Spending time closely connected to a narcissist is difficult enough at the best of times, but being in a relationship with or closely connected to one over a holiday period can bring on an intense dose of the holiday blues.
The first thing to remember, which will likely save an incredible amount of stress, is that narcissists are often deeply scarred and see themselves as the victims. Therefore, the “blame” for everything that happens to them sits firmly on everyone else’s shoulders.
Trying to get a narcissist to accept the result of their actions or miraculously transform their character is, unfortunately, a wish unlikely to come true. Even though the narcissist is terribly unhappy in their current state, they are devoid of anything that challenges them to feel genuine joy, love and happiness. They can thus remain closely acquainted with the negative emotions such as anger, hatred and envy that they have come to feel comfortable with and understand so well.
Holidays heighten a narcissist’s traits as their obsessive need to provoke fights, garner attention and control others elevates to ridiculously high levels.
This is because holiday seasons are not all about narcissists; they involve everyone.
Therefore, narcissists pull out their box of magic tricks and do whatever they can to stop special events from stealing their thunder. They want to be higher up than everyone around them and will spend the entire holiday period critically looking down upon everyone else.
Keeping the narcissist satisfied, be it through time, effort, attention or expensive material gifts, will be a full-time job with not one single reward. It won’t matter one iota to a narcissist if the person they are draining is emotionally or physically burned out, or if there are insufficient finances to keep up with their flamboyant desires. Their demands continue until they have bled the person they are “feeding” from dry.
If narcissists are not made to feel “special,” they will go to any length to sabotage celebrations, even if it is to their own detriment. They will possibly break up with their partner or fall out with family members immediately before holidays to ensure that the maximum amount of anguish and emotional upset spills out due to their not being around.
If they do not have total control over events taking place, they sabotage them by withdrawing their presence or refusing to engage.
Narcissists may demand that no one give them gifts, and they may act obnoxious or reclusive, or completely ostracise themselves from festivities. They do this solely and deliberately to affect other people, not out of their own preference not to celebrate. If they do receive gifts, they may sulk or throw tantrums, furious that the presents did not reach their high expectations.
Rather than showing gratitude, they are far more likely to show contempt.
The ironic thing is, those who are around narcissists take on all of the guilt and blame that the narcissist should be shouldering. Narcissists project their resentment and bitterness forcefully onto those around them, so the victims feel like the ones responsible for the chaotic mess.
Narcissists express rage to cause other people to rage, and then the narcissist moves swiftly into victim mode.
Rather than standing up to narcissists, those in receipt of their behaviour play small and tiptoe around them to ensure everything runs smoothly and the narcissist is meticulously tended.
The victim has learned that when the narcissist is confronted all hell breaks loose, so they pacify them to avoid conflict and drama. This is the ideal playing ground for a narcissist. It means they are easily able to take whatever they “deserve” without any questions or fights, after having effectively worn their “opponent” down.
The most devastating thing about this is that when we are prey to a predatory narcissist, we suffer inner turmoil, which eats away at us from the inside out. We may even feel as though we are going insane.
This can worsen over holiday periods, as we feel so low that we may also let other people down, finding it difficult to eat, have fun, communicate or join in festivities.
On the other side of the scale, the narcissist appears to be in their element, possibly wearing a twisted smirk on their face that reflects the pleasure they feel that everything is going their way. They may even get an extra burst of energy right when they know that everyone else has lost theirs. This then makes it look as though they are not in the wrong and it is everyone else who is miserable!
Narcissists are unpredictable and will swing from high to low like a possessed seesaw, making it impossible to work out what they may do next. With a narcissist, we should always be on guard, expecting the unexpected and letting go of unrealistic hopes that holidays will be a smooth, harmonious and enchanting ride.
Narcissists may use one of their most infamous tools—the silent treatment—in which they are highly skilled.
They might deliberately ignore guests, friends or members of their own or their partner’s family. They want to make it known to those near and far how deeply miserable they are so they can extract sympathy and pity from anyone willing to express it.
Quite often this is because a narcissist’s childhood festivities were traumatic; therefore, holiday seasons are a painful reminder of nightmares from their past. They may have been deprived of quality time with close family members, or it may be that they never experienced the high excitement found in Christmas spirit, so they don’t know how to handle the loving, bonding energy that is usually in abundance during the holidays.
Although, it is possible that quite the opposite may have happened. Narcissists might have been so ridiculously spoilt, to the point that nothing they receive matches up to their precious previous experiences.
It is likely that rather than feeling happy for those who appreciate Christmas, narcissists feel resentful and envious. They tell themselves and anyone who wants to listen that everyone else is faking happiness and they are being hypocritical for spending time with those who aren’t normally around. They fail to see that Christmas is a time when loved ones gather together.
The whole scene makes narcissists feel sick to the stomach—until the vitriol rises and erupts in a volatile explosion.
They suck the energy from anyone they can latch onto so that those closest to them are drained to the point of debilitation. One of the most bewildering things about being close to a narcissist is that certain people fail to see the devastation they cause.
This is because narcissists know exactly whom they can weave their web of dysfunction around and whom they can’t. Narcissists may use gaslighting techniques to make their victim feel as though they are going crazy, while they look entirely innocent.
When we engage with narcissists, we are vulnerable to their ability to turn everything around and accuse us of being the perpetrator of malicious words or actions. It is so easy to be triggered by a narcissist, as they play low and use our wounds and weaknesses to hit us where it hurts most. No response, no reaction or no contact are not easy when dealing with a narcissist, but they are all-important when we need to keep our self-worth and sanity in check.
If a narcissist knows they have nothing to gain, be it energy, financial or material gains or destroying other people’s moods, they turn their charm up to the highest degree and dazzle those around them with their happy and joyous “other side.”
They do this simply to make it look as though we are delusional, so they can keep up their manipulative behaviour unquestioned.
This can make it difficult to seek support, as when we turn to someone else for advice they struggle to see what we see. To us the narcissist will be controlling, deceptive and malicious, and all hell could be breaking loose, yet in front of other people they may turn the false jubilation up full to keep the façade in place.
As long as a narcissist is influencing other people’s moods, one way or the other, they are internally satisfied, regardless of how happy or sad they may appear on the surface.
It is well-known that narcissists are not forthcoming with gift-giving, being present, spending quality time with their family or friends or showing kindness or gratitude. They are more likely to do the opposite, even destroying other people’s gifts and precious time that should be spent together. If they do buy gifts, it is more likely something they want for themselves, rather than what the other person wants to receive.
Narcissists may also be unfaithful, deceitful and lie more compulsively during holidays. They may go for long periods without getting in touch, purely to cause devastation, turmoil and pain to those who care about them.
Firm boundaries are essential, so that we can stand well back from their stage performance and view it for exactly what it is. Knowledge is key. When we are aware of their behaviour and the detrimental effects it has on everyone around them, we can begin to take steps to either protect or remove ourselves from their clawed grasp.
Where possible, try not to allow their illusions of grandeur or power to influence and alter holidays.
It is not reality. We can accept it or back away from it; it is our choice. However difficult it may seem, we should try not to react emotionally or get too meticulously involved.
We should try to leave the narcissist to pout and sulk, and eventually their fury will dissipate. If we can make arrangements without them or take regular breaks, it will ease the stress and tension we experience.
Giving them as little attention as possible is the best way to avoid any showdowns. If there is no one in the audience, the performance in the theatre has very little meaning.
Narcissists struggle to feel or display their own emotions, so they enjoy watching intense emotions bleed out from other people. Therefore, a public emotional meltdown from anyone around them is their perfect holiday treat, and one they secretly and silently wish for.
Narcissists will only continue their outlandish behaviour when all eyes are turned on them.
As difficult as it might seem, we have to look, and slowly back, away.
We can still love or care for a narcissist, whether from near or far; however, we should try never allow them to dictate or control our inner peace and emotions.
Writing: Alex Myles
Main Image Unsplash Joel Filipe