In my last blog I talked about a new book I’m working on which is getting close to being finished. We think the title will be Facing Narcissism in Ourselves and Others. I have taken one of Dr. Jim Wilder’s Munchie CDs and turned it into a book. The new book goes right along with some other blogs, including the one from November 5, 2011 titled, Tactics of a Bully, Part One. In the book, Dr. Wilder talks about narcissists (which I have called bullies), how they operate, what causes narcissism and what to do about it. In this Part Two about bullies, or narcissists, we will look at another aspect of bullying—those who beat up on themselves.
In Part One we looked at bullies who growl or attack because they do not want us to communicate in any way that we are not glad to be with them. We saw that even though we may give them a good shame message, these bullies will not receive it well. Remember that a good shame message communicates something like, “What you are doing right now keeps me from being glad to be with you and because I want to be close with you, let’s find a better way to do this and work it out.” The focus is on drawing close, but bully-narcissists do not want to hear anything about shame.
On the other side of receiving shame messages, there are people who do not growl or attack the messenger upon hearing a shame message; they attack and beat up on themselves. Dr.Wilder has a descriptive name for both kinds of bullies (narcissists) that we are looking at. He calls the growly bullies “Peacocks.” He calls the quieter, self-attackers “Skunks.”
Peacocks usually attack anyone who gives them a shame message. Skunks on the other hand, beat up on themselves. If they get a shame message, they will turn around and say, “Oh, I stink. I’m awful. No one loves me. I’m not worthy.” They beat themselves to a pulp until the other person does the same thing he would have done with a peacock—tell them something on the order of, “Oh no, there’s nothing wrong with you. I’m sorry I said that. I won’t say it again.” We take back everything we said to correct them because they went around beating themselves up. With either style of narcissist, the same goal has been accomplished— to stop the shame message of correction. Neither will tolerate shame.
As we can see from this brief paragraph taken from the new book, both kinds of people who are unable to take a good shame message are behaving as narcissists. Neither can hear the underlying goal of drawing close. Both want the problem to go away instead of focusing on the relationship. Neither knows how to return to joy from shame, a task we are supposed to learn around 12-18 months of age.
What adult narcissist-bullies need is a new track in their brain for how to return to joy (being glad to be together). Dr. Wilder gives us one solution for restoring a narcissist:
Narcissists are eager to keep track of all the things that will make others feel shame, because later on this might prove useful to them. They will always listen to someone else’s shame story because they are trying to find out what causes others to feel shame so they can bring it up again and use it to hurt or control. To them, having an arsenal of shame about others is very powerful ammunition. But suppose in the middle of our shame story we throw in a little nugget of how we learned from that; how we learned to be the kind of person God meant us to be. By doing that, we can provide a road back, a path back to joy in their brain, for the narcissist.
The narcissist will actually learn from listening to our story if we will share with them the shame in our life and how God brought us back to joy from that. If their narcissism is of the iniquity version (defined in the book as “things we learned to do the wrong way when young”), they learn there is a way back from shame, the place they got stuck to begin with.
In childhood, narcissists stuck in their iniquity never learned the way back to being close; they do not know there is a way back, so when we tell them the story, they follow us back. It is as if they are saying, “Oh, whoa! How did you get back there? How is it we started over here with unhappy to be with me and you got back to being glad to be together? That’s an amazing trip!” As they follow that trip back with you, the interesting thing about the brain is that it learns there is a different way to relate. This is what is necessary for people who have been raised in iniquity.
So this is my teaser for the new book. I will post when it’s ready. I’ve been working almost daily on it since October. It’s back with Dr. Wilder in written form for him to approve and fine-tune. I cannot wait to have it in my hands to underline in and give to others.
“These things have I spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” John 15:11