‘Narcissists are Fragile Beings’ and Other Fallacies

By Kim Saeed | Contemplating No Contact

Jun 06
Narcissists are fragile beings

Over the past few years, the internet has exploded with articles and books about narcissism.  In fact, I often wonder if the internet has turned us into a bunch of narcissism junkies.  

It starts out innocently enough.  Your partner (or friend, coworker, family member) has been engaging in behaviors that make you feel like Quasimodo in the Hunchback of Notre Dame.  You turn to the internet to learn the reasons why and your search terms result in so many hits you feel like you’re in college preparing to write a dissertation. 

Most of the material written about narcissists encourages readers to leave, if possible.  But then, you come across other articles and books that depict the narcissist as a fragile human being who needs your sympathy and compassion.  This advice seems more in line with what you had hoped to find.  After all, leaving the narcissist and going No Contact seems so cruel and heartless.  There MUST be something you can do to show them you are trustworthy and reliable. 

Feeling determined, you vow to follow the seemingly well-meaning and hope-inspiring instructions doled out in the latest book written by a PhD.  There must be a way around this, right?

Perhaps, but it’s not likely. 

I’ve read material insisting there’s a way to “make it work with a narcissist”, giving out advice such as “be strong where the narcissist is weak”, but I’ve yet to encounter a success story by someone who has followed this advice and came out unscathed. While anyone who’s involved with a narcissist is certainly free to make their own decisions, I don’t advocate trying to salvage the relationship. 

Below, I list the top five injurious recommendations for “making it work with a narcissist” and my interpretation of why they generally fail.

1 – You can deal with the narcissist’s entitlement and grandiose behaviors by meditating

Anyone who’s been following my blog knows I promote the use of guided meditations.  They’re a great method for dealing with stress, relaxing, and overwriting negative and false beliefs. 

However, they don’t do much in the way of helping a target of narcissistic abuse to deal with the narcissist’s entitlement and grandiose behaviors.

Targets of narcissistic abuse generally have their own core wounds which are made worse by trying to direct their energies into the narcissist’s core wounds.  Victims of narcissistic abuse are triggered frequently, staying in a near-constant state of panic and fight-or-flight.  It takes great effort to overcome the physiological effects of this repeated trauma – which leaves little room to be someone else’s hero.

Energy cannot continue to flow in one direction over large periods of time, without negative consequences for the giver.  Energy needs to be grounded, to find a healthy source to grow, to flow and to ebb or to be reciprocated. With a narcissist, it just disappears into a black hole, and such nutritious valuable energy is consumed without gratitude and with no appreciation of its value.

2 – It’s critical to know whether a narcissist is grandiose or vulnerable so you can cater to their needs accordingly

People tend to put far too much focus on “what kind of narcissist” they’re dealing with.

Ultimately, knowing whether a person is grandiose or vulnerable might satisfy one’s intellectual curiosity, but continuing to perform painstaking research into the subject and substantiating a person’s behaviors and traits to make sure they fit into a particular category is a waste of time.  Why?  Because this does nothing to erase the abuse or to change the outcome of the relationship.

Believing you can help someone who doesn’t want help is a self-defeating illusion.  Narcissists, in general, are stuck in a state of arrested development.  They care mostly for how they feel in the moment, which explains their erratic behaviors.  They generally don’t reflect on the future or ways they can improve themselves to be better partners or friends.  What they do reflect on is how they can better manipulate people in order to fulfill their own agendas. 

In short, determining whether a narcissist is grandiose or vulnerable might help you understand their behaviors, but trying to appeal to their needs based on what kind of narcissist they are will only leave you feeling drained and unappreciated. 

3 – The narcissist’s feelings of shame and inadequacy are unconscious and they can’t control themselves

It’s one thing to take the high road and let someone else have center stage, but another entirely to give up your sense of self so someone else can feel better. 

The reason it’s detrimental for abuse targets to cater to the narcissist, believing their disordered partner cannot control themselves, is because there’s no balance or reciprocation.  Sure, there may be so-called good times in the relationship, but they’re so few and far in between (and often with an underlying motive), that by the time the narcissist is showing their “good side” it’s too little, too late.

This is precisely how targets of narcissistic abuse end up with chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, high blood pressure, and develop clinical conditions such as depression and learned helplessness.  Trying to compensate for the narcissist’s feelings of shame and inadequacy only leads to their targets adding to their own such feelings, especially given that narcissists are prone to verbally abusing their targets. 

What happens after months or years of catering to the narcissist because of their “unconscious” behaviors and being their emotional punching bag?  Many people who attempt this end up losing their jobs because they become dysfunctional, they lose their homes, custody of their children, or worse…they may develop terminal illnesses. 

Is it worth it?

4 – It’s possible to set boundaries with a narcissist to counter their aggression and indifference

If you’ve come across material suggesting that setting boundaries with a narcissist (to include couple’s therapy) can help counter the narcissist’s aggression and lack of empathy, you’ll soon discover how futile this line of attack is should you choose to follow it.  

In my experience working with clients who have been narcissistically abused–as well as the hours of research I’ve conducted–I’ve not come across one success story as it relates to setting boundaries or couple’s therapy with a narcissist.  It sure did nothing to help me!

For starters, setting boundaries with a narcissist typically results in narcissistic rage directed towards you and/or their pretending to go along with you, only to come back later with a devastating sucker-punch when you least expect it.

Further, narcissists don’t go to therapy with goals in mind (such as improving their relationship with you).  They go to therapy with agendas in mind.  Therefore, setting boundaries and going to therapy with the narcissist will accomplish three things: 1) waste time and money, 2) keep you in a relationship that is doomed to fail anyway and 3) likely result in your feeling like more of the “crazy lunatic” your partner keeps claiming you are.

It’s important to realize that narcissists can be convincing in creating the illusion that they’re on-board with the whole therapy idea, but this is often to keep a source of supply strung along, to learn the lingo in order to later use it as ammunition, and to project the image they they’re the victim of abuse instead of the other way around.

When it comes to therapy, you would do well finding your own therapist to overcome your progressive anxiety and depression, but don’t bring the narcissist into the picture if you truly want to improve your well-being.

5 – Narcissists are emotionally impoverished and desperate for your help

While this statement may be true, the irony is that no amount of help offered to the narcissist results in a positive outcome for the giver.  Many wish, hope, and try fervently to make a positive difference in the narcissist’s life, but all they are left with is a gaping void.  And since narcissists are such skilled actors, they keep their targets believing they are making progress, only to experience deep betrayal and disappointment down the road. 

Throughout my years of coaching, those who chose to stay with the narcissist in their life – or broke up with them and got back together later believing time had changed things – have always regretted their decision. 

Does this mean all narcissists should be shunned and made to live out their lives in solitude? That’s for you to decide.

The Catch 22 is that only people with a strong sense of self, who have healthy levels of self-assurance, emotional resilience, and a secure attachment style would have the reserves required to attempt to make things work with a narcissist.  Unfortunately, these same people generally possess healthy boundaries and would quickly leave the narcissist due to his or her selfishness, exploitative traits, and various forms of abuse.  Because of this, narcissists seek out those who are themselves vulnerable, who have inner wounds they try to rectify by garnering the narcissist’s approval, who have an insecure or anxious attachment style, and who are fixers/rescuers.  

If any of these latter descriptors sound like you, you should not remain in a relationship with a narcissist.

It’s my belief that keeping space open for the narcissist to be themselves only leads to self-destruction for their targets.  The most loving thing you can do for them is leave because this is the only way they will recognize that their actions won’t be rewarded, forcing them to seek out a different way of life.  However, keep in mind that even then, this so-called shift is often short-lived and they revert back to their manipulative and exploitative ways because they don’t spend time self-reflecting or putting in the effort it takes to be a better person…and they generally don’t give two hoots about it.

Copyright © 2017 Kim Saeed and Let Me Reach. All Rights Reserved


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About the Author

Kim Saeed is a narcissistic abuse recovery expert on a mission to help abuse survivors to heal, find purpose, and live joyfully after No Contact. She also hosts a podcast called Heal, Grow, Evolve, where she aims to help people create meaningful lives and relationships after emotional abuse. Listen and subscribe at www.healgrowevolvewithkim.com

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(9) comments

Dawn July 28, 2017

Thank you for this article. I have been stomped on toxic men on and off since my first love in high school. Which now I look back in retrospect and know he was a narcissist. I dated him all through high school, amongst coming from a seriously dysfunctional family of alcohol and drug abuse and both my moms and my dads side, I also lost my only sibling, my brother to a drunk driving accident when I was 15 and he was 17. That to me was seriously painful, and miss him till this day. I tell my children about their uncle Sophia memory lives on. Aldo to give awareness of a teenagers thought process seems to think that they are immortal beings and hopefully through communication and awareness of this incident sheds light on their teenage years, still for my oldest is a couple years but I want my children to know the reality at hand and that they can always come to me with feelings. Anyways, I’ve unfortunately have a lot of broken in me that is like human blood to a shark. My ex-husband I believe after living through the toxic and honestly never knowing what had happened that last 2 years of our marriage, until after dating now my ex-boyfriend of on and off for 3 years, I am currently done, no contact. But because of his moodiness, rollercoaster ride from hell ups and downs and eventually after I believe 9 months and crying to him regarding my brother and he didn’t even flinch with an emotion or an empathetic gesture shocked me to say the least. He actually cracked at joke and I was silent in thought cause at this point with us I was highly depressed, he made me feel that I was holding him back in regards to his spiritual development. I told him that I couldn’t see him anymore, that he needs to find a happy women, someone that isn’t depressed and feels like I have too many issues. Which btw in very under the radar commenting after I came out of that zone he impeded on me in his very subtle character degradation. It was subtle but I certainly felt it but never confronted him, I was always walking on eggshells because of his. Moodiness. My question is this; I was in a behavioral group setting to get into another program that is called DBT therapy. But my group counselor after meeting her the 1st 5 minutes said to me I bet you don’t have PTSD, which btw another therapist the other day says I have C-PTSD. From ongoing adult trauma and serious childhood trauma, I went to her cause she practices EMDR therapy. I want so much you heal, so I can’t attrack anymore toxic men, or women in my life. These people well my ex-husband promised me we would ruin my life saying I gave no idea what he’s capable of. Let’s just say 4 years after leaving him, and also dating this man 3 out of the 4 years,do I was getting abused terribly from both. I can’t believe I’m still alive, with the amount of suffering and ongoing mental, and. Traumatic episodes which have transpired. Long story short, slander campaign no friends my children traumatized at their dads and gf after visitation from alcohol and unsafe driving and inexcusable abusive behaviors, and more mental abuse where dcf was called in 3 times on my ex husband not me, I begged the therapist please do not do, kids will be yelled at threatened, and he will think it was me. Well after the 3rd case dcf turned it in me I’m substantiated with abuse and. Neglect I no longer have primary residence with kids they now reside with my ex-husband and bitchy mean girlfriend. I lost my home cause I became unfunctionable after being substantiated, which was because he lied and denied his behaviors and dcf believes the kids lied to protect me seeing I’m so stressed out. I was fine, just can’t get enploymred there is so much more. I’m innocent I love those Kids, I am now controlled by my ex as to when and how Long I see the kids, his. Girlfriend treats me like I’m a monster or criminal, my family, parents, my. Closest childhood friend won’t talk to me or look at me, I’m blocked from work now 2years. I never did anythung i live by the golden rule, practice, love honesty and kindness. Also the ex-boyfriend low blow the other day saying I’m hiding the truth for dcf to take kids from me and why his gf doesn’t want me around. But, he’s never supported me ever. I labeled him a narc at this group and the counselor said not to label unless diagnosed by a licensed mental health professional, Also my sociopathic ex husbanrd, then she wants me to get re-diagnosed saying I’m paranoid. I ended up not going back after 4 classes. I’m not paranoid. I’ve lived toxic for so long that I am very aware or wtf has happened. I see all to clearly as my entire world imploded on me. Anyways, the ex-boyfriend, he quite drinking like 5 years ago, he’s into yoga, sound mediation for healing, and walks every morning at like 5:00 am for bringing enxiety down and health purposes. Idk his daughter has had serious issues and 16 now, liar raped twice, a cutter, has ptsd, depression in and out of psychiatric ward, but he’s the parent that always participates, and ex-wife has had numerous dcf investigations on her due to drinking and driving and drinking and abuse. She cheated on him supposedly. But, he has the text book narcissism with me, unless he thinks I’m a true mental case cause of my childhood, and it’s only me that gets treated with very little regard. I tried communicating with him in a heartfelt manner, and he shredded me to pieces. I’ll never contact him again, I hope, the last time it was 3 months and I broke down and texted him. Maybe I’m the narcissist and he’s the nice one. He tells me after all my nasty emails, and all I’ve done, which I haven’t done anything. Idk when I get blocked after sharing like 3 great amazing data together, I was shocked. What am I missing? Am I the narcissist? I mean it makes sense I’m labeled thr abuser, I’m according to my ex boyfriend always mean, and I ûse him, this is painful. I’ve always been sensitive, over the top kind to others, loving too! Idk I’m so confused I can’t deal anymore. I want to not go thru anymore pain. I’ve lost everything. My. Babies I’ve always had, since I got pregnant. I didn’t do anything to deserve this

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Sandra June 9, 2017

Having lived with my N for 25 years, I feel somewhat qualified to speak to their nature. I do not believe there is a distinction between Grandiose and Vulnerable – they are whatever they are or need to be with whomever they are with or around and develop their relationships accordingly with each person or group. My H is Vulnerable – to me. He is Grandiose to just about everyone else on the planet. Except when he needs to be vulnerable with someone to get some sympathy/empathy. There are many shades in between. Just my opinion but when I tried to apply Grandiose/Vulnerable to what I saw going on, it was confusing. Once I saw he could be anything with anyone just depending on his need at the moment, it fell into place.

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    Kim Saeed June 10, 2017

    This is an astute and profound observation, Sandra! I’d love to share this with my readers if you wouldn’t mind. I could list your first name or list you as anonymous. Either way, this is too good to leave sitting here unshared 🙂

    Reply
    Samuel Vain June 10, 2017

    YEP! It all really depends on what they want from who at that time to dictate their behavior. Whatever they have to say or be as long as they get what they want. No matter who it screws, or how much it hurts their target.

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Kim Washburn June 7, 2017

Everything that you have said is true. I have been married to my narcissistic husband for 28 years. I finally had enough and left him six months ago. Now he is being super considerate (for him) and wants to take me to different places all the time (he was too busy before) We have a 13 year old daughter that he uses every chance he gets to manipulate her and tell her that he loves me and wants me to come home. I am actually getting tired of it ( he will only revert back to the way he was).

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Samuel Vain June 6, 2017

After what my wife Barbara did in her abuse it’s clear there is no relationship and I will not try. SHE left being deceitful leaving a cruel note for me to find later, most merciful thing she did for me! Anyone that really thinks they can have a loving relationship with a narcissist will find how mistaken they were after much pain and waasted effort.
Luckily I am a retired nurse with a gift for psychology so she was never able to get her tricks over on me, I called her on every game she played when she did it and will use that knowledge to heal myself of her. It’s working well, I see her clearly, only want the divorce now. Sad since I don’t like having to divorce.
Great article, Kim!

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Rebecca June 6, 2017

So TRUE Kim! Even if we think we are SAVING the narcissist we are NOT, and they will prove to us each and every time that they are not capable or worth being saved.

Let’s not waste our time ladies (and gentlemen). Life is way too short for that!!

Keep up the wonderful work Kim!

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    Samuel Vain June 6, 2017

    Thumbs up, like! Little heart icon. LOL

    You’re so right!

    Reply
Sandy June 6, 2017

Everything, and I mean everything you’ve cautioned about here is so true. Some are stubborn though (I was) and believe their situation will be different. I researched long and hard, and tried several different ways to conquer the terrible thing our once happy “love” had turned in to. Working so hard to fix something that can’t be fixed only served to draw things out and make it way harder to face the truth. I remember the day I asked him to come retrieve his belongings. I’d been reading one of your posts which gave several examples of traumatic discards. I actually told myself he’d NEVER do something that mean to me, he just wasn’t that cruel. I was stunned when he pulled in my driveway, and he had another woman by his side. Absolutely stunned. That was the day I really was able to face the truth of all the things you warn about. I am so thankful to have learned so much here, Kim, and I often post a link to your blog and say you have the very best info to be found. Thank you so much! I’d like to say one more thing to those who think they can “fix” their narcissist~~~The harder and longer you try, the more painful it is to not only face the truth, but realize how foolish it was to believe you knew better than the expert(s) who’ve dedicated their lives to educating folks about narcissistic abuse.

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