The holiday season is like the moon, there’s a light side and there’s a dark side. For many people, this time of year is filled with happiness, unity, memories, and new beginnings. But for those in abusive relationships, the holiday season is a period plagued with anxiety, unjust expectations, invalidation, disappointment, and abuse.

It’s our sincere hope that this article enables you, or someone you’re trying to support,  to reclaim the time of year that’s meant to be cherishable, memorable, and lovable.

Have a Clear Understanding of Your “Why” 

It’s important that you have a clear understanding of your “why” before you enter the abusive environment. Why are you choosing to attend an environment where you know there will be a significant amount of abuse?

  • Is it because you want to ensure your children have the time of their lives?
  • Is it because you don’t get to see your mother/father as much as you should?
  • Is it because you don’t want to deal with the argument that would come from your absence?
  • Is it because you don’t want to be alone at such an important time of year?
  • Is it because you have some older family members that may be having their last Christmas?

Having a clear understanding of why you are going to be taking part of a holiday season where a narcissist will be present will keep you tethered to reality. You’ll be much less likely to fall for baiting, feel disoriented by gaslighting, hurt by flying monkeys and enablers, and triggered by the dynamics of the get together. 

Master the Gray Rock Method

The importance of having a comprehensive grasp on the gray rock technique is immeasurable. If used correctly, it’s a technique that creates unbreakable psychological boundaries

When you refuse to have any significant conversation with a narcissist, you are using the gray rock technique. Imagine that the narcissist in your life tries to bait you into an argument by telling you the meal you prepared for everyone looks and tastes terrible. 

Instead of getting angry, defensive, or disappointed, you neutralize his/her attempt at baiting by directing the conversation towards something insignificant like the weather. 

You are not obligated to have any significant conversations with the narcissist in your life. By neutralizing their antagonistic behavior with insignificant responses, you hold all of the power. 

With that being said, the gray rock method infuriates narcissists because it contradicts their sense of specialness. You should expect them to become increasingly agitated as they realize that they aren’t in control.

As they become more and more agitated, you should expect them to either become consumed with rage, or extremely passive aggressive behaviors. If you fear for your safety, you should leave the environment and contact the proper authorities if needed.

The whole point of using the gray rock method is to protect your emotional stability. You should do everything in your power to ensure that the narcissist in your life doesn’t see how their comments are affecting you. 

When you have the opportunity to get away from the narcissist in your life, find a safe place to express your emotions.

Familiarize Yourself With Radical Acceptance

One of the best techniques to deal with narcissistic abuse is radical acceptance. In the realm of narcissism, radical acceptance is when you stop fighting reality by letting go of the wish for things to be different. 

Meaning that while the holiday season is a special time of year, it’s just another day, week, or month and should be treated as such. 

The reason being is that there are so many expectations during the holiday season along the lines of the way your house should look, the type of gifts you should give, and the quality of the food, which gives a narcissist a multitude of things to devalue, belittle, and/or manipulate you with. 

By accepting that while it is a special time of year, life will go on, you will take away a significant amount of control that the narcissist in your life could have over you.

One of the reasons that narcissistic abuse is so incredibly triggering is because you personalize it. I mean, how couldn’t you? Their maliciousness has been directed at you for months, years, even decades. 

But the truth is that even though they’ve singled you out, some quality that you have reminds the narcissist in your life of how inadequate they are and activates their suppressed shame. 

The reason being that narcissists have incredibly fragile egos. They are constantly scanning the environment for “threats” to their insecure desire to always be the best.

The Three Pillars of Surviving the Holidays With a Narcissist

The truth is, all of this is a lot easier said than done. It takes an incredible amount of strength, courage, and patience to use the gray rock method, treat the holidays like any other day, and to let go of the wish for things to be different. 

For this article, we asked 231 of the Unfilteredd Participants the following: how did you survive the holidays with a narcissist?

The combination of those three tactics can be your own personal psychological safety plan if all else fails. I want you to imagine that the gray rock method isn’t working and you can feel yourself becoming plagued with negative emotions.

Using the law of attraction, keeping yourself busy, and strategically taking breaks can help you keep your emotional stability intact.

  • The law of attraction is a philosophy that suggests thinking positive thoughts will yield positive results. 
    • Before attempting this, you must use radical acceptance and acknowledge that the narcissist’s behavior will never change. Failing to do so may cause you to have unrealistic expectations which will lead you to even more disappointment.
      • Now that you’ve done that, I want you to close your eyes and imagine you’re in a place that makes you happy. It could be the beach, childhood memories, the thought of your children opening the gifts they’ve been talking about for months, or whatever else may make you feel at peace. Once you have a clear vision of this, I want you to make a mental bookmark of it. When the narcissist in your life tries to get under your skin, I want you to revisit the visualization in your mind and become indifferent to the narcissist’s behavior. 
  • Learning how to keep yourself busy, or actively looking for tasks to do, will help you survive the holidays with a narcissist. Instead of being trapped by their abuse, find things that will remove you from the situation. 
    • Walk the dog
    • Wash the dishes
    • Sit at the kids table
    • Go for a walk
    • Talk with other people
  • Finally, learn how to take breaks and/or leave the event early. Learning how to take breaks is a form of keeping yourself busy but instead of doing something where you’re still in earshot of the toxicity, remove yourself from the situation all together and go for a walk or drive. The origin of a narcissist’s power is the control they have over others. One of the hidden aspects of radical acceptance is acknowledging that the limitations they place on you aren’t real. You have the power to break their chains and if you choose to do so, leave the event early.

What to Expect When Exchanging Gifts With a Narcissist

Exchanging gifts with a narcissist is extremely complex. On one hand you may experience a gift exchange with an insane amount of grandiosity and a need for narcissistic supply. On the other hand you may experience a gift exchange with a disturbing amount of degradation and neglect. 

Gifts Plagued With Grandiosity and Narcissistic Supply

The fragility of a narcissist’s ego originates from their emotional immaturity and inadequacy. Their emotional inadequacy decimates their self-esteem and their emotional immaturity makes it impossible for them to rebuild it by themselves. 

It is because of this that narcissists are dependent on narcissistic supply, the validation and admiration of others. The holiday season is an opportunity like no other to accumulate an incredible amount of narcissistic supply. 

Their need for narcissistic supply could lead them to buying an insanely expensive/over the top gift for you or one of your family members. While it may feel nice to have a new car, expensive jewelry, or some other grandiose gift, you could potentially be stepping into the shame-rage spiral. 

Narcissists have an enormous amount of negative emotions suppressed within their psyche, one being shame. If your reaction to their gift wasn’t grandiose or validating enough, it is very possible that you could trigger their underlying fear of not being good enough, and subsequently, their suppressed shame. 

To make matters even worse, their inability to regulate their own emotions makes them incapable of handling the emotional distress that comes from the shame they’re experiencing, which throws them into a rage. 

Here’s where things get very interesting…

Because rage is anger out of control, it’s rarely an acceptable response, especially during the holiday season. 

So, when they rage and destroy a gift you gave them, push the Christmas tree over, break a plate, or even flip the dinner table, The terror, disapproval, discussed, and horror those around them exhibit will trigger their suppress shame in the cycle will be an all over again. 

Exhausting Yourself Trying to Find a Gift That Will Please the Narcissist

One of the hallmarks of someone who has suffered narcissistic abuse is a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. I think it is a stage everyone goes through before they start their healing journey. 

It’s a really confusing stage because while you may be on the cusp of realization, a large part of you still wants to figure out how to make the relationship work. You may try to share your successes with them, dismantle the boundaries you’ve set, constantly admire and validate them and so on. 

During the holiday season, you could feel the need to spend a tremendous amount of effort and/or time trying to find the perfect gift for the narcissist in your life, just to be met with invalidation and passive-aggressive side comments.

As tempting as the idea of finally winning over the narcissist in your life and having a cherishable moment of love, connection, and happiness may be, trying to please the unappeasable is a waste of time and very dangerous for your emotional stability. 

Gift Giving During the Devaluing and Discarding Phase

The narcissistic abuse cycle is maliciously destabilizing. It’s almost as if the narcissist in your life is the embodiment of three or four different personalities at the same time.

For example, the gifts plagued with narcissistic supply and grandiosity that I mentioned before is a hallmark of the love bombing phase. For many of you who have suffered narcissistic abuse, the love bombing phase is what sucked you into the narcissistic abuse cycle. 

Some of you may be under the impression that you didn’t experience the love bombing phase, but before you write it off completely, you should know that the love bombing phase can manifest in a variety of ways depending on the type of narcissism you’re dealing or have dealt with. 

Your understanding of the love bombing phase most likely originates from the traditional definition of narcissism, grandiose narcissism. These are your charming, charismatic, intelligent, grandiose, flashy, well put together narcissists. Therefore your definition of love bombing is limited to spontaneous gifts and trips, lots of communication and intimacy, and a once in a life time experience. 

Unfortunately, looking at narcissism through one lens neglects the three other major types of narcissism: malignant, communal, and covert narcissism. Love bombing with these different types of narcissists can look very different. 

This is important because many narcissistic relationship begin with some version of the love bombing phase and is quickly followed by devaluation and discarding. In other words, the narcissist puts you up on a pedestal and violently kicks it out from under you the moment you get comfortable. 

Your fall from grace symbolizes the beginning of the devaluing and discarding phase. This phase is when the narcissist in your life will use your vulnerabilities and insecurities against you, manipulate your reality, enlist flying monkeys, use you as a repository for their negative emotions and so on. 

During the holiday season, this could manifest as extremely disappointing, invalidating, and condescending gifts. It will be brazenly clear that the narcissist in your life put zero effort into your gift, if they got you one at all. 

In all honesty, having your happiness neglected by someone who has a big role in your life, even if you despise them, can hurt a lot. It’s because of this that it’s incredibly important that you set realistic expectations, remember how to use the gray rock method, radical acceptance, and how to use the law of attraction because your self-esteem is your responsibility, and your responsibility only. 

Set Yourself up for Success for the New Year

This holiday season, I want you to take everything that you’ve had to endure in your narcissistic relationship, and use it to fuel your commitment to realization, radical acceptance, realistic expectations, and your happiness. 

The holiday season has the potential to amplify your trauma significantly. 

The reason being that this time of year is meant to be the start of a new beginning, but for those of you who’ve suffered narcissistic abuse and haven’t been able to grasp a comprehensive understanding of their trauma yet, it serves as a constant reminder of how trapped, alone, neglected, worthless, and incredibly sad you feel.

This year, you are going to break the psychological chains of oppression tethering you to your narcissistic relationship, and begin to rebuild your self-esteem

This commitment applies to everyone whose lives are affected by narcissism. 

It doesn’t matter if there is something trapping you within the abusive cycle like kids or financial stability, or if you have the ability to go no contact and never look back, you have the right and capability to be happy and it begins with reconnecting with your core values.

You should make a promise to yourself that you’ll devote a significant amount of your time to rediscovering your identity, rebuilding your self-esteem, and redefining what you want in life

Believe it or not, using the techniques and tactics I mentioned in the beginning of the article to survive the holidays with the narcissist in your life puts you in a fantastic position to do so. 

Even if it is only for a day, if you are able to practice radical acceptance, hold onto realistic expectations, and come to a realization that the narcissist in your life isn’t going to change, you’re taking one gigantic step towards rediscovering your identity, rebuilding your self-esteem, and redefining what you want in life.

It is your responsibility to ensure that you don’t minimize your achievements, erode your self-esteem, or neglect your importance by disproportionately scrutinizing your progress. 

The one thing that you need to understand to have a successful healing journey is that while yes, narcissists are incredibly powerful, you are the source of their power. 

The moment you acknowledge the courage, strength, and wisdom that you have within yourself, is the moment you break free from the chains of oppression and begin to rediscover what makes you, you.

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Get a Free Healing Bundle Every Week!

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  • 7 Affirmations for the Upcoming Week
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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.

Suggested Readings:

Living With a Narcissist When Leaving Isn’t an Option: Complete Guide

How to Set Boundaries With a Narcissist