The Obsessive Narcissist: Stopping the Suffocation

By: Christine Hammond LMHC

Certain professionals such as attorneys, surgeons, and pilots are highly valued for their persistence, myopic focus, and single-minded determination. These traits enable a person to be very successful in environments that not only encourage but reinforce this behavior. After all, no one wants a surgeon who is easily distracted while performing open-heart surgery.

But when this behavior is directed onto a spouse or child, it can become suffocating.
Relationships require a bit of finesse, a give and take mentality, and a freedom of choice in order to thrive. All of these elements are counterintuitive to the obsessive narcissist who cannot separate their efficacious work behavior from home life. They believe that the same level of intensity that they bequeath at work will also be equally productive at home.


It is not. Frequently, it has the opposite effect. The family member becomes overwhelmed by the excessive attention and tries to run away instead. This usually results in enormous amounts of frustration for the obsessive narcissist who only pushes even harder. But the harder they try, the worse the results. The downward spiral begins, often ending in total isolation or abandonment.

It can be different, the suffocation can stop. However, this process requires equal participation from all parties involved to be effective. Here is how it works:

1.       Identify the obsessive narcissist. This personality is a combination of Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder and Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Some of the traits include: ritualistic order, myopic or hyper focus, unreasonable persistence, single-minded determination, won’t listen to advice, can’t see things from other’s perspective, quietly boisterous, doesn’t listen to ‘no’, uses extremes or exaggerations in arguments, gives excessive details or explanations, keeps mementos of successes, and tramples those in their way. An accurate assessment of this personality is essential to the process.
2.      Create safety for the family members. The bulling behavior of the obsessive narcissist generates an unsafe environment for the family. They never know when or where they will become the next target and are frequently excellent escape artists just before an explosion happens. It is essential that the family feels heard, understood, and does not feel pressured into the relationship. Everything must proceed on their timetable, not on the obsessive narcissist’s schedule.
3.      Everyone to their corners. When boxers get too close during a match, the referee separates the parties and sends them to their corners. Trying to work with both parties in the room at the same time doesn’t yield quick results. Rather, it is better to separate the parties so as to reinforce a safe environment, divide out the issues, and triage their importance. This gives the family time to reset from the intensity of the obsessive narcissist.
4.      Establish rules of order. The best part of working with an obsessive narcissist is that they understand the need for order and often willingly abide by rules that they have established. However, the downside is that if they do not agree with a rule, they will break it within minutes. Most obsessive narcissists need detailed explanations as to the reason for the rule, the ability to modify it within a certain time frame, and reassurance that process will work. The family needs the rules to feel safe.
5.      Begin with agreement. Finding the areas of mutual agreement is the key to a successful process. Especially when that area is a long-term outcome such as having a healthy relationship that respects boundaries. Also included are common personality traits or interests that might be shared by the family members. When each is able to see what they have in common, it naturally draws them closer.
6.      Deal with crisis matters first. Whatever issue is currently burning for both parties, must be dealt with first. Then, the long-term matters come next. Sprinkled in between are insignificant issues. This is an intentional process of big item, little item, and back to big again. The little items allow for time to breath before tackling another hot-button issue. However, no more than two crisis items at a time before moving to the next step.
7.      Return back to step one and begin again. Interestingly enough, as the process proceeds, it is necessary to remind everyone how and why things are this way. For each new ground that is established, all of the steps need to be revisited. This often frustrates the obsessive narcissist who wants to keep things moving forward at an aggressive pace. However, the family needs to go back and revisit the beginning in order to move forward at a comfortable pace.

Through repetition and several successful completions of the process, the obsessive narcissist learns a new way of dealing with their personal relationships. The suffocation can stop and health can be restored to the family.

To schedule an appointment with Christine Hammond,
Please call our office at 407-647-7005.

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