The Little Shaman is a spiritual coach & specialist in cluster B personality disorders, with a popular YouTube show and clients worldwide.
To be contrary means to be contradictory, oppositional, obstinate... if someone is being contrary, it means that they are opposing someone or something, often just for the sake of doing so. We often see this in pathologically narcissistic people. It is not uncommon for them to take a position or make an argument that completely contradicts the things they were just saying if it means they can now be in opposition to others.
For example, you might find yourself arguing with a narcissistic person even though you thought you were agreeing. Their opinion may suddenly seem to change, and they are now arguing the opposite of what they were just saying a little while before. This can be extremely confusing, especially because they seem to be completely reversing themselves. It often leads to circular arguments about what was actually said, what was meant and total confusion on the part of the victim. Narcissists may continuously contradict, argue about or complicate even basic, simple things.
For example, they may say, "Where do you want to go grocery shopping?" You say, "Let's go to Giant Food." They say, "Why do you want to go there? Everything is overpriced. We should go to Shopper's Food Warehouse instead. It's much better." You explain why you want to go to Giant Food and it leads to an argument for essentially no reason. Your opinion that Giant Food is superior to Shopper's Food Warehouse is apparently some terrible moral crime against the narcissist. The next week, the narcissist says, "Where do you want to go grocery shopping?" Remembering last week, you say, "Let's go to Shopper's Food Warehouse." They say, "Why do you want to go there? They have no selection at all. We should go to Giant Food instead. It's much better." Now you're mad, because you're like, "Wait, what?" and once again, it leads to an argument for no reason. There may be a hundred little things like this that happen every day when you are dealing with a narcissistic person. It's exhausting and maddening.
This happens because many narcissistic people are contrary. They aren't all like this, but many are. This type of person is arguing just for the sake of arguing. If you say one thing, they will say the opposite just because it's opposite. If they say something and you agree, they will then say the opposite just because you agreed. The point is not even to be right, necessarily. It is to be different, to be difficult, to be contrary. Ironically, they may accuse you of doing the very same thing.
Pathologically narcissistic people often don't come from a place of facts or logic. They generally don't argue from moral conviction, or strongly-held principles and values. They argue from emotion, and from ego. Because of this, their position on any given subject can - and often does change - easily and frequently. It's whatever supports their narrative at the time, and sometimes, that narrative is just to be antagonistic and oppositional. This is why one day they argue one thing and the next, they argue the opposite side for the exact same issue. Their feelings dictate these things and often, that is the desire to be contrary.
The argument itself is usually nonsense. It's often illogical or irrational, and it can become obvious that they are arguing just for the sake of arguing by the things they are saying, particularly when they repeatedly contradict themselves in order to do it. It's a slightly more sophisticated version of a 2-year-old deliberately pouring their drink out onto the floor after you've specifically told them not to do so. Like this 2-year-old, pathologically narcissistic people are asserting their independence from you and your control over them by resisting you. They generally feel very controlled by people, particularly those they rely on. Because their sense of self is usually very unstable, they may worry their identity is being swallowed up or subjugated by the other person and feel overwhelmed or panicked by that. They are often just very resentful of the situation as a whole, so they may try to create some separation in this way.
And sometimes, they are just being antagonistic for the sake of doing so. They are just causing an argument because they are bored or their ego needs feeding. They are right. You are wrong. This is the way it is. For the pathologically narcissistic person, being right is more than just winning an argument. It is a validation of their entire being. To them, that is more than worth fighting for.
Of course, you did not realize any of this was going on and are confused. Why are we arguing when I was agreeing? Why is this person saying XYZ now when they were saying ZYX just ten minutes ago? What is going on? You're just trying to have a conversation with your family member or significant other and now it's a fight for no reason. This is very confusing for people and may be extremely upsetting as well. It seems totally illogical and crazy. And truthfully, it is. To a person looking at the situation logically, the behavior makes no sense. Even having an understanding of why they are behaving that way doesn't change the fact that, in the moment, it looks like insanity.
If you are dealing with a contrary narcissistic person, realize that there is no sense in arguing. There is no real point being made here, therefore there is no side to be on and no argument to even make. The argument is the point. Feeding in to this only makes things worse. The best thing to do is ignore contrary behavior whenever you can. If it crosses boundaries, then enforce them but it is never a good idea to engage in pointless arguments with anybody, whether they are a narcissist or not. It accomplishes nothing. It resolves nothing.
In the end, you cannot control another person's behavior. The only thing you can do is decide how much it will affect your life and how much you will participate in it. The good thing about it is, even though that's all you can do, it's all you really need to do.