The Narcissist’s Prayer, written by Dayna Craig, has been making rounds around the Internet for a while now. When I first discovered it, I felt it in my body like a violent punch to my gut.
In only 6 simple statements, The Narcissist’s Prayer offers a true blueprint to help us detect a covert narcissist or narcissistic behavior in general.
So let’s explore and break down The Narcissist’s Prayer so we can protect ourselves from narcissistic behavior in others and avoid it in ourselves.
The Narcissist’s Prayer
That didn’t happen.
And if it did, it wasn’t that bad.
And if it was, that’s not a big deal.
And if it is, that’s not my fault.
And if it was, I didn’t mean it.
And if I did, you deserved it.
Such a powerful yet simple verse, right?
These statements within The Narcissist’s Prayer reveal the most common strategies of narcissistic communication and behavior.
What is a narcissist?
Many people call a person “a narcissist” when they act in a selfish, self-centered, or self-absorbed manner. However, Narcissism or Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a serious condition.
People with this disorder have deep feelings of emptiness, a core belief of not being good enough, and an unhealthy need to prove (and get constant reassurance) that they are worthy.
They express it in two different ways.
Types of Narcissists
Narcissists fall into two main categories.
Grandiose Narcissists: It’s easy to detect them because they exhibit all the characteristics that people associate with narcissism.
Vulnerable Narcissists: This person is also known as a covert narcissist because it’s so hard to detect their mind games when they seem humble, sensitive, and sweet. They act methodically, slowly, and systematically.
These two types of narcissism may seem opposite on the surface, but they are both wounded beings. They both exhibit a lack of accountability, knack for manipulation, and an excessive need for constant affirmation, admiration, and attention, as well as pity and special treatment.
What are common narcissistic traits?
To give The Narcissist Prayer some context, let’s explore additional narcissistic characteristics.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, an NPD diagnosis happens when an individual has at least five of the following symptoms:
- An overinflated sense of self-importance.
- Constantly comparing themselves to others and considering themselves as more successful, powerful, smart, loved, or attractive than others.
- Feelings of superiority and a desire to only associate with high-status people.
- Exaggerated need for praise.
- A sense of entitlement.
- Willingness to take advantage of others to achieve goals.
- A lack of understanding and consideration for other people’s feelings and needs.
- A display of arrogant or snobby behaviors and attitudes.
Besides their extremely high regard for themselves, narcissists have an inability to feel empathy, acknowledge their faults, or see others as equal.
Everyone around them is inferior and they are the special, perfect, and chosen ones who are always right and do everything right. They will do anything to protect their image and save face, so they are expert liars.
In addition, to narcissists, the only feelings that are valid are their own. This is definitely clear when you read The Narcissist’s Prayer.
What Does The Narcissist’s Prayer Mean?
As we go through each statement within The Narcissist’s Prayer, we will see the narcissistic traits in action and get a better understanding of the narcissistic mind.
There are three main ways in which this enlightening prayer highlights the hallmarks of covert emotional abuse, and especially narcissism: minimization, invalidation, and attack.
“That didn’t happen”
One of the clearest signs of being in an abusive relationship is the fact that we know something hurtful happened, and yet, we are assured it didn’t. This dynamic can happen in any type of relationship or even in interactions with people we are not in a relationship with.
Denial is a narcissist’s first knee-jerk reaction. They will not own their actions and will try to make you believe it didn’t even happen.
“You’re imagining things.”
“You’re remembering things wrong.”
“You sound so crazy.”
“I never did that.”
“You know I would have never done that do you.”
Narcissists will always deny any fault. They invalidate your judgment and intuition to distract themselves from their own feelings of worthlessness. This also gives them a sense of being perfect and superior and in control.
“And if it did, it wasn’t that bad”
When you stand up to a narcissist person and it becomes hard to fully deny what they did, their next strategy is to minimize it. Minimizing what happened is another invalidating tactic that slowly crumbles your sense of self.
You will feel less powerful when you are confused or when your feelings and perceptions are deemed unimportant. Narcissistic individuals use minimization to boost their fragile egos.
As Dr. Gabor Maté says: “Trauma is not what happened to you. It’s what happens inside of you as a result of what happened to you.”
“You are overreacting.”
“I’m telling you the truth now.” (When they are confronted about lying)
“That was a long time ago.”
“You seem okay to me.”
“At least you…” (Using comparison to minimize what you’ve been through)
“And if it was, that’s not a big deal”
At the end of the day, the narcissist is always right and you are the one who is perceiving the situation in the wrong way.
One of the biggest weapons is attacking our reaction:
“Stop feeling sorry for yourself.”
“Don’t be so dramatic!”
“Why are you so defensive all the time?”
“You are too sensitive.”
I am sure you can relate to these. And they hurt. We not only start questioning whether these things are true about us, we actually end up agreeing with them. Nothing seems to make sense anymore.
Even the feistiest of us have stopped trusting ourselves when facing a relentless narcissist. They act almost offended that we are upset over what they did. And we sometimes end up apologizing!
“And if it is, that’s not my fault.”
Blame shifting or projection is one of the most debilitating schemes of a narcissist.
If you are strong enough to get them to admit that something did happen, they will find a way to turn it around and it will end up being your fault. And if they admit they are wrong, they lose face. Narcissists will do anything they can to avoid taking responsibility for their own mistakes.
“You’re the one who is lying.”
“You made me do it”
“You always have to be the victim.”
“You brought his on yourself”
“It was you who…” (Finding fault somewhere to distract you)
When they try to turn things around, they are seeking to make you the focus of what happened. This takes the pressure off of them.
If they can’t be the hero, then the narcissist will revert to the role of the victim and make you their oppressor.
“And if it was, I didn’t mean it”
If you get this far in the cycle, don’t expect a genuine apology. This part of The Narcissist Prayer brings to light the fact that when someone suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder or is exhibiting narcissistic behavior, they won’t apologize.
An apology from a narcissist is only offered to manipulate or exert power and control. The only way a narcissist will apologize is through a non-apology.
“I didn’t mean it like that, obviously.”
“Geez, I was just joking.”
“You’re always twisting things.”
“I’m sorry you feel that way.”
“I haven’t taken my meds” or “I hadn’t had my coffee.”
When they can’t deny or minimize what they did, and can’t shift the blame, they will play innocent, claiming they did not mean it. This approach evokes your compassion, so they will end up getting exactly what they want.
“And if I did, you deserved it.”
Whenever a narcissist admits they did indeed something wrong, they will then provide false yet very believable arguments to show you why you deserved it. Everything they do is justified!
This piece is not only about fault but about shame. Fault says “you did something wrong,” while shame says “you are wrong.”
Shaming of the most demoralizing moves in this dynamic because it triggers feelings of worthlessness in us. These are the two lies we adopted as trauma responses that helped us survive.
“If you were … I wouldn’t have…!”
“If you weren’t so…., then I wouldn’t have…!”
“You need help.”
“If only you had…” (Reminding you of something you didn’t do to “fix yourself”)
“My mom was right about you…” (Or anyone else who thinks the worst of you)
What the narcissists are doing here is pointing out what they know you already believe are flaws or weaknesses. They’re hitting a soft spot, a hot button.
This makes you feel like you are so broken and so deficient that they actually didn’t have any other choice but to treat you like they did.
Why I love The Narcissist’s Prayer
I love it because it reflects my own experiences with the narcissistic behavior of people in my life.
I am not an NPD expert, so it’s not my place or duty to diagnose anyone.
The Narcissist’s Prayer is a powerful shield from the manipulative and abusive actions of others. We are all capable of acting in this way, even when we don’t have this disorder.
Having this awareness brings me much peace.
First thing, it teaches me how I can protect myself.
Second, it helps prepares me to have a more conscious response when faced with these situations.
Third, it helps me reflect on my own behavior and ask myself when and where I might be falling into one of these patterns.
What causes narcissistic personality disorder?
No one knows exactly what causes NPD, but mental health experts suspect that, like other personality disorders, it may stem from a combination of childhood trauma, genetics, and unhealthy relationship dynamics in childhood.
We have a narcissistic society.
The number of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) diagnoses is on the rise. However, it’s extremely hard to diagnose it.
Our culture praises narcissistic behavior.
No, it has nothing to do with encouraging self-care or self-esteem. I’m not talking about social media or selfies, either. I am referring to the attention people get when they use charisma to their advantage, or focus on power, financial success, fame, and control. In order to be popular, prosperous, or powerful, you must carry yourself in a certain way.
Narcissists thrive in this culture of perfectionism and people with low self-confidence can be easy prey. And yes, usually this low self-confidence stems from a traumatic past.
The Narcissist’s Prayer: Gaslighting
Ultimately, when we experience this denial, minimization, blameshifting, and rewriting of our experience over time, it is called gaslighting.
Gaslighting is defined as a type of psychological manipulation where the narcissist or abuser causes the victim to question their perception, thoughts, memories, and their own reality.
As victims of narcissist abuse, we are made to feel crazy for noticing and bringing up hurtful experiences. We start believing that our feelings aren’t valid.
Constantly going against our own instincts causes us to see ourselves as small. This sets us up to adore, worship, and depend on this all-knowing, wise being who claims to have our best interest at heart.
I read once this quote and it really resonated with me:
“You know you’re talking to a narcissist when every conversation about how YOU FEEL ends up in an argument.” They assert their illogical arguments with such conviction that we feel overpowered by them when we are not aware.
How Narcissism Can Show Up in Motherhood
As you may have already inferred, the narcissistic mom is emotionally absent, emotionally neglectful, and both unwilling and incapable of supporting her children.
Instead, she gets support, praise, and a sense of power from her relationship with her child. A narcissistic mother will use her children to fill her intense need for affirmation, admiration, and attention.
A narcissistic mom:
- Invalidates her children’s feelings with mind games and power plays
- Acts apathetic when something bothers or hurts the child
- Withholds her conditional “love” from her children and will make them feel like they need to prove worthy of it
- Uses passive aggressiveness in her communication
- Punishes by withdrawing, ignoring, or giving the silent treatment
- Is highly critical of her children. She criticizes and shames at every possible opportunity
- Does not worry or feel sorrow for how her behavior impacts her children
If you look at things you’ve said and remember things you’ve done with tears in your eyes, wondering if you are the worst mom on the planet and feel that you’ve messed up your children… that might be a sign that you’re not a narcissistic mom.
We can use The Narcissist’s Prayer to examine ourselves but don’t think that you will need to get a perfect score. There is a wide spectrum between a perfect mom and a narcissistic mom. As a matter of fact, perfect moms do not exist. Our goal should be to become emotionally healthy mothers.
That’s why we must take care of our own needs. As positive moms, we acknowledge that it is our responsibility to meet our children’s needs – not the other way around.
Breaking the Cycle.
If you are or have been in a relationship with a narcissist, whether with a romantic interest, friend, or family member, The Narcissist’s Prayer can guide you in breaking the cycle.
And even if you have not suffered at the hands of narcissists, this prayer can help anyone:
- Recognize when we are not taking personal responsibility for our lives.
- Identify when we are lacking empathy.
- Get out of the comparison trap.
- Signal when we are stuck in perfectionism.
- Acknowledge when we might be violating others’ boundaries.
In addition, learning about narcissistic abuse and bringing awareness to it can help us end the cycle. Because The Narcissist’s Prayer exposes narcissistic patterns of behavior, we can spot them quickly and shift.
Healing from Narcissistic Abuse
I’m a survivor of narcissistic abuse. Are you?
We are sometimes invalidated with twisted truths. For example, while it’s true that I don’t know, and perhaps will never know whether someone has NPD or not, I do know what narcissistic behavior looks like. More importantly, I know what it feels like.
It would be pseudoscience to use The Narcissist’s Prayer as a tool to diagnose someone, so that’s not my objective here. What I want is to bring awareness to the behavior, not the person.
It is important for us to know the signs and to know what we’ve gone through.
Many of us walk around with an open wound (or many!), unable to heal because we don’t know from what or where to start.
Giving our feelings a language is a good first step.
So I’m going to use Dayna Craig’s work as a reference to make up my own prayer. I was inspired to do this because, ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether our assessment is accurate or whether the perpetrator has been professionally diagnosed or not.
My healing is about me, not about them. I am investing time and effort to validate my experience, rather than focus on theirs – they already did that enough.
The Trauma Survivor’s Mantra
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a mantra is “a word or phrase that is often repeated and expresses a particular strong belief.“
I’ve been using this adapted verse as a declaration to myself, an affirmation to my inner child, to:
- Reassure me that my feelings are valid, that I am not crazy, and that my instincts aren’t warped.
- Reject statements that make me feel broken, empty, and alone.
- Remind me that I am worthy of love, that I can experience peace, and that I deserve to be treated with respect.
The Trauma Survivor’s Mantra
It did happen.
It was bad.
It was a big deal.
It doesn’t matter if they meant it.
I reject the shame.
I didn’t deserve it.
Anytime you feel invalidated, say The Survivor’s Mantra out loud to find inner peace. These words can feel so reassuring, and we might not believe them at first.
Healing is a slow process and it requires help, support, and guidance each step of the way. Professional help, coupled with the encouragement of loving advocates and allies in your life, can make all the difference in your recovery journey.
You’ve got this darling… and you’re not alone.
What do you think of The Narcissist’s Prayer and The Survivor’s Mantra? Share with me in the comments below!
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