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How To Set Boundaries With The Narcissist In Your Life

Written by: Masha Shapiro, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 
Executive Contributor Masha Shapiro

Narcissism is a term that frequently gets thrown around these days. Had a fight with your partner? Some might say he or she is a narcissist. Tough boss? Perhaps he or she is a narcissist as well. While many of these individuals may display elements of narcissistic traits—it is not as common as society would have us believe.

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In fact, research indicates that only 0-5% of all Americans received a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), with 50-75% of this population being male, and about 200,000 cases in the United States in total. NPD is a personality disorder that is marked by a sense of extreme self-importance and includes the following symptoms:

  1. Requiring constant and excessive recognition.

  2. Exaggerating achievements/talents to obtain this sense of recognition.

  3. Expecting to be recognized as being superior even without achievements

  4. Being preoccupied with fantasies about success and/or power.

  5. Being interpersonally exploitative using people/things to achieve gain.

  6. Behaving arrogantly.

  7. Lacking empathy.

  8. Being incapable of taking responsibility for their actions.


While less commonly reported in the literature, people who have NPD have an extreme need to remain in control and thus, have trouble adhering to boundaries. In turn, learning how to effectively set boundaries when dealing with a narcissist is vital to protecting one’s mental health and sense of inner peace.


1. Stop explaining yourself


Narcissists often engage in tactics that make you feel as though you need to justify your behavior in order for them to leverage some form of control over you. Do not provide any information that you are not required to (outside of the law in cases of co-parenting). Plus, the less you share--the less ammunition you provide a narcissist with.


2. Learn the meaning of the word “no”


Since narcissists expect special treatment, they absolutely hate hearing the word NO. Further, narcissists are known to use various intimidation tactics (i.e., gaslighting, withholding attention/affection and/or financial abuse, etc.). As such, there may have been times when it felt difficult to say NO. Albeit, learning to say no empowers and protects you from agreeing to things you may have otherwise been influenced to do.


3. Do not tolerate verbal abuse


Narcissists are prone to narcissistic rage (outbursts) when they do not get what they want. To combat this, cut the narcissist off at the first sign of a raised voice and/or any other disrespectful comment or behavior. Not only will this allow the narcissist to know that you will no longer tolerate their behavior, but it will also protect you from having to do so.


4. Do not feed into their version of reality


Since narcissists have trouble taking any responsibility for their actions, they will often engage in the use of manipulative techniques, like gaslighting (making you doubt reality). In these cases, it is best to respond with a statement like: “I was present for my reality of what happened to me.”


5. Go grey-rock


When all else fails, you can try a popular technique known as “grey-rocking.” Here, as the name suggests, you become very uninteresting, much like a rock to the narcissist. To do this, say as little as possible and only answer/respond to the relevant information being asked or said. When narcissists feel like they are losing control over you, they will often blame-shift and say something irrelevant to the topic at hand just to get an emotional reaction out of you—do not provide it—you have already given the narcissist in your life enough of your time and energy.

Recovering from narcissistic abuse within relationships may be one of the hardest journeys you will ever embark on, but please know that there is a much better life waiting for you on the other side of it. Learning to identify what narcissistic personality disorder consists of, followed by setting appropriate boundaries is a great place to start. If you need additional support (as many do), please reach out to a therapist who specializes in the treatment of NPD.


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Masha Shapiro Brainz Magazine
 

Masha Shapiro, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Masha Shapiro is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in New York and is the owner of We Rise Mental Health Counseling Services, PLLC. Masha is also pursuing a Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Therapy. Masha has been recognized as an expert in her field and has been on numerous podcasts discussing mental health. Masha is a triple-certified trauma therapist, holding certifications as an Individual Certified Trauma Specialist, a Complex Certified Trauma Professional, and an EMDRIA-certified EMDR therapist. Masha also specializes in the treatment of anxiety disorders, self-esteem issues, perinatal mood disorders, couples counseling, and narcissistic abuse recovery services. Masha works with the body through a somatic lens.

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