They cannot help it.To an experienced therapist, a narcissist identifies themselves.
What if you’re not experienced, however?Or you’re a client in joint therapy as a partner or family member?How do yourecognize them? Here’s a list of behaviorsto look for:
They comedictating the terms. They’ve labeled their partner as the main and only problem, and signal this to the therapist.
They expect things done “their”way, otherwise they threaten to quit therapy or leave their relationship.
They hoard therapy time, derail the focus of conversations, absorb the therapist’senergy on what’s wrong with their partner.
They refuse to cooperate with simple therapy processes if they are held accountable to change or own their role in healing the relationship.
They dismiss the views of others in the family when those views differ from their own.
They lack empathyfor others, but mostly because they feel it’s beneath them, and associatethistrait with thosewho are weak, for example, they mayrefuseto participate in empathy/active listening exercises when asked toreflect back the words and feelings another person expressed.
They try to get out of takingresponsibility for their hurtful actions, and instantly dismiss any complaints as against them, unjustified,untrue, perhaps alsocomplain that therapist is siding against them.
They interactwith the therapist, as if it were a competition, for whose in controlof the focus, and direction of therapywith regard towhatthe “real” issuesare, etc. (It’s common for them tocontactthetherapist privatelyto provide a bulletlist of ways their spouse”needs” tobe fixed — either prior to the initial meeting or shortly thereafter.)
They come with rigid, predetermined ideasof whats happening in the family and what orwhose to blame and this view is designed to make them look good– and keyothers bad.
They displaya neediness to be seen as ideal, neverquestioned, and expect others in the family to promote the image they have of themselves(or else).
They feel entitled to maketheir pain, disappointments, concerns, etc., the sole focus of therapy, and may retaliate, pout, act bored or display anger if others’ concerns get attention.
They feel entitled” to preferential treatment in therapy, and expect the therapist to side with them and their case against their spouse or family member.
They feel it necessary tolet the therapist know, directly or indirectly, if theyre pleased or displeased, a form of emotional manipulation oftherapist to keep them ontrack, focusedon their concerns.
They belittle or lash out or make excuses toget out of showingempathy or hearinganother family members pain.
They use the gas lighting technique to redirect focus of discussion away from others’ complaints.. and casually treat or make others feel like theyre the crazy ones, to include lying, making up stories, accusing others of what they do.
They are dismissive or scornful ofthosewho do not conform with their wishes, and attempt to discredit or dismiss their views,thoughts, perceptions, etc.
They feel entitled to not follow the same rules as other family members, and to make or break rules as they please.
They demand a lot and give little or no emotional support to others, andpretend they are autonomous, anddon’t “need” a thing from others.
They expectloyalty and relentlessly seek proof of this using a combination of rewards (i.e., money) and punishments (i.e., shaming, guilting) to keep their victims hooked.
They have little or no capacityto listen to or understandanothers pain even whenthey are the ones who have wronged or hurt the other, i.e., infidelity.
They exhibit temper tantrums or avoid situations, i.e., therapy, when things don’t go their way.
They demand everyone in family to includetherapist stay focused on their pain, and satisfy their neediness” to make their concernsthe sole focus of everyones attention.
They feel entitled and think its okay to hurt others to keepthem in line and, refusingto acknowledge that theyve hurt others, they act as if others should appreciate thefavor.
They look for evidence of their “effectiveness” inintimidating or making others feel small, subservient and in agreement that they deserved any punitive or cruel treatment.
They expect othersto feel honored bytheir presence or attention, however minimal or cruel.
Their goal is to prove their superiority in relation to others, make others feel insecure and inferior as a way of getting others to act subservient– andfeel very insecure when this fails, which is whenthey may either attack, avoid or turn on the charm.
In short, they cannot help it. They take pleasure in exercising their power to disarm others, subvert their will, keep their attention captive, which is also what makes them their own worst enemy when it comes to relationships.
With that said, overt narcissists are easier to identify, than covert ones. Overt narcissist are proud of their ability to openly bully and con others. In contrast, covert narcissists tend to avoid confrontation, and present as laid back, likable; they are skilled at setting their partner up to get angry, accuse them of being crazy, needing medications. In worst case scenarios, they work behind the scent to turn others, even the children, against their partner, making them appear as demanding, controlling, emasculating, and so on.
The biggest problem is their inability to feel or empathize with other’s pain,in particular, forthose theyve hurt. This is connected to their inability to feel and deal with (to self-soothe) their own pain,rootedina limiting belief that has trained theirbrain and body to experience, thus, perceive pain overall as evidence of weakness, defect and inferiority.