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Understanding Today's Narcissist

Understanding Today's Narcissist is a podcast dedicated to separating fact from fiction when it comes to dealing with a narcissist in your life. Your host is Christine Hammond, MS, LMHC, a licensed psychotherapist, speaker and author. For more information, visit www.growwithchristine.com Looking for help with dealing with the narcissist in your life? Visit http://growwithchristine.com/narcissism/ to sign up for online support!
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Now displaying: October, 2018
Oct 31, 2018

As a science teacher in a public high school, Amanda was well liked by her students. Not only was she young, beautiful, and a good communicator, but she also had a way of interacting with the students that was a bit different yet very effective. Everyone loved her – teachers, administrators, students, and parents – which, in many ways, made her feel like she was above following the rules.

Then one day, when a parent accused her of improper texting with their teen son, some of her comments were found to be sexually suggestive in nature. Even though Amanda was able to explain communicating with the student through a text to administration (she lied and said it was part of the curriculum), which somewhat satisfied the concerned parent, still Amanda was out for blood. Behind the scenes, she went after the administrator that confronted her by spreading untrue gossip just to watch him squirm. And as for the parents, she intentionally engaged in an improper relationship with their son just to get back at them.

What on earth would make someone do this or participate in other, similar behaviors? Ever wonder how a person was able to earn trust so quickly and then exploit it for their own benefit? Perhaps they were someone who stole money, took over a business, or openly violated ethical conduct codes. One day they were considered as a best friend and now for no apparent reason, they purposefully go out of their way make themselves your enemy. And even after the betrayal, it is hard to imagine that this person is anything less than what they initially presented. How were they able to be so deceptive?

Anti-Social Personality Disorder (ASPD) is the technical definition for sociopathic and psychopathic behavior. Imagine ASPD as a spectrum where there is evidence of subtle to extreme versions of the behavioral dysfunction. Sociopaths are generally thought of as a milder type than psychopaths. This makes them harder to recognize in the average work environment. So how do they do it?

  1. Survey– Sociopaths begin their deception by carefully observing their new environment. Since most sociopaths burn through relationships fast, they are frequently forced into new surroundings to survive. They look for potential targets: those with money, power, position or anything the other person has that the sociopath wants. Sociopaths scrutinize the target’s friends, work habits, routines, family, strengths, weaknesses, and social affairs. Basically, they are stalking their prey.
  2. Scoping – After choosing the target, sociopaths scope out an informant. This person usually has the dirt on everyone, likes to gossip, and puts themselves in the middle of things. The sociopath will quickly become best buddies with this person in an effort to glean as much information as possible. In the future, they will use this relationship to disseminate bad intelligence about others.
  3. Chameleon– Sociopaths transform themselves into the most attractive version of self for their target and the informant. For instance, if their prey likes to rescue people, the sociopath will need to be rescued. If their victim likes independent gregarious people, they will become that. The interesting part is that sociopaths can be two completely different personalities within the same environment.
  4. Seducing– Once the sociopath feels they understand their target, they begin a seduction. It usually starts with making small talk about a hobby or other interest. Then they use that incident to initiate further contact alternating between praising the target and asking for their advice. Shortly after that, the sociopath shares some made-up secret personal fear or anxiety to draw the target further in. If the victim responds with any degree of kindness, they proceed to the next step. If the prey repels the sociopath, one of two things happens: either the sociopath will move on or they will refine and intensify their approach.
  5. Courting– This is a one-way dance where the sociopath does all of the work. They magically appear where the victim is, they seem to be friends with the same people, and they often invite themselves to meetings, projects, and events. The sociopath escalates the praise to a level of adoration which draws in the target even more. Their charm is enticing and disarming so the prey begins to feel at ease with the sociopath.
  6. Isolating – The sociopath begins to use the data gathered from the informant to isolate the target from friends or co-workers who may try to protect them one day. These are subtle non-flattering comments made about the friends or co-workers which are easily countered if confronted. The intent is for the victim to feel betrayed by their friends while learning to solely rely on the false loyalty of the sociopath.
  7. Vengeance– Anyone who tries to stop the sociopath along the way will be met with swift and severe revenge, threats, or punishment. They will use tactics such as inappropriate rage, the silent treatment, intimidating stares, twisting the truth, and playing the victim card to manipulate others into compliance. By this point, the sociopath has too much invested in the deception to walk away. So instead, they push away protectors while pulling in the target.
  8. Projection – Here is where things become tricky. The sociopath now secretly turns on the victim to the victim’s friends and co-workers by projecting the sociopath’s selfish motives onto the victim. This completes the betrayal cycle. When the sociopath removes themselves from the environment, everyone’s fingers will be pointed at each other with none pointed at the sociopath. This sets the stage for the final act.
  9. Deceit– Now the sociopath is free to embezzle, exploit, take over a business, and/or commit acts of fraud or felony because all eyes will be on the fight between each other and not on the sociopath. By the time the dust has settled, the sociopath will be long gone with whatever money, power, position, or prestige they desired.

At any point in the game, this can be stopped. But it usually takes an outsider looking in on the situation to bring about clarity. Sociopaths should be taken seriously and treated as potentially dangerous. If you believe you, or someone you’re close to, may be facing a situation with a sociopath similar to the one described, do not hesitate to seek help.

www.growwithchristine.com

Oct 17, 2018

What is Stockholm Syndrome? Usually the term is reserved for hostage situations referencing a bank robbery that occurred in 1973 in Stockholm Sweden. After spending 6 days in a bank vault, the four hostages refused to testify against their captors and instead raised money for their defense. The term refers to the trauma bond developed between the captor and the hostages in which the hostages feel positive feelings such as empathy for the person that is causing them harm. This allows the captor to not feel remorse for their actions as the hostages don’t hold them responsible.

What are some other examples? One of the most famous cases of Stockholm Syndrome is the kidnapping of Patty Hearst in 1974 who denounced her family name and sided with her kidnappers in assisting them to rob banks. She was given a prison sentence that was later pardoned by President Bill Clinton.  Another example is Jaycee Dugard who was kidnapped at age 11 in 1991 and held hostage for 18 years bearing 2 children by her abuser. In her book, she explains the syndrome and how she formed a bond with both of her captors over the years.

Are there fewer extreme examples? Absolutely. A person currently living in an abusive situation often has this condition. This is the reason why many people don’t leave their abuser but instead, continue to hold onto the relationship. In the case of Bailey, she wanted to believe that her father was telling the truth so much that she accepted his assessment of her mental well-being as being crazy when she was not. Her desire to have a relationship with her father meant that she was ignorant of the different types of abuse, justified his abuse in therapy as the result of his childhood abuse and minimized any impact. The result was she honestly believed that she was the problem and not him.

How do you recover? The recovery process requires identification and awareness. This is one of the few times when googling a disorder is helpful. Hearing and seeing examples of other victims brings awareness at another level. It is often easier to see the problem in someone else’s story before identifying it in yours. Once an understanding has been established, rewriting the abuse needs to occur. This is time-consuming and should be done under the guidance of a therapist. A person with Stockholm Syndrome already has a hard time perceiving things correctly and needs professional assistance until a new, more accurate perception is developed.

How do you help someone with this? It is essential to develop a bond of trust that is based on empathy and not judgment. Those looking at the scenario from the outside in are often highly judgmental and critical of the victim’s behavior. The victim is already overloaded with feelings of inadequacy, shame, and guilt that are disproportionately attributed to their actions and not the abusers. To overcome this, they need unconditional love and acceptance and a ton of patience.

After addressing the Stockholm syndrome, Bailey finally began to do better. She no longer allowed her father’s abuse to impact her. Moving out of the house helped and in a short period she was thriving. Without getting the proper help, she might have never been able to achieve this. Be sure that if you or anyone else is experiencing this syndrome or something like it they seek out professional assistance.

www.growwithchristine.com

Oct 10, 2018

The moment Brian first really understood the term Narcissistic Personality Disorder, a light bulb went off in his brain. He spent most of his life thinking he was crazy, lazy, and stupid – three words his father often said about him to other family members and friends. His father also severely and harshly disciplined him, set-up unnecessary competitions in which his dad was the winner, never apologized, showed no empathy even when Brian was hurt, and treated everyone like they were inferior.

For years, Brian struggle with insecurity, anxiety, depression, and feelings of inadequacy. After his business failed, Brain decided it was time to rethink his life, so he began therapy. It didn’t take too long before the therapist identified narcissistic characteristics in his father. Suddenly, everything became clear that the very issues he struggled to overcome were a direct result of having a narcissistic parent.

But knowing this information and healing from it are two different matters. The lack of self-esteem, obsessive thinking, minimization of abuse, excessive anxiety, fear-based reactions, and heightened survival instincts are common among adult children of narcissists. The distorted perception of reality a narcissistic parent imposes on a child has damaging consequences on the adult at work and home. By addressing the impact of narcissism, a person finds relief. Here are the seven steps:

  1. Recognize. The first step in the healing process is to admit that there is something wrong with a parent’s behavior. A person can’t recover from something they refuse to acknowledge. Most narcissistic parents pick a favorite child, the “golden child,” who is treated as if they walk on water, this was Brian’s older brother. In comparison, Brian was treated as inferior through belittlement, comparing, ignoring and even neglect. Occasionally, his father switched his favoritism depending on the performance of a child. When Brian received a football scholarship, his dad treated him like the golden child; but when he lost it due to an injury, he was inferior again. The key to remember is that narcissistic parents see the child as an extension of them so they take credit for the successes and reject the child who fails.
  2. Study. Once the narcissism is identified, it is essential to gain an education about the disorder and how it affects the entire family system. Narcissism is part biology (other family members likely have the disorder as well), part environment (trauma, abuse, shame, and neglect can draw narcissism out), and part choice (as a teen, a person chooses their identity and what is acceptable behavior). Since there might be other narcissists or personality disorders in a family, it is easy to trace the pattern. The environment and choice factors can further draw out the narcissism in a child which is cemented by age eighteen.
  3. Recount. This next step is comfortable in the beginning but becomes more difficult as the impact of the narcissism is realized. For each sign and symptom of narcissism, recall several examples in childhood and adulthood when the behavior is evident. It helps to write these down for reference later. The more time that is spent doing the step, the more significant the impact of the healing. Each of these memories needs rewriting with a new dialogue of, “My parent is narcissistic, and they are treating me this way because of that.” This is very different from the old internal dialogue of “I’m not good enough.”
  4. Identify. During the previous step, it is highly likely that some abusive, traumatic, and neglectful behavior on the part of the narcissistic parent becomes evident. Abuse for a child can be physical (restraint, aggression), mental (gaslighting, silent treatment), verbal (raging, interrogating), emotional (nitpicking, guilt-tripping), financial (neglect, excessive gifting), spiritual (dichotomous thinking, legalism), and sexual (molestation, humiliation). Not every event requires trauma therapy but some of them might, depending on the frequency and severity.
  5. Grieve. There are five stages to the grieving process: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. Brian struggled to believe at first that his father’s narcissism impacted him – this is denial. Anger is a natural response after the dots have been connected and the abuse has been identified. It is hard to believe that a parent who should be loving and kind would do the things they have done – this is part of the bargaining process. Whatever glorified image a person had of their narcissistic parent is now wholly shattered – this is depression. Sometimes anger is projected on the other parent for not adequately protecting their child from the trauma. Or it is internalized for not realizing or confronting sooner. It is crucial to go through all of the stages of grief to reach acceptance.
  6. Grow. This is an excellent place to step back for a while to gain a better perspective. Begin by reflecting on how the narcissistic parent’s distorted image of the world and people shaped current beliefs. Then drill downwards towards the vows or promises that were made internally as a result. Counteract the distorted images, vows, or promises with a newly gained perspective of reality. Continue this process until a new perspective is fully formed and now is part of the inner dialogue going forward. This essential step frees a person from the narcissistic lies and false truths.
  7. Forgive. The past cannot be changed, only understood. When forgiveness is genuine, it has a powerful transformational effect. Remember, forgiveness is for the forgiver, not the offender. It is better to honestly forgive in small chunks at a time, rather than granting blanket forgiveness. This allows room for other future or past offenses to be realized and worked through thoroughly. Don’t force this step, do it a comfortable pace so the benefits will be life lasting.

After completing these steps, Brian found it easier to identify other narcissists at work, home, or in the community. No longer did the narcissistic behavior trigger Brian and escalate his anxiety, frustration, or depression unnecessarily. Instead, Brian was able to remain calm and as a result, the other narcissistic person was disarmed because their behavior no longer had an intimidating effect.

www.growwithchristine.com

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