Wendy T. Behary  AUTHOR OF Disarming the Narcissist

Understanding Narcissism

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Disarming the Narcissist

Featuring Advice About “How to talk to a Narcissist.”
Communicating with a self-absorbed person is tricky and frustrating, and sometimes intimidating. How do you get them to understand your point of view? Wendy Behary explains to the lay reader that the trick is empathic confrontation. Understanding the narcissist will help you slip past their defenses and communicate with them more effectively.

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“Anyone whose life predicament includes dealing with a narcissist will be well-advised to read Wendy Behary’s book and heed her advice...”
        —Daniel Goleman,
         author of Emotional Intelligence

Recognizing the Narcissist

“They seem well-assembled and self-assured, sometimes with a saccharine wit,” says Behary, cautioning that they can
also “quickly pull the rug out from under you, reducing you to boredom, tears, apprehension, or disgust without a flinch.”
Typically, narcissists display ten of the following thirteen traits:

  1. Self-absorbed
      Acts like everything is all about him or her
  2. Entitled
      Makes the rules; breaks the rules
  3. Demeaning
      Puts you down, bullyish
  4. Demanding
      of whatever he or she wants
  5. Distrustful
      Suspicious of your motives when you’re being
      nice to him or her

  6. Perfectionistic
      Rigidly high standards - his or her way or no way
  7. Snobbish
      Believes he or she is superior to you and others;
      gets bored easily

  8. Approval seeking
      Craves constant praise and recognition
  9. Unempathic
      Uninterested in understanding your inner experience,
      or unable to do so

10. Unremorseful
      Cannot offer a genuine apology
11. Compulsive
      Gets overly consumed with details and minutiae
12. Addictive
      Cannot let go of bad habits; uses them to self soothe
13. Emotionally detached
      Steers clear of feeling

2nd Edition Now Available!

The 2nd edition includes some n
ew and elaborated content: 
  • Aggressive and Abusive Narcissists—“The Perilous Narcissist”—When it's Time to Exit
  • Empathy—Elaborations/Differentiation from Compassion—more on empathic confrontation
  • The Female Narcissist—“The “Narcissister”—male vs female narcissism with case vignettes and strategies for dealing with them.
For the professional:
Article published in Psychotherapy Networker, 2013:
Challenging The Narcissist: How To Find Pathways To Empathy
Click here for link

Quick Tips for therapists:
Navigating narcissism and maintaining momentum in treatment
Most narcissistic clients will only reluctantly agree to go to therapy if a significant person in their life is threatening to leave them, or if someone is threatening their comfort, their reputation, or their status if they don't.

The amount of leverage, or "meaningful" consequences the narcissist faces helps determine the possibility of maintaining the motivation and compliance necessary for achieving an effective treatment outcome. Additionally, the therapist needs to cultivate a robust connection with this client, as narcissists are more prone to disappearing into a state of hyper-autonomy, entitlement, and self-aggrandizement. Therapists must be sturdy enough to show up as a "real" person, not just an expert, to bypass the cynical, approval-seeking, charming, defiantly avoidant, and tough-guy modes. The therapist engages in a (limited) re-parenting advocate for the vulnerable part of this larger-than-life client, hidden behind the "masks."

Keep the Leverage High
The therapy relationship becomes a microcosm for the narcissist's real-world relationships. It is also the platform for creating corrective emotional experiences without devaluing an often highly sensitive individual. The therapist uses moment-to-moment experiences to consistently point out relevant possibilities of loss and predictable consequences if they refuse to do the emotional work, thus fortifying the leverage for change.

Keep a Robust Connection
The use of an audio flashcard can help to strengthen the internalization of a healthy adult's response under triggering conditions, while acting as a custom-fit transitional object for the mid-session days. It provides a lively attachment to the therapy relationship and keeps the client connected to relevant treatment goals—goals that often emerge within the domain of interpersonal ruptures with loved ones and others. It takes only a couple of minutes to record (in front of the client) reminders, praise, practice exercises for homework, etc., that they can listen to throughout the week, in between sessions.

Keep a Sturdy "Realness" in the Treatment Room

As therapists, we are accustomed to keeping ourselves current with literature and our treatment approaches. Working with narcissists may be one of the toughest challenges we face in our industry. They can push our buttons like almost no other client. Here are some suggestions for how to become more sturdy, credible, and sensitive to the needs of these unruly types:
  • Enter into self-therapy in supervision, or psychotherapy
  • Engage in continuing education about narcissism and the fragile world that lies beneath the facades
  • Consider the use of their childhood photos to assist you in maintaining a view of the narcissist as vulnerable at the core, while empathically confronting them
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