There I was searching for a tool in boxes in the dark garden shed when a large green lizard suddenly jumps from one of the boxes, landing on the left side of my face, clinging for dear life. His right eye was directly in front of my left eye, staring into my soul it seemed, as I desperately tried to pull him off. The more I pulled, the more intense his stare, until I finally pried each of his back legs off my face, and he dropped to the ground, and scurried off.
I awoke from this dream convinced this was another delicious message from the all-wise world beyond our own, but what was I to make of it? I remembered reading in life coach Martha Beck’s best selling book, Finding Your Way In A Wild New World, that we all have a lizard self inside us. He rears his ugly head in times of stress and fear, and we act much like a lizard, acting out of basic survival instincts instead of using rational thought. This can lead to problems of course, as acting from primitive emotions naturally leads to fight or flight actions rather than thoughtful effective problem solving.
Since I had recently been experiencing the emotional backlash from the behavior of some narcissists in my life, I took the dream to mean to keep an eye on my inner lizard, and quiet my desire to react in a hostile, primitive way that could escalate conflict between myself and the narcissists.
So if it’s best not to react in a hostile way from the pain and confusion inflicted by narcissists, what is the better way to react? I had already spent many years silently letting them upset me after finding out first hand that fighting them wouldn’t get me anywhere, and I was at the end of my rope where doing nothing was no longer an option.
In an effort to better understand what was happening I needed a clear definition and awareness of what exactly narcissistic behavior was. I had been confused for most of my life when these individuals, who I loved and thought loved me, would suddenly says things or do mean things. Reading books like Dr. Les Carter’s best seller, When Pleasing You Is Killing Me, and listening to his helpful videos on YouTube about narcissists helped me see them and their behavior clearly, and come up with some plans for better dealing with them so they weren’t as disruptive in my life.
What is a narcissist? Narcissists are people who have developed a way of dealing with others where they try to control them to suit their needs above anything else. They do this because early in their childhood they came to believe their needs would not be met unless they came up with plans to manipulate others into getting what they wanted. There are different kinds of narcissists, the ones I most often encounter are either overt or covert narcissists.
An overt narcissist is someone who is outgoing, and openly and loudly talks about themselves, telling how superior they are, often mentioning people of high social status that they are associated with. They are direct and open when criticizing others, and creating a false image of themselves that puts them above others.
A covert narcissist is someone who has the same goals as an overt narcissist, but they are more sneaky about it. They use quiet ways to control others by giving them the silent treatment if someone isn’t doing things in a way that suits them, or they talk badly about someone to others instead of directly to them. They often use people as scapegoats, blaming them for their frustrations with their lives, and turning others against them so they can remain superior, and the blameless victims of their circumstances.
If you recognize that you might have narcissistic tendencies, don’t worry, everyone does. It is normal to want to talk about yourself or want things to go a certain way, but these people have extreme tendencies. They are very difficult to have a reasonable conversation with, where you work out a disagreement or compromise on something, or express anger or confusion. They tend to get extremely angry if you say “no,” for example, to something they want you to do.
Now that you are aware of who the narcissists are in your world, and how they operate, and you are aware that fighting with them, or silently accepting their behavior are not options, you can thoughtfully make plans to put limits and boundaries on your time spent with them. Sometimes you can completely remove yourself from them, but sometimes you can’t, for example if they are co-workers or family members.
The hurt inflicted from the narcissist can be deep, but your job is simply to become aware of the dynamics, and change your interaction with them to protect yourself. For example, communicate by email instead of phone conversations to limit what they say to you, send letters instead of texts, limit your visiting time, take breaks in social gatherings, see what they are trying to do and just listen without engaging, keep the conversation on track by focusing on the goal of the talk or visit, and finally just be yourself by making your own decisions and choices no matter what the narcissist does to try to change you.
It is so easy to react out of pain, and want to strike back, but hold on, give it some thought, pry that lizard off your face, and proceed with dignity. No need to villainize the narcissist, just see them for who they are, say “no” when you want to, set those boundaries, and hold yourself and your actions strong and in check. In other words, simply carry a strong sense of yourself, a wonderful quality that can’t help but help you in every part of your life.