Leaning Toward Happiness
By Jennifer Buergermeister © 2015
“If you want to be in relationship with me, you have to accept me as I am.”
A leader in understanding and treating narcissism, the late Joanna Ashmun said, “The nature of narcissists’ personality disorder is so profound and so primitive that narcissists damage virtually everyone who comes into contact with them. They hurt their children in ways that are hardly imaginable to anyone who hasn’t been there. Narcissists elicit profound and primitive wrath and hostility from sane and stable people. This damages the social fabric by alienating the very people who might possibly be able to counterbalance the narcissists’ malign influences. Narcissists are generally not candidates for conventional analytical treatment, since psychological analysis is a dialogue and narcissism is a soliloquy. Because of narcissists’ incapacity for genuine relationship, their treatment tends to be of the “Band-Aid” variety that deals with specific acute difficulties, such as depression, which can be treated with drugs. Part of Narcissistic Personality Disorder is the conviction is that ‘I’m okay, it’s everybody else who’s not okay,’ so narcissists rarely seek treatment voluntarily.”
Withdrawal is usually the first defense mechanism to reach avoidance. Narcissists are great at this!
However studies show that alienation of potential mates, friends and loved ones has swift and terrible effects on narcissists. Their thinking quickly deteriorates into chaotic incoherency and disorganization. I term this the train of tears where the inconsistencies take over. Nothing makes sense when they get to this stage. They were already on the edge to get there. They have difficulties sometimes in routine tasks to stay organized.
The first order of business is to restore and fortify the narcissists’ ego defenses to help the narcissist recover from the underlying issue – the habitual grandiose and self-obsessed self-image. When the narcissist feels pain, or rejection, though their therapy may have brought them some reasonable recovery thus far, the narcissist usually reverts to denial and often leaves therapy before the real work can be done on the underlying personality disorder. They’ve pushed healthy relationships away and find comfort in those who are more like them hence perpetuating the problem that lies underneath it all. To change, the key is to hang around people who are more like what you want to become. This can be confusing and difficult for the narcissist considering they revert to old habits and defensive mechanisms that prevent them from further awareness (denial) regarding their depression and feelings of inner turmoil.
Inner turmoil may be feelings of inadequacy, insecurities about the future, job satisfaction, or how to love and be loved.
How can you convince a narcissist to lean in, as Brene’ Brown calls it, instead of avoiding? This is the question that many therapists, wives, husbands, daughters, sons, lovers, family and friends want to have answered.
A posting from Confessions of a Recovering Narcissist by Lion Goodman that I found is a nice example of one man’s journey into relational fulfillment by overcoming Narcissism. Goodman shared:
“I had good relationships with great women – strong, smart sexy females who thought I was a great guy… until I suddenly withdrew, or made plans without checking with them, or took off to chase success, or an intense experience, or another woman. As long as my needs were getting met in the relationship, I was pretty happy. But when I wasn’t, I began looking around for the next opportunity to fulfill my desires. My partners were not weak or timid – they often confronted me about my choices and behavior. But my answer was typical of an intelligent narcissist: “If you want to be in relationship with me, you have to accept me as I am.” And they did – until they couldn’t take it anymore. I felt completely justified in my world-view. If they couldn’t love me as I was, there were plenty of women who would.”
Goodman continued, “Each time I made a mess of a personal (or business) relationship, I felt bad. I recognized the damage I was causing, and began to look inward for answers in therapy, and in my men’s group. I read books and articles about narcissism, and worked on changing my beliefs, my early programming, and my social conditioning. I knew I had to change. I wanted to learn to really love. To do this, I needed to learn how to be unselfish.”
I was very impressed how he recognized as a first step in his personality disorder that psychologically it’s hard to focus on the other person’s needs when your own needs are screaming out to be cared for. He wisely continued that he finely realized that as your relationship deepens with time, so your capacity to love. THAT IS HUGE for a narcissist to realize! It was at that very moment that I knew this book would find solutions for people to be happy. I nearly did a cartwheel when he said, [Since] safety is a key to a making a relationship work, narcissism is destabilizing and damaging. He absolutely gets it!
“Someone who acts selfishly without regard for the other is unpredictable. At any time, they may suddenly focus on getting their own needs met, and withdraw from the two-ness of the relationship. Ultimately, in my journey from narcissism to healthy loving partnership, the woman I now love has been a teacher,” Goodman said, “She has shown that honoring the needs of a beloved other can bring with it a potent sense of satisfaction and well being, more so than any of the short-term fixes of following selfish impulses.”
His girlfriend caught his attention with this one question, “Do you want your woman to really open to you? With her heart, mind and passionate body?”
Goodman reflected, “The key to this reality is your honest, continuous care about her, and about your impact on her. You can tell when you have hurt her, or harmed the relationship with your selfish behavior. She will react quickly look unhappy, and express disappointment. She withdraws when you try to relate to her, closing down, disconnecting – the opposite of how you want her to be with you…You don’t need to be perfect or relate perfectly, you just need to own that you have caused damage when it happens. He said to get curious enough to repair it as quickly as possible. If you make your woman’s happiness your priority, she will fill up with her own Feminine Spirit and want to give you her best all the time. You’ll get your deepest needs fulfilled as a result.”
Support groups are great avenues for overcoming any difficulties for individuals or families of those who have personality disorder, depression, addiction or other issues we face from time to time. Find a local support group and get the support you may need right away. You’re worth being happy. Lean in!