The “Catch-22” of Dealing With a Narcissist

That is, whenever feasible, you’ll acquiesce to their need to control, maybe even berate you. For it’s just easier than to attack back or try, level-headedly, to reason with them. Unfortunately, though, this defensive tactic only feeds their narcissism. It can easily make them even harder to deal with since, however inadvertently, you may be prompting them to further dominate you by no longer offering them any resistance. And extreme narcissists can’t resist taking advantage of all opportunities to further strengthen or inflate their essentially fragile ego. Ironically, any placating role you adopt can actually end up further “super-sizing” that ego.

So here again is the catch-22. It’s “damned if you do; damned if you don’t.” Assertively defending yourself, or standing up to them, in the face of their verbal aggression is a losing battle. But so is allowing them to walk all over you. For here, failing to honor your very personhood, you risk losing yourself. And that’s why therapists agree that getting out of such a relationship is your best choice. But if, for any number of reasons, that’s simply not viable, what’s the best alternative?

If you can’t outright escape the narcissist, how do you evade the catch-22 you’re left with?

If the narcissist has dug their claws into you deep enough, you may need a few sessions with a mental health professional to muster the courage and determination to respond to them in a way that renders you less susceptible to their abuse. And emotionally extricating yourself from them mostly involves developing a keener understanding of how this relationship has negatively influenced you. Over time, have you:

. . . unwittingly given their words more authority than your own?

. . . not been able to help feeling intimidated by them?
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