As a psychiatrist, I strongly believe that it is important to know about the narcissistic personality so you can have realistic expectations when dealing with coworkers, friends or family members who may have some of these qualities.
In "Emotional Freedom" I describe how to recognize a narcissist. Here are some ways: Their motto is "Me first!" Everything's all about them. They have a grandiose sense of self-importance and entitlement, crave admiration and attention. A legend in their own mind, the world is reflected in their image. They'll corner you at a party, recount their life saga. Some narcissists are unlikable, flagrant egotists. Others can be charming, intelligent, caring -- that is, until their guru-status is threatened. When you stop stroking their ego or beg to disagree, they can turn on you and become punishing. Once you catch onto this pattern, a narcissist seems about as charming as a banana peel.
These people are so dangerous because they lack empathy, have a limited capacity for unconditional love. Sadly, their hearts either haven't developed or have been shut down due to early psychic trauma, such as being raised by narcissistic parents, a crippling handicap both emotionally and spiritually. The damage of narcissistic parenting is outstandingly detailed in Alice Miller's "Drama of the Gifted Child." Hard as it may be to comprehend, these people have little insight into their actions, nor do they regret them. Though often highly intuitive, they mainly use intuition for self-interest and manipulation. As the Hassidic proverb cautions, "There is no room for God in him that is full of himself."
To find out if you're dealing with a narcissist, ask yourself the following questions from "Emotional Freedom."
QUIZ: Am I in a Relationship With a Narcissist?
- Does the person act as if life revolves around him?
- Do I have to compliment him to get his attention or approval?
- Does the person constantly steer the conversation back to him or herself?
- Does he or she downplay my feelings or interests?
- If I disagree, does he or she become cold or withholding?
If you answer "yes" to one or two questions, it's likely you're dealing with a narcissist. Responding "yes" to three or more questions suggests that a narcissist is violating your emotional freedom.
Narcissists are hard nuts to crack. With these patients, the best I can do is align with their positive aspects and focus on behaviors that they agree aren't working. Still, even if one wants to change, progress is limited, with meager gains. My professional advice: Don't fall in love with a narcissist or entertain illusions they're capable of the give and take necessary for intimacy. In such relationships you'll always be emotionally alone to some degree. If you have a withholding narcissist spouse, beware of trying to win the nurturing you never got from your parents; it's not going to happen. Also, don't expect to have your sensitivity honored. These people sour love with all the hoops you must jump through to please them.
If a narcissist is draining you emotionally, use these methods to get your power back.
Lower Your Expectations and Strategize Your Needs
- Keep your expectations realistic.
Enjoy their good qualities, but understand they're emotionally limited, even if they're sophisticated in other ways. Accepting this, you won't continue asking something of friends, family, or coworkers they can't give. Consider this definition of insanity: when you repeat the same actions but expect a different response.
- Never make your self-worth dependent on them.
Don't get caught in the trap of always trying to please a narcissist. Also protect your sensitivity. Refrain from confiding your deepest feelings to someone who won't cherish them.
- Show how something will be to their benefit.
To successfully communicate with narcissists, frame things this way. Stating your needs clearly rarely works, nor does getting angry, or demanding. Alternatively, speak to what means something to them. Instead of saying to your spouse, "I'd really enjoy going to a family dinner," reframe it as, "Everyone really likes you. They'd be delighted to have you there." Or instead of saying to your employer, "I'd prefer to work fewer nights," say, "I can bring in more revenue for your company during these hours." Naturally, it's better not to have to contend with the tedious ego-stroking of a narcissist. But if the relationship is unavoidable, use this technique to achieve your desired outcome.
Judith Orloff MD is author of the New York Times Bestseller Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself From Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life (Three Rivers Press, 2010) upon which this excerpt is based. Her other bestsellers are Positive Energy, Intuitive Healing, and Second Sight. Dr. Orloff synthesizes the pearls of traditional medicine with cutting edge knowledge of intuition and energy medicine. She passionately believes that the future of medicine involves integrating all this wisdom to achieve emotional freedom and total wellness. www.drjudithorloff.com.
Book Review by Caroline Myss
Caroline Myss is a pioneer in the fields of intuition and mysticism and bestselling author of Anatomy of the Spirit
EMOTIONAL FREEDOM: Liberate Yourself From Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life (Three Rivers Press, $14) written by Judith Orloff MD is the perfect book to come along at the perfect time. I couldn't put it down!
We live in a tumultuous, fear-dominated period in history and must become masters at overcoming fear and other negative emotions so they don't sabotage our power. With skill and compassion, Dr. Judith Orloff shows us how to become heroes in our own lives by transforming anger, loneliness, and envy and more rather than simply "reacting" when our buttons get pushed.
An Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA and intuition expert, Dr. Orloff shares her wealth of personal and professional knowledge to illuminate the field of emotions. She draws on wisdom from traditional medicine but goes light years beyond it by presenting emotions as a path to spiritual, energetic, and intuitive awakening. Why is this leap so important? The intellect has restricted vision about emotions, but bringing intuition into the feeling realm lets us go deeper within. Dr. Orloff asks us to see every success, every heartbreak, every loss, every gain as vehicles for transformation. She teaches readers to view emotions in a non-ordinary way, rather than simply making you happy or miserable. Everyone will benefit from the insightful instructions that continually guide us and also from the author's intimate personal journey and well-earned life wisdom. Judith is the kind of doctor we wish we all had.
Part One of the book introduces you to the four components of emotions: their biology, spirituality, energetic power, and psychology. Understanding each component in yourself will lead to inner breakthroughs that aren't possible without seeing the whole picture. It offers a self-assessment test to evaluate your current level of emotional freedom so you can increase it practicing this book's principles. Dr. Orloff invites you into her romance with sleep and dreams as revolutionary states of consciousness. She also helps readers determine their "emotional type" including "the intellectual," and "the empath. "so they can make the most of their own finest qualities. As an empath, Dr. Orloff knows the gigantic challenges of being an "emotional sponge" and teaches other empaths who've been labeled "overly sensitive" how to stay grounded in an often-overwhelming world.
You'll enjoy the "emotional vampire survival guide"--specific advice for dealing with emotional drainers. We've all met them. You're talking to someone, when suddenly you feel anxious, depressed, or tired. She describes the narcissist, the victim, the controller, and other types of vampires. Plus, there are quizzes to help you determine "Are you in a relationship with an emotional vampire?" or if you might be one yourself. Sometimes, we all have the capacity to be draining, but with mindful compassion we can catch ourselves early and make a shift.
Part Two of the book offers a hands-on approach for facing the most prevalent negative emotions and building positive ones Each chapter is called a "transformation" in which you learn how to transform a negative emotion into its counterpoint. For instance, fear is transformed with courage, frustration with patience, and jealousy with self-esteem.
You learn to do this in your life by taking a wealth of quizzes, from Dr. Orloff's patient studies, and her own intimate journey with each emotion.
Emotional Freedom is the rare book that can open your mind and your heart to more empowerment. Give yourself a gift and read it.