Are you a narcissist? Am I a narcissist? This my friends is a complex topic. This week’s episode continues on from last week’s investigation of the Fight response as one of the four Fs of Fight, Flight, Freeze and Fawn. And we’re going to dive into Narcissism as it relates to the Fight Type. We’re also going to look at recovery and healing for our fighters, and how a healthy fight response is necessary for our survival and wellbeing.
So stick around if you are one of the people who blurts out their feelings, fights & gets it all out. Or stick around if you don’t but you know people like that.
Enjoy this week's video episode, or continue reading the blog below!
Let’s talk about Narcissism. Firstly, what is it? The simplest definition is an excessive need for admiration, disregard for others' feelings, an inability to handle any criticism and a sense of entitlement. And it’s worth knowing 3 signs of potential narcissism: one, a deeply self-centered person with a grandiose sense of self. Two: they cannot tolerate criticism. Three: they lack empathy.
So, one of most difficult things to recover from is true narcissism as a clinical personality disorder. Some say true narcissism is untreatable, but almost all of us have narcissistic traits. The work of Dr Craig Malkin is really interesting on this subject, where he demonstrates that narcissism exists on a spectrum, and some narcissism is necessary for our wellbeing, including a healthy sense of self.
It is said that if you find yourself in relationship with a person with narcissist personality disorder the best course of action is to separate and create your own life. Because if the personality is rooted in self-centeredness and everyone else is the problem, it’s very difficult to create a real, heart centered relationship. And it may be accompanied by a lack of empathy and an underlying sense that the narcissist unconsciously believes they are perfect in every way.
But let’s assume none of us here are full-blown true narcissists… you and I are just ordinary humans stumbling around doing our best making sense of life.
When narcissism interfaces with a fight type, they may exhibit behaviour that is controlling, defensive, mean or selfish. They may be proponents of the monologue, where one gets trapped in a conversation or a rant that seemingly won’t end, where it feels like there's no way through, or a gap for you to even say anything. And freeze & fawn types are the perfect foil for this, easily captured by the monologue.
And this fight and capture pattern may be born of either subtler or full blown narcissistic personality behaviours. The speaker has little or no sense of you, your feelings or even your presence as they rant. Once they get going, they just want to talk, vent, offload and it can be very painful for the listener.
For treatment and recovery. What do we do? How do we recover?
If you are a fight type that engages in monologues, it's worth recognizing your pattern and developing consciousness around this. And in that recognition, begin to unwind that and make space for the other for real communication. Ultimately, doing this will make a fight type feel safer in the world.
So this type really benefits from understanding the effect of their aggression and control. People will not feel safe with them, and they may essentially scare away partners and friends. And the warmth, intimacy and safety that they want to feel in life may be severely compromised by their fight-oriented communication and defense style. This excessive use of power leads to withdrawal by people from their lives… and of course with this emotional withdrawal, they feel more abandoned and less safe. And that can make them more angry. And you can end up in a downward spiral through this use of the fight response. So an important process for fight types is to face and really understand the impact of their voices on their partners, friends and children. In other words, to take the risk to really find out the effect of what this form of communication has on people who are close to them.
And one powerful way of working with the fight response is to begin to do the work of liberating the voice to learn to speak earlier... long before stuff builds up. So that long before charge builds up in the body, into an emotional nuclear bomb, we learn to speak when it's a mild irritation, or when we’re sitting with stuff, and then get it out early. So it helps if fight types face the fear of speaking early, before the intensity increases. Daily vocal practices are one way to assist this, bringing more energy, movement, fluidity and harmony into the voice. See my Vocal Freedom Guide linked below for examples of this.
Through vocal liberation techniques we learn to drop out of the head and meet the feelings properly in the raging belly, and learn to move into what is called ‘Balanced Awareness’ and speak from authenticity and the heart. In other words the fight type can learn to carry the feeling in the body but be less completely captured by the anger. Feel it but be aware at the same time.
A very valuable route for fight voices to resolve communication issues is to work with a qualified relationship counselor and or be in a safe space for facilitated communication. Working with a qualified therapist is recommended.
And I think for our fight people, it’s useful to develop some standards about how they communicate to others, and apologize if they fall short. Many fight types struggle to apologise afterwards - remember they are entitled to speak like that, and may lack empathy for how their words and tone land, but the irony of course is that apologies are the best best medicine for a fight type, as it will quickly reestablish connection. They can learn to speak firmly, but be clear & kind.
And one of the one of the things that really helps is to shift the anger from the partner, or children, or significant others in your life, to the childhood and other causes of it. In other words to shift the lens to what originally hurt you and made you angry. It is not easy work to really connect with the feelings of abandonment or abuse, or whatever they are at the root of it all, and then channel that rage to where it really originates from. So what’s being asked is to really own where these feelings come from, and do the deep work with the root issues, to deal with the original trauma.
And, it’s helpful to learn from the other Four F responses. You might learn to freeze in the moment, stand still, breathe, and see what's going on with a bigger view instead of blasting. Or, you might flee, leave the scene, take a timeout and go to your room rather than venting because you're hurt. Or you might learn the empathy of the fawn - to really consider and know the feelings of the person you’re speaking with, even as you’re speaking.
Another introspective route is to deeply see and meet your own imperfection… This involves some inquiry into ways in which you view yourself as perfect or better than others, and in the process overcome the illusion of perfection you unconsciously carry. What’s usually going on is that you’re projecting your own toxic inner critic onto others… if feels much better when it’s over there!
Re-owning your inner critic allows us to integrate where we’re emotionally bypassing. In other words, by facing one's own messy humanity, it's less easy to rage at others for their humanity or imperfection, and thus fight with them. So it's to own your own projection and take back the inner critic that you’re projecting outside onto others.
And to moderate and balance the fight response it’s good to really include consideration for the other, to feel into and empathize for and understand the impact of your words and tone. To become conscious of the impact the fight response has on other people, and to catch yourself when monologuing.
And as with all of the four Fs, the more we bring energy and consciousness to our self expression, the less likely that we will be captured by either the freezing of the vocal cords or the subsequent blasting by them. The more we exercise, tone, empower our voice, the more we can heal the dysregulation in our communication.
So let’s bring this full circle - I’d like to remind you that healthy anger is essential to healthy boundaries, authentic relationships, and appropriate and essential to our survival.
I often quote the study that Gabor Mate cites, where 1,700 women in unhappy marriages in the USA were surveyed over a 10-year period. It showed that the women who were unhappily married and didn’t express their emotions were four times as likely to die as those women who were unhappily married and did express their feelings. In other words, the non-expression of emotion was associated with a 400 percent increase in the death rate.
So healthy fight types can teach us something about expressing feelings, and give shut-down voices licence to get it out. Healthy, straightforward expression can be very open, powerful and clear. You know where you stand, everything's out on the table, which can be really healthy.
Furthermore, Dr Maté speaks at length of his experiences with the link between auto-immune diseases and shut down voices. I quote: “Well, when I looked at the kind of people that would be coming under my care in palliative care, but also the kind of people who would get sick when I was in family practice, a number of salient characteristics presented themselves. One was the repression of anger. People didn’t know how to express negative emotion. They were afraid to do so or did not know when they were angry. People who were pleasers, they tried to always not to disappoint other people. They never knew how to say no. They took on everything without a murmur, because they saw their role as always being the caregivers and the caretakers. And they had an exceedingly powerful sense of duty, role and responsibility.
Now, if you look at the role of healthy assertion of boundaries and anger, for example, it’s actually there to protect you. I’m talking about healthy anger. It’s not there to attack anybody; it’s just there to protect your boundaries. That’s the same role that the immune system has”.
And in some senses Western Culture has glorified a pretence of “niceness” and “I’m OK”, and shut down and shamed anger. So for all four Fs… nurturing healthy anger and boundaries is really important, and may possibly may save our lives.
As with all of the four F patterns of Fight, Flight, Freeze or Fawn, there’s personal work to be done to heal and work through these patterns. All four Fs at worst can create really destructive behaviour. And we're working this all out together. If you’re watching this, you’re probably on a healing and consciousness journey of some kind, so you’re doing the work too.
As the late great Ram Dass said, “we’re all walking each other home”.
I hope you enjoyed this. Let me know your thoughts - get it out, speak the words.
Thank you for reading this