Book Review: Disarming the Narcissist

By Alisha Bennett, LMSW

Disarming the Narcissist, 2nd Edition, by Wendy T. Behary was recently recommended to me after I expressed difficulty with people in my life who demonstrate narcissistic qualities.  I know I am not alone in this struggle as I’ve heard clients, friends, and family talk about people in their lives who seem self-centered, or have narcissistic traits. If you do find yourself feeling frustrated over and over again with people in your lives who seem self-absorbed, self-centered, or seem to always be putting themselves first, I highly recommend this book. Not only does it help to understand the classic narcissist or self-centered person, but it also helps to define other forms of narcissism that can often go unnoticed.

Part of Behary’s approach is about finding some empathy for the narcissist in your life, which initially was a little off-putting for me. She acknowledges this discomfort in the book and talks about the flak she received from friends and colleagues about this. Then I remembered that I do similar work with clients when I support them in coming to an understanding of what makes the people in their lives the way they are. The next step with clients is working on acceptance and then boundary setting.

Behary begins by stating that the book is: "intended to help those who are trying to deal with a narcissistic person. It will define and illustrate different types of narcissism, offer explanations for why and how narcissism develops as part of a person’s personality, and provide guidance and tools for effectively surviving and even thriving in relationships with these challenging folks. It will also help you identify your own life patterns and personal life.” 

The book did exactly what it was intended to do. It helped me to gain a better understanding of why the narcissists in my life are the way they are. It helped me to develop some empathy for them and give meaning to why they have become who they are today. I have been able think more about their life experiences and keep this in mind when interacting with them. It has helped me to see them through a different lens, rather than just feeling angry and annoyed.

Behary also provides practical and quick exercises to identify the narcissists in your life, and then provides strategies on how to deal with them. Change can be difficult for all of us, but it can start with learning how to set boundaries for ourselves and feel more confident in the knowledge that we don’t deserve to be treated poorly or made to feel bad about ourselves by others. We can have more empathy, reframe our thinking, have a level of acceptance, set boundaries, and stick up for ourselves and our needs. 

References: 
Disarming the Narcissist: Surviving and Thriving with the Self-Absorbed by Wendy Behary

Alisha Bennett is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy. If you would like support in prioritizing and taking care of your mental health, contact Cobb Psychotherapy and see how therapy can help.