The first thing people often say to me when we begin a session is, “I’m confused.” They then may proceed, with razor-sharp clarity, to articulate their feelings, thoughts, and circumstances. With great sophistication and ability to connect cause and effect they will outline their own problematic patterns of behavior, why they are concerned about a relationship, or what decisions they believe they should make. After these impressive and startlingly astute perceptions so many people will then slump in their seat, defeated, and say, “But I’m so confused.” Confusion becomes the self-constructed yet hollow wall that prevents them from moving forward.
Healthy relationships require the well-developed ability to be accountable for your own behavior. Accountable people readily recognize that their actions impact other people, they care if that effect is a negative one, and they feel a sense of responsibility in ensuring that they appropriately meet the needs and expectations of others. Accountability necessitates the practice of empathy, a willingness to consider different perspectives, and the ability to accept criticism and admit fault. Narcissists have extreme difficulty with this due to their emotional immaturity, complete self-absorption, and fear of vulnerability and loss of control.
Passive-aggressive behavior is the expression of negative or hostile feelings in an indirect manner. In its extreme it is a form of emotional abuse. Many narcissists use this type of behavior as their primary communication tool because they are deeply insecure, angry, and terrified of direct conflict. Dealing with passive-aggressive people is crazy-making. No one’s needs are adequately being met and because communication is covert, you often can’t put your finger on why it makes you feel so frustrated and upset.
I will be at Johns Creek High School on October 7th from 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. to talk with parents about how to increase their comfort level with difficult emotions, worry less about judgement and community pressures, and parent in a way that feels more authentic and helps children to develop resilience and emotional well-being. Johns Creek High School parents as well as those from surrounding schools are welcome to attend. Please contact school social worker Rachel Kitchens-Cole or myself for additional information.
Many people question if the narcissist in their life can control their behavior and whether or not counseling would be beneficial for them. Unfortunately the research suggests that people with very strong narcissistic traits typically don’t change even if they actively engage in therapy. Narcissists tend to be deeply insecure and highly sensitive to criticism which limits their ability to use counseling productively.