Does the holiday season often feel more like a battlefield than a celebration due to the presence of a narcissistic individual in your life? You're not alone. This week on the Stepping Into Meaningful Relationships podcast, we tackle the heavy topic of navigating the murky waters of holiday cheer tainted by narcissistic behaviors. We take a deep look at how these toxic personalities can hijack the festive mood, armed with manipulative tactics like extravagant gift-giving, belittling others' accomplishments, and creating divisions within the family.
But don't despair! We're here with tools to help you reclaim your peace and joy. We illuminate how narcissists exploit personal information to sow discord, and more importantly, how you can counter these moves with clear boundary setting. By understanding these behaviors and strategies, you can avoid falling into the traps laid by narcissists during holiday gatherings. In this episode, we aim to empower you with knowledge, enabling you to maintain your sanity amid the holiday chaos and keep toxic individuals from stealing your festive spirit. We're excited to walk with you on this journey and welcome your questions or suggestions for future episodes. Tune in and let's navigate these challenging dynamics together.
Join us for our next SoulFire Retreat, Evolve, in Bali from April 22 - 28! Head on over to our website to check out the amazing Agenda and Photos of the luxurious Oasis resort by WhereNext where we will be staying. There are still rooms available and we'd love for you to join us!
Corissa is a Somatic Trauma-Informed Relationship Coach™ & Narcissistic Abuse Specialist ™ who empowers women after they’ve endured narcissist trauma to rediscover who they are, reclaim their power and find the clarity and courage to move forward and live a life they love. Corissa is also a recovering people-pleaser and codependent who has endured way too many narcissistic relationships to count! She coaches not only from her knowledge and training but also from the wisdom she has gained from her own healing journey.
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Welcome to the Stepping Into Meaningful Relationships podcast. I'm your host, carissa Stepp. I'm a relationship and human design coach, and this podcast is designed to help you create a stronger connection to yourself so you can transform the relationships around you, whether that be with your partner, a friend, a parent, a child or your business. We'll be looking at relationships through the lens of human design, and my guests and I will bring you the tools, tips and tricks to create deeply meaningful connections with others. But first let's start with you. The most important relationship you have is the one with yourself. Thank you for tuning in. Now let's get to today's episode. Hey, hey, everyone. Welcome back to another episode. I'm your host, carissa Stepp, and this is the podcast for you If you are looking to improve your most important relationship, which is the relationship with yourself. When we do that, it allows us to create deeper and more meaningful connections with others. So today we're back for a solo episode, and I'm going to try to keep this short and brief, because I know this time of year can be really crazy and we don't have a lot of time. However, perhaps, maybe, this is something that you might want to listen to while you're wrapping presents or running some of your errands. Today, we're going to be talking about how toxic people can ruin the holiday season Because, specifically, narcissists in particular often are known for ruining the holidays or any other big event, whether it's your birthday, your child's birthday, some sort of milestone event in someone's life that's close to them. So I wanted to just share a little bit about how narcissistic behaviors can manifest potentially during holidays, during family gatherings, and give you some real life examples of what that looks like. They might use attention-stealing presents, meaning that a narcissistic family member might be the one who gives the most extravagant gift to a loved one, and it's not out of genuine generosity, but really as a way to outshine others by presenting some ostentatious gift and making sure that it's opened last or that there's a lot of attention or focus on oh my gosh, what is this big gift that you have? Because they're probably going to be talking about it and being like oh my god, I got you the best thing ever. I can't wait for you to open it. Wait until everyone else opens their presents and then you can open this one, because it's like something that I really want to make sure you enjoy, or that it gets highlighted in the experience, and so what they'll do is they will highlight to everyone else in the room, potentially or just to you, about how expensive it is or how rare it is, or how they spent so much time putting all this attention and seeking out the best possible gift for you. Because what happens is, when they do that, they're actually, in effect, turning the attention back on themselves, right, and they're looking for that external validation, whether it's from you or from the other people in the room. They're looking for everyone else to be like oh my gosh, I can't believe you did that. That was such an amazing present, right? Because it makes them feel really good, it makes them feel like they're super important, it makes them feel like they're really valuable and how unique and special and different and kind and generous they are, and those are all things that will fill the holes of the narcissist's soul, right? It boosts their ego and that's what they're looking for. They might also try to undermine other people's achievements, right? So, for example, perhaps maybe you guys are sitting at dinner for the holidays and a family member has achieved a personal milestone Maybe it's your child, maybe you're so proud of them and you happen to be sharing with someone that your child got this special, amazing recognition whether it was at school for high marks, or maybe in the sport that they play or some other kind of activity that they do and the narcissist will come in and try to downplay or overshadow the accomplishment or try to make it seem like it's not that big of a deal, which is really just belittling the child. In this example, right. This also can happen between simulings. If you happen to have a narcissistic simuling right. For example, perhaps the narcissist's brother or sister is sharing news about a brand new job promotion that they just got, or maybe it is a new job that they are going to be stepping into in the new year where they have increased responsibility and they're getting an increase in their pay. Well, the narcissist is going to respond potentially by bringing up their own achievements or suggesting that it's not a big deal compared to what they've accomplished. Again, I hope you're starting to see the pattern here that the narcissist is going to constantly try to turn the attention back on them. They might even demand center stage. They love being the focal point of celebrations, right? Especially when we think about a grandiose narcissist. Now, if you're dealing with a covert narcissist, they are more likely not to demand center stage in that way, but they will try to undercut others, potentially with their behavior. Some of that behavior could actually look like acting like the victim, or it could be them sulking in the corner when they're not getting any kind of attention or recognition for perhaps maybe this big thoughtful gift that they have bestowed upon someone else. It can show up in a couple of different ways. The covert narcissist might also do things like making you feel uncomfortable having your family over to the house, because maybe they have decided to triangulate between you and your family for some reason, because they're trying to put some distance between you and your family, because when they do that, they isolate you. When they isolate you, they then are able to continue to maintain control and power over you, because then you're less likely to go to other people and start talking about some of the things that are happening in your relationship that maybe are toxic. The narcissist is afraid that someone else is going to highlight for you that what you are experiencing is not okay, that it's unhealthy, that it's unsafe. We can see a little bit of a variation between how maybe a covert and an overt narcissist might show up during the holidays. But be really mindful of where perhaps the covert narcissist is trying to pull you away from family and friends, or where they're pouting over or not getting something from you. That could even be sexual favors. It could be that they feel like you've maybe spent more time or money or given more attention to the children over the holiday, where they felt like you didn't care about them or you didn't spend as much on them or your gift wasn't as thoughtful as their gift was towards you. These are different ways in which the covert narcissist is going to try to keep that attention on themselves, but in a much more subtle way. If it's an overt narcissist, where they're going to try and demand center siege is by maybe interrupting someone else's toast or celebration speech to share their own anecdotes or again achievements, or making the moment somehow about them. Another example might be maybe you've done all the cooking for the holiday meal and you're hosting everyone at your house. Someone recognizes that it was a lot of work and perhaps maybe they're thanking you. Thank you so much. This meal was incredible. You did such a great job. I know this was a lot of work and I really appreciate it because we've had the best time ever. Well, the narcissist might come in and be like, hey, but I'm the one who cleaned the house and I'm the one who got you that drink. I'm the cocktail really good, that signature cocktail that I created just for the special day. You'll see that the narcissist might try to come in and either downplay what you've done and be like, oh, you did a pretty good job, last year's was better. Or they may say, oh, yeah, sure, she did a great job cooking and everything. But you should have seen how stressed out she was just before everyone walked in the door and how she was screaming and yelling because the house wasn't clean yet and you guys were arriving in 15 minutes. They find a way to undermine you, to diminish you, to diminish maybe the effort that you put in, and they find a way to sort of just highlight and bring back again that attention and recognition to themselves. The narcissist might also feel unnoticed if you're the one who's putting in all the effort to make the holiday really nice, right, and so maybe the narcissist tries to create some sort of conflict or drama to draw the attention back to themselves. So that's a little bit like what I was talking about before with the covert narcissist where they start to make it all about them. They might say things like you know, I'm really not comfortable going over to your sister's house. You know they're never welcoming to me or they always make me feel like I'm not part of the family, I feel like I'm ostracized or I'm left out in some way. And so, as a result, you know, if you're a very empathic person, you might say oh my goodness, I'm so sorry, I didn't know that you felt that way. I'll say something, you know, I'll mention it to them that you want to feel like you're being included. Or if I notice that you're sitting alone in the other room, then you know, I'll come over and I'll chat with you. Or the narcissist might just go over to a corner of the house or another corner of a different room and hide quote unquote until someone comes to find them, to ask them are they okay? And to find out what happened. Is something wrong? And again, this is just the way of them keeping your attention in some way on them as opposed to focusing on everybody else. They might even just start an argument over a really trivial matter and make very provocative statements to incite some sort of emotional reaction from you right, they might just start pushing buttons as a way to get you to react in a perhaps, maybe dysregulated kind of way, right, and, as a result, they might do that even in front of other people just to show others that maybe they're not the crazy one, especially if they know that you have been sharing with close family what's been happening in the relationship, especially if they know that potentially you have been talking about them behind their backs to get support from your close family over some of the unhealthy behaviors that exist in the relationship. So they're going to try to make you emotionally overreact to something so that they can point the finger and see she's the crazy one. See, this is what I have to deal with. It's not me, it's her. And so, again, this is a way that they can focus and shift the attention either onto them, by creating the drama and having people offer their sympathy to them, or they try to use other tactics that will keep your attention on them so that they get all of the love and the recognition and all of that from you. They might also just be selectively generous with certain people within the family, right, they might use gift giving as a way to manipulate and control some of those relationships by giving lavish gifts to some family members while maybe neglecting others. That creates a very awkward dynamic right when individuals then will vie for the narcissist's favorite. And we can see this a lot of times, especially in dysfunctional families, where maybe there is a golden child in the family and the narcissist might give extravagant gifts to the golden child, whereas maybe the scapegoat of the family or the troublemaker of the family gets something a lot less. And so we can see that even as adults, right with our older parents as well, where again maybe there is a child who's favored, and so that becomes very clear sometimes when they are very strategic with how they are or what they are giving as gifts. The narcissist might also insist on controlling holiday traditions and rituals, disregarding the preferences of other people. So maybe they are dictating the entire schedule of events, or they're insisting on hosting every holiday gatherings, that they have control over the situation, and maybe they dismiss other people's suggestions. Or maybe other people are like, hey, I'll volunteer and bring a side and a dessert, and the narcissist is like, no, no, no, we've got it covered, because they want to control every little aspect. Now, some of this that I'm talking about right now may also just be someone who likes to kind of be in control, and not in an unhealthy way necessarily. Maybe they have really strong feelings around the holidays about things that they would like to recreate for their children, right? Or there's very meaningful family traditions that they'd like to hold on to, and that's OK. However, that being said, if you are hosting people at your home, or even in a relationship where there's a marriage of two people coming together with two different family traditions, then being open to sharing and picking and choosing which family traditions from each of your childhoods make sense to bring into your family dynamic with your children, that should be really a discussion between the two of you and not just someone controlling and dictating. Well, this is how it's always been done in my family, or this is how I did it as a child, and this is how it needs to be going forward and not allowing you to bring in any of your family traditions and rituals. There can also be potentially a situation where the narcissist might try to humiliate you in public settings in an attempt to exert their dominance and their superiority right, so that could look like making derogatory comments about you or another family member's appearance or personal choices during a gathering, which would obviously cause very deep embarrassment and potentially even shame. And that can happen at a holiday party, right, this doesn't have to necessarily just be at a holiday dinner with family. This can happen anywhere, and that's obviously not a healthy situation. If you're with somebody who is trying to publicly humiliate you in front of other people, well then that's not someone who's respecting you, that's not someone who's valuing you and of course, that is going to, I hope, cause a red flag in your mind of being like yeah, that happens a lot and this needs to stop and now I need to set a boundary around it. It can also go the other way, where the narcissist this is more when they're covert may actually try to play the victim in front of other people. They might go into a public setting and try to garner sympathy from other people for what they're experiencing. They try to minimize, maybe, something that you're experiencing, but then try to get all of the attention and the focus on them for what they're going through, right, they try to make it sound like it's so much worse, for whatever reason. The narcissist might also take these family gatherings as an opportunity to create further divisions within the family by using triangulation and also trying to find allies within the family for their side of the story right To maintain some sort of sense of control. So, for example, the narcissist might share really private information about, maybe you with someone else within your family as a way to create some sort of alliance and fuel the conflict for their own benefit. For example, perhaps maybe your partner your narcissistic partner knows that you have a little bit of a tenuous relationship with your mother and your partner knows that you are in therapy and that talking about your mom may be something that has come up in conversation. Perhaps you have shared with your narcissistic partner some of the struggles and the things that you have experienced that have caused you to be hurt, right, or that have caused you some inner turmoil that has been discussed, whether it was with your therapist, or you're just sharing with your partner because you thought that they were emotionally safe and, as a result, maybe during these family gatherings, the narcissistic partner goes to your mother and starts sharing some of this very personal information and says things like she's told me that she's really struggled in her relationship with you and one of the things that she doesn't like is whatever it is, and then continues to say but I don't understand how she could feel that way, because I think you're such a great person, right, so you can see how they use that really private, personal, vulnerable information to try and create an alliance with your mother, who's someone that, yes, maybe you have a tenuous relationship with, but at the end of the day, she's your mother and, of course, you love her and you do have a close relationship despite all of that. But it's just the narcissist's way of trying to drive a wedge between you and the people closest to you and to get them on their side, so that when things go wrong, when things get to a boiling point in the relationship and you're struggling and you're looking for support, when you go to your mom and you start sharing with her what's happening, she might automatically start saying well, I don't understand why you're saying that I think he's a great guy, I think he does have a lot of empathy and oh, by the way, he shared with me that you were really upset about the situation and I had no idea. And why didn't you come talk to me? And I am a good mother, why do you think I'm such a bad mother? And they start to then maybe make it all about them right and they start aligning themselves with your narcissistic partner instead of taking your side. So I'm giving you examples. These are examples that I'm sort of just making up in my head, so I'm hoping that they make sense, but these are things that either I have experienced or that other people that I've worked with have experienced. So I'm trying to give you some examples without giving away any kind of personal information. But the most important thing is that you understand how these specific narcissistic behaviors can show up in these various family gatherings, in these various holiday gatherings that you're attending, so that you are aware, so that you go in with your eyes wide open, so that you have a way of creating and setting boundaries around it if it's happening. Establishing healthy boundaries is so important in your relationships, and it is especially important in your relationships with unhealthy people, so I hope that helps. If you have any questions, please feel free, as always, to reach out to me. Leave me a review, leave me a voice message on our podcast web page, and I look forward to connecting with you next week. Until then, be well. If you're hearing this message, that means you've listened all the way to the end, and for that I am truly grateful. If you enjoyed this episode and found it valuable, would you mind leaving us a review wherever you listen to podcasts and sharing it with others? If you'd like to connect with me for one-on-one coaching or human design reading, you can find me on my website or on social media. Also, if you have a topic you'd like me to discuss on a future episode, please DM me. Be sure to tune in next week for another episode of Stepping into Meaningful Relationships.