“I stood up as best I could to their disgusting stupidity and brutality, but I did not, of course, manage to beat them at their own game. It was a fight to the bitter end, one in which I was not defending ideals or beliefs but simply my own self.” ~George Grosz
So, you are involved in a relationship with a narcissist, and life is kind of difficult, to say the least.
Do you want to learn how to play the narcissist’s game so that you can beat him at it?
We’ll get to that…but before we do, let me ask you something.
Would you agree that the narcissist cares just as much about how he’s perceived as he does about how YOU behave inside your relationship? Is he or she always the one who calls the shots – whether directly or indirectly?
When I say directly, I mean by literally setting the rules; or indirectly, by manipulating every situation to his or her advantage. So, inside the relationship, the narcissist is controlling, often of every single aspect, to say the very least.
In short: would you agree that it’s always ABOUT the NARCISSIST?
Assuming you would, let me ask you another question: would you agree that people who don’t know the narcissist as well as you do may see him or her as a very generous, selfless or fun-to-be-around type of person?
That’s what you call the narcissistic conundrum – sort of his secret sauce – the “duel personality” thing.
He’s one person at home (or in private) and another person in public or around “outsiders.” He’s one of those guys who’s nicer to strangers than he is to the people he loves.
(But as one of his favorite forms of narcissistic supply, you already know that his “generosity” is always equipped with proper strings.)
Oh, and then there’s the fact that you can’t always count on a narcissist to explode when something’s wrong in his little world – you’ll also have the covert narcissist types who will often just shut down and force you to figure out what you did wrong this time. And this one may not speak to you for days or weeks, even.
Playing the Game: The Rules of Toxic Narcissism
The apparent objective of the game is self-preservation – but there’s a twist! (Isn’t there always?)
The twist is that you’ve got to discover the tipping point between self-preservation and self-destruction when it comes to this game.
If you focus too much on self-preservation, you may find yourself exhibiting certain classic narcissistic behaviors. But if you focus too little on it, you find yourself being a typical “narcissistic abuse victim.” (See how I didn’t say “SURVIVOR” there?)
During the course of a relationship with a narcissist, especially a toxic one, you’re going to find yourself sliding back and forth on a sort of track betweeen the two extremes.
So, the actual objective of the game is to simply keep spinning, stay on that sliding track and inside of the narcissist’s so-called harem. To just simply KEEP THE GAME GOING.
Another super-fun fact about narcissists?
They like to play both sides; that is, one day, they might play a victim who needs rescuing (damsel in distress, anyone?) while the next day, they’ll find center stage by becoming someone’s savior.
Your role as a player in the narcissistic game is fluid – sometimes, you’ll be the victim who needs to be rescued. And when the narcissist wants to be rescued? You’ll be the hero.
Either way, don’t try to steal his spotlight. He won’t like that one bit.
But then again, sometimes, the narcissist will need to crush someone’s soul – and guess what friend? That’d be your role, too – the crushee, of course.
The Rule That Overpowers All Rules
No matter what, you must keep the game going. It’s absolutely necessary for both parties to participate if one of you (the narcissist) is going to win in the end.
Oh yes, that’s the last rule: you WILL NOT win. You can’t, because even if by all logical standards and opinions, you are the clear-cut winner, the narcissist will never, ever acknowledge, admit or encourage you to discuss it. He will instead find literally any reason to place the fault on someone else and to artificially elevate his own fragile ego.
So, in short:
1. The object of the game is to keep the game going.
2. The biggest rule of the game is that both parties must participate in the game.
3. The other rule of note is that you cannot win the game.
Okay, so let me ask you: why are you playing this game again?
Here is how you win that game – the ONLY move that will save you: you get the hell out of it. You leave, you quit, you end it. GAME OVER.
That is how you beat the narcissist at his game. You leave.
Thoughts? Share your ideas, insight and experiences in the comments below.
Angela Atkinson is a Certified Life Coach and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic relationships since 2006, Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed coaching and has certifications in life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves.
Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded QueenBeeing.com Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy. In her life coaching practice, Atkinson’s clients enjoy her personalized approach that allows and encourages them to become the best possible versions of themselves and to succeed in doing what they love most. She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online and NarcissismSupportCoach.com.