Christine Louis de Canonville in Conversation

with Ursula Somerville

Ursula: Thank you Christine for agreeing to have this conversation with me for our members of IAHIP. Having read your book The Three Faces of Evil, Unmasking the Full Spectrum of Narcissistic Abuse (Louis de Canonville, 2015), I realise there are so many questions I want to ask but I will frame my questions to your mission to bring this condition to fellow practitioners through education.

Christine: You are welcome Ursula. Unfortunately, the time has come when we must educate everyone, young and old, to understand and recognise the disordered symptoms of narcissism that is doing so much harm to our society.

Ursula: Perhaps we could start by you talking a little about your experience of this condition?

Christine: I grew up in a family with a sibling who had a Jekyll and Hyde personality. My brother was four years older than I, so pretty much from birth I lived with a ‘fledgling psychopath’ that I both loved and feared. In time, the lovely Dr. Jekyll side of him was pretty much taken over by the tyrannical Mr. Hyde (I cover this in more detail in my book). Surprise, surprise, by my 40s I subsequently trained as a psychotherapist and worked in the Trauma Unit of St. Brendan’s psychiatric hospital, working specifically with victims of narcissistic abuse both in my private practice and internationally for many years.

As part of my health advocacy work I then set up my website (www. narcissisticbehavior.net), where I post original and much-needed information for educating both therapists and survivors across the world. I have developed a programme for working one-to-one with victims suffering from narcissistic victim abuse, and also workshops for educating therapists and other health professionals in the whole spectrum of narcissistic abuse. I followed up my training with post-graduate studies in Criminology and Forensic Psychology, and it is through these disciplines that I gained my understanding of The Dark Triad (Narcissism, Machiavellianism and Psychopathy), better understood by health providers under the terms of the narcissist, malignant narcissist and psychopath.

Ursula: Impressive background indeed for talking about and teaching us about this much-needed topic. But, Christine, what typically does a victim of narcissistic abuse look like as they come to therapy because I understand, from reading your book, that they don’t always know they are victims?

Christine: Most victims of narcissistic abuse don’t know that they are victims, but that is changing. I do get victims ringing me asking if they can come to see me, that they believe that they may be victims of narcissistic abuse, and this is becoming more regular as people are finding my website. However, generally speaking, victims of narcissistic abuse will tend to look like any other client coming into your therapy room for the very first time. These victims are probably most likely to bring in an issue that is quite mundane and recognisable; such as, they are feeling depressed, having panic attacks, or are feeling that they cannot cope. It has been my experience that the majority of victims coming into the therapy room are unlikely to say ‘I am the victim of narcissistic abuse’. Most will have no idea that they have been living in a ‘war zone’ with a narcissistic personality in command (either in the past or in the present). Any therapist armed with knowledge of narcissistic abuse, and the practical skills of working with trauma, will become a life-line to any victim of narcissistic abuse.

Ursula: War zone – that’s pretty strong!

Christine: Yes, indeed. Unfortunately, victims living in a household where there is narcissistic abuse are living in a torturous war zone, where all forms of power and control are used against them (intimidation, emotional, physical and mental abuse, isolation, economic abuse, sexual abuse, coercion, etc.). The threat of abuse is always present, and it usually gets more violent and frequent as time goes on. The controlling narcissistic environment puts the victim in a dependency situation, where they experience an extreme form of helplessness which throws them into panic and chaos.

Of course, each client coming into therapy will have their own particular story to tell; therefore they need someone to become an active listener, and to validate what has happened to them. To my mind, it is the validation of the person’s experience that is vital from the very beginning. These clients are not mad, however, frequently they appear highly strung or nervous, and their levels of fear may be high, while their level of self-esteem is low. Often they present with obsessive compulsive behaviours, phobias, panic attacks and so at times they may actually feel that they are going mad. They may experience insomnia, and may have underlying eating disorders, so you may notice they are either underweight (as a means of having some control), or overweight (as a result of eating to self-comfort).

As a therapist working with victims of narcissistic abuse, you are likely to find yourself working with emotions involving shock, anger, fear, guilt and shame. Often the victim will be suffering from Post-Traumatic-Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Complex Post-Traumatic-Stress Disorder (cPTSD). Symptoms of PTSD are often grouped into three main categories: Re-living (flashbacks, hallucinations, nightmares, etc.), avoiding (people, places, thoughts, loss of interest, etc.), and increased arousal (excessive emotions, problems relating, difficulty in sleeping and concentration, outbursts of anger, anxiousness, panic attacks, etc.).

You may also notice that your client is inclined to ‘dissociate’ while you are talking to them. That is, it seems as if the client is tending to ‘compartmentalise their experience’. In so doing, they may appear to be detached from their emotions, body, or immediate surroundings – this experience is called derealisation.

Ursula: What is happening for the client in this dissociation?

Christine: Dissociation can be caused as a direct result of trauma, often experienced in multiple forms during narcissistic childhood traumas (i.e., physical, psychological and sexual abuse). Dissociation is an automatic and effective defence mechanism in response to overwhelming acute stress the child is being subjected to; it is as if the child ‘jumps out’ of their body in order to disconnect from the intolerable reality of the abuse while it is happening; by dissociating, the child is able to endure the highly traumatic experience without having to fully experience it.

Ursula: Christine, can you describe an experience of dissociation?

Christine: I once worked with a client who was sexually abused as a child by her narcissistic father. He would call her in when she was playing outdoors with her friends, he would sexually abuse her, then send her straight out again to play. She recounted how, during the sexual abuse, she would escape out of her body, get up on top of the wardrobe and watch what was happening to the child in the bed. She referred to the child in the bed as the ‘bold girl’ and the child on top of the wardrobe as the ‘good girl’. The bold girl never went outside the house; it was the good girl who went back out to play with all her friends. This defence mechanism protects the child against total annihilation of the self when their nervous system is strained to the limit. However, the long term effect of dissociation is that it may decrease the victim’s psychological functioning and adjustment.

Ursula: Dissociation is a vital way of being for the client in order to avoid annihilation?

Christine: It is both a vital and brilliant defence. Dissociation is a crucial strategy that protects a person during a crisis, unfortunately, trauma survivors often rely too heavily on dissociation whenever they feel stressed in a situation, it can become their automatic freeze response to stress. Numbing the body is not an advantage when a person is called to live in the world, because it can impair their ability to take appropriate fight or flight responses if faced with any threat from outside the self. Of course, there are varying levels of dissociation, from day dreaming to fantasy, from leaving one’s body to derealisation (the virtually constant experience of dissociation). In the therapy room, dissociation severely diminishes the client’s ability to be present to their process; if it goes unchecked it may become a stumbling block to their healing.

Ursula: So, what can the therapist do to help support their client at times of dissociation and derealisation?

Christine: The therapist needs to go slowly at first, building trust and safety so as not to overwhelm and derail the person’s system. By explaining what dissociation is, the therapist can gently bring the client’s attention to when they are ‘leaving’ their bodies and help them to find ways of controlling that. Together they can take some time to build and practice new skills in a playful way (i.e., self-soothing techniques) for staying present as the therapy progresses further.

Ursula: I imagine there are other consequences as a result of being in this climate of trauma?

Christine: The sequelae of narcissistic abuse may include any of the following symptoms: low self-esteem, self-mutilation (self-harming), suicidal thoughts, chronic pain, PTSD, depression and somatisations. Somatisations are a variety of physical symptoms that the victim may have experienced and usually they will go to their doctor to get relief from their symptoms. Most doctors are unable to give a true diagnosis of what is really happening, as they cannot classify the symptoms as they don’t have any identifiable physical origins. When there is no detectable organic pathology evident, the person is often diagnosed as having ‘psychosomatic illnesses’. Somatisations pose a major problem to the narcissistic victim’s general health. Many of the symptoms of their ill health are a direct result of their repressed memories from their narcissistic abuse, usually from childhood.

Ursula: You are describing many symptoms which our clients may present with, most particularly when you talk about psychosomatic illnesses.

Christine: Yes. For example, a child might get severe cramps in response to the fear experienced by the narcissistic abuse, then as an adult they may wake up with cramps for no apparent reason that the doctor can find. In this case, it is more likely that they are accessing repressed memories that they are not aware of, but their unconscious is now desperate to cleanse itself. These clients with somatisation disorder will typically have visited many doctors in pursuit of effective treatment, and many informed doctors do recognise that often the underlying cause is emotional and they are then likely to refer the person on to a psychotherapist. Very often the symptoms are cured once the underlying emotional cause is identified, and the repressed memory has had a chance to surface in order to be released in the safety of the therapeutic space.

Ursula: Ah, yes, the facilitating environment which helps in the reparation is all part of our work.

Christine: Clients who have suffered narcissistic abuse are likely to demonstrate feelings of shame and humiliation. This is partly due to the narcissistic abuser projecting their shame on to them. They also tend to be over-responsible and apt to self-blame, this is because they learnt to take responsibility for the narcissist’s behaviour. Whenever the narcissist’s rage is triggered, without any doubt the victim is told it is their fault (i.e., ‘It’s your fault, you should have known that was going to upset me, now look what you have done’). Very often the victim may act inferior or powerless, and feel great guilt when talking about their perpetrator, even to the point of wanting to protect them. The therapist must be careful not to chastise this protectiveness of the perpetrator, what you may be witnessing is the effects of trauma bonding (Stockholm Syndrome). Furthermore, victims will often act with disgust at themselves, thinking they are not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, etc., and may respond to their beliefs through self-harming behaviour.

Victims often find themselves having been victimised by more than one person during their lifetime. They may talk of a second or third relationship that mirrored the same experience as with their first perpetrator. Quite often the victim’s first narcissistic injury is experienced in childhood, it may have been a parent, grandparent, sibling, friend of the victim, etc., and this sets them up for future re-victimisation. Having been re-victimised they often internalise that there is something wrong with them, and that they deserve this kind of abuse, and so resign themselves to that fate. It may become apparent that they may not have reached their potential in their personal life, or their professional life; this is partly due to the fact that they always had to stand in the shadow of the narcissistic aggressor, and not upstage them. They learn to live in the shadows without really knowing why. These are some of the signs you can look out for. Any of these symptoms mentioned above you might find in any client, however when they present themselves in a cluster, you will start to identify a syndrome emerging; this syndrome is called Narcissistic Victim Syndrome (NVS).

Ursula: Ah, it’s the cluster of these symptoms that calls our attention that it is NVS?

Christine: Absolutely. In these victims you will identify many of the symptoms of trauma (avoidance behaviour, loss of interest, feeling detached, sense of a limited future, sleeping or eating difficulties, irritability, hyper- vigilance, easily startled, flashbacks, hopelessness, psychosomatic illnesses, self-harming, thoughts of suicide, infantile regression, cognitive dissonance, trauma bonding, Stockholm Syndrome, etc.). But these more complicated clustered symptoms need a greater explanation.

Ursula: Christine, all this sounds a bit scary for therapists to meet this in their rooms?

Christine: At first glance, yes. But therapists need not be afraid of what I am saying, because they already have most of the skills needed for working with these victims. Generally the piece that is missing is the therapist’s lack of understanding of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), and the ‘isms’ of behaviours that every victim experiences. It is also vital to understand the dynamic relationship between the narcissist and the victim, and the convoluted narcissistic dance that can lead to narcissistic victim syndrome (NVS). This information is easily learned, and can be provided through the availability of appropriate CPD’s (continuing professional development workshops).

Ursula: Phew!

Christine: One of the dangers of a therapist working with victims when they don’t understand narcissistic abuse properly is that they can do more harm to the client. Meaning well, they risk further shaming the client by inappropriately telling them to ‘put what happened behind you, and move on…let it go’. This once again sends the message that what happened to them was trivial, and without the validation that they need and deserve, they can feel abused by the very person they are trusting to help them. Or even worse, I have worked with victims suffering with NVS who were misdiagnosed by mental health providers with having bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and even NPD. This is a further abuse of the victim. To prevent this from happening it is important for all mental health professionals to be trained to recognise the symptomology of narcissistic victim syndrome and the narcissistic/victim dynamic relationship.

Ursula: I never heard mention of narcissistic abuse during any of my extensive trainings in the psychotherapy field, so I know you want to teach our therapists about it and I wonder how best that would happen; for instance do you imagine a full module about it or how would you like to see that included in trainings?

Christine: You are not alone Ursula, it was exactly the same for me in all my extensive trainings also. But worse, it was never mentioned or named in my own personal therapy when I unknowingly spoke of my own experience of pathological narcissistic abuse (Psychopathy). Because most psychotherapy courses do little or no training in the area of ‘The Dark Triad’, and the fact that little or nothing has been written in the medical literature regarding the victims of narcissistic abuse, it is my observation that the majority of therapists, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of this form of abuse and the effects of that abuse on the victim. This is not just happening in Ireland, but all around the world. Unfortunately, this leaves therapists ill- equipped to work with clients suffering from the effects of narcissistic abuse, and especially those presenting with symptoms of narcissistic victim syndrome. If you read any of the support forums for survivors of narcissistic abuse, you will constantly hear the victims say that their therapists did not understand the depth of suffering they had been subjected to, and that the term ‘narcissistic abuse’ had rarely been mentioned to them.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V) (APA, 2013), which is published by the American Psychiatric Association, is considered the ‘bible’ for all mental health professionals and covers NPD. However the DSM-V has not addressed the profound effects that people who exhibit high degrees of narcissism have on those who must live or work with them. Since most people suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder do not present for treatment, the inclusion of NPD as a diagnosis in the DSM-V is of little practical value for the victims of these individuals. It is my sincere hope that in upcoming editions of the DSM that Narcissistic Victim Syndrome will be included as a diagnostic category since it is the victims of narcissists who are most likely to present in the therapist’s rooms seeking answers. Narcissistic Abuse has now reached a full blown epidemic and is fast becoming pandemic.

Ursula: My gosh, epidemic, pandemic, those are very strong words indeed.

Christine: I do not say this lightly, I have personally had visits to my website (www.narcissisticbehavior.net) from approximately 700,000 people, and they came from all around the globe, 210 different countries to date. That is how wide-spread this form of abuse truly is. Even worse still is that we actually have a situation where the victims are now doing their own research as to what had happened to them in their families of origin, the workplace, in their friendships, etc. There is something terribly wrong when victims know more about narcissistic abuse than the therapists they are going to for help.

Ursula: And so, Christine, how do we arm ourselves, as therapists, with good practice for meeting these victims of abuse?

Christine: I would envisage two direct ways of educating therapists for working with this form of abuse:

1. Before the full spectrum of narcissistic abuse and narcissistic victim syndrome can be introduced into professional training courses, the tutors must fully understand the subject first. They could do as I did, and spend 10 years researching and studying the subject. But, as there is very little written from the perspective of psychotherapy, this is not so easy to do. The bigger part of my research came from gaining my credentials in disciplines such as Criminology, Forensic Psychology, and Anthropology, and then integrating that knowledge with whatever academic research there is coming from the discipline of Psychotherapy. In order to speed up the process for bridging this gap in therapists’ training, I am making this information available through a combination of seminars and workshops (Intermediate and Advanced Levels) for all professional therapists. The first workshop provides extensive insights into the full spectrum of pathological narcissism (namely looking at the predator), and covers a good working knowledge of the ‘isms’ of what Narcissistic Personality Disorder entails.

I would therefore recommend that therapists interested in knowing more about the subject start with the workshop ‘Understanding the Narcissist’s Web of Deception’ if possible. This workshop exposes, not just the classical narcissist, but also the malignant narcissist, and the psychopath, covering the full spectrum of The Dark Triad (Psychopathy). This workshop lays the foundations on which the other four workshops are built. The other four workshops will delve deeply into the effects of pathological narcissistic behaviour on the victims. For example, the second workshop looks at the effects of ‘Gaslighting’, which is the hidden psychological warfare used by narcissists against their victims. The third workshop called ‘Mummy Dearest’ deals with the effects of the narcissistic mother on her children. The fourth workshop called ‘Snakes in Suits’ looks at the destructive force of narcissism in the workplace, and how many victims are forced to leave their jobs due to work-related stress. And finally, the fifth workshop looks at the price the victim pays for having a romantic relationship with a pathological narcissist. All these five workshops can be done as one-day CPD workshops. I also intend recording all these workshops for training purposes. These video programmes can then be shared with professional therapists across the world, and used on training programmes where useful.

2. Once the teaching professionals understand the subject further, they can bring this knowledge into their professional Psychotherapy Training Courses for teaching to their trainee therapists, and prepare them for working with those victims who need their expertise. Any therapist who works with these victims without fully understanding the implications of the dynamics of the narcissistic/victim relationship will not be able to complete the healing process with victims. Furthermore, victims (who are conditioned in the narcissistic dance) will be left in the vulnerable position of being left open to further re-victimisation by other narcissists, who will be drawn to them like a moth to a flame.

Ursula: I was very impressed with your workshop at a recent Dublin conference which was oversubscribed on the day. So there is definitely an appetite for this topic among Irish therapists. I am glad to know that there is work happening to bring these learnings to practitioners and you seem to be covering all aspects of where the disordered narcissism takes place?

Christine: It is as if therapists already suspected that there was something greater than ‘domestic violence’ going on, and they are ready and hungry for the information right now. But first I believe that Ireland can become the world leaders in this research. Nothing would delight me more than seeing Irish researchers running with my work, and adding greatly to it, and expanding the knowledge even further.

Ursula: How best can we make the general public aware of this epidemic which is called narcissistic abuse?

Christine: I think this would be a bit like putting the horse before the cart to start educating the general public. The victims are already well on the march to finding out what has happened to them, they are doing the research themselves, and they are setting up numerous ‘Narcissistic Abuse Forums’ where victims are sharing their information and understanding together. The shocking thing is that, right now, many victims know more than the therapist. So, to my mind, educating therapists should be our starting point.

I am in touch with three wonderful women in America – Michelle Mallon (Social Worker), Kristin S. Walker (Radio Host) of Everything EHR (Mental Health News Radio) and Andrea Scheider (Psychotherapist). They are doing great advocacy work for victims by providing information by way of articles, Blogs, Facebook Support, and hosting a Radio News Show, where experts in the field of narcissistic abuse are interviewed regularly for both therapists and victims to learn. Together we four ladies have tried compiling a list of psychotherapists who are presently working with victims of narcissistic abuse; we have only managed to get about 20 names worldwide…can you imagine that? We need to get professionally trained psychotherapists ready for the tsunami that is already on the way, and this is no exaggeration.

Ursula: Christine, have you ever worked with a narcissist and, if so, was this long term work?

Christine: Yes I have, both male and female. However, a narcissist rarely volunteers for therapy; when they do, it is likely to rid them of the emptiness that is dragging them down. Their main goal is to return to their grandiose state of omnipotence rather than getting awareness and implementing personal change. NPD is difficult to treat; the treatment centres on psychotherapy (combination of interpersonal and cognitive strategies), and in some instances medication (where there are symptoms of depression). However, it is difficult to keep narcissists in the long-term therapy that is required to reshape their personality patterns. For that reason there is a tendency towards a short-term therapy that concentrates on ameliorating acute troubles (e.g., depression) and increasing their self-esteem, thus reducing antagonistic feelings of entitlement, rather than dealing with the underlying chronic problems (i.e., temperament, anxiety disorders, mood disorders, delusional disorder, substance abuse, PTSD, etc.).

The narcissists I generally get to see are those who come in as part of a couple, but it becomes clear from the get-go that they are there in order to get their partner fixed, because as they see it there is nothing wrong with them. Or they may come when they have been given an ultimatum or some condition placed on them (for example, a condition by the courts, their workplace, or a spouse threatening to leave them unless they get themselves into therapy). For a narcissist to come into therapy they must feel their status is threatened one way or another, but once they start getting back their balance and the threat vanishes, they disappear.

One thing you can be sure of is that the narcissist will have a charming exterior, and many therapists have been known to fall for their manipulation and seduction. All will be well until the therapist has reason to challenge their behaviours, and then all of a sudden the wonderful Dr. Jekyll shall disappear to reveal the pathological Mr(s). Hyde. Then the criticism of the therapist will begin, and it will be unmerciful. Unless the narcissist can control the therapy session they will most likely discredit the therapist and give them the sack. I am not really interested in working with the narcissists, I am happy to leave this to psychiatrists. My focus is on the victim, because, generally speaking, the narcissist’s personality is unlikely to change.

Ursula: While I was reading your excellent book I kept thinking of the malignant narcissists whom I have come upon and these people kept jumping off the pages at me. But would a malignant narcissist recognise themselves in your book?

Christine: Ha! Ha! That made me giggle! For any person to ask the question, ‘Am I a narcissist?’ The very fact of even asking such a question would mean the person is unlikely to be one. For anyone to ask that question of themselves means that they are ‘self-reflecting’. Unfortunately, malignant narcissists simply do not do that. They are totally unconcerned about their behaviours, or if their behaviour harms others. Also, they are unlikely to put in the work necessary to bring about change in their patterns of behaviours, and why should they, as they are perfectly happy with who they are. If a malignant narcissist ever bothered to read any book on narcissism, they would do so looking through a different lens than you or I. I think if they read my book they would take delight in seeing how powerful their behaviours make them appear to others. It is more likely to boost their ego than to get them to self- reflect. Therapy with malignant narcissists has proved to be more damaging than helpful, they use what they learn in the therapy room to become even more manipulative, for example, they learn about empathy through mimicking the therapist, so get better at faking it in their relationships.

The malignant narcissist (MN) is a completely different personality to the common garden-variety classical narcissist (NPD). Otto Kernberg originated the term ‘malignant narcissism’ to describe a syndrome of narcissism that went beyond NPD, saying, “Malignant narcissism is like NPD on pathological steroids” (Kernberg, 1980). So adding the term ‘malignant’ is done in order to indicate a more serious form of narcissism that includes within it the mix of antisocial personality disorder, aggression and sadism.

Ursula: I feel I should say here, amid all these distressing and serious forms of ‘isms’, that there are symptoms of narcissism in all of us but for this conversation we are looking at the abusive aspect, you know, the self-serving characters.

Christine: We are all narcissistic to some degree, and indeed need to be to be healthy. What I am talking about is unhealthy pathological narcissism. The symptoms of the malignant narcissist are always the same: excessive self-sufficiency, excessive entitlement, being exploitive, exhibitionistic, authoritative, and feeling superior to the highest order. Without doubt, they are elaborately camouflaged predators who hunt for easy prey; they literally are the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing that turns against others in a triumphant and destructive manner that is nothing less than pathological. Unlike the NPD individuals who were neglected as a child, the MN was also brutalised and humiliated. It seems that these experiences of aggression experienced as a child become integrated into a pathological self-structure, where it gets expressed as a severe form of sadism and violence towards others. They know what they are doing, and they know they should not be doing what they are doing, but they do it anyway. They have such a need for total control that they will use any means necessary to get it and to keep it.

Ursula: When you say that there is a real sense of helplessness!

Christine: Unlike the basic narcissist, the MN does not really suffer from an inflated self-esteem. On the contrary, they despise themselves to the point that they disown their True Self, and instead they identify with a False Self totally. They don’t care how others view them; they don’t need to be liked. Their aim is for others to fear or admire them but, most of all, they want people to obey them. They operate from a place of malevolent intent, with ill-will towards others, true parasites who need to surround themselves with people to feed from. It is important to understand that control and power go hand in hand for the malignant narcissist, and in their everyday existences, they seek to dominate each individual and group with whom they interact. Their power is not ‘power with’, but rather ‘power over’, and it becomes their springboard to verbal and emotional abuse, especially in the home and workplace. Malignant narcissists feel for nobody barring their own selves, but they need a constant supply of victims (called ‘narcissistic supply’) for their personal gain. The supply person serves only one purpose for the MN, and that is to lavish them with attention and benefits so that their ego is stroked and their needs are provided. When they become bored with the game, the MN discards the narcissistic supply, leaving their victim confused, dazed and devastated.

Ursula: I have witnessed this play out exactly and it is quite devastating to see the victim be annihilated and discarded!

Christine: Generally, people with MN are high flyers who feel there is nothing wrong with them personally, so they would probably avoid therapy. According to Sam Vaknin “These narcissists regard therapy as a competitive sport” (Vaknin, 2012). This form of narcissist would see themselves as being far too superior and special to attend any therapist. If they did agree, the chances are that it would be because they are attempting to manipulate the therapist for self-gain (i.e., to get a good report for the courts or workplace). However, there will always be a power struggle within the therapeutic relationship as they attempt to reduce the therapist to an inferior position. Therefore, as with all their other relationships, the MN will follow the usual protocol of idealising, devaluing and discarding the therapist, thus protecting their grandiose omnipotent false self.

Even if the MN were willing, individual therapy would not be enough, and the therapists working alone in this area would be likely to end up suffering from ‘compassion fatigue’. What is required is a psychiatric therapeutic community that can provide the necessary intensive holding, corrective environment and psychotropic medications used for the treatment of this personality disorder (Blair et al., 2005). If therapy were to be in any way successful, then the MN would need to take full responsibility for their own insightful therapy by looking at their painful issues around their rage, envy and hatred that remains locked up in the dungeon of their unconscious, and that seems very unlikely to happen.

Ursula: Christine, thank you for that clarification, you have made it very clear and even shown some light on the wounded part of the MN. I wanted to ask you about the victim of a narcissistic mother but I understand that one of your upcoming workshops is specific to that topic and as you have been more than generous in sharing your expertise in your responses to my questions so far, I am mindful that for the best information on this topic I would be best served by attending that workshop – ‘Mummy Dearest’ – what a title! So, for now, Christine, may I thank you most sincerely for sharing your time and wisdom.

Christine: Ursula, it was wonderful having this interview with you, the pleasure was all mine. I am also so grateful to you and the IAHIP for giving me the opportunity to reach out to all your members in this way, and flag the gap in our professional training. It would be just amazing if all our accredited Professional Psychotherapy Courses would introduce this subject into their programmes for novice trainees. That would really make my day.

Christine Louis de Canonville BA (Hons), MIACP, MTCI, MPNLP, CMH, CHyp. is an author, psychotherapist, supervisor, external examiner, lecturer, and specialist in Narcissistic Victim Syndrome (NVS).

Ursula Somerville MIAHIP, SIAHIP is a psychotherapist and clinical supervisor working in private practice in Dublin.

References:
American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (5th ed.).
Washington, DC: Author.

Blair, J., Mitchell, D., & Blair, K. (2005). The Psychopath: Emotion and the Brain, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Kernberg, O. F. (1980). Internal World and External Reality, New York: Aronson, J. H.

Louis de Canonville, C. (2015). The Three Faces of Evil: Unmasking the Full Spectrum of Narcissistic Abuse. Stouffville, ON: Black Card Books.

Vaknin, S. (2003). Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited, Czech Republic: Narcissus Publication.

Vaknin, S. (2012, February 26). Narcissists Hate tTherapists [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DqV7qrKq0BI.