It doesnt really matter what the it is to a narcissist; all that matters is that he/she can control you. When it comes to things that the narcissist in your life is going to want to scold you for or have you change, it really could be anything. The problem is, you dont realize this at first. Its like, in the game of life with a narcissist, the rules always change and you dont find out until youve broken one of them.
And when you break a narcissists rule, you will be punished.
You may be scolded, or lectured, or ignored. You may be temporarily banished, or stuck with a brooding partner, who acts offended and tries to manipulate you into feeling guilty because of breaking the rule. There are many different punishments that can be doled out, but whatever happens, it will be unpleasant, thats for sure. This keeps you trying to guess the rules prior to breaking one so you can keep the peace and avoid upsetting your loved one.
Over time you end up walking on eggshells. This results in post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety.
There are many examples of these arbitrary rules. They can apply to any aspect of your life. Many of them have to do with how you dress. Maybe your narcissist doesnt want you wearing something too sexy or not sexy enough. Maybe he/she doesnt want you wearing sweats or flip flops. It can be anything the color blue.
Oftentimes, they seem hell bent on controlling what and how you eat as well, making comments such as, Why are you eating that? In addition, they dont like how you move or talk or spend your time, and want to micromanage every aspect of your life.
I have heard so many different renditions of the types of rules narcissists have for their loved ones. Dont walk barefoot. Dont wipe your wet hands on your pants. Dont text me, only call. Dont call, just text. Dont eat sugar. Have a piece of cake. Its never appropriate to be the first one at a party. Never be late. Always be 5 minutes early. You must use a debit card and never a credit card. Its always better to use a credit card than a debit card.
You get the point.
In their inconsistency and arbitrariness, narcissists are predictable. All narcissists repeat patterns. The Arbitrary rule-making of a narcissist is a pattern.
There are reasons underlying this arbitrariness. One of them is that narcissists have a sense of superiority (grandiosity) and believe that they know best, and they definitely know better than you do. Part of this is implied in the very nature of the activity of making rules that they believe other people should obey. It takes a lot of arrogance to believe that ones arbitrary rules should be followed just because he/she thinks they should.
Another reason narcissists make arbitrary rules is because they need to make their victims bad. When you break a rule, in the narcissists eyes, you are bad. One common pattern of a narcissist is the need for their targets to be bad bad spouses, bad children, bad employees, etc. This feeds in to the narcissists need to feel victimized and justified in punishing you. These feelings are common for narcissists. What better way to nurse the delusional narratives in a narcissists mind than to do things wrong?
Why else would any adult tell another adult what to wear, what to eat, how to drive, or? They would do this because obviously the person doing the rule making believes in his/her superior position, kind of like God, where he/she gets to decide whats best. How arrogant!
If you are one of the people trying to jump through a narcissists hoops in order to prevent backlash, my advice for you: Stop. Make your own rules. Follow them. Let the other person have their fits, pouting fests, rage attacks, and other manipulative strategies. That’s on them. Take your power back and stop letting yourself be manipulated by a narcissist’s arbitrary rules.
To receive a free monthly newsletter on the psychology of abuse, please send your email address to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Carter, B. (2019). 9 Narcissistic Patterns You Can’t Afford To Get Pulled Into. Published by YouTube. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCHtMSg39Eg