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The Object of My Affection Is in My Reflection: Coping with Narcissists Paperback – October 1, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Rokelle Lerner is a psychotherapist, international consultant and lecturer on relationships, women's issues and family systems. Ms. Lerner is the co-creator and facilitator of the InnerPath Programs for Cottonwood de Tucson. Over the last fifteen years Rokelle has worked as a consultant in London for Spring Workshops ltd and has created seminars for men and women in recovery from trauma, addiction and relationship issues.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

When you're in relationship with a narcissist, you relinquish your identity and your soul to them. Their seduction is similar to a razor-sharp stiletto being waved in your face: it's so mesmerizing, you won't know you're bleeding to death until it's too late. But it's not your blood that a narcissist wants―it's your emotional energy and your individuality.

A true narcissist has no qualms about taking your money, your love, your admiration, your body, or your soul to satisfy their unquenchable hunger. And just as vampires cringe when they're in the presence of crosses or holy water, narcissists recoil at ordinary adult experiences such as boredom, uncertainty, accountability, and, most of all, having to give as well as receive. (Bernstein, 2002)

Narcissists use whatever institution is available to achieve their goal of draining your emotional energy and individuality―the office of the church, parental authority, a political party, or even a Little League team. Seduction is so easy when you're in command. They use whatever tool is at their disposal to captivate you, own you, and then devour you. And, when you're under their spell, you obey without question and gradually begin to join the procession of the living dead.
Until you really get to know narcissists, you may think that they're some of the most charming, compelling people you've ever met. They're fun to be around at parties, are engaging conversationalists, tell amusing stories, and give their opinion on everything in the world. They are charming, that is, until you get to know them; that's when you're at risk of becoming one of their victims. They need you, and they crave what you can give them. They're spoiled and wounded children, desperately in need of someone to be in awe of them.

The aim of narcissists is to possess you. You are required to be their unquestioning worshiper and to never criticize or disagree with them. If they do something wrong, you must approve; if they detest someone, you must detest them as well. Your identity ceases to exist and you become a mere reflection of their image. You become a clone with no clue about what you're really thinking or feeling because you are under their spell. If you become involved with a narcissist―because you are related to them or you are a friend, a business partner, or a lover―you will suffer. And it will likely take years before you know why. (McDonnell, 2007)
Narcissists are actors playing a part. They are expert liars and, even worse, they believe their own lies. Practiced in dishonesty, they can't tell the difference between their own version of the truth and a falsehood. Narcissists lie to themselves first, and then systematically and often deliberately torture others with their lies. They may take the past and re-arrange it to make themselves look good. They rarely, if ever, admit fault and they never say they're sorry.

The narcissist has been depicted in art, drama, and literature for centuries. When we look closely at our own culture, we see that many of our fairy tales, novels, and films are replete with stories that revolve around narcissistic men and women. The term 'narcissism' is derived from the ancient Roman poet Ovid's myth of Narcissus and Echo. This story provides us with a better understanding of the inner torment of narcissists and the inevitable suffering of those who attempt to have relationships with them.

The Myth of
Narcissus and Echo

Zeus, the king of the Olympians, was known for his many love affairs. The young and beautiful nymph Echo would distract his wife, Hera, with long and entertaining stories while Zeus took advantage of the moment to pleasure himself with other water nymphs. When Hera discovered this trickery she punished Echo by taking away her voice―except to repeat ('echo') another's words.

Narcissus was a handsome young man who was greatly desired by the water nymphs. Echo was completely enamored of Narcissus and professed her love for him. He cruelly rejected her and, in her shame and grief, she faded away until all that remained was her echoing voice, still declaring her love. The nymphs were very angry and desired revenge. They petitioned the gods, who arranged for Narcissus to fall in love with his own reflection in a pond. Narcissus did indeed fall in love with his image and kept trying to embrace it, only to have it disappear every time. He was unable to leave his reflection, even though he received no response from it. He pined away and died, leaving a flower in his place.

This myth describes the tragic outcome of trying to entice a narcissist to pay attention to you, to be close to you, and to treat you with respect. But Echo had lost her voice and could only repeat what Narcissus was saying to her. Like so many men and women in narcissistic relationships, she lost her spirit, disowned her needs, and surrendered her life in pursuit of this beautiful young man.

It's difficult for those in relationships with narcissists to remember that these men and women are utterly obsessed with their own reflections. And just as Narcissus would not reach into the water to take a drink because he would have shattered his own image into thousands of pieces, true narcissists cannot afford the luxury of showing their humanness or exposing their needs.

Being human plagues narcissists. To show vulnerability shatters their image and leaves them with a raw shame that's so intolerable they often react with the rage of a wounded animal. They know that people love them, but in the end it means nothing. As one narcissistic addict wrote after studying this myth: 'I hear echoes outside of me from those who love and care for me. But I don't hear their love; only echoes of what I want, what I need, and what I can never have.'
There are many interpretations of Ovid's myth, but one that particularly makes sense to me is a Jungian explanation. Analysts say that Narcissus's fall was one of necessity. Although he spent his days pining over his reflection, it wasn't until he actually 'fell into himself' and drowned that he could be at peace.

Here's a more modern-day fable.
Desperate Housewives is one of the most popular dramas on television. One character in the show is Bree, a young woman who turns entitlement into an art form. She is a gorgeous and cunning woman living in a suburban gossip mill, and she revels in her beauty and sexual exploits. In order to get what she wants, she lies, steals, and even murders with very little conscience. In elegant, expensive clothing, she is the consummate homemaker and bares her soul to anyone who will listen. She obsesses about her mangled love life. When asked the question, 'Why are your problems so much bigger than everyone else's?' she answers, 'Because they're mine!' We all know people like this; in fact, our culture is so narcissistic that it would seem that Narcissus or Bree is the boy or girl next door.
Another example of modern-day narcissism is reality television, which millions of Americans watch religiously. We can sit in the comfort of our living rooms and watch, as people do, everything from the banal to the obscene. Clearly this is a 'Big Brother' society, defined not by George Orwell's vision in his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, but by a contemporary television program showcasing voyeurism, self-indulgence, and egotism.

Even though Narcissus and Bree are fictional characters, both have qualities that can be used to describe destructive narcissists:

• Indifference to the needs or concerns of others.
• Strongly self-focused and self-absorbed.
• Lacking remorse.
• Emotionally shallow.
• Cannot relate to others in a meaningful way.
• Have overpowering needs for admiration and attention.
• Viewing themselves as unique and special.
• Are grandiose, arrogant, haughty, and contemptuous.
• Belief that they can only be understood by other
special or high-status people or institutions.
• Extreme jealousy of others or belief that others are jealous of them.

Pathological narcissism is described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) as 'narcissistic personality disorder.' It's defined as 'A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy that begins by early adulthood and presents in a variety of contexts.'

Although this definition is helpful in some ways, it is incomplete. Grandiosity, the need for admiration, and lack of empathy could describe many people, from the annoying teenager next door to the political despot committing atrocities. Since the term narcissism is used so frequently, it's important to examine the difference between a narcissistic personality disorder and a personality with narcissistic traits. Although an individual with the traits of a narcissist can be extremely distressing, their prognosis is much more optimistic. Pathological narcissism is much more destructive and insidious. Without this differentiation, we are in danger of underestimating the relational damage and pain that occur in the wake of the men and women who have this disorder.

©2008. All rights reserved. Reprinted from The Object of My Affection Is in My Reflection by Rokelle Lerner. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street , Deerfield Beach , FL 33442.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 274 pages
  • Publisher: HCI; 1 edition (October 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 075730768X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0757307683
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (190 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #31,626 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

204 of 207 people found the following review helpful By PainterForNow on February 8, 2009
Format: Paperback
Having finally left a man with Narcissistic Personality Disorder after twenty LONG years of emotional abuse, I've lived and learned the necessity of educating oneself on this disorder in order to cope. Some books are too clinical, some are too trite. This book is a summary of all the essentials one needs in recognizing the narcissist in a personal relationship or in the workplace. It's precisely on point in identifying their tactics and manipulations and also the impact of their behavior on their victims, and they leave victims everywhere, from the home to the office.

If you think you are dealing with a narcissist and need a primer, this book is an easy read summarizing the clinical studies of the experts. If you need to hear the words and see the reasons why narcissists don't change, you will find them in this book.
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149 of 153 people found the following review helpful By Delar Kour Singh on February 14, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Object Of My Affection Is In My reflection: Coping With Narcissists

This book focuses on narcissism, a personality disorder. If you have individuals in your personal and /or professional life who are self-centered, self-absorbed, have a sense of grandiosity, engage in pathological lying, and demonstrate a sense of entitlement, you must read this book. The book is divided into four parts. The part one discusses the root of Narcissism, which is generally a parent. The part two gives tips on identifying the Narcissist and it summarizes the impact of Narcissism on personal and professional relationships. The part three informs that Narcissists often suffer from addictions and it is difficult to diagnose as well as treat Narcissism. The part four provides strategies for surviving Narcissistic relationships.

If you believe you have a Narcissist in your life, I recommend that you read one more book, "The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists" by Eleanor Payson. This was my first book on Narcissism.
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129 of 137 people found the following review helpful By samic on January 15, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
WOW!!! Excellent! Excellent! Excellent! I have educated myself extensively on NPD, and THIS is the book I could not put down! If you are 'under the spell' of living with one with NPD, the first step is to become aware of WHAT it is you are dealing with, and then acknowledge that this disorder is so perplexing that perhaps you DO need help to cope with the NPD individual in your life. Please...Go ahead and do yourself a 'life-altering favor' not hesitate to purchase this book! It will give you a complete array of tools that you need to reclaim your life, your values, your power, and your sanity. And if you have chosen to stay in this relationship, this "life experience" does not have to be a "life sentence" with 'no parole'. You CAN reclaim your life! The information in this book is amazingly helpful, incredibly detailed, and the author has such an abundance of insight into the NPD personality. For the first time in many, many years (actually decades), I now feel alive, in control, and HAPPY again. I have actually reclaimed my life, my values, and my soul! This book is like a 'breath of fresh air' for those of us who have been suffocated and stifled for so long.

We DO have options, and this author takes you, by the hand (and with no holds barred) to show you exactly HOW you can begin the process to light up your future and enjoy life once again. The powerful arsenal of the narcissist has remained unchallenged for far too long; now finally a viable arsenal is available for the spouse, partner, adult child, employee, or co-worker of one with NPD, to enable you to reclaim your power! The results of putting even 'some' of the author's ideas into practice - even after only three short days for me - have been both amazing and enlightening!
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85 of 91 people found the following review helpful By Mary Delaney on May 12, 2009
Format: Paperback
As a psychologist in private practice for over 25 years I have found Rokelle Lerners' book very helpful. Her style is easy to read and understand for therapists as well as clients. A must read for anyone who deals with narcissists!
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42 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Maggie Morton, LCSW on June 22, 2009
Format: Paperback
This is a very helpful book for anyone trying to understand the depth of the effects of living/working with narcissists. It accurately and often dramatically describes the intensity of struggling for selfhood in the face of narcissists, and gives clear tips on how to manage to hang on to your self. Informative and clear, but not dry or pedantic- this is a real world guide for keeping your sanity in the face of very challenging people.
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52 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Jackihollywood on September 13, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A friend of mine who is getting his PhD in Psychology recommended that I read this book. I put it off. But when he handed a copy to me, I could not put it down! I read several chapters and then placed an order for 3 copies to give to family members and friends. This is a must-read for anyone who lives or works in close proximity to a suspected narcisst. Rakelle pulls no punches! Her writing style is brutally honest, as I feel it should be for someone dealing with this type of situation. It is a wake-up call! I was able to clearly identify narcissts from the past, as well as what I did right and wrong in those situations. I was also able to let go of some old grudges, where I had not been able to before. Now I feel armed with information on how to deal with my current situation and how to deal with any future narcissts who may cross my path. It really was like pulling the curtain back and exposing the wizard for who he/she truly is. That is liberation, indeed!
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