Before we move on from the topic of Narcissists, let’s discuss the Minimal/Low Contact and No Contact Rules for dealing with them. Of course, any option you choose in dealing with the Narcissists in your life is up to you. I’m not telling you what to do at all. (Mostly because I despise when anyone tries to tell me what to do! But that’s another story!)
You make your own choices, Warriors. You have to do what’s best for you, your family, your children., etc. No matter who the Narcissists are in your life, it’s up to you how to handle it.
For Narcissists on the benign end of the spectrum, you can just ignore them. We all know people who need all the attention in the room and who like to manipulate, but they are manageable. For Narcissists on the extreme end of the spectrum or for Narcissistic Sociopaths, more extreme measures of self-care and self-protection are necessary.
This is my mother’s end of the spectrum – she is extreme. Her delusions are grandiose and deep-seated. She will never understand or even mildly grasp the damage she has inflicted on so many people over her 90 year life span.
We live in a society – here in the Christian U.S. – that has been brainwashed into honoring our “father and mother” no matter how they behave, and with no regard to whether or not they are good parents and nurterers. So, society will judge you if you choose the path of No or Minimal Contact. Your family members may judge you. They may even confront you and attempt to convince you that you are wrong.
Just remember, you are the expert on your life. You get to choose the people with whom you interact. No one else has a vote. I always say that others have input but they don’t have voting rights in my life. I make my choices. I live with the consequences.
Know that if you choose to go full No Contact, you’ll most likely be on your own. Your spouse may not fully understand or may feel that you are being over-reactionary or overly dramatic. Your decision may be a problem in your relationships.
You may even face an attack from a Flying Monkey – the Narcissist’s Enabler (in my case, my darling father) – who will beg you to reconsider just so their world can continue spinning in their comfort zone.
Flying Monkeys do the Narcissist’s bidding – mostly to keep from having to face the Narcissistic Rage themselves if they don’t. I love the visual of the Flying Monkeys from the Wizard of Oz! It has been so helpful to me. After a while, I even began to say to myself, “Incoming!!” whenever my Dad approached me or my son on my mother’s behalf. I have conflicting feelings about my Dad and the role he has played in allowing my mother’s chaos in our family all these years. I adore him, and at the same time, I blame him for not protecting us from her. But how could he when he was so deeply under her spell? Then again, how could he not protect his children from her abuse? I’m still trying to feel my way through this aspect of my relationship with my Dad.
In June, 2014, after a series of events initiated by my mother which wreaked havoc on my entire family including my son and bonus daughter, I decided to institute the No Contact Policy with “Queen Mary”. My son and bonus daughter did as well. I chose to write her a letter outlining what had happened, and the fact that our relationship would no longer be what it had been.
There are two schools of thought about actually communicating your No or Minimal Contact decision and plan: The first is that it’s a good thing so that you clearly communicate your decisions and you can craft that letter/email exactly as you wish without stating your intention in person verbally & being drawn into a Narcissistic Rage battle. The second is that you should simply walk away and not say anything. There are pros and cons to both. I say go with whichever one feels best to you.
Be forewarned that if you choose to communicate your intentions, the Narcissist will come on even stronger! And so my mother did. She bombarded us for weeks. I simply blocked her number from my cell phone – she’s gone straight to voicemail for years now. Eventually, since she wasn’t receiving the payoff for her bombardment, she gave up although I still get voicemail messages from her from time to time. I rarely listen to them anymore, and I never, ever respond.
That’s the thing with Narcissists – the payoff they crave is the attention. If you are not a source for the attention they crave, they will ultimately move on to another source. It may take a while, but they will move on. I promise you that this is true.
I witnessed this phenomenon again in the last years of my marriage – when Walkaway Bob was no longer receiving the adulation and attention he craved from me, he turned to other women & online dating sites for his attention addiction. The Narcissist will always search until they find a source for feeding their attention addiction – no matter how temporary it may be. (You will probably also find that true Narcissists care more about attention and praise from strangers than they do from you.)
As I said in another post, my mother is now 90 years old and beginning to show signs of Alzheimer’s. So far, I have not felt any strong pull to see her or interact with her. Whether or not I will in the future is a bridge I will cross when I get there. You may think it harsh or cruel of me to deny her contact with her only daughter in the last years of her life, and that’s OK. The choices I’ve made are nothing compared to what she has denied me for decades – a nurturing mother, a close family, a childhood free from rage & fear, a wedding that was about me & not her, a loving & supportive grandmother for my son, etc.
Besides, if I were to interact with her, what would that be like? I can’t be anything less than who I am. I can’t fake feelings for her that I don’t have. She would sit there and tell me how much she loves me then I would tell her how much I don’t love her. Would it be beneficial for her, in her last years, to spend time with a daughter who wants nothing to do with her? There will be no theatrical, tear-filled reunion and mending of the relationship. She’s not capable of it. In my book, it’s kinder of me to stay away than to subject her to that – kinder for both of us really.
No Contact is a tough stance to maintain. Someone told me it’s like being in your own personal Witness Protection Program so you don’t get “shot”. I love that! You must believe in your heart that it is what’s best for you and your family. Here are some resources that may help you decide if No Contact is best for you:
Minimal Contact is sometimes a better option – particulary if the Narcissist in your life is your spouse AND you have children. There are times when you will absolutely need to communicate, but always remember that Narcissists crave attention no matter whether it’s positive or negative.
The best way to describe a successful Minimal Contact course of action is that you remove any and all emotion & energy from the interactions. You simply respond as blandly as possible to the extent necessary to conduct whatever business you must conduct. I know it’s hard but consider this:
If you’re having a struggle or a conflict with someone, picture it as a tug of war where each is pulling with all their might on their end. What happens if you simply put down your end of the rope? The struggle is over! Well almost. The other party will probably fall flat on their ass but then what? The Narcissist will try repeatedly to get you to pick up your end of the rope again! Why? Because they crave attention – negative or positive. So, whatever you do, DON’T PICK UP THE ROPE AGAIN. EVER!
Going Minimal Contact means you maintain the bare minimum level of contact necessary to function but you remain calm and rational no matter what. You do not take the bait, and you remain focused on the reason for the contact only. You do not, no matter, get suckered into an argument or justifying your behavior and/or decisions. Practice saying these lines out loud until they come naturally:
- “Because that’s what I want.”
- “Because that’s what I choose.”
- “Because that’s all I’m willing to do.”
- “Because I choose not to participate.”
- “I’m not going to respond to that.”
It’s easier with benign spectrum Narcissists than with the extreme ones, but it can be done. The good news is that, over time, you will become an expert at it and it will become just the way you are when interacting with the Narcissist.
For me, the most painful aspect of having relationships with Narcissists is that they are pathologically unable to see their behavior for what it is. They simply cannot admit and take responsibility for who they are AND how damaging their behavior is. To this day at 90, my mother believes she is the greatest mother there has ever been. She literally told her therapist that. And, to this day, Walkaway Bob believes that we have nothing in common and that he would be happier “alone”. (Yes, he told me that repeatedly all the while searching for his next “victim”.)
Sometimes we feel that if we can just talk enough, reason enough, be compassionate enough, the Narcissist will see the error of their ways and at least attempt to change. I’m here to tell you flat out, that ain’t happening. Never. Nope. Never. Don’t get sucked down that rabbit hole. It will eat you alive.
Here are some resources if you’re interested in learning more. There is a wealth of information available on the subject which has been tremendously helpful to me in understanding the psychology of Narcissists.
Next time we’ll get deeper into relationships & BreakUps with Sociopaths & Liars. What fun! Walk on, Warriors!