Malignant Interaction – when to be very careful

Years ago, before I became a coach I consulted for people looking for help with their relationships, both personal and professional. To tell the truth, I wasn’t as informed about it back then, except in a conciliatory subjective and empathic manner. It was natural to try to be of help, but with little knowledge of how to get out of the never-ending circle of telling them my honest opinion and them not following my advice – or anyone else’s for that matter it was frustrating. I decided to pursue other activities because I was being used as a witness to their need for significance, certainty, drama and love. I wanted better for them and myself: A shift to a better, happier outcome.

Their pain was of course significant, they got a lot of attention being ill done by, they kicked off with others if they did not get their pain recognized, and they clung on to their pain because it was the historical reality they were certain of, and they would not move beyond it. It gave them too much!

Balancing the coaching relationship is not as hard as it seems when as your coach I keep my opinions to myself. This, believe it or not, is one of the most important canons of being a coach, because the sessions are about you not me. I won’t break the rule, neither can I coach someone with clinical needs and reserve my right to decline at any stage if it is outside my area of expertise.

So why am I mentioning past pre coaching experiences?

It is important to state that sometimes people may run into an unfair, almost insurmountable barrier, either personally or professionally. Many in the personal improvement industry may say that there is nothing insurmountable and turn it back on the client. Well, there is: A narcissist.

When someone keeps a narcissist happy things can seem great, but when they attend to their own aims, priorities and needs, without keeping a narcissist as happy, the situation changes very quickly and never nicely.

Here’s a really excellent link about what narcissism actually is and how person with this personality type behaves:

Bear this in mind, whatever bargains a person makes with themselves, or a narcissist, they must ensure the latter feels they are getting what they want and are not being ‘managed’. Hell hath no fury like a narcissist scorned.

When looking for positive feed back ‘supply triggers’, the difference between a narcissist and normal people is the regularity factor, quality and level of feedback. Attention seeker extraordinaire narcissists, cannot do without a constant supply of servile attention to feed their overblown self fantasy and ego. Some would liken them to an psychological ego-alcoholic. Without attention they cannot create the illusion of coping. The difference is an alcoholic who is dry and not suffering from delusions has to base their life and interactions on reality to stay well.

In fact, if you read: ‘Malignant Self Love’, by Dr. Sam Vaknin, you can see how narcissists tend to create false versions of themselves, to test peoples reactions. The false version being exercised is the opposite of their true self. This is where it gets difficult for ordinary mortals, unaware of the deception carried out by the narcissist, like a sleeper in a spy movie. They appear to be what they most certainly are not: amiable, charming and even generous. How could anyone suspect?

Many of us have aspects of this trait, it’s a natural survival instinct, a healthy manifestation of loving the self, but when this trait is in full, unrestricted flow it can be unpredictable for the rest of us and cause distress, and at it’s worst even fear. A powerful boss may have a very strong level of narcissism, but most are balanced and realistic enough to hear and use others opinions without ire.

A narcissistic boss wants employees passive and proactive to their demands, viewing them as underlings.

I heard one say, “If one pays peanuts, one gets monkeys.” Who wants to be viewed as a well paid monkey?

Someone who has done everything right to please such a boss can find themselves sidelined, because one day they are no longer stimulating enough, or worse have angered the boss by having a different opinion. Reality outside self-important fantasy is never truly welcomed by a narcissist. It causes them to devalue and humiliate the person who has disturbed their perfect illusion. When confronted by someone, who either knowingly, or not who makes a narcissist become uncomfortable and feel vulnerable about their process of keeping the volume of plaudits coming, watch out!

There is the publicity seeking narcissist, not to be confused with normal celebrity, or infamous stunts, and then there is the private, under the media radar kind who needs interpersonal adoration, absolutely without question. If a narcissist is prevented from witnessing and having their perfection witnessed by some interruption, even in a casual manner they don’t cope well, as a rule. Any subdued negative historic emotions they may have harboured can manifest and be projected in destructive behavior, including making others do what they want, irrespective of the harm it may cause. So, if you find yourself having to regularly throw roses at the feet of someone for past wins and distinctions (real or illusory), be mindful of what may lurk beneath.

Those people involved with individuals who could potentially be classed as high on the narcissist scale, either personally, or professionally, must decide for themselves whether the down side is worth all their energy and adoration.

I won’t coach narcissists because they rarely think they need help, unless they are using their ‘false personality’. I cannot coach people actively dancing to a narcissists tune, except to ask them the usual questions about what they want for themselves and how they prefer to get it. The realization that they may be in an abusive situation is something to be dealt with by more specialist professionals.

This article is my opinion with influences from professional experience with individuals, and excerpts from the books “Enough of You, Let’s Talk About Me, by Dr. Les Carter and ‘Malignant Self Love’, by Dr. Sam Vaknin.

Statuam … Coaching at your speed

Mandy is also coaching partner at

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