It’s Narcissist Friday!
I recently read “When I Lay My Isaac Down,” by Carol Kent. A compelling story by a mother who went through tragedy. At one point, she relays something another person told her:
“When you’re in a crisis, if you have only one supportive person, you can make it through the journey. We all need at least one person to be there for us in the middle of a tragedy.”
Good words, and I agree, but they leave one begging question: Who? Who can you trust? Who qualifies as supportive? Who is safe?
This blog post won’t give you a personal answer to that question, of course. I wish I could say, “your pastor,” but I know better. I have heard too many stories where the pastor was not the one to trust. Same for counselors and friends and family members. There just isn’t a certain group of trustworthy—safe—people. Instead, I can share some thoughts on what kind of person to watch for (and who to avoid).
First, remember that the narcissist can be one of the most supportive people you will meet. Some have shared how the narcissist would listen and sympathize and be just the right person at the right time. But later, things change. Later, the things you shared, the personal and private details, come back at you in manipulative ways. You regret telling the narcissist anything. The support was just a way for the manipulator to get the information needed to twist you and hurt you.
So be careful who you trust. That probably isn’t really news to anyone who reads here. Most readers here have been burned. But we all need someone for support. When the narcissist has been pretty much the only person in your life, how do you find someone safe?
Consider these thoughts:
- A safe person doesn’t need the details. If someone prompts you to tell more and more, beware. Safe people are supportive even when they don’t really know what’s going on. Safe people can pray without knowing what they are praying for.
- A safe person doesn’t try to fix you. Watch out for the person with all the answers. They tell you what you did wrong and what you should do next. If you just do what they say, then they will support you. Safe people don’t have the answers, but they stand by you while you find them for yourself.
- A safe person doesn’t bring in others without your permission. Safe people don’t run to their “prayer group” with the latest information about you. They can pray for you by themselves. Safe people respect your privacy and confidence.
- A safe person doesn’t need to be with you all the time. Safe people allow you to come to them. They just stay available. They might remind you that they are available, ready to help, but they don’t punish you or pout when you don’t call.
- A safe person doesn’t judge you. Safe people know that we all make mistakes and we all hurt when our mistakes come back to haunt us. Safe people don’t consider themselves to be more spiritual or more wise.
- A safe person doesn’t talk a lot. Safe people listen. They don’t correct or interrupt or lecture. In fact, you may wish that your safe person would say more. But safe people know that you need to talk, or that support is found in presence rather than words.
- A safe person doesn’t tell you that your problem is the same as hers. Safe people can have the same struggles as you, but they understand that you are different from them. It may be nice to find someone who understands from personal experience, but every situation and
- A safe person doesn’t invest in your problem. Safe people invest in you. They rejoice when your problem is solved. They don’t need to bring it up again, but they understand when you do.
- A safe person doesn’t expect to be your only support. Safe people want you to have as much support as you can find. They want you to have a team, and they understand that not everyone will have the same place or words. A safe person might warn you if they fear you are trusting someone unsafe, but they let the decision be yours.
- A safe person doesn’t just tell you what you want to hear. If a safe person needs to talk, he/she might tell you the truth as they understand it. Sometimes that’s uncomfortable, and sometimes you won’t like it. But the safe person understands that truth is often difficult and approaches it with love and concern for you.
Well, that’s ten, and I will stop at the round number. You probably already have someone in mind who is safe, and someone who is not safe. I think this list works even for a professional counselor. I have known professionals who have broken several of these with clients. Same is true for pastors and family members. You are welcome to add more in the comment section, and I would encourage everyone to read the comments.
The bottom line is that you need someone safe. If you begin to trust someone and they break one or more of these, find someone else. And be patient with yourself. Your instinct for reading people may be damaged. You probably find it hard to trust yourself. So, if you make a mistake, look for support somewhere else and don’t punish yourself. We have all done it.
I guess I should add another one:
- A safe person will not use you, abuse you, mock you, manipulate you, trap you, trick you, lie to you, exploit you, or endanger you. If someone you are trusting is doing these things, step away. Find someone else to trust. You don’t need a person like that, no matter how much he/she has been entwined into your life.
Now, I really want to say that you should not try to find safety in someone of the opposite gender, particularly a friend, but I am avoiding that. Just know that the risk is very high. If you have been abused by a narcissist, you have to go into a relationship very carefully. Too many stories have been told (some here) of people who are rescued from a narcissistic spouse by another narcissist. Trading one abuser for another. It happens. Don’t let it happen to you.
You need a safe person. If you don’t have someone, share your story or your need here in the comments. You will find that this group truly cares. Be careful of connecting off thread, because we have had phony people here, but there are many good people who truly understand and care.
Stay in a safe zone and don’t be ashamed of asking for support. Just one person can make a huge difference.