With the right approach, victims of narcissistic abuse can make the narcissist in their life miserable without becoming narcissistic themselves. This approach is not about seeking revenge or getting justice, it is all about victims of narcissistic abuse protecting their thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs from the narcissist in their life.
To make a narcissist miserable, you have to set and hold healthy boundaries to take away their narcissistic supply, refuse to give them power and control over you by holding onto your reality, and become the best version of yourself by protecting your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs on a daily basis.
There is nothing malicious about this approach to make a narcissist miserable. In fact, the information in this article should serve as a constant reminder of just how ill-intended narcissists really are. We’ve created a short video (see below) about the behaviors that you can expect from a miserable narcissist so that you can make a well-informed decision about whether or not you want to attempt to make the narcissist in your life miserable and we highly recommend that you consult with a qualified professional before doing so.
A Short Video About the Different Forms of Abuse Narcissists Subject Their Victims to When They Are Angry
How Do Healthy Boundaries Make Narcissists Miserable?
Narcissistic supply is the validation, admiration, and reassurance that narcissists extract from their external environment. Narcissists construct their false sense of self out of narcissistic supply and use it as their primary form of emotional regulation.
It is believed that they do this because they had an abusive childhood upbringing with emotionally unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent primary caregivers who were incapable of mirroring the narcissist’s thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs.
This level of neglect means that the narcissist never got the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they needed to develop a realistic sense of self and have a healthy cognitive development.
Over time this caused them to develop deeply rooted painful emotions about themselves and to rely on the validation, admiration, and reassurance from their external environment to construct a sense of self.
The problem with this is that the painful emotions that narcissists have about themselves are extremely powerful (e.g. sense of inadequacy, self-loathing, fear of abandonment, feelings of loneliness and worthlessness).
But because of the emotional neglect of their primary caregivers, they are incapable of using healthy forms of emotional regulation to manage their painful emotions. Instead, they rely on their false sense of self that has been constructed by the validation, admiration, and reassurance of their external environment to suppress their painful emotions deep within their psyche so that they can “forget” about them.
By no means is this an easy task. The painful emotions that they are trying to suppress are insanely powerful so narcissists need a consistent flow of narcissistic supply to keep their false sense of self intact and their painful emotions suppressed.
Generally speaking, narcissists’ biggest source of narcissistic supply are their victims. Meaning that if you were to set and hold a healthy boundary that prevented you from validating, admiring, and reassuring them, it would contradict their sense of self, trigger their suppressed painful emotions, and make them miserable.
The two most effective boundaries that you can set to make a narcissist miserable are the no contact rule and the gray rock method. To go no contact with a narcissist, you have to physically leave and cut off all forms of communication with them.
Unfortunately, this isn’t always a feasible solution for victims of narcissistic abuse but the gray rock method is a fantastic alternative. To use this method you have to refuse to participate in any significant communication or connection in the relationship that you have with the narcissist in your life.
When the narcissist tries to invalidate, devalue, humiliate, or degrade you, you will not engage in a significant conversation by defending or explaining yourself. If the narcissist is trying to manipulate you by being “compassionate” or showing “empathy”, you will not engage because you know that they are just trying to manipulate you. You will remain cool, calm, collected, and neutral at all times, just like a boring gray rock.
Both the no contact method and the gray rock method are designed to prevent you from giving the narcissist in your life validation, admiration, and/or reassurance. They both contradict a narcissist’s sense of self, trigger their suppressed painful emotions, and make them feel miserable.
If you are interested in learning more about these two awesome techniques, we invite you to read our articles Does Going No Contact With a Narcissist Work, Does the Gray Rock Method Work With a Narcissist, and How to Use the Gray Rock Method on a Narcissist.
How Does Holding Onto Your Reality Make a Narcissist Miserable?
One of the reasons that narcissists abuse others is to project their emotional instability onto them. Projection is a defense mechanism that occurs when we take parts of our identity that we find unacceptable and place them onto others (e.g. a man feeling guilty for having feelings for one of his colleagues but instead of accepting his feelings he accuses his wife of having feelings for one of her colleagues).
Suggested Reading: What Do Narcissists Want In a Relationship?
Projection is like an emotional safety net for a narcissist. In the previous section we’ve written about the approach that narcissists have to constructing a sense of self. They build it out of the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they get from their external environment. Its purpose is to suppress the narcissist’s painful emotions.
When a narcissist experiences contradictions to their sense of self, it triggers all of the painful emotions that they are too emotionally stunted and immature to regulate without their false sense of self but they can project them onto other people. (e.g. a narcissist experiences a contradiction to their sense of self that makes them feel weak so they project their painful emotions onto their partner by belittling them to make them feel weak and worthless).
In our article 8 Examples of Narcissistic Projection you can learn a lot more about projection in the narcissistic realm but here we want to focus your attention on a much more malicious form of projection that explains how holding onto your reality will make a narcissist miserable.
Narcissists use the people that they abuse as repositories for their suppressed painful emotions. Over time, the invalidation, devaluation, dehumanization, degradation, and humiliation that narcissists subject their victims to manipulates the victim into becoming dependent on the narcissist to construct a sense of self.
What the narcissist does is that they project their painful emotions onto their victim while the victim is trying to construct a sense of self. In other words, over time the victim of narcissistic abuse will begin to construct their sense of self out of the narcissist’s painful emotions.
This gives the narcissist someone that they can point their finger at and think to themselves, “I’m not the weak, worthless, inadequate, insecure, and vulnerable one, they are.” By subjecting their victims to such intense levels of abuse, narcissists are able to project their emotional instability onto their victim because they are in control of the victim’s reality.
We spoke about this a lot in our article Is It Possible to Gaslight a Narcissist but by holding onto your reality, you can refuse to be a repository for the narcissist’s painful emotions by regaining control of your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs. To do this, we highly recommend that you set healthy boundaries.
When setting and holding healthy boundaries in a narcissistic relationship, it is important to remember that they aren’t for the narcissist, they are for you. What this means is that you shouldn’t set boundaries that require the narcissists to respect them to work (e.g. “Hey, don’t speak to me that way. I am not going to allow you to call me names.”).
They are never going to respect boundaries like that. However, you can set boundaries with yourself that only require you to respect them to work (e.g. “I am not going to allow them to manipulate me into blaming myself for their behavior” or “I have the right to express my thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs. I will not let them convince me otherwise.”).
These types of boundaries that you set with yourself are going to make it extremely difficult for them to project all of their painful emotions onto you. These boundaries will help you stop justifying, rationalizing, and normalizing the abuse.
There will be a lot of trial and error when setting these types of boundaries but over time they will help you realize that you have the right to be in control of your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs. When this happens, the narcissist will not be able to project their painful emotions onto you and it will make them feel miserable.
Suggested Reading: What Happens If You Don’t Set Boundaries With a Narcissist?
How Does Becoming the Best Version of Yourself Make a Narcissist Miserable?
Narcissists need a tangible representation of the destruction that they cause to reassure and validate their false sense of self. Sadly, this tangible representation is almost always their victims. Narcissists subject their victim to such insane levels of abuse because they want to bully them into adopting all of the painful emotions that they have suppressed within themselves.
Meaning that they want their victim to feel weak, inadequate, worthless, alone, stupid, unlovable, unwanted, depressed, and ugly because it is how the narcissist feels on the inside but they are too emotionally stunted and immature to use healthy forms of emotional regulation to acknowledge them without destroying their own emotional stability.
It is for this reason that one of the ways that you can make a narcissist miserable is simply by healing, rebuilding, and becoming the best version of yourself! The reason for this is very similar to the reason that holding onto your reality makes a narcissist miserable, they are no longer capable of projecting their painful emotions onto you.
We spoke about this a lot in our article Do Narcissists Come Back After the Discard but when a narcissist sees their victim regaining their sense of self and ability to conceptualize their own perception of reality accurately, they’ll panic and try to regain power and control of their victim’s thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs as quickly as possible.
If your choices in living a life you value is leading the narcissist in your life to unravel because they have less control and power over you as a result, it is not your fault. It is important to know that it is not your job to rescue and alleviate their apparent suffering. You are not the cause of their suicidal ideation, their health problems, their hysteria. Each human has to walk their own path towards self-compassion and self-love. You cannot do this work for them, and it is not for you to show them how either.
Your job is to focus on living a life you value with no intention to hurt or harm others. If others are affected by your choices and show hurt and harm that is their journey to overcome what they are faced with. In the same way if the narcissist or others in your life leave you, it is your journey to overcome what insecurities you are faced with. No one can do your work for you and in the same vein you can’t do the narcissists work for them. – Dr. Daksha Hirani Clinical Psychologist Specializing in Trauma Informed Psychotherapy and Narcissistic Abuse Recovery
This quote from Dr. Daksha Hirani brings up a really important point that you need to remember while healing and rebuilding from narcissistic abuse. It is very common for people to seek out answers, revenge, justice, and/or closure after learning about narcissistic abuse, healing, and rebuilding.
These are all obtainable if you search for them in the right place. As we mentioned in the previous section about setting boundaries, everything needs to come from you, not the narcissist. Meaning that you get the answers to your questions by learning about narcissism and narcissistic abuse, you will get revenge and justice by healing and rebuilding yourself, and you will get closure with time, patience, and space.
It is really important to remember that healing is all about your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs. If you focus on becoming the best version of yourself, you are going to leave the narcissist in your life alone with all of their painful emotions. Revenge, justice, closure, and answers come from within, not the narcissist. Remember that and you’ll make the narcissist in your life miserable without having to be malicious, abusive, or narcissistic.
What Should You Take Away From This Article?
If you want to make a narcissist miserable you have to set healthy boundaries to take away their narcissistic supply, hold onto your reality, and work on becoming the best version of yourself every single day!
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All of the content that Unfilteredd creates is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for clinical care — please visit here for qualified organizations and here for qualified professionals that you can reach out to for help. This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policies.
Back, M. D., Küfner, A. C. P., Dufner, M., Gerlach, T. M., Rauthmann, J. F., & Denissen, J. J. A. (2013). Narcissistic admiration and rivalry: Disentangling the bright and dark sides of narcissism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 105(6), 1013–1037
Stephan Horvath, Carolyn C. Morf, To be grandiose or not to be worthless: Different routes to self-enhancement for narcissism and self-esteem. Journal of Research in Personality, Volume 44, Issue 5, October 2010, Pages 585-592.