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Narcissistic Traits

A client came to me regarding a relationship problem with a new partner. I will call her Bella for the purpose of this case study.

Relationship issues are a common theme in my work. Issues arise in the work-space, within the family or in personal relationships. It is well known that human communication doesn’t always follow a smooth path. This is normal. Occasionally however, a partner will begin to wonder about behaviours and attitudes that are anything but normal, and this was the case with Bella.

Bella came with a view to helping to repair what she perceived as a breakdown in a new and valued relationship. The sudden change of heart by her partner who had treated her with such care and respect only a few months previously had completely changed. Where he had been effusive in his compliments, admiring and loving, he became aggressive and abusive in the extreme. Bella attempted many times to understand what was causing the aggression only to be met with further abuse and ridicule.

When asked why she didn’t just walk away, Bella said she just wanted the person she met to come back. She had fallen for his charm, his strength and self-belief. 

She believed that by loving this man and caring for his children, joining in with his sports activities at which they both excelled, that eventually, she would find the magic button to return the relationship to the experience of those early months.

During my sessions with Bella we worked on methods and techniques to ameliorate her partners unpleasantness by introducing mental and emotional shifts in perception of herself. This included reflecting on Bella’s personal history and building up a new sense of self-worthand resilience. The abuse continued. Friends were urging Bella to stop the relationship as they could see how broken she became recounting the stories of events of unpleasantness that were often very cruel. 

When the rages subsided, her boyfriend was charming and loving once more, but the uncertainty of what would happen during weekends spent together became a strain.

An additional misery soon arose due to the criticism and abuse of Bella’s two children. Eventually, after many attempts of reasoning and pleading with her partner to bond as a family, Bella withdrew the children from contact when the malice towards them became impossible to manage.

Gradually, Bella was able to acknowledge that any change in her partner simply could not happen. He was a victim of his condition and unless willing to acknowledge this and seek help, things would continue.

If this sounds familiar, do seek help because as you will discover in the next instalment, Bella was dealing with behaviours that are commonly recognised as Narcissism. A Narcissistic temperament, or what is also known as a personality disorder, is apparent when a person will fly off the handle for no apparent reason. It may be something as simple as spilling water on the floor or expressing benign opinions. At a first meeting, this personality type will be incredible charming and charismatic; they will begin with ‘Love bombing’ and once hooked, the unfortunate victim will be on a journey of intense unhappiness, always made to feel that they are somehow inherently wrong about everything. This may manifest as criticism of any point of view that is expressed, in a style of dress, an attitude to life, friendships in general and of course family. These periodic moods become increasingly aggressive and cruel. One moment the victim will be adored and admired, the next moment, the complete opposite will occur. It really is a Jekyll and Hyde situation and deeply disturbing for anyone involved in such a relationship. For those with this mental disorder it is very rare that there is any recognition of fault at all. A Narcissist takes no prisoners.  They are relentless, verbally brutal, un-forgiving and vengeful. 

The tragedy is that such people attract gentle partners. They are attracted to a kind and gentle nature. Subsequently, a partner on the receiving end will take a deep dive into a state of depression and fear. Fear of losing this once wonderful partner and depression because of the feeling of being ‘never enough.’ Worst of all, a feeling of being useless and stupid. It doesn’t take long to lose all sense of self -respect and confidence in such a relationship.

The narcissistic temperament displays a strong sense of self -righteousness and personal power. It is what makes them so attractive. In men, they are perceived as the Alpha male and this can be intoxicating and seductive. They are often physically attractive with larger than life personalities. They are often highly sociably within their own friendship group. Behind closed doors is a very different story.

In a relationship such as this, the Narcissist will be highly controlling as well as critical. They will use methods of coercion in every part of the relationship, from holiday arrangements, outings, hobbies and in intimacy. Even a straightforward conversation becomes a ‘parry and thrust’ scenario.  If when reading this, you sense a familiar theme in your own life, then do please seek support. In the next section, we will look at Bella’s situation in more detail to explain how she adapted and learned how to develop an inner strength and resourcefulness that helped her navigate a difficult  period in her life. And eventually her total success in releasing this relationship with comparative ease.