The topic is narcissistic personality challenges. This is still a pretty hot topic. Everyone’s talking about it. It’s the buzzword in many conversations.
I had a conversation with another coach about this and it actually got me thinking about sharing this message with you Coaches, Therapists, and other people who are actually suffering from being in a relationship with someone who is narcissistic.
Or they’re actually feeling as though they’re the ones with the narcissistic challenge.
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You might have noticed that I didn’t call it a personality disorder but I don’t want to go into that, despite it being commonly known within the mental health or psychology community as a personality disorder.
In the medical and mental health areas, coaches, therapists, or psychologists are dealing with this problem, as though it’s unresolvable, or something that takes a very lengthy process and is very difficult to resolve.
Sometimes that may be the case, but it really depends on how you approach it.
So Insha’Allah, I want to approach it from a different angle.
You may have suffered, or you may be suffering now, from having these narcissistic tendencies.
What do I mean by that exactly?
Or you might be the one in the relationship.
The worst thing about this is, it’s a real, lose-lose situation for the one who has these challenges and is behaving in this way.
And the one who’s in the relationship, in the marriage with this type of person.
Both parties lose out.
This is NOT in any way, a justification for those who behave in this manner.
What I want to make clear is that this type of behaviour is unacceptable.
However, it’s very real.
Unfortunately, it’s the undesirable behaviour that many people have to go through their lives suffering, and this is not gender specific.
I work with clients who are in these types of relationships, where the man is the problem.
He’s the one with the challenge and he’s creating a horrible environment.
At the same time I work with clients, who are in marriages with women who are narcissistic, and it’s just as equally challenging for the men as it is for the women.
That’s why I say it’s not really gender specific.
Narcissism is a behaviour pattern. It’s the way that people behave.
So what is narcissism, and how would you even recognise it? That’s the first question.
The narcissist or the one who has the narcissist challenge; on the surface of it seems to have a high degree of confidence and a powerful character.
They have this sense of self-importance. And this person is always concerned with looking the best in front of others.
Sometimes the person will try to create a degree of success in their lives. In fact, very often, they’re quite ambitious.
And when things don’t go accordingly, they become very defensive, very angry, and frustrated at themselves and at the world.
And it can just spiral out of control. You can just completely spiral out of control.
These are the sorts of symptoms.
The person may have an exaggerated sense of what’s actually happening in the world, their own abilities, and what they can do.
On the other hand, it could be the opposite of that.
They believe that they don’t have any ability, and they feel imprisoned in the world of their circumstances. It could be either, but it’s generally pretty polarised.
There’s envy, there’s always looking at other people, comparing themselves to other people, and preoccupation with success and power.
Very often, there’s a lack of empathy. They can’t really understand what’s going on with other people because they’re very inward-looking.
These are some of the symptoms of a person suffering from this challenge. It’s very much a behavioural challenge.
This person likes to associate themselves with the right crowd, or the “in crowd”.
The type of people that they want to be associated with are usually the type of people they want to be.
And that kind of reinforces their perception of how life should be.
The outer level of success that other people have is often the measure of success for them.
The problem very often is that these people suffer many failures, and many setbacks, and as a result, they have this low self-image and a lack of confidence, and they cover it with this behaviour of theirs but behind closed doors, it’s all there.
So this person is adamant not to be beaten by the system, and strives hard to create life the way that he or she wants it, but often falls into low moods.
Often falls into depression, and suffers a high level of anxiety.
The interesting thing is people who have this problem don’t even realise that it’s a level of anxiety that they’re feeling, a fear.
They don’t even recognise it. This anxiety or emotional rollercoaster of a journey usually manifests in frustration, anger, and sudden outbursts.
These are the kinds of symptoms that you may see in a person who’s being described as narcissistic.
Now, I’m not into labels, and at the beginning of this, I wrote that narcissism is described as a personal personality disorder.
But this is a label.
The Science of the Nafs Approach
I come from a background in Islamic theology and Islamic psychology.
Islamic psychology that’s based on the Quran and the Sunnah, and not on traditional psychology, albeit I’m trained in different modalities.
Coming from the background of Islamic psychology, you look at it very differently and the whole label thing doesn’t help the situation.
The one who suffers from this behavioural pattern, and the one who is in a relationship; in the marriage with this person, both suffer.
And of course, that doesn’t make it okay. That doesn’t mean that the husband and wife who are on the receiving end of this is meant to stay in that situation.
Not at all.
Safety is the number one thing. So if someone’s safety and mental well-being is being threatened by this type of behaviour, then of course, actions need to be taken, and obviously, help needs to be sought out.
That’s my disclaimer.
Just in case you get angry about my view on this, I want you to see this without emotions, because I want you to understand exactly what’s going on here.
For the person who has narcissistic tendencies, when things aren’t going as planned, how they planned it, life, all of a sudden becomes tense.
That’s one of the symptoms. It doesn’t just become tense for them, but it becomes tense for those around them.
You’ll often find these people in leadership positions and in positions of power. And it feels to them that life is just hanging together by a shoestring.
It may not seem like that to everyone else.
But to those people who have these behavioural challenges, it’s like life is all hanging together by a literal shoestring.
One slight move, one mistake could bring everything tumbling down. So the person lives in a deep sense of fear that something will create all of the things that they don’t want in their life.
Essentially, it’s fear that creates all of the unsavoury behaviours that we hate to see in ourselves, let alone in others.
One of the greatest challenges for a person living in constant fear of everything falling apart is the relationship challenges at home with their wife or husband, or with the children.
This behaviour is not gender bias. Many husbands have this problem.
They’re on a power trip, as they will be described.
But many wives are also in this category. They abuse their husbands.
So this is not gender bias, but this is a behavioural problem that both males and females have. And of course, we hear a lot about how more women have these problems.
In my experience, what I’ve found is that men are too afraid to speak about it because they feel as though they’re not man enough when they let their wives treat them that way.
So they go through years of abuse, silently.
Let me reiterate that this is something that people are suffering with, husbands and wives.
A Different Perspective
Here’s my stance.
My experience in helping these types of people is with their behaviour change.
They’re going to have these tendencies and my approach, obviously, coming from an Islamic psychology approach, the basis for my entire thinking around this is based on the Hadith of the Prophet Muhammad ( saw) where he said,
‘For every sickness, there is a cure’.
So this goes against the very idea that a disease cannot be cured, and a sickness cannot be cured. You and I are human beings.
We endeavour to cure people of their illnesses.
We endeavour to help them, however, the cure never comes from us.
We are the facilitators, creating the conditions for a possible cure. The actual cure comes from As Shafee, Allah (swt) the One who cures.
Once a person recognises and submits to the fact that Shifaa is from Allah alone, then it becomes very possible to cure all diseases.
So we can begin to search for a possible cure because now we actually believe that there could possibly be a cure.
Let’s take a look at what the psychology or medical community is saying about the causes of this.
What is being said about the causes is three things.
Number one – the causes are environmental, the parent-child relationship, or the upbringing of a child, and how the child is nurtured and moulded.
A child who has excessive attention is overly praised, and given everything, or on the contrary, a child who is excessively criticised, and is always mentally beaten down.
Whichever of the two this is, that child is shaped by the behaviours of the parent.
That’s the assertion.
Then this child grows up and reflects that nurturing. This may be excessive praise or excessive criticism.
Now, the second thing that narcissism is credited to, is genetics.
They say that it’s an inherited characteristic from the father or the grandfather, or somewhere in the lineage, or the mother.
That’s to say, it’s in the blood. So there’s nothing you can do about it.
The third thing they say is that this is biological.
And, the discussion is about it being a biological deficiency or a chemical imbalance in the system that causes the behaviour.
But all in all, this cause is not conclusive by any means.
Rather, what’s happening here is that the researchers and the psychologists and the therapists in clinical practices like that, through human endeavour, are trying to get to the bottom of the problem.
But saying the problem is genetic, is like saying this is permanent, you can’t cure it, you were born with it, it’s in the genes.
Which means you’re stuck with it and there’s nothing that can be done.
The problem of saying it’s biological, or neurological, is to see it in the same light.
That means again, it has to be cured through medicinal intervention.
And, we know that, obviously with medicinal intervention, there are side effects.
So it’s like a coping strategy.
Now, those are the three areas that they attribute this to, but let me give you a different take on this.
In the traditions of The Prophet ( saw) he said, ‘Indeed, I have been sent to perfect the character.’
That’s a piece of revelation informing us that the character is something that is not fixed.
The Messenger of Allah(saw) is telling us that he has been sent to perfect the character. That means this is something that can be changed, it can be improved, and it can be perfected to the best of our abilities.
There is no perfect. So we’re not going to get into perfectionism here.
But the act of continually growing to become the best versions of ourselves. That’s very real. So growing out of the environmental moulding that we’ve undergone as children is very possible.
Changing the unwanted behaviours to behaviours that are praiseworthy, and behaviours that are conducive to good relationships, having good connections with people, and ultimately praiseworthy in the sight of Allah, is very possible.
The statement from the Prophet(saw) is that he was sent to perfect the character. That means the character can change.
So, the good news is that there is no narcissist per se.
There are only people who suffer from narcissistic behavioural patterns.
These are behaviours very often born out of fear, anxiety, depression, self-loathing, and a feeling of being undervalued and unappreciated.
The person who suffers from such symptoms will become defensive, controlling, on edge, and feeling overwhelmed by the smallest remarks or criticisms.
Because from these statements, it’s almost like, whatever is being thrown towards them, they’re taking it as a confirmation of all of those negative thoughts they have about themselves.
The negative image that they actually have about themselves.
These people seem self-assured, but they have very low self-esteem.
The sufferer of this type of behavioural challenge is in a constant flux of moods, one minute high, next minute low, one minute happy, next minute unhappy, and next minute totally irrational and defensive.
Then the behaviour of attacking others comes from an attempt at preserving themselves by lowering and putting down others around them.
It’s all a complete attempt at self-preservation.
To make it clear, again, this is not justifying the destructive behaviour that we see from this type of person.
It’s not acceptable behaviour. But this explains why it’s going on.
It’s self-preservation. They’re trying to preserve themselves, and they get defensive, and on edge, they get angry, they get frustrated, and you see all the bad behaviour come out.
So the basic premise of Islamic psychology, the Science of the Nafs which is what I teach; is that your client, or your husband or your wife does not have a personality disorder.
They have a problem with their behaviour. They have a problem with the way that they’re seeing the world.
And as much as it may be distorted, it distorts normal behaviour.
Again, going back to what the Messenger of Allah (saw) said,
‘For every sickness, for every disease, there is a cure.’
So it’s not something that cannot be fixed.
And in my experience of working with such people who suffer from these types of behavioural challenges, as well as those who are on the receiving end of such behaviours, we can remedy the problem, given the right conditions and the right time, and it doesn’t take forever.
The Islamic psychology approach, the Ilmu Nafs,the Science of the Nafs approach is to challenge these types of misconceptions.
It’s to challenge the behaviour and resolve the behaviour through taking the person back to a divinely guided understanding of life. Through divine guidance. This Deen ( religion) is complete. There is no deficiency.
There is no challenge, physical or psychological or spiritual, that the Deen does not cover. It has all the solutions within that Revelation.
For those of you who don’t know me, I train coaches, clinicians, and therapists, on how to practically apply the divinely guided Science of the Nafs, Islamic psychology if you like.
We go through understanding all of these subjects through Islamic psychology and metaphysics.
A metaphysical and psychological approach to human behaviour or management and change, because that’s how you bring about real change.
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