Why you Can Not Effectively Manage a Narcissist

Elephant in the Room

Elephant in the Room

I see many people, myself included, who try to create effective management strategies for dealing with narcissists. Some of these strategies intuitively make sense- such as limiting your time with a narcissist, carrying around pat, ridiculous phrases that you know the narcissist loves to hear, rearranging entire social events so the narcissist feels “extra special”, wearing noise blocking headphones whenever around the narcissist and so on, all have their place.

One thing you need to understand, though, is that narcissism isn’t some slight, little issue that you can “work around”. Narcissism isn’t an insignificant personality glitch, like having the uncle who drinks a bit too much at social gatherings or the cousin who can’t seem to help telling off-color jokes.

You can’t work around narcissism, because narcissism encompasses EVERYTHING.

Narcissism is the proverbial elephant in the room. No one wants to mention it, but it does seem to be taking up a great deal of space and crowding everything else out.

“Working around” narcissism is like navigating an elephant in your living room. With a great sense of hope and “can do” spirit- you give it a try. You try to maneuver the elephant to the side of the room, only to realize with an elephant there is no “side” of the room- elephant tissue seems to expand everywhere and fill every space.

The same occurs with narcissism. It is not limited to a little “side” of someone’s life. It is their life.

And like the elephant, narcissism has a significant mass and weight to it. It dominates the room.

When you try to manage a narcissist, it is like saying “Okay, so the elephant is in the living room, taking up all the space, so I know…let’s remove all the furniture from the room…then the elephant will fit.”

And you will try this with the narcissist- you will remove everything from your life, hoping you now have enough space to accommodate the narcissist.

And you will find that no matter how much furniture you remove from your life, there is never enough space for the elephant in the room- the narcissist in your life.


17 thoughts on “Why you Can Not Effectively Manage a Narcissist

  1. Thank you for this. It’s the encouragement I needed for today…this very moment. In my case it was a friend…part of a narcissistic married couple…upstanding citizens and leaders in our church. We got out, finally, last November. They were “almost” exposed…but slipped through the cracks as they stepped down from ministry (eldership/bible study leaders) to “humbly” examine and repair their lives. Within a month after we left, they were right back to it…her leading a study and now he is a candidate for elder. How many more lives will they destroy. It’s so tempting…still to want to intervene and call them out to protect others, but I know from experience that we will look like the bitter, crazy ones. Again, thank you.

    • Sigh…of course they said they would “humbly” examine their lives and then never do it. Narcissist are always clueless, unless they are manipulating others. I wish you well in this situation. It can make one feel defeated to have to deal with these types.

  2. One of the difficult things about dealing with a disordered person is that you receive advice telling you how to make it work with such an individual from others who through their own self-professed skills can “deal” with them or “control” them with words, boundary setting etc. To me, you hit the nail on the head, the narcissist must consume EVERYTHING and therefore cannot be effectively managed. When you make your whole world about managing the narcissist, modulating everything you say they have complete control over your whether you want to admit it or look at it as effective management. There is no effective management of narcissists or people with disorders personalities with narcissistic comorbidity, at least not for the ones I know.

  3. I often thought even until recently that if I just learned better boundary setting that I could handle my relationship with my narcissist. But it’s just like you said here this isn’t just one part of their lives, this is the whole thing. Elephant tissue fills the whole room. It’s all in or all out. I picked all out but felt guilty for not being able to handle it, for choosing to get out and save myself. It really does help to get this validation for such a misunderstood issue.

  4. Yup – there is no managing a narcissist. If the narcissist is involved in your life on an occasional basis – the second cousin who shows up at family events, for instance, you just have to employ whatever tools are available to temporarily get by. However, anything more than that and you are looking at the practice of no-contact. That’s the only way to “manage” them. Good post. 🙂

  5. Thought provoking in a reflective way…I spent 14 years throwing everything I loved out of my life to please the narcissist…I finally got to the point where I had nothing left but myself to throw out…I was discarded at that point…never knew what hit me!

  6. This post should be included in every school textbook, because the message you give is SO important. There is only one way to live with a narcissist, and that is to sacrifice yourself completely and give up everything that matters.

    The narcissist will never see things in any other way, and any so-called resources that suggest we should further change ourselves to manage their behaviour are downright dangerous. Great post, Kimberly.

    • I so agree with you! Resources that suggest “working with” the narcissist drive me crazy. It is so dangerous. There is no “working with” a narcissist in the form of compromise or mutual caring. It is always all about the narcissist, while we are left picking up the pieces.

  7. Living with a sibling who is a narcissist this post really hit home. I should not be afraid or review what I am about to say in order to make sure sure she doesn’t get offended. It took me many years to realize this. And now…. I feel liberated. I will not condemn myself any longer.

  8. When we label someone else who has the problem and try to disempower them, its time for us to empower ourselves more. Often it means disengaging from the relationship. Pointing fingers and saying “bad you” does nothing. The narcissist wont change … and we may feel better, but remain trapped.
    My mother is a narcissist and many daughters fight this agonizing tug and pull. I married a narcissist … because that’s what I knew and associated with love.
    This is such a complex issue. Please don’t bring it to the level of villains and victims. This brings barriers rather than understanding. Val x

    • I would not say I am disempowering anyone. Those with narcissistic tendencies, in my experience, have already experienced significant disempowerment. Having a mother with such tendencies, or any personality disorder for that matter, is to deal with the situation on entirely different level- both as child and adult, so I feel for you. As for “villians and victims”, I have yet to meet a narcissist who does not totally feel victimized by life. I would love it if narcissists would also move from the “victim” mentality.

  9. Pingback: How Tracy's e-mails displayed narcissism--Tracy's Reign of Terror: True Story of Narcissism, Bullying, Domestic Violence and Child Abuse, Part 78 | Nyssa's Hobbit Hole: Blog

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