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Dealing With A Narcissist: Effective Coping Strategies

Updated: Sep 21, 2023

Have you heard the story of Narcissus? Long story short, in Greek mythology, Narcissus rejected all the women who showed an interest in him. Then, one day, he fell in love with his reflection.

coping strategies

The following content is part of a relationship series based on understanding certain behaviors' expressions. It is not my intention to put anyone down or encourage harmful behavior. This post is for informational purposes only.

*Disclaimer: The ideas in this post are based on my experience. I am not a doctor. I am not diagnosing anyone or encouraging anyone to diagnose others. I am sharing for the sole purpose of sharing my experience and how I got through it. This post is for educational purposes only. There is a specific criterion and diagnosis regarding narcissism. And since I am not a psychologist, I will stay in the realm of what I have experienced.

In black communities, we are least likely to seek help for our issues. And then when we do, the treatment we receive is not based on wholistic methods. I don't deny that we have work to do. However, there are always multiple sides to a story. And healing can only occur when the core issues are addressed. So this post is not about shaming anyone or calling out someone else's "stuff"; this is simply an example of how "hurt people- hurt people." With that being said, based on the description of narcissism, narcissistic traits can appear to exist in any and everyone. These traits may be coping strategies developed young from not developing healthy emotional coping skills. Often, an underlying issue stems from attachment style(s), neglect, abandonment, and other childhood trauma, among other possibilities.

The behavioral patterns common in narcissists are the manipulation tactics they use for control purposes. So, dating a narcissist can be a crushing experience.

Narcissist behaviors in a relationship tend to follow a pattern that includes 3 phases.

  1. The love bombing phase

  2. The devaluation phase

  3. The discard phase

The Love Bombing Phase

They come in hot. They build you up. They put you on a pedestal. They flatter you with kindness and attention. They enjoy sitting on the phone with you for hours, talking about themself. They do all of this to get into your good graces with haste. They appear not to get enough of your time and energy. You have easy access to them and feel entangled like you've never felt.

You question it because something tells you this is not it, but you like the attention, so you indulge.

Devaluation Phase

This phase is inevitable because it is how they establish their dominance. By this point, their actions communicate anger, disgust, and detachment through insults, coldness, and sometimes denying or restricting sex. The underlying issue is that you may have unknowingly triggered rejection, neglect, abandonment, or some trauma wound they have disassociated from or don't want to process. It is also possible they know that you are now on to them, their insecurities, and their pain. This is alarming to them. They don't want you to see them. You are supposed to believe what they tell you to think [that they are the best thing to ever happen to you]. When you don't see them the same, they either pull back or challenge you instead of sorting out their feelings.

They crave a connection but are ultimately afraid of it.

So they want your attention, even if they push you away. Conflict can be a tool, and it's used to seek attention, whether positive or negative. Regardless of the outcome, engaging in conflict only fuels their false sense of control. The intention is to strip you of your self-respect and dignity, leaving you vulnerable. Sadly, those who cause pain to others do so at the expense of their well-being. These are simply tactics for control.

It sounds harsh and calculative, but if you've experienced anything like this, you know exactly what I am describing.

The Discard Phase

They have already stopped treating you like they used to in the love bombing phase. They have gone out of their way to push your boundaries in the devaluation phase. In this phase, you're in limbo because they are different; you don't know where you stand or how you got to this point. They haven't separated from you and ignored your efforts to get clarity or closure; it is a pattern for them.

Why do they do this? Again, a narcissist has low self-esteem and lacks self-love and healthy coping skills. This could describe anyone; however, a "narcissist" lacks empathy.

They may be arrested in a stage from childhood. It is quite possible that as children, they had to hide parts of themselves to feel loved or be accepted by their caregivers or were never told no. By the time they get older, they've learned how to be who others want them to be until their shadow side shows up, and their repressed sadness is expressed as anger. By then, you are already addicted to how they made you feel in the beginning and long for that version to return.

That version was all surface-level. They don't have time to care about your needs because they are occupied with their own. They don't know how to cultivate joy or happiness, and they tend to stuff down any feelings of vulnerability because they will not show the slightest bit of what they believe is weakness. They don't even know who they are only because they haven't done the work to figure it out. It is much easier for them to see imperfections in others. It is much easier for them to use others to get their needs met without intending to reciprocate.

By the way, you know they have left but didn't close the door [and honestly, you didn't close it either because you're waiting for closure] while they hover. If you message them, they will read your messages and not reply. They will watch your stories on social media. They will continue to see what you are doing in the background but will not give you definitive answers for the clarity you need.

I will say that some may eventually go to therapy or seek divine intervention, but it takes drastic measures for change to happen, so you can not love them into changing or think you can heal them. This is their challenge. They must first acknowledge that they need to do things differently and want to do things differently so they can have the love and companionship they want.

The capacity to change is there. It's up to them to work for it.

You both need healing, but that doesn't have to be in the same space. You can see the separation as a chance to focus on your safety and well-being.

Signs Of Narcissist Behavior

Here are seven possible signs that you may be dealing with a narcissist so you can redirect your energy to your healing if necessary.

1. Love Bombing

They start with an intense display of affection and attention very early on, so you don't see the red flags.

2. Grandiosity

They appear overly confident and secure. They tend to boast or make themselves, and their accomplishments appear larger than life because they want attention and validation. They intentionally put you and others down because no one else can be on their level

3. Gaslighting

They will not take accountability for their actions. They intentionally confuse you so you can second-guess yourself and come back to the conclusion that you were wrong

4. Hot & Cold behavior

Their moods fluctuate. They are sensitive to criticism, and based on the 'offense,' they will alternate passive aggressiveness, rage, and attention seeking. They will also ignore attempts for communication or connection, mainly after you express how you feel about their actions, until they are ready to communicate

5. Stonewalling

You will get silent treatment or outright disinterest in your feelings or needs

6. Ghosting

They lack empathy and are big on disappearing for unexplained periods.

7. Control

All of their tactics are about control. Ultimately, they want you to be dependent on them. They want to control your life, and you can and can not have access to them.

Strategies For Protection & Healing

Even if you are with someone not diagnosed by a professional, trust your intuition, decide your priorities, and what a healthy relationship looks like. Ask yourself if you are currently involved in something that aligns with your wants. Is this experience more of a chase or a challenge? Does this person bring out the best in you? Do you feel heard? Seen? Do you feel safe?

Some people will love how you love them but cannot reciprocate for multiple reasons, which is the nature of a narcissist's journey. Their needs will forever outweigh yours unless they decide to heal. That choice is one only they can make. You have to determine if you will allow something to continue or not because if you remove yourself, then the "power" [influence may be a better term] is gone. It is the desires and expectations that we have of others [even when they show us the level they are on] that affect us the most.

I will say things can change for the better with cooperation and work. However,

you can decide that if this person never changes, you can accept them as they are.

If you can not take them as they are, it is wrong to try to change them. You can only change how you deal with them. I would do some shadow work to discover the root of this connection and the attraction to this energy that was there in the first place. Sometimes it's karmic. Sometimes, it is a trauma bond. Either way, it is less likely that a person with extreme narcissistic tendencies will be willing to help you gain the clarity you need, so the work will have to start with you.

There is no shame in what you experienced. If this is your testimony, you can inspire others who want to break the emotional bondage, trauma bonds, or unhealthy unions. When you figure out the lesson, you will not continue to take the same course.

  • Go no contact and start untangling yourself from their life.

  • Withdraw all your attention, even if it feels hard.

  • Journal your thoughts so you can see things from a different perspective.

  • Go to therapy and talk it out if you need to.

Whatever you do, don't stand still. Don't allow yourself to be stagnant for anyone. Know that what you thought was meant to break you- wasn't. It was an experience.

Reclaim your power. Affirm that everything you need is already within.


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Anusa is an avid reader and loves to write. When she is not studying, or talking about astrology you can find her out and about in NYC with her family. 

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