Dealing with a Narcissist: 8 Steps to Raise Self-Esteem by Darlene Lancer is written for those living with a narcissist, usually a parent or loved one, and who need help in dealing with the difficulties and unhappiness that is so common in relationships with narcissists.
Lancer means that there of course are large differences from one narcissist to another, and often narcissists fall on a continuum, but usually narcissism is characterized by the person being uncooperative, defensive, selfish, and sometimes even abusive. Narcissism is believed to have grown out of the person experiencing emotional abandonment, criticism and control when growing up. Narcissists rarely felt loved or accepted for who they were and commonly were only accepted when they performed well or "were the best". The narcissist grew up thinking that their true self was never good enough. This leads to the narcissist having a difficult time with sustaining lasting intimate and loving relationships, achieving success and displaying healthy self-esteem. Instead, narcissists tend to aggressively protect a false front since facing the truth about themselves is too much to handle.
Often the people looking for help, after being in a close relationship with a narcissist, are experiencing feelings of guilt and are torn between leaving their loved one or staying in an unhealthy relationship. They feel that they fell in love with a person that was attentive and considerate, who made them feel special and who, as time passed, changed into a person that lacks consideration and who is unable to change. Often those living with a narcissist has given up major parts of their lives to please the narcissist and might even have given up friends, family ties, hobbies, studies or careers in order to appease their partner.
Although the term "narcissist" is often used to describe personality traits, and is often part of a healthy personality, when well-balanced, there are certain criteria that need to be met in order for the person to be clinically diagnosed with narcissism. These are: 1: Has a grandiose sense of self-importance and exaggerates achievements and talents, 2: Dreams of unlimited power, success, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love, 3: Lacks empathy for the feelings and needs of others, 4: Requires excessive admiration, 5: Believes he or she is special and unique, and can only be understood by, or should associate with other special or high-status people (or institutions), 6: Unreasonably expects special favorable treatment or compliance with his or her wishes, 7: Exploits and takes advantage of others to achieve personal ends, 8: Envies others or believes they´re envious of him or her, 9: Has "an attitude" or arrogance or acts that way.
Lancer describes different types of narcissists and for example describes the "covert narcissist" who is characterized by introversion and who appears shy, humble, or anxious. This type usually tends to display a deflated and inadequate self-perception, depression and inner emptiness and is more difficult to identify in comparison to what we think of the typical narcissist who seeks out admiration and acts out. In comparison, the covert narcissist is still self-centered and expects special treatment but appear to genuinely care for others and might therefore be in a helping profession. These types of narcissists behave moralistically superior and sometimes like martyrs. They differ from the narcissists that act out and are instead more prone to feeling like things are falling apart as well as depression.
This book is a well-written but short help to those involved with a narcissist. It provides easy to follow steps that are clear and easy to understand. The book itself is quite short but the different steps to improve your self-esteem takes time to work through and are characterized by a number of questions that need to be answered and properly worked through. I do get the feeling that this book requires some previous knowledge of dealing with narcissists since the information provided is quite short and not so detailed as in other books that I have read. I do feel that the book is short, smart and easy to use but personally I would have enjoyed and benefited from the use of examples of different narcissistic traits. This would help the reader to understand how different people and behaviors can fall under the umbrella that is narcissism and narcissistic behaviors and tendencies. It also helps the reader to know that not all narcissists act out and that some narcissists are prone to depression and are shy and introverted.
Secondly, I understand that many people take comfort in religion and certain beliefs. However, to make the book useable to all I think it would be better not to use religious connotations such as the Serenity Prayer. For me, not being religious, mantras such as: "Let Go, Let God" make more for annoying reading that comfort.
© 2016 Elin Weiss
Elin Weiss has a Bachelor´s Degree in Psychology and a Master´s Degree in Women´s Studies from University College Dublin.