In my last blog I gave some ideas as to how to practically go forward on our journeys that include interacting with narcissists. The foundation must be one of our doing out own personal work of healing and growth. From this base, which includes the process of reclaiming our identity and voice, we change the dance steps in our relationships.
I want to now bring into sharper focus the idea of relating out of our unique God given personhood and identity.
The more we bring into focus the specific values of ourselves and our community, we have a ‘template’ to use as we interact with the narcissist.
The narcissist needs someone- even better, a community- that does not get overwhelmed and triggered easily. Someone who is not easily charmed. Someone who can set limits. Someone who can empathetically confront and hold the narcissist accountable, while giving ‘attuned parenting’ for the vulnerable and insecure part within.
Those who do pursue this kind of interaction will likely get hurt. They need the caring support of the community. And they need others being alert to when those in the community are drifting into wrongly justified condemnation against the narcissist.
You are most likely familiar with the analogy of those who are being trained to spot counterfeit bills focus on the specific details of authentic bills. The more clarity we have on what our personal and group values are, the more capable we will be to ‘spot’ discrepancies, even when they are cloaked in a deceitful form. We will ‘smell’ the rottenness of fruit gone bad.
Brene Brown has compiled a list of values that can be used to bring into focus the virtues we hold in high regard. Using self-awareness you can add to the list.
Using this focus, might be helpful to know how to address a narcissistic behavior. We may be able to voice how we experience a situation and how it contradicts one of these values. We can then suggest ways of interacting that would better capture the virtues of our community, hopefully leading them towards relating for the best interest of others rather than a pursuit of personal status and power.
In my classes and groups we take time to interact with this list of values Brene has provided. We individually circle the values which resonate with what matters to us, and share them with the group. We voice to each other values that we have experienced in our relationships together. We want to know who each of us is, which helps us understand more fully why we have the emotional reactions when our values have been offended.
We also take time to dialogue regarding what the values of our community are, that we desire to be known for.
This helps me as I go forward in interacting with others, including the narcissist. Let me give you an example from my life.
Personally, God has designed me with a strong desire for compassion, kindness, attunement, walking with the wounded, authenticity, belonging and unity in community and truth. There is a prayer that resonates with my soul.
Simultaneously, I want to avoid conflict and often feel intimidated by strong people. When interacting with someone who is handling life in a narcissistic manner, my first instinct is to pull away from them and keep myself safe from being attacked in some manner, while holding judgement towards them. I am living reactively rather than living out of my God- reflected values.
My desired goal is to keep growing in my capacity and stamina so as to stay connected appropriately with those who may intimidate me. I want God to give me increased understanding as to what is driving the person who I experience as not safe, to increase in compassion for them as I recognize the wounds in their lives that are driving them. I desire to pursue living my value of walking with the wounded (including this person who is hurting others out of their own insecurities) and to relate with truth as to what I perceive they need to look at in their lives that is holding them back from living well with others.
Expanding on this is the intentionality of bringing into focus the value and identity of ‘our family/ ourgroup’. For example, I may want to remind the individual that our community is one that values cloaking people in dignity and honor and creating an environment of safety. I can point out that when he acts in a certain manner, he is bringing about the opposite effect. My hope is to remind the person of who they truly are and draw them back to live it out.
I might make statements that include the following ideas.
“When you did _______, it doesn’t match what I know of your values.”
“Our values are _______. Your action did not match up, It would have been more appropriately to have_____.”
While I hope these practical ideas are helpful, I am aware that I can be leading you wrongly.
We are not to lean on our own understanding, but in all our ways to acknowledge Him! We need God’s guidance in how to respond
It takes discernment as to what is ‘best’ in how to respond in narcissistic environments and relationships. We need insight regarding what is happening within ourselves. And discernment regarding what is the wisest way to interact in a situation with a narcissist. Our own discernment is helpful. God’s discernment is even better since He is looking at the big picture and can guide us from His eternal perspective.
In my next blog I will bring our focus back to some hard realities regarding safety issues that we need to interact with our God about as we consider how to go forward. When might it be appropriate for us to extricate ourselves from a relationship with a narcissist? Please join me in my next blog.