I wrote recently about toxic relationships and how to recognise a healthy relationship and an unhealthy one. It’s my view that any form of physical abuse in a relationship is unacceptable. But emotional abuse is more subtle and those who perpetrate it can be devious and deceptive.  The first type of personality disorder I would like to explore is narcissism.

So, how would you know if you were in a relationship with a narcissist? Well if you have a cat or a small child you definitely have a narcissist in your life. Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a mental disorder characterised by a pattern of exaggerated feelings of self-importance and entitlement, a strong need for admiration, an inability to empathise with and appreciate the feelings of others and being exploitive of others. 

So, what do you do if you have a narcissist in your life? Well if you can remove them from your life or limit the contact you have with them that might be the answer. But this is not always possible, they may be your boss or a relative. So, there are several strategies that you can try. In my experience the most effective approach is to set and maintain boundaries as to what you regard as reasonable and permissible behaviour. Effectively, this informs them what we will and won’t accept. If they cross those lines we will keep our distance from them and not engage.

Narcissistic traits develops as a result of great insecurity or trauma in a person’s life often in childhood. This makes them repeat self-centred patterns of behaviour that mirror how a child seeks attention from a parent. This then arrests their ability to psychologically develop and mature fully as an adult. Because of this, understanding and compassion can be an effect strategy as can help to meet their unfulfilled needs. 

Narcissists will often try to bait you to get an emotional respond. This may involve them over reacting or reacting inappropriately to a situation. They may try to reframe a situation to be about them. They can also manipulate situations and others to create an environment where you feel compelled to respond. Recognising this allows you to stop being drawn into their games. Responding will likely encourage them as they are getting the response they wanted.

Being well informed about narcissism can help us to recognise their behaviours and manipulations. Believe in you right to be happy and stand up for your right to be respected and treated with compassion. Also, having a good support network who you can share your experiences and frustrations with can be very valuable. 

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