I talk a lot about boundaries. I believe they are the foundation of a healthy relationship. Setting boundaries means being emotionally honest, assertive and it means protecting your emotional and physical space. Boundaries maintained and with appropriate consequences teach people in a healthy way how you want to be treated. In therapy, especially with codependents, the concept of boundary setting is a vital part of recovery and without them, it is hard to imagine how a relationship might work.
The one issue with boundaries is that often the recipient is not prepared to play along and becomes defensive or aggressive in response. This is where some lose their way and find it hard to maintain the idea. Theoretically, this is when a second, firmer boundary needs to be set with firm consequences if boundaries are crossed again. We are talking in this situation about doing this with someone who might not be used to the idea of having boundaries set on them and might be a bit disagreeable before getting used to the idea.
However, there is one group of individuals who will not only dislike the concept of boundaries but would certainly never allow them to be set. Narcissists use meant methods to control and abuse and part of that is certainly not allowing their victims to protect their personal and emotional space. They want it all, even if they might sometimes give the impression of being amiable, it is usually only a manipulative measure to get what they want. Many people who are involved with this type of personality, especially codependents, are sometimes blind to this manipulation while being deeply involved in the narcissist-codependent dance. Many are so conditioned by this involvement, that the idea of setting boundaries is a step way too far and they accept the fact that this will probably never happen.
So my question is: How do you go about setting boundaries with a narcissist? My answer would be that if you are truly asking yourself this question, then “you are closing the barn door, after the horse has bolted”, so to say. Let’s put this into more perspective by giving you a little story from my past experience. About five years ago, due to the amount of writing I do concerning codependency, I was offered a book deal. My initial excitement was tempered when I read the brief. They wanted me to produce a book documenting how someone can deal with a narcissist on a daily basis (without leaving them being one of the options). When I pitched my idea back at them that we should talk about the effects of being involved with a monster and the ways to recover, they said no. The unfortunate thing for me is it went against everything I see as true. I firmly believe that you cannot negotiate with a narcissist and even if there are methods, it is all part of a grander manipulative scheme controlled by the narcissist. In some cases, trying to engage in this process, can be physically dangerous.
The only advice I ever give people (and for me the only sensible advice) is to get away from them as soon as possible, go no-contact, block any avenue that might lead to them coming back and work on why that person was in your life in the first place. Hanging around and hoping they will change, trying to setting boundaries or dealing with them on a daily basis will only lead to the same result in the end. The problem is that the narcissist will be in control of that process and will choose to leave only when he or she has sucked their victim dry.
So, if you are in this situation, don’t think, analyse, hope or believe that you can do anything in a healthy sense. Go and make it quick!!!
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Dr. Nicholas Jenner, a therapist, coach, and speaker, has over 20 years of experience in the field of therapy and coaching. His specialty lies in treating codependency, a condition that is often characterized by a compulsive dependence on a partner, friend, or family member for emotional or psychological sustenance. Dr. Jenner’s approach to treating codependency involves using Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy, a treatment method that has gained widespread popularity in recent years. He identifies the underlying causes of codependent behavior by exploring his patients’ internal “parts,” or their different emotional states, to develop strategies to break free from it. Dr. Jenner has authored numerous works on the topic and offers online therapy services to assist individuals in developing healthy relationships and achieving emotional independence.