How To Play The Narcissist’s Game
*I’m adding a disclaimer of sorts to this post due to a few people who seem to think that I’m claiming to be an expert. When I use the word – expert – to refer to myself, I’m being sardonic towards myself. I use humour to deal with my pain. I am not an expert, I simply grew up with parents who are narcissists, who made my life a confusing hellish nightmare.
I’m sorry if I did not make it clear enough in my words, I thought I had.
This is a personal blog (by a real person and human being) where I share some of my experiences and thoughts. This is one of the ways I have chosen to sort through my own issues.
When I wrote this post I did not expect anyone to read it, posting it publicly was a challenge to myself to break through the silence and censorship of my self-expression which was imposed on me by the narcissists in my life.
I realise that any discussion about NPD triggers our own experiences of it, and we may react to the ghosts which haunt us.
Please take care of yourselves.
Please be considerate of others who, like you, have suffered. We all know how hard it is to heal the pain of our personal wounds.
“Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster… for when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche
The title of this post comes from a search criteria in my stats which led someone to my blog. It caught my eye. The first thought which popped into my head was…
Why exactly do you want to play games with a Narcissist?
I can guess why based on my own reasons for wanting to outwit a Narcissist. Frustration, and the urge to be acknowledged by them just once. Just once you want them to admit that you are an individual separate from them, and right about them. But they never will, not genuinely, although they might do it as a ploy, to placate you, a manipulative device to get you to stop being who you are and become who they’ve decided you are. However I don’t know anything about the person who was doing that search or the Narcissist they are dealing with.
The very first thing you have to ask yourself before you engage in game playing battle with a Narcissists is – Are they a Narcissist or a Sociopath/Psychopath? There are similarities, they are often confused, but the differences will make all the difference to your survival and win rate. If they are a Narcissist, are they a regular one or a Malignant one? There is a subtle difference, not always obvious to those caught in a relationship with a Narcissist.
Once you’ve determined that…
Every Narcissist you meet is different. Sure there are similarities of behaviour in all Narcissists, but they are people just like you and me. And ‘Yes’, to the person who searched for whether Narcissists have a soul, they do have one just like you do. Narcissists are human. They are just stuck in an early phase of development. We all pass through that phase too, but we passed through it onto the next phase and the next and so on.
So, you want to outwit a Narcissist? To win at a game they’ve been playing before they even knew they were playing it? They sometimes still don’t know they’re playing it, which is why they are so good at it.
I won’t go into the difference between subconscious and conscious awareness, because I’ll probably end up confusing both you and myself. However it does have bearing on how to deal with a Narcissist. Simply put, at least I hope this is simple, take any question which you might ask yourself about your life such as – Why do I attract Narcissists?
Your conscious mind will try to answer this question as best as it can with the information consciously available to it. The stuff of which you are aware, about yourself and others, on a day to day basis.
Your subconscious knows exactly why, and it would probably say – you attract Narcissists because you are attracted to them. They have something you need. A gift for you. And the only way to get that gift is to go through a relationship with one or two or three.
You access the subconscious through dreams, sometimes through therapy if you have a good therapist, and through pausing to listen to yourself, really listen. The subconscious communicates with you all the time – that song, memory, image, scene from a film or TV show, that uncomfortable feeling, sudden ache in your body, which popped into your head, made itself conscious, for no apparent reason, the subconscious has a reason. The subconscious uses everything to communicate unlike the conscious mind which mainly uses words and verbal thoughts.
For more about how we communicate with ourselves, read this: Focusing by Eugene T. Gendlin.
Much of what a Narcissist does and is, is subconscious. They will never admit to being a Narcissist, not consciously they won’t, because consciously they are not. A very rare few will figure it out, there are one or two who blog and have written books about their experience of being a Narcissist and how they are slowly curing themselves because most therapists don’t know how to cure NPD as very few who have NPD go into therapy and those who do don’t do it to cure Narcissism and usually mess with the therapist and then leave. The Narcissists who openly admit to having NPD are rare and brave. Brave because would you want to admit you were a Narcissist to yourself and others with all the Narcissist hate on the internet and elsewhere?
Both my parents are/were Narcissists. I am in some ways an expert on the subject, but I don’t consider myself to be. I didn’t study it academically, I lived it and then tried to make sense of what I’ve lived. I’m still working on making sense of it. It took me a while to figure out that they were Narcissists and then figure out what that meant. It has only been in recent years that the subject has been explored in a detailed way.
Best book I’ve ever read on the subject is – Going Mad to Stay Sane by Andy White. I found that book in a secondhand bookshop, I wasn’t looking for it, it found me. It’s one of those books which glued itself to my hand and forced me to buy it. It changed my life. It’s not an easy book to get a hold of. Why!?!
Anyway, back to playing games with Narcissists.
I’ve played Narcissistic games with Narcissists. Not just with my parents, but with others who have NPD. Usually I don’t know I’m playing the game until something strikes me as odd about the interaction, such as the fact that they are not being who they said they are – we all do that a bit, but Narcissists do it all the time and the gulf between who they say they are and who they are is gaping – and it dawns on me that yet again I’m dealing with a Narcissist.
I have also played actual games with Narcissists.
Want to find out a whole bunch of subconscious stuff about a person, play a board or video game with them. Some people undergo a complete character change when playing a game.
That very polite and nice person you know so well, suddenly becomes a control freak with a vengeance. That laid back, peace-loving dippy hippie turns into a scorched earth policy activist. That aggressive bully turns into a screaming scaredy-cat who yells help and eek a lot and wants all violent games banned.
I’ve never played a video game with my parents, but I did play one once with a Narcissist. It was a boxing game. He usually only played it with his kids, because they always let him win without letting him know they were doing that. He made the mistake of playing it with me. I did not let him win, but thrashed him and then laughed out loud about it. I can be so socially awkward at times. He stormed out of the room and created a drama in another room.
To be honest I did it deliberately. We’d played a board game earlier in the day and I didn’t like how he’d treated his son. He’d intimidated and bullied him. But you can’t tell a parent how to treat their children, especially if you don’t have children. So… I thought I’d give him a taste of his own medicine and see how he liked it. I didn’t solve anything by doing this, I didn’t change him or make him see any light of any sort about his behaviour, I may have even made things worse by doing what I did. Although I did catch the son’s eye when I thrashed his father and there was a glint in it. It was the same glint I had when someone did that sort of thing with my parents when I was his age. A dawning of seeing that the person who has convinced you they are perfect and you are flawed beyond repair is actually just as flawed, maybe more flawed, than you are. It’s a moment of freedom for the prisoner of a Narcissist.
I did however play board games with my parents. They had different styles, but both were very Narcissistic.
Narcissist tend to play games exactly like they live life. So there is not much of a character change. One rule for you, the rules of the game plus a few invented ones they’ve just added so you can’t win. And no rules for them.
My father taught me how to play Chess. I later learned how to play Chess properly from someone who wasn’t a Narcissist. It was very boring compared to the Narcissistic version.
Taking on a Narcissist at any kind of game is a bad idea. But is it a bad idea worth having and acting on?
Those who think I’m wise… clears throat while looking confused and embarrassed… thank you but I’m not really. My wisdom, if I have any, lies in allowing myself to make mistakes and learn from them, then make some more, learn from those, and so on. An evolving path of mistakes. I used to be terrified of making mistakes. Why? Because my Narcissistic mother was perfect and punished me for being imperfect all the time. To her, I was a mistake. Being afraid of making mistakes became my personal hellish prison. Allowing myself to make them and enjoy the results was my key to freedom. That’s it really.
Narcissists don’t have rules. Not for them. For you… they have so many that it suffocates the life out of you. They hand out censorship like after dinner mints. Less freedom for you means they have more freedom for them. They are the classic free spirit who doesn’t allow anyone else to be a free spirit.
So, if you play games with them you’d better be prepared for games which have rules that keep changing throughout the games.
But as prepared as you try to be, you will hit a wall at some point, a boundary of your own making. You have values and principles, and a line you won’t cross no matter what. The Narcissist knows that, consciously, subconsciously, both. At some point you’re going to hit one of your boundaries. They don’t have boundaries, well they do, but they move. Their rules are designed to change when they are losing and basically even if they lose they will turn it into a victory.
Can you ever win a game against a Narcissist? Yes and no. Depends on the game, but mostly it depends on what you consider to be winning. They will always leave you frustrated with your win and your loss. Can you tell the difference?
I sometimes deliberately lose to a Narcissist to ensure a win. Why? Because they are an obsessive persistent pain in the ass when they think they’ve lost, but if they think they’ve won, they will fuck off… most of the time. And to me that is a win.
The best way to make a Narcissist go away with their tail thrust firmly between their legs – Show them you’ve seen the face behind their mask, the face which hides behind every one of their masks. You become anathema to them. At first they may try to prove you wrong. You’re the inferior baddie and they are the superior goodie. Stay firm. Don’t allow your ego, your need to be seen as the goodie and to show them up as the baddie, to weaken your resolve. Can you do that?
Much of what it takes to mess with a Narcissist involves doing the opposite of what you would do with someone who is not a Narcissist and what you would normally do.
Narcissists are very good at finding really nice people. Your niceness is a weakness. They need that niceness because they don’t have it. Their favourite thing is hearing you tell them how wonderful they are, nice people do that, encourage the good in others and give compliments freely. This addiction to nice people is the Narcissist’s weakness. They tell people how wonderful they are, but they don’t believe it, not consciously or subconsciously. They are very aggressive about how wonderful they are, they will fight to the death to prove it… to themselves most of all. They use others to prove it.
There is a football chant in the UK – You’re shit and you know you are – which is a good one to use with a Narcissist if you want them to go away. At first they will try to get you to see that you are the shit one and they are the wonderful one. Keep singing it. Eventually they will run away, dump you (you’re not allowed to dump them), and find someone who will sing – You are so beautiful to me – to them.
There is always someone else, they discard relationships like we discard trash. They change identities in a similar way, but they never change their pattern of relationship, and they rarely change who they are underneath all of their masks. Still a lonely child hoping someone really special will love them, what a tempting trap, what a prison! Your love will never be enough to save them no matter how much they try to convince you it will. You will lose yourself trying to do that.
One of the most effective ways of ‘winning’ a game with a Narcissist… let them win. If you’ve been in a relationship with a Narcissist for a while, you’ll know that at some point they stop being ‘nice’ to you, it’s an effort for them, and they switch to being mean. They will tell you some awful truth about yourself for your own good, of course, they’re wonderful like that. Don’t try to prove them wrong, that’s what they want, that gives them what they need, all of your passionate attention. Tell them they are right and walk away. You agree with them, you are the bad daughter or son, the toxic friend, the negative lover, you’re bad for them and will always hurt them, they need to get away from you, move on, let go. Can you do that?
It won’t always work, you have to be consistent and persistent or they will wear you down with their infinite persistence. You just have to keep blocking their nonsense. Block the blah blah which confuses. They are nonsense blah blah experts.
I cut ties with both my parents over ten years ago. The ‘No Contact’ approach. Which worked for a while, but Narcissists never follow the rules of others. They do it as long as it suits them. Both my parents recently resurfaced. My father because he died. You’re not necessarily free from the games of a Narcissist just because they’re dead. My mother because she wants to get her hands on whatever inheritance my father left behind. Which is a frigging mess typical of a Narcissist. A poisoned chalice or Gordian Knot (got that from Going Mad to Stay Sane). My mother has tried many Narcissistic ploys to engage me in her games. I’ve been ignoring them. Her latest one was claiming that she thinks, poor her, that I may be dead. She wants me to react to that by proving I am alive. Fuck her, let her prove her nonsense blah blah, frankly I’m relived to be dead to her, not that she really believes her own nonsense.
There you have it. My view, my expert advice… !?!?! I’m still making mistakes and trying to turn the experience into some sort of learning and crazy wisdom.
Take what you need from my posts – there is not going to be a book – and do what you want. You are responsible for your own life. Live it, learn from it… try to enjoy it. A bit. A lot. Good luck!
If you’ve been or are in a romantic relationship with a narcissist, please visit – Let Me Reach with Kim Saeed
Narcissism and the Fruit of Suffering – – the blog of my favourite author, whose book Going Mad to Stay Sane helped me to figure out and explain many aspects of my own experience with narcissistic parents, especially my tendency to be self destructive.
Narcissism – Living Without Feelings – A very long and detailed analysis of NPD, which explains how someone develops the disorder, what goes on behind the facade, how the disorder affects the individual who has it, and its effects on others, and so much more. If you want to understand NPD, this is an excellent article. Comprehensive and insightful.
Out of the Fog – Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) – an excellent resource of all the ‘games’ which Narcissists ‘play’.
Selfishness and Narcissism in Family Relationships & The Drama Triangle by Dr. Lynne Namka
Worth reading if you’re thinking of telling a narcissist that they have NPD:
Narcissists in Fiction:
Honest Science vs. False Friend: A Contrast Study of Temperance Brennan and Angela Montenegro – This is an interesting post examining two characters on a popular TV show (the Narcissist as a TV & film trope is very common), one of which could be perceived as being a Narcissist but isn’t, the other is a Narcissist but may not be perceived as one (because Narcissists are focused on how others perceive them thus they are better able to manipulate their image and control how others view them). Like the person who wrote this, I find the character of Angela Montenegro intensely annoying and distressing (I have been known to shout at the TV when watching this show when her character appears and does her ‘thing’) because she is very narcissistic yet gets away with it, everyone makes excuses for her (including the resident psychologist who is supposed to be very clever) and thinks she’s lovely, very ’empathic’. Episode 6, season 5 was particularly explicit in showing Angela’s Narcissism and I got intensely angry about how it was handled). This episode reminded me of CZBZ of The Narcissistic Continuum’s post of Puppygate – Part Two Online Narcissists: A case study called PuppyGate.
Some other posts I have written while working through my issues:
An insightful guest post on NPD: