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In the last 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 this 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.
Three Aspects of the Narcisstic Client's Need to Control Emotion
♦ Aspect #1: Horror
Instead of feeling a threat, the client may feel outside of the event, and in addition may not be able to comprehend the situation at the time. This idea of incomprehensibility directly affects the client’s ability to understand and interpret his or her own feelings. They may give up on feelings and emotions altogether, and it is at this time that the narcissistic client begins to numb him or herself.
Gerald, age 34, recounted several instances in which he witnessed horrific events occurring to his family members. Gerald stated, "When I was five, I remember my mom becoming hysterical a lot and when that happened, my dad would fly into a rage. He beat her pretty badly and my sisters would start crying. Then he would beat them too. I was younger but understood that crying got you beaten, so I refused to cry. He never beat me. I don’t remember being horrified, but I guess it was a terrible thing for him to do."
♦ Aspect #2: The Fear of Insanity
The narcissistic client faces the risk of being overwhelmed by feelings and going wild, or "insane" in their own words. In my experience, every narcissistic client is afraid of becoming insane because the potential for insanity, he or she believes, is in his or her personality. Many times this is a result of what the client has observed of the parent in young childhood.
Bob, age 45, had been brutally attacked by a hitchhiker. The disturbed hitchhiker hit Bob in the back of the head with a rock, but did not try to rob or continue the violence. Even during this encounter, Bob stated that he was not afraid, even though he was sure his attacker was going to kill him. When I asked him about his childhood, Bob recalled that his father had beaten him on multiple occasions, without provocation.
He stated, "He used to hit me on the head with his fists. I tried to protect my head with my arms, but he would continue to hit me until I fell to the floor. I thought he was psychotic. I grew up thinking my father was actually crazy and that I was going to be crazy." Bob’s emotional withdrawal came as a direct result from his father’s own brutality. During the hitchhiker’s attack, Bob slipped into complete incapacity. He adopted an attitude of submission, just as he had done with his father. In Bob’s mind, he may become insane if he also reacted irrationally.
♦ Aspect #3: Repression of Feeling
♦ Technique: Grieving Pantomime
To help Hank grieve for the loss of his childhood, I suggested that he, along with clients like Gerald and Bob, try the "Grieving Pantomime" exercise. This exercise requires the clients to act as though they are crying or mourning. In my experience, I have found that merely acting out certain emotions facilitates the expression of the bottled up emotions. I asked Hank to think about his mother and the day she was mugged. I then asked him to sporadically let out a verbal sob. By making a noise, I believed that the appearance of sadness would instigate the genuine expression of sadness.
In this section, we discussed 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 included: horror; the fear of insanity; and repression of feelings.
In the next section, we will examine three aspects of anger and its relation to the narcissistic client’s need for power and control. These three aspects of anger and its relation to the narcissistic client’s need for power and control include: the right to be angry; physical body restraint; and false anger.