Narcissists have a way of communicating that can be very deceptive. If you’re looking for advice on how to decode the language of narcissists, sociopaths, psychopaths, and other toxic people, you’re not alone. Despite what many people believe, there are far more people who might qualify as malignant narcissists than you might expect.
One of the most common manipulation tactics narcissists use is called gaslighting, a pervasive and highly-effective tactic meant to manipulate you into questioning your own sanity and even your perception of the world around you. Today, we’re covering common phrases used by narcissistic abusers in gaslighting (and what they actually mean when used).
Why are narcissists all so similar?
So often, people wonder if there’s some kind of narcissist playbook. Why? Because narcissists are all so similar, across the board. This makes it easy to predict what they’ll do next, if you educate yourself on their specific traits and disorder. In fact, whether the narcissist in your life is a spouse, partner, parent or another relative, friend, or even a coworker, there are certain kinds of phrasing they’ll use, and in many cases, they will use nearly identical word-for-word statements. Surprisingly, this is true regardless of a person’s race, culture, religion, nationality, and financial status. Malignant narcissism does not discriminate – it can affect anyone in any circumstance, from the jobless drug addict to the wealthiest person on the planet and everyone in between.
“You’re angry? I don’t need to deal with this nonsense right now. I will leave you alone until YOU get back to your senses and come back to me later.”
Translation: I know I’m the reason you’re angry about MY antics. I don’t care, I will never care, and don’t expect me to apologize for MY behavior because I am blameless and perfect, and you need me anyway….”
“I’m sick of you accusing me of cheating. It’s getting old!”
Translation: I don’t get why you won’t just get over it. Clearly, I’m cheating. We both know this. But I am over actually hearing about it, and I’m tired of having to pretend I’m not doing it. Additionally, I will never take responsibility for it and I’ll go ahead and expect you to tolerate whatever I throw your way. And if you don’t, I’m totally going to act like the victim in this whole deal.”
“I WANT TO BE ALONE!”
Translation: “I want to spend time with someone else and you’re in my way!”
“I’ve done nothing wrong.”
Translation: “I’ve done ALL the things you pointed out, and probably a whole bunch more you don’t know about. But I think anything I do is okay because I’m the one who did it, and I don’t do things that are wrong. Also? Why do you keep calling me out on things I actually did? I don’t like that!”
“You have an anger problem!”
Translation: “I’m going to provoke and poke at you until you can’t take it anymore, when you finally blow up at me for continuously disregarding your boundaries, I’ll just say you’re an angry crazy person so I can play the victim instead of accepting any actual responsibility for my behavior.”
“I thought you were the last person I was going to be with.”
Translation: “I totally underestimated you and thought I could be with you while also doing whatever I want with whomever I want while you patiently wait for me (and on me) and keep my house in order.”
“You are too sensitive! You need to have thicker skin.” Or “Can’t you take a joke?”
Translation: “I don’t understand why you don’t just accept my cruel and unfair criticism as fact. What is wrong with you?”
“You’re going to have to work so hard to get my attention again.”
Translation: “You’ve caused narcissistic injury by somehow exposing one of my many flaws, and you’re going to pay for it by begging for my oh-so-precious attention while I blatantly ignore you and treat you like dirt on the bottom of my shoe. And while you’re at it, I’m going to make you feel like you’re the one who needs to apologize even though I’m the one who did something wrong.”
“You’re crazy.” or “It’s all in your head.” or “You need help.” or “You’re delusional”
Translation: “What you said is absolutely right. You totally hit the nail right on the head…but I don’t know how you figured me out and I dont want to admit that you’re right, so I’m going to make sure you feel crazy and look crazy. This way you’ll be more focused on what’s not really wrong with you instead of what’s actually wrong with ME.”
“You are always saying the same thing.”
Translation: “Why do you keep telling the truth over and over again? I hate when you call me out like that.”
“Everything is all about you!” or “You’re so selfish.”
Translation: “How DARE you try to make ANYTHING about you? Don’t you know it’s all about…ME?”
“I can’t have just a little time alone, so I have to be telling you every 5 minutes I love you?”
Translation: “You’ve somehow interrupted something I was doing or hiding from you, and now you’re asking me for validation? What am I, an actual human? You’d think you would know by now that I’m the only one who matters in this relationship!”
“Everyone says…” or “Everyone agrees that you’re…”
Translation: “I’m pretending that some imaginary group of people are silently agreeing with me about everything I say about you, because not only do I hope you’ll feel humiliated to think all of these so-called people are talking about you, but it’ll help me prove my point. Plus, as an added bonus, telling you that everyone thinks bad things about you will further isolate you and that means I’ll be in more control.”
“You’re a nice guy.” or “You’re such a sweetheart.”
Translation: “Because of your sweet, empathic nature, I can get you to do anything I want you to do by manipulating your emotions.”
“OMG! You’re so boring! Can we please talk about something interesting?”
Translation: “How dare you talk about anything YOU care about that isn’t me? You’re not saying enough things about me. I don’t like talking about things that aren’t all about me, or at least me-focused. Did I mention that I’d like to talk about things related to me?”
“I don’t think your glasses are working properly.”
Translation: “You saw what I was doing, and you understood it correctly, but since I will not be accepting any responsibility for it at all, I’ll just gaslight you real quick so you’ll doubt yourself and your own perception of the world by claiming that something is wrong with your glasses.”
“You treat me like a child!”
Translation: “Even though I require you to take care of me, do everything for me and otherwise act like you’re my parent, I need to pretend you’re trying to control me when you ask me where I’m going or where I’ve been or anything else I don’t want to tell you. But you better not stop doing all these other things for me, or I’ll further abuse and manipulate you.”
“I never said that! You made it up!”
Translation: “I totally said that, but I’m not really happy that you’re reminding me of it. So, I’ll just pretend you’re insane so you’ll start doubting yourself again. I always like to watch you squirm and feel confused. Keeps you busy so I can keep doing whatever I want.”
“I prayed to meet you,” or “I manifested you,” or “You’re my soulmate!”
Translation: “I am going to make you believe that our connection is divinely inspired so that you’ll feel like leaving would be doing something against God or the Universe or whatever you happen to believe in.”
“I’m sorry I seem to have done things to make you not trust me!”
Translation: “I’m sorry you’re calling me out on the things I’ve actually done, but I will not be acknowledging the very specific actions I have actually committed against you or our relationship. I mean, yeah, I totally DID those things, but I’m not capable of taking responsibility for them, so my fake apology will have to suffice. And don’t question me on this one. Accept it, or I’ll rage on you like always.”
“Everything that happens going forward is on you,” or “The ball’s in your court now.”
Translation: “I guess we can be together as long as I can be a horrible human being and you can continue to pretend that I’m perfect. Otherwise, you’re on your own, toots. At least until I need another shot of supply from you. Ok?”
“You just don’t listen!”
Translation: “I don’t like when you don’t go along with whatever I want or whatever I say. You’ve got a lot of nerve to say the truth as opposed to my twisted version of it – so I’m going to focus on diverting attention from what’s actually true by focusing on your hearing.”
“Why do you always insist on arguing with me about everything?”
Translation: “Why are you so obsessed with the truth? Despite the fact that I make up facts to back up my lies, we both know I am superior and it’s all my way or no way.”
“Can’t you see that I love you?”
Translation: “Why do you keep making me take responsibility for things I’ve done to you? Isn’t the fact that I use the words I love you enough to make you shut up and pretend everything is okay?”
“Why can’t you love me for who I am?” or “That’s just who I am – I won’t change for anyone!”
Translation: “I want to do whatever I want, say whatever I want, and treat you however I want – but I don’t want you to notice or stop acting like I’m the best thing in your life. And if you do ask me to stop doing something you don’t like or to compromise or bend in any way, shape, or form, I will make you so miserable you’ll be begging me for mercy.”
“Why can’t you be like everyone else?”
Translation: “Why can’t you just shut up and do whatever I want in any given moment? Why can’t you read my mind and accept whatever I say, think or feel as fact?”
“If you cant see that there’s a problem with this relationship, then there really is a problem!”
Translation: “Oh look! We’ve just entered the devalue phase and you’re a little shocked at how mean I’ve suddenly become? Clearly, this is all my fault, but you know I’ll never take responsibility – therefore, I’ve decided I’m going to go ahead and start making you question everything – including, and especially yourself and your own inability to perceive the non-existent issues I’ve just made up to confuse you. Boom!”
“Weird, your tears don’t phase me, even though I’m a total empath.”
Translation: “I don’t care that I hurt you. I’m a liar, not an empath. Got ya!”
“I didn’t mean to cheat on you, it just happened.”
Translation: “I refuse to accept responsibility for cheating on you because I am not interested in your emotions and I don’t care how you feel.”
“I’m the most honest person you’ll ever meet,” or “I never lie.”
Translation: “I’m the biggest effing liar on the planet, but I have an image to uphold to seem innocent, and likable. Plus, I’m really good at lying to MYSELF and I tend to believe my own lies when it’s convenient for me.”
“So, you’re making this about you…?”
Translation: “I really don’t care how you’re feeling, because everything is always about me, even when it’s really about you. And the idea that you would think otherwise really peeves me right off.”
“I just want things to be good between us”.
Translation: “If you don’t behave the way I want and accept all my lies and crappy behavior, then you’re making things not good between us, so it will be your fault that I will have to be mean to you and/or leave again”.
Any of this sound familiar to you? Could you be in a toxic relationship with an abusive, malignant narcissist? If so, the following resources might be helpful for you.
Is toxic narcissism or narcissistic personality disorder always caused by bad parenting? Is it possible that a person raised by healthy, loving parents in a good, decent home could become a narcissist? Could someone turn into a narcissist as an adult? I’ll answer all of your questions in this video.
If you are in any way related to or otherwise involved with a narcissist, you’ve probably asked yourself at one time or another how they got that way, right? What made them a narcissist? How did they GET LIKE THIS?
And, if you’re like me, you needed to know in order to heal. So, you did your research and you found out that in most cases, it is related to their parents – and sadly, most often, to their mothers or primary caregivers and their attachment styles. That’s why, when you think of any narcissist, the first thing that likely goes through your mind is how badly their parents messed them up.
Because of the fact that most narcissists seem to stop developing emotionally when they are toddlers or middle schoolers at best, and because most research points to the fact that their parents did not give them the love and attention they needed in order to evolve, which led to their emotional immaturity, it’s easy to blame their mothers or parents in general.
But if you’re the parent or sibling of someone who might be a narcissist, and you know for sure that these issues don’t apply to them, you might doubt this theory and find yourself digging for an alternative possibility. And what about those families that have more than one child, and only one turned out to be a toxic narcissist? Or what about people who had good families and didn’t suffer any trauma in childhood?
You want to know if it’s ALWAYS the fault of the parents, right? Well, let’s talk about it.
Are parents always at fault when someone develops narcissistic traits?
Published research studies tell us that the area of the brain that controls emotional empathy and compassion is thinner in those who have NPD than in those who don’t. So, neurology as well as genetic predisposition will have an effect on how a person’s personality turns out.
And then you have situations where their parents who really did their absolute best to raise their children right, but due to their jobs or other responsibilities, might inadvertently neglect their emotional needs, which leads to their child developing a narcissistic personality. They may be clothed and fed well and taken care of when they are sick, and they may have all of the material things in the world – but the parents may not have given them the love and attention they felt they needed.
In these cases, the parents were clearly not in any way abusive. It may have been due to the fact that they had other kids, or they had a sick parent to take care of, or they had a demanding job that was necessary to support the family.
Of course, there are also times when narcissists end up becoming that way because of parents who were, believe it or not, overly validating (such as praising a child when the child may not have deserved it) and overly permissive. These parents may have not provided enough limits or discipline for their kids. And while some kids will sort of naturally self-limit, others won’t, and in some cases, they may become narcissists themselves as a result.
Research on How People Who Weren’t Abused or Neglected by Parents Can Become Narcissists
A 2015 study points to the fact that some parents might have overly praised their kids when they might not deserve it, or have always focused on how much “better” their kids were than other kids. And in some cases, they might have simply given too much attention and indulgence and not enough discipline.
“Loving your child is healthy and good,” as one of the study authors, Brad Bushman, a psychology professor at Ohio State University points out, “but thinking your child is better than other children can lead to narcissism, and there is nothing healthy about narcissism.”
In these situations, kids will often develop an overblown sense of entitlement, which they carry into adulthood. In many cases, they were also not required to show any empathy, nor were they asked to check their egos at the door.
This can happen in a number of situations, for example, being overly permissive with and over-praising children are often reported with only children. Please note that this isn’t always the case and that in fact, it is relatively rare. In some cases, though definitely not all, it can be a bigger issue when parents have struggled to get pregnant or when they’re adopted after a long struggle with infertility, or when they are born prematurely or with other issues that caused their parents to fear for their lives .among others.
And of course, in both the case of the adopted child who is older than newborn at the time of adoption and in the case of the premature or otherwise sick child who spends weeks or months in the hospital after birth, their attachment styles can be affected. That’s because parents aren’t able to connect on the same level as they would normally, so they develop a less healthy attachment style, which goes back to the original theory of the attachment style predicting narcissism.
Sometimes, people become narcissistic that has nothing to do with the parents at all. For example, if a child was ruthlessly bullied at school, or if someone else in their lives caused trauma in any way for them. In these cases, while their parents could have been loving and caring, the trauma they experienced at the hands of bullies or other outsiders could certainly have also been a risk factor for them becoming narcissistic.
And then there are those who end up with something we call acquired situational narcissism.
What Is Acquired Situational Narcissism?
So, we know that it might be possible that someone who was raised in a relatively healthy home by decent parents, but who had other traumas and issues, to become a narcissist. But what other situations could lead to toxic narcissism or narcissistic personality disorder?
And if so, what other types of situations and factors can play into it? Let’s talk about it.
Research on Acquired Situational Narcissism
Research published back in 1996 points to a condition that is referred to as transient, temporary, or short-term narcissism. And even before 1996, psychologists often recognized something they called “reactive narcissistic regression,” which meant that when someone was dealing with a big life crisis, they might end up going through a sort of temporary narcissistic phase where they’d behave like a toxic narcissist until the crisis was over.
And, according to what I’ve found in this and other published research papers, these types of temporary narcissism can also be triggered by medical conditions and even injuries. For example, traumatic brain injury (TBI) has often been linked to narcissistic behaviors and antisocial traits in people who had not previously displayed them.
How to Identify Acquired Situational Narcissism
So what does acquired situational narcissism (ASN) look like in real life? Well, do you know someone who is normally quite humble, but who ended up getting a high-end job and makes a lot of money, or who suddenly ranks high socially, or who ends up gaining celebrity status out of the blue? In these situations, many people are able to keep their heads on straight, but others will seem to sort of lose their humility.
In fact, according to Robert B. Millman, a professor of psychiatry at Cornell Medical School, this is what acquired situational narcissism looks like. He points to known narcissists who are among the billionaires, people who become suddenly famous or who manage to rise to aspirational levels in their careers who develop narcissism in adulthood.
Millman adds that celebrities and other suddenly wealthy people will often have lives that are outside of what we’d consider typical. Plus, they might be surrounded by “yes men,” who will ensure that they are given filtered feedback, excessive admiration and are never told “no” for any reason. Plus, anytime someone is a celebrity or a CEO or otherwise wealthy, they might be sought after in ways that will cause them to feel more important or better than others. All of this is like narcissistic supply on steroids if you think about it.
And, let’s not forget celebrities and other public figures might feel a certain amount of pressure from the public – fans and haters alike – to present a certain image and to live a certain lifestyle.
An Example of Acquired Situational Narcissism
A good example of this is the guy you grew up with who was considered a nerd and who was often picked on, but who grew up and invented some big app, or he created a YouTube channel that somehow got a bazillion subscribers and brought him fame, or he became an actor or singer – or who otherwise found himself a celebrity. In any case, this formerly geeky guy managed to attain success to the point he began to be recognized in public, or he suddenly became a member of the social elite for whatever reason.
As soon as he found himself outgrowing that geeky, quiet image, he suddenly felt like a whole new person. Maybe he went a little overboard and started to focus too much on his self-image, and on his own needs and wants. This, along with the fact that his life is very different from the average person’s (as the lives of all public figures will be), might cause him to lose any sense of compassion and emotional empathy he once had. That might lead to him being unconcerned with the “little people” to the point that he would end up inadvertently or directly abusing the people closest to him without remorse. So, while his transition wouldn’t happen as a child, he still would essentially have developed his narcissism the same way that any other narcissist did – just not in childhood.
But why does this happen to some people and not others?
Well, according to Millman, while it is possible to develop narcissism in adulthood for these reasons, among others, acquired situational narcissism is most likely to happen when there were already some pre-existing factors that would have led to narcissism under the right circumstances. All of this means that, at least in some cases, narcissism can be developed by people who had good, healthy upbringings – and that it isn’t, in fact, always the fault of the parents.
Doing what I do, I get to talk to a lot of interesting people – and I hear some really revealing stories. For example, I was talking to a client the other day and she mentioned to me that her ex had unfriended their son on a certain social media platform. This caused her to reach out to him and ask why he’d done it – it upset her son and she had to know why he would do such a thing. He admitted that he was childish and the two had an hours-long conversation afterward, leaving my client more confused than ever.
Another client told me about how her father kept sending her strange boxes of things that belonged to her deceased father, despite the fact that they’d been no contact for years. Luckily, she didn’t react, but it definitely messed with her head.
A male client shared with me that his ex had been giving him the silent treatment for weeks. In fact, it had gone on for so long that he assumed the relationship was over. Then, one day, she contacted him to let him know she was pregnant and that the baby would be coming in a few months. He instantly forgot about all of the drama that had gone down between them and rushed to her side. A year later, after he’d helped name the baby and had fallen madly in love with him, he learned that he wasn’t the father – and worse, that the mother had known it all along, but did not tell him because the real father had gone to prison. But now that he was out, she said, he wanted his baby and she wanted him.
And then there was the client who told me a story about how after she’d struggled to end a relationship with a particularly difficult ex, she heard a knock on the door one day, and there he stood, holding his dog. She said he told her the dog was sick and he didn’t know what to do or to whom else he could turn. Of course, she helped him get the dog to the vet and made sure he was okay afterward. They ended up dating for three more months after that.
Sneaky Things Narcissists Do to Get You Back
All of these stories sound different, right? But they all have one thing in common – they are sneaky things that narcissists did to get people back in their lives. And these are just a few of probably thousands of examples of this phenomenon. If you’ve been pulled back into a relationship with a narcissist, or you’re worried that you might be, stick with me, because that’s exactly what we’re talking about today – sneaky things narcissists do to get you back, plus: how to recognize them and what to do if it happens to you. See the video on YouTube for more, or read more here.
This is Hoovering
When you end a toxic relationship with a narcissist, you might think that it’s over – but very often, the narcissist has other ideas. in fact, more often than not, the narcissist will do something to suck you back into their drama – or even fully back into the relationship – using a technique called hoovering.
Hoovering, named after the famous vacuum cleaner company, is what we call it when the narcissist tries to “suck you back in” after you’ve left them or ended the relationship, or after they have discarded you. They may use some kind of personal problem or dramatic issue to pull you back in, or they may use love-bombing. Hoovering is always an attempt to obtain more narcissistic supply from you, and in many cases, it can be an attempt to reconcile the relationship. It can also just be a manipulation tactic used to get you to break no contact.
Narcissists believe they’re special and superior to other people.
They are certain that their own opinions and ideas are more valid than those of others.
They have an inflated sense of self-importance and tend to demand attention and admiration. The type and intensity of their need for narcissistic supply will vary between covert narcissists and grandiose ones.
If you understand what constitutes Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), which signs indicate someone is exhibiting narcissistic tendencies, and how to handle each sign using these strategies, then you will be able to change your view of yourself by taking responsibility for your own feelings, thoughts, and behavior.
A Real-Life Example of a Narcissistic Friend
A few months after I left my ex-husband and became a single mom, I got a job working in healthcare billing. The hours were good for a single mom, I got health insurance for my son and me, and the pay was better than I could do elsewhere at that time.
After a few weeks on the job, I met a fellow single mom working in my department. Let’s call her Brenda.
I was so happy to meet Brenda because I didn’t know anyone in the area (because my narcissist ex had isolated me quite thoroughly and because I’d moved to be closer to my family when I left him).
Plus, our kids were of similar ages, and we could hang out and have playdates outside work. It seemed perfect.
At work, we started having lunch together every day. I was thrilled to have someone to hang out with and fully embraced the friendship.
But after a few months, I noticed that every time I spent time with Brenda, I felt super-stressed and like I needed to calm down. I couldn’t figure out why at first, which sounds odd, but I wasn’t as self-aware back then as I am now.
I wrote about it in my journal a few times and realized I must be missing something. There didn’t seem to be a logical reason I’d feel the way I did – Brenda was a good friend, right?
After that, I watched our conversations a little closer and realized that Brenda was very negative.
If I had an idea or talked about trying something new, she’d instantly go into all the reasons I shouldn’t bother doing it, or why it wouldn’t work.
If I bought my lunch, she’d make subtle jabs at me for not being more frugal – and if I brought my lunch, she’d pick it apart for any given reason.
If I talked about a guy I was interested in, she’d do everything she could to tear him down and divert my attention.
And she NEVER liked it if I tried to bring another friend along to hang out – she’d tear that person apart verbally and refuse to participate in whatever we were doing.
She was SO negative!
I struggled to find a time when she said anything positive. But when we’d first met, I had taken her negativity as a sort of commiseration between two single moms – you know how it is.
Once I realized what was going on, I wondered if I should end the friendship.
I mean, it wasn’t like I had a million friends at that point in my life, but should I really maintain a relationship with someone who was bringing me down so much?
After a few days, I realized that I wanted to be her friend, so I started trying to turn our conversations toward the positive subtly.
I’d counter all of her negativity with phrases like “but on the plus side” and “now here’s the silver lining…”
But Brenda didn’t respond much to those things – except to occasionally roll her eyes and continue with her negativity.
Then, one day, I got moved to a new team within the department, and they all invited me to lunch.
Brenda was annoyed when I invited her to go along. She refused and told me she’d rather eat lunch in her car than put up with those people and that we’d just resume our lunches the following day.
After spending my lunch break with this group, I felt a bit of an uplift in my spirits. And the next day, they invited me to join them again.
Once again, I invited Brenda, and this time, she begrudgingly accepted. With all of these more positive people around, I felt better.
Brenda’s negativity couldn’t quite infect me the way it usually did, and it was harder for her to dominate the conversation with so many of us at the table; but after a few days, she told me she was done with them.
It was too much for her. And she gave me an ultimatum: her or the group.
Whether it was right or wrong, I chose the group.
And while I told Brenda that it didn’t need to be this way, that we could all be friends – or at least that I could be friends with them and her as well, she disagreed, and she gave me the silent treatment for the remainder of the time we worked together.
I felt bad about it, but I knew I’d made the right choice. Negativity is so difficult to deal with – and Brenda’s especially toxic version of it was infecting me like a disease. I knew that if I wanted to feel better, I had to move on.
Now, I can’t say for sure if Brenda was a narcissist or just a very broken woman. But either way, she had become toxic for me.
So let me ask – does any of this sound familiar to you?
They’re extremely sensitive to criticism, so you’ll need to tread lightly when discussing their behavior to keep the peace.
Everyone has a slightly different definition–but the bottom line is that a true friend is someone who is there for you when you need him or her, who you trust, and who makes you feel good.
Probably you have great conversations, share interests, and support one another in your everyday lives. You help each other out. You have each other’s backs. You know.
But what happens when a friend turns out to be “not so good” for you – if the friendship becomes toxic? Worse, what if your friend is a toxic narcissist?
What does a toxic or narcissistic friend look like?
In layman’s terms, a toxic or narcissistic friend is someone who makes you feel bad about yourself instead of good after spending time with them.
This person might be critical of you — sometimes subtly, and other times, not so subtly.
They may also make you feel drained – emotionally, financially, and/or mentally.
Ultimately, this is someone who you might recognize as not very good for you.
How do you identify a toxic friendship?
It can be difficult, especially if you have been close to a friend for a long time. If you suspect that a friend is (or has become) toxic, ask yourself the following questions:
How do you feel after spending time with or speaking to this person? Do you feel good and positive (for the most part) or do you find yourself worrying, stressing or obsessing about some aspect of the visit or call?
Are you afraid to tell your friend about some aspect of your life for fear of how they’ll react or fear of being judged harshly?
Do you sometimes find yourself avoiding contact with the person or ignoring their calls?
Does your friend consistently “forget” about your plans or cancel at the last minute?
Does your friend actively insult or offend you on a consistent basis?
Do you find yourself feeling uncomfortable or bothered by your friend’s life choices, behavior or moral conduct?
Do you feel comfortable bringing up concerns about your friendship with this friend?
Does this friendship benefit you?
Do you trust this friend, really trust him or her?
These are just a few questions to get you started. In general, your friends should be an asset to your life, not a detriment.
How do you deal with a toxic friendship?
Does someone in your life seem to be more of a hindrance than a help in your life? If so, it may be time to reevaluate your choices. So, once we’ve figured out that a friend IS toxic, what can we do about it? How do we deal with a toxic friendship?
1. Recognize the Problem
When we start feeling bad about spending time with or talking to our friends, it’s time to look at the relationship. Identifying the friendship as a toxic one is the first step to dealing with the problem.
Remember too that this behavior isn’t really about you. A narcissist often tries to make herself seem more important by putting others down. She may also use flattery to gain attention. This behavior isn’t personal; it’s just an attempt to manipulate people into doing what she wants them to do.
2. Check Your People-Pleasing Behaviors
Friends of toxic types often have something in common.
According to Charles Figley, a spokesman for the American Psychological Association, “It’s a pleaser personality — you want people to like you, you want to get along, and it’s hard to say no. But you can pay the price in one way by having toxic friends.”
The fact is that, whether you can see it or not, you’ve got some responsibility in this relationship too.
Maybe you’ve allowed your friend to treat you negatively or to make you feel bad about yourself because you want them to like you or because you don’t like confrontation.
3. Develop Strong Boundaries
Often, people pleasers aren’t good at setting boundaries. When your friendships become toxic, it’s time to stand up for yourself and let friends know what isn’t acceptable.
For example, I used to have a close friend in college who always did the “one-up” thing when I told her about my problems or accomplishments.
When I told her about a promotion I had received at work, she was like, ‘oh yeah, I heard I might be getting a promotion at my job, too.’
Then she went on to tell me how much better her promotion would be than mine and how much more money she’d be making than me.
Another time, I told her about a problem with a guy I was dating, and wouldn’t you know it? She launched into a big monologue about her problem with her boyfriend, which was far more serious and difficult than mine.
So, in that case, I could’ve set boundaries by explaining my concerns to my friend and asking her to avoid the “one-up-manship.” I never did, unfortunately. But hindsight is always 2020, right? Anyhoo…
4. Talk It Out
Talk to a trusted (non-toxic) friend or family member about your concerns if you have one you can trust.
Many times, it’s easier to figure out the problem when you’re “outside looking in”–that is, when you’re not the one with the problem, the solution to it can seem crystal clear.
If you can’t find an “objective” third party, it’s a good idea to seek outside counseling. By employing the skills of a trained coach or therapist, you not only get the objectivity you need, but you may also get answers or learn coping techniques you wouldn’t on your own.
You could also journal or blog about the problem. I have worked through almost every problem in my life this way – including toxic friendships.
Sometimes, just putting our thoughts into words and getting them out of our heads can be enough to help us figure out our issues.
6. Stay Friends? How to Decide.
It’s important to consider whether it is worth losing the friendship. If you don’t want to lose the friendship, you need to figure out if the benefits of staying in this relationship outweigh the consequences of continuing it.
Try using “I Statements” – meaning make an assertive statement without putting your friend on the defensive.
Explain clearly (but kindly) how their behavior makes you feel. Say something like ‘Brenda, I feel upset when you ask me for advice and then tell me that I don’t know what I’m talking about.’ Or “Brenda, I feel stressed out after having lunch with you each day because it feels like you rarely have anything positive to say.”
Be clear and assertive. Let your friend know that you care about them, but you don’t feel like you can be involved in a friendship with them any longer. Give the person a chance to respond, they may not even be aware of their behavior, and the idea of losing a friend might give them a good reason to think about their own behavior. If the conversation turns toward the negative, you can just end it there and walk away.
Of course, this is always much easier said than done. But I promise you, when you have the weight of a toxic friend lifted off your shoulders, you’ll feel so much better and be able to heal that much faster.
7. If All Else Fails, Walk Away and Go No Contact
If you’ve tried setting boundaries and discussing the problem with your toxic friend and have not been able to resolve the issues, it may be time to consider limiting contact or ending the friendship.
It’s not an easy choice and certainly shouldn’t be taken lightly, but when it comes down to it, your sanity and mental health are more important than any toxic friendship.
Take care of yourself first, and then take care of others. People pleasers often forget this little piece of wisdom.
You can do this in many ways: email, phone call, or just stop talking to the person. But in an ideal world, you’d do it in person. Maybe you’d invite the person to coffee or lunch. Before meeting them, think about why you don’t want them in your life anymore and figure out how to phrase them in non-judgmental ways.
Don’ts: Things to Avoid with Narcissistic Friends
It’s easy to fall into a pattern of putting up with narcissists in our lives, especially if they’re family members. But if you have a friend who’s never going to change, your time is better spent elsewhere. Here are some tips for detaching from someone who has narcissistic tendencies:
Don’t try to change them.
Narcissists have pretty rigid ways of thinking about themselves and the world around them—they don’t want or need your help changing those views.
Don’t get caught up in their drama.
Narcissists often make quite a show of everything that happens to them—whether it’s good news or bad news—and they try to use others as pawns in their own dramas by making them feel sorry for or jealous of the situation at hand (even when there’s no real problem).
By not participating in these games, you’ll feel less stressed and more grounded when interacting with this person overall!
Don’t let them use you as a doormat.
If someone constantly uses your generosity for their own benefit without giving anything back in return, wouldn’t that be frustrating?
The same principle applies here: if someone is constantly asking favors from you while offering little or nothing in return except perhaps an occasional smile or compliment on how nice you look today, it might be time to start reassessing whether this person is truly worth staying connected with.
Don’t try to change them or fix their problems for them.
And don’t let them manipulate you into doing something that goes against your values just because they’ve asked nicely (or not).
Narcissists can easily guilt trip others into doing things for them—and if it doesn’t work out, they’ll blame everyone else around them instead of taking responsibility for their actions.
Don’t take their behavior personally.
Narcissists usually don’t mean anything by what they do; it’s all about getting attention from others so that the narcissist feels better about themselves in the end—even if those actions cause harm on top of what was already there before any incident occurred!
Take Care of Yourself
In this case, self-care is going to be very important for you. And you’ll need to start with your own perception.
Change your view of yourself by taking responsibility for your own feelings, thoughts, and behavior.
The first step is recognizing that your friend may suffer from a personality disorder and in some cases, mental illness.
You cannot control how someone else feels or thinks, but you can control how you respond to them.
You should not feel responsible for another person’s actions or reactions—even if it seems like they are trying to make you feel bad about yourself.
Ultimately, your choice is whether you want to continue having this type of friendship.
If you decide it isn’t worth it, just cut ties and move on with your life.
However, if you decide to stay friends with a narcissist, then make sure that you know their behavior and nurture your own ability to handle any relationship issues that arise from dealing with this personality type.
Resources for Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support
The QueenBeeing SPANily, Official – We consider this to be the best narcissistic abuse recovery support group on the web. Offers several subgroups and features a vigilant, compassionate admin team full of trained coaches and survivors, supporting more than 12k members. SPAN is an acronym created by Angie Atkinson that stands for Support for People Affected by Narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships.
Other Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups– We also have separate groups for each stage in your narcissistic abuse recovery, as well as some for those who have moved past recovery and are evolving into the next stage of their own life. Survivors have unique and individual needs, even when they’ve moved on – so we’re still here for you.
One-on-One Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Coaching – If you prefer to get more personalized support in your recovery, you might like to schedule a session with one of our coaches to plan and execute your own narcissistic abuse recovery plan.
Find a Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Therapist – If you’re looking for a therapist for narcissistic abuse recovery, either because you cannot afford coaching and want to use your health insurance or because you have additional issues you need to address that do not fall within the realm of coaching, you will want to find the right therapist for you – and as far as we’re concerned, that therapist must understand what you’ve been through. This page offers assistance to help you do exactly that.
When you think of the term codependency, you may think about someone who is relying on substance abuse. But that isn’t always the case.
What is Codependency?
Codependencyis a toxic emotional and behavioral condition that makes it nearly impossible to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. It is also known as “relationship addiction” because people with codependency often form and stay in relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive, and/or abusive.
In layman’s terms, codependency is being too dependent on others to the point that they cannot function on their own. It happens often in relationships whereas two people are too invested in one another to the point that the one who is too dependent on the other struggles to be independent.
Contrary to Popular Belief: Codependent and Empath Are Not Synonyms
Are all empaths codependent? Are all codependents empaths? I’m helping to clear up a common misconception in the narcissistic abuse recovery community in this video. See, while some codependents are empaths, not all empaths are codependents. In other words, they are two separate concepts that some people have mistaken for synonyms.
How to Know If You’re Codependent in a Toxic Relationship
So, if you have a codependent personality, you are highly likely to end up with someone who is dominant for that obvious reason. You’ll struggle to think and do things on your own without your partner. Are you codependent? Let’s look at the 5 signs that point to the possibility that you could be.
1. You Don’t Trust Yourself
If you are codependent, you struggle with trusting yourself. You don’t think you can make decisions without someone else backing you up. This is a sign that you have low self-esteem and seriously impaired self-confidence. This combined with the fact that you might not believe in yourself anyway can lead to a lack of trust in your own intuition and even perception of the world. This can lead to learned helplessness that makes you fear taking action without the approval of someone else. This can take you to the point that you have to rely on others to tell you what to do, say think, and feel in extreme cases.
2. You Need Validation: The Approval Of Others Means More Than Your Own
It could devastate you if you did a creative project and worked very hard on it, but you didn’t get the approval from others that you wanted or expected. It’s normal to want others to acknowledge your work, but someone who is not codependent will realize that everyone’s taste will not match their style and the approval of others has no effect on what they do. That is just one common example of codependency. If you don’t value yourself, and you do things to gain the approval of others, you’ve got a problem. Stop being a people-pleaser and try focusing on what really makes YOU happy!
If you are not sure how you are feeling whether you are sad, happy, excited, or bored, that can be a sign of codependency. In other words, your feelings are based on the way that your partner feels. If they are angry, you may be as well, but you will not know why and you will not be able to identify why. You might dissociate from your own feelings and no longer be able to identify them. You might also struggle with regulating your emotions.
You are terrified of being abandoned because you don’t believe you will be able to function on your own. The idea of being abandoned is no different than a part of your body disappearing which can render you not being able to function at all.
It’s important to understand that the fear of abandonment is a normal human fear. Often, narcissistic abuse survivors suffer from emotional abandonment during and after their toxic relationships. Emotional abandonment is an emotional state caused by someone making you feel undesired, left behind, insecure, or discarded.
When you feel emotionally abandoned, you often feel lost. It happens when you are essentially cut off from a crucial source of affection (such as a significant relationship with a parent or spouse), or financial or emotional security that has been withdrawn, either suddenly, or through a process of erosion over time.
You may be in an abusive relationship but you will not think of leaving because you feel like you have to be with that partner, no matter how abusive they are. You cannot fathom the idea of being alone, and you doubt your ability to function alone. Unhealthy relationships may also be referred to as toxic relationships.
You may be dealing with trauma bonding if you’re in a longer-term toxic relationship of any kind. Similar to a dysfunctional relationship, but less repairable, this kind of relationship involves more negativity than positivity, and it doesn’t emotionally support one or both of the people involved. An abusive, toxic relationship often involves resentment, contempt, communication problems, and varying forms of physical, emotional, and psychological abuse.