There are hundreds of articles and blogs on the internet that help you figure out how to identify a narcissist, what signs to watch out for, and how to avoid them.
There are plenty of articles that tell you how to deal with narcissists, but there aren’t many that talk about what happens as you’re dealing with them.
Though there’s often overlapping behaviors, no two narcissists are exactly the same. But generally, once you’ve begun to see through the manipulations of a narcissist and beat them at their own game, they follow a path that leads to them shaping up or shipping out.
Here’s what to expect when you outsmart a narcissist.
1. They double down.
The goal of a narcissist’s manipulation is to get you thinking and acting in a way that benefits them and their own needs without you consciously realizing it. When you’ve broken their spell and begin to outsmart them, their initial reaction is often to double down on their manipulations. They may think they just need to try harder. This is possibly the hardest part of dealing with a narcissist. Things get worse before they get better.
2. They act nicer.
Once they realize that doubling down on their manipulation isn’t going to change the outcome, they reverse course and drop the manipulations all together. Sometimes, steps 1 and 2 are the only steps involved. People who have behaved badly can genuinely improve for the better, but sometimes, step two isn’t the final step. The niceness is in itself a manipulation geared toward getting you to let your guard down. Once it’s down, they slowly begin to reintroduce their usual manipulations. See it for what it is and keep outsmarting them! You’re still in control.
3. They try to enlist help.
When a narcissist realizes they are fighting a losing battle with you, they’ll sometimes try to enlist the help of others. Often it’s anyone who’ll listen. They’ll try to reach out to close friends, colleagues, or family and express their worry and upset at how they’re being treated by you. It may be hard, painful in fact, to turn your back on the people in your life that the narcissist has enlisted for help, but trust me, it’s for the best. Eventually, these people close to you will understand why you dismissed them during this difficult time.
4. They start to implode.
One of the final stages of outsmarting a narcissist is their eventual implosion. They’ll pull out all the stops. They may double down again. But they know that they’re on the defensive, and that their manipulations aren’t working anymore. This is maybe the most dangerous period as well. A narcissist who uses abuse as a manipulation may become more erratic and abusive than ever. There is no shame in running, in seeking shelter and assistance if you’re with someone who is abusive. But once the narcissist in your life is finally done imploding…
5. They shape up or ship out.
The narcissist manipulated you the way they did in order to get you to think and act in a way that benefitted them. Once they have fully accepted that that is no longer how you will be living, they have a choice to make for themselves. They have to shape up or ship out. They have to make a decision about whether they want to continue being in your life or move on to their next victim. No matter the case, you have already made your decision.
You’re living your life for yourself, not for the narcissists of the world.