Evelyn Ryan, Yourlifelifter
Having no contact with narcissists can be most challenging during the holidays when narcissistic abusers typically exhibit their worst behaviors and also use the “spirit” of the season to play on our sympathies, guilt, and exaggerated shame.
Holidays provide a perfect time for the narcissists and their flying monkeys to try to hog all the attention and target the scapegoats who are free fodder for the taking.
What can abuse survivors do?
The answer is lots!
Holidays are the perfect time to practice the time, distance, and shielding (TDS) rule to help protect us and our children from the abusers and their flying monkeys. The TDS rule which expands on the NO CONTACT rule is the same simple three-part rule that high risk toxic hazardous environments use across the world to prevent and mitigate the toxic effects of hazards and it is just as effective with toxic people.
The TDS rule as applied to narcissists goes like this. You can minimize your exposure to their toxicity by:
- Minimizing the time you spend around them;
- Maximizing the distance from them; and
- Putting up a barrier or shield between you and them.
Let’s break this down.
Harm from a toxic person is no different from harm from radiation or a hazardous chemical. Would you stand close to and spend the day with a radioactive source? Then why spend lots of time close to someone who did and does you and your children harm?
So remember this!!
The more toxic the person,
- the less time you spend with them,
- the greater the distance you put between you and them, and
- the thicker and stronger the barriers you set up to protect yourself and your children. You may even need multiple barriers, multiple layers of “defense in depth.”
Your exposure to toxic people is proportional to the amount of time you spend around them. Seems like common sense, but not having a well laid out plan ahead of time, or just not being aware of how much time you are spending with them can put you in harm’s way.
However, applying the TDS rule when life-long habits, traditions and faulty beliefs get in the way can be challenging. Here are some options using the TDS rule tips that will help you minimize the damage to you and to your children.
Scenario #1 – You are invited to the narcissist’s home or a family function.
Learn to say no. Remember that you can refuse the invitation or ignore it. If you have to respond, tell them you prefer not to travel on holidays, because it is dangerous. Use this time of year to build new traditions and invite friends who have no or distant family to your home. Turn lemons into lemonade. If you do not want to spend the holiday at your home, go to a friend’s home or out to dinner or volunteer your time and your children’s time at a shelter or homeless center. Your self-esteem and self-worth will soar as you assertively use your free will and take action that will best serve you and keep you safe, protected and on course to meet your healing goals while supporting the spirit of the season.
Scenario #2 – The narcissists send gifts to play on your sympathies and guilt.
No contact includes not accepting and not unwrapping gifts and not sending thank you notes. Do not forget that remaining in contact exposes you and your children to harm. Your children are healing through you not in spite of you. Instead of returning the gifts, consider giving them to the needy that will support the spirit of the season and help turn a negative situation into a positive one.
Scenario #3 – The narcissist or his or her flying monkeys start playing on your shame and tell you that any decent child or person should and would spend the holidays with his or her family. They tell you or intimate covertly that you are a bad daughter, son, parent.
This is manipulation and covert aggression. They are playing on your faulty childhood beliefs, exaggerated shame triggers, and unhealthy dependence on them for validation. Remember in your healing that you are a human being with the rights to make your own choices on whom you choose to associate with or not and to protect your children from harm. Do not overestimate the danger or underestimate your ability to deal with it. You have the right to protect your personal boundaries and self-interests and your children’s and your safety. Say No. Do not justify it to those who do not have your best interests at heart.”No” is a complete sentence and requires no justification.
Scenario #4 – You absolutely cannot avoid spending time with the narcissists for the holidays.
Remember to focus on minimizing harm to you and your children. This is where creative shielding can help to protect you. Here are just a few suggestions.
First, provide yourself a safe location away from the narcissists where you can go to for protection. If you are traveling a long distance, make efforts to not stay at the narcissist’s or flying monkey’s home. If you must stay at the narcissist’s home, stay away as much as possible. Make plans ahead of time with your friends or to attend several shows or functions in the area. Buy the tickets ahead of time so you are committed to go. This will limit your time with the narcissists and their proxies, set up a physical barrier between you and them and help you maintain your personal authority and power. It will also provide you time and neutral space to regroup and maintain a cool head.
Another option is to bring an emotionally healthy friend with you to keep you focused on yourself and to help provide a barrier between you and the narcissists’ and flying monkeys’ venom. Friends of mine have frequently asked me to attend family or other functions to provide moral support, deflect the narcissists’ attacks, and to provide a temporary source of attention to the narcissists who then stay off of the target’s back.
A third option is to become a “Gray Rock.” Do not give them any attention, positive or negative. Gray rocks do not attract attention and blend in with the scenery and you can do the same to make yourself less appealing to a narcissist. If you do not give them your energy, they will go away. They need narcissistic supply to survive. Without it, they cannot live. Practice not reacting to anything they say or do or even thinking about them.
I hope these tips help in empowering you as well to enjoy a delightful healthy and safe holiday filled with the blessings of this most special time of year.
Be well! Be safe!! And don’t forget the TDS rule. It is simple and very effective in helping you prevent and minimize harm from these creeps and enjoy your holidays as you so well deserve. Happy holidays!