After another bruising encounter with a narcissist, the question pops into your mind: “Why do I attract narcissists so much, and how do I stop attracting them?” Is it your personality, mere bad luck, or could the truth be so deeply hidden you never saw it?
The Types Of People Who Attract Narcissists
In my book ‘How To Kill A Narcissist,’ I introduced the idea of the highly-sensitive person as a possible reason for why you might attract narcissists.
The emotional world of an empath is rich. They are artists and dreamers. Empaths inspire others with their energy and zest for life. They are healers, and usually very creative and spiritual. Above all, they can brighten up a person’s day just by being themselves. Yet this richness comes with a cost:
- Empaths crave love and connection more than most people, and they suffer when isolated. As a result of this deep need for emotional connection, their boundaries are usually weak.
- The emotional buttons of an empath are easier to push than those of non-empaths. Because they have a super sensitive emotional antenna, even the smallest attack can shake them up. When somebody else shows intense emotion, whether it be anger, sadness or outrage, the empath feels like they are being engulfed and bombarded. With that, their nervous system weakens and their anxiety increases.
- They often feel fatigued just by being around people. They get sick more easily. They are often nervous and afraid. It has nothing to do with strength; inside their body and mind, they are simply overwhelmed with fear, shame and anxiety. This deafening, blinding emotional system makes it hard to see out into the world.
- Empaths must have structure at all times. They need an environment which insulates them so that emotions don’t get out of hand.
If you identify with being a highly-sensitive person, then that might explain why you attract narcissists. The empath’s inner beauty, weak boundaries, compromised internal strength and strong need for connection make them a gold mine of narcissistic supply. To get the upper hand, the narcissist only has to bombard the emotional system of the empath and then coerce the empath into cooperating with their demands.
Without the honey to soften their assault, however, this form of coersion will not last long. To keep you hooked on them, the narcissist feeds you a steady drip of drugs in the form of fantasy and the promise of power.
The Hidden Reason Why You Attract Narcissists
Above all, a narcissistic relationship is a world of illusory potential. The narcissist, who lives in a dissociated, trauma-based state, is adept at awakening your magical thinking. From the get-go, the narcissist communicates to you that you will be going on a spectacular adventure. Maybe travel the world. Achieve the perfect love, or create the perfect family. Be protected or taken care of forever. Find riches and obtain immense status, or pursue a mission which will change the world. The narcissist and you will transcend reality, and create something the world has never seen. During the love-bombing phase, they sold you this fantasy, all while appealing to your hidden grandiosity.
This is the difficult part to swallow for an empath. While their light brings beauty to the world, it also blinds them from their shadow. Lurking within your subconscious are secret desires and broken dreams. There are perfect ‘solutions’ which will heal your past pain and square up your shame and mistakes.
Empaths have a rich imagination, yet this often comes about as a compensation for overwhelming pain. The body has a plethora of coping defences to help us move through our suffering. We hope, we deny, we compensate, we dissociate and imagine scenarios which, in our minds at least, can help us solve our problems and transcend our misfortune. What we often lose sight of is that this beauty and radiance emanates from our shadow. Darkness breeds light, despair breeds hope, pain breeds release. This is the hidden reason why you attract narcissists. They appealed to this part of you.
How To Stop Attracting Narcissists
A narcissistic relationship is one person psychologically orbiting around the false self of a grandiose other through coercion and manipulation. To stop attracting narcissists, you need to see this codependency for it is, face reality, anchor yourself within, and then find and maintain your grip on reality as you move forward.
Facing The Beauty And Hardship Of Real Life
In children, fantasy is normal. In adults, it is an outdated trauma response. It acted as pain relief and helped us maintain the torch of hope in the depths of our despair and suffering. To stop attracting narcissists, we need to take the time to inspect what lies in our shadow. Our dark desires and outlandish hopes need to be brought out into the light. We need to spring clean this space, and work out what is not needed. Some things might need to have their day. If you have a need to be seen, then get to work on being seen in a way that serves you and others. There is no need to enter into a fantasy-based relationship with a narcissist. Yes, this means being accountable to others and above all, to reality.
If you want success, then face your fears and take the first steps. However, although you can be bold with your dreams, you need to be realistic with your actions. The perfect, limitless love with someone who will never leave you does not exist. But a respectful and boundaried connection based on shared values and community is possible. Travelling the world with all the riches it can offer might not be a good place to focus your energy at the moment. But it does not stop you from pursuing your financial goals by taking a singular, tangible and realistic step. A friendship or relationship based on perpetual adventure, fun and novelty will only exhaust you in the long run. Yet experiencing moments of joy within a mutual, respectful relationship which helps you to grow is always available to you.
Functioning within the confines of reality means regularly being in touch with your shame. The narcissist gives you a pass from this by sweeping you up out of reality and creating a shared, friction-free bubble where anything is possible. Letting this go is incredibly daunting and painful. It means facing harsh truths, agonising emotions and moments of frustration, boredom and normality. It means being centred. When the narcissist sees that you are grounded and firm, they will hesitate before trying their luck on you. Therefore, to stop attracting narcissists, you need to find this place of peace within, and hold onto it at all times.
Finding your centre
The first step to stop attracting narcissists is to establish your own point of gravity, and then to direct your consciousness toward it. This means being extremely sensitive to when people pull you off centre by targeting your identity and emotions. It also means making a practice of being aware when your mind drifts off centre.
Before anything, we need to define what a ‘centre point’ is. In the case of a narcissistic relationship, it is the narcissist themselves. With an alcoholic, it is the drink and ritual that surrounds it. In the case of a group, it is usually the most dominant person. In the case of a place of worship, it is the altar. These varied examples show that a centre point can be anything; a place, a person, an object, even an idea. In short, a centre point is an outlet for life energy to flow into the world.
In this instance, you want to create a point of centre within by directing your attention to the emptiness inside yourself. This can be behind the chest, along the spine, in the belly, wherever makes sense to you. It requires mindfulness, discipline and a spiritual practice. Using this strategy, in time you will have an anchor point when the emotional storms come. And they will come, as will the desire to surrender your centre to a source outside yourself; whether a narcissist or other compelling person, group, movement or place.
By being centred, you will have something to juxtapose against difficult emotions, powerful impulses and autonomous behaviours. Amid a barrage of nervous thoughts, you will still know yourself. That is, you will not lose yourself in vertigo. You will notice: I am my mind, I am the anchor point, and between them: I am.
It is in this environment that a narcissist may approach you. They will lather on the charm, and you will feel yourself drifting away from the safety of your centre point. Because you’ve grown accustomed to your inner anchor, you will notice yourself drifting. As a result, you will instinctively disengage from the narcissist’s charm to rediscover your centre. This back and forth will continue until you or the narcissist gets tired of the game and someone walks away. A narcissist needs you engaged and off-centre at all times. They need you fluttering in the wind so that they can more easily have you where they want. A centred person can interact and share with others and love them, but they do so from a singular point of focus – not on the whims of others. This is anathema to the narcissist.
Find your centre and guard it viciously, and you will no longer attract narcissists.
Attract reality, not narcissists
All of us, deep down, want others to like us simply for being us. This desire begins in childhood and stays with us for a lifetime. Nobody likes to jump through hoops to be liked, or to have to suppress genuine traits in themselves.
A narcissist will make you feel like this outcome is possible. There seems to be something about you which attracts them, which lights them up and ‘just fits.’ You and they are soulmates, or at least compatible in some strange way and capable of being amazing friends. This, unfortunately, is a projection of the mind. And what we often forget is that it works both ways.
To stop attracting narcissists, you must be aware of the mind’s capacity to split people and situations into two categories; all-good and all-bad. A person is either perfect or repulsive. In childhood, this is a pretty standard way of seeing the world. Yet as our mind develops, we gain a more nuanced view of people and the world. People have positive and negative traits, and there is usually a reason behind it. Some of those traits work for us, others are a turn-off.
The hard reality is that people like each other for a reason. Maybe you’re a good listener, have an interesting way of seeing the world, are attractive, intelligent, have a lot of friends, or you share common interests with the other person. Usually, there’s an external structure which binds two people together, such as school, work, common friends or a sports team. Within this context, two people might slowly have shared positive experiences and develop a bond. In such a case, there is vulnerability, empathy, support and understanding. You’ve shared good times, bad times and mundane times. You’ve both seen the best and worst of each other and nonetheless chosen to remain in the relationship. You are grounded in reality.
A narcissist wants to avoid the hard-earned road toward a relationship. They deflect and deny to avoid being vulnerable, and they pretend to empathise. In the beginning, you feel like you’ve finally met the person who truly accepts you for who you are. The narcissist will project onto you their paradigm of ‘all-good’, and you do the same in return. You believe that in their eyes, you can do no wrong.
Furthermore, the narcissist will help you channel this into a magical, shared world full of fun and joy. This world feels exclusive to you both, and you allow no one else inside. In this bubble, you can be as open as you like. Nobody is flawed or wrong in this world.
And that is why it is so hard to see it. This bubble is the red flag. When you are in a bubble where anything goes, the narcissist is free to influence and manipulate you. While you have rose-coloured glasses on, they’ll experiment with you. They will begin to suggest where your relationship is going and what you should be doing together. You will notice none of this during the warmup phase. Eventually, their narcissistic fantasies will begin to show. They’ll very slowly and gradually expand the limits to see what you can tolerate. Because your relationship originated from such a wonderful, joyful state, you will be reluctant to push back.
It’s hard going from Utopia to having to reject someone and tell them:
“NO, I don’t want this.”
“Why not?” they might ask? “You’re being strange,” they add.
To return your relationship to equilibrium, you will acquiesce. And before you know it, you’re slowly being dragged toward the narcissist’s inner dystopia where they dominate and you submit, and you will feel helpless to stop it. You’re already attached. You’ve already invested so much into the relationship. You have invested all of your pride in the relationship.
This is why the Utopian bubble is so dangerous. It’s not based on reality. It doesn’t tolerate reason, boundaries and accountability. Whenever you meet someone you suspect of being narcissistic, you need to ask questions. What is the context behind your relationship? What makes it so magical and perfect? What makes you so magical and perfect which nobody else sees? What happens if you say no? Who is directing the relationship, both of you or just them?
Every adult relationship requires accountability, flexibility, boundaries and a strong dose of reality. Maintaining a sense of Self while being in any kind of relationship is hard work. To get the benefits, you need to be conscious and responsible, not just for the other person, but for yourself.
It is in your hands. You attracted narcissists because deep down, where you refused to look, you had desires for the perfect love, the great adventure, the quickest way to success. You prioritised fantasy over reality, pleasure over pain. Bring your focus within, embrace reality head on, and take responsibility for your future, and just like that, you will no longer attract narcissists.
To begin your recovery from narcissistic abuse, check out How To Kill A Narcissist.