We’ve discussed in previous articles the many pitfalls of dealing with the aging narcissist, especially when the person concerned is a parent. There is an internal struggle familiar to adult children of narcissists and that is the need to treat their frail and aging parent in a humane way and yet a profound desire to maintain a sense of self and prevent further psychological harm to oneself.
Here are some tips for dealing with this delicate dance between humanity and self-preservation:
1. Know your weaknesses.
As discussed in previous articles, these may not be weaknesses at all, but rather psychological entry points through which your parent may enter your psyche and manipulate you by asking you to do seemingly “reasonable” things which you know are unreasonable, both by their timing and frequency of demand.
The same buttons that your parent used when you were a child to get what they wanted will be used on you as an adult. You need to be aware of what they are, how you fall for these “tricks of the narcissistic trade” and act accordingly. As an adult, you can no longer legitimately go on blaming your parent for their behaviors. You must change the way you deal with your parent. You must become the mature one, as they never will.
2. Be aware of strategies that have worked for you in the past and which ones have not.
Look at the times when you came away from an encounter with your parent and you felt in control. What did you do to achieve this? Also look at those times when you came away with a profound sense of rage, guilt or both. What happened on those occasions? One of the classic mistakes in dealing with narcissists is to get angry with them. This is when they come into their element by adopting a familiar air of superiority. In watching you lose it, they can sit back and convince themselves that you are out of control, when the reality is clearly that they are out of control. It is profoundly comforting to a narcissist for them to see you in a rage. And they’ll never let you forget it as it is so important for them to hold onto these pieces of evidence that they are superior to you. This is how they continue to sustain their narcissistic bubble.
More tips in coming articles.
Contact Beth McHugh for further assistance regarding this issue.