{Blog} Part-2 What to do when Extreme Narcissism Wreaks Havoc In Your life

I can still remember when I learned about something called narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) It made so much more sense to me what had been going on in my life.

I saw first-hand the crushing effects of narcissism and what it does to those in its wake. If you’ve ever been exposed to a narcissist, you know that the effects can be truly devastating.

I finally learned what I needed to do about it so history wouldn't repeat itself in my life. You've heard me say in other posts. NPD is an epidemic, Its in the workplace, you may be a child who grew up with a narcissistic parent, or they may be your spouse.. it's continually being demonstrated that people all over the world are dealing with toxicity and narcissism, and simply don’t know how to handle it. I was one of those people.

Becoming AWARE is the first step.

To learn more about extreme narcissism, I was eager to educate myself and found Kathy Caprino, who's a Senior Contributor for Forbes, she's Also a therapist who has a lot of experience with NPD. She met with Dr. Joseph Burgo, a psychotherapist of 30 years and the author of the book The Narcissist You Know: Defending Yourself Against Extreme Narcissists in an All-About-Me World and Why Do I Do That? Psychological Defense Mechanisms and the Hidden Ways They Shape Our Lives.

Joe’s blog, AfterPsychotherapy.com, draws more than 30,000 visits per month, and he is a regular writer and commentator for news outlets including The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Atlantic and NPR and the voice behind the Psychology Today blog “Shame.”

Here's Kathy's short interview with Dr. Joseph Burgo about extreme narcissism, how to recognize it, and deal with it.

Kathy Caprino: Joe, what contributes to the emergence of Extreme Narcissism in an individual? What happens in childhood that brings rise to it and how can parents behave differently to ensure a child grows up healthy and secure?

Joe Burgo: In my book, I explain Extreme Narcissism as a defense against core shame, defined as an internal sense of damage, defect or ugliness. Core shame takes root in the earliest months and years of life and results from gross failures in parenting and attachment: a severely depressed mother, a physically absent father, drug or alcohol abuse, violent parental discord, etc. The late British psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott talked about an innate “blueprint for normality” – an inherited expectation for what each child will encounter upon birth. When early childhood departs dramatically from that expectation, core shame is the result. It doesn’t depend upon shaming behavior from the parents but may be compounded by it. Because the experience of core shame is unbearably painful, the growing child may develop a false and idealized self-image to ward it off, a “winner” self-identity meant to deny and disprove the experience of being ugly, damaged, or defective – that is, a “loser.” Defending this winner self-image often depends upon identifying someone else as the loser. Just as a comic depends upon a straight man to support his identity as the funny one, an Extreme Narcissist exploits other people as losers to carry his sense of defect or damage. My book identifies different types of Extreme Narcissism and shows how each of them exploits other people to sustain a defensive and idealized self-image.

Caprino: Does being "shamed" and shaming behavior from parents contribute to narcissism? What else is involved?

Burgo: Being shamed by parents and other people compounds the agonizing experience of core shame. Some parents use their children to carry an off-loaded (and unconscious) sense of shame of their own, turning their offspring into losers and then feeling superior to them. Such children are usually crippled by this experience and never thrive. While some people who are shamed by their parents succumb to depression and a sense of inferiority, others develop a defensive identity to ward off the shame. An idealized false self embodies that defense, where defensive character traits (contempt, blaming, self-righteousness, etc.) become embedded in the winner personality. The Extreme Narcissist feels this defensive personality as synonymous with the self and has no conscious awareness of the core shame behind it.Narcissistic parents who are themselves invested in being perceived as winners often exploit their children for narcissistic gain, encouraging them to become winners as an extension of the parental self. (I use the example of Tiger Woods and his father Earl as an example, where a narcissistic parent nurtures a narcissistic child, both of them needing to perceive themselves as winners.) Narcissism begets narcissism.

Caprino: What are the hallmarks of it among your colleagues or peers - the top five signs?

Burgo: There’s a lot of valuable and widely repeated information available online, about how to identify narcissists, most of it tied to the DSM diagnostic criteria. My book distinguishes different types of Extreme Narcissism, each one characterized by a different prominent feature. Rather than repeating those five common signs available elsewhere, I’d like to suggest five different types of Extreme Narcissism with their prominent features:

The Bullying Narcissist: Builds up his or her self-image by persecuting you and making you feel like a loser.

The Seductive Narcissist: Makes you feel good about yourself, as if you’re a winner, in order to secure your admiration … then dumps you.

The Know-It-All Narcissist: Constantly demonstrates superior knowledge in order to make others feel ignorant, uninformed, and inferior.

The Vindictive Narcissist: When challenged or wounded, will do everything possible to destroy the perceived cause of shame.

The Addicted Narcissist: Seeks fulfillment of an idealized self through drugs, sex, or fantasy, in ways that are often invisible to outsiders.

Caprino: What are your best strategies for helping people deal with extreme narcissism in both the workplace and personal life?

Burgo: Here are strategies that I've found to be effective:

Don’t engage in battle: Remember that the winner-loser dynamic is always at play in Extreme Narcissism, even if it’s not readily apparent. Because Extreme Narcissists are relentless in defending their winner self-image, you will never prevail if you fight back to prove you are actually the winner.Bear in mind that shame is always the issue, even though the Extreme Narcissist is almost always unaware of it. For this reason, be excessively cautious not to wound his or her self-esteem, even when you don’t see your comments or behavior as hurtful.Set aside expectations of fairness and justice.

Objections such as “I didn’t mean it that way!” or “That’s not fair!” are meaningless to the Extreme Narcissist. Winning is all that matters and you need to recognize that you will never persuade the Extreme Narcissist to be reasonable.Document everything.Because Extreme Narcissists are often ruthless and vindictive, take every precaution to defend yourself. This often means laying the foundation for legal action that may prove necessary, including preserving emails or other written exchanges, getting witness statements, etc. The endgame often depends upon having legal proof.

Get as much distance as possible.You will never change the Extreme Narcissist. Don’t delude yourself that you can get him or her to “see the light.” Don’t think you can save the Addicted Narcissist, or persuade the Seductive Narcissist to come back.

Caprino: What happens to children of narcissists? What do they need to be aware of in themselves and why is it common that adult children of narcissists attract more narcissistic people and responses in their lives?

Burgo: The adult children of narcissistic parents are attuned to the needs and expectations of self-absorbed people because this is how they survived childhood. They learned that to be accepted (if not truly loved for who they are), they must shape their behavior/personality to meet the needs of others. As adults, they naturally fall into the same pattern with other narcissistic people because it is familiar to them. They believe such self-abnegating behavior will earn them love and acceptance. Each new relationship revives the hope that this time, at long last, someone will give them the love and full acceptance they have always longed for.

Capino: why the adult children of narcissistic parents need to be aware of the ways they will sacrifice their own needs to serve other selfish people; they need to place a value on their own needs and develop a sense of self-worth apart from the approval they constantly seek from their partners, friends, colleagues, etc.

For more information, visit Joe’s blog Shame, and his new book The Narcissist You Know. Other helpful resources include the book Shame: The Underside of Narcissism by Andrew Morrison and The Workplace Bullying Institute.

For more from Kathy Caprino, visit her 6-part webinar training series Dealing With Narcissism.

Ive had my own experience's and wanted to share through the lens of a psychotherapist of 30 years and a therapist who also dealt with narcissism in the work place, (and in her life as well). I hope this helps illustrate how far reaching this epidemic is and to give you some resources to check into yourself and break the chain.

Know you're phenomenal, know you are worthy, and know you ARE enough!

Look for part 3 in the energy vampire series of my {New Blog} coming soon.

Stay tuned for more on this blog for plenty of positive and actionable tools and insights you can use.

Also be sure to report back and share your own experiences with this kind of energy vampire!

And please, if you found this information useful, then spread the love and use the link below to share this post with people you know.

Until then, Love and Light!

Lorie Paige

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