One of the toughest adversaries that people who have experienced narcissistic abuse often have to deal with is narcissist enablers.
A narcissist enabler is a person who supports and protects the narcissist in ways that makes it easier for them to continue abusing others. They typically don’t engage in the abuse directly, but their actions, or lack thereof, perpetuate the abuse.
In this article, I will teach you about the different types of enablers, explain why they support narcissists, and guide you through the signs of an enabler that you should be looking for.
What Are the Different Types of Enablers
There are three types of narcissist enablers:
- Ignorant Narcissist Enabler
- Self-Serving Narcissist Enabler
- Pollyanna Narcissist Enabler
1.) Ignorant Narcissist Enablers
When someone enables a narcissist because they don’t understand narcissism or narcissistic abuse, they are called an ignorant narcissist enabler.
There are two kinds of ignorant narcissist enablers:
- Enablers who are genuinely confused by narcissism and narcissistic abuse.
- Enablers who don’t want to learn about narcissism and narcissistic abuse.
5 Things an Ignorant Enabler Might Say (Type 1)
- “I’m not sure what you mean when you say he’s a narcissist. Isn’t everyone a little self-centered?”
- “He’s just stressed from work and sometimes takes it out on you. You know how he is. He has a bit of a temper.”
- “I’m really worried about you, but maybe you’re just overreacting? He seems to care about you in his own way.”
- “I don’t understand this narcissism thing, but if you think it’s important, I’d like to know more so I can better support you.”
- “Narcissism is abuse? But he hasn’t hit you or anything, right? This is a lot to take in…”
5 Things an Ignorant Enabler Might Say (Type 2)
- “He can’t possibly be a narcissist. He has many friends, and everyone thinks he’s nice.”
- “I don’t think it’s fair for you to label him a narcissist. You’re just too quick to judge.”
- “Let’s not talk about his supposed narcissism, okay? It’s such a draining topic.”
- “Maybe if you didn’t provoke him so much, he wouldn’t act this way. Have you considered your role in this?”
- “I’ve read a few things about narcissism, and I don’t believe that’s what’s happening here. You’re just exaggerating things.”
2.) Self-Serving Narcissist Enabler
The term “self-serving” refers to having concern for one’s own welfare and interests before those of others.
A self-serving narcissist enabler is a person who turns a blind eye to the abuse because confronting the narcissist isn’t in their best interest.
A simple example of this could be an assistant coach of a team defending the head coach’s abusive behavior because the head coach is well-connected and has promised to help the assistant coach find a head coach position.
5 Things a Self-Serving Enabler Might Say
- “I think you’re blowing things out of proportion. His behavior doesn’t bother me, and it shouldn’t bother you if you know what’s good for you.”
- “Sure, he has his moments, but think about all the connections and opportunities he offers. It’s in our best interest to stay on his good side.”
- “I get that you’re upset, but his presence benefits me. So, I suggest you find a way to handle it.”
- “I don’t want any part of your issues with him. It’s not worth jeopardizing the perks I enjoy from our relationship.”
- “Listen, it’s not that I don’t empathize with your situation, but I’m not risking my standing with him to intervene on your behalf. You’ll need to handle this yourself.”
3.) Pollyanna Narcissist Enabler
The term “pollyanna” refers to a person characterized by irrepressible optimism and a tendency to find good in everything.
A pollyanna enabler enables narcissistic abuse because they believe everyone deserves to be given multiple chances, regardless of their actions.
Pollyanna enablers are the type of people who fight tooth and nail to find the best in everyone, even when their beliefs are contradicted by reality and rational arguments.
5 Things a Pollyanna Narcissist Enabler Might Say
- “There must be a mistake. The man I know is incapable of such actions. Perhaps we’re just not understanding his perspective.”
- “I’m telling you, any day now he’s going to have an epiphany and transform into a completely different person. You’ll see, you just have to keep faith.”
- “Everyone messes up, it’s human! He deserves as many chances as it takes for him to get it right. We can’t give up on people just because they falter.”
- “But look at all the charitable work he does! He’s got such a big heart. I believe that deep down he is a good person.”
- “He’s only acting this way because of his challenging past. If we offer more understanding and less judgment, he will certainly change. We must be patient.”
What Are the Signs of a Narcissist Enabler
In this section, I will guide you through six signs of a narcissist enabler that you should be on the lookout for.
You may also find our article “10 Ways to Support Someone In a Narcissistic Relationship” a helpful resource that you can use to spot people in your life who aren’t supporting you, such as enablers.
Suggested Reading: 10 Ways to Support Someone In a Narcissistic Relationship
1.) Lack of Understanding
The first sign of a narcissist enabler is a lack of understanding.
This means that the suspected enabler is completely unaware of what narcissism is and what it entails.
For example, they might see the narcissist belittling someone but perceive it as a joke or lighthearted teasing rather than a form of emotional abuse.
The second sign of a narcissist enabler is misinterpretation.
Meaning that the suspected enabler attributes the narcissist’s abusive behavior to other factors.
For example, imagine a narcissist how is consistently rude to their partner.
Misinterpretation from an enabler could be saying something like, “They’re just stressed from work,” thereby enabling the abusive behavior to continue unchallenged.
The third sign of a narcissist enabler is denial.
This means that despite being shown clear examples of narcissistic behavior, the suspected enabler refuses to accept that the individual in question is narcissistic.
For example, they might say something like, “That’s not possible, John just has a strong personality, he’s not a narcissist,” even after John’s consistent pattern of manipulation and lack of empathy is pointed out.
The fourth sign of a narcissist enabler is defensiveness.
For example, they might say, “You’re just trying to label everyone you don’t like as a narcissist,” because they feel threatened by the topic of narcissism.
This defensiveness shields the suspected narcissist enabler from having to reassess their relationship with the narcissist.
5.) Justification of Abuse
The fifth sign of a narcissist enabler is the justification of abuse.
Meaning that they often find ways to rationalize or normalize the narcissist’s abusive behavior, thereby enabling the abuse to continue.
For example, they could try gaslighting the person being abused by saying something like,
“They’re just being straightforward, and not everyone knows how to express love the same way,” thereby reframing abuse as love.
6.) Resistance to Information
The sixth sign of a narcissist enabler is resistance to information.
This means the suspected enabler actively rejects information about narcissism and its abusive patterns, even from credible sources.
For example, when presented with information from a creditable source, an enabler could say something like, “Well, I don’t believe in all that psychology stuff.”
What Should You Take Away from This Article?
A person who enables narcissistic abuse supports and protects the narcissist in ways that make it easier for them to continue abusing others.
As a general rule, narcissist enablers don’t engage in the abuse directly, but their actions, or lack thereof, perpetuate the narcissist’s abuse.
About the Author
Hey, I’m Elijah.
I experienced narcissistic abuse for three years.
I create these articles to help you understand and validate your experiences.
Thank you for reading, and remember, healing is possible even when it feels impossible.