Book Review: When shame
begets shame: How the
narcissist hurts and shames
by Christine Louis de Canonville
Self-published 2018, available at: https://narcissisticbehavior.
Reviewed by Ursula Somerville MIAHIP
I met and got to know Christine following the release of her first book, The Three Faces of Evil: Unmasking the Full Spectrum of Narcissistic Abuse. I also attended some of her workshops and followed up with a conversation with her, which was published in Inside Out in Spring 2016. In her new book, When Shame Begets Shame: How the Narcissist Hurts and Shames their Victims, she talks about all things to do with shame while in relation to a narcissist. The book provides groundbreaking work related to shame and sexual abuse and also an unusual chapter title “The narcissist comes as a gift, but only if the victim chooses to accept it” (231) – bold language. As Christine weaves the journey to shame she presents new information for the reader to understand. The use of language such as “kaleidoscope of shameful emotions and the child becomes shame bound to the core…” (29) is piercingly evocative and called me to hold my breath as I read. Another piece that caused me to pause was the use of personal sharing in regard to her relationship with her brother “failing to give him much-needed admiration” would leave her “… fatally flawed...” to the core of her being (45). She further explains that “Always the narcissist’s shame is linked to the trauma they have experienced as children” (35) and I was glad to see this referenced, that the wounded aspect is in both the narcissist and the co-narcissist.
Though the author presents strong evidence of the co-narcissist I personally struggled with the term co-narcissist as I believe narcissism can have negative press. Wounded partners in narcissism don’t enter into this relationship in their True Self but rather as emotionally disadvantaged individuals already in a false-self place. I believe psychotherapy is about paring back the falseness to reveal the True Self and so I have been able to identify shame in my work with clients born to a narcissistic mother, married to a narcissistic partner, who came to therapy and transformed, to now being able to welcome the small parts of the self and re-parent the young parts, as it was at that time that these ‘false-self’ aspects were put in place. They now have a softer acceptance of the shame carried for so long. For the therapy to work at the pace the client needs, it would not be safe to reveal this shame too early because the client may not be ready to integrate if led by the therapist. Also, there is much work to do in revealing the True Self when the client, in relationship with the therapist, identifies this shame in themselves.
Through this theoretical and clinically sophisticated book, the author makes a valuable contribution to the understanding of narcissism and, more importantly, to the study of shame in relation to malignant narcissism for the sufferer and the victims in their wake. The malignant narcissist goes beyond the ‘love of self’ that is seen in the typical narcissist, to demonstrating ‘malignant’ behaviour by hurting people physically, psychologically and financially. The author includes the spiritual aspect in her writing and recognition for the ‘empath’. To briefly describe an ‘empath’ would be to say that they put other people’s needs before their own. What a tangled web is described, the niceness of the quality of contact of the empath, and the destruction and annihilation by the narcissist.
I love that Christine has included her personal material as it helps the reader to locate the author in the context of narcissism and shame. I particularly like that the information is repeated through the book making it easy to pick any section and know that it holds vital information to understand and make sense of patterns. Another positive aspect of this book is that it is self-published which helps to keep the costs down and also allows ease of reading and use of the material in the PDF file in which is it delivered.
For me this is a book that had to be written and a book that must be read. I believe everyone will benefit from reading this book: co-narcissists, empaths, narcissists and professionals working in the field of human suffering and who want to help facilitate the return to the True Self of their clients.