was like she had no personal history of her own.

Go looking for you. Find what makes you happy, no matter what anyone else thinks. You know the saying, “Let your freak flag fly”? Well it’s really a “I’m just being myself” flag.

Keeping the narcissist’s overblown black-and-white judgment out of your head might actually be the hardest part. As I wrote in this piece: Narcissists make you feel guilty when you experience happiness because they expect you to put their happiness first. If you’re not busy praising them, accepting put-downs so they can feel superior, and catering to their every whim, they’re not going to be happy at all.

I understand the anxiety that envelops you in this situation. Focusing on them is enough to make you want to give up. Stop thinking, “What do I say if this happens? What do I do when the narcissist does that?” There is no blueprint for navigating these relationships. It’s not about winning an epic battle or finally putting the narcissist in their place. Keep the focus on you.

I know the difficulty of shutting out the narcissist’s judgment. It’s hard to weed out the pollution of disapproval. Sometimes every pleasure seems like a guilty pleasure. All I can do is keep my compass trained on my own happiness and follow it. I trust that doesn’t mean I’ll hurt people because I’m a good person. In fact, that’s probably what the narcissist saw in me in the first place and wanted so desperately to extract.

Bowling team photo available from Shutterstock