Practicing the Art of Non Reaction
Those who read my Website know that I encourage a strict “no contact” discipline for those wanting to recover from narcissistic abuse. I call this a discipline rather than a “rule” because sticking to “no contact” is a discipline. It takes diligence, commitment and focus on the bigger picture. The only time that it doesn’t work to have “no contact” with the narcissist in your life is when you have a child with him or her, if the narcissist is a family member or works in the same office or organization and interaction is required.
Where interaction is not required, “no contact” is the easiest and fastest way for one to break his/her addiction or attachment to the narcissist and prevent any further pain and abuse. It is near impossible to recover from a painfully abusive relationship when the abuse continues. When you say “NO” you are giving the narcissist in your life a clear message that his or her behavior is no longer acceptable to you and you will not allow it into your life any longer.
If you must continue contact with the narcissist in your life due to having children in common or even if it is a family member in question, you can still have “limited contact” and still follow a strict discipline regarding that person.
The fact is most narcissists will continue to try and extract energy from those closest to them if that energy outlet is still open. The very best method for stopping the narcissist in his tracks is to refuse to give him or her your energy. Period! So instead of having a strict “no contact” rule you can implement a strict “no energy” discipline that involves not buying into the drama created by the narcissist to suck you into his or her web.
If the narcissist knows he or she is getting a reaction out of you then he/she gets a charge out of that reaction. The “charge” I speak of is energy. Therefore when you react you are giving the narcissist your energy. So it is time to practice the art of “non reaction.”
Practicing “non reaction” is an art because it has to be cultivated and worked from the inside out until you get it. We often react without thinking. It is automatic. So in order to “not react” you have to catch yourself right when you have that feeling that normally causes you to react and then tell yourself to stay calm.
A Minister I sought out for counseling once told me that if two people are having a tug-of-war with the rope and one person lays down the rope the struggle cannot continue. The narcissist is likely in a power struggle with you and if you let go of your end of the rope he or she cannot continue the game. He will either fall flat on his or her back or try to get you to pick up the rope again. Don’t do it!
You have every right to set your boundaries and this is an absolute “must” when dealing with a narcissist. If you are dealing with child visitation and exchanging the children back and forth then you must specify what you are willing and unwilling to tolerate and then be willing to follow through. For example if the narcissist in your life has an agreement with you that he or she will pick up the kids at 10am on Saturday and has a habit of being late, you can let that person know that if he or she is has not come by to pick up the kids by 10:15 at the very latest then you will be gone, with the kids. This works better for custodial parents who part with their kids on the weekends or a day during the week. If the narcissist wants his visitation he will need to be there.
You have to be prepared if the narcissist doesn’t call or show up on time to follow through, take the kids and leave. Of course this will put you in the position of having to explain to your kids why that visit couldn’t happen. When that person does finally call, or drop by you must remain calm, cool and collected and explain once again your boundaries. “I explained to you that I needed for you to be on time and if you were not than I would have to leave and you would miss your visitation.”
Since narcissists will argue their point until blue in the face, it is important not to engage in the argument. That would be picking up the rope. If he begins to defend himself you can close your ears and say “this topic is not open for discussion. If you would like to see the children then you will need to be here on time in the future. Have a nice day, goodbye!” You may have to get used to hanging up the phone or closing your door in order to end the conversation.
If the narcissist raises his or her voice, yells, screams or acts inappropriately then you don’t have to tolerate this. You can give the clear message that you won’t tolerate hostile tones and either hang up the phone or close the door. Calling the police may be necessary if the narcissist becomes violent or abusive.
Never open the door to your home if the narcissist arrives unexpected or uninvited. And it is best not to invite him or her in when exchanging the children. You have to give the message that this is about the children only. Your personal relationship is over and will not be discussed. Anything having to do with your character or even your parenting skills is not open for discussion.
You will need to make it clear, preferably in writing, what is open for discussion.
In my experience I have found that it is often useless to discuss any concerns you may be having with your children with a narcissistic parent. The narcissist will often use this as an opportunity attack your parenting or character. It is often next to impossible to have a “normal” conversation with the narcissist about something important that matters. You are better off going to a school counselor, another type of counselor or friend who can hear you and make suggestions.
If you are sensing any type of abuse then it is important to document what you are observing and consult “child protective services.” If your child doesn’t want to go with the narcissistic parent then you will need to find out why and see what kind of information you can collect. In most States children over the age of twelve or thirteen can refuse visitation on their own accord. If you have young children and you believe the visitation is harming the children then you can consult an expert and try to get supervised visitation. It isn’t always an easy road. I’ve talked to some really concerned parents who feel the narcissist is destroying the children or converting them to little narcissists.
Although some may disagree with me I feel it is important, when a child is old enough to understand, to tell them that their Father, or Mother has a personality disorder that causes him or her to behave in a specific way. You can give your children tools to deal with a difficult parent.
Often even a young child will refuse a visit and you can simply tell the narcissistic parent that your child doesn’t want to see him or her. The narcissist will have to take you back to court to enforce the parenting plan which will give you enough time to get your child into see a “social services worker” and explain the issues.
One of the most important things to do when you have a parenting plan with a narcissist is to have very good documentation. Keep a journal and write everything down by date of incident. Write down every time he or she is late picking up the kids, every time he or she is late with the drop off, every cancellation, every issue, the kids behavior, your meetings with social services, and email correspondence.
It is best to ask that all correspondence regarding the kids are done via email so you will have a running record of all conversations. This also prevents any emotional phone conversations and keep your home more peaceful. Keep all emails in a special folder which will automatically stay organized by date.
Keeping good documentation and saving the emails may be all you need to prevent a court battle. The narcissist may say “I didn’t say I would pick them up at 10am, I said 10:45!” You can then say. “I have your email that confirms a 10am pick up time.” There is no argument and the narcissist will be aware you are saving the emails and know he can’t contradict himself and get away with it.
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard victims of narcissistic abuse say “I wish I had recorded some of his conversations so I can have proof he said what he said.” Well this is your opportunity. You have the right to request that correspondence regarding your kids be by email.
Don’t allow the fear of what the narcissist might or might not do prevent you from taking back your power. Remember it is power and control the narcissist wants and if you refuse to give him YOUR power or the control of YOUR life then he may put up a fight for it. But if you stand your ground and realize there is no real benefit to allowing him to manipulate you, he will soon get the message and come to the conclusion that you are just not worth his time and energy any longer. This is a good thing!
Being devalued and discarded by the narcissist is a sign that he is not getting what he wants from you therefore he needs to go elsewhere. He may have a chip on his shoulder but it is his chip, his shoulder and not your problem. The sooner you realize this, the better for you and your kids.
I’ve heard it said that kids tend to align with the parent that they perceive as being the strongest one. So you must do everything within your power to show your strength, at least in front of the kids. If you need to have a breakdown do it with a friend or counselor when the kids aren’t present. They need to know they can rely on you for support and for a sense of stability in thier lives. If you are an emotional basketcase and the narcissist is calm, cool, collected and fun, then the kids will want to be with the one that helps them to feel the calmest and most stable. Learning to control your emotions is an absolute must in this situation. Get help if you need to. It may save your children.
Learning to truly take back your power, draw boundaries, control your emotions and follow through will not only help you to be empowered with the narcissist in your life. But it will give you a greater sense of empowerment in all areas of your life and also be a great example for your children. So instead of practicing “no contact” practice the art of “non-reaction.” It will take you far and give you much greater results.