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I recently listened to a sounds true podcast where I learned some interesting facts about narcissism. I know about narcissism, but not enough to consider my self an expert. The word is thrown around a lot but do you really know what one is?
Keith Campbell, who is an expert, was the special guest on this show. He is the recent author of a book called The New Science of Narcissism.
I mostly understood narcissists through the lens of my clients, as poor dating partners. Many of my kind and good-hearted clients wind up in troubled relationships with them.
Although not always, my clients have trouble with emotional closeness and have a history of childhood abuse. For this reason, I found this podcast fascinating.
Narcissism is a spectrum disorder. Those on the low end have the less traits, and those on the high end have more characteristics. If you have many traits and they interfere with your life, then you have narcissistic personality disorder.
What is a Narcissist?
Narcissists are people who have an inflated and grandiose self-image. Narcissists think they are better looking, smarter, and more important than other people and deserve special treatment. Narcissists can be harmful to the people around them. They often lie and cheat to get what they want. They rarely accept responsibility for any mistakes or wrongdoing and will blame others. They have issues with empathy and enjoy admiration and attention.
Can Narcissism be Positive?
It can lead to leadership traits and increased following on social media, and it can help you do well in things such as dating. Narcissists can initially or superficially be attractive to others. However, in the long term, it leads to disrupted and unsustainable relationships. Narcissists tend to act selfishly, dishonestly, and unfaithfully.
Where Does it Come From?
Putting your child on a pedestal, giving them praise, centering the world around him or her, and failing to teach them to be kind and compassionate towards others is what produces as a narcissist. The self-esteem movement is theorized to be a contributor. You can learn about that here.
There is also evidence that parents who are emotionally unavailable, harsh, and controlling can produce narcissists. Learn more about parenting style and narcissism here.
Understanding Narcissism: The Two Types as a Personality Traits
Grandiose Narcissists have traits of :
- Attention Seeking
These are the narcissists most of us think of when we hear the word.
Vulnerable narcissists are easily threatened but also feel entitled. They may be quiet and reserved. They are often introverted and anxious and don't come to public attention.
There are also narcissists that become wounded and reactive. They think they are great, but they are easily injured by criticism. They then act out.
What About Relationships with Narcissists?
Narcissists may be very attractive and charismatic at first, but they don't have the skills of empathy and reciprocity to sustain close relationships. On a crucial personality index called the big five, narcissist's rate low in agreeableness. They have trouble with empathy, don't respect others, are combative, often manipulative, aggressive, and don't get along with others. These traits becomes apparent once you are in a relationship with them. Unfortunately, for many of my clients, they have histories of early relationships or emotional abuse that make them vulnerable to believing that they are the ones to blame when things go south. Narcissists are the first to exploit this vulnerability and engage in gas-lighting and other emotional abuse tactics.
Wonder why you continue to attract narcissists? During this interview on soundstrue, I also learned to think of this process more of picking the wrong people rather than attracting someone. I like this idea, and I think it as more empowering.
Narcissists are incapable of emotional intimacy. Many of my clients will unconsciously look for relationships that feel safe because they don't require emotional intimacy. Especially if you have had a complicated history with your family, you might likely focus on superficial things when looking for a partner, which is your mistake. If you are picking narcissists, it's essential to understand that you may be falling into this trap.
What if you are Married to a Narcissist?
Dr. Campbell says that narcissists can change if they are committed to therapy, but most of us fail to realize that people don't change because we want or wish them to. They have to change because they want to. This is an important distinction. It's essential to take stock of the cost to you. If there is any abuse happening, emotional, physical, or sexual ( which there often is), get help, and leave that relationship.
What to do with a Narcissist in the Work Place
Working with a narcissist or for a narcissist is also a common challenge I see in my therapy practice. Dr. Campbell says that you must protect yourself when you work with a narcissist, especially if they are your superior. They cannot be trusted, and you cannot have an authentic relationship with them. They will do things such as try to steal and take credit for your ideas, demand praise, and attention and attempt to manipulate you.
Although it may be unpalatable, if you want to work successfully with them, they are less difficult to work with if you give them what they want.
What to do?
- Give them praise
- Build them up
- Remember not to trust them
"Too often, we accepted the early messages that our parents gave us. We heard, “Eat your spinach,” “Clean your room,” or “Make your bed,” in order to be loved. You got the idea that you were only acceptable if you did certain things—that acceptance and love were conditional. However, that was according to somebody’s idea of what was worthwhile and had nothing to do with your deep, inner self-worth. You got the idea that you could only exist if you did these things to please others, otherwise you did not have permission to even exist." by Louise Hay
What I'm Talking About with my Clients this Week
We learn to people-please in our family.
As children, we learn certain skills in our family. We are rewarded for them and they get us attention and love. As adults people-pleasing often causes us to abandon our own needs and fall into relationships where we our taken advantage of.
How can you work on this?
Think of what it costs you. You may feel angry and resentful over time at the people you spend time "pleasing" at your own expense. Like Eleanor Roosevelt said "No one can make you feel inferior without your own consent".
Keep track of your people-pleasing behaviors for one week. Some of them might be having difficulty saying now, stating your needs wants and feelings or carrying of the burden of chores and and duties in your household. Observe the actual impact it has on you. Does it serve you?
What are your fears? Should you stop these behaviors?
What would your life be like if you could be free from them?
Start with small steps of saying no, and asserting yourself where you feel the least stress.
Remember to be kind to yourself. The people-pleasing part of you developed as a way to survive and be loved. There is no shame in wanting love. The way to change behavior is through compassion, not criticism.
Boundary Setting and Assertiveness isn't easy to learn, and feeling frustrated and defeated is common. It can be hard to suddenly begin to set boundaries, say how you think or feel, and ask for what you want. You may be afraid to learn and try these new skills because they were not rewarded in your family. A great book to help you with boundary setting and people-pleasing behavior is Setting Boundaries Will Set You Free: The Ultimate Guide to Telling the Truth, Creating Connection, and Finding Freedom, by Nancy Levin.
People-pleasing is also tied up with codependency, which is also a family of origin behavior. Codependency is really about taking care of others at your own expense, and people-pleasing is a part of it. You may need a little more support for this. Find yourself a great therapist who can help you with people-pleasing behavior.
What is Thermoregulatory Fear of Harm?
The Juvenile Bipolar Research Foundation has been working on studying this phenotype of bipolar disorder for quite a while and their research is life altering. They have learned that a third of children and adults who have Bipolar Disorder meet the criteria for this new diagnosis, for which new treatments and medications are available including Ketamine and cooling the person's core body temperature. This is cutting edge research. Here are the criteria straight from the JBRF website:
- Does your child suffer from aggression, terrible mood swings, depression, and anxiety?
- Does your child have horrific nightmares and night terrors? Do they have trouble sleeping and fight going to bed at night?
- Does your child experience larger than life fears that are irrational and completely overwhelming?
- Does your child feel hot all the time, sweat in normal room temperatures, and refuse to wear a jacket when it’s cold out?
- If your child fits this description, consider learning more about thermoregulatory fear of harm mood disorder
Tips When Disagreeing with Respect ( If you can!)
- Listen First.
- Attempt to re-express your friend's position so well that they say, "Thanks, I wish I'd thought of putting it that way.
- List any points of agreement
- Mention anything you've learned from your friend
- Only then move on to share how you think
Attributed to philosopher Daniel Dennett
A recent study shows that girls with ADHD are at high risk for what is called Non Suicidal Self Injury (NSSI). This is a diagnosis that was recently added to the DSM 5. Seventy percent of those who suffer from NSSI who also have ADHD are girls. Girls who have ADHD are generally poorly understood. They are also often not diagnosed at all and struggle with anxiety and depression due to this. Emotional regulation is an issue which we've only just now begun to fully understand in people who have ADHD and is thought to play a role in up to 50 percent of ADHDer's. People with ADHD may struggle with producing TOO much emotion such as anger, sadness or anxiety, or regulating the emotions that are produced, or both. Experts are starting to advocate for Emotional Regulation to be included in the diagnostic criteria of ADHD.
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