New Emotional Responses to Narcissistic Triggers

images (89)Once you’ve identified typical triggers and learned about how narcissists behave in a very predictable pattern, you are armed with the knowledge to  anticipate that the narcissist WILL say them again.

The more aware you are of triggers, the less potent they become. Everytime you imagine the narcissist saying that trigger and imagining yourself responding in way that keeps your emotions in check, you are reconditioning the trigger. You are changing the cycle. Try to identify as many triggers as you can, so that you can be prepared.

For example: The narcissist says, X and typically, you respond with “Y”. (or WHYYYY??????) It’s a predictable habit.

There are many strategies available, the key point is to find the one that works for YOU and helps you tolerate the distress of forced dealings with the narcissist, as in custody situations, workplace narcissism and bullying and in family situations where you’ve chosen to continue a relationship with a narcissist for personal reasons.

You can, for example:  distract yourself from the argument, take a walk, read, engage in other activities that are physically active, say a prayer, remember your spirituality, listen to quiet music, read a pleasant story or poem, do something social, etc.

Once you’ve identified the triggers and developed more helpful alternatives, you can put them together. Imagine a trigger, then imagine remembering your GOAL of PEACE and NON REACTION to the narcissist’s antics. NOW imagine responding in a self-respecting and calm manner.


  • Write down all impulsive, knee-jerk reactions you have to the narcissist’s words and actions. Identify as many impulsive reactions you have to them and know that these are your triggers.

  • Come up with a list of things that you can do immediately when under verbal attack, to deal with it, without REACTING BACK (as we know this just fuels a narcissist to fight harder)

    What can you say to yourself?

    What can you focus on?

    What would be distracting?  (from your urge to retaliate verbally or physically)

    What would be soothing? (of your frayed emotions) Practice putting these things together. Imagine the trigger and then imagine that you provide the alternative, less hostile, and more constructive responses. 

Keep practicing!



Rehearse Ending the Conflict Gracefully

One of the biggest problems with being upset or overwhelmed by the narcissists behaviors is that we cant think well when we’re upset. We often cannot find useful words that would make the situation better so we end up on autopilot, spewing out the same responses that haven’t worked for us in the past.

Some possibilities to consider include the following: 

  • Observing that you are fighting and remember that you don’t want to waste anymore time doing that

  • Realize that you are experiencing a very strong emotional reaction and name it for yourself

  • Realize that you don’t want to continue down the negative path

  • Recognize that you are overwhelmed and need to get some distance to evaluate how you choose to respond

  • Take a break and go back to the conversation when you are ready


Posted on January 19, 2014, in Narcissism. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I’ve been married for over 30 years , my husband makes me cry every day, and now my grown daughter helps him


  2. Great ideas! I tweeted it to remind myself to work on the exercises!


  3. Exactly! Was married to a NPD for 30 years.
    Have not thought of my mother as narcissistic just very broken from her horrifically abusive childhood that she has not sought good counsel/therapy for in the last 60+ years. However, what you addressed above is exactly how I handled a tantrum on her part last week. How very sweet it is when we finally can let it roll off our backs like water off a duck. I still felt the need to check in with a mentor friend afterwards, but to not get ‘hooked-in’ was a good feeling. As she is aging and loosing the control she has so fiercely held on to all of her adulthood I have to remember that I am not the target of her anger, just in the line of fire.
    After attempting to change the subject, I left the table, told my parents I loved them and would be back in communication later on the matter I had been asked to help them with and left.


  1. Pingback: response to narcicism | Words

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