Counselling for Narcissism in Perth
There is a treatment that works for Narcissistic Personality Disorder.Yet, so many therapist’s and partners get lured into their charm and feel the wool has been pulled over their eyes when they feel manipulated. Let’s look at how this happens and how one can treat Narcissism in therapy. Is it possible to have a healthy relationship with a Narcissist and how?
Individuals with Narcissism present to the world a false self based on being perfect, which covers up the underlying feelings of inadequacy. Deep down they feel like a fraud and present a mask to the world to hide this intolerable part they feel within themselves, which is the real impaired self. According to James Masterson, there are two types of narcissistic disorders, the Manifest, also known as the Grandiose Narcissist, where the grandiosity is obvious, they are exhibitionistic and seeks admiration from others, so the inadequacy is hidden. Whereas, the Closet Narcissistic disorder, is where the grandiosity is hidden and they feel more inadequacy. The closet narcissist functions well on the outside, but struggles with real self confidence since they were shamed and were not allowed to shine for who they were, so they work hard to prove themselves to their bosses, partner and other idealised objects, so they can look good in their eyes. This article will focus on the treatment of most destructive type of Narcissism, the Manifest or Malignant.
Narcissistic personality disorder patients spend so much time trying to be perfect, they actually struggle to have real connections, intimacy and live a satisfying lifestyle. They do not know how to be their real self, so they try to fill the emptiness with striving to be perfect or get narcissistic supplies to feel happy. But the empty void never gets filled up and partners get drained of their love and energy by trying to form relationships with them. So why does this happen? How does all this come about? How come their relationships fall apart? How do they affect their relationships? Can they be helped with psychotherapeutic treatment? How does couples therapy assist their relationships? What can partners do to cope and deal with them? Should partners stay to work things out? The most frustrating thing is that partners can see glimpses of their real self, and try so hard to connect with them, to help them, but their defensive make up gets in the way, causing relationships to end in pain and disappointment.Counselling and psychotherapy can be the only way to break through these destructive cycles, because the narcissist is self destructive in how they cope and function, leaving their partners helpless and unable to deal with them.
Let’s start with how it all began, first. The Narcissists was not loved for their real self, that was not perfect, they learned to hide their real self because it was unacceptable to their parents. Some were treated badly, shamed or humiliated as kids if they didn’t meet their narcissistic expectations of their parents. This anger gets pushed down and projected out on to others. They adopted the fake grandiose self to get narcissistic supplies or approval. Often they strived to be competitive, smart or the best in order to feel important. Some became the golden boy, daddies little girl, the apples of dads eye. They avoided judgement, got approval or admiration for meeting the parents idealised expectations, becoming narcissistic extensions of their parents self esteem. How they performed or looked in their parents eyes reflected how the parent felt about themselves. If they were perfect in their parent’s eyes, they got adored or approval. If they were not perfect they were harshly criticised, disappointed their parent or got cut off. However, they couldn’t out perform the parent or they faced envious attacks.
The closet narcissist often felt it was impossible to meet their parents high expectations, so they worked hard to get their approval to feel good enough in their eyes, but were left with feeling inadequate or not measuring to their parents high standards. Lower functioning Manifest or Malignant narcissists also experienced shameful, critical, harsh treatment or abuse and developed strong grandiose fantasies to protect them, so they made themselves feel better, as a way of self soothing. For instance, one could feel like the strong one who people needed, so they developed the fantasy that they were the special child who could protect mum from an abusive father, the child she could turn to. They have a lot of anger and had to push down the pain and anger, to not feel it. When there was extreme harsh treatment, these manifest narcissists or even malignant narcissists, as Otto Kernberg calls it, developed extreme grandiose fantasies in order to cope and ward off the pain, caused by a lack of empathy from parents, misattunement or emotional/physical neglect. Often, they idealised the abusive parent, by internalising their aggression with disavowing it to protect against the pain, to restore the idealisation of the parent.
All the harsh treatment, anger, shame, pain and inadequate feelings become split off and pushed down out of their conscious awareness. These disavowed 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 underlying feelings are so painful; they become triggered and constantly projected out onto others, to discharge them. For instance, in couples therapy a wife may be upset, the narcissist thinks his wife has these same feelings as him, and thinks his wife is critical and harsh towards him since he is exposed as not perfect, thinking that she will not stay with him because she can see his flaws and he will want to protect himself by leaving the relationship or find someone else who will not pick on him. When hurt they will project out these harsh feeling on to their partner, by thinking their partner is harsh towards them, so they devalue their relationship, often having affairs. 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. These projected distorted phantasies get in their way of living and making decisions. The truth is, when they escape from situations where they feel judged or criticised, often, they are really escaping from this part within themselves. In couples therapy they come to realise that their underlying thoughts and feelings about themselves is not the same way their partner see’s them. Often the wife will appear harsh because she is hurt and wants to desperately sort things out. But the Narcissist is trapped by their own feelings, so they cannot see their partners perspective and they cannot respond to the real situation, to sort out marital issues. This occurs at work and all the time.They are constantly warding off these harsh, critical internal objects inside themselves. They cannot change, until they stop externalizing their feelings, so they can own them. By processing these feelings in therapy allows them to become better managed within them. Counselling allows them to see themselves and others more clearly, while respond to the real situation, not what they project it to be. So they get a clear perspective on life.
The, higher functioning Manifest Narcissists got more libidinal supplies, or support since they met the parents idealised expectations, so they made the parent feel special, so in turn the child got supplies and could do no wrong, they were perfect kids. They often didn’t get told off, so their false grandiose self didn’t deflate in accordance with reality. So they live with a unrealistic inflated sense of self, that feels above others, perfect and special, and struggle to see why others don’t put them first or make them feel special, especially their partner. They live in an illusion of their grandiosity based on the pathological false self. So they push down all these harsh, critical feelings of inadequacy because it is too painful for them to feel inferior. They have to make themselves appear superior, important, admired, valued and sought-after. Since, they felt inadequate for being their real self, they learnt to squash the essence of whom they really are, with their grandiosity. Because their real self never fully emerged, they struggle to know what they really want. Often they’re scared to follow themselves, if their ideas or interests make them feel less than perfect, so they will fuse with their mother’s expectations to get approval or take careers that make them feel perfect or important. The prognosis for treating higher level personality disorders is higher, because they were given more approval or supplies, so they can do better in counselling and psychotherapy.
Individuals, who are higher functioning manifest narcissists, developed grandiose fantasies of being superior to others and being invincible. They never got their grandiosity modulated in accordance with reality. They didn’t face blows or deflation of their self esteem to realise they were not perfect. Often these parents protect their self esteem from blows, prompting them up, so they don’t fall down or deflate. It was the parents role to provide empathy to modulate the fall of their grandiosity to manage the deflation of their self esteem, when the child realises they were no longer invincible or not perfect, when they realise they are just like all the other toddlers, normal. The manifest narcissist grows up thinking the world is their oyster and they can have whatever they want, expecting it. Often their parents give them whatever they need. The parents who admire them, keep them in this bubble, where they feel self entitled to things because they are special, and do not need to live in accordance with the real world, not accepting rules or regulations that get in their way. They can do whatever they want, with grand goals and high ideals, with their inflated sence of self. This false grandiose self keeps them inflated, so they do not deflate or crumble.
These narcissistic personality disorder patients did not get supplies for the real self, so they lack the real libidinal strength inside to have healthy self esteem, to cope with stress or criticism. So there is no internal platform inside to modulate their self esteem. They fall apart or fragment under stressful circumstances, so they overcompensate to be perfect to avoid criticism. So they become the charming lover, the new boss who is charismatic, and the friend who has a perfect life that you cannot fault. All this is to keep people away from seeing the cracks, so they don’t feel exposed. They can put a lot of effort into pretending to be perfect, to win a new partner over, to win in general. Yet, this facade is to get more supplies to fill the empty void, because the real self never got to emerge to feel strong and cohesive.
The manifest narcissist personality disorder lacks the real satisfaction that comes from living a life that is self enriched, with healthy relationships and real self pursuits. When left to their own feelings, they feel inadequate inside, so they avoid feeling, to escape themselves. So, when faced with harsh reality, to stop them deflating, they act out with addictions, affairs, materialism, wealth, beauty or success to inflate or soothe the pain of being narcissistically injured. They fear exposing their real self, as it seems toxic, inferior and shameful, so it never gets to grow and flourish, because it brings up the pain and exposure of not being perfect, special or unique. It is only through connecting with the real self, one feels cohesive and can sustain real satisfying relationships. Otherwise they live in a pretense and act as if everything is fine.
Why relationships become difficult with Narcissists and is couples counseling the solution.
In relationships, narcissistic people never let anyone get close enough to see their real imperfections; they fear exposure of the real impaired self. There is actually nothing wrong with their real self, but to them, it doesn’t meet their internal high standards. When injured or wounded, they can appear aloof, cold, arrogant and guarded to keep a wall around them, so no one gets in. They do not want to get caught out, so they do not reveal themselves, to delude themselves, even. They hide their vulnerability and fears of failure because they are caught in this illusion of grandiosity with fantasises of success and wealth. So often they do not take criticism or blows of reality very well. As kids, they lacked the emotional validation and empathy for their pain and vulnerability, often shamed for being weak, so they had to hide their vulnerability so they would not feel weak or flawed. Deep down they want to be understood for their emotional pain and have the emotional acknowledgment, but are afraid of showing their needs and vulnerability, because they fear judgement or fear they will fragment. That is why it takes a particular therapy to hold their pain in order to work with these individuals, such as the Masterson psychotherapeutic approach to working with the Narcissists. It is only through reaching them through their real self, that one can get in and see who they really are, behind the mask. They cannot connect with anyone while they have their veil of self protection, so no one can reach them, not even their partner. The Masterson therapeutic approach, for couples or individuals, gets underneath this defensive shield to work with their underlying pain and vulnerability, in order to rebuild their real self.
The most common presenting problem in couples therapy is that narcissists cannot take on board the necessary feedback from their partner and attack them for it. When the Manifest Narcissist feel criticised they suffer narcissistic injuries and feel painfully wounded, so instantly they attack or devalue the source to ward off the feelings. They protect themselves against shame or humiliation of exposure. The other person is wrong and they find fault in them, to project their feelings of inadequacy into them. So others feel wrong and doubt themselves. This is often why many stay in an abusive relationship with them. In fact, they will block out criticism and feel the other person is wrong, so they do not deflate. This is how they keep themselves intact; because they are scared they will fragment. They often end up losing their jobs or relationships, because they cannot live in reality and take on feedback about themselves. Couples therapy or individual psychotherapy using the Masterson psychotherapeutic approach interrupts their defences of devaluing the person who triggers their pain, so their feelings can be worked through and managed within.
As a counsellor for couples, I have observed how narcissistic partners will push for getting their way, by pressuring their partner to give intimacy, praise, appreciation and give acknowledgement so they feel important, boosted or recharged, to relieve them of their pain or stress. Yet, they dismiss the harm they did to their partner and expect them to get over it, not talk about it and give them their narcissistic supplies. They get disappointed when the couples therapist does not give in to their agenda. The Masterson couples therapist gets them to see how painful it is for them that they pressure for supplies to feel elevated and how this destroys their relationships, by not sorting out the feelings or issues. Rather than supporting their grandiose ideals, therapy brings them back to reality. Instead of expecting special treatment from others, so they can feel important, couples counselling addresses their feelings, so they can take responsibility and sort out the issues. Having couples therapy in Perth enables them to communicate their real feelings to their partners, instead of being defensive. This allows their partners to see and hear how they really feel, so they can connect through their vulnerability and become better understood. Often, this can begin to repair relationship ruptures, if there is not too much damage in the relationship. As a result they can form healthier way of relating, to improve their connection and marriage.
Why does it usually take a marital affair or something to happen in the relationship to uncover these underlying issues? Often the issues are hidden for years, because of the defensive mask that keeps the grandiosity intact. The Manifest narcissist feels life is perfect, there is nothing wrong with them, because they can convince themselves that others are wrong and they are right. When they get all their narcissistic supplies, they feel on top of the world, glowing. They feel grandiose when they have a perfect wife, perfect children and material wealth. Yet, as a result of protecting themselves against deflation, eventually life crumbles for them, when they face the self destruction of their behaviour. It is only when the Manifest narcissist begins lose their supplies (success, relationships), they begin the deflate. The world comes crashing down when they realise the limits of reality, when they cannot meet their grandiose fantasies or when they feel disappointed that there is no perfect partner to give perfect supplies. This is the point they usually commence counselling or couples counselling. Yet, they attend therapy hoping to restore their narcissistic supplies, so they can feel boosted and restore their emotional equilibrium. They do not realise that to get better they need to work through the pain of deflation. A Masterson therapist assists the patient by managing these harsh feelings, so they become equipped to deal with them, while build ego structure to support healthy self esteem and develop healthier coping styles.
Why does the relationship fall apart with the Manifest Narcissist?
The manifest narcissist seeks the supplies from a partner to feel important, admired, loved and special; otherwise they painfully feel emptiness or inadequate, since they judge themselves so harshly. They seek supplies so they do not have to face the harsh feelings within or face the emptiness, as a result of not developing their real self. When dating they will be attracted to an idealised fantasy person, to be the perfect supplier to meet all their narcissistic needs and expectations. They will enjoy the chase to win them over, charming them and luring them in, so they have a supply source. They often impress their date with the effort they put in to entice them. However, this honeymoon phase is short lived. Unable to deal with real intimacy, the narcissists does not show their vulnerably or real feelings, they mask this by covering up. They are unable to connect through their real self, by being genuine, authentic and honest. When under stress, they become cold, guarded and distant, to avoid showing the cracks. So they have difficulty engaging with their spouse and sharing in open discussions. They often become self-preoccupied. Often their spouse feels that the narcissistic partner does not register their needs or feelings and are not there emotionally. They do not feel much for others and lack empathy. They will often tell their partner to get over it, having no regards for their feelings. They are usually overly self invested. A relationship with them can eventually feel empty and alone, since there is no real connection, that usually comes from expressing one’s self and attending to each other’s feelings. The narcissists connect through impressing partners, pressuring their partner to be perfect or fusing with their partners expectations. They want to be adored by the person they idealise. They feel painfully wounded when they are not treated importantly, so they protect their feelings by devaluing their relationship, so they do not feel hurt. So their partner encounters narcissistc abuse, which can be destructive towards the partner
When feeling hurt in their relationship, they protect themselves by trying to convince the therapist that their relationship was the problem. By finding things wrong with their partner, they try to convince themselves they are right, so they don’t feel the hurt and they can protect their vulnerable feelings. Therapists who collude with them become unhelpful if they get drawn into their defensive manoeuvre. Narcissist can be very convincing and put on the charm, to persuade you. But denying how they feel only harms them in the end. In Masterson psychotherapy and couples therapy, I assist them to get in touch with their underlying vulnerable feelings, in a way that feels acceptable for them. Often they were injured for showing their hurt feelings when growing up, so they keep away from these feelings. Yet, this prevents them from repairing the damage they caused with their partner.
The manifest narcissist will often attract partners who are closets narcissists, who idealise and adore them, while fusing with their high expectations. They also attract borderline personality partners who are so accommodating in order to be loved. The borderline will have relationship dependency issues, so often will be attracted to the Narcissists false strength, to rescue them.These partners provide the perfect supplies and want to please the narcissist, so much, they fall right into their hands, often feeling fooled by them . The partner’s that manifest narcissists attract usually placate their anger or protect their vulnerable feelings to avoid injuring them, to avoid their harsh reactions. Narcissists are sensitive and easily deflated. So the partner can feel like walking on egg shells around them, since the narcissist can be prickly. So their partner often becomes emotionally shut down, scared to express themselves, in case they blow up in a narcissistic rage because they cannot handle criticism. These partners also avoid being attacked or devalued, so they give up expressing who they are, often losing themselves and getting depressed, being weighed down and defeated.
Eventually the spouse will feel drained by being expected to do everything or be everything for them. Yet, not matter how much their spouse does for them, it will never be enough to fill their empty void. The manifest narcissist often pressures for more supplies and expects it. So they will pressure their partner to be perfect, since their partner becomes an extension of them, becoming a reflection of how they see themselves. The narcissist will be disappointed when their partner withdraws supplies, when they eventually have enough.
Narcissistic abuse in relationships
When their partner raises concerns or issues with the narcissist’s behaviour, they are made to feel wrong and that they have the problem, so it gets turned around. Unable to hear their partners needs or feelings, the narcissist cannot tolerate any perceived criticism and devalues the spouse, so that the spouse doubts themselves. Often their partner gets so weighed down, often feeling beaten down by them or defeated by them, they eventually give up. It is easier to let them have their way, so they win. They feel controlled or manipulated to give in to them. Narcissists will expect their partner to have the same view as them and pressure them, until they give in. They have to be right. The partner may even give up on themselves and not cope. Eventually the partner feels they are not living their own life, but accommodating the narcissist. Often these narcissists attract partners who are overly accommodating that they become easily exploited or controlled, such as the borderline personality disorder patients who usually comes to therapy because they feel used or damaged by narcissistic abuse. Eventually these partners have no capacity to give anymore, feeling psychic drain and depleted. Nancy Carbone provides counselling for narcissistic abuse.When the supplies run out, there is nothing to fuel the narcissist, so they feel the emptiness within, with harsh feelings towards them self, often struggling cope.
The collapse of the grandiose facade and self destructive acting out
Once the supplies run out, when things crumble and life falls apart, the narcissist will look for another supply source, usually by having marital affairs or addictions, to soothe their pain. The ways they cope to protect them, from the pain of deflation, ends up destroying their lives and family. Often they will feel entitled to an affair because their partner was not giving them sex, intimacy or meeting all their needs anymore. They struggle to take ownership of the problems they have caused and the destruction, by justifying it, often devaluing their spouse because they cannot handle the shame and criticism.
Counselling for Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Therapy needs to be firm, to assist them to come to grips with the destruction they have caused, as a result of protecting themselves from the pain of facing themselves. They need to be responsible to clean up the mess they have created and stop running from themselves, by sorting out their feelings, so they stop destroying them self and others. So the therapist has to be strong enough to withstand their pull to give into their charm, when being persuaded by them, when they try to convince the therapist it is their partners fault and they are the victims. They will defensively pressure the therapist to give supplies and pull the therapist in to colluding with them, so they do not feel they failed. They will want to win, no matter what, and to admit their faults makes them feel defeated. So they will unconsciously try to defeat the therapist and sabotage therapy for exposing them, which only harms them and stops them from getting better. They want to discharge their aggression, but actually they need to get in touch with it and see how aggressive their actions are, by locating their anger and dealing with it, in an therapeutic way. So they can take ownership of their problems. They will attack and devalue the therapist for not giving in to them, when they demand supplies or want the therapist to take their side. So the therapist has to withstand their attacks on the therapy and understand what they are doing, by not reacting to them. Many therapist’s unknowingly become scared of their reactions and will back down or placate their anger because they can be intimidating. So they need a therapy approach that will not give into their narcissistic demands, but challenge them to face the reality and their feelings. The manifest narcissist has always had people give into them and partners who placated them, but what they need is someone to stand up to them and make them responsible and accountable, so they realise they cannot act this way. They will resist this, with tantrums and rage, but they have to face this challenge in order to overcome their self destruction. The Masterson psychoanalytic therapeutic approach is tailored specifically with treating narcissistic disorders, as well as other disorders of the self, whom may become trapped in a relationship with a Narcissist.
How can the partner cope or handle a relationship with Manifest Narcissist?
Partners can face a difficult time, especially if they feel compelled to give in or please them, to void an attack or devalued comment. If the level destruction has not damaged the relationship significantly, then the relationship can become recoverable in couples counselling. Often the partner does not know how to get in and reach them or access their feelings. They want answers as to why they keep doing things to hurt them, often yelling and getting angry at the Narcissist, because their actions have caused them hurt. When their partner has been hurt they often try desperately hard to get through and break their barriers down, but the way they try to do that often does not work for the Narcissist because it further injuries them, so the Narcissist becomes shut off or devaluing to them, to ward off the pain. The results can be an escalation of distressed couples’s conflict, which can cause the more damage in the long run. The angry wife will be furious and tell him off, blaming him for destroying their relationship; this just makes the narcissist more guarded and unable to communicate why they do these things. Nancy’s Couples therapy services in Perth, de-escalates the conflict, and manages the distress, so that vulnerable hurt feelings can be expressed and their behaviours can be addressed. When their partner finally hears what is really behind their actions, their partner can see how vulnerable they really are and finally get the answers they were looking for. When the narcissist feels better understood for their pain, they are more able to take in and hear how their partner really feels, to begin to resolve all kind of relationship issues. However, for this process occur, it is necessary for the couples therapist to be in an active role at facilitating this to happen. A Masterson couples therapist has the skills to effectively assess, diagnose and intervene with these relationships’.
Sometime it more effective for the Narcissist to have individual therapy, to work more deeply at the intra-psychic issues, if the issues are more troublesome. They can feel more open to speak in individual therapy. This can also improve how they function, cope and relate to their partner. Sometimes they need more containment to deal with the level of pain and prevent the extreme self destructive acting out. Once things are more contained, couples therapy can be useful.
How to cope in a relationship with a Narcissist and what to do?
In these destructive situations, often the partner is at the point of leaving, and does not know which way they should go. The distressed partner often needs counselling to manage their hurt and the destruction that has been caused to them. Sometimes giving in, taking them back after affairs only enables them to get away with these kind of behaviours, if the partner is not strong enough to address this. If the relationship is too destructive and they feel unsafe to bring up issues that hurt them, then perhaps the partner needs therapy to look at why they stay in an abusive situation and work through their own issues, which gets played out. However, if the narcissistic partner is owning their behaviour and addressing things, then it might be worthwhile to sort the relationship out. But if the narcissist continues to blame their partner and not take responsibility, then why would you put up with this, if they do not want to be helped.Nancy offers counselling for narcissistic abuse. Nancy provides counselling to those who find it difficult to deal with an abusive relationship and helps them work through the areas that get played out in them, so they can feel more confident in themselves and make decisions which allows them to take better care of themselves.
If you identify areas of concerns or require counselling, contact Nancy Carbone 0449 861 147 or use the enquiry form below
Masterson Counsellor and Psychotherapist for individuals and couples