13 Surprisingly Easy Ways To Emotionally Detach From A Narcissist

13 Surprisingly Easy Ways To Emotionally Detach From A Narcissist

No one wakes up in the morning and thinks to themselves, “You know what? I think I’ll become emotionally attached to a narcissist today and ruin my life.” However, sometimes it happens and before you realize it, you feel like your entire life is imploding and you’re just standing there helpless, watching it go up in flames. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. Here’s how to emotionally detach from a narcissist and get back on your feet.

1. Set firm boundaries and stick to them.

Involved couple watching movie at evening living room. Family spending weekend

Boundaries are important for every relationship, but they’re absolutely vital when you’re dealing with a narcissist. Decide what you will and won’t tolerate and stick to these limits. This might mean limiting your time with the narcissist, choosing not to talk about certain things, or even cutting off communication if necessary.

Sticking to your boundaries can be challenging to say the least, especially if the narcissist tries to push your buttons. Remember, these boundaries are for your mental and emotional well-being. They’re about protecting yourself from the negative impact of the narcissist’s behavior.

2. Keep your interactions objective.

Young multiracial couple having a conflict on the street in Milan, Italy.

When you do have to interact with the narcissist, try to keep things as objective and fact-based as possible. Avoid emotional responses or getting drawn into their drama. Stick to necessary information and keep the conversation brief as much as you can.

This objective approach helps prevent the narcissist from using your emotions against you. It’s about keeping control over the situation and not letting it escalate into an emotionally-charged fiasco.

3. Focus on your own needs and well-being.

When trying to emotionally detach from a narcissist, you have to shift the focus back to yourself. Spend time doing things that make you feel good and build you up. Whether it’s pursuing hobbies, spending time with loved ones, or just relaxing, make sure you’re taking care of your own needs. (If you struggle with this, our sister site, Sweetn, can help. They have some really effective advice, tips, and tricks on overhauling your mind and your love life for the better.)

Focusing on yourself helps counterbalance the energy spent dealing with the narcissist. It’s a reminder that your well-being is important and deserves attention, something that’s easy to forget in a relationship with a narcissist.

4. Limit your emotional investment in them.

Try to emotionally detach from the narcissist’s actions or words in particular. It’s like putting up a mental shield – their behavior doesn’t get to impact your emotional state. This doesn’t mean you don’t care; it just means you’re not letting their actions dictate how you feel.

Limiting your emotional investment can be tough, especially if you’re empathetic by nature. Remind yourself that the narcissist’s behavior is a reflection of them, not you. Your emotional energy is valuable and should be protected.

5. Lean on your circle for support (you’re going to need it).

Multi-ethnic group of young people on a rooftop party

Talking to friends, family, or a therapist can be incredibly helpful. It’s important to have a support system of people who understand what you’re going through and can offer advice or just a listening ear.

This support can provide a sense of perspective and validation. It’s a reminder that you’re not alone in this and that there are people who care about your well-being.

6. Practice self-reflection.

Young girl doing yoga in the park

Take time to reflect on your experiences and feelings. This can be through journaling, meditation, or just quiet contemplation. Self-reflection helps you understand your reactions and feelings towards the narcissist, giving you more clarity.

Through self-reflection, you might discover patterns or triggers in your interactions with the narcissist. Understanding these can help you better prepare and protect yourself in future encounters.

7. Disengage from arguments.

Narcissists often thrive on conflict. If you find yourself in a fight with them, try to disengage as calmly and quickly as possible. It’s not about conceding defeat; it’s about not giving the narcissist the emotional response they’re seeking.

Disengaging from arguments can prevent a lot of stress and emotional turmoil. Remember, not every point needs to be argued, especially if it’s going to lead to an unproductive and emotionally draining situation.

8. Recognize their behavior for what it is.

Understanding and labeling narcissistic behavior when you see it can be empowering. Recognize the traits and tactics they use, like gaslighting, manipulation, or playing the victim. Being able to identify these behaviors helps you detach from them emotionally.

Labeling their actions as what they are – tactics of control and manipulation – can reduce their impact on you. It’s a way of reminding yourself that their behavior is not about you, but about their own issues and insecurities.

9. Don’t take their behavior personally.

Narcissists often project their own issues onto others. Remember that their behavior and criticism are reflections of their inner world, not yours. Try not to take what they say or do personally, even though it can be challenging.

By not internalizing their behavior, you protect your self-esteem and sense of self-worth. It’s about separating your identity and worth from their actions and words.

10. Develop an exit strategy.

If the relationship is consistently toxic and draining, consider developing an exit strategy. Plan a way to reduce or end your interactions with the narcissist safely and effectively. This could involve logistical planning, especially if it’s a work or family situation.

Having an exit strategy gives you a sense of control and direction. It’s about taking proactive steps towards removing yourself from a harmful environment and prioritizing your mental health.

11. Reaffirm your reality rather than accepting theirs.

Narcissists can distort reality to fit their narrative, making you question your own perceptions. Reaffirm your version of events and trust your judgment. This might involve keeping a journal or seeking external validation from trusted friends or a therapist.

Reaffirming your reality is crucial in maintaining your sense of self and understanding of the situation. It’s a defense against gaslighting and manipulation, helping you stay grounded in your truth.

13. Keep your expectations in check.

redhead woman out running looking determined

Avoid expecting empathy or change from the narcissist. Narcissists rarely change their behavior, and expecting them to can lead to disappointment and frustration. Keep your expectations realistic when it comes to their capacity for empathy and change.

By managing your expectations, you protect yourself from repeated disappointments. It’s about accepting the reality of the situation and focusing on your response and actions, rather than hoping for improbable changes from them.

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Sinead Cafferty is a writer who has authored four collections of poetry: "Dust Settling" (2012); "The Space Between" (2014); "Under, Under, Over" (2016); and "What You Can't Have" (2020). She's currently working on her first novel, a dystopian romance set in the 22nd Century, that's due out in 2024.

Sinead has an MFA in creative writing from NYU and has had residencies with the Vermont Studio Center and the National Center for Writing.