The first step to escaping a narcissistic abuse cycle is setting boundaries. Unfortunately, the intensity of narcissistic abuse makes setting boundaries extremely difficult. The challenge that victims face when setting a boundary with a narcissist is the fact that narcissists are uncontrollable and often unpredictable. 

They’re some of the most entitled, arrogant, grandiose, and antagonistic individuals on the planet, meaning that the idea of being held accountable for their behavior is repulsive for them. 

So, victims of narcissistic abuse must be really clever when setting and maintaining boundaries with a narcissist. This article is going to identify twelve really common narcissistic behavior patterns and guide you through setting boundaries with a narcissist in each situation.

Journaling to Hold Onto Your Reality Is the Best Boundary One Can Set For Gaslighting and Stonewalling

Gaslighting is when a narcissist will doubt and/or deny their victim’s reality so frequently that they begin to question their own sanity. The versatility of gaslighting is what makes it the most powerful form of manipulation in the narcissistic realm. It can manifest in nearly every single narcissistic behavior pattern imaginable and there are six different types of it. 

A narcissist gaslighting a woman in a blue shirt and white skirt

When a narcissist completely shuts down and refuses to interact with someone it is called stonewalling. It usually manifests in the form of the silent treatment, a refusal to talk about a specific situation, or narcissistic rage. It’s essentially a censorship on topics that the narcissist doesn’t want to speak about.

A narcissistic sibling stonewalling his brother

Understand How Journaling to Hold Onto Your Reality Is So Effective Against Gaslighting and Stonewalling

The most reliable way you can set a boundary with a narcissist when they’re gaslighting or stonewalling you is to start journaling. It is one of the most effective techniques victims of narcissistic abuse can use to hold onto their reality. 

You can set this boundary by writing down every single form of emotional and/or physical abuse that you experience from the narcissist in your life on a daily basis. 

Why is this a helpful boundary? 

There’s a very deeply rooted aspect of a narcissist’s identity that causes them to gaslight and stonewall others, their emotional immaturity. Our article How Are Narcissists Made goes much deeper into this insightful aspect of narcissism but it’s widely believed that narcissists are created by an unhealthy/abusive upbringing. 

This upbringing has left them with a whole host of cognitive inadequacies, one of them being an emotional immaturity that has left them incapable of regulating their own negative emotions. Instead, they suppress their vulnerabilities, insecurities, anger, shame, and fears deep within their psyche with a falsified identity that portrays them as charming, charismatic, successful and so on. 

This falsified identity is designed to convince others into believing that they’re emotionally stable, among many other things, but it is also designed to convince themselves. Anytime they experience something that contradicts their identity they use narcissistic behavior patterns like gaslighting and stonewalling to eliminate the perceived threat. 

For a narcissist, gaslighting and stonewalling are more of an act of survival than they are a form of manipulation. Their relentless defense of their falsified identity is why setting physical boundaries like refusing to drop the conversation when they’re stonewalling you or verbally defending yourself when they’re gaslighting isn’t the best approach. 

Using a journal to write down the times they gaslighted you or the topics that they refuse to speak about will teach you to be comfortable constantly validating your own reality. Remember, narcissists are not going to change their behavior. Meaning that jeopardizing your emotional stability by trying to make them engage in a meaningful conversation or respect your reality is pointless.

One thing that you should seriously consider is journaling with the guidance of a medical professional. The reason being that journaling can be triggering for some victims of narcissistic abuse. So, under these circumstances the guidance of a medical professional is helpful when seeking out suitable alternatives to journaling.

Learning How to Explain Narcissism to Others Is the Best Boundary to Set For Flying Monkeys and Narcissist Enablers

A flying monkey is someone who supports and/or actively participates in the narcissist’s smear campaign of the victim. A narcissist will use a flying monkey to prevent their insecure, vulnerable, and abusive identity from being revealed to those who they’ve shown a charming and charismatic falsified identity to. A narcissist will recruit a flying monkey by spreading lies and gossip about the victim and they’re designed to discredit the victim’s voice and perception of reality.

A narcissistic daughter recruiting her father as a flying monkey

A narcissist enabler is someone who doesn’t understand narcissism so they approach the situation as they would a healthy relationship. They are incredibly dangerous because their ignorance often causes them to gaslight the victim of narcissistic abuse. 

12 Things That Narcissist Enablers Say

  1. Well, relationships aren’t meant to be easy so maybe you just need to work harder. 
  2. You shouldn’t speak about your mother/father that way… They love you!
  3. That doesn’t sound like (blank), are you sure it happened like that?
  4. Oh it is just a harmless sibling rivalry. 
  5. You have no right to be diagnosing people like that, maybe you’re the narcissist!
  6. Maybe if I talk to him/her for you then the two of you could work things out!
  7. (blank) is just a really driven person, don’t worry about it.
  8. Why don’t you just leave if it is as bad as you are claiming it is.
  9. Are you seriously calling him/her narcissistic? Just because they’re competitive?
  10. It’s not fair for you to try to keep your children’s mother/father away from them.
  11. Well he/she didn’t force you to give him/her all of that money, you made that choice all by yourself.
  12. It sounds like you might be overreacting a little bit.

A flying monkey and a narcissist enabler are two of the most dangerous hurdles victims of narcissistic abuse must overcome on their healing journey. The reason being that narcissistic abuse is designed to corrupt the victim’s core values, decimate their perception of a healthy relationship, and leave them unable to conceptualize their own version of reality. 

What ends up happening is that when the victim is able to acknowledge that what they’re experiencing is abuse and place themselves in a position from which they can escape the narcissistic abuse cycle, they still have so much self-doubt and self-blame swarming their thoughts that they need help validating their actions. 

So, oftentimes victims of narcissistic abuse don’t confide in others because they know that they are one-hundred percent correct, they confide in others because they need someone to validate the their belief that what they’re experiencing is in fact abuse and not healthy/normal behavior.

If victims of narcissistic abuse were to accidentally confide in a narcissist enabler or a flying monkey, they could be gaslighted back into the narcissistic abuse cycle indefinitely.

Understanding Why Learning How to Explain Narcissism to Others Is a Good Boundary to Set

It’s for this reason that the best boundary to set with everyone, not just flying monkeys and narcissist enablers, is learning how to explain narcissism to others. 

Before you learn how to set this boundary, you should know that this boundary should not be used on flying monkeys who have volunteered themselves for the role. Our article Why Do Some People Become Flying Monkeys we explained that there are different types of flying monkeys and our article Do Flying Monkeys Ever See the Truth we guide victims through the process of determining which relationships they should rebuild, which should remain broken, and why. 

Those are definitely articles you should familiarize yourself with before trying this awesome technique to explain narcissism to others. 

To initiate this boundary you have to focus on the narcissist’s behavior, characteristics, and personality traits and steer away from words like narcissist, narcissism, or narcissistic when explaining narcissism to others. 

A victim of narcissistic abuse explaining narcissism to someone else.

There are two reasons why this needs to be done. 

First, people who don’t understand narcissism, narcissist enablers, get really defensive, judgmental, and/or hostile when they hear words like narcissistic, narcissist, or narcissism. By focusing on the behavior patterns instead, you’re much more likely to turn them into supporters. 

Second, explaining narcissism to others in this manner gives you a really good sense of who is actually trying to understand where you’re coming from and who isn’t. It doesn’t matter who it is, if they aren’t making an effort to understand narcissistic abuse, they need to leave your life until you are fully healed. 

Why? 

There are going to be days where you need someone to lean on. It doesn’t matter how hard you work in therapy, how much information you have learned, or how happy you are with the narcissist out of your life, there will be days where you’re vulnerable and need support. You need to make sure the person you lean on is strong enough to hold you, people who don’t understand narcissism aren’t going to be strong enough. 

Our article How to Explain Narcissism to Others is a complete guide to this boundary you can set with flying monkeys and narcissist enablers so be sure to check it out!

Acquiring Knowledge About Narcissism Is the Best Boundary to Set For Baiting, Projection, Scapegoating, Triangulation, and Narcissistic Rage

One of the most common misconceptions about narcissistic rage is that it is just anger or rage from a narcissist. Anger is a normal emotion that all humans experience and rage is usually a rare response that non-narcissistic people experience when something very serious happens like a death threat.

Narcissistic rage is an entirely different beast. The fragility of a narcissist’s ego makes them extremely vulnerable to narcissistic injuries which are essentially ego injuries.

However, when a narcissist experiences a narcissistic injury it triggers all of their suppressed negative emotions that their emotional immaturity makes them incapable of regulating on their own. 

To manage these emotions they’ll often go into a passive aggressive or explosive rage to make the person, animal, or object feel just as bad as their negative emotions are making them feel. 

narcissistic rage

When a victim or survivor of narcissistic abuse begins to use techniques designed to protect their emotional stability from the narcissist like the gray rock method, yellow rock method, or setting boundaries, a narcissist will try to bait them into a confrontation. 

To do so a narcissist will weaponize the victim’s vulnerabilities and insecurities and use it against them, and this is called baiting. 

a narcissistic mother using her daughter as a scapegoat and projecting all of her negative emotions onto her

Projection is a defense mechanism that everyone uses from time to time. It occurs when we take unwanted aspects of ourselves and place them onto others. 

A really common example of this in narcissistic relationships is when the narcissist will cheat on their partner but instead of taking responsibility for their betrayal they’ll accuse their partner of cheating.

The reason that projection is so heavily associated with narcissistic behavior patterns is because a narcissist’s inability to regulate their own emotions causes them to over rely on projection. 

a narcissistic woman projecting her betrayal onto her partner

A scapegoat is a person that a narcissist projects all of their negative emotions onto. They are essentially a repository for a narcissist’s negative emotions. It’s important to understand that scapegoats aren’t chosen randomly. A narcissist’s vulnerabilities and insecurities are what dictates who becomes a scapegoat.

For example, if a narcissistic mother was insecure about her age and appearance after having children, she could target one of her daughters to be her scapegoat because her daughter’s beauty reminds her of her age and appearance. 

A narcissistic mother being jealous of her daughter's beauty

When a narcissist makes one-on-one conversations, disagreements, feuds, and arguments become two or more-on-one situations it is called triangulation. It can manifest in subtle settings like liking inappropriate photos of their exes on social media or very obvious ways like infidelity. Triangulation causes self-doubt, trust issues, and low self-esteem. 

Suggested Readings: What Does Triangulation Look Like, 6 Insightful Examples of Triangulation In Narcissistic Relationships

A narcissistic man using triangulation through social media

A Deeper Look Into Why Learning About Narcissism Is Such a Good Boundary

The complexity of narcissistic abuse is mind-boggling. Each behavior pattern is designed to support one another in the pursuit of manipulating the victim into justifying, rationalizing, and normalizing the narcissistic abuse. 

A victim of narcissistic abuse could know everything about defensive techniques like going no contact, the low contact, the gray rock method, the yellow rock method, and setting boundaries, but they’d all be useless without a solid foundation of knowledge about WHY they’re so effective. 

A narcissist’s motivation to use triangulation, scapegoating, narcissistic rage, projection, and baiting to remain in power and control over his/her environment comes from some of the most deeply rooted reasonings imaginable and it is because of this that they’re so good at hiding it. 

The best boundary you can set to protect yourself from a narcissist is laying a solid foundation of knowledge from which you can find clever ways to dismantle the complex manipulative structure that their behavior creates. 

Having Realistic Expectations About the Relationship Is the Best Boundary to Set For Love Bombing, Future Faking, or Hoovering You

The love bombing phase is a period in the beginning of a narcissistic relationship where a narcissist will use narcissistic mirroring to absorb an extraordinary amount of information about their victim’s identity and use the information to fill the void in the victim’s life. 

This void could manifest in the form of a desire for a happy, healthy, secure relationship, a well-paying job, an available, responsive, and consistent parent, or even a loyal friend. It all depends on what the victim is missing in their lives. 

A victim of narcissistic abuse stuck in the love bombing phase with her narcissistic friend

When a narcissist makes false promises in the future to get what they want in the present it is called future faking. It’s important to remember that future faking can be both verbal and non-verbal. It goes without saying but the verbal form of future faking is false promises.

The non-verbal form of future faking is the narcissists behavior because hey are very good at manipulating their victims into envisioning a healthy, happy, and secure future with them which is technically a form of future faking.

A victim of narcissistic abuse cooking a dinner during the love bombing phase with her narcissistic husband

When victims escape the narcissistic abuse cycle narcissists will often try to pull them back into the cycle with apologies, future faking, guilt, shame, fear and so on. This is known as hoovering. It is essentially love bombing only this time the narcissist already has all of the information about the victim’s identity which makes it easier to manipulate them back into the abuse cycle.

A narcissistic boyfriend trying to hoover his victim back into the relationship but she set boundaries

A Clear Understand of the Importance of Having Realistic Expectations In Narcissistic Relationships

A narcissist’s ability to use narcissistic mirroring to absorb an extraordinary amount of information about their victim’s identity is exactly what enables them to love bomb, future fake, and hoover their victims into staying in the narcissistic abuse cycle. 

There’s no doubt about it, narcissists can use narcissistic mirroring to make their victims feel really good. In fact, abusive relationships are so emotionally starved that narcissistic mirroring can make the relationship addictive, the same addiction that those who abuse substances experience. 

You can learn more about that in our article Why Do Trauma Bonds Feel Like an Addiction but the point is that narcissists are really good at making their victims envision a happy, healthy, and secure future with them.

It’s for this reason that one of the best boundaries that you can set with a narcissist who is love bombing, future faking, or hoovering you is holding realistic expectations for the relationship. Don’t fall victim to wishful thinking, make decisions based on the behavior of the narcissist in your life.

Once you’re able to consistently hold realistic expectations for the relationship, you’ll put yourself in a position from which you can dismantle the manipulative structure that narcissistic mirroring helps maintain and see through the love bombing, future faking, and hoovering tactics trying to keep you trapped within the abuse cycle.

What Should You Take Away From This Article?

The more information you have about narcissism, narcissistic personalities, and narcissistic abuse the easier it becomes to dismantle the manipulative structure that this form of abuse creates. 

However, narcissists are like the crocodiles of the abuse world because they’ve been around forever and they’ve mastered the ability to lurk in the shadows, give their victim a false sense of security, and launch a vicious attack that requires a miracle to escape. 

It’s hard to access but you, and every other victim of narcissistic abuse, have what it takes to create your own miracle to escape. You just have to absorb as much information as you can about narcissism, narcissistic personalities, and narcissistic abuse and with the guidance of a qualified medical professional, find clever ways to use the information you have to make your escape!

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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.

References:

Torna Pitman, Living with Coercive Control: Trapped within a Complex Web of Double Standards, Double Binds and Boundary Violations, The British Journal of Social Work, Volume 47, Issue 1, January 2017, Pages 143–161