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Episode 43 | October 31, 2023

Chelsey Cole Brooke, LPC, discusses red flags, signs of narcissism, and how to navigate a relationship with someone displaying these behaviors.

Listen in as Chelsey Brooke Cole explains the difficulties of being in any type of relationship with a narcissist.


Welcome to “That’s a Hard No”the podcast about learning to say no and set boundaries to live our best lives. 

Follow along with me as we learn from fellow strugglers and experts, so that you too can start saying no without feeling fear, guilt, or FOMO. 


Chelsey Brooke Cole is a psychotherapist, author, and certified partner trauma therapist specializing in narcissistic abuse and relational trauma. Listen in as we discuss the many signs of someone displaying narcissistic behavior, how to navigate a relationship with someone who may be a narcissist, and what to do next.


Key Takeaways
[00:01:30] Signs of narcissistic abuse

  • Warning Signs or Red Flags
    • Narcissists are quite grandiose, seeing themselves as exceptional
    • Most of their relationships are superficial
    • Validation seeking
    • Constant pull to please them
    • You feel like what you’re doing is never enough

“Narcissistic relationships are fundamentally unbalanced.”

They treat people like a healthy person treats products – and they feel entitled to do so.

[00:05:31] Different types of narcissism

Feels like you’re just in their reality show. Both types are entitled, just from a different view – and can change presentations of their narcissism.

*Remember these are patterns over time, these behaviors are pervasive*

  • Grandiose – stereotypical, charming, arrogant, charismatic, extroverted
  • Covert (Vulnerable) – nice, sullen, depressed, withdrawn
    • Take advantage of people pitying them.

“And if you ever try to set boundaries or walk away or ask for a more balanced relationship, they will blame you, guilt you, and shame you for that.”

They treat people like a healthy person treats products – and they feel entitled to do so.

[00:07:50] Narcissistic behaviors and red flags

  • Changes in your own thinking, trying to make sense of conversations
    • Cognitive Dissonance
  • Justifying or rationalizing someone’s behavior – allowing wiggle room
  • Consistently in flight, fight, freeze or fawn responses
    • These get activated because your nervous system is telling your body you are unsafe
      • Fight – stand your ground, always activated
      • Flight – stay too busy or distracting yourself
      • Freeze – Shutting down, withdrawn, disconnected
      • Fawn – Feeling the need to people please, how to support others – the need to choose between your needs or theirs
  • This person can either be the hero or the victim, always – can’t ever be on the same level as you
    • They cannot be neutral
    • Narcissists do things to look good

Just because something feels familiar does not mean it is safe.

[00:19:21] Narcissists and their motivations

“That’s the hallmark trait of narcissism is a lack of empathy.”

  • Narcissistic cycle of abuse is to idealize, devalue, then discard
  • How does someone become a narcissist?
    • Learned pattern
    • Genetic component – generally have a disagreeable temperament
    • Struggle regulating emotions
    • Environment – overindulging in outward appearance and underindulging on emotions
    • Lack of empathy
    • Mid to Upper 20s – when their personality is set

[00:28:08] Setting boundaries with narcissists

  • Narcissists feed off of your emotions, become gray rock – keep things unemotional, very bland and minimal
    • Do not cross any boundaries of conversations
  • Keep your “bubble” small – do not let them expand your bubble or pressure you to come into your physical and mental space
  • People who are most resistant to narcissists are those are confident in themselves and are unafraid of their thoughts and feelings
  • Silent boundaries – create these in your mind, reaffirm truth and reality for yourself
    • This could be writing things down – you can show them or keep to yourself

“When you no longer attach to what the narcissist says, that’s when you really start taking your power back.”

[00:34:49] Setting boundaries and healing

  • You are conditioned to feel guilty
    • Where is the line where “I” matter vs they matter?

“It’s a multi-layered attack on your sense of self, a dismantling of who you are and what you believe you’re worth.”

[00:37:08] Getting out of an abusive, narcissistic relationship

  • Malignant narcissists are almost always considered abusive – manipulative, emotional abuse
  • Mild narcissist are not always abusive, though they may not be a good partner
  • Recognize – put the puzzle pieces together
  • Detach and disengage
  • Decide not to decide

[00:39:57] Surviving Narcissistic Relationships

“And somebody, at least one person will listen to this, and I think they will feel seen and validated because, you know, in different situations of my life where I’ve had specific things happen, I felt like I was the only one.”

Where to Find Chelsey
Read the Transcript
Credits and Thanks
  • Many thanks to our friends and families (our “villagers”) for listening, and for your continued support.
  • That’s a Hard No is a production of Clever Girl Marketing
  • Marketing and Production Coordinator, Maura Del Rosario
  • Production Support, Evergreen Podcasts, Noah Foutz, Producer
  • New Rock Anthem Music: Written by Noah, and performed by his band, The Big Leagues