11 Best Ways To Emotionally Detach From A Narcissist (2022)

9 min read

If you’ve been involved with a narcissist, you understand how daunting it is to emotionally detach from them. Knowingly or unknowingly, you might have been caught in their maze and while you know it’s good to move on, you find yourself caught up with their drama again.

But this ends when you learn how to emotionally detach from a narcissist once and for all in this article. Let’s dive in!

Let’s dive right into it.

1. Understand Psychology of Narcissist

Before you learn to deal with a problem, you must know what the problem is all about. In the case of dealing with a narcissist, this is even more critical.

If you’re dealing with a narcissist, it means you have someone showing these signs and symptoms:

  • A grand sense of self-importance: Narcissists feel and strive to show that they’re special, extraordinary, and better than others. They crave being the center of attention for anything and everything, wanting to be associated with high-status things, places, and people. To them, everyone else is only a lowly player in their important life.
  • Seeking a perfect narrative about themselves: Since they live in a fantasy of grandeur, they strive to maintain a perfect picture of themselves by deceiving themselves and others of their flawless qualities.
  • Fierce defensiveness: Through rationalizations and other defensive mechanism techniques, narcissists strive to maintain their delusion of perfection by counteracting any criticism.
  • A constant need for praise: While occasional compliments are good for motivation, narcissists crave lots of compliments to feed their ego for the maintenance of their superiority. They flatter their image in the face of strangers and do anything they can to amass praise.
  • Manipulate others to get what they want: Narcissists are highly self-entitled so they exploit others to get their needs but rarely act selflessly for others’ needs in return.
  • They often belittle, demean, intimidate, and upset others: In an effort to maintain their perfection and superiority, narcs use all manners of bullying to get people in line especially if they in any way threaten them.

Narcissistic behavior often stems from excessive pampering during childhood, neglect by caregivers, and even traumatic experiences such as sexual abuse. To avoid feeling guilty and ashamed for all these things, the individual resorts to bad behavior as a defense mechanism.

Understanding all this helps you decide how to deal with this person.

Related: Do Narcissists Feel Guilt? 4 Key Insights

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2. Decide to Detach

Many people read and watch all kinds of content about fixing a particular psychological issue and yet they’re not decided on the action that’s best to take. This often ends up in back-and-forth actions that keep them stuck.

You don’t want to do the same mistake with a narcissist. So before you continue exploring this article on narcissistic abuse recovery, you have to ask yourself these 7 questions to break free from a narcissist:

  1. Does this person demonstrate narcissistic behavior?
  2. Is this person capable of changing?
  3. Am I willing to wait on this person to change for as long as it takes?
  4. Is it worth it to wait on them to change or to move on?
  5. How can I enable their change?
  6. Am I ready to detach emotionally so I can be a better person and allow them space to do the same?
  7. Do I choose to detach now?

You might be unable to detach physically from them since you may be co-parenting, willing to be in a relationship with them, or even unable to distance from them because of work. That’s okay. You can detach from them emotionally which would help you live with them peacefully.

How To Emotionally Detach From A Narcissist
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3. Choose to Not Fall For Any Lies

Narcissists are great at drawing people in. They feed you their fantastical self-image, luring you to think you’ve got all the things you’ve ever wanted — the unicorn you’ve been searching for. 

They watch exactly what hooks you and act just that to attract you. At first, they’ll put you on a pedestal, making you feel important and loved. They make you think you’re living the dream. But that only lasts as long as it serves them. So don’t fall for such illusions.

Remember, your needs would not be fulfilled, and might even be ignored. So stop getting hooked on their praise. Understand that they don’t see you as a partner but as someone to admire them enough for their ego maintenance.

Instead, see things as they are, lies as lies, not coming up with excuses for them. Accept reality as it comes and quit distorting it to fit a fantasy. 

4. Take Your Time to Understand Them

Narcissists, in an effort to keep the manipulation going, strive to corner you during difficult conversations that you may settle on their fantasy. But this makes you more anxious and confused than calm and understanding.

To take this power off the narcissist, tell them, “I want to understand what you’re saying and feeling so give me some time to think about it.” This not only keeps them defenseless since you’re indeed considering their needs but also flatters them since they feel important enough to make someone think deeply of what they said.

Doing this would help you stay calm and process your relations better that you may detach from their manipulation and illusions.

5. Avoid Stooping to Their Level

No matter what happens, at all costs, avoid playing the narcissist’s games. You might think that doing what they do might render them defenseless but you’ll be dead wrong.

These people play the dirtier card whenever you try to defend yourself in their tactics. They’ll call you the bad person. They defend themselves while at the same time, turning the blame on you.

So at all costs, don’t play the narcissist’s games. Learn more about this on EXPERT Tips – How To Talk To A Narcissist.

6. Find Fulfillment Elsewhere

Find Fulfillment
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It’s clear that no matter how much you have strived to fulfill the needs of the narcissists, they fail to meet your own. Therefore, in narcissistic abuse recovery, to detach from the narcissist emotionally you must find other areas (other than the narcissist’s life) to attach your sense of purpose to.

  • What do you want to improve or change in your life?
  • What hobbies will help replenish your life?
  • What fantasy do you have to give up for a fulfilling reality?
  • What one thing can you do to find yourself?
  • What forms of self-care can you practice to improve your well being?

You have to stop looking at the narcissist for a source of fulfillment/meaning/happiness and all these things you seek out of life. If they change and bring meaning to your life, well and good. But you can find other positive sources to not only improve your life but also theirs.

7. Don’t Take It Personally

Narcissists can blame you for things you aren’t responsible for. Whenever presented with their fault, they turn it on you and blame you for making them act a certain way. But don’t be trapped in these manipulation tactics. It’s not about you, it’s all about them being afraid of taking responsibility for their actions.

Knowing well who you’re dealing with, don’t take it to heart and understand where all this is coming from. 

Detaching from a narcissist means detaching from their picture of who you are. Since these people live in a fantasy that favors them, they also brand you a bad person to feel good about themselves. So avoid accepting blames and criticisms that aren’t accurate.

And yet, don’t argue with the narcissist in an attempt to help them see how much of a good person you are or how right you are. Arguing only makes things worse. Instead, calmly and politely tell them you disagree with their conclusion or that you’d think about it so that you can maintain peace in yourself and with them.

8. Know Thyself

Narcissists target and hurt people with low self-esteem most because they know little of their true selves. Therefore, the only way to deny them this power is to know yourself (your strengths and weaknesses) and proudly wear them, knowing well you’re a work in progress and at the same time, a complete human as you are.

Knowing yourself would help you accept your faults because they’re clear to you which helps them see your humility. However, self-knowledge also helps you reject every wrong accusation that you may be able to stay true to yourself and them even in the midst of manipulation.

Related: What Makes A Narcissist Panic? – Proven Strategies

9. Let Go of the Need for the Narcissist’s Approval

If there’s one thing a narcissist can use most to manipulate you, it’s your need for approval from them. And they create this insatiable need at first when they spend most of their time putting you on a pedestal, showering you with compliments so that you may attach to them.

But after some time when their true colors emerge, it’s the approval needs they’d developed in you that they’ll use to manipulate you. Then the torment starts. 

Nothing you do seems good to them anymore. At times, they might seem to be the person you first met and then they relapse to the daunting narcissistic monster. The cycle continues and if you’re not careful, you keep running around, striving to identify and do what would make them happy.

To detach from them emotionally, you must be content with who you are and approve of yourself before no one does — even when the narc sees you differently.

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10. Establish Boundaries and Stick To Them

Healthy relationships involve mutual agreements for caring for one another. But a narcissist is incapable of that. Therefore, to ensure a healthy relationship, you have to set boundaries and follow up on them.

For instance, you can let them know that when dealing with a conflict, you won’t talk until they calm down. Note that, narcissists may ignore your words but be sure that they won’t ignore your actions. So be firm and act consistently on your boundaries.

I understand how hard it is to keep boundaries with a narcissist. So to ensure that you set and follow boundaries successfully, here are steps to follow:

  1. Form a realistic and healthy boundary: From one of these insights on dealing with a narcissist, derive a boundary that can work for your relationship. It should be positive in helping you detach but also safe from rationally harming the narcissist.
  2. Create a plan: How will you enforce this boundary despite obstacles you might face? What are the challenges you might face?
  3. Decide and communicate the consequences of rebelling against your boundaries: The narcissist would try to violate the limits you set. You must know what you’re going to do about it to maintain your stand.

To detach from the narcissist with boundary-setting, they might threaten you, punish you and do all sorts of retaliation attempts. But you must stay firm.

11. Involve a Professional

Professional
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While all these insights can help you emotionally detach from a narcissist, it may be too tough especially if you’re in a delicate relationship with them or are already suffering from depression yourself. 

A professional like a therapist or coach can help you clear up your way out of these muddy paths of toxic relationships. They’ll help you understand the mindset distortions the narcissist has caused in you and unravel them along with possible entanglements since your childhood for better non-toxic relationships.

Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Questions

If you’re from or still in an abusive relationship with a narcissist and finally realized its damages, stick around as I answer common questions clients ask most.

How do you remove yourself from a narcissist? 11 steps for narcissistic abuse recovery

  1. Contemplate on standing with your decision no matter what
  2. Find support systems (friends and family members or abuse support groups) to keep you accountable
  3. Discreetly prepare your detachment
  4. Learn to detach from them emotionally
  5. Set all arrangements for separating amicably
  6. Establish boundaries and the consequences of violating them
  7. Distance yourself physically
  8. Allow yourself time to grieve
  9. Find yourself again in hobbies and fulfilling activities
  10. Maintain impersonal contact whenever necessary
  11. Act towards further disentanglement from the narcissistic relationship

How does a narcissist feel when you cut them off?

A true narcissist feels betrayed when you cut them off. Since you were the source of their flattery in all twisted ways, their energy through your pain is cut off and it makes them feel powerless. Shame, guilt, and many other negative feelings follow but unless they decide to deal with their own emotions positively, they’ll find another source of energy to their narcissistic tendencies.

How do I disengage a covert narcissist? Dominating a narcissist

  • Stop arguing with them and walk away from deconstructive conversations
  • Set boundaries and stick to them
  • Don’t play their manipulative games but instead use positive relationship building
  • Show kindness as much as you can
  • Don’t expect and demand apologies
  • Know yourself to cancel accusations that are not true
  • Create a fulfilling life that doesn’t involve the narcissist

How does a narcissist react to separation?

The common reaction of a narcissist to divorce or separation is blame and threats. They may blame you for causing the separation and tell you that you’d be miserable without them or you’ll regret that decision. They may also promise to change if you return or do certain things to make room for their change.

Can a narcissist sense my detachment from them?

Yes, a narcissist can sense it when one is detaching from them. They’ll realize their manipulation is no longer working, their efforts to amass attention aren’t bearing results, and even worse, they’re no longer been admired as they used to be.

How to emotionally detach from a narcissistic mother

  • Educate yourself on narcissism
  • Choose to relate with her in love through empathy
  • Establish and maintain healthy boundaries
  • Avoid reacting to her words and actions negatively
  • Plan a respectful exit strategy for conversations that go off the rails
  • Show her kindness
  • Live in the present moment with as much enjoyment you can muster

Why is it so hard to detach from a narcissist? Leaving a narcissist you love

It’s so hard to leave a narcissist because a relationship with them is like an addiction to a drug. The love bombing phases which lead you to constantly seek their approval affect your brain the way an addict is affected by a drug. You may be blinded by the illusion that you can change them which makes it hard to move on.

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Finally Emotionally Detach From a Narcissist

Whether you can physically separate yourself from a narcissist or not, the best way to narcissistic abuse recovery is through emotional detachment. 

Using the tips provided in this article, disengage from them emotionally to live the fulfilling life you desire.

Which tips do you think would work with you most? Why? Tell us in the comments!

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