HSPs: How to Say No to Narcissists once and for all

by Caroline van Kimmenade

One of the articles here on thehappysensitive.com on narcissism is getting a lot of comments. Some people are in the “intellectual phase” of trying to figure out what narcissism is, others are in the “emotional phase” of coming to terms with the impact of narcissistic abuse. This video discusses these phases, including the final phase of stepping out of the narcissistic abuse pattern for good.

As HSPs we often have a lot of trouble coming to terms with relationships that are “beyond fixing”. In that way, narcissists are our ultimate challenge: challenging us to “get real”, let go, move on and ultimately, heal ourself.



Article 1 mentioned in the video: “Narcissistic Love versus Unconditional Love
Article 2 mentioned in the video: “How to Stop Being Empathic and become a complete Narcissist (a.k.a. Arsecissist)”


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1 LizG April 20, 2013

Hi, Caroline.
I just found your website and have been digesting/enjoying your insights. Thank you for them. I am in some in-between recovery phase from a narcissistic relationship, if you could call it that. We do not see each other, but we talk occasionally. I still care for him (duh), and have an especially hard time thinking of “cutting him out” completely because his father is dying, and because it goes against my values to discard someone because what I wanted — an intimate, romantic relationship — never really happened, and also because I am becoming aware the extent to which I created this “relationship-to-be” out of my own deeply internal, fantasy land.
Anyway. I am having a hard time getting angry. I am getting better coming to honest terms with how truly hurtful the whole experience was, but the more I learn intellectually about narcissism, the more I find my HSP radar was right all along — this is a deeply, deeply wounded person. Even when I think about past interactions between us, let’s say an instance when he said something or did something critical/hurtful, even in that moment it always seemed to me that this was the behavior of a neglected, hungry child. Not that it wasn’t hurtful, or that the accumulation of experiences didn’t begin to take their toll — obviously they did. But, it is hard to get angry with a hurt child.
In fact, due to the nature of how we related to each other, I am now wondering if perhaps we share the same initial wound. If perhaps the injury that planted the seeds for his narcissism was very similar to the one that led me to become the HSP/empathic person that I am. As if we just took two very different paths to cope with the world presented to us. Relating to him is like looking in a funhouse mirror — distorted and very confusing — but nonetheless there seems to be something there that is within me. And this makes it very hard to get angry and move on and let go, which, in terms of living my life in the most practical way, I think really needs to happen.
I appreciate any insights you might have. Thanks for your time.

2 Caroline van Kimmenade April 20, 2013

Hi LizG,

You bring up some excellent points. Some of which have also been spinning through my mind – but I haven’t written about them here, yet.

First off, yes, I do think we see the wounded child inside, and it’s hard to get angry as such. Yet, it’s important to distinguish between an actual child, one that will grow up, versus a child in the guise of an adult, with adult responsibilities, power and influence, refusing to grow up. Children are in school, they have to listen to their parents etc. We’d likely respond differently to kids if they were e.g walking around with a machine gun randomly shooting people – those are still kids, but they’re also dangerous. If they want to grow up, and get help, great! Let someone take the gun away and help them heal. But if they don’t want to grow up or heal…what then? That’s the NPD situation. So shift your attention away from the inner child, and look at what this person is actually doing.

Second, with regards to the inner wounding. Yes, I do think narcissism is one response to trauma, and empathy is the opposite response. When deeply hurt and unseen, we can decide to act out as kids and demand attention by becoming just like a narcissistic parent. Or, we can decide to try to “resolve” everything by trying to heal the parent(s). So, we often empathize and deeply understand narcissistic pain. Yet, we -as a child- chose to respond differently to the same trauma. That’s a very important point. The narcissist took the opposite route. That had some advantages and disadvantages, just as our own route did. Now, they have to take it from there, and we have to take it from where we are. Because we took a fundamentally different perspective and route from the start, we are in many ways actually least able to help someone with NPD, because while we can relate to the pain, we can’t relate to the choice made.

Also, as long as there is some obsession about wanting to heal someone, and feeling guilty about letting go, there is a fear that healing is not possible. Once we fully do the inner work to heal ourself, then we know that healing is possible, as well as what it requires. That’s when we can look at a narcissist and see: they made some choices that led to this, to heal, they will need to confront a lot of inner stuff, and they will need to want to do it of their own accord. You can then understand that they may not want to, because it’s hard. Yet because you have healed, you lose interest in hanging around with them. Hope that helps!

For more help on anger, check out these two articles: https://thehappysensitive.com/anger-abstinence-boundary-setting-and-the-spiritual-dilemma-of-the-good-person/ and -specifically- the audio in this article: https://thehappysensitive.com/are-you-the-sensitive-friend-or-the-sensitive-therapist-8-tips-for-clarity-on-hsp-relationships/

3 LizG April 21, 2013

Thank you, Caroline.

Those are all very important things to consider. Yes, he is no longer a child, and his attendant adult abilities and power make him dangerous. It sounds so simple to just observe and respond to what is actually happening, but it is hard. I guess HSPs — me at least — are more comfortable with the inner world, with subtext, and this can make navigating situations like this very confusing and difficult.

And yes, I feel very strongly that there is a shared trauma between the narcissist and the HSP, and it does make sense that I am not really the one who can help him heal. Although it also helps explain (more — as if more explanation was what I needed :) the strong attraction between these types. We each embody what the other so sorely lacks. The HSP has such a strong (overly strong) connection to a deep, inner sense of self and the world of emotion and feeling. The narcissist has such an overly strong ego, a sense of self in the world and how it relates to prestige and power. The narcissist certainly doesn’t need to learn how to get angry when his boundaries are crossed. But me, on the other hand…

So I will be working on getting angry and letting go. I appreciate your insight about the relationship between not wanting to let go and the fear that healing is not possible. I need to take some time and really consider this because I think you might be right. Also, letting go, unfortunately, means letting go of the dream that I had once healing started to happen, as if that was really within my control. This, I think, is the tough one. It is a very beautiful dream.

Ok. Be well.

4 Michelle November 11, 2013


I just wanted to say that I’m so happy I ran across your site, I find it to be very helpful. I recently broke up with my ex and knowing what to expect helped me realize that it wasn’t me who had the problem. The problem that I’m having now is that he still calls and before we get off the phone I end up in a horrible argument on why he felt that I should call him sometimes. I don’t get it, once I told him I thought he was a narcissist things between us have been different. I don’t call him or expect anything from him.

5 Caroline van Kimmenade November 14, 2013

Hi Michelle,

You’re in a power fight. As long as you engage, he’ll get something out of it (meaning: attention). The question to ask yourself is: why do you pick up the phone? Why do you talk to him? He initiates, but why do you reciprocate? What are you hoping to get out of it? What are you hoping will happen? Not expecting anything from him is great, it also means you can screen your calls and not engage, right?

6 Michelle December 21, 2013

Because we were once in a relationship he does have my work number which doesn’t have caller ID. He is blocked from my cell phone. When he calls my job I hang up and he calls right back. What you said is right I don’t have to reciprocate by engaging in arguments.
I have no desire to be in a relationship with him again. When I was with him I can remember that things always start off good and then he figures out a way to destroy everything. My decision to leave him alone and take control over my life has been one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.

7 Deborah February 17, 2014

This is fascinating! Not sure if I am dealing with a Narcissist, maybe borderline…and therefore hard to diagnose; but these concepts are certainly well worth considering and make a lot of sense for me.

Here’s me: a long distance romantic relationship of 6 years…is really frustrating to me in terms of this man who wants to marry me, who constantly professes his love for me, I am the one for him, (he’s not a player, very conservative) but just when we are finally about to get to the realization of our dream to be/live together, some really plausible obstacles pops up on his side. I feel that he is “subconsciously making these issues pop up on purpose” and then he acts innocent; but after 6 years, its an obvious pattern. I can’t really say that he is a commitment phobia and can’t say that he’s afraid of intimacy. That’s of course, the “obvious” explanation for this unexplainable pattern.

The other agonizing issue (kind of the same thing) is that he stands me up for SKYPE dates which are only once a week, and has made promises to be with me at least 4 times a year, and only finds a way to make it happen twice a year. We are in our 50’s. We can both travel, its not that big of a deal. The clue of narcissism is that he keeps dishonoring my time, by making dates with me that he only keeps 50% of the time. We are both self employed and both equally busy. My time is just as important as his, but he does not seem to actually practice that. This is a huge disconnect. Also, he would call me 3 times a day if I let him, but I don’t like that…we both have work to do; and the conversations are constantly being interrupted, so I asked him if we could SKYPE for an hour a week—just “our time.” He won’t keep those dates at least half of the time. and its almost unbearable for me, but it is his only fault; or so I believe. So it keeps me hanging by a thread.

I have come to realize that the 50% of the time that he DOES keep the dates are most likely because he has nothing else more important to do…so it’s just a co-incidence for which I have given him far too much credit! In the first 2 years, he was fairly decent with keeping our dates and our times; but as time went by he got into this attitude that his time was more important then mine, somehow. He’s busy, he’s working, he’s making money for our future, etc. another “plausible excuse” for neglecting our relationship.

That is basically the only symptom, except that he says he wants unconditional love from me, which kind of gives him the license to treat me with disrespect in terms of not honoring my time. I am supposed to keep forgiving him, and leave it in the past. When we are together, we have no problems no arguments, and we get along wonderfully well; we do really well together an all levels in person. So maybe its just an issue of long distance relationship not working out. (I don’t think so, though).

There are these major communications issues; and I have broken up with him 3 times because of his refusal to honor time commitments with me. I am broken up with him at this time, but he keeps trying to email me; he never lets go of me. It seems like he only wants me when he can’t have me and when he has me he doesn’t care about me. This might also be a symptom of narcissism, the habit of treating me as an object, and only communicating with me or spending times with me, when he needs me, not allowing it to be the other way around hardly ever.

Anyway, it could be the last piece of healing I need, as I have had encounters with other narcissists; which were hugely worse and way more painful than this. This seems mild compared to those other cases. Maybe just more healing for me is still needed internally.

You have given me food for thought here; very good video that asks us to address the narcissist void within ourselves for true healing. You can’t just dump these people and get the full healing unless we address what the attraction was in the first place!

I have known this man for 6 years, and a lot of people go to “the obvious”; he has another girlfriend, they say a secret addiction, he’s married, bla bla bla. However none of these is the case. He is an honest God fearing Christian man, and that’s not fake either.

This narcissist idea is the ONLY thing that makes sense to me. I have had encounters with a few n’s before; but if this is the case, it is a mild case; and hard to detect. Or maybe I am just sort of immune and I feel so much love from him, but maybe its just my own love that I feel!

If you ever want to publish a book, let me know, I am a publishing coach, this information would be great in a book form.

8 Jane April 23, 2014

I just wanted to say that I’ve been going through an eerily similar situation with a man I met online, long distance, although it was much shorter in duration. He would constantly tell me I was his soulmate and the love of his life and that he wanted nothing more than to be with me, then he’d turn around and lie or make excuses for why he couldn’t make that happen. There was always some convenient obstacle. But as soon as I’d start to try and set boundaries, he’d turn on the charm, tell me how beautiful I am, how much he loves me, how we have a deep connection that is rare and should be cherished. He fed me so much bullshit and I believed it.

I’m pretty sure he is borderline, and everything he did fit the pattern. I think as sensitive helpers, we are prone to denial about their behavior because we want to see the best in them. I’m still struggling to disengage from the fantasy and realize that I loved a dream, the silhouette of a man. I wish you well in finding out what is best for you. You are not alone in this.

9 Mandy March 1, 2014

I have so enjoyed reading your insightful articles, thanks.

I grew up in a home with two narcissistic parents, who were forever trying to steal the show from each other and were not at all emotionally available to any of us children. It made for a very unpleasant home environment. To the outside world, we were the perfect family. My mother is a doctor and my father, an engineer and of course they were highly respected for their professions. All 4 children towed the line, by perfecting the facade and become successful professionals themselves.

At home, I felt completely invisible and alone. From an early age I became very independent and got on my bicycle and left the house, to hang out at my friend’s homes, where I felt more loved and validated than in my own.

The sad thing for me, is that I left home nearly 30 years ago and we continue to play the ‘happy family’ facade. I still wish and hope for grandparents for my 3 wonderful children, that will love and appreciate them. Of course, they pretend to be good grandparents, by never forgetting a birthday, or making sure there is a monetary gift in the bank on that same birthday, ( the CORRECT thing to do),but my eldest is now 14 and his grandparents have never looked after him, or spent time with him alone, to this day.

What makes this scenario so scary, is that I couldn’t figure out why I was so unhappy at home. It was all so subtle. – No physical abuse, alcohol abuse, seedy affairs, or anything outwardly obvious, I could blame my unhappy childhood on. It is very easy to start thinking there is something wrong with you. I realize I have spent my life mourning the loss of parents I have never and will never have, but could not go through a real mourning, as, after all, to the real world I have parents, how can I mourn them, when they are still there?

The great thing, is that I have walked my own long path and after an unhappy first marriage, have now had 16 very happy years with my present husband and father of my children.

I tell this story in the hope that it might resonate with others who are, or did grow up in a similar environment.

10 Caroline van Kimmenade March 2, 2014

Hi Mandy,

This kind of loss is very real. While they are technically still alive, you can still mourn the loss of the “dream” of them.

11 Liza April 21, 2014

There are many factors that determine how being highly sensitive affects a person. If the person has been a childhood victim of emotional and/or physical abuse, that make any relationship much more difficult. That person may be consumed by feelings of inadequacy, guilt and shame, and be critical of others as well as suspicious of everyone’s motives. They may be unable to accept suggestions and unable to completely trust others–even their romantic partners. Best advice–avoid such a relationship.

12 Andre September 7, 2014

I think narcissists are just dark spirits incarnate. Most normal people would kill themselves if they had the world view that narcissists do. NPD is not so much a mental health issue as a spiritual issue of the highest order. Narcissism is mentioned in the Bible: Satan. Evil. It really is that simple and complicated at the same time.

13 Susanna November 10, 2014

From my own experience, I would say that ESP and nasrcissm have a thin line.

I am an ESP, I would say an empath, but after being alone for years with those emotions I could not understand, not being strong enough to handle them, understand where they come from and why I feel like this; then also getting my first major heartbreak and being used for sex (me of course happily letting, as I was too in love and desperate for his love). I ended up so hurt and and full of those painful feelings and emotions, which were flooding and taking full control over me.
I would just sit at the office and suddenly get this extreme urge of crying, as I had suppressed so much. I was like a mad person, who just flipped out at some moments for no momentary trigger, also spending all my time cryng at home and feeling worthless and not being able to even move out of bed. And as it was not letting me lead a normal life I started pushing it down more and more, and trying to make myself a stone, as I saw no other option of dealing with this.
Now two years later, I found myself to have a lot of emotions, which make no sense and which I don’t udnerstand, while having zero real understaning of my own feelings, being completely lost, not knowing who I am or what I feel or want; and feending all this coldness and insecuritness with getting the attention of guys (as through out my life I have learned to please men with my good looks).
Time by time I started getting more and more full of myself, thanks to all this inner turbulance which I didn’t know how deal with. I didn’t have anymore energy to care for what is around. Just seeing someone who’d need help, I got this strong feelign of pain, but I just blocked it as I didn’t know how to deal with it and didn’t want to open up my heart again.
Also as I was so insecure inside, then all that I knew was good was my looks, as this got me attention and ppl to like me. Though feeling the pain and wishing to help and be more caring, I completely blocked my heart and had this huge wall, which lead me have no actions. I had no feelings anymore, other than the old pain still pinching at times, and to stop the pinching, I kept on making myself more and more cold.
I was lucky because in this ego filled depression, I one day looked in the sky while walking and crying and feeling feeling that I can’t live anymore, I plead for help. Next day I woke up to the sound of doves flying onto my window and then later the same or next day I met a man thanks to who I have been slowly healing and crying out all those old pains and starting to be able to enjoy life again, care for people and understand that I am not a sexual object. I am smart, sensitive, caring and a good person, I have talent and I can do much more in this world than dress up tp get guys’ attention and then go ome an cry as I feel worthless.

Pain and undealt emotions can make a person become something completely opposite to how the person feels inside.
So the only thing is just, if the person wants to be saved. If not, then there’s nothing we can do.

14 sen November 15, 2014

Hi Caroline, I’ve really been enjoying your blog…One idea I wonder about is this notion that narcissistic pd is caused by trauma. Its a very common notion I keep seeing repeated. However, I am a close first hand witness for two generations of this pd. My dad and my little sis. Both had the same upbringing: no discipline (and I mean No discipline, ever), allowed to run wild not only with no consequences, but they each had mothers who instilled in them the belief that they could do no wrong. No matter what they did. Literally, they were allowed to get away with anything and still be percieved as good, wonderful people. This kind of conditioning from parents produced the obvious result–adults who feel entitled to get their way all the time, to do whatever they want, treat others however the want, to remain the center of attention. In short the world should revolve around them, the rules don’t apply to them. That’s what their parents taught them. So of course they erupt in rage, blame, projections when anyone in their adult life does not react to their mistreatment with the same leniency and adoration their parents gave them. If in their adult life they are not shown the amount of constant adoration their parents gave them, if they are not the center of everyones attention the way they were with their parents…BOOM big wailing tantrum time. But it is not out of pain or trauma. The are just shocked and outraged that you didn’t give them what they feel deep down in their cells they’re entitiled to! Their parents/early environment spoiled them into a permanent state of ME ME ME. Basically, they will have the expecations and emotional reactions of a toddler for life.This is not due to trauma, but a parents failure to “raise” them out of toddlerhood. By continuing to treat them like a baby when they are well beyond the baby years. Parents promote these wildly inappropriate expectations of treatment in their children and it solidifies into their personality, staying with them for life. Its accomplished by not instilling boundaries, by cherishing them and spoiling them to a point where they ignore/deny any reality that counters their idea of their little darlings as perfect angels who can do no wrong. The entitlement and self centeredness comes from being treated consistantly like little kings/princesses. We believe what our parents tell us we are when we’re young and vulnerable (our personalities are FORMING here and we are all little open sponges to environment and parents form our life in those early years, defining us, shaping our personalities, and definately teaching us our expectations about life, about self, about how we should and deserve to be treated). I simply question the validity of “trauma” as a cause of NPD. These are spoiled brats who’s conscience remains retarded (undeveloped) stuck in toddlerhood, that terrible twos stage before boundaries, right and wrong, empathy, and other human skills were taught. Notice I said it is their conscience and expectations that are retarded, not their intelligence. I do agree its all about our early treatment from parents, environment though. Unless one considers spoiling “trauma” I’d say its a misnomer with narcissism. Also, another myth…they do not have low self esteem. Not even subconscously. They have the opposite–extreme over inflated self esteem and it is not traumatizing for them to be criticized or not have their egos stroked at all times…its OUTRAGEOUS! to them. They are ENTITLED to be worshipped, praised, looked up to, they are entitled to be RIGHT all the time. It’s “How dare you not treat me like the God I am!” belief at its core. The rage and abuse is to bully you into towing the line and going back to serving their egos again. But it most definately does not stem from weak self esteem or fragile egos. These are overfed, powerful egos with matching self esteem. They truly do think that highly of themselves. Their is no inner angst over fragility. Its the opposite. I think assuming that deep down they have fragile egos and were traumatized at one point is a form of Projection that we place upon them.
Just sharing what I’ve learned from seeing this pattern handed down again and again. Its pretty simple really. We are all cycling through life inside the pattern our parents weaved for us. Or struggling to break free of said pattern through means such as those provided on your site :)

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