Narcissists can bring down even the sturdiest person.
Most of us struggle to handle a narcissist so that our mental balance stays intact.
But we may learn to recognize the hallmark signs of a typical narcissist, understand how their cunning minds work, and know how to trigger a narcissistic breakdown.
Why are narcissists hard to break down?
Narcissists lack emotional empathy, so they are often immune to how cruel others find their behaviors.
In general, narcissists keep themselves propped up with a fanciful, superior self-image that is fake. But they are well aware of that fragile ego on the inside.
This is the chink in their armor that can lead them to their breakdown.
They have a keen sixth sense for detecting how your mind may be conspiring to drive them into a narcissistic collapse.
They are hypervigilant about those who assault their self-esteem because they know it will take a long time, if ever, for them to recover.
So, if they discover you are trying to break them down, they will be quick to attack you back in a fit of narcissistic rage. Or, they will disappear from the scene without any notice.
What are the stages of a narcissistic breakdown or collapse?
The stages of narcissistic breakdown can be taken as similar to those of the Kübler-Ross model of grief stages (often memorized by the acronym DABDA):
The denial stage lasts for about a few days to a few weeks, when they keep assuring themselves they have a problem in themselves.
They will simply deny that they have any characteristics of a narcissist. They will often blame the other person for making a false claim about them.
Narcissists get angry when it starts to dawn on them that they indeed have some aspects of narcissism in them. As they note those problems in themselves, they are angry that the world has made them thus.
They explode in anger at anyone who tries to explain to them what their problem is, or offers them a helping hand to solve their problem.
Their angry outbursts often damage their relationships. Once they realize their “narcissistic supply” has distanced them, they begin to rebuild trust with the other person.
Bargaining is when a narcissist will try to enter into an agreement with others and themselves that they are not as absolutely bad as others or themselves judge them to be.
In this phase, they make promises to change for the better in the future and commit to paring down their nasty behavior.
The depression phase is when they give up the things they liked to do, since most of these activities are what they committed they will let go.
It plunges them into a state of deep sadness and worthlessness, fills them with self-loathing, and makes them feel bad about their lives.
This is perhaps the most visibly pitiable phase of narcissistic breakdown.
In the acceptance stage, the narcissist will begin to accept their natural flaws of character, They will accept that they have been self-centered, attention-hungry, and un-empathic to others.
This final stage of a narcissistic breakdown is difficult since it leaves them at a place they can no longer shirk their responsibilities for being a bad person.
It also comes with a hope for a new version of themselves and a bright and better tomorrow.
How to force a narcissistic breakdown?
So, how do you hold them responsible for their behavior, not allow them to get away with their bad behavior, and break them down into accepting their faults?
1. Triggering the denial phase
To make the narcissist go into a denying mode, point out their mistakes to their face.
You may openly show them your displeasure at their behavior. You might even choose to be angry with them for what they keep doing despite your obvious dislike for them.
You could keep a list of all their slights and egregious mistakes, mentioning how you ignored them and let them off.
Point out their selfish acts and remind them of the times they ignored your painful states in favor of their own pleasure.
Contradict their ideas and opinions. If you’re a woman, you could hold them for mansplaining (a genuinely toxic behavior that male narcissists often exhibit).
Tell them they are lying to you or gaslighting you.
2. Rousing their anger phase.
Narcissistic rage can be harsh and too challenging to handle. It can be easier, however, if you have been living with them for a long time and are familiar with their outburst patterns.
It also helps when you prepare beforehand to leave the scene immediately after quipping, “I’m leaving since you are attacking me.”
You will likely provoke them into anger by setting boundaries with them. Tell them clearly what rules they must follow hereafter if they want to interact with you.
You may try to oppose their viewpoints in public.
Try to stay alert if they are giving out wrong information to others in your presence, and mention it then and there. It will make them angry since it tarnishes their hero-like image.
3. Forcing them into the bargaining phase.
Narcissists find it quite disturbing to be pushed into a bargaining phase.
If the narcissist is first made to feel intimidated or uncertain about their position, this method seems to work quite well.
The basic idea is to show them you are more powerful than them. If you show them you can cancel them or will abandon them, they will be pushed into bargaining.
If you establish that you have the support of more people than they have, it will force them to bargain.
If you were supported by a powerful and authoritative person, they would give way to making concessions.
Your communication with them must be precise, curt, and firm. They must be made aware that your stand is unwavering, and you will most certainly do to them what you tell them you will. You could even use strong language.
4. Making them descend into depression.
Narcissists need admiration and approval to keep their egos boosted. They cannot function without validation and adulation from others.
The idea to make them feel depressed is withdrawing their emotional support —
- not giving them validation (in fact, invalidating their every opinion and advice),
- not giving them love (and ignoring their loving advances), and
- not praising them (even when they genuinely achieved an outstanding feat).
You could try to get them isolated from their friends and relatives. This forced social isolation may make them feel sad at being not able to get their narcissistic supply from others.
Once they are alone, you may use their own methods of minimizing their self-worth and make them overly dependent on you.
5. Facilitating their acceptance mode.
Narcissists find it extremely difficult to face their demons. Most narcissists were reared by a narcissistic parent, and they were left indefensible to parental abuse.
It made them withdraw and create a larger-than-life persona of themselves in their minds.
However, they are aware that this glorified self-image is fake. They are not what they think themselves to be.
To help a narcissist confront their flaws, help them accept their vulnerabilities. This will ease them into the acceptance mode of narcissistic breakdown.
You may also show your acceptance of their “new them” and praise their changed persona.
Show your patience and empathy in helping them accept their character flaws and negotiate a better life around them.
Assure them that it is no harm to accept that they need not run after perfectionism to defeat others in their game all the time.
Tell them it is okay to let others win sometimes, and accept that others can be better than them even in their chosen field.
Narcissism is a mental disorder that has roots in both genetics and environment.
An untreated narcissist (more specifically a person with narcissistic personality disorder, or NPD) is a social burden.
They can go on streaks of revenge on a group of unknown persons for hurt received from a particular person. They can take extra benefits from an equal-opportunity pool of resources.
Narcissists can be of six different types, and some of them are too dangerous and will hurt you badly if you try to change them.
• • •
- Why Are Narcissists So Evil? (Signs of A Cruel Narcissist)
- 7 Weird Things Covert Narcissists Do (Strange Behaviors!)
- 7 Safe Ways To Make Someone Fall In Love With You
• • •
Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy — medical doctor, psychology writer, and happiness researcher. Founder and Chief Editor of The Happiness Blog. Writes on mental well-being, happiness, positive psychology, and philosophy (especially Stoicism).
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