Copyright © 2009 by Richard A. Grossman, Ph.D. · All Rights reserved · E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
or share a similar incident (either better or worse, depending upon which has more impact). Many engage in "sham" listening, appearing to be very attentive because they want to look good. Usually they are unaware of their deafness--in fact they believe they hear better than anyone else (this belief, of course, is another attempt at self-inflation). Because of their underlying need for voice and the resultant bluster, narcissists often work their way to the center of their "circle," or the top of their organization. Indeed, they may be the mentor or guru for others. The second they are snubbed, however, they rage at their "enemy".
What makes it difficult to help this type of narcissist is their self-deception. The processes used to protect themselves are ingrained from childhood. As a result, they are absolutely unaware of their constant efforts to maintain a viable "self." If they are meeting with success, they are satisfied with life regardless of whether the people around them are happy. Two circumstances bring this type of person to a therapist's office. Sometimes a partner who feels chronically unheard and unseen drags them in. Or, they have met with some failure (often in their career) so that the strategies they previously used to maintain self-esteem suddenly no longer work. In the latter situation, their depression is profound--like cotton candy, their robust false self dissolves, and one is able to see an accurate picture of their inner sense of worthlessness.
Can such people be helped? Sometimes. The critical factor is whether they ultimately acknowledge their core problem: that as a child they felt neither seen nor heard (and/or their self was fragile as a result of trauma, genetic predisposition, etc.), and they unconsciously employed self-building strategies to survive. Acknowledging this truth takes much courage, for they must face their underlying lack of self-esteem, their exceptional vulnerability, and significantly, the damage they have caused others. Then comes the long and painstaking work of building (or resurrecting) a genuine, non-defensive self in the context of an empathic and caring therapy relationship.
If you would like to discuss your experiences with narcissistic spouses/partners or narcissistic parents you are invited to join the Voicelessness and Emotional Survival Message Board.
Therapists: Do you treat adult children of narcissistic parents or spouses/partners of narcissistic people? If so, please consider joining the Voicelessness and Emotional Survival Therapist List.
A Note about Narcissism and Genetics: Is narcissism a genetic disorder?
Some Recommended Books from the Reading List:
The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists: Coping with the One-Way Relationship in Work, Love, and Family by Eleanor Payson, MSW. A great
choice for those trying to identify, understand, and deal with the
narcissistic relationships in their life.
Will I Ever Be Good Enough?: Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers by
Karyl McBride, Ph.D. The author is both a therapist and the daughter of a
narcissistic mother. New and highly recommended!
(See the Reading List for many more good choices.)
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Voicelessness and Emotional Survival