After another long, bruising encounter with a narcissist, you have to ask the question: “Why do I attract narcissists, and how do I stop attracting them?“
Is it your nature, mere bad luck, or could the truth be more deeply hidden?
The Kind Of Person Who Attracts Narcissists
In my book How To Kill A Narcissist, I introduced the idea of the highly-sensitive person, or empath for short, as a possible reason why certain people seem to 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 creative and spiritual. 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 and break down their defences.
- The empath often feels fatigued just by being around people. They get sick more easily. It has nothing to do with strength; they are simply overwhelmed with emotions. This internal chaos makes it hard to think straight and see the world clearly.
- Empaths must have structure at all times. They need an environment which insulates them so that their emotions do not get out of hand.
What Narcissists Are Attracted To
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.
Ultimately, narcissists are not complicated creatures — narcissistic supply is what they seek. This means that the narcissist is attracted to people who can provide attention, sex, status, services, money, loyalty or adoration.
To simplify it further, narcissists can be attracted to beautiful and high status people, or people who have weak boundaries and are easily intimidated.
Firstly, if you are high status or beautiful, then the narcissist is by association high status and beautiful. Secondly, if you are smitten by the narcissist, and you lower your boundaries for them, then the thrill of gaining narcissistic supply will be what attracts them.
When The Narcissist Smells Blood
To get the higher ground, the narcissist only has to create an emotional storm in you, and then act calm and enjoy their narcissistic supply. Your self-esteem plummets as a result, and the narcissist gets to play the confident saviour who ‘tolerates’ you.
Without some honey to soften their assault, however, this form of coercion 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
On the outside, the narcissist seems charming and confident. Internally, however, they live in a dissociated, fractured, trauma-based state. To escape this inner nightmare, the narcissist needs to maintain the outer illusion of uniqueness, superiority and control at all times.
As a result, the narcissist does everything in their power to awaken your magical thinking. From the get-go, they communicate 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 seeing their shadow.
Lurking within your subconscious are secret desires and broken dreams. Deep inside you are the perfect ‘solutions’ which will heal your pain and write off your mistakes.
Empaths have a rich imagination, yet this often comes about as 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 and we dissociate. We 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.
This is the hidden reason why you attract narcissists — they appeal to your shadow.
How To Stop Attracting Narcissists
In children, fantasy is normal. In adults, however, 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 inspect what lies in our shadow. Our dark desires and fool’s 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, however, might simply need to have their day.
If you want success, then face your fears and take the first steps. 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. Yet 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 the best place to focus your energy. But it does not stop you from pursuing your financial goals by taking a single, 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 ‘saves’ you from this by sweeping you out of reality and creating a friction-free bubble for two where anything is possible. Letting this go is incredibly painful. It means facing harsh truths. It means accepting the frustration, boredom and suffering that comes with life.
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 you have hit the jackpot. 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. This, unfortunately, is a projection.
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 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 deal breaker.
Between Perfect And Imperfect Lies The Human Being
The harsh 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 a shared context, two people might slowly develop positive experiences and a deep 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.
To Break The Cycle Of Attracting Narcissists, Burst Your Bubble
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 can do no wrong in each other’s eyes.
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.
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 how far they can push you.
The narcissist will begin to suggest where your relationship is going and what you should be doing together. Eventually, their narcissistic tendencies will begin to show. They’ll 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 tell someone: “NO, I don’t want this.”
To return your relationship to equilibrium, you will acquiesce. And before you know it, you’re slowly being dragged into the narcissist’s dystopia, where they dominate, and you submit.
Worst of all, you will feel helpless to stop it. You’re already attached. Addicted to the high. You’ve already invested so much, including your pride and dignity.
Asking The Right Questions
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 of 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 to this person? Why exactly did this relationship go from 0-100 in the space of weeks, days even?
Every 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. A relationship with a narcissist is effortless at first, and unbearable soon after. And it never improves, because it is not based in reality.
It is in your hands. You attracted narcissists because you wanted the illusion. Deep down, in the place you refused to look, you had desires for the perfect love. The great adventure. The quickest way to life success. You prioritised fantasy over reality, pleasure over pain.
Bring your focus into yourself and embrace reality head-on. Take responsibility for your pain, and just like that, you will no longer attract narcissists.