Wholeness Healing Today

Setting Boundaries with Narcissists

In this issue, I am going to continue with some guidance from Rokelle Lerner’s book about narcissists, as it is full of information, and since many people struggle trying to have healthy relationships with unhealthy people, I would share some suggestions.

In the workplace, narcissists are often critical of others, don’t accept feedback gracefully (if at all), and often the “underlings” do much of the work, for a scant amount of attention, with the narcissist taking the lion’s share of the credit. Narcissists crave attention, and the continued drive for adulation and admiration dictates that others attend to their needs and recognize their contributions, often maximizing those contributions.

People in relationships with narcissists “gradually assume they are the problem in the relationship”, as the narcissist is never the problem. There is no honesty in a narcissist so it is quite easy for the relationship to be very one-sided, with the “flying monkey” always assuming fault and the narcissist always taking credit. While there can be “intermittent reinforcement”, this is usually a manipulative act to lure the flying monkey in, as the narcissist fears being alone, and of course, if there is no one to adore and give attention to, the narcissist cannot survive.

Lerner writes that, “It is our birthright to be free, to express our opinions, and to live without fear”, which of course a narcissist will never allow, as that takes the spotlight from him or her. What they do instead is to “brainwash” people, letting them then take on the guilt, which makes the narcissist the victim, redirecting the attention back.

In a healthy relationship, there is nurturing self-love, not self-pity, and Lerner writes that in order for that to manifest, one has to become the loving parent to the wounded part of you, “bringing life back into your soul”, allowing one to recover the lost inner child. Again, as one does the healing work, accepting that he/she didn’t and couldn’t get what the child needed from a narcissistic parent, one is better able to set boundaries in present and future relationships.  Healthy boundaries are a “statement of dignity of yourself and others”.

So what does setting healthy boundaries with a narcissist look and sound like? Lerner made the following suggestions:

“If you bully me when we’re alone or in public, I will ask you to stop. If you continue, I’ll leave the room”.

“When you yell at me, I feel __________. My request is that you contain your anger and let me know what you want in a calm way. If you continue, I’ll leave”.

Both of these are great suggestions, and implementing them is a great way to empower oneself.  “If you feel responsible (for another’s feelings), you’re under the spell of a narcissist.

Stepping into one’s power is the first step to setting those boundaries, and once you recognize that you are not responsible for another’s feelings, that you cannot receive reciprocity while in a relationship with a narcissist, and that you as the adult have the right to love yourself, you can begin the process of reclaiming your dignity.


Lerner, Rokelle. (2009) The object of my affection is my reflection, coping with narcissists. Health Communications, Inc., Deerfield Beach, FL.

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  • Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner
    Licensed Professional Counselor
    Advanced Clinical HypnoTherapist

  • Deb England began working part-time for Wholeness Healing Center in September 2004 and began full-time in May 2005. Deb practices primarily in the Broken Bow office and one day a week in the Grand Island office. Previously she had completed her practicum and internship at Morning Star Alliance, working in the Broken Bow and Grand Island offices.


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