For my very first post, I would like to share my thoughts on the very first book I ever read about NPD, Disarming the Narcissist: Surviving and Thriving with the Self-Absorbed, by Wendy Terrie Behary LCSW. But before I start, I want to say that this is my opinion and my experience. Maybe this book has worked for other people. It didn’t work for me. At all.
At the time, I was impressed by its 4-star rating on Amazon. Its description also touched close to home. From Amazon:
Do you know someone who is overly arrogant, shows an extreme lack of empathy, or exhibits an inflated sense of entitlement? Do they exploit others, or engage in magical thinking? These are all traits of narcissistic personality disorder, and when it comes to dealing with narcissists, it can be difficult to get your point across. So how do you handle the narcissistic people in your life? You might interact with them in social or professional settings, and you might even love one—so ignoring them isn’t really a practical solution. They’re frustrating, and maybe even intimidating, but ultimately, you need to find a way of communicating effectively with them.
Disarming the Narcissist, Second Edition, will show you how to move past the narcissist’s defenses using compassionate, empathetic communication. You’ll learn how narcissists view the world, how to navigate their coping styles, and why, oftentimes, it’s sad and lonely being a narcissist. By learning to anticipate and avoid certain hot-button issues, you’ll be able to relate to narcissists without triggering aggression. By validating some common narcissistic concerns, you’ll also find out how to be heard in conversation with a narcissist.
This book will help you learn to meet your own needs while side-stepping unproductive power struggles and senseless arguments with someone who is at the center of his or her own universe. This new edition also includes new chapters on dealing with narcissistic women, aggressive and abusive narcissists, strategies for safety, and the link between narcissism and sex addiction.
Finally, you’ll learn how to set limits with your narcissist and when it’s time to draw the line on unacceptable behavior.
I wanted to find a way to communicate effectively with my husband. I looked inside the book in Amazon and I was thinking “Bingo! This is what I need.” I ordered it. You know how that goes.
I couldn’t wait for my book to arrive and I started devouring it as soon as I had it in my hands. The first chapters were somewhat informative. I learnt about the different types of narcissists. I also somewhat learnt why they are the way they are. I liked the worksheets, too. However, I soon started to get disillusioned with this book.
In summary, the author asks you to do the mothering the narcissist didn’t get as a child or while growing up. By then, I had already arrived to my own conclusions that my husband was partially the way he was because of my mother-in-law doing whatever she felt like doing, her husband being an enabler and codependent, and them not setting limits on his son, nor being there for him when they should have.
I had already done some mothering of my own with my husband and I was very resentful about that. I was so unhappy and resentful towards my mother-in-law for having left her homework to me. (By the way, that is something that I had promised myself I would never do to my daughter’s spouse: Whatever I fail to do when raising my daughter, if she were to get married one day, he will have to put up with my shortcomings and that’s not fair to him.) Maybe I can post about those things another time. But let’s get back to our book review.
By the way, if you try to re-mother your spouse, he or she will accuse you of trying to control him or her. That’s exactly what happened to me. Even when I was just trying to show support, I was being accused of being a control freak.
Either way, I was willing to give the book a try. So I armed myself with the advice I found in this book and I tried to see the world the way my husband saw it. I failed miserably. His view is so distorted that no matter how hard I would try, I failed completely at it. Every time he would come home feeling hurt by some supposed shortcoming from one of his clients or how this or that person was unfair to him, I would try to see it from his point of view, but I would end up seeing how he was just giving me his own version of the facts, actual ones or fabricated by him. I would ask him questions and I would see why his client would be upset at him. The thing is, a narcissist is never wrong. Everybody else is at fault. So no matter how my husband would present the scenario, I would keep going back to the client’s position and see how my husband had failed to provide what he or she needed simply because my husband is incapable of putting himself in the other person’s shoes.
Like Henry Ford use to say, “A customer can have any colour he likes, so long as it’s black.” Can you imagine were Ford Motor Company would be today if they would have continued to make black and only black cars? I don’t want to bore you with the details of my husband’s job, but basically, he kept on trying to sell a client a black car when he or she wanted a yellow bicycle while trying to convince them all along why they “needed” a black car and they didn’t “want” a yellow bicycle.
The book also promises to help you move past the narcissist’s defenses by being compassionate and using empathetic communication. The problem, to me, was that I had already been doing that for years. And now I had to do it even more. And so I did. As a result, he would get even more upset at me and hurt me in ways that I had not been hurt before. In other words, it made it worse and I buried myself more and more in my hole. I started to feel more frustrated for not being able to understand him or reach him or make him understand me.
The book also promises to help you learn to anticipate and avoid certain hot-button issues; to be able to related to your narcissist without triggering their aggression. Well, that didn’t happen to me. I was not able to anticipate any hot-button issues, old or new. And when new ones arouse, I had no idea which way to go. I would try to implement the techniques in the book and it would just make it worse.
I also became frustrated with the book because it doesn’t dive deeply in much needed information. It just gives you an overview of the pathology, enough for you to keep reading and hope that you will find the solutions you are looking for in the upcoming chapters. That never happened to me. I ended up giving up on the book as my husband’s rage kept creeping up with every encounter.
The book doesn’t touch narcissist injury or rage. To some degree, I felt that the book was defending the narcissist without really providing those suffering the narcissist with realistic coping tools or skills. I tried to set limits and all I got was more pain in return. The author seems to think that narcissism is treatable. It is not. In fact, it gets worse with age. And this is not my personal opinion. It is known in the psychological community that has taken appropriate action to truly understand this pathology. It might be treatable when the person is still in formative years. Narcissism tends to cement its foundation in an individual during the teenage and early adult years. If you are dealing with someone in either one of those age groups, you might be able to apply some of the advice provided in this book and hope for the best (but don’t do it alone and get support for yourself, as well.) My husband was well in his mid-40’s when I got hold of this book. And a person who is not willing to change by that age will not change no matter how much love, compassion, support, and empathethic communication you provide them.
The author emphasizes the need to let the narcissist know how their behaviour hurts you. Well, I didn’t need a book to tell me that. For years, I had been trying to explain to my husband in so many different ways how when he would do _______, I would feel _______ and all I would get in return was more confusion, hurt, and frustration at myself mostly since I didn’t know anything about gaslight or how to handle it back then or at the time of reading this book.
(Now that I think about it, I don’t recall the author mentioning the word gaslight once in her book.)
The book also asks you to take a look at yourself and consider what it is that you are doing that triggers the narcissist’s reactions. I don’t believe that’s fair to the person who is dealing with the narcissist. If that person is reading this book is because they have already looked at themselves many times, they are already confused, and they are willing to do anything in their power to improve the situation, even if that means keep changing themselves, trying to find out what they are doing that triggers the narcissistic rage. I believe that by saying this, the author is actually inflicting more injury on an already hurt individual who is already suffering enough.
I never finished reading the book. I was so disappointed in it. I started to read it convinced that I could learn how to manage my husband’s behaviour and how to control my own behaviour in response to his so I wouldn’t get further hurt. As a result, I ended up giving him more power to further abuse me and take advantage of my already vulnerable state. Moreover, I probably stayed longer in the relationship because I wanted to give the advice in this book a chance and because I genuinely believed back then that there was hope for change. I didn’t know back then that you cannot cure NPD and the best way to have to protect yourself is going No Contact or Minimal Contact if you must stay in touch with your narcissist because of children or any other similar reason.
There are much better books out there that actually helped me start my healing process. I will slowly post about those as time goes by.
So that’s it for my first post. Summarizing, steer away from this book. It’s not worth your time, your money, or your heart.