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As we discussed in the previous track, some depressed males have difficulty feeling empathy for their partners.
Have you found, like I , that male clients, who cannot
understand the feelings of others, are sometimes narcissistic? My working definition
of "narcissism" is when my client denotes extreme self-love, or at least
an appearance of self-love.
According to Depression, Suicide, and Human Existence, depression which can lead to suicide in men is mainly the result of conflicts and problems related to their identity. Earlier phases of doubt and feelings of inferiority are activated by interpersonal conflicts within the family or work situation. As you know, the narcissistic client is usually depressed. He is depressed because he feels insecure. Agree? He hides behind a pretense of arrogance and hyperindependence. In relationships, narcissism is extremely problematic, as in the case of David.
On the last track, we saw how David had problems feeling empathy for Amy's emotions, until he felt empathy for himself. He didn't recognize that his fear of her anger was rooted in his own insecurity. David was narcissistic. He was so consumed with his own feelings that he thought his wife had to agree with him.
As you know, becoming less self-centered requires that your client become aware of his self-centered thoughts and behavior, which can be the next step to developing more empathy for others. Thus, the client perhaps becomes more willing to meet the needs of others instead of only his needs.
Technique: Pay Attention to Self-Centeredness
Do you have a client that you feel would benefit by recognizing that his low self-esteem and his self-centeredness are getting in the way of his empathy for a significant other? Here's how I helped David to grow out of his self-centeredness.
3 Steps Used to Grow Out of Self-Centeredness
-- Step # 1 - I
suggested first that David really concentrate on listening to what Amy had to
say, not what he thought she should say. Listening to her would assist in preventing
Amy from being merely a narcissistic extension of David.
David was beginning to see conflicts as a natural part of relationships. He was starting to see the possibility that conflicts are not a threat to his masculinity.
Think of a male depressed, possibly at risk for suicide, that you are currently treating whose significant other has relegated to the role of a narcissistic extension of themselves. Would it be beneficial to introduce the esteem building concepts of strengths, expectations, and self-talk into your next session?
As you can see, shame-based narcissistic clients can thrive on conflict in relationships. In the next track, we will discuss working through power struggles.
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