Tag Archives: Mental Health

Narcissist~Living with one

If you’ve read my two previous posts Narcissism – Symptoms and Narcissism – Now What, you may be wondering whether it’s possible to have a successful relationship with someone on the narcissism spectrum.

Both my research and my clients tell me it is possible. I’m always a little surprized by the number of people who knowingly continue to live with, or work for, a narcissist once they understand why they’ve been feeling so awful for so long. However – knowledge really is power. This post is for those of you who, for whatever reason, are choosing to stay involved with someone suffering with symptoms on that narcissism spectrum.

3 Key Practices for Surviving (Even Thriving in)  Life with a Narcissist

  1. Inform yourself fully ~ Learn all you can, scour the local library and internet, so you may fully understand the sort of pain, hurt, sadness and possible abuse you will be up against.
  2. Decide where you will take your stand ~ As you review the list of “Things You Cannot Change” about a narcissist below, identify any you feel you need to take a stand against. If it’s the rages you hate,  then figure out how you will behave in the face of the rages. And stick to it.
  3. Commit to on-going self-care ~ Daily contact with a narcissist can be crazy-making, isolating and lonely. If you are in this for the long haul you’ll need to identify how you’ll stay healthy, not burst a blood vessel, keep your self-esteem/self-compassion tanks topped up and meet your emotional needs outside of this relationship.

According to Dr. Judith Orloff, if you are to live or work with a narcissist, it is wise to accept that there are some things you cannot change. As you review this list  below, notice if any of these inevitable traits are particularly bugging you.  It is OK – even wise – to take a stand against those traits that you find most draining.  As we might respond to any bullying behaviour, if you say “I find your rages too huge for me and the kids. When you raise your voice I will leave the room,” and if you stick to this, you will eventually get that pattern changed between you. (Note – the narcissist does not stop raging. But what you do in the face of the rages is what can change.)

  • Be aware that the narcissist can respond negatively if you complement other people while you are in the narcissist’s company. The narcissist is likely to see a compliment paid to someone else as an indirect insult to the narcissist (e.g. the narcissist might say something like “you are always saying good things about X but you never say anything good about ME”).
  • Don’t expect the narcissist to understand jokes the way that non-narcissists do. Just accept this and go and enjoy telling jokes to people who are not narcissistic.
  • Give the narcissist what he or she wants when he or she wants it and do not expect the narcissist to reciprocate any favours.
  • Don’t expect the narcissist to take any real interest in you (unless he or she is very eager to please you, in which case the narcissist will be very good at pretending to be interested in you).
  • Do not expect the narcissist to apologise or to show any consideration for your feelings.
  • Be careful about making any expression of affection towards the narcissist as the narcissist might respond to this in a nasty manner, particularly if the narcissist thinks that you are becoming dependent upon him or her. Also, do try to keep your independence and, if possible, try to make the narcissist to some extent dependent on you.
  • Expect to have to clean up after the narcissist but don’t expect the narcissist to clean up after you.
  • Expect the narcissist to try to demand all of your time but don’t expect the narcissist to give up his or her time for you.
  • Expect the narcissist to be impossible to please. Just think how unfortunate you would be if nobody was able to make you happy.
  • Expect the narcissist to be unhappy when he or she discovers that you actually want to do what they want you to do. When you actually want to do the task which the narcissist has given you the narcissist may perceive this as being a bit like sharing, and this can make the narcissist feel disappointed.
  • Don’t ever say to the narcissist anything like “please have a heart”. Trying to appeal to the narcissist in this way is likely to make matters worse rather than better.
  • Never invite a narcissist to apologise.
  • Don’t expect a narcissist to pay attention to things which do not affect them personally (unless, of course, the narcissist is eager to impress the present company, in which case he/she will try hard to take an interest in the topic of discussion).
  • Don’t expect the narcissist to tell you the usual personal information about themselves (e.g. the narcissist may be reluctant to reveal much information about his/her childhood other than those things which he/she chooses to reveal).
  • Accept that most of the time (but not all of the time) the narcissist will find it difficult to remember back to events in his or her childhood.
  • Accept that narcissistic women will try to force their daughters to be exactly like them.
  • Don’t expect the narcissist to give you what you ask for (unless the narcissist is very eager to please you). If you actually do want what he/she gives you it will not be fun for the narcissist to give it to you.
  • Often remind members of your family that you genuinely love them. This will help to heal the family rifts which the narcissist is continually creating through his/her backbiting.
  • When a narcissist walks off in a rage, expect a return appearance with questions and criticisms. Use this time before their return to ready your answers and responses to them. Try to maintain a low tone, raising it over them will only increase the intensity of the conversation (and lead to a full-on argument).

And some helpful tips? Adapted from Connie Dieken’s Talk Less Say More

  • Give them options. Beneath their bluster, narcissistic people fear being left out of the loop. They crave control. It’s far better to offer them options to choose from, rather than feeding them ready-made decisions. They’ll tear other people’s decisions to shreds. Giving them options helps them feel respected and in control. It also prevents nasty hissy fits.
  • Focus on solutions, not problems. When you explain a problem or a challenge to a narcissist, direct their attention to the solution. Don’t allow them to dissect the problem over and over again. Narcissists love drama and revel in the chaos. They’re easily agitated when frustrated. Define problems and present possible solutions, so they don’t smell blood in the water and tear you apart.
  • Make them the hero. Narcissists are preoccupied with power and truly believe they are special and unique. They live for attention and admiration. Want them to do something? Tell them how great they are at it and watch them perform. Better yet, praise their performance in front of others. Just keep it real, please.
  • Let them think it’s their idea. Narcissists often steal the credit for ideas that aren’t theirs. Why do they do that? Strangely, they truly believe that hijacked results are their own. Grabbing credit is a driving force for them. If this gets things done, I say learn to live with it. Over time, everyone will catch on — wink, wink. Meantime, graciously transferring credit for ideas to them makes things happen.
  • Manage their emotional blind spot. Egomaniacs lack empathy. They’re so caught up in their own world that it doesn’t occur to them to consider your feelings or viewpoints. It’s a huge blind spot. You must put your own feelings on the table, if you choose to do so. Just be smart about sharing feelings with a narcissist. Brace yourself for the guilt trips and disparaging criticism that narcissists often dole out when others explain how they feel.

I am running a 5 part mini series ( 25-29 March 2013) on Narcissism. I am seeing more and more clients impacted by living with someone who suffers from NPD and the first step in the healing process is to learn as much as you can about this disorder.  I’ll print a list of helpful resources in Part 5.

  1. Narcissism – Symptoms                       
  2. Narcissism – Now What?
  3. Narcissist – Living with one
  4. Narcissist – Leaving one
  5. Narcissist – Healing from life with one            

Narcissism~Now What?

If you read my last post and find yourself wondering whether you are in a relationship with (or related to) someone suffering from (NPD) Narcissistic Personality Disorder, I have to start off by saying, ‘I’m so sorry.”

This is a tough situation. However, despite all the oncoming tumult, if you’ll allow yourself to open your eyes, move forward and come out the other side,  you can count on 3 things:

  1. You will survive
  2. You will need support.
  3. Time does heal.

WHY this fuss?

If you’ve connected the dots correctly, reading further will have you beginning to realize that your life will never be the same again. Your (formerly?) beloved husband / wife / partner / father / mother / sibling cannot simply “decide to get better.”  You are now the adult in charge. You will need to do all the research, clear thinking, decision-making, due-diligence, self-protection, possible exit planning and face all the consequences by yourself.

You will be alone. Worse than alone – you may be actively undermined.

WHAT are you telling me?

If indeed you are discovering that you are married to / living with / being parented by someone whose symptoms are highly correlated to NPD, and if they are pretty far along (because this is a spectrum disorder – the person you are worried about may have only a few of these traits, or they may be text-book classics) you will experience ~

  • Only They Matter

You are peripheral. The narcissist orbits his/her own sun. You matter only to the extent you have what the narcissist wants. Be honest – after spending how long with this person – do they know you, cherish you, love you, help you, care for you. Do you matter just because you are you?

  • Constant Tension

In an effort to avoid feeling the emptiness inside, a narcissist depends upon external factors for their inner life. There is no stable, predictable place. In any moment this person may spin from a hyper-inflated sense of brilliance after a moment of praise, to outrage and loathing after a perceived snub. While their modus operandi is “It’s all about me” in fact the narcissist lives in a frightening smoke and mirrors reality with a capricious Oz pulling the strings.

  • Ineffective Communication

To avoid feeling vulnerable, the narcissist will come out with guns blazing. Think a large two-year-old having a tantrum. They’re prone to attack, blame, criticize, banter rudely or accuse in public. This makes having genuine friends almost impossible.

  • Being Controlled

Understanding the narcissist is reliant on the external world for their internal reality, you’ll see why they need to control everything – timing, events, people, and finances. Any breach in the choreographed plan is devastating for the narcissist, who will employ any means to prevent it.

  • Lack of Responsibility

If you believe the world revolves around you (as a narcissist does) then common, shared morality is meaningless.  The narcissist typically suffers no guilt; can’t be shamed into behaving; they’ll see no point in accepting responsibility for anything that has gone badly. In fact, because the narcissist must see themselves as superior and blameless in all situations, this trait will possibly uncover a whole heap of lies.

  • Zero Empathy

Since his or her own emotions are too painful for the narcissist to experience, they are certainly not good at empathizing with others. While you may have been told that you need to attend to the narcissist’s feelings, you’ll not get any reciprocity here.  He/she is neither interested nor capable of attending to your emotional realm. This includes never having to say they are sorry.

  • Spontaneous Rages

Living with an ugly void where a healthy self should reside, the narcissist’s inner realm is a painful mess. This means they are highly unstable. A waiter, hotel clerk, teacher, you – might trigger a violent outburst totally disproportionate to the “issue” at hand.

  • Being Exploited

Remember #1 – Only They Matter? You’ll be used. You’re a finite resource that will be mined, polluted, depleted, and possibly destroyed. All your resources – your time, expertise, help, connections, income are up for grabs.

Thanks to Clinton Power for some of this ideas.

NOTE

I am running a 5 part mini series ( 25-29 March 2013) on Narcissism. I am seeing more and more clients impacted by living with someone who suffers from NPD and the first step in the healing process is to learn as much as you can about this disorder.  I’ll print a list of helpful resources in Part 5.

  1. Narcissism – Symptoms                                
  2. Narcissism – Now What?
  3. Narcissist – Living with one
  4. Narcissist – Leaving one
  5. Narcissist – Healing from life with one            

Narcissism~Symptoms

According to the DSM IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fourth Edition), someone who suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) has at least 5 of the following characteristics:

  • Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
  • Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  • Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
  • Requires excessive admiration
  • Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
  • Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
  • Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
  • Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
  • Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

The DSM IV goes on to note NPD often comes with the associated features of Depressed Mood (Dramatic or Erratic), and/or Antisocial Personality Disorder.

Developmentally we all move through two stages of appropriate and necessary narcissism – as toddlers and as teens – so versions of these are for the most part familiar, maybe common and even celebrated traits today as anyone who has read much about Steve Jobs might have noticed. As Albert J. Bernstein puts it “there may be narcissism without success, but there is no success without narcissism”

However, try to live with someone who has five or more of these traits and you’ll be in your own private hell. If you want a fuller picture for what this might look like, day-to-day, I encourage you to read this.

I am running a 5 part mini series ( 25-29 March 2013) on Narcissism. I am seeing more and more clients impacted by living with someone who suffers from NPD and the first step in the healing process is to learn as much as you can about this disorder.  I’ll print a list of helpful resources in Part 5.

  1. Narcissism – Symptoms                                
  2. Narcissism – Now What?
  3. Narcissist – Living with one
  4. Narcissist – Leaving one
  5. Narcissist – Healing from life with one            

$86,400 ~ A Day

Part 3 of 5 “Emotions 101.” Today we explore  ~

You get $86,400 a day and you’re “Fine?” How about Astounded, Excited or Triumphant

My friend Byron in Boise, Idaho (USA) told me of a way I can access $86,400 a day, for life. He sent me this gift right as I was writing this post about how to inspire folks to live a little. To discover inner states beyond “OK” and “Fine.” To be motivated to wake up and notice (and maybe sniff) the roses. He told me how I can access this gift today, even in the face of another ordinary, cereal-and-toast, off-to-work, home-again-too-late, TV-and-dinner-and-bed sort of day.

What a gift!  So, I thought I’d share it with you.

It’s something to think about.

Imagine you have won the following prize in a contest:

Each morning your bank deposits $86,400.00 in your private account for your personal use. However, this prize has rules, just as any game has certain rules.

  • Rule #1  ~  Everything you didn’t spend during each day would be taken away. You may not simply transfer money into some other account. You may only spend it. Each morning upon awakening, the bank opens your account with another $86,400.00 for that day.
  • Rule #2  ~  The bank can end the game without warning. At any time it can say, “Game over!” It can close the account and you will not receive a new one.

How would you feel?

OK?”

Fine?”

Or maybe astonished at your luck; relieved at no-more-money-worries; eager to get out and spend; excited about the possibilities; anxious that the game may end without you fully participating; elated at the wanton generosity; longing to make things better for someone else; deeply compassionate for the wider world which now, perhaps, you can help.

Not sure you can find enough good words to describe your inner bliss? Click here ~  Parrott Emotions Tree 2001 ~ for a fabulous list of emotions you can easily sort through.

Wow – what a high!

You can imagine feeling so alive, so vibrant, so present as you take care of yourself, your family and those around you. You’d spend every cent every day since you couldn’t save it. You’d be quivering with the challenge and responsibility for how to make your daily investments of dollars.

What if I told you this was not a game, but reality.

To access your prize, just substitute “Time” for “Dollars”.

Each morning you wake up to another 86,400 seconds as a gift of life.

At the end of the day any unspent seconds will not be credited back to you. You’ll have the memories for how you invested your seconds yesterday. You’ll have the excitement of a whole new 86,400 coming tomorrow – you hope. But the living of these seconds – that’s your own wild and juicy ride.

What to do?

Notice you’re alive! Notice what words you’d use to describe how you feel in these seconds of alive. Are they variations on themes of love, joy, gratitude and surprise? If so, great. Get specific about how great you feel, pay attention to what helps get you to those states, and tomorrow – when you have your next 86,400 second installment – do these things some more.

Start spending!

PS: If you feel bad in the face of your 86,400 seconds see “I Feel So Bad”.

Tomorrow:    “I feel like you should…”  If this is how you’ve been talking about your feelings, it’s time to learn how to be more honest and effective.

 

Your Friend’s Divorce

How friends and relations react in the face of a couple’s troubles can make a huge difference, often for the worse.  I am dedicating this week’s blog space to addressing the five types of couple distress I see most regularly, with tips for how family and friends can help, not harm, the hurting couple

Part 3 of 5 HOW TO HELP WHEN ~ They Divorce

1. Don’t be afraid to mess up. There are no rules for how to divorce with élan. No common divorce rituals, rites of passage, no playbook for those of us left with loyalty issues and sore hearts for our friends’ broken love.  It’s understandable to be a bit nervous around divorce – it’s a death and there’ll be grief and loss. Do your best to keep the lines of communication open with your friends. This is particularly important if there are children (see Post 4).  But in any case stay connected, however imperfectly, so your friends know they are not alone.

2. Don’t rush back to “normal.” Just because the death of a marriage doesn’t end with a funeral doesn’t mean your divorcing friends are not in a state of grief and loss.  Most likely the divorced couple will have lost their home, savings, shared past, future hopes, family unit, in-laws, photo albums, lifestyle, trust in the permanency of love, and often a huge helping of self-respect. It takes time to come back from all this. The divorced partners are now off on separate journeys of recovery and it won’t help to rush them. It may take years before your friend becomes the old familiar playful, funny, unselfish character you once knew. Allow your friendship to evolve – as it will.

3. Do remind them of “normal.” Sometimes the last thing your friend wants is to discuss the divorce. Great – provide them with the distractions they seek. This is a good time for you to complain, seek their advice, ask for their help, take up Hot Yoga, start a diet, and generally show them that life is big and wide and has a place for them even when they’re not quite ready to engage 100%.

4. Sort out your own feelings. Remember, this is not your divorce. While it might seem as though your friend/relative wants you to dislike (hate?) their ex as much as he or she does, you may not.  It might be this “ex” is the mother or father of your grandchildren; how can you hate them? It might be you have loved this person and are sad to be losing them from the family or friendship circle. How you negotiate your relationship with someone who is divorcing out of your community is up to you.  You can stay in touch and love them as before. You may just have to do this separately for a while.

Your Friend’s Separation

How friends and relations react in the face of a couple’s troubles makes a huge difference, often for the worse.  I am dedicating this week’s blog space to addressing the five types of couple distress I see most regularly, with tips for how family and friends can help, not harm, the hurting couple

Part 2 of 5  HOW TO HELP WHEN ~ They Separate

1. Be a neutral-zone. Even if you feel strongly in favour of one partner over the other it’s not helpful to act this out as prosecutor or defense. Just listen and try to be supportive by telling your friend how sorry you are that he or she is having this experience.  Don’t badmouth one person to the other – not only is it unhelpful, but there’s always the chance they might get back together again. Don’t ever volunteer to be the “go-between.”  While it might seem neutral, this perpetuates dreadful behaviour and fosters jealousy.  If the separated partners want to talk, they can do so directly, or in therapy.

2. Offer tangible, practical help. If your friends are separating, one, other or both of them will be living with less stuff. Does someone need bedding, kitchen ware, extension cords or a lamp?  If your friend used to rely on his or her spouse to help with dry cleaning, car troubles, elderly parents or the pets, can you step in instead?  Sleuth out which day or night is toughest on your friend and show up with dinner. Be willing to talk about anything, e.g,(“Can I survive on this budget?” or “Shall I shave my head, drop 10 kg, and  re-do my wardrobe?” Listen. Ask questions. See if you can get them laughing at their predicament – occasionally.

3. Stay alert for severe reactions. Whatever the cause of a separation, this is a massively unstable time. Feelings and behaviour will be all over the map and you may be frightened by your friends’ oscillating mood swings. Just show up. Love your friend unconditionally even if they are making poor choices. If you suspect your friend is severely depressed be willing to discuss suicidal thoughts. If she / he has a concrete plan (I’ll take an overdose) and has the means for completing this plan (I’ve been hoarding my pills for two years and have more than enough) ask  “On a scale of 1 – 10 with 10 being you don’t want to make it through the night, where are you?” If your friend has the means to carry out a suicide and is over a 3 or 4, get professional help.

4. Get your friend helping others. A pity-party is a lonely affair. If your friend is wallowing, get them thinking of someone else. You need them to walk your dog; the neighbour needs house-plants watered; animal rescue needs someone to love the kittens. Obviously, if there are children involved, this will look very different.  See Part 4.