Healthcare Training Institute - Quality Education since 1979
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In the last section, we discussed three concepts related to a narcissistic client’s need for power and control. These three concepts related to a narcissistic client’s need for power and control included: preventing humiliation; envy; and rage.
In this section, we will examine three aspects of a narcissistic client’s need for manipulation. These three aspects of a narcissistic client’s need for manipulation include: parental attention in early childhood; splitting of the identity; and seduction as power.
♦ Aspect #1: Parental Attention in Early Childhood
The child, on the other hand, wants or needs to seem "special" or worthy in the eyes of his or her parents. In early childhood, an unspoken agreement occurs between that of parent and child. If the child performs the role his or her parent wishes, the parent will then regard his or her child as special.
Lowell, age 35, had described to me his mother’s constant attention and validation. He stated, "She always told me that I was one of God’s children. Not in the broader sense, as in everyone is God’s children, but that I was special somehow, that I was chosen. When she read to me the story of the declaration of Israel as God’s Chosen People, I knew instinctively that she was trying to show me I was like them. I felt a little like Jesus. But when I was bad, she punished me severely. There were many beatings in my childhood."
♦ Aspect #2: Splitting of Identity
In this process, the parent’s values become superior to those values associated with the body and its feelings. To be special is therefore to be superior to one’s bodily self. The child comes to believe that what the parent rejected was only the child’s "lower" nature. This illusion assuages the pain, which is then denied. The child’s new self-image acquires status as an expression of his or her "higher" nature.
Nick, age 39, had dissociated his "lower" nature from his "higher" nature. He stated, "My father had always told me that weakness was a sin. So whenever I cried, I tried my hardest to stop myself. I knew that that part of me was not acceptable and I could never gain my father’s approval. So now everyone thinks I’m a tough guy, because I can’t cry and never want to."
♦ Aspect #3: Seduction as Power
This manipulative and seductive behavior is learned in early childhood when the client was taught that certain behavior is rewarded through intimacy and approval. Similarly, the client will make his or her own intimacy and approval desirable to others in an attempt to make them behave in an acceptable manner. However, the manipulated will perceive they are being used and resent the client which then poses even more difficulty for the narcissist.
Technique: Respect over Control
I stated to Terence, "I can honestly say that most of these women feel disrespected by your actions, and they should. Their anger is justified in that you have treated them as mere sexual objects, not working human beings. Although you may view yourself as just an instrument of your firm, these women felt betrayed by being used as an instrument by you." To help Terence become more respectful of the women around the office, I suggested he try the "Respect over Control" exercise.
I stated that to begin this technique, the next time he begins to see another person that he would like to gain control over, he might instead stop and write down their characteristics. Not physical characteristics, but what he can discern from their own behavior. Are they confident, shy, good humored? Instead of framing others by how they could be useful to his own ambitions, this exercise forces Terence to instead define others by what they wished to be defined by. In other words, they become more human.
The next week, Terence showed me the characteristics he wrote down. For the new office assistant, Gina, Terence wrote: "She likes to laugh, but not because she’s pleased. She gets nervous, and smiles to break her own facial tension." In his description, Terence made a feeling observation, that Gina was nervous. Think of your Terence. Would he or she benefit from the "Respect over Control" exercise?
In this section, we discussed three aspects of a narcissistic client’s need for manipulation. These three aspects of a narcissistic client’s need for manipulation included: parental attention in early childhood; splitting of the identity; and seduction as power.
In the next section, we will examine three aspects of the narcissistic client’s need to control emotion and the connection to past traumatic experiences. These three aspects of the narcissistic client’s need to control emotion and the connection to past traumatic experiences include: horror; the fear of insanity; and repression of feelings.