Therapists are increasingly encountering clients in their practices who have experienced narcissistic abuse by a family member or intimate partner. This type of psychological abuse is complex, insidious, and requires a unique therapeutic approach. I am offering consultation for therapists who want to improve their ability to understand and identify narcissism, and better assist their clients with the emotional healing that needs to take place. Please contact me if you would like additional information.
Narcissism is a spectrum of character traits. Narcissists have difficulty with empathy, they fail to appreciate that other people may have perspectives that differ from their own, and they struggle significantly with taking accountability for their own behavior. Essentially, it is all about them and their needs.
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.
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.