The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?
Not for narcissists (or similarly emotionally crippled people), and definitely not for their partners. Nothing can suck the magic out of the holidays like trying to fake cheer when you’re feeling depressed and anxious because someone is projecting their negativity all over you (and telling you it’s all your fault).
My ex was not a full-blown narcissist but was high on the spectrum with some overlapping issues. To outsiders, he was a gracious host, a charming guest, and as generous as Kris Kringle himself (everyone could see how he spoiled me with those conspicuous gifts). The reality was, Christmas behind closed doors meant a gaslit season of oh, holy hell, filled with devaluation, rages, silent treatments, martyrdom and Xanax in my eggnog.
Do They Know it’s Christmas?
Some narcissists and those with full-blown personality disorders operate with malicious intent and take delight in ruining the holidays. Others simply don’t care who they hurt.
But what about the others? The ones we experience as “not all bad”? There are many who fall on the narcissistic spectrum (and even more who do not meet the criteria but who are narcissistically wounded) who may also wreak holiday havoc because of their inability to manage their negative emotions. They are wounded children in adult bodies, and unlikely to have any mature insight. They believe the chaos they’re creating is something that’s happening to them.
Narcissists may feel a confusing mix of contempt, envy, loneliness, and longing they can’t quite comprehend. One narcissist I knew described it as feeling like being there, but not belonging. Overt narcissists will mask their angst behind an air of superiority and entitlement, while coverts will hide behind martyrdom and victim-speak.
Their woundedness, combined with their foundational lack of empathy inhibit their ability to immerse themselves into the holidays with joy and connectedness, on equal terms with the rest of humanity. The sense of envy for what they think everyone else is experiencing makes them resentful. And their empathetic deficits make them unable to perceive that holiday blues are pandemic, the holidays are painful for a lot of people, but because narcissists are so unique and special (and isolated), they believe it’s somehow different for them.
They feel an acute sense of their own hollowness but they can’t connect the dots between this and the negative emotions they’re experiencing. They look outward and project their anger and sadness onto external receptacles. The most convenient targets are intimate partners and anyone close to them.
You’d Better Not Cry, I’m Telling You Why
Narcissists are incapable of deep self-reflection and will not recognize that their holiday blues are driving their negative behavior. So if you confront them about it, act disappointed, or cry in front of them, it will be taken as criticism. This is going to trigger a narcissistic injury, and the response will be defensiveness and rage. Your inconvenient display of emotions has made the narcissist feel bad and that will now become the issue.
They will create a narrative about how you are ruining the holidays and they will be completely convinced it’s true. To prove their point, they will provoke you until they get a negative reaction, and then they’ll be deeply offended and the epic holiday fight will begin. Even if it starts over something trivial, they’ll use every tool in the narcissist playbook to prove that you were wrong, and there will be disproportionate amounts of punitive anger for “your meanness” followed by silent treatments. When your joy is completely sapped and you are walking around in a brain-fog, drained and defeated, the narcissist will ruefully declare that you’ve “ruined Christmas again, just like you always do”.
Narcissists do this because behind the mask of arrogance and bravado lies latent insecurity or even self-loathing. They get a release from their eruptions of anger and a sense of reassurance that they’re still in control when they can provoke a reaction like tears. But ironically, those same negative reactions evoke feelings of shame they can’t process and they project project blame onto whoever has made them feel bad.
Oh, Come Let Us Adore Him
Grandiose narcissists have no desire to relinquish their Center of the Universe status, and holidays are a time when their narcissistic supply source (namely, you) is being diverted into something other than catering to them. They must now share the spotlight with holiday parties, gift-giving (that does not solely benefit them), charity work, children’s activities, and even the “reason for the season” himself. Narcissists are competitive by nature and feel very threatened when anything interferes with their supply, even if only temporarily. A narcissist does not want you to adore anyone or anything but the narcissist.
This type of narcissist will become anxious and depressed because holiday activities do not primarily revolve around their wants, needs, and glorification. Their low comes from deep-rooted insecurity and self-centeredness. What’s worse, to some of them, supply means survival, and this loss of being #1 feels like the way things will stay forever.
Peace on Earth, Good Will to Narcs
There is no justification the onslaught of verbal and other types of abuse that those sharing the holidays with a narcissist will endure this year. But the reality is, not everyone can “just leave” (or leave yet). So the only option is to find ways to disengage with some narc management strategies and cope with what you have, right now, this year. While the idea of placating the narcissist may not be very palatable, it’s worth the effort if it means you get a more sane holiday.
The narcissist does not deserve a free pass for escalation of abusive behavior, and boundaries should remain intact. But if there was ever a time to practice Gray Rock, this is it. And pick your battles; don’t confront the narcissist about any nagging old business or stand up for yourself just to make a point. You are probably already hyper-vigilantly attuned to the narcissist’s triggers, so this is a time to be more mindful of your own so you can be less reactive to button-pushing. Keep your expectations realistic based on history, and don’t try to get the narcissist to do things they don’t want or show disappointment when they don’t keep their promises or opt out at the last minute. Love with detachment, don’t take things personally or be defensive, make self-care a priority and try not to isolate. Engage in holiday activities you enjoy that are not contingent on narc participation. It’s hard to have the energy to even leave the house while a “narcisode” is in progress, but you will feel better once you are away from the toxic atmosphere and around more positive influences.
Above all, remember that the narcissist lacks empathy, but you don’t have to. It can be extremely difficult not to see them as human and focus only on how they hurt you. Keep in mind that you may be dealing with an emotional toddler who doesn’t know how to do anything but lash out when they’re hurting. Practicing detached compassion and mindfulness can help you endure their unkind words and safeguard you against getting sucked into arguments.
Coach Amy @ Narcstalgia
@Narcstalgia |Copyright December 2017 | All rights reserved