A Battle With A Narcissist Is A Losing Battle Indeed

Before I start discussing my topic today, I wanted to clarify something:

Most of my regular readers know that I have a Ph.D. in school psychology and that I work as a school psychologist as my day job (because, alas, nobody wants to pay me to blog).

I originally noted my Ph.D. and profession in my WordPress and Twitter bios, having added that information to my bios more out of habit than anything else ~ an automatic response to the ubiquitous “Who are you?” question.

I have now removed that information from my bios. I didn’t remove that information because I am ashamed of it in any way, nor am I trying to hide it.

Instead, the reason I removed that information from my bios was two-fold:

1). 99.9999 percent of the time, I am writing as a person/Lesbian, not as a psychologist. In the rare instance when I am writing as a psychologist, I am careful to specify that fact.

2). I’ve found that many people are unduly impressed with a Ph.D. People have a tendency to mistakenly think that because someone has an advanced degree, he/she is somehow better than others who don’t. That’s not true. I most certainly do not feel that way myself, and I decided that by saying I had a Ph.D. in my bios, I might be unintentionally perpetuating that elitist nonsense.

All of the above is to explain my decision to remove that information from my bios at this point (because I have received a few questions about it), and to reiterate to everyone to always assume I am speaking as a person/Lesbian, rather than a psychologist, unless I specify otherwise.

Today’s post is also (very) personal, not professional. Narcissism is a topic that I know a lot about, both as a person and as a psychologist; however, my focus today is solely on the personal, rather than the professional.

Much has been written about narcissism: the symptoms, definition, treatment, and so forth. For those curious about the basics, a simple Google search will garner oodles of results; to get the most reliable information, start with information from a known reputable organization such as the American Psychological Association, the Mayo Clinic, etc.

This post isn’t intended to be a lesson on narcissism or a description of narcissism, but rather a discussion of my own personal observations/reactions.

I do want to clarify that some people may display narcissistic-type features/traits/behaviors but may or may not meet the clinical criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).

Bottom line: We cannot, and should not, diagnose others on the internet anyway, so I will focus on features/traits/behaviors rather than actual or intended diagnoses.

***Therefore, for the purposes of this post, the word “narcissism” will be used as a descriptor rather than a diagnosis. Also, I am using “she” in this post because my own personal demons are with females who have narcissistic traits, but, of course, these traits can be exhibited by either males or females.***

Why do I know so much personally about narcissism?  Simple: Because I am the daughter of a narcissist. I have sort of danced around this fact in my previous posts about my mother, because I was hesitant to say the bald truth publicly. I was raised to never say anything negative about my mother, and old habits die hard. In fact, so hard that I never did speak a word about it until after she was dead.

I won’t go deeply into my personal experience with my mother and the effects on me as her daughter, at least not in this post…I am not quite ready for that yet.

But I am sharing this information to illustrate why I not only recognize narcissistic features/traits/behaviors in others, but, more importantly, to explain why I also still occasionally fall into the traps set by female covert narcissists…even now. Yes, even now. Even after getting a Ph.D. in psychology. Even though I am certainly old enough to know better. Even after years and years and years of working to understand the dynamics between narcissists and their targets. Even though I know all about narcissism…well, at least intellectually, that is. Even though I do (or should…?) actually know better than to engage.

As I said, old habits die hard, especially when you are conditioned to respond in a certain way. Sometimes, without realizing it until it is too late, I still unconsciously respond like Pavlov’s dog to the siren call of a female covert narcissist (which only happens online at this point, because I am MUCH better at recognizing and avoiding them in person).

When I do respond, I unwittingly become an active participant in a toxic pas de deux. It is a dance that I recognize all too well. It is a dance that will never end well for me, because there is no winning with a narcissist

But: A narcissist cannot perform her twisted dance without a partner, someone who is primed to dance the specified steps. It takes two to tango, as the saying goes, and I now find myself finally ready to hang up my dancing shoes permanently.


Image: Pixabay: Jabore: Creative Commons CC0

For me, the warning signs that I have been sucked into the vortex of a narcissist are as follows:

  • an uneasy feeling of familiarity, even when I am dealing with a complete stranger on the internet;
  • a distinct difference in my response to that specific person which very far from my normally calm self;
  • queasiness, shakiness, fatigue, headache, malaise;
  • a very strong feeling of needing to defend myself and/or my point of view;
  • knowing I should pull away from the situation/argument, but feeling strangely unable to do so;
  • anger and defensiveness, usually way out of proportion to the situation;
  • a seeming inability to disengage without a LOT of conscious effort;
  • losing sleep and a general feeling of unease and restlessness;
  • unable to truly focus on anything else for the duration of the dance;
  • an obsessive, oppressive feeling that I need to fight as if my life is at stake;
  • fight or flight response (rapid heartbeat; tense muscles; etc.);
  • repeated fantasies that everyone else will somehow magically see the narcissist for who she really is;
  • feeling unreasonably threatened (while knowing that the person poses no literal physical threat);
  • strong emotions trumping my knowledge/logic…I can even consciously be aware that the individual is likely a narcissist (or that she at least exhibits some narcissistic features/traits/behaviors), but yet still feel compelled to engage anyway, despite knowing it is a fool’s game to do so.

Of course, everybody will have different ways of recognizing that they are dealing with a narcissist; the above is my own personal list only, based on my own experience.

So, you may be wondering: How can anyone win a battle with a narcissist?

Sadly, you can’t. I can’t. Nobody can.

Let me say that again, because it bears repeating:


So: If I ever find myself locking horns with a covert female narcissist (my personal Achilles’ Heel) again, I vow to remember the following:

  • Recognize the above signs, preferably sooner rather than later;
  • Remember that any response whatsoever gives the narcissist fuel which she will use to burn me at the stake;
  • Walk away. No matter how hard it is, walk the hell away and keep walking (or, even better, RUN LIKE THE WIND);
  • If the situation occurs on social media, block the narcissist immediately, and block everyone who attacks on her behalf (because she will enlist others to do so);
  • Remember that narcissists are usually incredibly cunning/manipulative and extremely good at fooling people, so most others are not going to be able to see the truth about her (so give up the hope that they will);
  • Refuse to engage with the narcissist, her minions, or even random strangers offering “help”;
  • As much as I may want to defend myself, I need to remember that I don’t need to do so (and, in fact, it will even be counterproductive if I try);
  • Listen to my wife Dirt and to friends I trust ~ they will always be much more objective about the situation/person than I can possibly be at the height of the drama;
  • Remember that I could fight all the female covert narcissists in the whole world, but not only would I not win my battles with them, but, more importantly, fighting with them would certainly never heal any wounds from being the daughter of a narcissist.

Finally, to quote Vizzini from my favorite movie, The Princess Bride:

You fell victim to one of the classic blunders. The most famous is ‘Never get involved in a land war in Asia.’ But only slightly less well known is this: ‘Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line!’ Ahahahaha, ahahahaha, ahahaha—-thud”

Another classic blunder to add to Vizzini’s list is: “Never engage in battle with a narcissist”…because I have a better chance of single-handedly winning a land war in Asia than anyone does of winning a battle with a narcissist. 

6 thoughts on “A Battle With A Narcissist Is A Losing Battle Indeed

  1. I’ll sadly admit that I too am the daughter of a narcissist mother. Everything you said in your post is absolutely correct. Is so hard to break free from these types of people. They’re like an addictive drug. If she’s a lover, they’re hard to break free from and if they’re a parent it’s even harder to go complete no contact. My last girlfriend and ex spouse we’re both narcissists. (Seems like I attract them) Covert narcissists are clever. Sadly my mother was one. My ex girlfriend was a Compensatory Narcissist.

    Saye, I’ve been doing some educating on narcissists as well…I had no choice. I needed to know the type of person I was dealing with. I don’t know why, but I feel much closer to you now knowing that we both have dealt and struggled with these types of personalities…

    Thank you for sharing…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, she! Yes, it is important to educate about narcissists. I decided to finally “come out” (so to speak, LOL) as the daughter of a narcissist. It was weird, but strangely freeing. I feel closer to you too knowing that you have the same struggles.


    • That’s really tough, she. My own Mum wasn’t like that but I do know that HER mum (my grandma) absolutely was (and not very “covert” about it, even). Until grandma died, I saw my mum (not every hour of every day, because she was a strong woman who made her own life) conflicted between the duty of love and care she owed her mother, just because she was her mother, and what she really thought of her as a person.

      “I may as well piss in the sea as do things for that woman”, she told me when I was too young to be told such things, but already I agreed with her, and already I was old enough to know that something is very wrong if you refer to your own mother as “that woman”.
      I forced myself to cry at grandma’s funeral, because nobody else was going to, but also because I found it tragic for someone to have lived their life in such a way that nobody is sorry when they’re dead.

      No life lessons, I fear, just a little third-hand empathy. My own Mum, btw, was a strong, independent no-nonsense heterosexual woman until very close to her death.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It really is sad…my mom that is. Our mothers. All of us children of narcissists. I save all of her emails and voice mails under a file or folder labeled “The Bitch” because all she ever does is say mean things to me. She’ll never take responsibility for all the terrible things that happened to me because of her. Or how dare she make me feel sorry for her when she’s the one who caused the damage.

        I chucked when you mentioned something about people not feeling sorry for her when she died. To be honest, I’m not sure what direction her death is going to go. Maybe people will be relieved. I don’t know. I don’t even know what my reaction is going to be. But for me to even say that, that’s pretty scary.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Saye I appreciate your honesty & especially the focus on what YOU need to do, rather than how to make the narcissist change…
    because one can’t change a narcissist.

    My understanding is some women w/ BPD also have narcissistic traits. I have a woman in my life who definitely is both & distance has been the way to find grace & patience with her. The minute my heart beats harder or a tightness comes over my chest, I know it’s time to take a break.

    These kinds of issues are so heartbreaking but it’s important to discuss them. Have you ever considered making a cheat sheet for identifying internet narcissists?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi & thanks for your comment! Good point about not being able to change someone else — all we can do is change our responses and take care of ourselves. Yes, BPD and narcissistic traits can definitely coexist. A cheat sheet is a good idea — will give it some thought! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

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