Dealing with Your Narcissist and Other Toxic People over the Holidays
Most of us want to have the ‘typical’ family holiday. We want the tree, the presents, a delicious Christmas dinner and to be happy and surrounded by loved ones. We want the occasion to look like it does in the commercials and movies on TV, but quite often it doesn’t.
For many of us, the holidays mean being around people that we don’t necessarily like, or those who make us feel uncomfortable. That could include – your overbearing Narcissistic father, your hyper critical mother, your spiteful, passive-aggressive sister, or that Narcissist you thought you had gotten rid of ages ago.
Many of us have been on the road to healing for some time now, healing from childhood traumas and from our adult relationships. Most of us have gone no contact with our last abusive partner and we’ve distanced ourselves from the toxic people in our lives. Everything is going great, but along comes the holidays and this is when we are at our most vulnerable and when our resolve is severely tested.
Dealing with Your Narcissist over the Holidays
The most manipulative of Narcissists, view the holiday season as an opening, a way back into your life – even if you haven’t heard from them in months, years even. Because to them, it allows them the perfect excuse to make contact – while looking like a nice person in the process
“Hey it’s Dave, I’ve been thinking about you and I just wanted to call to wish you a Merry Christmas.”
Don’t get confused by this type of contact – it isn’t to spread merriment or good wishes – it has a calculated purpose and that is – to reel you back in again, disguised as holiday cheer. They know that you will be more apt to respond when you’re in the holiday spirit, when many people are contacting you to wish you well and they hope, that just maybe, you are feeling a little bit lonely. They know that the holidays bring out tinges of loneliness if you’re not with someone and their hope is to catch you in one of these vulnerable moments.
We always have to keep reminding ourselves in this journey, that these types of people do not care what their contacting us does to us. They don’t care about what they’ve done or said in the past. They don’t care how devastated we are, every time they raise our hopes, only to disappoint us over and over again. All they care about, is what they’re feeling right at this moment and right now they’re lonely, and they’re looking for anyone – A-N-Y-O-N-E that will answer their call. They don’t really care who answers it, although they may have a preference, but as long as their needs get met – that is all they concern themselves with. If you really think about it – if they strike out with you, or you ignore their attempt at contact, do you really think they will they will say, ‘ok she doesn’t want me I’ll just stay home, pine for her and not contact anyone else.’ That’s not how narcissists work. They will try and keep trying, until they find someone, who will give them what they need. So don’t waste your time feeling sorry for them – that’s what they want you to do. Fight the urge, delete and get back to making those cookies.
Narcissists know what works. They are masters of vulnerability – so your job here is to make sure that you hold your ground and don’t get confused. They aren’t just being nice and reaching out because they’ve been thinking about you. Even if they show up at your door with a crap load of presents and you feel justified taking said presents, because they owe you – don’t – just shut the door in their face. There’s nothing that they can give you that is more important than maintaining your dignity and no contact.
If you have children together, make sure that you have made your holiday plans well in advance, so there’s no confusion. There’s nothing a Narcissist loves more than ambiguity and wrecking other people’s plans, so make sure your plans are crystal clear.
Dealing with other Difficult or Toxic People During the Holidays
A friend contacted me last week, in a panic about what she was going to do about her parent’s Christmas dinner. She had just found out that her sister was going to be there and they have never had a good relationship. There has always been jealousy and animosity and even as recent as a month ago, her sister had been upset with her about something and sent her a card in the mail, calling her a list of foul names. Their relationship is seemingly unsalvageable and the two haven’t been in the same room together for many years. Her sister usually spends Christmas with her own family, but this year she was spending it with her parents. After a long chat, my friend came to the conclusion that she wasn’t going to go. And with that one decision, all of her anxiety was gone. She decided that she would spend Christmas Eve with her parents and Christmas day at her house with her children.
She made the decision to not go and for many people, that’s the right decision. It is after all, just one day and putting up with further abuse that will nullify all the hard work you’ve done, isn’t worth it.
For others, attending a function that will press your buttons may not be such a bad idea. If you’ve set your boundaries firmly in place and you’ve gotten good at teaching people how you expect to be treated, then standing up for yourself and showing people, who have previously put you down, that there is a new sheriff in town, would actually be a good thing.
All families have at least one bully and we know that the one thing a bully hates is when someone stands up to them. One of my brothers, the golden child, always took verbal jabs at me, every chance he got, throughout our whole lives. Our relationship today is very different from what it used to be and I can even pinpoint the day that it changed. It was about two and a half years ago and we were at a dinner party of a mutual friend. The friend asked me a question about my childhood. I answered her truthfully (my brother’s recollection of the past and mine are completely different) and my brother piped up and said, “Boo hoo, poor me. You’re always the victim.”
In the past, I probably would have put up a mild resistance, and felt ashamed, but after I had done the self-work and was feeling good about myself, I stood my ground and looked him straight in the eye and said firmly, “I don’t need your validation. You didn’t live my life. Your experiences were not my experiences, so you can keep your mouth closed and your opinions to yourself.”
He may have tried a few times after that, but every time he tried to bust my boundary, he was met with fierce resistance and I sometimes even pointed the finger right back at him. When they realize that you are no longer easy prey, they will give up rather quickly and move on to someone who is less of a challenge. In that moment I taught my brother and everyone else listening, that my reign as Miss People-Pleasing-Doormat was over.
In families there are systems and patterns of the way things have always been. When you are in the grips of change, you’re usually going to bump into some form of resistance and it won’t necessarily be an easy transition. Your changing means that others will have to change – it means that you’re rocking the boat and some people won’t be comfortable with that and they’ll push back, you just have to hold your ground and be emotionally prepared for opposition.
Remember, as the holiday approaches, that you are not obligated to do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, or hinders your progress. You always have options. You can:
- Choose to not attend
- Just make an appearance – say hello, drop off the presents, make the rounds, have a cream puff and leave
- Stand up to all the bullies in your family and show them how it’s going to be from now on
- Ignore the verbal jabs
- Contact those you have an issue with days before hand and try to settle your differences before the holidays
- Make holiday plans with those you want to see, for an alternate day, like Christmas Eve or Boxing Day
You do what feels right to you and remember the only obligation you have is to yourself and your well-being. If you do decide to go, remember that the more you stick up for yourself, the easier it will become and the less often you’ll have to do it.
The gift I would like you all to give to yourselves this year, is the gift of separation and freedom from what other people think of you. You know you’re on the right path when you realize that these things that were once so hurtful and emotionally charged, now no longer have any effect or power over you and when someone throws a verbal jab, it slides right off of you and your first reaction is to laugh at them, or feel pity.
To all my wonderful readers – I’d like to wish you all the Merriest of Christmases and to thank you for all your support and for allowing me to walk with you, on this incredible journey.
Happy Holidays from the Esteemology Team!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!