Wednesday, December 2, 2009

How To Deal With Difficult Relative During The Holidays.

Yep Christmas is just around the corner, and for those of us who have parents with NPD this is the day we dread and love for different reasons. Christmas should be the one day out of the year where we get to reunite with relatives, enjoy good food, wine and open gifts and have a stupid giddy smile plastered all over our faces. Yet for some of us, it is a day of dread, apprehension and fear.

Most of us have an emotional drive to return to familiar territory. If we have normal, balanced families, we look forward to returning home for the holidays. However, if we have relatives who display power freak characteristics, our feelings are usually mixed. We want to see our family, particularly those who are fond of us, yet we fear humiliation.

When we return home to family, we are usually enveloped in warmth. Once it wears off, power games that you have experienced in years past will begin to return. A parent may be envious of your successes, so they find ways to make you feel like a failure. When you are with a power freak parent, you cannot win. If you are hesitant about coming home for the holidays, they make you feel guilty. They want you home; when they browbeat you, it gives them a high. Maybe a sibling begins needling, if this has been their pattern.

At holiday gatherings, narcissists work hard to control the conversation and display their superiority. They brag about their kids, or the money theyre making. They lie if necessary and their spouses usually support them. If you mention your successes, they convince you they were just luck.

So how to deal with narcissists during the holidays? The best and most simple answer is to fully disengage! I realize I sound repetitive but 'no contact' is always the best answer bar none to dealing with narcissists. They are poisonous no matter the season but most especially in the seasons of cheer and festivity. Whether the narcissist uses the holidays to grandstand or to poop on everyone's parade they are like ants at the picnic. No, they are like wasps at the picnic. Threatening discomfort just by their hovering presence and getting their stings in when you least expect it.

Do not let yourself get sucked into their reindeer games. Detach emotionally from all the fantasies you've had about finally having a happy family gathering that includes the narcissist(s). It is fantasy. Pure. Fantasy. Holidays with narcissists are something you just try to get through. In one piece, hopefully. So drop your Happy Family delusions, forget trying to fix anyone, give up thinking that if you sacrifice body and soul the narcissist will appreciate the effort and be nice to you, stop thinking that you can make everyone get along by being 'above it all'. I'm not talking about being 'above it all' when I talk about detachment. I'm talking about being emotionally unavailable. There in body but not in heart. It is the only armor that will help keep you sane and relatively unscathed by the contact. Does this sound like fun? Like the holiday spirit? Obviously not. But holidays with narcissists are never fun. It is a game of survival for you. Focus on survival not festivity because that's as good as it gets. Why, after knowing you are dealing with a narcissist, you would still sign up for this misery is quite beyond me.

If you are in a situation where you have no choice -- come on, let's be really honest here with ourselves about whether we have a choice or not. Sometimes we claim to not have a choice when the truth is we are avoiding discomfort by not rocking the boat! -- then my advice to disengage still applies only the disengagement is purely an emotional one. However if you really are adamant on spending Christmas with the pathological family here are a few tips which let's face it, pale in comparison to disengagement.

* Accept and expect disharmony. Develop your strategies for getting through the holiday ahead of time and then work to act them out, as if you were on stage. You need to play a role.

* If there only occasional barbs thrown your way, try to absorb them and divert the perpetrators attention elsewhere as quickly as you can.

* If the attacks are continuous, be assertive, but not aggressive. Attempt to draw a line in the sand, create a boundary with diverting remarks that contain some humor, if possible:

"Look, I came home to relax. If you keep this up, Im going to get my boss to pick on you the way he picks on me."; Earl, if you keep this up Im going to have to start telling stories about you that you dont want me to tell."; Okay, I admit Im not as successful as all of you; I am no good at all. So can we all talk about the weather now?"

* Try to take the high road and dont make it personal. Remember that people who incessantly attack you or never give you credit for anything are probably mentally disordered. Think of yourself as visiting an asylum.

* Dont take rigid or confrontational positions. Make your opinions vague. Nod your head a lot. Remember, you are simply trying to get through the weekend.

* If you initiate conversation, find innocuous subjects. Otherwise, stay as quiet as you can.

* Don't act too happy or look downtrodden. That will invite attack. Try to maintain a calm and neutral demeanor. (In other words, Be boring and keep facial expressions down to one only - Robotic behaviour)

* Mute your successes. Dont brag about yourself or anything youve done. Attribute any success you feel impelled to talk about to good luck. Do this before they insinuate it.

* During unpleasant conversation, try to divert your mind. Think of things that make you happy. Try to remember scenes and dialogue from one of your favorite movies. Dont remind yourself youre not the favorite." Fortunately, our minds can only think of one thing at a time.

* Practice calculated avoidance. Take long walks or go to a local health club. Bring your laptop, close the door to your room and make excuses that you are checking on e-mail or working. (Spending the entire day in the bathroom is an option, just remember to take some of that turkey and a bottle of wine with you)

* If you can, make excuses to return home early. (Run like hell)

And if these don't work, or sound unappealing, try and organize your own holiday get together and share it with those family members who don't act like the Grinch.

I don't know about you but those options sounds like a lot of miserable work to me, I would rather spend Christmas alone with a bottle or two of wine than have to change the person I am to suit or repel others.

Seriously? .....Do not allow the narcissist (or his side-kicks) to run you, make you into a servant, or use you as a primary source of supply during the holiday. Be willing and prepared to leave the moment things turn ugly. That assumes, of course, you're smart enough at this point to not actually be the host to family gatherings. Hopefully you know enough going into this holiday season to realize that putting on gala holiday events in your own home is just begging for some narcissist to kick you in the teeth. Hosting holidays with narcissists is an invitation they find irresistible to shove your generosity, your thoughtfulness, and your hours of labor right up your ass. Don't be a sap. Don't set yourself up as such an easy target. Either go to the narcissist's home, another family member's home or a restaurant. Someplace where you can grab your kids and get the hell out of there the moment you see the fangs flashing.

Snippets Taken From Here


Anonymous said...

I found this nugget of information while trawling for help. I am going home for the holidays, to my Caribbean island. We rent a villa and open it up to friends and family. My brother, who lives on the island, has been described to me as a psychopath. If he's not, then he is certainly a narcissist. I am very angry with him because of his chronic persecution of our little brother who has been leaving the island to avoid the hypocrisy and pain of holiday gatherings. Recently my little brother was handpicked for a very senior political position, and my bad brother is beside himself. He tried to sabotage the appointment, which is why I am so angry with him. I wrote him after the incident, a letter which pulled no punches, and told him we were essentially through. My parents, easily manipulated by him, have been begging me to "make nice" so that the family isn't fractured even further. My brother wants to meet with me to discuss my letter, about which he charges I have tried and found him guilty unfairly. There is no unfairness about my charges -- they are public knowledge. I wish I knew how to deal with this. I don't trust him and I don't really want to enter into any kind of discussion with him.

Anonymous said...

When I read this, I cried my heart out. It was almost as if I had written it. Every single thought & emotion that I've had, u described perfectly. I don't feel so alone anymore. My mother was never diagnosed a pyschopath. For years, I've wondered how my own mother could be so down right evil to me, her first daughter. She's beyond hateful & seems to only want to hurt me. After speaking about her with a of mine friend who knew her well, she suggested I Google the symptoms of a psychopath. Of course I did & she fit each & every one on the list. Then I Google how to deal with a psychopath and came across ur page. All those years of trying to "be better" so she could love me, all the years of wondering why I was so awful, all the years of being denied a mother's love came crashing down upon me. It's not me. It really is her. thank you for sharing. You'll never know how much this article has changed me.

cam said...

psychopaths, narcissists, sociopaths or whatever one wishes to call it, should not be allowed to have kids! its hard enough to have to study with them and to deal with them during the holidays! Thank you for this post! Excellent!!

Anonymous said...

Great information. But I read that psychopathy is genetic. My mom was and still is a psychopath. How do I deal with the fact that I might also be a psychopath, because of genes! I purposely don't have kids for that reason, and also out of fear I might abuse them.

Anonymous said...

I absented myself from my family a decade and a half ago, because both of my parents were narcicists/psychpaths (my father enjoyed killing animals, my mother bullied her children--my sister to the point of suicide, at age 12). Initially, I felt the pain of loss, and then a lightness of freedom, but now ... I have so many conflicting feelings I have become a difficult friend to have, complicated. Regardless how nice, many people just can't imagine my perspective and see me as a black-and-white thinker when I'm at my most flexible and forgiving. The root of this, I believe, comes from my forgiveness of my parents--BECAUSE they're parents--coupled with my understanding of their behavior, which I find horribly evil. I refuse to forgive them anymore, because they take that as permission to abuse me and my trust. Neither one has any concept that after forgiveness comes atonement, that redeeming oneself has important healing and strengthening effects upon a relationship. And, this insight seems an unpopular idea in general, alienating me from so many other people, from people I had always regarded as friends. It still feels like my parents are controlling my life, but I guess conscience is just widely viewed as bothersome. Sad.