End the Emotional Abuse
Stop Being a Soft Target
Are you aware that we all regularly monitor for clues about the status of the people around us? Clues that help us decide if they are higher or lower in the pecking order than we are?
Humans are herd animals that operate in a hierarchy, and whether we acknowledge it or not, we all look to see where we rank amongst the people around us.”
I write more about this in my series on dealing with verbal abuse in our earning respect members subscription.
If you think it isn’t right that humans judge each other like this – you may as well shout in the wind to complain about it. We live on a predator vs prey planet and to be unaware of this fact is a form of denial that is bound to see you end up prey.
Humans may not eat each other, but unfortunately they do tend to give a lot more resources, courtesy, time and respect to people they perceive as higher than themselves in the hierarchy.
And bullies (there is a little of this in us all*) also tend to victimise, isolate and scapegoat people they perceive as lower status and weaker than themselves.”
(*Do you doubt this? I wonder if you’ve ever prided yourself on a bargain you found – knowing full well it was probably made by slave labour — but because the person who made it is so much lower in the pecking order than you are – you decided not to worry about that? Just about all of us are guilty of taking advantage of someone lower in rank or status than us at some stage in our lives – so don’t think this theory only applies to psychopaths or narcissists!)
What is really sad about this fact – as the movie above demonstrates – is that being victimized at any stage in your life may leave you with anxiety and fear that can cause you to remain a target/scapegoat in the future.
And scapegoats are what narcissists thrive on!
Because a narcissist is unable to face their own shame about themselves and their developmental gaps – they are always looking for a soft target to blame their shortcomings and moral weaknesses on.
Like too many of us blame the uneducated for the problems on this planet – while at the same time we exploit their labour.
Because yes, this kind of unhealthy projection occurs right throughout our society. The question I want to answer today is how do we defend ourselves from this? How can we stop being soft targets?
Stop Playing Victim
You will never ‘out victim’ a narcissist. Even if you can prove how they have hurt or exploited you, they will always claim that in reality they are the victim. So instead you need to raise your own status and profile and stop letting yourself be a soft target!
a. Work on your posture, gait and personal appearance. Take time with your makeup and wardrobe without trying to stand out in the crowd. Choose clothes that are similar in style to what the people you associate with wear and if possible try and choose a style that will help you ‘fit in’ in as many different social circles as possible. In wartime what uniform a person wears is all that determines whether they are an ally or will get shot at – so don’t underestimate this one. (There is much more on you becoming someone who people feel for and have empathy with in The Little Book of Empathy Love and Friendship)
b. Don’t allow yourself to be provoked or drawn into non productive arguments or fights: Do you really think you will change someone’s mind by arguing with them? What will you gain from allowing that person to provoke and make you angry? Instead you need to take note of people whose values are out of step with your own and decide if they are really who you want to associate with? Even more important is you figuring out why ‘your narcissist’ needs to provoke you? Do they need you acting angry and crazy to justify their own crimes and bad behaviour? Stop letting them pull your strings. Learn scripts that will help you diffuse the conflict and walk away from fights and arguments that will not benefit you. (See 12 steps to end a fight in progress and chapter 2 in The Love Safety Net Workbook)
c. Learn from what your emotions are telling you: Instead of acting out your emotions in the heat of the moment, learn to read them instead. Later when you have cooled down – don’t forget your anger but ask yourself what it was telling you? Why does this person need to provoke you? What are they hiding that they are ashamed of? Likewise start to learn what all of your emotions mean and the important messages they are giving you. (Learn what your emotions are teaching you)
d. Stop allowing yourself to be intimidated: When my daughter was young we lived on a large property with no cats and dogs and a rabbit as her only pet. She started playing a game of running away from the rabbit as if she was scared of it. We had to stop that game very soon after visiting friends where even the tamest and most friendly dogs would act aggressively towards this same ‘fear’ game she was playing with them. Likewise it is very important that you learn not to let people intimidate you.
Look at the end of the movie above and the girl’s reaction to simply being told she will need to speak up. A confident person would not bat an eyelid to that request and would probably not bother making a response at all. Later in the interview (not shown here) the female interviewer ends up taking over the interview and talking down to this woman in a very patronising way – telling her how young and inexperienced she is and how much she still has to learn. The interviewer also ends up making the interview more about what she herself knows and believes – than being interested in the woman she is interviewing. Personally I think it would be quite humiliating to have this happen in an interview. Look for examples of this yourself. Watch interviewers try and get the upper hand with their guests and watch the ways that authoritative people deal with this successfully or unsuccessfully.
Do you apologise too much and for no real reason? Are you too eager to please and too attentive when people are being haughty, self indulgent or rude and really not respecting you? As important as it is to know how to show people you are listening and respect them – it is also vital you learn how to break eye contact and not give your full attention when someone starts being haughty, bossy or intimidating. This is not the same as ignoring someone, being rude or provoking a fight. Learning how to let comments pass, change the subject or divert a person’s attention successfully are all skills that you need to find good role models for and watch, learn and practice from their example:
e. Gain mastery over yourself and your own will so that you are able to stay true to your own values, goals and interests:
(a bit of music to help bring this next point home!)
We all have a conscience that tells us what is right and wrong and judges our own behaviour. Our conscience also knows the likely outcome of our actions. That judge however plays a passive role to our personality which tends to dominate our internal life (and is what we call “I”). Our personality while dominant tends to be fairly erratic and will often let our better judgement down.
Perfecting ourselves by mastering our own will is available to anyone and everyone. We simply need to find the courage (and wisdom) to lay our behaviour and plans in front of our conscience and allow it to be judge. Do you feel shame about things you sometimes do and say? Find the courage to let your conscience look at your worst behaviour. Stop trying to avoid the embarrassment and pain you feel in having your consciences judgement do its inner work. This is unpleasant certainly – but will make you much stronger as a person and less of a soft target. It will also make you a great positive role model of how to constructively deal with and express shame, which is exactly what the narcissist needs.
For instance I used to drink too much and was very ashamed about that until I let my conscience do its worst and really look at (and judge) what I was doing. After this it took time but I got on top of my drinking and no one was able to look down on me for that anymore. If anyone wanted to stand over me by alluding to my drinking, I could bravely say “I know I used to drink too much and I’m not proud of that – but I have faced that in myself and done something about it. I wonder if you have the same courage?” I have seen people wince at me being able to talk about myself in that way – but also treat me with more respect after that.
f. Don’t isolate yourself: Are you scared of facing your neighbours because you think they may have heard you fighting? Put on a brave face and get out and say hello when you walk past and make some small comment about the weather. Talking about the weather is perfect with neighbours. It is friendly and confident but without risking anything contentious or leaving yourself open to be judged or criticised. If they are rude and ask questions you feel uncomfortable answering, simply say, “Thanks but really that is no concern of yours”, or, “I would prefer not to discuss that at present”.
Likewise get out and join in some activities in your community or at work. The narcissist would like to be the centre of your world – but don’t let that happen. Allowing yourself to be isolated will make you boring to be with and even more of a soft target.
Pull yourself out of their spell and get out and surround yourself with people in your community. Pay attention to Part 2 however and don’t take on activities that leave any room for doubt or jealousy. It doesn’t matter if the narcissist in your life doesn’t like what you are doing (more on that in a moment) but don’t walk out of the frying pan and into the fire by giving them any real cause to feel abandoned or jealous!
Joining a local church for instance and seeing what activities they offer (choir, flower committee etc.) can be a great start – even if you are not religious. You will still meet some new people and church tends to be welcoming and inclusive of newcomers. Make sure you do your best to make a good impression with these folk and show them the responsible and lovely person you really are. Join in the activities on offer and if possible see if some of the members might visit your home regularly for a cup of coffee or tea, or even drop you home and come in for a short visit if you are concerned there might be trouble when you get home.
g. Deal with your fears and anxiety: There are so many things you can do to help yourself with this; cognitive therapy, meditation, yoga breathing, diet, exercise and silent prayer (listening for God’s voice in the silence rather than talking!). My favourite at the moment is spirulina. It tastes like pond water and takes some getting used to – but makes me feel so good I hardly notice the 30 seconds it takes to get a glass of it down. Another help is making sure that a large percentage of the calories in your diet come from healthy fats. Avocados, butter, nuts and a little Olive oil – and if you are not a vegetarian fatty lamb, beef and oily fish like Mackerel and Sardines. I know you probably grew up being told that animal fat was bad for you – but do your own study and you will find that the most up to date research has not substantiated that. Don’t be scared of eating carbohydrates as well, but put resistant starches at the top of the list.
h. Stop turning yourself inside out every time someone is unhappy with you: At first your narcissist isn’t going to like these changes. Just like a kid who is used to getting their way from throwing tantrums, they may even yell and scream about it. As long as you have done your work and learned how to stop the fight escalating and to not get pulled into the argument – you should be okay. You need to learn to walk away and say “I will be back in an hour I am just going out to work in the garden etc. I will talk to you when I have cooled off.” And if they stay angry for a while – what of it? If you believe you have to keep everyone happy all the time you will always be a soft target.
Like people who can’t make the consequences for their children’s bad behaviour stick, because they are terrified of their child hating them or walking out and leaving. Parents like this end up terrorised by their own children. The kids suffer too (probably even more than their parents).
Don’t be a sucker and fall for this type of emotional manipulation. If your narcissist wants to stay angry that you are doing what you must to protect your own freedom and happiness — so be it. Once they see they cannot control you with their anger any more they will get over it and eventually stop using it to try and control you!
This gets to the heart of why many people allow themselves be dominated by people who are neither nice nor fair:
The reason is that many of us have been brought up to feel responsible for our family’s happiness — and so feel incredibly guilty if anyone close to us becomes upset or angry with us.”
If this is you, vow to break this conditioning in yourself right now and in doing so change your destiny! Because if you continue this way no matter how many roles of the relationship dice you throw — you will always remain a soft target!
You don’t owe your life to keeping rude and demanding people happy. You need to toughen up, stop walking on eggshells and learn better ways of handling this type of emotional manipulation. (10 Steps to Overcome Codependence)
Just like taming a lion or a horse – You cannot tame a narcissist by pointing the finger at them and demanding they change. You need to take charge of yourself and develop your own authority in taking charge of the situation.