Can I make this work?
© 2018 Rhonda Freeman, PhD
Sometimes I hear from website visitors that they want to stay; and for those who have someone low on the pathological narcissism spectrum, I understand why that would be tempting.
They tell me that they want tips that will allow them to ‘manage’ their reaction to their partner.
They want to know the best way to engage with the narcissist to reduce their partner’s desire to be mean, controlling, selfish, sneaky, and manipulative.
That’s a tall order!
There is no way to manage your reaction to someone that is being cruel to you. And actually that’s a good thing! Our brain rejects toxicity and makes us feel awful when we are exposed to it.
When you have no reaction to abuse and cruelty – that’s an indicator that something has gone very wrong with the brain. The help of a licensed professional (i.e., psychiatrist, psychologist, neurologist) would be necessary to help you regain functioning.
Therefore, I do not know of a professional who can help someone manage their reactions to an abuser.
Here’s a Pinnable for you! (Pinterest)
Why can’t we control that response?
Because our brain is organized to put our survival above everything else – always. Therefore, you will have an involuntary stress response to the toxic behavior of another person. I don’t only mean the intense/ shocked fear response, but rather the ‘other‘ stress system response.
The one where you don’t necessarily feel it but the body is pumping out cortisol and chronically in a tense state. This is a common system in action for those who have been in long-term toxic relationships.
This system (with continuous activation) has the potential to wreck havoc on the body and many survivors wind up with health problems (e.g., cardiac, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, inflammatory conditions, etc).
Therefore, even if you wanted to stay – your health will pay the price. The body knows pathology is a threat to your system and through its process of protection a person could eventually be harmed due to the chemistry of stress.
We cannot ‘control’ the disorder of another person. Sure we can walk on eggshells so as to not upset the narcissist, however because they are a narcissist or psychopath it is guaranteed those symptoms will ‘show‘ themselves.
They will continue to use people as things, they will not have empathy or compassion for you – no matter how kind, loving and accommodating you are to their every need.
You could serve them 24/7 and attempt to fill their ego with statements of how special, important, sexy, and intelligent they are AND STILL get cheated on, berated, ignored, and/or hated.
Your behavior towards them, regardless of how forgiving or helpful, will usually lead to victimization. (At times it will be unintentional.)
Their inability to genuinely connect and value the people close to them is sad.
I feel sad for them because they could have such wonderful relationships, but unfortunately they simply cannot ‘be‘ with others in harmony.
To the moms, dads, aunts, uncles, grandparents, lovers of narcissists and psychopaths – I know this breaks your heart. To know that your value to them is likely less than their cell phone.
(My feelings of sadness in no way lets them off the hook for the intentional/ non-intentional damage and horrific pain they inflict.)
Management of them and you to make it work …
To those who wonder about management of their reactions to the abuse, the ignoring, manipulation, and games, while also attempting to manage (i.e., reduce symptom expression) the behavior of the narcissist or psychopath while remaining within the relationship – I just suggest that you be careful.
Know that your stress and bonding systems will have a negative response to abuse automatically, even if you cognitively (‘thinking’) are willing to put up with it.
Just know that you cannot ‘stop’ them from behaviors such as manipulation, game playing, and using people – that is what narcissists and psychopaths do. It is the byproduct of their symptomatology.
Focus on yourself, your healing, and growth. ?
All the best,
Dr. R. Freeman