Updated: 6 days ago
Written by: Kylie Mort, 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.
"You’re not Robinson Crusoe," he scowled condescendingly, striving to ensure every last flicker of self-esteem was extinguished. He had spent the best part of two hours working on this noble cause, and my strength was wearing thin. Yes, we both know I am not a 45-year-old man from 1800 who is shipwrecked. Thank you for the observation kind, sir. And yet, I am feeling a lot like Elizabeth Bennet in Chapter XIV of Jane Austen’s 1813 classic – you come hitherto, uninvited, and unannounced and proceed to insult me in “every possible method.” (Pride and Prejudice, p338)
Why do toxic people strive so hard to belittle others? Why do they dedicate tirades and soliloquies to making others feel small, insecure, unworthy, and scorned? And what can we as the victims of these narcissistic predators do to steel ourselves against their aggression?
1. The Analysis
Refuse to be the subjective participant of the display. It is all too easy to be trapped by the emotion of the moment, to fall prey to the blows rained down upon your self-worth. Yet, what if you were to objectify the situation? To step outside your role as the victim within the discussion and question the fundamental rules of engagement?
Ask yourself — does the attacker know this behavior upsets you? And if in doubt, ensure there can be no confusion by forcing this truth to be heard. If they persist with the attack, question why this person would want to upset you? Do they literally lack any empathy? Are they incapable of seeing your perspective? Be clear on this communication's objective and force the other person to be clear on their goal also.
Remember that any response that begins with, “I’m sorry, but…” negates the apology. They are simply not acknowledging your validity. A freely given and honest apology does not have a caveat. If indeed the person is unaware they are causing injury, they will stop. If they persist, it is now perfectly clear that they are achieving their desired outcome, and thus, the ball is in your court — walk away.
2. The Internal
Hopefully, at this point, you have the opportunity to walk away and take the time for some self-care and introspection of the situation. If you are hurting, take the time to be present with this hurt. You do not need to diminish it or devalue it; just let it be. Your pain is justified and does not need to be validated by anyone else.
Yet, nor does it need to control you. The encounter itself can be investigated as any other isolated factor. Ask yourself, why did the confrontation upset you? And should it upset you? Are you feeling slighted or insulted? Why is that? Remember that offense is taken, not given, even if the person did, in fact, intend to give it. So, how can you choose not to take it? Is this possible? Why or why not?
Are you too fragile? By asking this last question, I am not attempting to negate the disrespect given nor to victim-blame or shame in any way. Yet, our fragility can inhibit our ability to find peace and happiness. If you were to truthfully explore the questions above and record your answers diligently, can you, in fact, release the burden?
This is an intrinsic process and does not need to be shared with others. Can you, in fact, reframe the insult? Our self-talk influences our self-worth, our self-esteem, and eventually, our self-efficacy. Ensure your dialogue is serving you. Furthermore, with time and space, after your self-reflection, one might even add to the questions: can you have misinterpreted the situation?
3. The External
It is important to note that self-reflection is not about self-doubt or self-criticism. At the conclusion of self-reflection, one should not have resolved that they are the sole proprietor of blame and shame, nor should one be resolved to apologize unreservedly as the meek and timid subordinate. Self-reflection is about knowledge and empowerment, and therefore if you are not feeling stronger and more proactive at its conclusion, you may need assistance with this process. We must all deal with the narcissist at times, and to do so, we need to explore our own responses to this aggressor.
So, what is the narcissist? Broadly defined, narcissism is the inability to show empathy for another. It is the selfishness that is apparently due to an inflated sense of self-importance. Yet if we drill down on this terminology, there are, in fact, two branches: the overt and the covert narcissist. The first is characterized by assertive and dominant displays leading to Grandiose Narcissism's label; the latter, Vulnerable Narcissism, is more surreptitious, distinguished by feelings of powerlessness, inferiority, and hypersensitivity to criticism.
With this knowledge in hand, can you better understand your attacker? Not all narcissism is pathological, nor is one necessarily a narcissist by displaying individual characteristics. Yet if someone is purposefully attempting to hurt you, which you have by now ascertained, are you leaving yourself open to being a target? And if so, how could you protect yourself from being a target? Is it a situation where you may need to communicate your needs better? Are you, in fact, exacerbating the situation by remaining within a toxic environment? It is at all times important to remember there are always choices. Even not making a choice is a choice. So it is time to be decisive, and if you cannot make this change on your own, who do you have to help you? And how could they help?
4. The Time Factor
We all need to make difficult decisions in our lives, and at times we feel trapped by circumstances and external influences. However, if we remove emotion from any situation and look at it objectively, there will always be options. What is paralyzing you with fear and apprehension at present is ultimately going to be a turning point in your journey. Yet, if you consider your options carefully, you may free yourself from bonds you did not even realize entrapped you.
Consider your current encounter and ask yourself, will this matter in 12 months? And therefore, should it matter now? By all means, you may answer yes to both of those questions. Ultimately some choices seem to offer nothing but grief from all angles. Yet inevitably, this too shall pass, so how can you speed up the healing process? How can you serve the future you?
It is not time but perspective that heals all wounds, so how can you change your perspective?
And just as the deplorable interference of the narcissistic Lady Catherine De Bourgh worked “exactly contrariwise,” you too can be empowered by the toxic characters in your life to be taught “to hope,” finding their scoring and wailings of shame and ingratitude of “infinite use.”
Kylie Mort, Executive Contributor, Brainz Magazine
Kylie Mort works with individuals of all ages to embrace and support the Academic Mind, Self-Awareness & the Mind-Body Connection. Assisting individuals by tailoring bespoke mentoring packages supporting academic, physical, and personal advancement and success.
Kylie is an #1 Amazon Best-Selling International Author and Writer for Global Magazines, writing both academically and creatively to connect with those who seek guidance and inspiration to be their best selves. A former Secondary School Teacher & VCE Leader with 20 years of teaching experience, Kylie is a qualified & registered: School Teacher, Yoga Teacher & Performance Coach. She is also an entrepreneur, leading multiple award-winning companies.
She is currently studying Psychological Science at Deakin University to provide holistic mentoring to her clients better, having spent decades honing her skills in face-to-face teaching, mentoring, and business & company development. Now, she is focused on the human mind and its power to empower through reimaging, redesigning, and recreating. Discover more at www.kyliemort.com.au