It hurts to have a narcissistic family member. They can hurt you in ways you didn’t know you could be hurt. It may make you wonder how to protect yourself from narcissistic family members.
It’s not easy to come to the realization that you need to cut out a family member because they’re hurting you. But, since you are at that point where you need to protect yourself, here are 10 crucial tips that will help you get there and get there safely.
This post is all about how to protect yourself from narcissistic family members.
What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
Narcissistic Personality Disorder is characterized by an inflated sense of their own importance that comes from low self-esteem. Narcissists can’t admit that they are insecure.
So, instead of admitting this, they become narcissists who have a deep need for everyone else to confirm the narrative they’ve developed about themselves.
What this means is that they focus primarily on themselves and have a lack of empathy for others because they have such a deep insecurity that they do not want to admit exists.
The only way for a true narcissist to end their narcissistic tendencies is to confront their insecurities and work through them on their own or with the help of a mental health professional.
Unfortunately, narcissistic people need to believe in the narrative of their self-importance and need others to confirm them as a way to maintain their identity and avoid the real pain they’re dealing with at the core of their narcissism.
PROTECT YOURSELF FROM NARCISSISTS:
1. Work on self-regulation and control of your emotions
When you ask how to protect yourself from narcissistic family members, you have to acknowledge two things. First of all, you can only control your actions. Second, it isn’t fair that you have to do all of this self-work to protect yourself when they take steps to get better.
Neither of these truths feels good, but they can help you focus on how to prioritize yourself, take back control of your life, and keep yourself safe from the narcissist in your life. This is why self-regulation and emotional intelligence are so important.
One of the most frustrating parts about talking to a narcissist is their lack of empathy. You may try to be vulnerable and tell them you’re hurt by the way they’ve treated you and they’ll gaslight you.
Maybe they’ll blame you for making them treat you like that or they’ll yell at you for seemingly reason. Then, when you respond in a similar, they will act hurt and, suddenly, you’re the one in the wrong.
This is frustrating and they don’t understand what happened during your interaction. They don’t see how they unnecessarily escalated the situation and blamed you for it because they lack emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to regulate your emotions and understand the emotions of others. This means that you can develop the ability to self-regulate your emotions to keep from escalating a situation.
You may even if you have every right to escalate a situation. Yet, you can’t simply because you know how the narcissist will react and eventually mistreat you. It’s not fair to change your actions due to something that is not your fault, but it is an effective way of protecting yourself.
2. Find a safe space where you can get support and comfort
You’re going through a lot in needing to cut off a family member. It’s difficult to admit that your family member is not good for you. They cause you pain, even if they do it due to their mental illness. So, you will need support.
Part of needing support is finding a safe space where you can process your emotions without judgment. What makes a space feel safe is being able to express yourself without the stress or anxiety that comes from family members judging or disagreeing with you.
Once you’ve made the hard decision to cut someone off or limit your contact with a narcissistic relative, the last thing you want is to be told you’re wrong. You need people to validate your experience regardless of whether it’s their experience.
Most people who know a narcissist will experience their narcissistic traits at some point because narcissists, by definition, are focused on themselves. In other words, you don’t bring out the narcissism in them because that’s their personality disorder.
You might trigger their insecurity more than other people in their life. But, that does not make it your responsibility to heal their personality disorder.
That being said, you will inevitably find people in your life, mutual friends, or relatives who disagree with the way you’re responding to your narcissistic parent or narcissistic family member. These people do not create a safe space, so you must find people who do.
These are people who listen and empathize with you above all else. It’s fine to insert their opinion when they’re asked, as long as their goal is always your well-being and not some ulterior motive.
3. Take care of your physical health and mental health
Monitor your health because narcissism takes a toll on the people around the narcissist. It will be hard to exist in the same space as them because you will become responsible for your emotions since they refuse to be.
In typical relationships, you can expect the other person to care about how you feel. In healthy relationships, they will want to actively avoid hurting you most of the time. Maybe you get into an argument with your partner and you both want to hurt each other in the moment.
This doesn’t mean that you are in an abusive relationship. Your relationship does become abusive when the other person actively seeks to hurt you repeatedly and shows no room for accountability or the desire to change.
When you’re dealing with narcissistic behavior, you cannot expect the other person to care about your feelings or your health the way that you do.
So, while you are in the process of taking care of yourself, and cutting them out of your life, you also want to notice any changes in your physical or mental health.
This looks like practicing self-care, talking it out with people you trust, and saying no to things like family gatherings that could trigger you, or put you in contact with this person who hurts you.
Plus, no matter how much this narcissist has hurt you, you have to respect the fact that they are still related to you and it’s painful to cut them out. They may deserve to be out of your life, but that does not make it easier to accept it. Be kind to yourself and remember that.
4. Focus on your energy on your healthy relationships
This is a good time to think about the healthy relationships in your life. It might understandably be difficult to identify these at the moment. This is especially true if you have a narcissistic mother or narcissistic father.
They have changed your understanding of what a healthy relationship looks like. It’s scary and unfair if your parent has mistreated you because that changes the way that you think about relationships.
Anyone in your family gives you a formative understanding of what healthy looks like in a loving relationship. You may think that abuse is normal, especially if it’s narcissistic abuse.
It’s not fair and you deserve to hear that. But, the good news is that you have the option of learning about what a healthy relationship looks like. So, think about the close relationships in your life and ask yourself if they are healthy.
Think about what healthy looks like to you and what feels good to you in a relationship. Healthy relationships always start with open communication. This communication helps you to fulfill your partner’s needs and helps them to understand how to better fulfill yours.
Give yourself the gift of focusing on the love in your life because you have had a lot of time to focus on emotional abuse. Remember what it’s like to be in a healthy relationship and remind yourself to use this bar to measure all of your relationships.
5. Create an action plan for family gatherings
Family gatherings will understandably be difficult for a while. This is especially true if you have people in your life who do not support you cutting a narcissist parent or relative out of your life.
The best way to avoid getting triggered and hurt by family gatherings, while still enjoying the option to meet up with family, is to create an action plan. You can think of this like a safety plan.
It will give you a series of steps to follow to, first of all, avoid any negative feelings coming up and, if they do, then give you a plan on how to proceed. Steps can include talking to your family members about clear boundaries in advance.
For instance, you can talk about the fact that you don’t want to be around the narcissist in your family. Other steps might look like reaching out to your support network when you need emotional support at the moment.
There is no foolproof way to avoid the negative impact of a narcissist’s behavior. But, it’s still important to take the first step towards creating a plan that will give you a sense of security.
Instead of entering the moment and feeling overwhelmed, you can refer back to the plan of action you created to stay in control of your feelings and avoid the feeling of being triggered.
Unfortunately, in some cases, the best option is to avoid sharing this plan and keep it for your safety and yours alone because of the judgment you might experience from family members.
6. Identify the people in your life who can provide emotional support
Start by thinking about the people you trust. These are the people who you automatically want to call when something negative happens. They suspend any personal feelings until you are ready to hear them and their feelings always align with yours.
It’s important to experience other perspectives. But, when you are experiencing abuse, there is no other perspective that can make your experience invalid.
If you engage with the wrong type of person, they might tell you that you deserved the abuse or that you need to try and talk to your narcissistic parent or relative. The fact is that you cannot reason with a narcissist because that is central to them being a narcissist.
They do not want to see the narratives that they have constructed about themselves get destroyed, and to admit that they hurt you would cause that to happen. So they would rather blame you because that keeps their insecurities hidden and their narratives alive.
Anyone who tells you to reason with a narcissist does not have your best interest in mind. They may not realize the harm they’re doing, but it is not your responsibility to show them. It is, however, your responsibility to take care of yourself and identify the people you can trust.
Just because you cannot trust someone with this information does not mean that you cannot trust them to be in your life. It just means that you will have to set the standard on what you talk with them about and what you choose to withhold.
7. Avoiding responding to a phone call or text messages
When a narcissist tries to reach out to you, it will not be to apologize. If it is, it is insincere, and it is called love bombing. In that case, they will tell you whatever they think you need to hear to come back to them and validate the feelings that they have about themselves.
Remember that narcissists need other people to confirm the beliefs that they hold about themselves. If narcissist were to interrogate their own beliefs, they would soon realize that these beliefs are a way to avoid understanding the deep insecurities they have.
It’s scary to admit that we are insecure. None of us like to do it, but we do because it helps us grow. Keep this in mind as you think about how to approach the narcissist in your life. So, when you think about responding to a phone call or text message, remember that it won’t benefit you.
If you have decided to cut someone out of your life, because they mistreated you, remember that this is not an indication that that has changed. If the narcissist in your life refuses to take true accountability for their actions, there is no way that they can change.
And if they tell you, otherwise, it’s simply a ploy to get you back into their life. Remember that as much as you want to have a relative in your family, it is never worth the pain that they will cause you.
If you have already decided to cut them out, remind yourself that you have every reason to stick to that decision.
8. Practice setting healthy boundaries
It takes practice to learn how to set a boundary. If you’ve never experienced that being done to you before, or you’ve never witnessed it, it seems impossible. Telling someone know may be difficult for you, depending on your personal experience of living with a narcissist.
Maybe you’ve become a people pleaser to please the narcissist in your life. Still, you must learn how to tell people how to treat you. This means that you set boundaries about anything that triggers you. Sometimes we need to feel uncomfortable.
Discomfort helps us to learn, and it is an indication to us, unlike narcissists, that we have some growth to do. Maybe we have discomfort about talking about race or sexuality or anything like that.
That type of discomfort is crucial to helping us, realize where we need to gain confidence and competency. However, it is never okay to accept abuse. You deserve better than that and you always will just by existing.
So, learn how to set boundaries that keep you from feeling repeatedly triggered or abused in your personal life. Once you identify what is happening to you, you deserve to recognize your own needs enough to know when something is not okay for you.
9. Attend a support group
Support groups can help you understand what is normal about your experience when you have no one else that you know and your similar experience. It is a group of people who have experienced the same circumstances, even if their identities are different from yours.
Support groups are led by mental health professionals who can help direct the conversation toward coping mechanisms, common experiences, and solutions. It’s all about normalizing your experience and recognizing that it’s common for people in your situation.
You will never realize how powerful it is to share your experience with someone and have them share their experience with you only to realize that you are not in fact, misunderstanding the situation.
Instead, you were having a natural response to an unnatural situation. Talking to other people who have experienced the same thing as you can help you realize how much respect you deserve to have for yourself.
10. Seek out professional help
Working through any traumatic experience is difficult on your own. No one should have to do it, no matter how well you’ve done it in the past.
So, remember that you are never alone, and can go through this experience with a mental health professional, who is trained in the exact issues that you are dealing with. Marriage and family therapists work with systems.
That means that they work with relationships instead of just the individual. So, when your struggle has to do with your relationship with someone else, it’s a good idea to talk to a marriage and family therapist.
They can help you work through the challenges of dealing with someone narcissistic while also giving you coping mechanisms for the here and now.