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Correct Your Narcissistic Thinking
by Mark Sichel, LCSW

In the example below, Linda* is able to get a handle on her anxiety and doubt by working on ways to "correct" her thinking. Notice how Linda is able to catch her narcissistic thinking by recognizing the extreme vocabulary she tends to use. Linda realizes that she tends to go to extremes of idealization and devaluation in her thought processes, and that this effects not only her self-perception, but also her feelings about her fiance, David.

Read this case study and try to think about how it applies to YOU. Think about ways in which your thinking becomes distorted and negative from black and white thinking. Try to become observant about the times when you succumb to extreme thinking. Use our list of possible substitute words, from the Saints and Sinners article, to stay in a healthy and accurate middle ground of self-perception.

Case Example:

Linda, a woman in recovery for three years, is engaged to a man named David, whom she met one year ago. Linda is a fashion stylist and David is an attorney. They planned to be married in six months, but Linda was concerned about the success of the union, because of the chronic feelings of inferiority she experienced around David's friends, most of who were optometrists, doctors, and attorneys.

Linda related an incident when she and David had gone to a cocktail party at which she knew none of the other guests. She was not a professional with an advanced degree, and she imagined that ALL of the other guests were. She viewed the doctors and lawyers as brilliant while she considered herself to be inferior and dull.

When Linda read the Saints and Sinners article, she realized that she had been retreating into narcissistic thinking. She remembered that she is intelligent, as well as resourceful, quick, and alert, and that she had made the choice not to pursue a professional degree for specific reasons. She also realized that many of the attorneys, doctors, and other professionals she had met over the years might have had advanced degrees, but nonetheless lacked the kind of artistic sensibility and people skills at which she excelled.

Once Linda began exploring the idea of narcissistic thinking, she realized that she was succumbing to these self-defeating thoughts in other areas of her life, as well. Whenever David told her she was stunning, she felt reassured that he was in love with her. When David was preoccupied, however, and did not notice her appearance, she felt like she must be hideous looking. Similarly, if David responded to her appearance in a reasonable way, such as telling her she looked very nice, she feared that he must think that she was unattractive since he had not told her she was gorgeous.

Linda also discovered that she usually experienced David as being charismatic and fascinating, but when David was not "on", she felt that he was a dimwitted dullard. When Linda thought about it, she realized that David was fascinating at times, and at other times was not that charismatic, but that overall he was an engrossing and interesting person.

As you saw in the case of Linda, narcissistic thinking has a way of encroaching upon all the areas of your life. To be happy and contented, it is necessary to take a balanced approach to yourself, the ones you love, and the choices you make in life. Banish black and white thinking. You'll realize that shades of gray tend to be closer to reality and are much easier to live with anyway.

*The names of all clients have been changed to protect their identities.

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