Narcissists Storm and Rage When We Set Up Boundaries... How Do We Weather Them?
Narcissism is one of the most difficult personality disorders for the family members of those diagnosed or presumed to have it. When an ex spouse or co-parent has the disorder, the entire family will be thrown into high levels of conflict. Typically, the ex spouse will become the long lasting target of the person with NPD. This might sound like a daunting task for the healthy co-parent or ex spouse (and it is!) but with a few tips, the narcissist storm will do little to blow you over. The key to weathering these storms is setting up healthy, reinforced boundaries.
Narcissists, unfortunately, do not respond well to boundaries. All human behavior, by design, serves a basic function. Usually this function is to meet a need: we behave in a way that will help us gain access to something, remove something we find adverse, to get attention or for stimulation of some kind. The behaviorally disordered person has disordered interests and emotional deficits. They do not deal well with noncompliance or loss of control. They especially do not deal well with boundaries. When dealing with a narcissist personality, be prepared for a storm in response to establishing healthy boundaries. No need to worry; the storm can be weathered, and information is the place to start.
One of the most common as well as destructive functions for those with Narcissism Personality Disorder (NPD) is seeking access to emotional control and attention. These result from the emotional deficits associated with the disorder. One of the profound deficits is empathy. People with NPD lack empathy to terrifying degrees. Insert a list of behaviors which will help the NPD person to gain access to emotional control over a person, gain attention, and empathy is not present. The list might include behaviors which range from passive aggressive to confrontational in nature. Some of the most common (though not exhaustive) behaviors are listed here:
- Blame shifting: They blame you for their bad behavior.
- Financial abuse: They control the finances and manipulate expenses to be in their control.
- Smear Campaigning: They have subtle or overt conversations with friends and family which contain false concern for your mental health or behavior.
- Compulsive lying: These are lies that are told in order to control the victim's reality... they might seem silly or to serve no purpose unless one looks deeper.
- Rage: Sometimes, the person with NPD will simply rage at their victim. This can include emotional, verbal and physical abuse.
- Threats: The person with NPD is a master of intimidation. They will make you fear for your life, children, reputation or job.
When emotional boundaries are set up to protect the NPD person's target, the NPD person will respond with a heightened intensity of the very behaviors that are not being accepted by the target. If the target gives in, and allows the NPD person to gain access to emotional control or negative attention, that person is reinforcing the negative behaviors of the NPD person.
If the targets remain firm in their boundaries, the NPD person will eventually attempt a new behavior in order to serve their goal. Their goal will not change. They will still seek attention. They will still seek emotional control over a person.
Ideally, the NPD person could learn a healthier source of attention and gain self control instead. That is unlikely. Therefore, when dealing with a NPD personality, it is best to set up important boundaries, and enforce them strictly. When the NPD personality encounters what he or she considers adverse or negative consequences to their behavior, such as exposure of manipulative tactics, lessened status or loss of access to attention, the behavior is likely to cease over time. This is not to say they will not find new tools of torture for their victims, but there is hope to upholding boundaries.