Jackie – I think always coming back to a place of understanding and compassion that at some point this was a small child who experienced probably a high level of physical emotional or sexual abuse before the age of five and they got stuck in that survival mode for some of us when we’re watching a scary movie we see a predator on that movie that child had to live with that predator and being that constant form of physical and emotional or sexual abuse
Nicky – What’s up CorrNation! Welcome to another episode of Coin for Thought, we have Jackie Lebau here. She’s a registered psychotherapist and she’s also a certified clinical trauma specialist, she’s the CEO of Evolve Counseling and she’s here to talk about narcissism. So thank you so much for joining me on the show Jackie.
Jackie – Thanks for having me
Nicky – Yeah so let’s start with what is narcissism? So how can it be really defined because that word really gets thrown around a lot. So if we can define it what would it be?
Jackie – Narcissists tend to have a bad reputation or a bad image but the foundation of narcissism tends to be that a child who has trauma under the age of five or you know when we have a helicopter parent who gives and gives and gives and there’s no boundaries or any structure routine or discipline for the child so they don’t learn healthy boundaries and then they continue to move through life having no boundaries and expecting everything to be handed to them. When it’s in relation to trauma they go into survival mode and then they get stuck in that. So at the core of narcissism there’s a lot of deep rooted insecurities.
Nicky – Okay and they’re insecure not like regular people they’re there’s a huge insecurity. What is that, what is that really like for people with regular insecurities to really understand?
Jackie – So for somebody who has regular insecurities, they’re able to manage their life in their day-to-day still with that insecurity and have that awareness that this is my insecurity, this is how I’m going to move through things with that insecurity. For a narcissist though they don’t have the awareness so they’re not able to manage in their day-to-day hearing criticism or hearing anything negative about themselves. It’s kind of like having a water bottle that’s full. For most people with insecurities even if you add a little drop of extra water that’s a negative they’re still able to manage the rest of the water in the bottle. For a narcissist when there’s an extra drop of anything negative about them the entire water bottle explodes.
Nicky – What happens when you’re in a situation with a narcissist and you may be in a regular situation and and you the situation kind of turns sour and it causes them to, I guess for their insecurities to kind of shine in that situation and you might not have intended to say anything or do anything but it puts them in that space where they’re now I guess defensive. How would a narcissist react in that situation?
Jackie – Probably one of three ways. So with a lot of anger a lot of blame shifting in that anger where they’re shifting and everything back onto you. It’s your fault, you’re the problem, not me. They might use a lot of manipulation to undo the situation to make it appear as though nothing was wrong from their side or they might gaslight and gaslighting is where they make you feel like you’re the one who’s um in the wrong or you’re the one who’s doing everything and it’s never about them though.
Nicky – How do you identify say you’re going on a date with somebody and you know you’re having a dinner with them and things are going really really well right and you’re trying to get to know them and you know you’re telling them a little bit about you how do you identify that the person that you’re having dinner with is a narcissist and and you maybe shouldn’t be furthering a relationship with this person?
Jacie – You want to look for those red flags that it’s called love bombing. So they come off very charming but they typically tend to talk about marriage right away. So in the first month they’re saying I love yous they’re talking about marrying you, they’re talking about how you’re their whole world and you’re they put you on this pedestal as though you’re the the goddess in their life and when you’re in those situations that’s how you’re gonna identify love bombing that it’s a red flag that they’re not actually transitioning through a healthy relationship through the steps that we should be if we’re not a narcissist.
Nicky – Okay so say for example you’re in a relationship with a narcissist and you’ve been in one for a long time. I find that narcissists normally I guess are more attracted to people that are more docile right because they sort of suck the energy from that, from that person, right.
Jackie – Narcissists they tend to go for somebody who’s an empath.
Nicky – Right
Jackie – So the reason for that is I describe a narcissist as somebody who’s more hollow. So they’re not able to understand what love is in the actual true sense of that word. They’re not able to feel love in any capacity even for themselves or self-compassion. So they’re not able to fill their own cup. So they have to go out and look for supply from other people.
Nicky – Like a vacuum.
Jackie – The best person to look for is an empath. Who tends to be a rescuer, who wants to change people, who wants to help people, and they tend to people please as well. So they give and give and give, so it’s like the narcissist attaches themselves to the empath and they start to drain everything out of the empath, which is how they fill themselves up and that’s how they get their supply.
Nicky – What does an empath really go through in a relationship with the narcissist? What are common feelings that an empath would have in a narcissistic sort of relationship structure?
Jackie – I call it a tailspin. So a lot of confusion, a lot of self-blame because the narcissist told me that it’s all my fault so it must be my fault and for empaths they take on a lot of other people’s feelings as well and they want to people please so if a narcissist isn’t happy they tend to go overboard and trying to make them happy. There’s a lot of sadness and loneliness though because there isn’t actually a true connection between the two people. It’s very superficial, I call them puddle relationships for a narcissist to be in because they don’t know how to love you. You’re basically only there for their supply.
Nicky – So what if an empath really wants to leave a narcissist? They felt like they have given so much into that relationship and a very common feeling that empaths always have is they have their fix it mentality. So they want to fix the relationship and they don’t want to be the cause of someone’s pain right and they don’t want they’re often conflict adverse right. So they don’t want to be the ones starting up a conflict and how did they sort of exit that relationship um you know from that person who now they’ve realized as a narcissist?
Jackie – As quickly as possible and with as much limited communication as possible. They also would benefit from having a really good support system in place, people who can keep them grounded. Say a parent or a sibling or a best friend. Who can help keep them in check to know that when the narcissist is going to try to manipulate them to come back because they will because they want their supply back right and then there’s a lot of manipulation and guilt tripping and for empaths that guilt can be very heavy on their shoulders for them to want to just go back and give them that one last chance and it’s hard to um not fall back into that mentality of I think I can fix them this time, which you’ll never be able to change them they can’t change because they don’t know how to change. So the best option is to just walk away, turn to your support system and limit and cut off as much communication as possible.
Nicky – I’ve always felt like people can’t really change, people are who they are and they evolve into themselves as they grow and learn and experience different things. Do you, do you agree with that? Or you know do you feel like what, what about those things when you hear like someone’s changed, sort of like 180? Or whatever and I never I never really believed that I always feel like if you’re saying that you probably didn’t really know the person, you know what do you think about that?
Jackie – I think everybody’s capable of change, if they’re given the right tools. So often in our childhood we’re not provided the best tools from our parents because they weren’t provided the best tools from their parents but every client that I’ve worked with has been capable of change once they’re given healthy tools, healthy forms of communication and doing some thought restructuring on teaching new ways of seeing things.
Nicky – Right.
Jackie – Once you teach that now they have another tool in their tool belt for them to be able to make changes in their lives themselves.
Nicky – So can you really change a narcissist? Can you heal them from being who they are? Is that even possible?
Jackie – One of the common things I hear, is there’s no cure to narcissism, you can never change them and um for the most part yes that’s true but it’s not the actual treatment part of narcissism or the disorder that you can’t, that’s not in place, the treatment side of it is actually very easy. The problem with a narcissist is creating that awareness, they don’t have the ability to see or hear that they’ve done something wrong. That they’ve caused hurt to other people they can’t hear that. So when I’m working in a session with a narcissist, the hardest part of the therapy work is creating the awareness because they fight back on it and once they are able to let go of the pride and the ego then we can move into the treatment side of things and it carries out very quickly for them.
Nicky – So let’s talk about narcissism and children and children exhibiting narcissistic tendencies because they have a parent that’s now influencing them. So um so let’s start with children and narcissists in the sense of, children having a narcissist parent and you know facing the wrath of that narcissistic parent. What does that relationship often look like?
Jackie – So the same is with a spouse, the child is still going to be someone there as a pawn or a way for the narcissist to get their supply. So they will use that child as a manipulation tool against the spouse or against somebody else in their life to try to get a different version of supply, but for the child what tends to happen is there’s the genetic component if a parent is a narcissist then the child may become that through mimicking the same behavior as a parent because it’s learned behavior as well.
Nicky – Right
Jackie – So when they come to therapy and they talk about traits of narcissism, I first assess whether is this mimicked narcissism or is it a true form of narcissistic behavior due to a trauma or the way that they were raised from their parents.
Nicky – So how can you tell if you’re with somebody and somebody’s mimicking something versus somebody is truly a narcissist? How can you tell the difference really?
Jackie – I test for empathy. So I will put them in a situation with me, so for example I had a client where I purposely showed up late to the session and made a comment about my child being sick to see what their reaction was going to be and if they display a form of empathy or follow-up empathy then I can help I can better identify whether it’s mimicked behavior or if it’s a true narcissist in front of me.
Nicky – So what happens if you have children or a child where you’re in a relationship, you have to help your child you have to get out of the relationship. What are ways that you can go about doing that safely? Especially if you’re with a narcissist that is extremely aggressive.
Jackie – I think again limiting the communication to we’re only here to co-parent this child now and working with the child from the empath side to be more attuned to their emotions. The transition period between a narcissistic home and then an empath home is going to look very different, which can cause some confusion for the child. So in the empath home it’s important to have open and transparent conversations about specific behaviors or how they’re feeling upon arriving back home at the empath’s house, so that somebody has to be attuned to their emotions and that can help them work through and process any of the negative traits that they’re seeing in a narcissistic home.
Nicky – What are the long-term impacts of, of you know, narcissistic behavior on children? Like what is, what are these children look like as adults and when they come to you for therapy what do you normally see in kids that have had narcissistic parents? One or two?
Jackie – I see a lot of anger and a high level of breakdown of self-esteem and confidence because the narcissistic parent will often break down, slowly that child self-esteem to work to build up their own. So when an adult comes to me who has a parent who is a narcissist we tend to work on a lot of the anger and rebuilding back some of the self-esteem but there is this need to seek validation still from their current spouse. They’re looking to seek the validation that they never had from their parent. So they’re always looking for somebody to confirm to them, that I’m important, I’m special, I mattered. So..
Nicky – That’s exhausting though for the other person, really that’s so exhausting because you’re constantly having to reassure them and comfort them and be there for them.
Jackie – Yes.
Nicky – At the same time, you know like that comfort really isn’t going anywhere because they’re still the same and the issues are still arising
Jackie – but we work in therapy to teach them how to validate themselves so I talk a lot about um being stuck in our inner child and it’s the inner child that’s seeking that validation.
Nicky – What does that mean being stuck in your inner child? Can you explain that?
Jackie – So trauma is stored in us at the age that the traumas happened. So if I had a trauma at the age of five today at my as my adult self if I’m triggered into something it’s my child my five-year-old self that comes forward to deal with it. So often when we go into one of the stress responses of fight, flight or freeze, it can look like an adult having a temper tantrum with yelling and screaming, throwing things, slamming doors because that’s our inner child coming forward to deal with the situation. In therapy um we work to heal that inner child by allowing there to be a separation from my adult self and my inner child. My adult self can now validate my inner child. So I work with adults who have a parent who is a narcissist to learn how to validate that inner child to help bring calm and peace so that it’s not falling heavy on their spouse to be the one who’s constantly validating, which you’re right it can be very exhausting.
Nicky – Yeah it can be very exhausting and oftentimes you know you might have um a situation where the person feels like they can’t be with that person anymore and might lead to abandonment, which then you know snowballs into something else, right? So if an empath is coming out of a relationship with a narcissist what are key things that they need to work on to move on and identify certain things about themselves uh to heal so that they can move on and kind of protect themselves properly in relationships to come?
Jackie – Well we first worked to heal some of the trauma by changing the narrative surrounding the relationship because they they tend to leave a narcissistic relationship feeling like I’m very confused, I’m, I’m a bad person, I’m the one who needs to take the blame for hurting them and when they come to see me we have to change that narrative that that that’s not actually what reality was for you.
Nicky – Right
Jacki – They were just able to spin you in a way that created this false narrative. So I work to correct the narrative first and then we build up self-esteem and confidence for that person. So that they’re able to move forward not only healing themselves but so they’re, they’re not falling back into the trap of meeting the next narcissist for them.
Nicky – So what is, I know you mentioned gaslighting, what is gaslighting? What is, what what is it, what does it mean? What is an example of that in a in a fight or in a conflict?
Jacki – So I guess the best example would be if I were to slap you across the face, that’s going to make you upset. So you might come to me and say, “Jackie that really hurt me when you slap me across the face.” As a narcissist I might then be very upset that you’re now making me feel bad and because you’re saying I’ve hurt you, that means I’m no longer perfect and in a narcissistic view they have to maintain their image and that level of I’m a perfect human. So I’m now going to get mad at you and say like how dare you make me feel guilty for this. So in the end you’re going to be the one who’s apologizing to me for me slapping you across the face.
Nicky – That’s so interesting.
Jackie – Yes, so essentially it’s making you feel like you’re the bad guy when I’m actually the one doing a lot of the damage and causing a lot of hurt.
Nicky – That’s really interesting. Do you find that that’s often the case in many relationships that are not that don’t have narcissists? When people are just trying to deflect?
Jackie – Yes, all of us have some level of narcissistic traits in us. It’s just where you fall on the spectrum, you might just have even levels of controlling behavior, that’s a narcissistic trait, we all manipulate, we all have the ability to gaslight and we do it when we’re trying to defend and protect ourselves. The difference between somebody like you and I and the ways that we might manipulate, is it in a mild level. Whereas a narcissist is constantly that’s their way they communicate is through guilt tripping and manipulation and gaslighting because they have to be on top and they have to get whatever it is that they want before you.
Nicky – So what are a couple of things that you can tell people who are going through a divorce with a narcissist? What are things that you can what are tips that you can kind of give them to help them cope with their divorce?
Jackie – To cope, well first would be to limit all communication that way we’re we’re getting rid of the problem we’re getting rid of the toxic relationship and you’re not constantly being pulled into that loop of oh we’re back together next week and now we’re back together again in the week following.
Nicky – So let the lawyers kind of deal with it.
Jackie – Yes I would let the lawyers deal with all communication. If there are children involved and you have to co-parent, like stick to only talking about the children. I wouldn’t address any of the relationship, I wouldn’t be pulled into because they’re going to lay the guilt on very thick of, I’ve changed now and they might even show you behaviors that they’ve changed, just to try to get you back. So going into everything with your eyes wide open to make sure that you’re not getting pulled back into that relationship is essential and that way you can move into the healing stage which is being able to build up your self-esteem and your confidence again and build back trust in yourself because I think narcissistic relationships break down the ability to trust yourself. That I picked the wrong person and now I don’t want to fall into that trap with another person again.
Nicky – Do you find that narcissists often times when they realize that their supply is done? They really realize it, do you find that they move on very quickly? So you find like narcissistic people who’ve ended relationships with empaths and then all of a sudden they’ve gone and found a new man or a new woman and then the empath just feels even more crappier right that they’ve moved on so fast.
Jackie – What I see is a narcissist needs supply at all times. So what I typically see is when the supply from you is gone they get very angry and they lash out. So now they try to they, also have their image to protect right. So they now will try to connect with every person attached to you to ruin your image to build me up, while at the same time as I’m looking for my next supply. So before I end officially walk away from you, I’m going to make sure I have my next supply in place. So they’re overlapping in a lot of ways that they never go without that supply.
Nicky – What’s an important thing that we can understand about narcissists?
Jackie – I think always coming back to a place of understanding and compassion. That at some point this was a small child who experienced probably a high level of physical emotional or sexual abuse before the age of five and they got stuck in that survival mode. Right, so for for some of us when we’re watching a scary movie we see a predator on that movie that child had to live with that predator and being that constant form of physical and emotional or sexual abuse. So they were stuck in it and never transitioned out of that survival mode so while they’re doing a lot of harm in relationships and can easily hurt people, it’s important to always understand as well that they are very hurt themselves and they’re stuck in a very deeply rooted pain that they’re not able to work through on their own because they didn’t have a parent who was attuned to those emotions, to give them the skills and the guidance and the support and the nurturing, to help them grow through some of that pain themselves.
Nicky – So talk to me about therapy and like the length of therapy because I feel like the way that you work you really get people on their feet really really quickly. So talk to me about Evolve and how you help people really evolve through whatever they’re going through.
Jackie – I, I don’t just do talk therapy so I believe in skills training thought restructuring communication skills behavioral skills and coping skills. Which work to teach you how to resolve your issue so that you don’t need me to help you resolve your issues.
Nicky – Right.
Jackie – So I typically try to um get people in and out of therapy quickly because I want them to take that hour back from their week and give it back to family, give it back to their job. So I describe my therapy as I’m gonna put a tool belt around you and I’m gonna give you the tools each week for you to start solving some of your own issues on your own. How to increase your own self-esteem, how to increase better communication skills and overall help you transition into a lifestyle that you’re able to manage in your day-to-day without needing my help or guidance overall in the end.
Nicky – I feel like mental health has become such a big thing and a lot of times you know as an advisor when you go through a person’s discovery meeting, right, you see that they are going to see a mental health professional and when you ask them about it they’ve been seeing one for years and years and years and years and paying thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars in just therapy and a lot of times I feel like people often use therapy as a, as a crutch. Like they’ll do something awful and then their therapist will just fix it or that’s how they see it in their minds. What is a person’s approach to therapy supposed to be like and how long really and it’s such a weird question but for an average human that doesn’t have any sort of disorders or whatever the case is, how long should therapy really last?
Jackie – I always say to my clients if I’m seeing you a year from now, I’m not doing my job right. So for me, again it’s hard to say it’s a case-by-case situation but um typically I only I try to plan out the first 12 sessions only. I have a treatment plan that consists of 12 sessions and usually at that point my clients are leaving and moving on into their life without needing me. Maybe they’ll come back um a month later for like a review or like a maintenance session but often they move through therapy pretty quickly but it also has to do with the client’s desire for change and if they’re not interested in doing the work that I give them and they’re not interested in wanting to seek that change then it might delay some of the work that we’re doing. So the therapeutic relationship is, it’s known to be one of the most important components to therapy for that reason that if we’re working together as a team and it’s not just me helping you and you’re willing to give back then typically it’s about 12 sessions that a client is in a therapy in.
Nicky – There’s a lot of changes to your industry. Right, you know there’s a lot of like old world and new world therapist and you’re, you’re very young in the industry. How do you feel like the understanding or methodology or process has really changed?
Jackie – I think for myself anyway um it’s moving from just that talk therapy and moving into…
Nicky – What is talk therapy?
Jackie – Talk therapy is basically you’re just sitting and you’re venting to your therapist. You’re getting everything out which is an amazing release and I do that for the first half of our sessions. We’ll do talk therapy, I’ll guide you through it, I’ll challenge you, we’ll discuss issues that are deeply rooted but for me I now need to look at that component the components of what you’ve just told me about and what’s not working and give you new skills so that you’re not just coming to me every week venting the same situation to me. Right because while talk therapy is important, I also feel we all have a best friend we can bend to you don’t need to pay me um money each week to vent to me
Nicky – Right
Jackie – So I want to give you something back that you can walk away from and say I have something to use now if this situation were to happen again or if it’s a continuous situation I have the tool to go home and resolve it.
Nicky – And you never turn people away, so you…
Jackie – No
Nicky – No, okay so what’s your deal with that because there’s a lot of people that are on waitlist to see therapists.
Jackie – Yes
Nicky – Right.
Jackie – I take the stance that you cannot wait list mental health. If somebody comes to me and they’re struggling, I will take them on, one of my associates will take them on. We will make the time to see them within that week. So that we can get them the help and support that they need. So yes I work a lot of hours but it means I’m there to support somebody who might be considering not living that day. So the difference in wait listing somebody for a year and me giving them hope that I can see you tomorrow is going to sometimes be a matter of life and death for them.
Nicky – Right, well thank you so much for being on the show and talking to us about your business and sharing with us what narcissism is really like and coping strategies to work with narcissism. Thank you everyone for joining us on this amazing episode with Jackie. If you’d like to work with Jackie definitely check the links below so you can know how to contact her. Don’t forget to like subscribe and hit that notification bell for more videos to come. Have a great day! Bye!