When I started to write this article, I thought of Ariel in the Little Mermaid movie. She had such a great collection of shiny, interesting things that were really only interesting to her. Thingamabobbers and whatchamajigs that she prized just from the achievement of having acquired them. So it is with the toxic personality. The abuser must acquire and conquer as his/her source of “supply”. It’s a drug to them, and they will seek it from multiple sources, all the time.
We often wonder why in the world we were targets and try to make sense of that, mostly to avoid it happening again. We learn all about the pathology of the toxic person and the No Contact method. But what do you do when you are forced to have contact or some form of interaction with this person, whether due to having children together, or living in the same small town, or refusing to give up the connections that are rightfully yours? There are a few schools of thought.
The “Gray Rock” method
As we know, the toxic person is attracted to you as a conquest and nothing more. You are something to acquire and dominate, not a treasure to be valued. The Gray Rock method suggests that you become as boring as humanly possible in order to be less of a shiny bauble. Pretend to lose interest in everything that made you a glittering object the toxic person needed to acquire. Don’t quit your job or move out of your house into a tent, but keep a low and unappealing profile. Eventually, the toxic person loses interest because you are no longer a valuable commodity.
The “Broken Record” Technique
The Broken Record technique utilizes the repetition of a few key responses and absolutely nothing else. You write down a collection of single sentence responses for common scenarios. Does the narcissist repeatedly try to dodge or change the visitation pick-up and drop off times? “As set forth in section X, sentence X of the Parenting Plan, your pick-up time is 6:00pm. There is a X minute grace period. Should you not arrive, it is assumed you have voluntarily surrendered this time.” Direct, factual, never wavering, and repetitive. No matter how many times you get that text trying to pick a fight about “I want my time with my children,” this is your response. There are always potential extenuating circumstances, but the idea is to have canned responses that become boring. On a side note, don’t let any attorney or ex bully you into allowing your abuser to have cell phone/text/email access to you on demand. People got divorced and had visitation just fine long before the internet and cell phones. You do not have to give your abuser 24/7/365 access to you, period.
Talk To the Hand
The third technique, which I call “Talk to the Hand,” is really what worked for me. I needed to reclaim my life, my goals, my joy, and my abilities. Part of that was setting out on a journey to chase every possible dream I had, whether I thought it was realistic or not. I had spent almost my entire life listening to him give reasons why I could never do these things and instead of letting that continue to dominate my thoughts, I developed an attitude that said, “Don’t think so? Watch me.” Each time his voice invaded my thoughts, I responded with a variation of “talk to the hand because I’m not listening.” Every time I heard his voice, I redoubled my efforts, frequently yelling and swearing at him out loud. Seems nuts, but very therapeutic. Talk to the Hand is also bigger than in your head. It teaches you “DNR”…Do Not Respond…unless absolutely, positively necessary and in the most indirect way possible. This is how I have been able to maintain No Contact for over 4 years.
In any of these methods, or a combination thereof, the point is simply this:
You do not have to attend every argument you are invited to.
While we are always trying to fight for what’s right, there comes a point when we have to accept that there is no “right” with this person. Expend that energy on yourself. Make yourself less appealing as a narcissistic supply using whatever tools and attitudes work for you. Don’t hide your light under a bushel, but neither should you continue to drain yourself by attempting to convince the abuser that you are worth better treatment. Anyone who truly values you won’t need convincing.