To assert control over you, convince you of their grandiosity, and keep you in a shame-riddled state of inferiority, the narcissist must first engage and colonize your mind. Yet you have deflection tools at your disposal. The following tricks should be useful when dealing with a narcissist’s cognitive attacks:
Changing The Topic
The narcissist is playing victim, trying to gaslight you, is dragging your attention through a series of mind-bending concepts, or directing focus on you and your ‘hopelessness’.
Halfway through the narcissist’s monologue or rant, simply change the topic to something completely mundane. Do it shamelessly and without warning. The weather. What colour t-shirt would look better, black or green? What time do the shops close? What was the score last night from the game?
The key here is to de-personalise the conversation, to short-circuit the charged topic a narcissist is leading and bring your interaction back to the surface. The narcissist will sense the shift, but likely will not say anything about what you did because that would disrupt the ‘game’ you are playing.
If the narcissist is poking fun at your workout routine, or how you’ve arranged your room, or the book you’re reading, stay calm and ask them exactly what they mean. Ask them how they would do things or what they would choose, and why exactly that would be better.
Ask them why exactly that’s better than your choice, and finally, ask them what truth their perspective is based on. Would others agree? If so, who exactly? Have any studies been done on the best choice of book to read, or what workout routine to do? What were the parameters of that study?
Could it be possible, just maybe, that different people require different solutions, and that such solutions might not be so clear until you’ve been in another person’s shoes?
The possibilities to such a line of questioning are endless, but the effect is powerful: either you will take the wind out of the narcissist’s game, or you will force them into a dead-end. If you remain totally calm, they will find it hard to rage since they appear to be the crazy one, not you.
Holding The Line
When the narcissist says it’s all your fault, or tells you a deeply tragic story to gain your pity, or makes a veiled or overt threat to end the relationship, create space for it. Pay attention to the narcissist’s facial expression, look into their eyes, remain silent and pay conscious attention to their grotesque creation.
Study it like a scientist, see how it sits between you both, how it penetrates you, and just let it linger there for a moment. Be conscious and mindful, and if you feel yourself being sucked in, breathe deeply and focus on a specific facial feature of the narcissist. Ground yourself in the moment, and no matter how awkward things start to feel, hold the line.
This technique is powerful because it puts the onus on the narcissist to carry the emotional weight of the exchange, not you. As a result, a mirror is slowly turned toward the narcissist and their attempt falls flat. They may even blurt out something like “I talk too much” or “Maybe it’s not so bad” or “You’re a strange person, you know that?” and walk off.
The narcissist is a master of creating form, namely psychological and emotional form, and using it to manipulate others. The ‘trick’ to counter the narcissist is to see this form for what it is, and to find creative ways to expose it and shine a light on it. The narcissist is playing a game, your job is to either completely disengage or to change the rules of the game in real time. Just tread carefully to avoid narcissistic rage reactions.