SITE: SCHEMA Therapy to treat narcissism
10 Stages of Therapy for NPD (cont)
6: Impact on Other People
Most of the time, N-clients can’t seriously consider how they affect other people until they’ve developed better coping strategies. Otherwise they’ll feel too much shame.
How well they understand themselves & form new action-habits will create more realistic (normal size) pride. This lessens the incentive to be grandiose, & increases ability to tolerate the idea that : their life may improve if they also considered other people’s needs. This is not yet emotional empathy, since they’re still looking at everything through the self-benefit lens.
7: Focus on Childhood Pain
Having gone thru previous stages (back & forth), clients are calmer & their life is generally less frantic. They’ve learned what life’s situations trigger over-reactions in them, & have developed more productive ways of coping.
As some of their defenses against shame are lessened, the focus is more on painful traumas from the past. If some healing occurs, they may form moments of emotional empathy for themselves as a child.
This can develop into the ability to form a stable, realistic image of themselves (Whole Object-Relations), which then help them deal with others more realistically, not splitting them into all-good or all-bad.
8: Update the Inner Voice
To develop emotional empathy for others, NPDs need to have (at least) some compassion for themselves. More would help.
Typically, people update their apps, cell phones, computers…. but most of us still run our life based on corrupted inner “software” that was programmed into us as a very young child.
Early on, the therapist can explains how children automatically internalize their version of :
– how their caregivers saw them
– their caregivers’ ideas about right & wrong, and
– their ideas about what deserves praise & blame.
Everyone can benefit from examining how their Inner Guiding Voice talks to them. ASK : ➡️
Now clients start noticing the tone & content of their inner voice, & realize that how they speak to themselves can be greatly improved. Then they can explore what those changes sound like. Sometimes all that’s needed is a firm “Stop that!” when the voice is mean & undermining
Clients can practice responding internally with a variety of positive statements they find acceptable. This process requires a willingness to challenge or inhibit the toxic voice. Naturally, this will take focused awareness, vigilance & many repetitions.
Note: We can tell how harsh someone is toward themselves by listening to how they talk to others. Outer harshness is in direct proportion to Inner harshness. Blaming & judging others redirects the nasty inner critic —> outward, temporarily buying the N some inner quiet, but at other people’s expense.
9: Empathy for Other People
Once the N accepts their pain & gets some control over the negative Introject’s voice, they can start noticing who other people really are. But it’s still mainly from their own point of view. Tentative, fledgling empathy will be based on the other person :
— being no emotional threat to the narcissist
— reminding them of themselves (symbiosis)
— being / having been traumatized in similar ways to the N’s experience
The therapist’s consistent, non-judgmental, compassionate interest in them allows the N’s defenses to become less rigid, improving client-therapist relationship.
Little by little they come to trust that they can be authentic in sessions – because the therapist has seen their ‘worst’ side & nothing terrible happened to either one.
As healing continues, the N can take baby steps forward by trying to be more ‘real’ with others as well. If this works, reliance on the old “false self” defenses lessens —> which leads to becoming more comfortable in their skin —-> to being more spontaneous —> to feeling better overall.
Because therapy with NPDs is complex, involving many stages, it takes a long time – there’s a lot of ground to cover. Sadly, most don’t want to do all of this work, or just can’t.
However, those who do keep plugging away at the growth-process eventually improve, at least somewhat. How much depends on sticking to it year after year, encouraged by tangible improvements in their life – internally & externally.
(Article based on a Quora post, 6/28/19).
NEXT: Narcissists’ GROWTH Goals (#3)