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Don't Let the Narcissist Push Your Buttons!

Relationships are hard enough to navigate without trying to relate to someone that is so self- absorbed that he/she has no interest in considering anyone else’s feelings and thoughts. Disarming the Narcissist by Wendy Behary helps to understand how the mind of a narcissist works and what makes others susceptible to their tactics. Too often, the person who is in relationship with the narcissists find themselves frustrated after countless attempts at relating. You might say that it feels more like dodging land mines than healthy productive communication. Without mindful attention you can find yourself operating from one of the 18 schemas listed below that makes navigating an interaction with a narcissist not only unsatisfying but seemingly impossible. See if you can identify with any of these schemas. Notice some of these schemas can make you more attractive to someone with narcissistic traits.

1. Abandonment/Instability: The emotional support connection, strength or practical protection was emotionally unstable and unpredictable, unreliable, or erratically present during childhood. You are so fearful of being rejected or alone that you will put up with the limitations and tormenting behaviors of your narcissist.

2. Mistrust/Abuse: The expectation that others will hurt, abuse humiliate, cheat, lie, manipulate, or take advantage. Usually involved the perception that the harm is intentional or the result of unjustified and extreme negligence. May include the sense that you always end up being cheated relative to others or that you are getting the short end of the stick. You quickly give into the Narcissists hurtful and abusive behaviors that feel all too familiar from your past.

3. Emotional Deprivation: The expectation that others will not adequately meet your desire for emotional support. This can result from one of 3 major forms of deprivation:

a. the absence of attention, affection warmth, or companionship

b. Absence of understanding, listening, self-disclosure or mutual sharing of feelings from others.

c. the absence of strength, direction, or guidance from others

Narcissists drive home the familiar belief once again that you will never find someone that genuinely loves you and understands you.

4. Defectiveness/Shame: The feeling that you are defective, bad, unwanted, inferior, or invalid in important respects; or that you would be unlovable to significant others if exposed. May involve hypersensitivity to criticism, rejection, and blame; self-consciousness, comparisons, and insecurity around others; or a sense of shame regarding your perceived flaws. You easily buy into the criticism that are hurled at you by the narcissist, taking the blame and feeling it is your fault when he is unhappy with you. You often feel you need to fix yourself.

5. Social Isolation/Alienation: The feeling that you are isolated from the resent of the world, different from others, or not part of any group or community.

6. Dependence/Incompetence: Belief that you are unable to handle everyday responsibilities in a competent manner without considerable help form others.

7. Vulnerability to Harm or Illness: Exaggerated fear that imminent catastrophe will strike at any time and that you will be unable to prevent it. Fears focus on one or more of the following: medical catastrophes, such as a heart attack or AIDS; emotional catastrophes, such as “going crazy”; external catastrophes, such as elevators collapsing, being victimized by criminals, airplane crashes, or earthquakes.

8. Enmeshment/Undeveloped Self: The belief that you can’t survive or be happy without the constant support, emotional involvement and closeness of one or more significant others (often parents).

9. Failure: The belief that you have failed, will inevitably fail, or are fundamentally inadequate relative to your peers in areas of achievement.

10. Entitlement/Grandiosity: Often involves insistence that you should be able to do or have whatever you want, regardless of what is realistic, what others consider reasonable or the cost to others.

11. Insufficient Self-Control/Self- discipline: Pervasive difficulty or refusal to exercise sufficient self-control and tolerate frustration ot achieve your personal goals, or to restrain the excessive expression of your emotions and impulses. In its milder form, you may experience a tendency to avoid discomfort: avoiding pain, conflict, confrontation, responsibility or over exertion-at the expense of personal fulfillment, commitment, or integrity.

12. Subjugation: Usually involves the perception that your desires, opinions and feelings are not important to others which can lead to excessive compliance which can lead to a build up of anger, passive aggressive behavior, uncontrolled outbursts of temper, psychosomatic symptoms, withdrawal of affection, acting out and substance abuse. It is difficult to be assertive when it comes to your personal rights and opinions. Narcissists can be intimidating, forcing you t bury your anger or forbidding you your point of view.

13. Self-Sacrifice: Focused on voluntarily meeting the needs of others at the expense of your own needs. It is tough to ask for what you need without feeling unworthy or guilty. Narcissists make it even tougher. You can get torn between feelings of guilt and resentment.

14. Approval Seeking/Recognition Seeking: Excessive emphasis on gaining approval, recognition, or attention from other people, or fitting in, at the expense of developing a secure and true sense of self. You depend on the reactions of others rather than your own natural inclinations. There can be an overemphasis on status, appearance, social acceptance money or achievement and a means of gaining approval admiration or attention. Frequently result in major life decisions that are inauthentic or unsatisfying, or in hypersensitivity to rejection.

15. Negativity/Pessimism: Usually includes an exaggerated expectation- in a wide range of work, financial, or interpersonal situations that things will eventually go seriously wrong, or that aspects of your life that seem to be going well will ultimately fall apart. Because potential negative outcomes are exaggerated, chronic worry, vigilance, complaining, or indecision frequently characterize your behaviors.

16. Emotional Inhibition: Most common areas of inhibition involve inhibition of anger and aggression; inhibition of positive impulses such as joy affection, sexual excitement or play; difficulty expressing vulnerability or communicating freely about your feelings or needs. You are an easy target for narcissists since you keep your feelings to yourself. You are stoic and overly controlled when it comes to your emotions. The narcissist can have emotional outbursts, while you stand by in silent, invisible sorrow.

17. Unrelenting Standards/Hyper criticalness: This includes all perfectionists, those that set rigid rules and expectations for self and are preoccupied with time so that more can be accomplished. This is the narcissists dream date since they are looking for someone who believes that if only they work harder they can be the perfect partner.

18. Punitiveness: The belief that people should be punished for making mistakes. Involves the tendency to be angry, intolerant, punitive, and impatient with self and others who do not meet your expectations and standards. Usually, includes difficulty forgiving mistakes in yourself and others because of a reluctance to consider extenuating circumstances, allow for human imperfection or empathize with feelings.

Schemas usually result from experiences in childhood. These schemas are like hot buttons that activate our responses in life. Triggering a traumatic memory from a past that included threat, power, or control would prompt anyone to seek protection. This book gives helpful insight on how to utilize an assertive voice as your true self today as opposed to defending yourself with contempt, criticism, and self-righteousness that may have been your only means of survival in the past. Ultimately, operating from your true self may not improve the relationship that you have with the narcissist, but it can certainly improve the relationship that you have with yourself.

Take a piece of paper and jot down which of these schemas identify how you relate to yourself and others. Consider what your coping skills are by using these schemas. If you were able to break free from operating from a schema from the past, what could you claim as the truth today? Now take time to consider a healthy assertive message that you would like to convey to the narcissist in your life that does not include cowering before them or attacking them with vicious comments.

It is important to learn how to ground yourself in the present. Any sudden discomfort can be signs that one of these schemas is being activated. You can retrain your brain by reminding yourself that you have choice now. You can learn to notice the feelings without reacting to them. The thoughts and feelings that are activated by a schema have no bearing on the present situation. Finally, you have rights too in any relationship. Call today to learn additional ways to be your true self, discern if it is safe to navigate conversation with a narcissist, and understand how to not be activated when a narcissist pushes your hot button.

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