Christian Living

Family Matters 03/17/11

Dealing with a Narcissist in the Family

When Charlie Sheen’s rants and raves in the media, it highlights a little bit of what it is like to be in relationship with a narcissist. People who have Narcissistic Personality Disorder have an exaggerated sense of their own self-importance, making them difficult to deal with in families.

You might experience them as conceited or obsessed with their own brilliance, wealth, ideal love, beauty, etc. You will notice:

•    a grandiose self-importance
•    preoccupation with success
•    a drive to be admired and have attention
•    unable to accept criticism
•    extremely self-centered
•    egotistical
•    arrogant
•    selfish

The central thought of a narcissist is, "I must be a special person and I deserve special treatment". This thought is a distortion of our uniqueness. While all of us are special to God, the narcissist thinks he or she is better than others. God is not impressed by our accomplishments, outward appearances, or who we are. He is no respecter of persons.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder is an ingrained pattern of behavior and thought that takes work to change. Here are three ways you can interact with a narcissist that may improve your relationship:

1) When there is a conflict, ask the narcissist to listen to and consider your point of view.

Empathy is usually missing; so it must be addressed. Ask the person to pause and reflect on your position before they offer an opinion.

2) Work with the person, not against him/her.

You must decide how much to accommodate the person and where to set limits. For example, a pastor counseling a woman who is narcissistic and wanted to close the door of his office so they could be alone and uninterrupted, did not let that happen. She felt she deserved special treatment, but the pastor had to set a limit regarding leaving the door open. He explained why in terms of protecting her against gossip. Since she was concerned about how things appeared to others, she agreed. If the pastor had simply talked about how important it was for him to keep the door open, he may not have gotten cooperation. He set a boundary, but appealed to her specialness.

3) Don’t lose sleep over the person’s intense need for approval.

Instead, try to stick to goals that involve helping the person adapt to others in the family. Becoming angry or upset over the person’s need for self-importance gets you no where.

Relationships with someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder are challenging and take much patience. In order for things to improve, the narcissist has to acknowledge the problem and want to change. Otherwise, it is a matter of knowing how to work with such a personality.

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