“Disarming the Narcissist” by Wendy T. Behary, LCSW

Subtitle: Surviving and Thriving with the Self-Absorbed

Recommended to me by: Focusing-discussion list

The person recommending this book spoke of narcissistic wounds rather than narcissistic people. I think it’s useful to have compassion, and at the same time it is easy to lose sight of the people hurt by narcissistic behavior.

The author is a therapist who works a lot with narcissists and couples containing a narcissist. She classifies narcissists as spoiled, deprived, dependent, or combinations of these. She describes abusive childhoods which can sometimes lead to narcissistic behavior. She distinguishes between “moderate” narcissists who might reform after a great deal of work, and “perilous” narcissists who are abusive and unreachable.

The reader, assumed to be in a relationship with a narcissist, is encouraged to hold boundaries more strongly, and be more present and aware. On the one hand the author wants to be helpful and give concrete advice, and on the other hand the most helpful advice I’ve found around narcissists is, “You’re already good enough. You’re already trying hard enough. There is nothing wrong with you.”

If the following sounds like new and useful advice, you might want to read this book.

“Putting yourself in the narcissist’s shoes means trying to sense and genuinely feel his inner world. Specific techniques can help you do this. For example, when the narcissist begins to address you sharply, you could superimpose the face of a lonely and unloved little boy over that of the grown man before you.”

Available at Powell’s Books.

2 comments to “Disarming the Narcissist” by Wendy T. Behary, LCSW

  • rowena


    I would just like to say how damaging I feel the advice is regarding ‘when the narcissist begins to address you sharply, you could superimpose the face of a lonely and unloved little boy over that of the grown man before you.’…

    I did this and also tried other compassionate ways for understanding for many years, due to being a kind/loving person, and it kept me increasingly stuck and suffering greatly, perpetuating the abusive behaviour. It also meant I felt guilty for any sense of anger I felt(how can you rightly be angry at a sad little lonely boy…..?) as if I was being unjust to Him. It reduced me to a wreck of who i am – and gave him All the power and control and excuses he needed. It was a great manipulative tool for him – whether ‘true’ or not – and he used it as such, i know he did. He was a 52 year old man – whether or not a lonely little boy inside.

    It has taken me a very very long time – and much help from a wonderful, insightful healer and coach to STOP me feeling/thinking this way (re the ‘sad, lonely little boy’). Such unhelpful advice in a book on this subject.

    I’m sure there are useful sections/piece of advice in the book..but this is definitely not one of them.

    Best wishes,


    • I’m in emphatic agreement with you. It’s really hard to center the conversation on ourselves instead of the narcissists, and I think that’s exactly what’s needed to heal the wounds they cause.

      At the same time, if someone else is helping narcissists become less narcissistic, that’s also good.

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