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on 1 September 2009
I bought this book because my ex is a paid up narcissist and, as a psychologist myself with a grounding in CBT and a familiarity with both schema therapy and Jeffery Young's book (something frequently referred to by the author), I thought this book came with good credentials. I have to be honest at this point that I haven't read it cover to cover to yet, because it has yet to engage me, but I have speed read my way through.

However, my gut reaction was such that I wanted to write a review. Personally this book seems based on a dangerous premise - that it's good to see the world from the narcissist's point of view and that you can help them to change. In my opinion narcissists are excellent at seeing the world from their own point of view anyway and I think that sympathy and empathy for them is potentially quite harmful for the sympathiser. It keeps you where they want you - involved with them. Furthermore, narcissists are notoriously reluctant to engage in the process of change - why should they when they're so great anyway?

Whilst I can see the utility of giving people strategies for dealing with the unavoidable narcissists in their lives (close relatives, co-parents, colleagues etc), I think there's a lot to be said for the mantra of a lot of survivors' groups out there of simply getting as far away from any avoidable narcissists as you can (and that would include partners and supposed friends). Ms. Behary seems to give a lot of examples of interactions with the latter group in which the non-narcissist is supposed to be empathic for the narcissist's plight and help them on the road to change. Personality Disorder is rightly conceptualised as a continuum and if we're talking about people who are on the milder end of the narcissistic continuum, then that might be appropriate, but if you are involved with someone at the more extreme end, I think you could waste a lot of your time - and your life - atempting to put these ideas into action. CBT therapists are very good at data collection; personally before I bought into Ms Behary's approach, I'd like to know outcome statistics and the degree of narcissism of her clients.

If you're looking at books like this, I'd recommend "Why is it always about you?" by Sandy Hotchkiss. If you're interested in a CBT approach to narcissism, check out the last chapter of Jeffrey Young's book, "Reinventing your life" on entitlement schemata - this resonated for me. You might also find "The sociopath next door" by Martha Stout or "Without conscience" by Robert Hare useful. In my experience, hard core narcissists can behave very much like sociopaths and it can be useful to work out the differences. Apart from that, if you can, I wouldn't bother trying to help someone to change - let the narcissist get on with their entirely self centred life, whilst you make a better life for yourself.
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on 27 February 2014
I am a 37 year old daughter of a narcissistic father. I have tried and tested every suggested 'empathetic confrontation' and communication strategy recommended in this book, and many more besides, and they have had a long term success rate of about zero. When you grow up with this, you get very creative at dealing with these people. I had learned most of these methods by my late teens, and learned that none of them worked. And still I continued - what a sad useless waste of my time that was!

What Wendy fails to understand here is the extreme levels of deviousness intricately in-bedded in extreme narcissism. The only thing you are doing using these tools, is poring more good energy after bad, wasting many more years out of your life, and above all giving the narcissist an insight into what he/she has to do to (what they will see as), playing a different game of getting you to do exactly what they want you to do = forgive them for everything and anything.
They will sit there and pretend to listen, with their ears firmly closed and their eyes firmly shut. All the while martyring to themselves on been brave enough to suffer this hell, whilst trying to hurry you through to the part where you, once again, forgive him/her for their appalling behaviour. That is the ONLY thing they are interested in. Being left in peace to be their awful selves, and get away with it. Preferably without everyone disappearing on them.

I was also interested to note that there were no long term case studies providing evidence that these theorized methods of confrontation and communication have had any success rate. Why? Because they don't exist. If they work, they work for 5 minutes - that's it. An extreme narcissist has a very similar personality description as a socio-path. Personality disorders of this kind are very rarely treatable, if at all. And past a certain age, forget it.

It took me a really long time of trying again and again to have a relationship with my father, and to get my basic needs of love, care and respect met by him. And then one day, when trying for what seemed the millionth time to make him understand how his latest bout of verbal abuse and insult had upset me and also why, (since you have to explain it to them like they are two), and I observed very closely as he digested which 'learned characteristic mask' he would need to adorn to get himself out of his latest mess. And then watched. Watched with the crystal clear vision as he attempted to manipulate, dominate, control and lie his way out of it, just like he had always done. That was the moment when I saw how much time I had wasted on this pitiful excuse for a man.

I have been through intensive therapy twice in my life, and in both cases the prognosis for my issues were the same. My father was my main problem. I had done everything possible to address my issues, whilst he did nothing to address his own.
Neither therapist held fast with cutting close friends and family out of my life, but in his case, it was a clear message from both;

'Until the narcissist changes, and I mean really changes, not just pretends to change, then you are better off staying well clear'.

Good advice. And since accepting it this last time around, I have been much happier and felt more at peace than ever before.
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on 5 April 2013
I felt the book gave lots of tips on healthy communication, but I found it clashed with my belief that anyone with healthy self esteem would end a relationship with a toxic person, not work on ways to make the abusive behaviours more tolerable. Good for anyone with their heart set on staying with a narcissist, but not for anyone wanting to work on their self worth to avoid such people.
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on 22 July 2013
A very simple version for a very complex subject.
Too much indulging and forgiving for a very dangerous issue , that can cause big damages,for those who deal with this type of personalities.
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on 15 October 2015
I thought this book was ridiculous. For example, the author gives extremely detailed advice on how you have to communicate in the 'perfect' way and says that if you do it the narcissist will want to copy you. Really? Nothing could be further from the truth! I wonder on how many narcissist the author has successfully tried her advice. Absolutely ridiculous!
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on 5 November 2010
This is the second book on narcissism that I have read recently, the other being Hotchkiss'.

I agree with the previous reviewer on the book's premise, and its danger: I too often feel asked to adopt the narcissist's perspective. This is different, though, from understanding the narcissist, the focus of Behary's book. While adopting the perspective demanded in an argument may be a prelude to giving up on one's own, understanding the narcissist, and oneself, may be the first step in understanding how to act wisely.

Nevertheless, the book is silent on the fundamental question: what is the evidence on the likelihood of change for a narcissist? Trying to understanding how to wisely engage with a narcissist may be of limited value if this chance is small enough.

Overall, I found Behary's book more substantial than Hotchkiss'. I would have liked to know more, if possible, on the neurochemistry of the narcissists themselves, not just those who deal with narcissists: is there any evidence that narcissism is susceptible to chemical treatments, for example? I would have also appreciated a more level treatment of the other clinicians mentioned in the book, whose mention often felt like book endorsements for them: rather than just listing pages of schema, mention of their empirical validity would have also been appreciated.
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on 21 April 2011
With a couple of 'me, me, me' people in my life, that I've wanted to run from and love simultaneously, this book helped shed light on why they behave the way they do. It doesn't blame, it doesn't judge - it encourages the reader to look at their part in the 'play' too & gives some clear communication tips on how one might try to handle tricky situations with these difficult people differently. I read it in a day, jargon free and to the point - it leaves me more empathetic, accepting & less afraid.
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on 18 December 2012
I found 'Disarming the Narcissist' much less helpful than I had hoped.

The section on the origins of narcissism read, to me, more like an incomplete whistle-stop tour of only a little of the current thinking on the aetiology of this issue and didn't really give any cohesive explaination or depth of understanding.

The idea of calling deep-seated, maladaptive responses to issues which can trigger memories of previous trauma in someone 'schemas' I found really useful and helpful. The descriptions of different maladaptive schemas was probably the most useful part of the book for me, along with the idea that you need leverage to work with a narcissist.

The section on how the limbic and other lower brain functions are involved in our responses to narcissists I found quite poor and the suggested communications which followed that section seemed alarmingly out of touch and could, in my opinion, put some people dealing with narcissists in dangerous situations.

Overall I felt that the book was generally weak with some good parts.
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on 12 January 2015
Its a well written book but is probably more for people who are married to a narcissist, which it was probably intended for. I also bought Children of the Self Absorbed, which is more for me. Some good tips and advice, but i wouldn`t live with a narcissist anyway. But if you are in love with a narcissist you need this book.
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on 21 February 2016
Insight is a painful thing. This book is more about you than the person who is bothering you which of course is more useful. Useful for the lay person (with a bit of psychology knowledge) or the therapist. I got a lot from it. I found it a very warm book. Half way between a self-help book and a textbook.
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