As a therapist I often get asked how to do you deal with narcissistic people? During graduate school I had a professor tell the class “you are not going to like everyone that walks into your office.” She was very right. She continued to explain in order to get passed that is trying to find at least ONE thing you like about the client. Just one thing.
Right after grad school I worked as an intern at Federal Probation Program. I thought it was the coolest job ever. My role with the program was to perform these 2-hour long assessment on individuals who were on probation and had committed federal crimes. We’re talking about smuggling cash, drugs and people across the border. There we’re also people who had history of murder, rape, child abuse, and much more! Reading their files was like reading a script for a television series.
Shockingly, I grew to really like some of the clients. They don’t all present like hard ass criminals that look scary and imitating. They were actually very kind to me, which caught me off guard. As therapist we’re trained to stay neutral and non-judgmental. What can I say, I’m human too…. but that’s another story…
Going back to dealing with closed minded people, the hardest case I had during this internship was a man who was aroused by watching child pornography. He would never give me straight answers to my questions. He took my assessment from 2 hours to 3.5 hours! I knew I should have stopped, but there was a curiosity of understanding why watching child pornography was equivalent to watching a car chase? And that when I realized. My curiosity was not be understanding it was be trying to justify my own values and believes. This man could not see anything wrong with child pornography. He would compare it to watching a car accident or a car chase. I got excited the same way people get excited watching a car chase, you couldn’t wait to see what happened at the end.
This man was unable to take responsibility for his actions and thus comparing to something so far left field. That is called narcissism. This is just an extreme example, but this what it took for me to learn. Then I saw it in so many people. The inability to take responsibility for their actions. I’ve quickly learned to have very clear boundaries and a shield when engaging with these traits. Since I did not have clear boundaries with this client, I had spent an extra 1.5hr of my time that had set me back for the rest of the day.
Here’s how to recognize these traits:
- Feeling confused
- Becoming frustrated or angry
- Physically changes i.e.. sweating, heart rate increases etc.
- Trying to justify yourself
- Feeling bad or guilty like you did something wrong
- Wasting your time and energy
If you notice any of these signs just tell the person to stop and to revisit the conversation another time. It’s that simple… these people can be toxic and you don’t owe them a thing! toxic relationship controlling people.