Narcissistic Personality Disorder Counselling in Melbourne
Narcissistic Personality Disorder individuals can be disguised as the dream lover, or the perfect match. It is easy to become blind-sighted when in a relationship with a narcissist. So many people get lured into their charm, to have the wool pulled over their eyes, when they feel manipulated by their convincing demeanour. Let’s look at how one can treat Narcissistic Personality Disorder in counselling and explore if it is possible to have a relationship with a Narcissist, and how?
Individuals with Narcissism have a ‘false self” by appearing to be perfect. They present a mask to hide their impaired ‘real self’, that feels flawed deep down. According to James Masterson, there are two types of narcissistic disorders. The Manifest Narcissist, also known as the Grandiose Narcissist or Exhibitionist, has an inflated sense of self or grandiosity, that defends against feelings of emptiness and inadequacy.
The Closet Narcissistic disorder, has grandiosity that remains hidden, as they feel more inadequate or empty. They struggle with self esteem. So, they put pressure on themselves to win the approval of their bosses, partner, and other idealised objects, so they can feel good enough in their eyes, by seeking praise or validation from them. The Closet will fuse with the expectations of others, in order to seek supplies from them, in order to feel approval (grandiose). They will date the attractive younger woman, or the wealthy business man. By feeling important to those whom they look up to and admire, they can feel good about themselves, and cover how inadequate they feel.
This paper will focus on the treatment of most destructive forms of Narcissism, the Manifest and Malignant. Narcissistic personality disorder patients spend so much time trying to appear perfect, that they actually struggle to connect, and live a real, satisfying lifestyle. They avoid their real strivings, so they try to fill the emptiness by getting narcissistic supplies, from beauty, wealth, admiration and comforts. But the empty void never gets filled, and partners get drained of giving supplies. The most frustrating thing is that partners can see glimpses of their real self, but their defensive make up gets in the way of letting others see them.
Let’s explore how Narcissistic Personality Disorder can emerge. The Narcissist was not loved for being their real self because it was not perfect in their parent’s eyes, so they learned to hide their ‘real self,’ because it was unacceptable. Some were shamed or humiliated if they didn’t meet the expectations of their parents. They adopted the ‘false self’ to get narcissistic supplies or approval. Often they learnt to be the best, in order to feel special. Some became the Golden Boy, Daddy’s Little Girl or the Apple of Dads Eye. They got approval or admiration for meeting the parent’s expectations. They became narcissistic extensions of their parents self esteem. How they performed reflected how the parent felt about themselves. If they were perfect in their parent’s eyes, they got adored or approval (idealised them so developed a false grandiose self). If they were not perfect they were harshly criticised, disapproved, felt inadequate or empty.
The ‘Closet Narcissist’ often felt it was impossible to meet their parents expectations, so they worked hard to get their approval to feel good enough in their parents eyes, but were left with feeling inadequate or not measuring up.
According to Otto Kernberg, the Malignant Narcissist, developed grandiose fantasies to cope and ward off the pain, caused by a lack of empathy from parents, misattunement or neglect. For instance, they developed the fantasy of being the strong one in the family who others needed. Often, they idealised the abusive parent, by internalising their aggression with disavowing it, in order to protect against the pain, in order to maintain the idealisation of the parent.
All the harsh treatment, anger, shame, pain and inadequate feelings become pushed down. These feelings become defended against with the false grandiose self, which creates an illusion that they are grand or perfect in some special way, to protect them from this dreadful pain. These feelings are so painful that they become projected out onto others, to get rid of them. When wounded they will project out these harsh feelings on to their partner. These harsh, critical and inadequate feelings are deep within them and they will always get displaced onto others, for instance, thinking the boss is judging their performance, when it may not be the case at all. Those with a Narcissistic personality disorder suffer from a state of psychological one mindedness, by projecting the contents of their mind onto others and thinking that others see the world the same way.
Counselling for Narcissistic Personality Disorder helps to improve relationships.
An individual with Narcissistic Personality disorder is often trapped by their own feelings, so they cannot see their partners perspective, or have empathy. They’re constantly warding off these harsh, critical internal objects inside themselves. It is difficult for narcissists to be capable of love in relationships. They think others are judging them, and so they withdraw, or put pressure on themselves to achieve, in order to escape these feelings. They cannot get better, until they stop externalizing their feelings, so they can own them, in a way that is more acceptable for them. By processing these feelings in therapy, allows them to become better managed within them, so they do not have to project them. Melbourne counselling specializes in the treatment of Narcissism, which allows them to see themselves and others more clearly, whilst responding to the real situation, not what they project it to be. Rather then devaluing their spouse to avoid perceived criticism, they are able to obtain a clearer picture of the situation.
Relationships with the Manifest Narcissistic Personality Disorder
The Manifest Narcissistic Personality disorder person met the parents idealised expectations, so they made the parent feel special, in turn the child got supplies and could do no wrong, they were perfect kids. They often didn’t get told off, or disciplined, so their grandiosity was not modulated in accordance with reality. So they live with a unrealistic inflated sense of self, that feels above others, perfect and special, and struggle with blows to their grandiosity. They struggle to see why others don’t put them first, or make them feel special, especially their partner. They often feel let down or disappointed in relationships, causing them to feel wounded when their grandiosity is not mirrored. They live within the illusion of their grandiosity, and inflate their grandiosity when injured by their spouse, by defeating them or gaslighting them. So they push down all these critical feelings of inadequacy and project them out onto their partner, so others feel inadequate or inferior. Gaslighting causes the partner to lose their own mind, doubt themselves and question their own perception of reality. The Narcissist projects their inadequacies onto their partner to make themselves feel superior, often putting others down, or making them doubt themselves, so that they do not deflate.
The relationship with a Narcissistic Personality Disorder
In relationships, narcissistic personality individuals never let anyone get close enough to expose them. When injured or wounded by their partner, they can appear aloof, cold, arrogant and guarded to keep a wall around them, so no one gets in to hurt them. They can stonewall for days, since it can take a long time to recover from the wound. They do not admit they’re wrong, or apologise, not wanting to get caught out, so they do not reveal themselves, to delude themselves, even. They hide their vulnerability because they are caught up in their illusion of grandiosity. So, often they do not take criticism or blows of reality very well. They struggle to listen to their spouse, deflecting the fault to be caused by them.
Therapy with Narcissists
Narcissists lacked the emotional validation and empathy for their pain, often shamed for being weak, so they had to hide their vulnerability. Deep down they want to be understood for their emotional pain, but are afraid of showing their vulnerability, because they fear judgement or fear of fragmentation. Therefore it takes the Masterson psychotherapeutic approach to working with the Narcissists. It is only through reaching them through their ‘real self’, that one can work with them, behind the mask. They cannot be reached if they have their veil of self protection. The Masterson therapeutic approach gets underneath this defensive shield in order to work with their underlying pain and vulnerability, in order to rebuild their real self. Therapy for Narcissists allows them to face the pain of their deflating grandiosity, so that they can cope with the blows in life and manage the depression.
Couples Therapy with Narcissistic Personality Disorder
When feeling exposed in their relationship, they cover up by trying to convince the therapist that their relationship is the problem. By finding faults with their partner, they try to convince themselves they are right, so they can feel grandiose, so and they can protect themselves from feeling flawed. Therapists who collude with them become unhelpful if they get drawn into this defensive manoeuvre. Narcissists are very convincing and charming, to persuade you. A Masterson psychotherapist and couples therapist will assist them to get in touch with their underlying vulnerable feelings, in a way that feels acceptable for them, so they overcome these defensive patterns.
In couples therapy, often the Narcissistic personality disorder person cannot hear constructive feedback from their partner, and so attack them for it. When the Narcissist feels criticised they feel painfully wounded, so instantly they devalue the injuring spouse to avoid these feelings. The partner is always wrong, and they find fault in them, to protect them. So partners doubt themselves. In fact, the Narcissist will block out criticism, so they do not deflate. This is how they keep their self esteem intact; because they are scared they will fall apart. The Masterson psycho-therapeutic approach interrupts their defences of devaluing, so their feelings can be worked through and managed within.
The couples therapist must not get pulled into giving them supplies, supporting their grandiosity, getting their way or devaluing. Therapy brings them back in line to face the deflating reality. Instead of expecting special treatment from others, counselling attunes to their disappointment by addressing their feelings, so they can take responsibility and sort out the issues with their spouse. Having couples therapy enables them to express their underlying feelings to their partners. This allows their partner to hear how they feel, and therefore become better understood.
Why does the relationship fall apart with the Manifest Narcissist?
The manifest Narcissist seeks the supplies from a partner to feel admired and special; otherwise they are left with the harsh feelings of their real impaired self.
When dating they will be attracted to the perfect supplier. They will enjoy the thrill of the chase in order to win them over, by charming them, and luring them in. However, this honeymoon phase is short lived. Unable to deal with real intimacy, the narcissist avoids exposing their vulnerability or real feelings, they mask this by covering up. They are unable to connect through their real self. When under stress, they have difficulty engaging with their spouse, and sharing in open discussions. Often their spouse feels that the narcissistic partner does not register their needs, and are not there emotionally, as they lack empathy. They will often tell their partner to get over it, having no regards for their feelings. Narcissists are usually overly self involved, because they cannot tolerate any injury, so they find ways to self-soothe or keep themselves intact. A relationship with them can eventually feel empty and alone, since there is no real connection, because they cannot express themselves or attend to feelings. The narcissists relate through impressing partners, pressuring their partner to be perfect or fusing with them. They feel painfully wounded when they are not treated as special, protecting their feelings by devaluing, or discarding their partner. So their partner encounters narcissistic abuse, which can be destructive towards them and they may require therapy to recover for narcissistic abuse.
The manifest narcissistic personality disorder will often attract partners who meet their needs. These partners provide the perfect supplies, as they are self sacrificers, empaths and want to please the narcissist, and so they fall right into their hands. The partner can feel like walking on egg shells around them, since the narcissist can be prickly. So their partner placates them, often scared to express themselves, in case they blow up in a narcissistic rage, since narcissists cannot handle criticism.
Eventually the spouse will feel drained from being everything for them. Yet, not matter how much ones does for the narcissist, it will never be enough to fill the emptiness of the false self. The manifest narcissist often pressures for more supplies and expects it. The narcissist will be bitterly disappointed when their partner withdraws supplies, when they eventually have enough. This is when the narcissistic personality disorder individual acts out and seeks a new supplier, discarding their partner at a drop of a hat. Infidelity or affairs are usually the way they cover the wound and seek new supplies. Therapy for recovery from cheating can assist to address the acting out.
Narcissistic abuse in relationships
When their partner raises issues about the narcissist’s behaviour, they are made to feel wrong, so the problem gets turned around. Unable to hear their partner, the narcissist cannot tolerate any perceived criticism and devalues the spouse by becoming anger, so that the spouse doubts themselves. Often their partner gets so weighed down, feeling beaten down by them, that they eventually give up. It is easier to let them have their way, so they win, being defeated. They feel controlled or manipulated to back down to them. Narcissists will expect their partner to share the same opinion as them and pressure them, until they give in. They have to be right. Eventually the partner feels they are not living their own life, but accommodating the narcissist. Eventually these partners have no capacity to give anymore, from having the life force drained from them. When the supplies run out, there is nothing to fuel the narcissist, so they feel the emptiness within, often struggling cope and becoming deeply depressed.
Counselling for Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Counselling for narcissists needs to be firm, to assist them to come to grips with their behavior, so they manage the blows to their self esteem or grandiosity. They need to be held accountable and stop cutting off from their feelings. The therapist has to be strong enough to withstand the pull to give into them, when they attempt to convince the therapist that they are the victims. They will defensively pressure the therapist to give mirroring supplies for their grandiosity and pull the therapist in to colluding with them, so they do not feel exposed. They will strive to win, and to admit their faults makes them feel defeated and want to withdraw. So they will attempt to defeat the therapist and sabotage therapy for exposing them, which only harms them. They want to project their anger, when they need to get in touch with it. So they can take ownership of their problems. They will attack the therapist for not giving in to them when they pressure for supplies, or want the therapist to take their side. The psychotherapist has to withstand their attacks, by not reacting to them. Many therapists are afraid of their rage and back down to placate them, because they can be intimidating. The narcissist requires a therapy approach that will not give into their narcissistic demands, but challenge them to face reality and their feelings. They will resist this, and the therapist needs to pull them up on their acting out, in order to overcome their self destruction. The Masterson therapeutic approach is tailored specifically with treating narcissistic disorders.
How can the partner cope in a relationship with Narcissist?
In relationship counselling the partners can face a difficult time, especially if they fear expressing themselves to avoid narcissistic rage. Couples therapy services in Melbourne, de-escalates the conflict, and manages the distress, so that hurt feelings can be expressed, and behaviours can be addressed. When their partner finally hears what is really behind their actions, their partner can see how vulnerable they are. When the narcissist feels better understood for their pain, they are more able to hear how their partner feels, to begin to resolve relationship issues. However, it is necessary for the couples therapist to be in an active role to make this happen. A Masterson couples therapist has the skills to effectively intervene with these relationships.
In abusive situations, it is more effective for the Narcissist to attend individual therapy, to work more deeply. They can feel more open to speak in individual therapy. Therapy can improve how they function, cope and relate. Sometimes they need more containment to deal with the deep pain to prevent the acting out. Once feelings are more contained within, couples therapy can be useful down the track.
How to cope in a relationship with a Narcissist and what to do?
In the destructive relationships, often the partner is at the point of leaving, and not know which way they should go. The battered partner often requires counselling to sort out the destruction that has been caused to them. Sometimes giving in, or taking them back only enables them to get away with these destructive behaviours, if the partner is weighed down and cannot address this. If the relationship is too destructive, then perhaps therapy is required in order to look at why they stay in an abusive situation, so they can work on addressing their own issues.
However, if the narcissistic partner is owning their behaviour and addressing things, not pretending, then it may be worthwhile to address the relationship. If the narcissist continues to blame their partner and not take responsibility, then perhaps the partner needs therapy to rebuild themselves and move forward. Therapy can assist so they can feel more confident in themselves and make decisions which allows them to take better care of themselves.
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All content is copyright 2017 Nancy Carbone.