There is a permanent struggle with clients over whether the behaviours narcissists exhibit are in intentional. There’s a deeper struggle around the fact that narcissism is listed in the DSM, which officially makes it a mental illness.
Society is shifting towards an understanding and awareness of mental health issues and conditions. There’s a growing acceptance that people struggle emotionally in all kinds of ways and as such we should still our judgement and increase our compassion and tolerance.
And that’s a BEAUTIFUL thing. It’s amazing. It warms my heart and I’m so grateful that we are starting to normalise it.
But there’s a but.
What can get mixed up in that is that toxic behaviour can be assigned to mental illness. And it’s just not true. Lots of people have depression or anxiety, and aren’t toxic. However in narcissism, it is toxic behaviour that characterises the condition.
Here’s the thing. The narcissist knows exactly what they’re doing. They know how to ‘play’ you. They know how to create the trauma bond. They know what their manipulative behaviours do to you.
They cannot be excused their abusive behaviours on the ground of their mental illness because they KNOW. (I have research to back this up if anyone wants the article name)
When we know we are using an unhealthy behaviour, even if it’s something that we’ve been using to survive emotionally, we have a responsibility to correct that behaviour.
Back in the day I did a law degree. In criminal law, the defence of innocent by reason of insanity is only upheld when a person is unaware that what they’ve done is wrong. So for example, when someone murders someone else and hides the body, the act of hiding the body indicates they knew what they had done is wrong.
If they know what they’re doing they’re responsible.
Narcissism is borne from extreme abuse, neglect or smothering, where a child has to develop the idea that they are okay in the world for themselves because their parent doesn’t mirror that for them. To survive they develop narcissism. That isn’t their fault. But it is their responsibility.
What I’m trying to say is that you can hold people accountable for toxic manipulative abusive behaviour, even if they have a mental health issue.
Because the first time they do it might be about survival, but if they don’t take responsibility and they don’t change the behaviour, it’s toxic. End of.
You do not have to tolerate abuse because there is a mental illness. ❤️