Unsafe People – Identifying and Protecting Ourselves from Narcissists

Some of us were  fortunate and/or resilient enough that we had or developed relationships with a few safe people that we could count on in childhood. Role models that had character and modeled respectful, loving, functional behavior towards us. However, for many targets, the majority of our messages came from unsafe (narcissistic parents).

We were not protected from unsafe people nor were we taught how to identify and protect ourselves from unsafe people because we were being raised by the very unsafe people that we needed to be protected from.


its all your fault
During our formative years we rely on the messages from our parents to determine our identity and worth. Our parents mirror our worth via their interactions with us. If most of that interplay lacks boundaries and involves:  shallow emotional connection, selfishness and self absorption, dismissive (I’m too busy for you- staring at their phone or watch) behavior, blaming, shaming, and criticizing comments about our needs and feelings, or their narcissistic competitions for “attention”, then the messages we receive about our identity and value are that ultimately we are not valuable and furthermore that we don’t DESERVE to be protected from unsafe people. We internalize our parents messages and come to believe that we are inherently unworthy.

    It’s human nature to PROTECT  what we value. download (12)

God says in the Bible, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also

Materially speaking, If we have a rare diamond ring, we wouldn’t pull it off our finger and toss it on the  counter as we wash our hands at a restaurant before dinner. This instinctive desire to protect things or people we value is not lost on the child of a narcissist.

When we grow up accustomed to not having been protected nor valued, we doubt we have anything worth value that needs protecting. We don’t establish good boundaries and discernment to protect ourselves. When a narcissistic partner comes along, they sniff out these vulnerabilities, play them to their benefit and exploit us terribly.


Without boundaries protecting our worth, we believe that “everyone” deserves the benefit of our doubt, unconditional love and kindness. We forgive again and again, excuse away and keep close to us, those who should be far far away from us. We never learned to discern. We were taught to give ourselves away to anyone who needed us. We feel guilty, judgmental or selfish for saying no or for thinking badly of others by naming their lack of safety.

Prior to the narcissist, many of us to varying degrees may have been taken advantage of, bulldozed over or were the recipient of other  disrespectful behaviors of unsafe people in relationships; due in part, to our lack of boundaries and low self worth. We were hurt by them for sure and  learned valuable lessons; it’s even likely these experiences felt ‘normal’ to us at the time so we didn’t question them, but none of those broke us, so to speak.

The malignant narcissist is the consummate unsafe person in any relationship. Although our childhood prepared us to become accustomed to the 2nd class treatment that only a narcissist gives out, we didn’t firsthand experience being the target of someone who actively wanted to drain us of our lifeforce. (Survivors know Im not exaggerating) We are entirely unprepared and lack the coping skills that would protect us. Who’d have thought we as an evolved human being, needed to sit in wait of a pending attack from a predator who looked just like us. The narcissistic abusive relationship is so outside the range of normal that we entirely lose our bearings.

There are some scary things in life: a vicious animal attack, a horrific car accident, a tragic fire, but NOTHING and I DO MEAN NOTHING prepares you for the terror induced from meeting another human being who has NO CONSCIENCE. I’m scared of ANYTHING that can chew up a human being and unceremoniously spit them out.


THE GOOD NEWS: In recovery, we spend a great deal of time identifying what makes a person a malignant narcissist and validating our own self worth.

We should know our friends AND our enemies.

Why are they our enemies? Because their lack of humane character and empathy allows them to devour us in a predatory fashion and we don’t want to be eaten.   By acquiring such a fine tuned knowledge about the narcissist, we begin to sift through, organize and decide for ourselves who WE really are. In essence, it’s untangling ourselves from enmeshment. Besides, It’s triply beneficial! We get to extinguish any narcissistic traits that we have, we get to reinforce our own identity, and undo the brainwashing, blaming and shaming a narcissist did by telling us who we are. In effect, we develop very sound boundaries.



Defining our boundaries; what we will or will not tolerate from others, is an act of self knowledge, self actualization and self respect. We listen to who we respect. Following through, by administering consequences to those who violate our boundaries teaches us to trust ourselves to act in our own best interest. By treating ourselves well, we are investing in ourselves through all our healthy, empowering choices and we begin to feel our own self love. We affirm our self worth.

The act of ceasing communication with a narcissist is a very strong boundary. It’s an act of self love and standing up and declaring that we refuse to have relationships with unsafe people. That’s a pretty strong statement. The declaration itself propels us light years ahead towards loving ourselves.  Putting our money where our mouth is, is an investment in our worth that exponentially multiplies.

The more we love ourselves, the more we will feel our own value. The more in touch we are with our own worth, the greater our instinct is to protect ourselves through boundaries from unsafe people.


Posted on July 29, 2015, in Narcissism. Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.

  1. Wow! This article has my name written all over it. I, too, did not know there was a name for the source of pain that had followed me from childhood…& here you are. My therapist never mentioned this type of abuse from my family, just dysfunctional & abusive completely lacking boundaries. My mother always pitted her children against one another & then cried foul, the “innocent bystander”. I have realized all that wrong and what was keeping me so triggered all the time, all of their (siblings too) reeling insults. I was always TOO sensitive because I just cowtowed to all the remarks, forgiving and staying the course. Then after a series of traumatic events in my life 10 yrs ago, memories of sexual abuse from my childhood finally just spewed forward…a neighbor & family member when I was 8 yrs old, sent me sliding down a wall. All the years of keeping all the abuse, verbal, emotional & sexual could no longer be kept at bay. If you could’ve heard the insults & felt the abandonment, you would cringe. Funny, the neighbor accepted accountability, but not the family member. The long and short of my point is I sought refuge & safety from them all. It took a long time to recover & find my authentic self & self-worth, but I succeeded. Part of that healing had to include letting my family go…7 yrs now. Of course, as with narcissicistic families do, I was to blame & the bad guy. My mother had Breast cancer in situ a few yrs ago so I went back home to visit, over 600 miles. I was in my 50’s, an adult, and she reeled at me and my husband for being late. There was no exact ETA given, between 1-2, you get the gist. She told me I had gotten fat and that my hair looked like shit. I knew at that moment I would never see her again. I cried for 3 hrs of our 9 hr drive home. It was so tough to walk away but it was a process. She has been calling recently leaving VM messages that she loves me. I finally called & told her I felt those words were shallow because she had nothing else to add to the dialogue & love is meaningless without action. She didn’t know what I meant so I told her that she could start by apologizing. She instantly got into a huff & said she was sorry but she didn’t know what for. I immediately ended the call after telling her I could no longer do this but I have forgiven her and wished her well. I still have moments of self-doubt but try to quickly tell myself that it was courageous to walk away. Thank you for allowing us a voice on this thread.


  2. I married into a narcissistic family did not understand the control and spitefulness they were capable of they have ruined my life children and home they have no remorse and when you call them out on it they act like it never happened stonewalling and gas lighting r what they r about I fought many times with my husband over this he neglected his children and our marriage he has lost our home and he is violentl and verbal abusive and his parents and siblings lie for him and keep secrets that have destroyed my life and my children became just like them I love my children dearly but can not except that they act the same way I did not raise them like that but that’s what it has become I fought for them we were always second class to his family of origin now they except it and act the same way I don’t get it they are very harmful people what to do ppp


  3. I guess the thing that really screws with my head is that my parents who are both classic narcissists (I can’t find words to describe their cruel neglect and abandonment) project their narcissism onto me and declare they will not have communications with me because they love me and care deeply about me but I’m so unloving and abusive to them, they just can’t stand for that. Totally making for crazy here. I hoping and praying that because this article exists, I’m not alone!


  4. Great article…I needed it.


  5. Its being almost two months, since my breakup with that NARC, but I’m getting stronger by the day and he will never take responsibility for what he did to me. He was a predator and I finally understand what he is a “unsafe and dangerous human being”. I lost myself when I was with him, but I’m coming back to being simply me. He even tried to stop me from attending a university where I’ have the opportunity to complete my masters and PHD in creative writing. Yes, he is my enemy. My mother is a narcissist too, she lied to me throughout my life and was always threatened by me, but I never knew why, she has a lot of narcissist traits and I no longer have any contact with her. I will be very careful who I let in my life. I feel I finally have accepted him for the real person he is, not the charming loving man who I met at the beginning. I have too put up boundaries and have no contact with him. I love the quote “if you truly loved yourself, you could never hurt another”. But not the narcissist, who has no empathy. I suppose I’m such a giving person and I’ve never come across a man like this in my 40years, it was hurtful and heartbreaking, but now I look at it as a life experience, but I’m giving myself time to heal and not rush into any relationship, as I don’t want to fall into the same trap. Thank you for your great article, very empowering, it really does help my healing and not letting that evil soul enter my thoughts. I feel I was losing my mind and he was draining all my energy, but he has no control over me anymore, I”m going to university and full fill my dreams. I wouldn’t want anybody to suffer and being used and discarded, these NARC are evil bastards. It rips the real person away and you get lost. I”m still going through the healing, and my family and friends tell me to get over it, but they haven’t walked in my shoes. This is my journey and I have learnt to be myself and continue with my journey without that predator and soul sucking man.


  6. I absolutely love this piece!! Thank you so much for using your gift to empower others. You are truly a constructive force in the world. Beautiful, powerful work! 💎


  7. Dear Ana, and what makes bad situations worse is, way too many “churches” keep on trotting out the forgive-them mantra. Yet, when the Lord gave an early sermon at the temple, some people were so enraged, they wanted to throw Him off a cliff. He, instead of running after them / or changing His sermon, He simply, quietly walked away. The pharisees were another narcish bunch (they were nasty) and He left them alone – to go on in their self delusions. Too many “churches” seem to gloss over the reality that wicked people are best left alone – they had opportunities to get over themselves, but time and again, still continue to tear people up, because that’s what wicked people get off on.


  8. I can’t seem to share this excellent piece!


  9. “You have to be your own best friend.” This resonates with me, but first we have to realize that our parents were wrong–that we ARE worthy to be loved and therefore protected. This is not easy because most of us have internalized the messages we received about our identity to the point that we are not aware of them. Awareness is the beginning of unlearning these awful messages (that we’ve hidden so deep) and the beginning of healing so that we can see ourselves as valuable–something worth protecting and not continue the downward spiral of being someone else’s prey.


  10. I was raised in a very safe environment, with very loving and supportive parents and extended family. That made me vulnerable to a narcissist. I thought everyone that came into my life would be like my family. I had no concept that such dark, evil people as narcissists existed. I was never taught they existed and It was a very rude awakening for me. I had been living in this very protected bubble all my life and I was completely naïve and gullible. I was such a Pollyanna and fell for the lies completely. I thought I was safe with him. I truly believed the love I thought I had found was real.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Chrissy, It to blew me away that people like this exist in this world. But its a life lesson and learn from it. I too am a very trusting and caring person and my ex narc mirrored me, when I got to know the real him, it was scary and it took me by surprise too. He thought I was naive and submissive, but the thing is they get into your head and your forget your own voice. Its good you got out, and just be yourself and don’t every change who you are. You deserve the best and your worthy of so much more.


    • Chrissy, my reaction was similar. I never heard of narcissistic abuse until recently when I started researching the emotional abuse traits I was experiencing in my recent marriage. I quickly found all of them and more in a package under gaslighting and narcissistic abuse. I was not prepared because I had never had to live with such a person. Certainly, there are plenty of passive-aggressive, abrasive or emotionally challenged types we encounter in daily life, but not all are narcissists. Like you, I did not know narcissistic abusers existed.

      In my case, certain danger signs were there before I committed to marrying the narc, but all my experience had taught me were that these were human imperfections showing up as emotional outbursts or thoughtless behavior on bad days. I did not see the package of psychopathic traits that accompany a regular way of engaging with an intimate partner.

      I do agree with Ana that our ability to forgive can make us vulnerable, but what if we lose that ability? With whom can we then have an intimate relationship other than with some imaginary being who has no imperfections but will easily forgive ours? For me, the signature trait that sets narcissists apart is that after going over the top, they never apologize. They just can’t do it, because their lack of empathy allows them no clue that their treatment causes such hurt and damage to another. That is the trait I wish I could have recognized earlier.

      I also have some concern about how the “act of ceasing communication” might be taken to heart while still living with a narc. Shunning and silent treatment are the narc’s favored tactics to devalue their victims, so to engage in this treatment ourselves other than after moving out to preserve our own space and independence is to adopt the narc’s way of being.

      I don’t want to lose a part of myself by learning toxic behavior from a narc partner. If we can learn toxic behaviors from parents, we can certainly learn them from any narc we live with by responding in kind. Research the term “flying monkeys” on the web. These refer to people who a narc manipulates and aligns against a victim. It seems that we can learn toxic behaviors of narcs by simply being enlisted by one under the misguided belief that we are supporting them as our “friends.” The reality is that we are really starting to act like the narc by devaluing one of their targeted victims.

      When our narc starts to devalue us with their diatribes, a simple affirmation back, “No, that is not me you are describing” and hanging onto who we are internally without trying to convince the narc that he or she is wrong (they can’t see or use evidence so they cannot be convinced of any idea that is not theirs anyway) is all we need to set our boundary. That affirmation itself will likely produce some rage, but we say it for ourselves, not for them. For me, it is helpful to think less about setting a boundary for the narc than about setting a boundary around myself that the narc cannot penetrate. We can do that act and still retain the quality of acting from love, but the narc cannot do that.


  11. I have children with the narcissistic abuser who has created crisis after crisis and has made his son the scapegoat, going to an unethical (legally convicted twice) psychiatrist to get his son “diagnosed” just like dad and then put him on drugs because of son mirroring the violence, screaming etc that came from dad. I am still divorcing him over two years. How do you not communicate when you have two children with the abuser and he has custody (psychiatrist lied, imagine that) of my son right now. I have essentially ineffectual counsel who does not know how to deal with them except wait, while my son gets more and more damaged, more and more abused.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Thank you for this post. It is very helpful to get outside confirmation of the all-consuming identity crisis that occurs when one realizes that they never really knew their own parents.


  13. I feel like you have written the article for me. After the worst 6 months of my life a partner with NPD that left me suicidal, broken and a mess, I’ve turned my life around and are now on the path the self respect and love. It’s been hard and thanks to the support of some amazing friends I made it through. Going ‘No Contact’ was the only way to deal with the situation and even though he has tried to bait me into responding, I’ve resisted. I’ve lost many battles but have won the war!!


    • Your not alone, I too went through the same experience and No Contact is the only way he can’t hurt you anymore. Be strong, you can do it. I too have only just broken up with exnarc. I finally got it too with NO CONTACT its the only way of healing. take care


  14. Thank you for this. Having finally cut all ties, no matter the cost to almost all the narcs in my past including sister’s, and all family member’s. I am in a place of learning, and healing from major targeted victim. I realized the abuse had started when I was so small, pre verbal that I have been unable to articulate. I guess finding my voice. A classic narc neighbor, just like my sociopath narc sister’s was really ready to start the whole thing up for me again, as I have moved 1600 miles away to a no mans land to rid myself of the unwanted elements, to heal. As if that were not hard enough in itself. So this neighbor had an expiration date, and I set a strong boundary, way over a year ago. Whew what a relief for me. This was very scary for me as this narc has all family, friends, grew up here, wealthy, and able bodied husband.
    She just wanted to play with me, and hurt me. Red flags everywhere. I know she could finish me off if she wanted to in a lot of ways. I am all alone here. She approached me the other day and tried to play the victim, hobble around, and turn it all rite back, terrible toxic, her terrible toxic all over me. Been feeling all the acid, knowing it is all her. Extremely toxic person. Just that quick small encounter unleashed so much bile, and cortisone into my own body. Need to Avoid completely. I think they know this. Such monster’s they are. I know there is something greater for me as I am building back up the treasure chest that I never had. Thanks for this, and allowing me to give voice.


  15. Reblogged this on Healing my codependency and regaining my life ! and commented:
    An amazing post beautiful written and that says it all ! That is one of the reason it is so tough to have healthy relationships and self love when coming from that kind of family…


  16. As with every post you put up, I see myself, my childhood, and my family in a terrifyingly clear light. I was eager to accept my sister as a narcissist; it was at her hands I suffered as a young child and teen. This post makes me aware of what I was afraid to see: my mother was a narcissist, as well. My sister used to say mom was a martyr. Everything she did for us she did with a sigh. She was put upon to provide comfort for her family. Her job came first, always. Her husband second. I think her material possessions ranked third, and her kids might have come in fourth.

    I’ve written a bit about the impact my mother’s death had on the family. We fell apart. The center had died, and none of us knew exactly how to proceed. I had the privilege of getting to know my dad at this time, and I discovered (as I think he was discovering) a whole new person. Part of it was the loss of his wife, I know. If I felt the rug had been pulled out from under me when mom died, dad felt it a thousand times more. But I suspect another side of it was that mom had controlled dad (I love him, but he did allow mom to rule the roost). I suspect that mom’s cutting comments and use of shaming everyone around her to do as she wanted them to caused him to hide parts of himself. His musical tastes expanded. He got into some modern dance/rock. He played more. He even tackled reading Lord of the Rings.

    It’s been almost 25 years since my mom died, and I’m still struggling to overcome her influence in my life. I’m still blaming myself and beating myself up. I’m still undervaluing myself. And I’m just beginning to hate her…


  17. belinda collins

    I have discovered that I have allowed more than one person into my life that has narcissistic personality. I noticed that my last relationship with a narcissistic man well he said things and did thing similar to my adoptive mom . My adoptive mom was very abusive in many ways to me.I was always trying to win her approval and love but in return she would put me down and even abuse me verbally and physically. I would look at her face and she sometimes would have a half grin while she was inflicting pain on me , it was like she was draining my beautiful life source out of me. Taking my energy.she up to today has no remorse for what pain and damage she inflected on me. I have found myself in a few relationships where the man I trusted did the same. I am very trusting and forgiving and have a hard time seeing the red fags if they are there. I hope and pray that i will stop attracting people to me that are unhealthy.


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