It's All Your Fault, the podcast from the High Conflict Institute • Episode 105: Narcissistic High Conflict People

Narcissistic High Conflict People

If you’ve been the Target of Blame for a narcissistic HCP, you know the devastating impact it can have. It’s easy to get emotionally hooked by their aggressive behaviors and respond with aggression or avoidance, which emboldens them. Instead, learning the necessary skills –that don’t always feel natural – is the ticket to managing interactions with them. The first step is to understand their behavior patterns, starting now.

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When an HCP is a Narcissist…

Do you know someone whose moods swing wildly? Do they act unreasonably suspicious or antagonistic? Do they blame others for their own problems? When a high conflict person (HCP) has one of five common personality disorders – borderline, narcissistic, paranoid, antisocial, or histrionic – they can lash out in risky extremes of emotion and aggression. And once an HCP decides to target you, they’re hard to shake.

Most everyone has been around a narcissist, but not everyone understands how to handle a narcissistic HCP. Bill and Megan do a deep dive into this personality type, exploring:

  • Their fear-based need to be superior and makes others feel inferior
  • The differences between vulnerable, narcissistic and malignant types
  • Why they see themselves as a hero and protector while those around them experience them as bullies
  • How to spot them
  • Statistics on Narcissistic Personality Disorder and narcissistic HCPs in the U.S

Understanding and dealing with Narcissistic HCPs come in layers, and understanding the why they behave that way is the first step.

If you’ve been the Target of Blame for a narcissistic HCP, you know the devastating impact it can have. It’s easy to get emotionally hooked by their aggressive behaviors and respond with aggression or avoidance, which emboldens them. Instead, learning the necessary skills –that don’t always feel natural – is the ticket to managing interactions with them. The first step is to understand their behavior patterns, starting now.

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Episode Transcript

Megan Hunter: Welcome to It’s All Your Fault on TruStory FM, the one and only podcast dedicated to helping you identify and deal with the most damaging humans, people with high conflict personalities. I’m Megan Hunter and I’m here with my co-host Bill Eddy.

Bill Eddy: Hi everybody.

Megan Hunter: And we are the co-founders of the High Conflict Institute in San Diego, California. So in today’s episode we are going to talk about narcissistic high conflict people or as we like to say, narcissistic HCPs. But first we have a few quick reminders, here’s the deal, we want to hear from you, have you dealt with a high conflict situation, been blamed, experienced violence or abuse from an HCP, or maybe you simply dread seeing that person again but you might have to tonight at home or tomorrow at work, or maybe it’s the neighbor next door? Send us your questions and we just might discuss them on the show. You can submit them by clicking the submit a question button at our website, highconflictinstitute.com/podcast, emailing us at [email protected] or dropping us a note on any of our socials.

Megan Hunter: You can find all the show notes and links at highconflictinstitute.com/podcast as well. Make sure you subscribe, rate and review, and please tell all your friends about us. Telling just one person that you like the show and where they can find it is the best way you can help us out and help more people learn how to address high conflict people. We appreciate you so very much. And now on with the show. In the last episode we discussed the five types of people who can ruin your life which Bill you described in your book by the same title as people with high conflict personalities and we’ve discussed that a bit in the episodes. Now, in this episode and in the next four we plan to talk about each type. So today we’ll start with the narcissistic HCPs so I guess the first question is maybe kind of a refresher on what an HCP is and then we’ll get into specifically the narcissistic type.

Bill Eddy: Well, basically the HCPs high conflict personalities seem to have four characteristics that are fairly easy to spot once you’re paying attention. One is, they’re preoccupied with blaming other people, it’s all your fault, not 50 or 60 or 80 or 90%, it’s all your fault and the person saying that takes zero responsibility. So that preoccupation with blame, what we usually call people’s targets of blame. The second is a lot of all or nothing thinking, so they see things like that it’s all your fault but they see other problems this way too and their solutions to problems are extreme, if you leave the company then everything will be fine or it’s my way or the highway in our divorce agreement, if you never see the kids again they’d be probably better off, those kinds of things. Then there’s unmanaged emotions which sometimes we see and sometimes we don’t but they can drive the person to do really extreme things, so even if you don’t see it underneath the emotions are driving what they’re up to.

Bill Eddy: And the last is really extreme behaviors. And this is the biggest problem with high conflict people is they can’t stop themselves, they keep repeating and repeating the same patterns of behavior and so it eventually is the people around them that stop them or society. So people around them like spouses saying, I want to get out of this marriage, or an employer saying, you’re going to have to leave this department or maybe leave this company, it’s this extreme so that you have to set limits. And this is a lot of who gets in trouble at work, maybe has some discipline, and in society think of things like domestic violence and such where the courts have to impose restraining orders and the police enforce them, so that’s the extreme behaviors. But it might be spreading rumors on the internet and a lot of it is really troublesome because other people believe that what they’re saying is okay. And that’s one of the things we’ll talk about is how other people become negative advocates or high conflict people. So that’s the quick nutshell.

Megan Hunter: Good. Okay. Yes. And you’re right, it’s so easy to get pulled into a dispute like this and someone who is blaming and they’re so persuasive in their story, right? Okay. So let’s move on then to the narcissistic HCP. So I think it would be good to talk about really the difference between what we think of as a narcissist which is a really common term and someone who actually has a narcissistic personality and then the narcissistic HCP.

Bill Eddy: People think of narcissist as mostly self-centered, the guy is self-absorbed, he’s a narcissist, yeah, he forgot your birthday he must be a narcissist. But the narcissistic personality when it’s really a pattern and at the extreme narcissistic personality disorder, the person really is arrogant, is demeaning to the people around them. So if they’re a manager, a narcissistic manager and we hear a lot about them, they belittle their employees, they criticize them, then they take credit for the good work that they do, and then the things they do that aren’t good they blame on their employees. So we get this thing of them kicking down at the people beneath them but they also can be very charming and so management higher up may have no idea how the employees are being treated, so we call it kicking down and kissing up.

Bill Eddy: But you get this too in a marriage, so you have a narcissist personality, whether it’s a disorder or not, that’s really criticizing and demeaning their partner including in public. And this really surprises people because the person seemed so charming when they got together but then there was that switcheroo that turned into high conflict behavior. So a narcissistic high conflict person is one who really has targets of blame along with their general belittling behavior. So they may single out a particular person, it might be the person they’re divorcing and so they go to family court to prove that it’s all, let’s say, their wife’s or their husband’s fault. And in the workplace they may pick one employee that they really harass until the employee ends up taking a medical leave because they have stomach aches and can’t sleep. But it’s an intense thing, it’s not just self-centered it’s really arrogant and demeaning.

Megan Hunter: What are the statistics on narcissistic personality types?

Bill Eddy: There’s some research done, it was actually about 15 years ago now, on narcissistic personality disorder and its prevalence in the United States among the adult population, because you can’t diagnose this before they’re adults most of the time, and they came out to around 6%. So about 6% of 300 million or so, that’s about 18 million people with narcissistic personality disorder which means that everybody has met a few of them.

Megan Hunter: Right. So 18 million with narcissistic personalities. And then how many HCPs then would you think?

Bill Eddy: I tend to think maybe half of people with these personality disorders, the five that we talk about, maybe half of them are also high conflict people, that means they focus on a specific target of blame. So maybe half of people with narcissistic personality disorder don’t blame anybody in particular, they just think they’re superior and they’ll blame the next person they see but they don’t stay focused that way. When they’re a narcissistic high conflict person then they really zero in and fixate on a particular person and really in many ways may emotionally destroy them, we’ve seen situations like that. They just focus their belittling demeaning behavior and don’t seem to let go and that really can be devastating, we see this in many aspects of society.

Bill Eddy: I was just reading the other day about someone who probably was a narcissistic coach, a sports coach, and he was so demeaning of this one particular college kid that he committed suicide, the college kid. And I think he was very much experiencing a narcissistic HCP because he became the target of blame. And he was a college student, of course he’s not going to be perfect, of course he wants to learn, but that’s a very vulnerable age too. We’ve seen all these athletes, the young women gymnasts and a man who was sexually abusing them, and sexual abuse you see often as narcissistic personality or antisocial personality. But narcissists they target somebody then they can make that person’s life miserable if they tell what’s happening.

Megan Hunter: So why do they do that? What drives them to sexually abuse? I mean, eventually you would think they would know they’re going to get caught, right? So why don’t they stop themselves? I mean, we have clearly established that these are folks that don’t stop themselves so I get that part, but it’s confusing I think.

Bill Eddy: Yeah. Well, I think the more I’ve been into this and it’s 41 years now since I learned about personality disorders as a counselor and the last 20 years focusing on those high conflict personalities, the half maybe that have these targets of blame and such. And I really think a lot of this has a genetic component that to some extent people are born with this tendency and depending on life experience they may become less likely to harm other people or more likely to. And you said knowing they’ll get caught, but a lot of them haven’t been caught and especially like the guy sexually abusing the gymnast, I think it’s in the hundreds that he abused and really was out for his own thing.

Bill Eddy: But if you think about this a lot of times the high conflict personality has a drive to have power over other people and when people have power over other people we often see then that some of the sexual stuff comes out. That some people just have a sexual drive that they can’t contain and it’s part of their personality and like I said, I think narcissists and also anti-social personality seem to be the ones involved with this. And part of its dominance in many ways it’s not really about sex, it’s about dominance and I’m superior to you and I can do anything to you I want, what’s the worst thing I could do? And that’s generally sexual abuse, short of killing people. So some of these folks sexually abuse and kill people but that’s more the anti-social personalities. Narcissists just want to prove they’re superior and they can push people around and I think that’s a lot of why we see this, people get extreme power they become sexually abusive.

Megan Hunter: Let’s talk about the empathy factor here because most people would have empathy for another human and would never do this. I know I’ve been in several situations where I find myself explaining to someone how to have empathy or why they should have empathy and they just don’t get it. And I finally smack my forehead like, oh okay, now I know what I’m dealing with here, someone who really doesn’t have the ability. So let’s talk about that.

Bill Eddy: Yeah. Well, I think you kind of hit the nail on the head, they may not have the ability and that’s one of the characteristics of narcissistic personality disorder is a lack of empathy. And it can be shocking to people because empathy restrains us from some of our worst impulses and so you feel like I really want to harass this person but oh my goodness, the pain that I would put them through, I don’t want to put them through that, well, that’s empathy. Narcissistic personalities have very little or no empathy so they don’t have that kind of break on their behavior. And so if you think of a speeding race car without a break, look out because they’re dangerous.

Bill Eddy: What’s interesting is empathy is partly born, we’re partly inborn with empathy, and partly learned. And so if someone is born with these narcissistic tendencies and they don’t experience empathy in early childhood growing up then it’s like you’re speaking a foreign language to them. And I think there’s many narcissists that it is like that, it’s like you say, well, don’t you realize how that person is going to feel? And they’re like, what do you mean? And they don’t get it and that’s kind of shocking to other people that someone could be so, let’s say, mean to somebody and then not care about how they felt.

Megan Hunter: Right. How do narcissists see themselves?

Bill Eddy: They honestly see themselves as superior people and studies have been done even unconscious without them knowing I guess they’re doing that, and unconsciously they believe they’re superior also, so it’s really embedded in who they are and often goes back to childhood experiences. Some people it may have been abuse as a child so they’ve overcompensated by trying to pretend they’re superior and picking on other people and creating what some people call the false self, that the false self is the narcissistic self image that in many cases is adopted by four or five or six years old. And the false self might be, I’m going to be hugely successful, I’m going to be hugely rich, and then when it doesn’t happen they get angry at the people around them because it’s got to be somebody else’s fault.

Megan Hunter: Of course. I had an experience where I kind of had an epiphany that a narcissistic HCP who was a bully, anytime this person would bully others I realized that he saw himself as a hero and a protector whereas those he was bullying saw him as a tyrant and a really horrible mean bully.

Bill Eddy: Well, they often pretend there’s a crisis and they’re going to save you from the crisis and they’re going to save you from yourself. They might say, well, you’re so stupid or this or that, I’m not going to let you see your friends today because you just always get messed up and you just don’t have the ability to not get hooked in by your friends so I’m going to block you from seeing your friends today, or other verbal abuse, et cetera. A lot of verbal abuse comes from narcissists but they put it in the context of I’m helping you, see, I’m teaching you. I think of a domestic violence case that the man saw himself as a teacher of his wife and I’m teaching you how the world really is and what to do and what not to do and I’m in charge now. And it’s so arrogant and pathetic because they just lack empathy, they see people as almost objects in their life to manipulate.

Megan Hunter: What are the different types of narcissist, vulnerable narcissist and grandiose, and you hear people use the term malignant narcissist, so are these real terms?

Bill Eddy: They are, people that work especially in mental health. But the reality is today and part of I think the benefit of doing our podcast is that there’s a lot of people with mental health problems that aren’t getting any mental health treatment and aren’t being dealt with there but are being dealt with in the legal system, in the workplace, et cetera, and so these terms I think people should learn about. So vulnerable narcissists in many way it feels vulnerable when things go wrong but because they have a false self image that’s superior they have to shore up their image. So they get angry let’s say at their spouse or at their kids, it’s like, see what you made me do, it’s all your fault, and yet they’re vulnerable. So when they have what we call a narcissistic injury, when something chips away at this superior image, they react. And I think of it as hot anger, it’s like impulsive anger, how dare you? And sometimes you see this with domestic violence that they’ll strike out, they’ll hit the child, hit the parent, hit the partner.

Bill Eddy: The grandiose narcissist doesn’t seem to have that same vulnerability and the vulnerability may have come, let me back up to the vulnerable narcissist, may have come from having been abused as a child and really experiencing abuse and shame and so they have a core of shame inside. And a lot of therapists will talk about that there’s this core of shame underneath people with narcissistic personalities and that they get in touch with that when things go wrong. The grandiose narcissist don’t seem to have that core of shame and in many cases they grew up entitled. So when they did good they got what they wanted, when they did bad they got what they wanted and so they learned that I can do anything, I can get away with all of this. I’ve seen in family court narcissists who really didn’t want to end up in court and then they’re in court and to their surprise they’re winning because being a blamer does well in court. It gets the judge’s attention and, wow, you’re upset maybe something happened to you, and so they’re good at manipulating professionals that way.

Bill Eddy: So I think of them as having cold anger that they may be more plotting about this which leads to overlap similar to antisocial personality disorder which also has cold anger, can be very abusive, gets into fights. Narcissists aren’t looking for fights, they’re looking to win verbally, and so they’re bullying behavior is mostly verbal. But the grandiose just sees themselves as so superior, they’re not often even bothered by criticism or things going wrong because they just truly believe it was other people’s fault and so they just keep going. And what’s interesting to me is this personality is in the professions like lawyers, doctors, some accountants, some therapists, some actors, et cetera. And what’s interesting to me is when I get to see people like this over time is to see whether they learn or not.

Bill Eddy: So for example narcissism with politicians, a lot of narcissists like politics and if you see them over time, like they lose an election and they’re upset, and the question to me is, are going to learn or not? And I think of a politician in our city a few years ago who thought he was the world’s hero and he got voted out of office and the next time around he ran again and he thought he’d do fantastic and I think he got 7% of the vote or something, he didn’t learn anything. Whereas you’ll see others go out and learn and they come back and then they win after having lost an election and you realize maybe they don’t have a disorder because they can learn but they still may have some traits of narcissism.

Bill Eddy: So malignant narcissist is a combination of narcissistic and antisocial personality disorders and so they’re even more driven to dominate people, to con people, to just lie, they just lie about almost everything. And so most narcissists exaggerate and lie maybe occasionally but the antisocial aspect makes them really want to dominate other people and makes them willing to totally lie, totally make things up to gain control over another person. And they really like having even physical control like domestic violence, even in the workplace is terrorizing them, you should probably think of it as being terrorized by somebody. So that’s the malignant narcissist is that combination and that’s the worst.

Megan Hunter: And that’s, yeah, the absolute worst, the people you really don’t want to be around. And do they know what they’re doing? Do they know they’re this way?

Bill Eddy: If they have a disorder, a personality disorder like narcissistic personality disorder, they don’t. And that’s one of the characteristics of personality disorders is this lack of self-awareness, self-reflection, everything is caused by other people, they don’t connect the dots, as we like to say, back to themselves. But if they don’t have the disorder they may just have some traits, they may have some self awareness. And I’ll give you a quick story, I don’t know if I’ve told this story before on the podcast, but to me it was a great example. I had a law client husband in a divorce and he said, "I was talking with my therapist and we agreed that I just have narcissistic traits not a narcissistic personality disorder, what do you think Bill?" And I said, "Well, I’m not your therapist so I don’t want to go too deep into that, but you might be right."

Bill Eddy: And one day he called me up and left a voicemail and he said, "You know what my wife did now? You won’t believe it, this is awful, you have to call me back right away." And he goes on a little bit and then he goes, "Oh, wait a minute, wait, you don’t have to call me back right away, it’s not a crisis, you know what? You don’t even need to call me back I’ll just take care of this." And I think because he was really working on himself that he’s an example of someone with narcissistic traits who had some self-awareness and that he perceived things as a narcissistic injury or a crisis when in fact it wasn’t and he was able to check himself and go, "Wait a minute, I don’t really need your help it’s not really a crisis." And that’s what we hope for and that’s what we try to help people with, that’s what a lot of therapists, if they have a narcissist in treatment, try to help them develop some of that self-awareness. But in legal disputes we often don’t see that, workplace disputes we often don’t see that.

Megan Hunter: How effective is treatment for NPD?

Bill Eddy: What’s interesting is they’re not attracted to therapy. When I was a therapist out of maybe 400 cases I remember maybe three narcissists.

Megan Hunter: Really?

Bill Eddy: Yeah.

Megan Hunter: Interesting.

Bill Eddy: Because they don’t seek therapy. But one I had he came because his wife was thinking of divorcing him and his business partners were thinking of pushing him out, they were four partners in the business and the other three were pretty tired of him, and he came in for treatment for anxiety because this stuff made him anxious. And so I never said you’ve got a narcissistic personality disorder, I just said, "Okay, well, here’s some tips around anxiety." And I tried to teach him some self-reflection and to kind of study his impact on the other people like his wife, "How do you think your wife felt when you said that thing?" And he said, "Well, the thing I said was true." And I said, "It may or may not have been true but think of how it felt to her, when someone says that to you it makes you anxious, right? That’s what you told me," so trying to teach some self-awareness as a way to deal with anxiety.

Bill Eddy: Now in substance abuse treatment and group counseling for substance abuse we had several narcissists. Getting them in doing well with 12 step treatment, learning to examine their own behavior, have some humility, really was helpful in treating narcissists. But by and large they don’t go, if they do it’s often in their 40s and 50s when life isn’t working the way their fantasy was and they finally realize maybe they have to work on something.

Megan Hunter: I suppose they see therapy as beneath them and as a rejection of authority, they don’t like authority, right?

Bill Eddy: You’re absolutely right. What could the therapist know?

Megan Hunter: Right. They just went to school for 10 years.

Bill Eddy: Yeah, that’s right. But I know more just because of who I am, says the narcissist to themselves, so most of them don’t go for counseling. And you have to have a counselor who’s really good at this because getting criticized all the time isn’t helpful.

Megan Hunter: Right. Yeah. I’ve spoken with several therapists who have expressed privately that they’re not that fond of having to do therapy with narcissist because it’s challenging, number one, and I suppose there’s a lack of progress and that’s must be somewhat defeating in your everyday job. So let’s switch to the person who is dealing with a narcissistic HCP, so this could be in a marriage, a divorce, in a family situation. So the way we kind of look at things is in terms of length so if you’re a lawyer dealing with a client, let’s say, with this type of personality it’s a shorter term relationship. As the lawyer you’re trying to get them from A to B and out the door and you learn the skills to manage that relationship. But if you’re in a family situation or a neighbor situation or one of a longer term, those are the most challenging. So in that situation what’s the experience of the person who has that narcissistic personality in their family? It’s their dad, it’s their mom, it’s, let’s say, the next door neighbor or a teacher at school.

Bill Eddy: Well, I think the first thing is to take care of your self-esteem because narcissists just chip away at your self-esteem and it’s important that you can kind of in your brain tell yourself, that’s not about me, that’s about him or that’s about her so I don’t have to get defensive it’s not about me. But a second thing is figuring out how to set limits on what that person can or can’t do with you. And you may even need to leave a conversation and say, we’re just going to have to agree to disagree and I’ve got to go now so have a nice afternoon or whatever limit setting, you have to resist the urge to insult them back when they insult you.

Megan Hunter: They’re one of the toughest things ever.

Bill Eddy: Yeah. This is the opposite of what you feel like doing.

Megan Hunter: Exactly.

Bill Eddy: For sure. But with setting limits is giving a reason that’s not personal, it’s like, our policy is we don’t allow certain activity or you’ll succeed better if you follow this approach. Or for lawyers, as a lawyer I’ve had to say, I can’t as a lawyer do that thing you want me to do, you want me to hide some of your money and I can’t do that. So it’s just a policy, the ethical rules, I can’t submit documents that leave out that money that you’re talking about so you’ll have to make a choice. If you want to work with me we’ve got to include that money, if you’re not going to include that money I’m not going to file these papers and I really can’t be your lawyer so it’s up to you. I leave it up to them but I make it clear this is just a rule, it’s not personal, it’s just matter of fact, you can’t hide money in your court papers.

Megan Hunter: So I think you really hit it there that you can’t take what they’re doing personally which is one of the hardest things when we deal with high conflict people because there are personal attacks against us, right? There are such extreme emotions and behaviors and we can get hooked into all of that and take things personally. And then the more vulnerable a person is too the more difficult it is to be around a bully, someone with a narcissistic personality.

Bill Eddy: Absolutely. And one more thing to add in here on what to do is get support for yourself. So you’ve got people that say, no, you’re not crazy, you’re doing okay, it’s reasonable that you’re setting limits doing what you have to do so that you don’t just absorb. I’m starting to call it the bully story and narcissists are some of the biggest bullies and they always have a story that makes them superior and you inferior and don’t fall into that story.

Megan Hunter: And that they’re the injured one.

Bill Eddy: Yes. They play the role of victims like, how could you do that to me? And you’re thinking, I didn’t do anything except set limits. And it’s like, how could you set limits on me? I’m the most superior person in this firm or in this household or whatever.

Megan Hunter: Yeah. In this family. Right. And so they try to draw these other people in to become their negative advocates with these stories and that, I’m such a victim. And the people in the middle just don’t know what to do and they believe them and can advocate for them as you’ve pointed out in all of your work about negative advocates. So a couple of more questions, the first is, we talked about statistics and I think, if I recall correctly, maybe nine million people in the US could possibly be narcissistic HCPs, that’s a lot, that’s a lot, a lot, so it’s pretty likely that you’re going to run into them. And at High Conflict Institute we’ve had so many, probably thousands of people at this point that call us and say, this is what I’m dealing with, I have been dealing with a narcissistic HCP, so it’s probably true because there are quite a few out there. So you mentioned the study that’s about 15 years old, did it break down the genders?

Bill Eddy: Yes, that study did, it’s very interesting, and I think it was pretty accurate. So what it said was that people with narcissistic personality disorder were about 63% male and 37% female, so almost two to one, but they also seemed that younger women were starting to catch up. So what we’re seeing with gender and personality disorders is that we’re becoming more equal, ones that are predominantly male women are catching up with and others will talk about that may have been predominantly female men are catching up with. So you can’t have a presumption that, oh, this is a man so they must be narcissistic and it’s a woman so they couldn’t be, both genders definitely well represented.

Bill Eddy: I want to make sure that I say this every podcast and that is, don’t tell somebody you think they have a narcissistic personality disorder or that you think they’re a high conflict person because all of this stuff usually people are not self aware but they don’t like to be told things like that. And usually people with personality disorders have been told that all their lives that there’s something wrong with them so they’re very defensive and that won’t help you. You don’t want them defensive, you want them focused on solutions and what to go forward doing rather than name calling.

Megan Hunter: Yeah, they can be pretty touchy and so it’s just a very bad idea to tell anyone they have a personality disorder or they’re a narcissist. And I was literally just off the phone before we recorded this episode with someone who explained that their mother is a narcissist, "I read about it on the internet so I know my mom is a narcissist." So there’s a lot of that out and the term is bandied about quite a lot in conversation. But I think the difference between just someone who is self-absorbed and being on the end of a narcissistic HCP, being that target of blame, being bullied, you know the difference, you’ve felt that difference, you’ve felt the blame, you’ve felt small, you’ve felt little, you’ve felt vulnerable and weak and not very smart.

Bill Eddy: Exactly.

Megan Hunter: Yeah. So you know what? I think this is worth discussing. We are asked a lot whether HCPs, are we saying that they’re bad people? And I think we can agree that people have both positive and negative aspects to them. But when it comes to this malignant narcissist and a narcissistic HCP, are they bad people?

Bill Eddy: No, no, no, no, no, and I want to emphasize that. First of all they didn’t choose to become this way, people’s personality comes from their genetic tendencies, early childhood, first five or six years, and the culture they grow up in, you don’t have control over any of that. By the time you’re an adult this is who you are and personalities are pretty stable over a lifetime. So I think we have to have empathy for high conflict people and people with personality disorders and set limits, not judge them. I worked in alcohol and drug treatment for several years and we learned we don’t judge alcoholics and addicts, they have a disease, they have a problem and we want to help them with that. And so I have this saying about high conflict people that they’re kind of like alcoholics and addicts, we don’t judge them but we don’t want them in the driver’s seat.

Megan Hunter: Right. Yeah. And like you’ve said, it’s good to take a no shame, no blame approach. But it can be one of the hardest things we do, particularly in a family situation or maybe a narcissistic boss and you have to be around this person and you feel worn out and exhausted and you just don’t want to see this person but you have to, so it can be a challenging situation. So I like that you’ve said, take care of yourself first, make sure that you’re okay. And if you need to see a therapist so you can get some skills and build up your own self-esteem and keep yourself right, those are good things to do. So I just want to close out with one thing about, you just mentioned that these are lifelong problems, right? They start way back in childhood or even in utero. So what could you tell parents who are raising children right now? How do you prevent from growing a budding little narcissist? And basically how do you grow that healthy little human being?

Bill Eddy: Well, one of the key things is don’t tell your child that they’re special, and this is counterintuitive, but narcissists think they’re special in the world. And for the last 20, 30, maybe even 40 years, parents have been telling their kids they’re special and then kids hit college, or I teach law students, and the law students say, yeah, we were told we were special and then we had all this competition, we weren’t ready for it.

Megan Hunter: Oh dear.

Bill Eddy: So what I say is, tell your kids you’re special to me but not to the world, you’re going to be competing with thousands of people for boyfriends, girlfriends, jobs, all of this, and that you need to tell yourself you’re not special, you’re going to have to work hard and learn skills. And so it’s all about learning skills and working hard not just walking strolling in like, hey, I’m special, everybody bow down to me. And so I think that’s important, don’t treat the child like they’re the center of the universe, help the child learn about empathy.

Bill Eddy: There’s this one program that teaches kids in school, don’t do a project on why you’re special, do a project on one of the other kids and what some of the interesting unique things and important things about them and why you’re glad to be on the same team with them or whatever, so that’s the key. And it may sound harsh but I’ve just seen the culture so much tries to make young children especially feel that they’re special and can do no wrong and I think we almost need to do the opposite. Say, life is hard, life’s a struggle and you’ve got to work hard and you’ve got to learn and I love you, you’re special to me but the world doesn’t care and you better be ready for that.

Megan Hunter: I like that. Yeah. I’d like to say that with some narcissists and probably all of the five types, but I think most especially the narcissists, it’s either that they didn’t struggle enough or they had to struggle too much.

Bill Eddy: Yeah. I think that’s true that it’s that vulnerable narcissist or the grandiose narcissist, they need a balance, kids need love and they need skills.

Megan Hunter: Yes. So I have so much more and I could keep going but I know we have to end this and we have plenty of episodes down the road and we’ll revisit narcissistic HCPs, quite a lot of different aspects in different areas so, but we’ll wrap it up today. And as Bill said, just make sure you don’t tell anyone else that you think they’re high conflict or a narcissist or have a personality disorder because it just won’t go well for either of you. So in the next episode we will continue talking about the five types of people who can ruin your life focusing exclusively on something that you’ve already touched on today which is the antisocial personality, the high conflict personality. So until then we wish you all the best in your conflict situations. It’s All Your Fault is a production of TruStory FM. Engineering by Andy Nelson, music by Wolf Samuels, John Coggins, and Ziv Moran. Find the show, show notes and transcripts at trustory.fm or highconflictinstitute.com/podcast. If your podcast app allows ratings and reviews please consider doing that for our show.

Each week, Bill Eddy and Megan Hunter will be exploring the five types of people who can ruin your life — people with high conflict personalities — and how they weave themselves into our lives in romance, at work, next door, at school, places of worship, and just about everywhere, causing chaos, exhaustion, and dread for everyone else.

Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq.

Bill Eddy is HCI’s co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer. He pioneered the High Conflict Personality Theory (HCP) and is viewed globally as the leading expert on managing disputes involving people with high conflict personalities.

Bill Zoom
Megan Zoom

Megan Hunter, MBA

Megan Hunter is HCI’s co-founder and Chief Executive Officer. Within her role at HCI, she also serves as a leading expert in high conflict personalities in all settings, focusing primarily on the workplace, customer service, government/public service, ombuds, and religious organizations. Her degrees in business and economics combined with her years of experience in the legal arena are a valuable blend for many conflict settings.

Bill Zoom

Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq.

Bill Eddy is HCI’s co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer. He pioneered the High Conflict Personality Theory (HCP) and is viewed globally as the leading expert on managing disputes involving people with high conflict personalities.

Megan Zoom

Megan Hunter, MBA

Megan Hunter is HCI’s co-founder and Chief Executive Officer. Within her role at HCI, she also serves as a leading expert in high conflict personalities in all settings, focusing primarily on the workplace, customer service, government/public service, ombuds, and religious organizations. Her degrees in business and economics combined with her years of experience in the legal arena are a valuable blend for many conflict settings.