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Unmasking narcissism

Did you know that there is a term for the behaviour of people or groups who persistently gaslight, blame, criticise and put down other people?

These same people act out their own issues on others and for sensitive, empathic people, they can easily and regularly be drawn into a game of feeling guilty or ‘bad’ about themselves and feeling confused.

Many of my clients come for help in dealing with a difficult person in their lives. It may be a partner, a mother, father, son or daughter. Sometimes it can be a relief to know that you are dealing with someone with narcissistic traits. It is worth googling 'narcissistic behaviour' if you suspect that you are dealing with someone with narcissistic traits. A person with narcissistic traits will have high opinions of themselves and be publicly kind and compassionate but at home & privately may be emotionally abusive and/or neglectful.

They are rarely wrong and have great difficulty apologising for their behaviour. When challenged about their behaviour, they may become outraged and punish you in some way for challenging them.

Often people are told that they are ’selfish’ for questioning the ‘good nature’ of the person with narcissistic traits.

Narcissists have difficulty feeling empathy for others and therefore are regularly abusive in their relationships with others and ambivalent about the impact they have on those around them. They care only for their own needs and everything they do is a manipulative game with the aim of fulfilling their own needs first. I regularly write about narcissistic behaviour because it is something so many people are dealing with and these clients often come to me feeling confused and wondering are they the ‘crazy’ ones.

This is the reason why good people often fall victim to narcissists- good people are willing to look at themselves and wonder what they are doing wrong. A narcissist is never wrong and will look for nariccisstic supply for people around them in order to get their needs met.

So how do you deal with narcissistic behaviour? How do you manage your contact with this difficult person? If you regularly feel put down, criticised, manipulated or humiliated by the person in question, it may be wise to not see this person on your own. Narcissists have a very different private face to their public face and generally will not show their narcissistic behaviour in front of those outside their immediate family.

Bring a friend or understanding family member with you when you have contact with someone displaying narcissistic traits. Be clear about your boundaries- you may have to become a broken record in terms of telling the person in question when you are or are not available to them.

Try not to get absorbed into the feeling that you are not good enough which a narcissist tries to impose on those around them. Notice your wish to please and seek approval from others and be aware that you are never going to get the full approval you are seeking from someone with narcissistic traits. Remember that keeping your own energy and mental health positive is what is most important.

Ask yourself if contact with the person in question boosts your energy or drains it.

How often would you like to see this person if you could make that choice yourself without any guilt or fear?

If you find it difficult to create and maintain healthy boundaries with this person, particularly if it is a family member or partner, speaking to a close friend , counsellor or understanding family member may help you to be clearer on the kind of relationship you want to have with the person in question.

Remember that the only person who has difficulty accepting your boundaries will be a person who has been overstepping them. Be aware also that if you need help dealing with someone with narcissistic traits and you contact a counsellor/psychotherapist, ask them if they have experience helping people with this issue. Much psychological damage can be done by attending a counsellor/psychotherapist who does not understand the narcissistic dynamic.

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