How to Disengage From a Narcissist

by | Aug 14, 2019

If someone is treating you badly, you can just leave, right? Unless that person is your boss or your spouse or your mother or some other family member. And what if you know you’re being treated badly but keep making excuses for your abuser? Or what if you’re just used to being walked on and don’t fully realize that you are putting up with a narcissist when you really don’t have to.

What if you could stop the emotional abuse you suffer?

The fact is, you should stop it because you deserve better. Many people believe they can’t leave an abuser because they are financially dependent on the abuser or because they don’t have anyplace else to live, or they don’t have a support system of friends if they do leave. But if you can’t leave physically, you can always leave emotionally.

You can decide that you won’t get caught in the narcissist’s trap. That you won’t engage. That you won’t allow them to lure you into believing their lies, their criticism, their blame or their gas lighting. It isn’t easy. You have to be always conscious of the harm a narcissist can do to you, and resist being affected. It’s hard work, but it’s worth it for your health and well-being.

How To Disengage From A Narcissist Nancy'S Counseling Corner

  • Look for the Lies. These will probably be mostly in the form of false promises. Narcissists charm you to get you to like them. They tell you whatever they need to tell you to get you under their spell. They are without conscience because everything is all about them. But they do need you as part of their adoring fan base, and that is why they will tell you anything to lure you in.


If you are a person of integrity, you will find this hard to credit that anyone could lie with such abandon. You will naturally believe the narcissist, maybe even before you believe your best instincts, because you can’t imagine anyone being so loose with the truth for his own self-aggrandizement. It is not how you would ever behave. So you have to pay attention and look for the falsehoods. Make a note of them. Keep a journal. You’ll be amazed at what lengths a narcissist will go to lie for his own benefit.


  • Don’t Put Up with Put-Downs. Once a narcissist has you hooked, he will keep you hooked by working to get you to lose your sense of self. That way, you feel dependent on the narcissist. How do they do that? By making you feel so inadequate that you couldn’t live without them. They will criticize you in a constant drip, drip, drip until you feel helpless without them. They will devalue you in any way they can until your self-esteem is annihilated.

If you are a polite, caring person, you would never behave the way a narcissist does. You would never put someone down intentionally or without a thought to their feelings. But narcissists do not think about your feelings. They have no sympathy, let alone empathy. Again, it may help you to keep a journal and take note of all the negative things they say about you that you know aren’t true. Write down the true, positive things that contradict what the narcissist said.

  • Turn Up the Lights. Gas lighting is shorthand for a technique narcissists use. Basically, it’s when a person tries to tell you something is real when it isn’t. Imagine a husband trying to convince his wife that the gaslights (in days of old) were bright while all the time he kept dimming them. The wife says she thinks the lights are dimmer, and the narcissist knows they are, but he keeps on dimming them to make her crazy. Narcissists use that technique to get you to believe that they have the only reality and you are helpless without them.

Get out your notebook and shine a light on this abuse.

If you are in a relationship with a narcissist, your family and friends may notice a difference about you. You will probably feel a loss of self-esteem and a sense of your real self. You will probably feel a bit depressed. Your physical health may even be affected. You can only begin to recover from an abusive relationship with a narcissist when you recognize their power over you and how you are affected. Next week we’ll talk about how you can recover.


Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here:



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