Chances are there’s someone in your life who zaps every amount of energy you have at times.
No matter what you do, he or she shows up time and time again with some urgent need that requires you to drop what you’re doing and pay attention to them.
Healthy boundaries don’t work
All you have to do is set some healthy boundaries, right? That may work with most folks, but not these repeat offenders. No matter how hard you work to meet their needs, it’s never enough.
Do you feel like Charlie Brown, lining up to kick the football because Lucy has reassured you she’ll place it correctly this time? Just as you’re in full stride, running to kick the ball, she pulls it out from under you — again.
Why can’t you reason with them?
This is where some perspective helps. If you’re like most of us, you keep trying and trying to reason with that impossible person. But it doesn’t work.
Did you ever stop to think maybe it’s not about you? In fact, odds are it’s about them.
There are, of course, multiple factors that lead to communications breakdowns. If you find you’re able to resolve most situations with those in your life by negotiating and compromising, you’re on the right track.
If you find this is impossible in other scenarios, however, you may want to see if there’s a common denominator. Look at the person involved.
Check this checklist
Putting on my clinical hat, I want to share some descriptions of a personality type from the DSM-V diagnostic criteria manual of the American Psychiatric Association.
It can be very freeing to know there are tendencies of certain personality types that propel them to behave in the ways they do, regardless of the efforts of those around them.
See if this checklist rings a bell with anyone in your life. He or she:
- has a grandiose sense of self-importance
- is unwilling to identify with the needs and feelings of others
- has a sense of entitlement — unreasonable expectations of favorable treatment — or automatic compliance with his or her wishes
- believes he or she is unique and special
- requires excessive admiration
- is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty or ideal love
- takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
- is often envious of others — or believes others are envious of him and her
- often acts in an arrogant fashion.
A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior) — coupled with a lack of empathy and a strong need for admiration — as indicated by five or more of the above characteristics, is the clinical description given for Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Obviously, I need to put up a big caution flag here. I’m certainly not suggesting a diagnosis can made in a casual fashion outside a clinical setting. I’m just saying there can be personality types like these that defy all our best efforts to reason with them.
My main motivation is to lend some perspective that could help you feel better about yourself in repetitive communications failures that suck the living daylights out of you. This may be happening because you’re dealing with an actual personality disorder — or a devious, manipulative person that possesses some of these characteristics.
Getting to a happy medium
If you have someone like this in your life and you continue to attempt to negotiate with him or her to “come to a happy medium,” you may need to let it go. There’s no happy medium with these folks. It’s all or nothing.
The Narcissistic Personality Disorder is one of the most difficult to treat. It doesn’t respond well to many traditional behavioral health models of treatment. And the kicker is that these people can be quite charming — and can pull you into their clutches before you know it. Cue the Lifetime movie!
Keep the change
It can be very hard to break away from these types, so you might need a reality check. They’re master manipulators. You’re not going to change them — because they don’t see a need for change. And they don’t care if you end up miserable.
Anyone who doesn’t know a narcissist well can relay stories of the other person’s magnetism, intelligence and accomplishments. Over time, though, that same person may well tell you the narcissist is one of the most horribly frustrating and toxic people they know.
A big indicator of narcissistic behavior is that they refuse to take responsibility. It’s not their fault. Not ever.
Are you a supplier?
Narcissists are constantly on the hunt for “supply” — taking power from malleable people. If given the opportunity they can devalue, devastate and discard you.
So the next time you’re beating your head against the wall, trying to figure out once again how to reason with that impossible person in your life, take a step back.
Whether you’re dealing with an actual narcissistic personality or you’ve just been a doormat way too long, you can take some healthy steps toward self-care.
Stop being a Charlie Brown. Stop being a source of supply. Remember, it’s not about you. It’s about them. In fact, it’s all about them. And always will be.