The Little Shaman is a spiritual coach & specialist in cluster B personality disorders, with a popular YouTube show and clients worldwide.
We often hear from people who care about the narcissist in their lives. They want to help them. Even though the most common recommendation is to separate from the narcissist, in your lives, regardless of what anyone says, some people are just not going to do that. So if you care about a narcissist and are not planning to end the relationship, there is something that you need to understand. This goes for any type of relationship.
We could go all into how the narcissist does not care about you, and you don't even really exist to them on a real level, but you probably already know that. If you don't, it's not going to be revisited here, but it is strongly suggested you check out the episodes of this show entitled Yes, The Narcissist Hates You, Narcissists Believe Feelings are Facts, and The Narcissist's True Motivation. We could go into how miserable your relationship will be, but you probably already know that, too. If you need more info on that, you can check out the episode of this show called 4 Reasons Narcissists are Abusive and Loving a Narcissist: Is it Worth It?
The problem with the idea of trying to help narcissists is that the only way the narcissist will allow you to "help" is by enabling them. Anything else you try to do will be called abuse. If you try to teach them about responsibility and accountability, they will call it blame and say you are abusive. If you try to teach them about respect, they will say you want them to grovel at your feet and call you abusive. If you try to teach them about consideration for others, they will say you have no consideration of them and call you abusive. If you try to teach them about manners, they will say you are controlling them and call you abusive. If you try to teach them to think before they speak or act, they will say you are trying to manipulate and brainwash them - and again, call you abusive. There is no winning here. They don't understand the basic things you need to know to get along in this world or have relationships and their disorder is set up in such a way that everything they hear sounds like blame, accusations and insults. You cannot teach someone like that anything.
The only thing they will allow you to do is what you have been doing the entire time: carrying their emotional burdens for them like an emotional baggage cart. They will allow you to be their punching bag, their whipping boy, their emotional pack mule. That's it. That's all they want you for. Many times, they try to force people into this position using guilt, manipulation and other underhanded tactics but other times, people do it willingly in the misguided belief that they are helping the narcissist. They feel sorry for this overwhelmed person who staggers under the weight of all this pain and confusion. That's understandable and it's even true but it's wrong.
It isn't helping them. It's hurting them, and you. You are enabling their abusive behavior by doing this, and you are enabling their disorder by letting them rely on you instead of ,forcing them to deal with and process their own feelings. This is the whole basis of the disorder. It's a defense mechanism characterized by affect displacement. They project their own feelings about themselves on to other people to make these feelings easier to deal with.
Everything they do, everything they think, everything their disorder IS, was created by their mind to protect themselves from experiencing feelings that they find threatening, scary or overwhelming. Now they are an adult and the defense mechanism has grown into pathological patterns and behaviors. Allowing them to shift those feelings to you just continues the pattern and reinforces the disorder. They will never learn that they can deal with these emotions if they are not forced to deal with them. Stop being their emotional baggage cart. Stop being their punching bag. Stop being their whipping boy. It inadvertently makes the problem worse, not better. If you really want to help, stop helping.
The truth is, the best thing you can do for the narcissist is leave their feelings to them. They will either learn to deal with them or they will not. Some eventually do as they get older. Their feelings are not your responsibility, and more than that, just as they have no right to force you to carry them, you have no right to volunteer. Stop explaining, denying, excusing and most of all, stop reacting. Don't let them cause a problem with you to distract from the problems within themselves. These feelings are not going away and it's time they faced them. This might seem cruel, but sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind and it is far crueler to enable the very thing that is crippling them. You cannot fix them, but you don't have to be part of the problem, either.