Daksha Hirani | Ep # 38 | Understanding Narcissistic Abuse



integrative and preventive healthcare the content discussed in this episode is for informative purposes only and should not be replaced by individualized professional consultations or

professional medical advice hey guys i’m tasha hey listeners this is gooni and we’re here to discuss lifestyle medicine so hi everyone today we want to speak about the impact of being in a specific type of toxic relationship which is the one with the narcissistic person and the impact that you could have emotionally speaking and even physically speaking and to speak about this we have a london-based chartered clinical psychologist and an associate fellow of the british psychology society dr daksha harani with us today she has over 20 years of experience working in this field where in the last seven years of her profession her interest in recovery from narcissistic abuse has grown particularly to help clients overcome any type of narcissistic abuse welcome dr hirani to doctor of the podcast thank you for contacting me and for giving me this opportunity to speak well it is a heavy topic uh it’s a serious and heavy topic and i kind of to share a bit of a personal aspect of it i think in the past i fell for a narcissist again i’m not really sure because i never really spoke about it with someone uh who can give me the you know the tools or to help me recognize it so i think that this conversation will help a lot of women out there or men as well who are in these toxic relationships and the patterns that i saw myself going is i was questioning myself all the time and it really took a lot of my mental capacity i was i felt that i was obsessed about the situation and i always thinking did i do something wrong uh can i do something differently for this to to go well for to not have a bad reaction so i was always on edge and so i think i classified him as a narcissist again i still i’m not really sure when people come to see me many times will be saying hey look i don’t know i’m just not feeling like myself or i’ve got anxiety a good depression and we can talk a little bit more about how people might present so you know people aren’t going to say ah right i’m suffering from narcissistic abuse i’m going to come and see it go and see a therapist it’s it’s something that trickles down over time drop by drop and you start to realize and once people’s knowledge base increases about what narcissism is what narcissistic abuse is then they get a sense of aha the penny drops that these are the kind of people in my life that are not actually gunning for me they’re not really gunning for my success or my happiness they’re actually just takers and they can be in all shapes or forms they can be in the form of your work colleagues or your intimate partners or husbands or wives or siblings or mother and father you know it can be in all of these respects and you think surely not in your own family but unfortunately these people exist and they do sap the energy and it’s not a good place to be yeah so maybe we could backtrack a little bit and understand what is a narcissistic person and then from there understand what narcissistic abuse looks like essentially narcissistic people have an inflated sense of their own importance they have a deep need to exercise attention and want a lot of attention admiration and be the center of attention uh they will tend to have lots of troubled relationships in their past and the essential thing that runs through all types of narcissists is a lack of empathy for others so you know whilst narcissism is sort of on a spectrum you get people with a little bit of narcissism and people who are out on the other end of the spectrum which is really quite severe but in terms of looking at the diagnostic and statistical manual for mental disorders you know narcissistic personality disorder is an entrenched personality trait and a type which is a mental disorder there is something that is fundamentally difficult with this challenge and challenging for these personalities that makes life difficult for them let alone the people around them how do you diagnose somebody with a narcissistic personality disorder in in essence they need to have a pervasive pattern of say grandiosity or wanting to be the center of attention there’s a need for admiration and attention they have fantasies about power success beauty or an idolized version of love that they think is is that perfect and they aim for that they go for that perfectness they also have a sense of entitlement like you know i’m entitled to this without thinking of gratitude is a pervasive sense of entitlement and the belief that they are special they’re unique and they have this high status and they almost need to have that in order to fluff themselves up and they have a tendency to exploit others for their benefit and this is where it comes this is where the manipulation comes in this is where everybody is an object around them for their benefit to serve them and this leads to a lot of arrogant behaviors as well so we understand these patterns and some of those patterns if i were to apply it to the person as i mentioned in the beginning of the conversation he does fit some of those patterns but not necessarily all how do you differentiate this very good point because narcissists come in many many ways not all narcissists are great at being very charismatic and attractive and the center of alpha male or alpha female narcissists can also be what we call for example covert narcissist you know they can be quite introverted but they’re always scheming and they’re always working at their own benefit so you don’t know that they have this they’re not overtly narcissistic but they have this covert sense but the thing about manipulativeness goes through you also get compassionate and communal narcissists which you know will go out there to be the saviors of everybody look i’m doing such a great job i’m such a savior i’m such a goody goody and but the reason why they’re doing it is because they want adoration and amberation it’s got nothing to do with bettering the people around them or you get somatic narcissists who are forever the victim you know they’ve got this ailment or that element or this person did this so this person you know and they’re always the ones who are the victim of everything now narcissists can present in all these different shapes and forms and the ones that are entrenched in this way of being will move from one to the other as the situation sees fit so sometimes they might be very grandiose but then if they know that this situation i can’t be this they’ll be quite compassionate they’re like chameleons they change and they move around well well that’s really tough because basically yeah undercover all the time and you have uh you don’t really have a way to confidently assess it and um what do you think are some of the drivers of the abuser why are they comes from somewhere isn’t it yes it does and you know a true narcissist is formed uh they’ll start from their childhood where you know their upbringing is such that they are they’re given and they’re fluffed up to be these amazing people and they’ve been told for example by the matriarch you’re amazing you’re great you’re beautiful you’re this and my children are the best and my children are the you know it sort of gets passed down through families the key here is they are not given the skills to be great to be amazing so it’s just a very superficial kind of thing so they they believe they’re great but they actually don’t have the qualities to be great and that’s what forms the narcissistic personality and the types honestly when you describe all of this i feel like a bunch of names came up in my head one and two when you say like when the matriarch kind of uh pours this sort of information into a child at a young age i’m like this is like every south asian family i know i mean not to make light of it but seriously it sounds like you know you hear the the the terrible stories of like moms who are just uh obsessed over their their sons and yeah they’re glorification horrifying and especially like in south asian families where you see like men always being prioritized and also put on a pedestal and they can do very little and still be praised so much and then for women do everything and then for them to you know be picked on for the small thing that they didn’t do and which is very confusing right because as you’re explaining and kind of describing the trait of a narcissist it sounds like it’s traits that everyone could potentially carry but you just you don’t know what what the line is of like yeah i don’t think that everybody would carry these traits and i’ll tell you why the big central difference is a lack of empathy right so if you have somebody who’s been brought up to you know it like a spoiled boy you know there’s a mummy’s boy and everything but if he is extremely empathetic to the people around him right then he’s not going to exhibit narcissistic traits which are such that um you know he walks around everybody and treats people but with disrespect including women so the the key here is empathy if you have a sense that actually if i shouted this uh my wife or my girlfriend or if i treat this person or that person in a in a bad way it’s going to hurt their feelings then actually that person’s not exhibiting narcissistic behavior because they’re monitoring and managing their behavior such that it minimize the hurt and despair that is spread around narcissists don’t do that can a person exhibit narcissistic behavior in just certain circumstances and not in other areas of their life they can do that but then the empathy is going to be you know for a true narcissist that empathy is not true empathy it’s the empathy that is shown in order for them to get somewhere right so in the beginning when you meet a narcissist and if they’re in that love bombing stage you know they want to show you the person that there’s this amazing great person they will mirror exactly what it is that you like in in your in a partner and then you feel like you’ve met your lifelong partner but that empathy is in order to catch something and to get what they want it’s always about them it’s not about you and wanting to get to know you that’s what it is with the narcissists and the narcissistic personality disorders right so that’s an interesting point so they’re using the behaviors or the the qualities that are needed for them to get to somewhere basically and so if empathy is one of them they’re gonna portray empathy oh this is a tough one this is a very dangerous one okay you know if they want to be seen as the victim or i’ve had such a poor childhood they will get crocodile tears and the eyes will look into your soul and you’ll think like you want to rescue this person and you know mend this right for them for women who are in this situation why is it so hard for women and men actually i i don’t want to single out for whoever is in a relationship and of that sort how do they extract extract themselves from from this type of relationship you see the the key here uh going back to what you were saying is this is a tricky one how do you know well actually though the best way you can know is to listen to your gut this is not abnormal narcissist this is not in a narcissistic abuse recovery is actually not about the narcissist it’s got nothing to do with the narcissist it’s got to do everything with you and your gut instinct to say how am i feeling so the signs that you might be experiencing narcissistic abuse be second guessing yourself and so on you feel burnt out you’re exhausted you’re anxious you’re depressed you feel like you’re walking on eggshells you know nothing you do is correct you know you’re you’re very uh anxious you know there’s a lot of this is a trauma so people with who suffered narcissistic abuse will end up suffering from what i would say complex post traumatic stress disorder because you are manipulated year on year and some of the clients i work with have been in relationships for over 30 years and then they’ve found the courage to leave it’s not easy to leave because what the narcissist does is they target your fears that’s the only way a narcissist can get to you but through your wounds and by by your wounds i mean your insecurities so for example narcissists throw crap at you they throw a lot of crap at you and whatever crap sticks is what they’re going to use against you and when i say crap this is what i mean if you think of the acronym crap c r a p c is the fear of criticism if you’re going to fear that oh what is a society going to say to me or you know if you have shame or blame or so you feel criticized then they’re going to make sure that they play on that fear of yours so you end up staying with them or there’s the fear of rejection i’m going to reject you in which case you know if you don’t have a good social support around you then that might be the reason why you stay fear of abandonment which is the a so if you fear that you’re going to be abandoned because you have those insecurities then that’ll come up and one which is very very frequent and i see a lot with south asian women is the p which is the fear of punishment you know if you don’t do what i do i’m gonna punish you and the punishment comes in the form of anger outbursts silent treatment you know manipulating or just making your life so miserable that you will just do whatever it is just to make peace and have it you smooth over just just to have a not as much of a hassle so that’s the crap well yeah that’s a good acronym to kind of fall back on to recognize if this is something that is affecting you is it possible that a narcissist don’t even recognize that he is being a narcissist to you i think it is very possible that they don’t label themselves as narcissists they might not know the word many narcissists actually know that they’re narcissists but every narcissist does know that what they’re doing to you is wrong the manipulation basically they know the effects of it they know exactly how it’s going to affect you but the difference is they don’t care so it’s not that they don’t know that they’re doing bad or wrong they are doing that and if somebody was to do the same behavior to them they would not tolerate it for one bit they would be like how dare they attack me to be seen as a personal attack that needs world war three they can give it any any anyhow and you just have to take it so that’s where the entitlement comes in this is this is really like difficult actually because it’s not it’s not so straightforward for someone to identify this and then to say like you know what this is just a toxic relationship for me how do i get out of this and also from the perspective of a narcissist right can it be something that your your family members are maybe predominantly narcissistic and then you also develop this habit because or these these ways of doing things because you’re not going to get the attention that you need so you need to survive in the situation can that be something that’s passed on or is it something that you think is kind of inherently a part of yeah i think it’s both you’ve got the little bit of genetic aspects to it and then also how your neurology sort of forms the neuropsychology forms as a child as you become attached i know beautiful beautiful individuals who’ve come from narcissistically abusive families who’ve turned out to be anything but that they’ve turned out to be caring kind nurturing and lovely but the only way they’ve been able to survive and create a beautiful life for themselves is when they move away from that toxic environment of the family otherwise they’re not able to hold the two together when you are suffering from narcissistic abuse even when you’re in the relationship sometimes you think there’s no way i’m going to be heard unless i mimic some of these narcissistic behaviors and so you might start copying them but i can guarantee you if you’re with a malignant narcissist they’re always five steps ahead of you and you will exhaust yourself in trying to be you know play their game but you will not be able to win it’s not for them winning is everything for you it’s not about winning it’s about doing the right thing about justice about making sure you’re heard they don’t care about any of that is there any positive narcissism i have heard of that word being thrown around or even healthy narcissistic of behaviors and so on i personally am of the view that you’re just then talking about good self-esteem you know good boundary keeping right the word narcissism is by very nature one who is only interested in themselves and not regarding the environment around them at all so rather than using the word narcissism which i don’t think fits well i would move it to having good self-esteem having good self-care good self-worth good self-confidence all of that is not narcissistic behavior so for example if i’m teaching clients on how do you create healthy boundaries a lot of the people especially people and women from south asian cultures find that they live with so much obligation i’m obligated to be the to the good daughter the good partner the good wife the good everything and you there’s so much obligation or if they are not fulfilling their obligations in a sense they end up feeling guilty now of course there’s also fear of the crap so now there’s another acronym that comes in place which is fog fear obligation and guilt when you are in fog you can’t see things clearly you’re not able to see you know the wood for the trees you don’t know whether if you saying no i don’t want to do this is you being selfish are you looking after yourself in terms of self-care so when you are surrounded by fog the key here is to clear that fork by looking inward go inside yourself and say what is my motivation behind doing something so if i have uh somebody who invites me out and i think well actually today i’m tired i don’t particularly want to go out and i’m going to say no if by saying no you say i’m the reason i’m doing this is because i need to look after myself that is not a narcissistic behavior that is just you asserting your boundaries and your reasoning is because you want to not go if you then start experiencing guilt and obligation oh then what will they think of me i need to go maybe i’ll miss out if there’s a fear of missing out formal i love that that it would be the wrong reasons of you doing something now with the narcissist what they’ll do is they will say if i was to go out have i got a benefit here financially socially emotionally psychologically and only if they’re gonna have a benefit out of that they’re going to go there otherwise they’re not interested so the intention behind the behavior is very crucial is it self-serving that i’m only going to do something because it’s going to be good for me and it’s going to benefit me or i’m going to do something because at the moment i need to look within and look after myself on the surface it looks very similar but they’re actually different things talking about asserting yourself creating boundaries and trusting your gut right how do we get there how do we how do we create this environment where we can protect ourselves and and also take care of ourselves but at the same time like spot all these these things well the thing is you know if you want to clear the fog firstly you’ve got to be able to see things as they are and when crap is thrown at you your attention is always on the crap right it’s like fee or the fall and that’s where the attention is not supposed to be because for as long as the attention is there you’re not able to focus on yourself and i always start with sort of mindfulness exercises with my clients that just gets them grounded to actually start feeling their bodies again really connecting with their bodies connecting with their sensations their emotions you see mindfulness is not necessarily a relaxation technique i think it is a technique that is extremely powerful to let you be able to see things as they are so when it is done correctly because i know there are many uh mindfulness techniques out there that are not actually true mindfulness and so it doesn’t work but once you once i guide them into that they start to form the foundation of starting to learn to sit with their discomfort of whatever’s coming up beat anxiety and so on and then to separate it out to see is this anxiety functional it’s actually giving me a warning sign i’ve got to watch out for this person and if so then what can you do to overcome your fears so that you can live a life that is in line with your values rather than in line with your fears now to do all of that i think psychotherapy is very very helpful but i would a i would urge people that if you are going to seek psychotherapy for narcissistic abuse make sure that you go and see a therapist who is specialist in that because otherwise the danger is that if you go to somebody saying i have got difficulties with managing three balls in the air and this therapist says right no problem i’m going to teach you how to manage five balls in the air all you’ve done is increased in in that case the therapist will have just increased the resilience of this uh poor client to take on even more crap and manage all this crap coming on and still keeping their life going so it actually serves it can be more dangerous so you want to really make sure that the therapist is in a good is a good solid expertise in narcissistic abuse makes sense completely so we covered the victim side of it when you are a narcissist is there a way for you to undo some of you know your patterns you realize that you are actually the perpetrator is there a healing process for them as well there is and i am always hopeful and i’m always optimist but i would say to you that you know for somebody seeking therapy for the narcissistic uh personality the evidence is very very strong you don’t cure yourself there’s no like a cure for it it is a personality trait it’s a bit like uh you know somebody saying to you know coming to me or me going to somebody and saying i’m too empathetic can you take that empathy out of me it’s not something you know if you say how do you make somebody less empathetic it is somebody who they are and if you’re going to clear and feel that connection with the humanity it’s there but if you know that that connection to the humanity is in such a way that it is harming you then you learn to put boundaries up in a healthy way so it works for you and so for the narcissist to learn that their behavior patterns are literally alienating old people around them again and again and again and they just can’t get it right so they can you learn it’s almost like behavioral training you know to put it very crudely you can teach a narcissist if they’re always late don’t be late you’ll find that they will be able to get their own time to a meeting or whatever but then don’t bank on them actually listening to the meeting they’ll be there but they’re not actually engaged so it’s the progress is going to be very slight i always say if you know that you’re around a really malignant narcissist the best thing for you to do is to move away step away if possible go absolutely no contact with them there are eight billion people on the planet go and look for people who are loving kind because they are there in this sort of situation right like okay if you’re choosing to be a friend with a narcissistic person or if you’re choosing to be friends or in a relationship with someone yes i think this is maybe a more approachable method or like realistic practical method but what if like you’re born into a family and your parents are narcissistic or your sibling is narcissistic that’s a tough situation how do you navigate that right absolutely i i think all situations are tough even if you’ve been in a relationship you know i wouldn’t say just because you’re in a relationship with the narcissist leave them because there are many reasons why you might not be able to leave them you you might have still a lot of fear and a lot of crap that you’ve got to deal with yourself it might not be safe for you to leave you know just because you find choose to stay in a narcissistic relationship doesn’t mean that you are to blame you’ve got to think every person has to figure out for themselves at what point do they feel safe enough to stand in their own truths to go and this is an individual journey everybody i would say don’t judge anyone for anything regardless of where they are in their in their relationships now if you are born into a into a family with uh when people have narcissistic traits i would apply the very same rules personally got relationships and family relationships or extended family relationships where i know that the individuals are highly highly narcissistic and toxic you know they might be communal narcissists or whatever but you know that being around them your life is never going to be good then you step away regardless of them being your mother father brother sister and this is where you try and overcome your obligation and your guilt when you want to choose your own well-being and your own sanity but of course i’m dealing with people who i’ve worked with who are on the extreme end who’ve suffered immense abuse at the hands of their family at the hands of their parents mother or father or brother or sister or cousin or grandfather whatever and to say that while you were born into it so you’re going to put up with it i would say no no human being should live in fear regardless of who they are and i have seen sad stories where mothers who have loved their children very much but whose sons or daughters have been narcissistic and they’ve had to cut all contact with them because they need to actually be safe and to live safely the the actual decision of stepping away is a personal journey of as you said identifying feeling safe to make that move and weighing the guilt versus the fear it’s very hard to hear all this because it feels like it’s um boils down to the individual to make that decision and being aware of of the change to to be made and of course with help you can be guided in making those decisions but ultimately it’s it seems like it’s your own awareness and decisions to to go forward uh what would be something else that they can they can do to be able to help themselves really get yourself acquainted read some books or you know just educate yourself increase your insight and awareness and then go and seek psychotherapeutic support or programs that will help you to go towards that and again with the programs be picky and choosy and go with the one that works for you and if that doesn’t work for you go to another don’t stop until you find the help that’s a that’s a really good tip and i think i think people need to know that because maybe they might be looking at the wrong places and they’ve not gotten the right type of help that they they want and need well that’s a really good way for us to kind of uh close off our conversation so we do our closing rapid fire questions so the first question is what is the first sign to you that when you are out of balance well when i’m uh when i’m out about i will notice that i’m restless and i might also feel a little bit of anxiety and so that goes to our second question which is what are the methods of coping with you know the signs of imbalance mindfulness for me is the best one and some time on my own i love going for very very long walks i like running nature it’s great that’s a good one and the third one is is there a book that has impacted your approach to well-being and wellness of course now that is a really difficult question because i love reading and i have sort of books galore i can’t pick up one one of the two books but i guess the book that i went to when i suffered from narcissistic abuse was uh nothing to do with narcissistic abuse it was to do it was called the happiness trap by dr russ harris and uh dr ross harris is somebody that i have trained with and i love the way that this particular therapeutic approach approaches how to deal with unpleasant thoughts unpleasant emotions and just challenges that you face such that they don’t dictate your life and that you can move forward to leading a life that you value so for me that one comes very very strong but i do want to mention another one which i think is really powerful and i always go to it whenever life gets really difficult for me and that is man’s search for meaning by victor frankl and that tells me you know if you if you can see that actually somebody can take everything away from you but yet you can come out like a phoenix nobody can touch you these are very powerful uh words to end our conversation with you uh thank you so much for being on the podcast and um raising awareness on a very specific type of toxic relationships and we hope that it it will help people out there who are in this situation wonderful thank you very much hey listeners dr hiwani will be running an online program on recovery from narcissistic abuse in april 2022 to register your interest you can find the link in our show notes and our social media platforms if you enjoyed this episode go ahead and select that follow or subscribe button for now stay safe and we’ll see you next week

Daksha Hirani | Ep # 38 | Understanding Narcissistic Abuse

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