How You Can Handle a Narcissist at Christmas

E.B. Johnson

As we fade into the last days of the year, we nestle close to one another in anticipation of Christmas day. Friends and family gather close, but all is not as peaceful as the picture we like to paint. When your family is plagued by narcissists, the holiday season becomes anything but peaceful. Chaos reigns and eggshells become the norm. Is your Christmas spirit being dampened by the narcissist in your life? Protect yourself and look to the future with knowledge and a solid understanding of what you must do next.

How narcissists destroy Christmas for everyone.

Christmas with a narcissist is anything but peaceful. The putdowns, attacks, and endless conflict still come standard. In many cases, it’s increased. That’s because the stress of the season gets to everyone. But the narcissist-stricken family is especially at risk.

Walking on eggshells

Families who are subjected to narcissistic abuse at Christmas can fall into a pattern of walking on eggshells. Desperate not to set off the person determined to ruin everyone’s holiday, everyone becomes overly acquiescent of the narcissist and their demands. Everything is catered to them, but in that the authentic and enjoyable holiday experience is ruined for others. It all becomes about the narcissist, and everyone else is expected to make themselves as small as possible.

Creating trauma patterns

When we experience trauma (an extreme emotional upset) it becomes implanted in our brains and our bodies. Over time, this creates trauma patterns for everyone involved. The longer you are invested in the abuse, the more engrained it becomes. What you end up with is adult children who flinch every Christmas, anticipating the tension and the upset — even when they get away from it. Narcissists set us up for stressful emotional trauma patterns throughout our lives.

Creating conflict

Endless (and needless) conflict is one of the biggest side effects of dealing with a narcissist at Christmas. They blow up, lash out, and explode throughout the season. There’s not really a lot of rhyme or reason to it. The stress gets to them. They spend the end of the year looking back over their own failures and disappointments. Instead of internalizing, though, they point their frustrations outward…and everyone else pays the price.

Manifesting irritations

When you’re trapped with a narcissist at Christmastime, petty arguments and attacks are pretty normal too. You don’t even have to cross a line or do anything spectacularly irritating yourself. Dealing with the same pent-up pressures as everyone else, the narcissist points their energy outward. Instead of dealing with their own boredom and negativity, they expect everyone else to do it for them. And they discharge their energy by annoying and attacking those closest at hand.

Extra obligations

Our obligations become larger during the holiday season. Not only do we have to deal with the same expectations of family and work, but we have the added stress of holiday demands and Christmas gatherings. When you’re stuck with a narcissist, you can double those pressures. You must meet all those stacked-up holiday obligations, but you also have to tip-toe around and make sure everything is right for the narcissist, too.

Lashing out

The holidays can be a really contentious time of the year — especially for someone whose entire ego is the center of their existence. Narcissists deal with the same end-of-year reflections we all do, but the difference here is that they cannot internalize their mistakes and plan for change. Instead, narcissists see the mistakes of the year past and become aggressive. Desperate for no one else to spot their flaws, they lash out and emotionally punish everyone else for their failures throughout the year.

How to handle the holidays with a narcissist.

If you’re in thrall to a narcissist at Christmastime, your options are limited — but not nonexistent. The important thing here is to spend the downtime educating yourself and making plans, while you take small steps to protect yourself and your emotional wellbeing at home.

1. Start off with knowledge

Knowledge is definitely power in dealing with narcissists. Picking up a book (or an article) and reading about someone who has survived what you’re going through? It’s freeing. Reading about the very real treatment you’re dealing with? It’s gratifying and empowering in all the best ways. When you have knowledge, you can make plans and envision a different future away from the constant upset and abuse.

Arm yourself with knowledge. Learn everything you can about narcissism and its effects. Read about why narcissists behave the way they do, and how those around them can best mitigate their negative outbursts and reactions (to everything).

The more you know, the more empowered you become. This knowledge is crucial in one of the next steps, which will allow you to create a plan and move toward a future in which you have more power over yourself and your life. To get there, however, you must understand the outbursts and the explosions. You must discover how to navigate the difficulties with a focus on self-respect and self-fulfillment.

2. Manifest more space

Space is such crucial part of surviving the holidays with a narcissist. Learning is great, but knowledge can only do so much for you in practice. Sometimes, the best you can do at Christmas is to walk away into another room, or book some time out of the house with friends. Space is a lifesaver in the home of a narcissist. So take it and take it liberally as and where you can throughout the rest of the season.

Give yourself a lot of space. Spend more time on your own around the house. Read books, watch movies — try to do things that can isolate you from the narcissist and keep you “out of the way”. Where you can, reach out to friends and family. Join them for minor celebrations. Ask them to go out on a walk with you. Do small things that get you out of the house and away from the person who is making your Christmas a living hell.

3. Create a realistic strategy

While you may not make a lot of freeing moves during the holidays, you can spend the time quietly making plans and solidifying your visions. Look toward a future in which you don’t have to flinch at Christmas. How can you reach this dream? What would be involved in freeing yourself from this person who is making you miserable? There’s always a way to get ourselves to a place of freedom and peace. This time of reflection and internalization is the ideal time to make the plans which achieve that.

Look toward a strategy for your future. Now is not the time for action, but it is a great time for planning. Start putting the pieces into place. How can you take action in the coming months to ensure that this holiday experience never happens again?

For some, it means changing the entire dynamic of the household. That requires an overhaul that the narcissist may either accept or not. Many, however, have to look toward a future that’s narcissist free. Going “no-contact” is often the only way we can really protect ourselves from the clutches of someone who is lost to their narcissistic tendencies. Make a plan to get away, and stick to it. There’s always a way out, no matter how steep the climb may be.

4. Don't lean in emotionally

Limit the power the narcissist has over you this Christmas. Stop playing their games. Stop investing in them emotionally. Sure, you may be stuck in the house with them. But that doesn’t mean that you have to tell them every intimate detail of your life, or go along with their games. You can distance yourself emotionally and, in that minor act of rebelling, you can reclaim your power and take away ammo from the narcissist in your circle.

Keep it distant. Don’t play along with the poking and the prodding; don’t jump when they irritate you and instigate the drama. Many narcissists like to get a rise out of their victims by boiling it down to the most juvenile tactics. They will tease you in small, cruel ways until you lash out and justify all the bad things they expect of you. That’s giving them power. That’s giving them satisfaction. Avoid this at all costs. Reclaim your power by treating them with an emotional distance that’s chilling.

5. Connect with a support system

Support systems are a must — especially when we’re recovering from narcissistic abuse, or in the throes of it. That support system is headed by a professional if you’re lucky, but it should also be filled with friends and family you can trust. These connections can become even more powerful during the Christmas rush. When we lean into these supports, we are better able to handle the stress of the narcissist pattern of rage and injury.

Lean into your support systems this holiday season. While the stress of living with a narcissist at Christmas is brutal, it’s also a beautiful time to connect with those also in the clutches of that abuse. Reach out to other family members and friends you can trust.

Open up with each other. Share your stories. Laugh to keep yourselves from crying. There may not be an endless supply of professionals available to help you. Christmas is a beautiful time to connect with your loved ones, though, and there’s a power in that which can help you heal and recover from the narcissist. Don’t give them the power over your life. Reach out and find that love and sense of spirit that’s still all around you in those you love.

Putting it all together…

Living with a narcissist at Christmas is a hard road. The conflict is endless and even more needless than usual. They can be sensitive, on-edge, and a total aggravation that pushes you past your boundary line over-and-over again. It doesn’t help that we’re more isolate from help than ever during the holiday season. That’s why we must focus on small steps and small action that allow us to build toward a plan for freeing ourselves and protecting our wellbeing in the new year.

Arm yourself with knowledge and spend any downtime you have learning everything you can about narcissism and its affects. Learning will allow you to see and understand what’s going on around you. Take as much space as you can. Spend more time on your own and get out of the house with friends and family. Look toward creating a strategy in the new year that allows you to free yourself from the narcissist in your life. Don’t lean into the narcissist. Take away their emotional power. Instead, lean into your support system and allow them to support you through the holiday season.

  • Day, N., Bourke, M., Townsend, M., & Grenyer, B. (2020). Pathological Narcissism: A Study of Burden on Partners and Family. Journal Of Personality Disorders, 34(6), 799-813. doi: 10.1521/pedi_2019_33_413

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Writer. Host. Certified coach. Host of the Practical Growth Pod. Master Practitioner NLP. Get all my books and resources at the link below.

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