Narcissist: The Snake in the Snow
When you find yourself dealing with narcissists in any capacity, on any level, the most important thing to remember is what you are dealing with. You are dealing with a person who does not care or even understand that other people have feelings in any real capacity. They do not "get" this fact in any way that matters. It sounds basic, but this is something that really needs to be accepted in order to protect yourself when dealing with the narcissist. We must accept them for who and what they are. Otherwise, dealing with them is not possible. It results in too much anger and hurt.
To help illustrate this concept a little more clearly, we can look to a fable where a woman finds a snake dying in the snow.
Walking to the market one bitterly cold day, Emmalina finds a poisonous snake frozen in the snow. Being a good woman with a gentle heart, Emmalina wishes to help the snake. She takes it home and nurses it back to health. She comforts it, she feeds it. She takes very good care of the snake, even going without things for herself so that the snake might recover completely and in comfort. The snake becomes stronger every day thanks to Emmalina's constant attention, until finally one day it is fully recovered. Overjoyed, Emmalina holds the snake close. As she is holding the snake, it bites her in the face, injecting her with venom and fatally wounding her. As she lays dying with poison coursing through her body, Emmalina asks the snake, "Why did you do this to me when I was so good to you? I saved your life. I took care of you." And the snake replies, "I am a snake."
This is the perfect analogy for dealing with a narcissist. They are what they are, and that's it. If you are expecting something from someone who is not interested in, or capable of, giving it to you, you're going to be badly disappointed and probably hurt as well in the process. Most disappointments are caused by our own expectations, even if we don't realize it. Disappointment leads to hurt feelings and anger. If we adjust our expectations from the beginning when dealing with the narcissist, we can go a long way toward preventing disappointment and hurt. This is where accepting them for who and what they are comes in to play.
Let's be clear: accepting does not mean that you condone or agree with something. It means you understand that that's how it is. You can accept something and still not like it. You can accept something and work to change it. What you cannot do is endeavor to accept something while pretending it is something else. If you believe you have accepted the reality of narcissism but still try get the narcissist to care about your feelings, you've not really accepted anything. If you still think you can get them to understand how much they're hurting you and care if you just find the right words to explain, you're in denial.
Denial is the opposite of acceptance. Denial occurs when a person refuses to accept the way things are. There is a lot of hurt waiting down the road of denial, because to quote a very famous man, "Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain't goin' away." When we accept something, we let go of personal expectations and we face reality. If we cannot do this, we will continue to be hurt over and over again. For example, if someone has a cheating partner but they deny the signs, accept the excuses and refuse to believe the reality that this person is a cheater, they are simply going to be cheated on over and over again until they do something to stop it. In order to do something to stop it, they have to first accept that it's true.
Denial may be comforting and it may be understandable in many situations, but it is not safe. It's dangerous. Denial usually features very prominently in narcissistic relationships. The narcissist and their victim are often BOTH in denial about who and what the narcissist really is. The victim sees the abuse, the callousness, the gaslighting, the attempts to destroy their reputation, standing in the community and even their very sanity but still, they are in denial about what they are seeing. They will continue to reach out to the narcissist for years, expecting that some day they will get through and finally receive the love they've been missing. They are chasing a ghost and if not for denial, they'd have seen it long ago. If the same thing was happening to a friend, they would see it, but because it is they themselves, they don't want to. And because they don't want to see it, they don't. The relationship goes on and on, with the victim being abused the entire time and refusing to accept the reality of the situation, and that reality is that this person is not going to change unless they want to. If you continue to accept their abusive behavior, what motivation do they even have to change? Think about it.
It's hard to accept these things. It's painful and it can be embarrassing, but the pain of denial is ongoing, and when reality does finally crash it's way through the walls of denial, it is sometimes too much for people to bear.