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Disarming the Narcissist: Surviving and Thriving with the Self-Absorbed Paperback – Mar 1 2008

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: New Harbinger Publications (March 1 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1572245190
  • ISBN-13: 978-1572245198
  • Product Dimensions: 22.8 x 15.1 x 1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 227 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #118,157 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Everyone knows a narcissist, one of those vainglorious individuals in desperate need of constant affirmation and attention. Cognitive therapist Behary's book argues that by modifying your own behavior, you can manage your relationship with such a person. Separating narcissism into categories (spoiled, dependent, deprived and combinations thereof) and exploring the causes of the disorder, the author hopes to assist the reader in overcoming the emotional obstacles involved in interaction with a boss, spouse, friend or relative. Rather than focus on changing the narcissist (which may be impossible), this book aims to help the reader improve self-knowledge to see why the narcissist pushes his or her buttons and how to cope. Some of the instruments Behary provides—such as checklists, flash cards, journal writing— are useful for determining the type of narcissist you are dealing with and how your past experiences affect your responses. The author acknowledges that her book is no panacea, and she doesn't present the reader with strategies for when the narcissist isn't responsive to the actions she has suggested. Notwithstanding this caveat, Behary's book will surely provide help to many in need of a confidence bolster in the face of provocation. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"For the practicing clinician there is perhaps no other group of clients more difficult to work with or that generates more fear and feelings of inadequacy than narcissists. In Disarming the Narcissist, Behary has provided both the theoretical knowledge and practical advice necessary for clinicians to understand, empathize and, thus, help this challenging group of clients and their partners. Her "disarmingly" straightforward, accessible style and impressive clinical experience make this a very valuable book indeed."--William M. Zangwill, Ph.D., director of EMDR Associates

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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Joan Lafleur on Jan. 28 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very interesting book as it explains the Narcisstic traits and highlights your own enabling schemas, once you face your own memories and conditioning, you will release your old memories and adapt new beliefs for yourself, you will realize that you and the N in your life share some schemas like subjugation and self esteem issues, that's one reason why you usually take the abuse and feel hurt...The book gives good techniques to use when facing the Narcisstic's abusive behavior, you mostly need to stay conscious and aware of the N's patterns and conditions (at the same time as yours) and react appropriately instead of reacting defensively (as you used to), you will be able to do that once you have developed compassion towards yourself and towards the N in your life. I get the impression that this is not an impossible mission but it may take long and hard work to get the Narcisstic to take responsibility for their actions and verbal abuse then correct them, you will get no where if you keep reacting defensively and hurt the N back, it is like hurting a child (because that is what they are inside) you need to almost learn to educate them once again using a loving and compassionate language. I am in a relationship with a N and am still in the exploration phase, I used to feel hurt and suffer so much, I am now at a phase where I feel detached from whatever the N says but it is still tough at times (when you don't expect it!), I am trying to learn to develop my communication skills, this is great effort. I find the exercise worthwhile because weither the relationship remains or not, I would have overcome my own issues and learnt how to face abusive behavior.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By DoTell on Sept. 29 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I ordered this book at the same time as I ordered four other well known books about BPD and NPD, and for me this one ends up being the worst by a wide margin. The last half of the book I had a hard time forcing myself to continue -- I couldn't find anything in it that wasn't paternalistic, stereotyped and clichéd, and the florid writing, along with the endless repetitions common to the academic style, made me wince.

I admit that this sounds harsh, and perhaps I feel this way because I've done a lot of reading in this area already and was hoping for something unique (which I didn't find); but I've also done my share of professional technical writing. This book was bad on both counts: it seemed to have little unique to contribute, and to be written by someone who was in love with hearing themselves speak. (Though there was at least some grim ironic pleasure in that final thought, given the subject of the book.)

For comparison, the other books I read around the same time were:

"Understanding The Borderline Mother" by Lawson
"The Narcissistic Family" by Pressman and Donaldson-Pressman
"Reinventing Your Life" by Young and Klosko and
"Stop Walking On Eggshells, Second Edition" by Kreger and Mason.

I'd give the first three all 8/10, SWOE 5 or 6/10, and this book 3/10.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Fablexus TOP 500 REVIEWER on Oct. 1 2013
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Just WAY too much focus on not becoming a punching bag than on solving the problem itself. Thanks, but walking on eggshells I've got down pat.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Christine Levesque on April 14 2013
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This book was a very insightful, interesting read. It gave me a lot of perspective on the inner world of a narcissist. I did however, have to do research beyond this book in order to better understand my role in the narcissist's life.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 263 reviews
670 of 700 people found the following review helpful
Very worthwhile message for those willing to work hard.... March 2 2008
By SmartCookie - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
One of the few books on the market that actually provides practical insight and techniques for handling encounters with an individual who is narcississtic. Most books focus almost entirely on how awful the narcississt can behave to the point of demonizing what is essentially a archaic defense mechanism learned in childhood. The author spends considerable time on what you, as the non-narcississt, get out of the relationship, how you pick up the other end of the rope, and the importance of understanding your own hot buttons (which Narcississt's are almost supernaturally good at triggering) rather than continuing the status quo by responding with your own defensive patterns that go nowhere but bad. This book is asking a lot of it's readers; that they understand the concept of schemas and that they grow up emotionally and approach their life, and the narcissist's they may love or encounter, from a place of strength, knowledge, maturity, and wisdom. If you want another book that outlines how horrible narcissists are and how you are their unwilling victim, you will not appreciate this book. If you are willing or interested to learn about yourself and looking at your own part of the dance, such that through your own growth and modeling the relationship, even with a narcississt, has a chance to improve, then this book is for you. Bravo.
144 of 150 people found the following review helpful
"Disarming" is not the correct term... Feb. 16 2010
By Stephen Armstrong - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
One never "disarms" a narcissist, and narcissists never voluntarily disarm unless one has leverage over them--in an arena that they care about, which isn't much other than themselves.

The best part of the book is the cognitive-behavioral orientation that one uses in treating a narcissist. The narcissist's "schemas" do not allow the narcissist to "care" (about others), and since they are unexpressed and largely covert, therapy involves making the narcissist's "assumptions" and "schemas" explicit. In so doing, the therapist maintains a balance, always trying to "side" with the narcissist's desire to be loved, admired, etc., but not caving into the narcissist's grandiose demands and ultimata.

I am skeptical about the subtitle, "Surviving and Thriving with the Self-Absorbed," in addition to the use of the term "disarming." I have never known anyone, and especially children, who has learned to "thrive" with a narcissist. The only question in living with a narcissist is how large the collateral damange extends in terms of relationships and time-through-life.

My brother was a flagrant narcissist. Yes, he had all the "little boy" defenses that Ms. Beharry describes. He was divorced twice, fathered two children out of wedlock in a third non-married relationship, lost jobs due to his unpredictable nature, threatened to sue his brothers and sisters, and was a serious substance abuser. Yes, he was also a lawyer, which is a profession loaded with professional narcissists. He hated therapists. He raised one borderline survivor of his narcissism, a young person who truly is crippled, and who also hates therapists.

Could he have been disarmed? Absolutely not. Could any of his wives, live-in's, girlfriends, or children "thrived"? Absolutley not. He did his family and the world a favor when he died--of congestive heart failure--and thus did the only decent thing in his life, to lower his carbon footprint. He was the angriest person I ever knew.
699 of 750 people found the following review helpful
Dangerous and Irresponsible Dec 14 2012
By J. Hill - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm horrified that this book was written by a professional claiming to be an expert in Narcissism! I nearly bought this book for my mother who is trapped in an abusive marriage with a toxic narcissist (my father). This book encourages exactly the kind of enabling, self-immolating behavior that she is currently ruining her life with. Thank god I didn't send her this "expert" endorsement of her destructive, co-dependent fealty to someone who is a true psychological predator and parasite.

Now, I understand this is a pop-psychology self-help book, and thus shouldn't be held to a very high standard. The problem is, it's written about such a dangerous group of people that it becomes flagrantly irresponsible to be so naive, vague, and incomplete when instructing the partners of these serial abusers. Additionally, the author claims to be a professional expert with 20+ years of experience dealing with this specific personality disorder. This to me, crosses the line. I find this book to be literally dangerous reading material for a VERY vulnerable target audience.

The book is also pretty poorly written. Most of the advice is so vague it's nearly useless (general visualizations, basic communication skills like mirroring, advice on finding your authentic voice with no tools to actually get there) and the descriptions of narcissism are far too generalized for a one-topic book. The whole section on "schemas" (presented as ground-breaking and utterly brilliant) is simplistic and in no way specific to narcissistic relationships. I'll summarize for you everything you need to know about schemas - 1) You have buttons, created in your sad childhood. 2) Sometimes people push your buttons, which makes you feel flustered. Wow. Mind blown. That's 40+ pages of a 150-page book.

What's worse, she goes off on these flights of inept descriptive language, and includes a truly self-indulgent introduction about how she always dreamed of writing a book and displayed such an early talent for language, but "never actually intended to become a writer." A bit ironic to include this in a book about narcissism.

Some choice quotes to give you a taste of how naive and ridiculous this book is:

"The philosophy of the Jedi knights suggests that a sentient, interplanetary energy lies within us all, binding us together and giving us the power to withstand opposition and create light in moments of darkness."
"You extend a loving imaginary arm to wrap around the pained heart of little you."
"With awareness and flexibility, you enlist the possibility of seeing with abundant clarity the depth, color, and movement of, for example, the ocean."
"Your distress now slides away like a fluffy omelet departs a well-prepared pan."

This might all be forgivable, if she didn't go on to present so many ideas that are downright dangerous:
"You model an apology [to the narcissist] that is based in a compassionate understanding of how and why certain messages hurt him."
"You work very hard at protecting his inner child from experiences that would trigger these haunting feelings of fear and humiliation."
"You don't want him to experience you as uncaring and demeaning."

This mindset plays into the fundamental destructive dynamic of narcissists - that it's all about their needs, that everyone else has to compromise to keep them comfortable, that the world should walk on eggshells in fear of their temper and their disapproval. Partners of these people are already well-trained in how to accommodate their fragile egos. What they need is instruction in how to hold these people accountable, and let them know their sadistic tactics are transparent and unacceptable. This book pays brief lip-service to the idea of accountability, and spends most of the page count instructing people on how to coddle the delicate sensibilities of the poor, damaged narcissist.

Worst of all, it takes the author until page 114 to make the following one-paragraph disclaimer: "This approach is inappropriate with anyone who makes you feel unsafe or abused. [...] If the narcissist in your life is violent, abusive, or threatens your safety in any way, please seek assistance immediately." She then refers to the Domestic Violence hotline, and then promptly returns to descriptions of how to "empathize with" and "re-parent" your poor narcissist. The problem is, this disclaimer implies that physical abuse is the only unacceptable form of abuse. People with true NPD are often flagrant psychological and verbal abusers, but too strategic to resort to physical abuse. In fact, many of the example scenarios later detailed in the book involve or reference verbal abuse. Yet the author says almost nothing about protecting oneself from this kind of abuse, or how to identify what might qualify as abusive behavior. People who are in romantic relationships with full-blown narcissists often don't have an accurate sense of where healthy relationship boundaries should be set. They don't understand what is acceptable or not acceptable treatment in a relationship. Yet the author never defines what might be accepted within a reasonable relationship, and what should not be tolerated.

This book was woefully short on the concept of personal boundaries - that everyone has a right to set personal boundaries, or how to set a boundary with someone who habitually violates them. When the subject is addressed, it's done in such a limp-wristed, ineffectual way that it's truly laughable to imagine saying some of the suggested monologues to an actual narcissist. It's also woefully short on ego-strengthening techniques for partners of narcissists, or tools to build a psychological foundation/identity apart from the destructive influence of their narcissist.

In case it wasn't already obvious, this book made me completely furious for being so irresponsibly and poorly written on such a sensitive topic. If it were up to me, I would have this woman professionally reprimanded and her license reviewed.

One smaller note:
As other reviewers have noted, this book is directed almost exclusively at romantic partners of narcissists. There are a few token mentions of narcissistic co-workers. But there's virtually nothing about parent-child relationships, siblings, authority figures, or other relationship dynamics.

Also she operates under an assumption that "If you're reading this book, chances are you've chosen to stay connected to the narcissist in your life." Thus, there's not a lot of material for managing relationships in which one is obligated to stay, despite a desire and justification for leaving.
138 of 145 people found the following review helpful
A blame the victim type of book March 3 2012
By Bethelight - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I really wanted help dealing with my abusive narcissistic spouse but this is completely unhelpful. The reason is because, although we all have schemas that affect our interactions, we do not all operate based on them and we can control our schemas. I have the abandonment/self sacrifice schemas, and I recognize that this makes it uncomfortable to be assertive and stand up for myself. However, I have stood up for myself numerous times when dealing with my narcissistic spouse. Unfortunately, compassionate standing up for your needs does not seem to get through to a narcissist. You can speak up in the way that the book suggests but this will likely be ineffective. Dr. Behary seems to suggest that people are unaware of their own schemas and that they operate behind the scenes ( I think these are her exact words) but this is not always the case. When I feel discomfort I know it's because I fear abandonment and I stand up for myself anyways. But the narcissist has always raged against me for trying to convey my dissatisfaction with his behaviors. Also, I am quite sure my spouse also knows his schemas because he is well aware of his damaging childhood memories yet he chooses to act out on it in narcissistic and abusive ways. The thing about narcissists is that they choose to belittle, lie etc.. And know they are doing it..but they will justify it and blame everyone else. Others have been abused and do not end up narcissistic. This book focuses too much on changing how you interact with your abuser in ways that blames you for putting up with the abuse. No one asks or allows themselves to be abused. Everyone makes their own decisions and abusers are the ones who choose to abuse. And no matter what their childhoods were like, they have to decide how to behave. The victims are not responsible because they have their own schemas. My schemas do not cause me to be abusive, though I could be and use my childhood to justify it. In the end, this book says that because of their childhoods, abusers have schemas and can't help their abusiveness so it is up to the abused to be compassionate and stand their ground. Sorry but my spouse was not compassionate when he told me how worthless I am. Please, if you are a victim reading this book, remember that just because you have been afraid does not mean that you have asked for or allowed yourself to be abused. In the end, wouldn't it just be better to be with someone who chooses to love and not abuse, despite whatever schemas he/she might have? Don't we all deserve that kind of love?
325 of 355 people found the following review helpful
Fell short of what is promised March 6 2008
By Karen E. Fauls-traynor - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Overall, I found this book to be disappointing. It was helpful in terms of learning about narcissists and why they behave the way they do. The information about schemas and the reasons why we let narcissists push our buttons was also interesting. What I was looking for--as promised in the book--was strategies for dealing with people with this disorder, and I thought that those listed were very unrealistic. The examples of helpful dialogue that the author gives are just not practical. A narcissist would be have tuned out after the first sentence of most of those monologues. The tips for dealing with a narcissist coworker were few and far between. Basically, I was left with the impression that there is not much you can do about a narcissist in your life except change your own behavior or get them out of your life.