Narcissism is more than a psychological trait that is present in great numbers in some people; moreover, it projects itself beyond the individual, affecting the relationships it establishes with others.
In other words, those who are very narcissistic process their thoughts and emotions in a characteristic way, but also express their interests and their way of being in a very marked way, often problematic and capable of harming others. .
Therefore, in this article we will see how to work in psychotherapy with people who have developed psychological problems as a result of their treatment of markedly narcissistic people.
What is narcissism?
The idea of narcissism occupies a preponderant place in popular culture. We often use the label “narcissistic” to refer to those people who seem too self-centered, who don’t think about others at all.
Indeed, as society is perceived as an entity made up of individualistic subjects and focused on their own particular desires and needs, many people consider that narcissism develops in society, especially among young people, despite the fact that scientific research in psychology does not support this assertion.
On the other hand, through the media and other forms of cultural transmission that go beyond scientific dissemination, we have a very precise idea of what narcissism is, understood as the mark of a very egocentric person who thinks little or nothing of others. This definition is partly true, but as is often the case with psychological concepts transferred to popular knowledge, many nuances are lost in the process.
In reality, the main characteristics of narcissism are the following:
- A deeply rooted belief that oneself is special, superior to others, and deserves special treatment.
- Difficulty admitting one’s own mistakes, tendency to project them towards others.
- Constant concern for her own appearance and how she is viewed by others.
- Tendency to overestimate own skills and abilities.
- Frequent need for external validation.
Being narcissistic doesn’t always translate into overconfidence or insecurity, but rather involves a voracious appetite for appreciation and admiration, a desire to be the center of attention, and a search for special treatment that proves the narcissist to be of a higher status. Narcissism is characterized by a more or less developed sense of greatness, a need for excessive admiration, and the belief that one is unique and deserves special treatment.
In psychology, narcissism is conceived as a spectrum that shows a more or less marked predisposition to reproduce a certain type and pattern of behavior; this is why, besides the existence of a narcissistic personality disorder, narcissism is also a concept approached from the Psychology of Individual Differences and Personality Traits. That is, it can be understood as a characteristic of that which is more or less normally distributed to the population and, in most cases, does not become psychopathological.
Most people are in the middle of the normal curve, with levels of narcissism far from being considered pathological, and they are self-focused people. On the other hand, there are few people who fall on one end of the two extremes, both with a lot of narcissism and with little.
Narcissism in relationships
The desire of very narcissistic people to gain the admiration and flattery of others, especially potential romantic companions, makes them very charming and charismatic. seductive behavior. However, due to his lack of empathy, it is difficult to establish a relationship of trust, mutual respect and understanding between him and his partner, which makes the relationship take little time to disintegrate.
Pathologically narcissistic people can show passion and charm on first dates; yet they see relationships as a simple transaction. For them, relationships simply serve to provide them with the attention they crave and the sexual satisfaction to fuel their ego and self-esteem. The goal is to enjoy the pleasure, and many narcissists lose interest in relationships as a partner’s intimacy increases.
It is very difficult for people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder to fall in love and build a relationship based on respect and equality of their members. Those who are extremely narcissistic will try to set very strict rules in the relationship and try to isolate their new partner from friends and family, among others. behaviors bordering on abuse and possessive control.
This is why the very marked narcissism is considered, along with Machiavellianism and psychopathy, one of the psychological traits that are part of the “black triad” (or black Triad), psychological elements linked to antisocial behaviors and not they do not. can only cause discomfort in relationships, but even facilitate the emergence of dynamics of abuse that can lead to psychological problems in couples and friendships of these people.
How do you intervene in psychotherapy with narcissistic victims?
In cases where regular treatment with a very narcissistic person has caused psychological harm to the patient, the strategies and techniques used for this type of treatment in psychotherapy are generally as follows (based on a prior assessment of needs, characteristics and of the vital context of each person).
Victims of very narcissistic people they tend to blame themselves for much of what happened which not only makes them very upset, but it is also difficult for them to overcome this experience. Therefore, in therapy, they are helped to get rid of these guilty beliefs through cognitive restructuring, a process in which the person is helped to detect these dysfunctional beliefs and to challenge them, to finally replace them with others more adapted to reality.
The EMDR approach has been shown to be effective in particular in cases in which the relationship with the narcissist has resulted in sequelae in the form of trauma or complications in the management of anxiety in general.
This intervention creates the conditions necessary for the patient’s brain to process memories of this relationship in a way that does not generate a strong emotional response associated with discomfort, so that the person accepts the facts and stops trying to “block” “The evocation of that part of his memory because of the pain he feels.
Assertiveness training and self-esteem improvement
Social skills training is often important in these cases, because it allows the person to learn from what happened and to understand all the nuances by which their relationship with the narcissist was unsatisfactory and was based on an asymmetry of power.
In this sense, the development of assertiveness is particularly relevant, and allows the patient to express his needs and feelings without constantly succumbing to the fear of rejection (which is often given to victims of very narcissistic people because they tend to underestimate the accomplishments and opinions of those around them).
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