March 28, 2017

A Buddhist & a Narcissist Cross Paths: How to Deal with the Challenging People in Life.

How do we honor someone who is on their own journey when their actions pose a threat to our own?

How do we remain in a space of non-judgement and non-reaction to someone who is behaving like a straight up narcissist?

It’s probably one of the biggest challenges of my spiritual practice. It’s not so much the “live and let live” aspect that challenges me. Nor is it the teachings that say we are all on our own paths and have our own lessons to learn, so just treat everyone as a mirror of yourself and do no harm.

Because I can do that. Most of the time.

But what do we do when the other person is entrenched in the narcissistic ways that we all are capable of displaying, and they constantly try to catch us in the crosshairs of their narcissistic living? And then we take it personally because the narcissist can make it seem very personal.


Unfortunately, this has been a common lesson for me these past six months. It’s presented me with a beautiful opportunity to reflect on my own narcissistic tendencies, so I can be more deeply aware of them and how they show up in my life as defense mechanisms. Remember, narcissistic traits are nothing more than distorted and amplified versions of some very human behaviors that we all have the potential to fall into. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you don’t!

In case you’re new to the narcissistic personality, let’s discuss for a moment. Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is defined as, “A personality disorder in which a person is excessively preoccupied with personal adequacy, power, prestige, and vanity, mentally unable to see the destructive damage they are causing to themselves and others.”

If we are honest with ourselves, we know that we can all fall prey to vanity, prestige, or the allure of power. Running away from, and denial of, these traits is still an indication of their presence. However, in my opinion, there is a strong difference between displaying a narcissistic trait and being a straight up narcissist.

To further illustrate, think about Buddhists for a moment. We strive to transcend the illusion of self by mastering the mind and ego, while the narcissist is completely entangled in their very inflated sense of self-importance. So naturally, this is an extreme case of mirroring because according to Hermetic Alchemy, if I have the potential to be one way, I also have the potential to be its opposite (although I have no idea why I would want to!).

My interactions with these afflicted people in my life look a little bit like this hypothetical situation:

Bob comes to talk to me about the group project we have for school. I immediately put a wall up because I have a hard time trusting Bob, as he constantly manipulates things to serve his own delusional version of reality. It doesn’t matter if I’ve told Bob the same thing seven times. He will deny the chat ever occurred when his “standing” in the group is threatened. His reputation. Bob also likes to talk down to me and the other members of our group. He likes to exert his perceived masculine dominance over us (even the men), so he tries to get away with demeaning us by using little nicknames in an attempt to undermine our sense of self-esteem. He also does it to the other people in our class with whom he interacts with.

He will say really inappropriate things to keep people feeling uncomfortable, because to the narcissistic person this is perceived as having an advantage. And oh my goodness, don’t even get me started on Bob’s entitlement. He acts in a way that says he believes everyone is here to serve him. It’s as though he believes he is a monarch and we are his subjects! More than anything, he is absolutely unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings or needs of others. It can be maddening. Because we love our dear friend who is Bob’s partner, we’ve tried to express to him some of our concerns. And dear Bob has no f*cks to give about our needs or feelings. He just wants everyone to do what he wants and the way he wants—whatever the cost to others. 

If you’re anything like me, you’re shaking your head at this point. This challenges me to the deepest level of my Buddhist practices for living. I invoke Thich Nhat Hanh and other high lamas when I think of my interactions with this type of person. I want to experience whatever I am meant to experience from this person so I can clear the karma or learn the lesson—whatever that may be.

But sh*t—it’s really hard! My natural Taurus/Scorpio moon nature wants to take this guy down every time he threatens my illusion of security. Because on a higher level, I understand that all security is just that—an illusion. So, as a Buddhist, I can stop my frustration in its tracks when I ask myself what am I so worked up about, because how can this person threaten something that isn’t even real anyway?

If I am truly living according to the teachings of impermanence and non-attachment, then there is simply nothing to be frustrated or threatened by. This brings a very real element of humor to it for me because I can get so worked up by the narcissistic types in my life when caught off guard.

What we can do is this: Just use them as a mirror to see what traits we also have within ourselves. I know, it doesn’t feel good to look at that less than pleasing stuff, but if we are really practicing Buddhism, we have to get in there and see it. As Pema Chodron says, when we feel really sh*tty and squeamish, those are the areas we need to take a real good look at—and admit we feel not so good about them. There’s healing in this. It sure takes some bravery!

Next, we must absolutely refuse to take the behaviors personally. Remember, we are all just mirrors. How we choose to act says nothing about those around us. It says something about us. Sure, we can all blame everyone else for how we act, but ultimately we all know that’s a bunch of bulls*t. So it may take a lot of deep breathing before choosing a response, but we can remind ourselves that their behavior is theirs not ours, and it has nothing to do with us.

And finally, we must practice equanimity. We must tap into our ability to not be swayed no matter what is occurring around us. The more we meditate and come back to the breath, the more we become master of the mind and emotions. And that is where we truly master the narcissists that sometimes we must deal with.

In equanimity, we find our true power because what better response to one who seeks a reaction than no response at all?




Author: Lindsay Carricarte

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Editor: Travis May


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Lily Seveno Jul 13, 2018 5:50am

Please forgive the typos on my post. Lol

Lily Seveno Jul 13, 2018 5:48am

Maya Angelou said, “I don't trust people who don't love themselves and tell me, 'I love you.' ... There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.”. So in essence, before we can have true love or compassion towards others we must first have love or compassion for ourselves. Having self-love means having boundaries. You wouldn’t allow a guest to come into your home and smear food on the walls. So people should not be able to come into your life and be disrespectful and cause disruption. But if the narc is in the workplace and there isn’t much you can do, the best advice I can give is Observe buy don’t Absorb. The “Bobs” in the world suffer greatly because they operate from a place of lack and emptiness. Once you interact with them from the position of an observer all they’re really doing is making noise. Know they’re tendencies.....they bait, lie, rage. We know this. Observe and try to have compassion for the lost, and most likely, abused child that still lives in them.

Suzanne Taylor Mar 30, 2017 5:13pm

My ex husband (and father of my 2 children) is a "malignant narcissist". He has lost access to our children by the court, I have had restraining orders and protective orders against him. He has found loopholes in each, so that he could continue to torment my children and I. I have a No Trespass Order in place at my home against him, which keeps him from coming onto my property. However, he parks at the curb and finds ways to get my children to notice he's outside. They are young, and don't understand that he only uses them. So, when they see him at the curb, they ask to go out to see him. I allow it, as long as I accompany them. He also shows up on random days at my children's schools at dismissal (because I don't have authority to keep him away from us anywhere but on my property). He doesn't care how confusing this all is for our children, he doesn't care that the amount of attorney fees my family and I have had to pay because he constantly files motion after motion at court, could and should be used for our children's college education in the future. The reason I say all of this, is to help bring perspective as to why someone would give a narcissist the time of day.. sometimes that narcissist is the Father of your children and you have no choice but to deal with that person. I love this article and would love to read more articles like this! I especially appreciate the names of the masters you've mentioned in your article- I am going to look them up and see what else I can learn from each!

Love Lori Mar 29, 2017 10:13pm

LOVE this article. Thank you Lindsay. I too have struggled with "Bob", and elder and close relative of mine. I walk the fine line of "respecting my elders" and getting distraught every time Bob is abusive to me and others. I have set boundaries with Bob, who continues to ignore them, so your article especially helped me in remembering equanimity and not to take Bob's comments personally. Mahalo.

Deborah Camp Mar 29, 2017 4:30pm

I agree with Lindsay. And I would add, there is nothing super-spiritual about letting others undermind situations and behave inappropriately. Calling people out on their bullshit is the right thing to do.....and is even (in the long run) a good thing for the offender to learn that his or her tactics will not be tolerated. I believe at times people try too hard to deal with narcissists and others of their ilk with "kid gloves" instead of the frankness that is required for the situation.

Lindsay ELise Gunn-Ouellette Mar 29, 2017 4:13pm

In the italicized example given I wanted to ask why the person on the receiving end of this behavior didn't very strongly and clearly and even publically set boundaries or call him out. Sounded like she was letting him away with the behavior she hated so much. Deal with anger and boundaries in the present. ( I know, way easier said than done, but still appropriate).

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Lindsay Carricarte

Lindsay Carricarte-Jones can currently be found residing in Long Beach, CA, with her husband Chris and their fur-babies. They practice and learn from each other every day. Her heart beats for writing, Buddhism, yoga, meditation, books, helping the world, nature, snowboarding, coffee, hiking, and of course her loves— Chris, and their two dogs, Bandit, a American Bulldog/Pitbull rescue, and Luna, a Welsh Corgi.

Their goal is to travel the world helping others heal through yoga, meditation, crystal healing, and coaching. She currently runs Life Warrior – The Art of Being Human with Chris, where they help others heal through spiritual coaching and teaching. Connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for more information.

You can also catch up with Lindsay and learn more about her healing practices on her coaching/motivational website or visit her motivational page on facebook for daily heart path coaching and a does of happiness.