Enablers of Narcissists – are they naughty or nice?


As Christmas looms for another year, some of us might be dreading the annual ritual of spending time with the narcissists in the family, out of feelings of obligation, guilt, fear or ‘keeping the peace.’ For narcissists it is prime attention-seeking, drama-queen, bullying and bragging time, where they can sit at the head of the table satisfied that their false self and mask is on display in full regalia and relatives are ripe for the picking. 

Narcissists have enablers. These are the people who serve the narcissist. They may be the other parent, a step-parent, a sibling, or other close family members. While the word ‘enabler’ can conjure up images of someone helping another maintain an alcohol, drug, gambling or other addiction, enabling is also used as a means to support the narcissist’s behaviour, and to protect their power and control in the ‘function’ of the family. 

The enabler may seem benign enough in personality, unsuspecting and trusting, but on closer analysis, they are the ones who help uphold the narcissist’s bad behaviour nonetheless. They make excuses for them, deny reality, minimise, gaslight, defend the narcissist’s delusional behaviour, help foster any financial manipulations, and shut down, ignore and deflect from anyone who dares to challenge the narcissist’s behaviour.

If you are in the position of having narcissistic and enabling parents, it can be immensely disempowering and frustrating.

The enabler will not rescue you from the narcissist’s unempathetic behaviour. They will believe their (often outrageous) lies, justify their cheating and any other immoral or unethical behaviour, their malicious smear campaigns against you and others, and their devaluing and invalidating gifts (cheap and/or nasty), or no gifts. The narcissist remains blameless in every situation, always the victim. 

Enabling can be rooted in fear of the narcissist, and they are trauma-bonded and codependent in this dynamic. It is highly likely they experienced early family trauma where one parent was a narcissist where dysfunctional behaviour was ‘normal,’ and where they were treated as either the ‘golden child’ or abused and neglected.

There is also the inability to face up to the fact that they’ve been a target used as a source of narcissistic supply and made a victim themselves. They may be naive and gullible and lacking in emotional intelligence. In any case, it is easier to go along with the narcissist than challenge their behaviour; sweeping all the dirt under the rug and maintaining security, especially if they’ve been worn down and brainwashed for many years. If that means sacrificing and betraying others, including their own children – then so be it. 

Going No Contact with the narcissist and enabler, or Low Contact at the least and using the Grey Rock technique (not showing emotion, acting boring and disinteresting), is the only way to go in order to heal.

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