The importance of setting boundaries in a narcissistic relationship is immeasurable. After months, years, even decades of narcissistic abuse, victims often become accustomed to putting the well-being of their abuser ahead of their own. Setting healthy boundaries with a narcissist is the best way to break free from that custom but it is hard because narcissists are notorious for disrespecting boundaries.
Narcissists disrespect boundaries because it contradicts their falsified identity and impedes their insecure pursuit of power, control, and narcissistic supply. A narcissist feels entitled to having the world revolve around them so the concept of healthy boundaries is both offensive and a foreign concept to them.
With that being said, a narcissists hatred for boundaries shouldn’t deter victims of narcissistic abuse from setting them. Boundaries are the first step victims must take to successfully escape the narcissistic abuse cycle. Having a comprehensive grasp about why narcissists disrespect boundaries will eliminate any doubt victims of narcissistic abuse may have about setting them in the first place.
Narcissists Disrespect Boundaries Because They Contradict Their Falsified Identity
The concept of healthy boundaries is foreign in the narcissistic realm. Healthy boundaries are designed to illuminate one’s comfort zone. It is a really simple and effective technique someone could use to protect themselves in the relationships they form. To a narcissist, healthy boundaries contradict their falsified identity and subsequently represent deeply rooted aspects of their true identity that they despise.
What does this mean?
One thing that isn’t necessarily common knowledge about narcissistic abuse is how good they are at compartmentalization. According to APA Dictionary of Psychology, compartmentalization is a defense mechanism in which thoughts and feelings that seem to conflict or to be incompatible are isolated from each other in separate and apparently impermeable psychic compartments.
A narcissist’s falsified identity is the clearest manifestation of their ability to compartmentalize their negative emotions. There’s a lot of really important information about this topic in our article How Are Narcissists Made but for the purpose of this article readers have to understand that it is widely believed that narcissists are created by an unhealthy/abusive upbringing.
This upbringing left the narcissist so emotionally immature that they’re incapable of conceptualizing a realistic image of themselves and regulating their negative emotions on their own.
A non-narcissistic person would be able to recognize this at some point and seek the guidance of a medical professional but narcissists make the mistake of associating their negative emotions with weakness and develop a fear of rejection and abandonment from others because of it.
This causes them to compartmentalize their negative emotions deep within their psyche and hide them behind a falsified identity to soothe their fear of abandonment and rejection. Unfortunately, they build the falsified identity out of their own perception of what society values.
This is problematic because their emotional immaturity makes them incapable of looking past society’s superficial exterior so they use very materialistic, superficial , and trivial aspects of life when building their identity. Their falsified identity is essential to their well-being because their compartmentalized negative emotions have a sun-like gravitational pull that is eating away at them from the inside.
In other words, the only thing keeping them from being consumed by their negative emotions is their falsified identity. On a subconscious level a narcissist is aware of the importance of their falsified identity which is why they become so aggressive when it gets contradicted.
To a narcissist, healthy boundaries represent limitations. It is another human-being looking the narcissist in the eye and either verbally or non-verbally telling them that they can’t do something. This triggers their suppressed negative emotions, specifically their sense of inadequacy, and it infuriates them.
It’s in this way that it contradicts their falsified identity because it serves as a constant reminder that they’re not the grandiose, larger than life, special, and unique individual that they portray themselves as and their emotional immaturity makes them incapable of regulating the shame that comes from that type of realization.
Narcissists Disrespect Boundaries Because They Impede Their Insecure Pursuit of Power, Control, and Narcissistic Supply
The sun-like gravitational pull that a narcissist’s compartmentalized and suppressed negative emotions create is no joke. They spend every waking hour ensuring that their falsified identity is kept intact and secure. The three most reliable “narcissistic substances” that they can use to prevent their falsified identity from being consumed by their negative emotions are power, control, and narcissistic supply.
How Does Power and Control Manifest In the Narcissistic Realm?
In the narcissistic realm, power and control represents their ability to manipulate others into believing their falsified identity. This could be done through either physical or emotional abuse. A very good example of this process can be found within narcissistic families.
For example, a child who is being physically abused by their narcissistic father and emotionally neglected by both their narcissistic father and enabling mother have no choice but to equate love with abuse because that’s all they’re shown.
The point is that the narcissist is able to control the narrative of what’s acceptable and what’s not. This narrative is always designed to protect the narcissist’s falsified identity while simultaneously corrupting their victim’s perception of a healthy relationship and core values. Over time, this way of life will cause the victim’s life to revolve around the narcissist’s, giving them total power and control which reduces the chances of their falsified identity being contradicted.
What Is Narcissistic Supply?
The validation, admiration, and reassurance that narcissists extract from others is called narcissistic supply. A narcissist’s falsified identity is designed to accumulate narcissistic supply.
This could manifest in the form of a narcissist portraying themselves as pillars of society, celebrities with millions of fans, the star quarterback of a high school football team, or even an individual who victimizes themselves to manipulate others into pointing out all of their positives.
A narcissist is heavily dependent on narcissistic supply because it helps them keep their falsified identity intact and suppress their compartmentalized negative emotions.
How Do Boundaries Prevent a Narcissist From Accumulating Power, Control, and Narcissistic Supply?
A hidden aspect of narcissistic supply is its versatility. While it often manifests in forms of admiration and validation like awards, praise, gratitude, and a following, it also manifests in the form of chaos.
A narcissist needs a tangible representation of the destruction that they cause because in their distorted version of reality, seeing the harm that they bring to others serves as a constant reminder that their falsified identity is real.
They don’t view the pain of their victims as a manifestation of their abuse, they view it as reassurance that they are as great as they think they are. It is so weird and difficult to wrap your mind around but it should attest to how emotionally immature, delusional, and unfixable they truly are.
However, when victims of narcissistic abuse set and maintain healthy boundaries with the narcissist, it strips them of their much needed tangible representation of the destruction that they cause.
The way that narcissists accumulate narcissistic supply is through narcissistic behavior patterns. When a victim of narcissistic abuse begins to set boundaries with the narcissist, they prohibit them from using manipulative behaviors like gaslighting, love bombing, or narcissitic rage that are designed to extract narcissistic supply.
There are many more examples of this in our article What Are Some Boundaries You Can Set With a Narcissist but one boundary a victim of narcissistic abuse could set with a narcissist that would impede their pursuit of power, control, and narcissistic supply is journaling to hold onto their version of reality.
Gaslighting, the denial of someone’s reality, is by far the most dominant form of manipulation that narcissists use because of how versatile it is. It can manifest in nearly every single narcissistic behavior pattern imaginable and over time it causes the victim to depend on the narcissist to accurately conceptualize their own reality.
By journaling to keep a detailed account about everything that happens in the narcissistic relationship can be a really good technique that victims of narcissistic abuse can use to validate their own reality.
As you can imagine, narcissists aren’t going to like their victim setting boundaries that target core aspects of their falsified identity so they disrespect and/or disregard boundaries their victim sets.
What Should You Take Away Form This Article?
A narcissist will disrespect a boundary because their characteristics, personality traits, and needs require them to do so. It’s important to remember that the answers you seek when healing from narcissistic abuse will always come from within. Of course, the guidance of a medical professional is strongly encouraged but at the end of the day, you’re in charge of your own destiny.
This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policies.
Luchner, Andrew F., et al. “Maintaining boundaries in psychotherapy: Covert narcissistic personality characteristics and psychotherapists.” Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training 45.1 (2008): 1.
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