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NPD for the Layman

Yesterday, I attended an interesting and useful webinar on Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). (My excessive personal experience as a former victim in the matter makes me a default expert on the topic; however, it’s always best to check in with the pros from time to time.) It’s learning that possibly 20 percent of the adult American population – I mean, we’re talking about 60 million people – are somewhere on the spectrum of abusive narcissism, that has prompted me to keep writing about it in my career coaching blog. The implications for the United States are staggering because, conservatively, that means that upward of 60 million Americans must be victims of this particular psychological affliction since it takes two to tango, so to speak. Just think what it must be worldwide!

Sources: I thank Robyn Walser, PhD, and Avigail Lev, PsyD, of the Bay Area Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Center of San Francisco for organizing their important webinar and Isabelle Nazare-Aga, author of “The Manipulators Among Us” (“Les Manipulateurs Parmi Nous”) for first removing the scales from my eyes and me from the NPD Victims List. (The many NPD-afflicted experts who spontaneously provided me with my extensive training deserve no credit at all.)

NPD for the LaymanBriefly, the diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is rendered difficult by the very instrument that is supposed to clarify us on the topic. The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, describes NPD as basically “a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), a constant need for admiration, and a lack of empathy” but falls short on offering a behavioral diagnosis. This is the gap that my sources at the Bay Area Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Center of San Francisco have attempted to fill.

In reality, NPD manifests itself over a spectrum of observable traits and behaviors in which empathy diminishes with each of the increasing levels:

  • Entitlement (“I deserve this.”)
  • Narcissism (“I, in particular, deserve this.”)
  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) (“I deserve this and you don’t if you disagree with me.”)
  • Malignant, sociopathic tendencies (“I deserve this and am going to take it from you for myself alone.”)
  • Psychopathic degree (“I deserve this and will hurt you badly to get it.”)

Narcissism may be either “overt” (visible) or “covert” (hidden). It’s pretty easy to spot an overt narcissist. (I was tickled that the webinar leaders used a certain current American president as a prime, classic example.) After a few encounters with one, you are probably clever enough to know instinctively to run the other way. Identifying the covert narcissist, however, is more difficult because we will be manipulated by the offending narcissist to doubt our own evaluation of him/her and his/her problem. The covert narcissist may appear to be vulnerable, perhaps posturing as a victim; s/he may be reserved and charming, hiding grandiosity in smugness and claiming to be misunderstood.

What can cause NPD?

The causes of narcissistic personality are usually to be found in early childhood, when a child is not accepted for being the way s/he is, resulting in the child feeling shame about who or what s/he is. The child will then begin to project this feeling onto other people, becoming envious or deceitful, constantly measuring him/herself against an ideal that can never quite be achieved. The narcissistic child will feel frustration at this and attempt to reset the balance in his/her favor, often by inflicting (psychological or physical) pain on the person envied. Consequently, the young narcissist matures into not only being addicted to the other person for feedback, with the intention of always being able to stay in control, but also with polished manipulating skills.

Narcissists (and often their children), as adults, will have developed a false sense of self, leaving them fragile and in need of having their egos constantly fed by other people who, unwittingly, become at once their drug and their victims.

Covert narcissists use strategies that reverse the Victim-Abuser roles. (“You’re so mean to me!” for complaining that I forgot to take out the garbage.) The narcissistic parent will tend to use strategies to control children, playing them off against each other (Golden Child, Bad Child, Failed Child, etc.), and the fragile child will become codependent on the narcissistic adult for approval. The narcissistic parent will inevitably extend only conditional love, thus harming the child. (If you see a child who is suffering from a narcissistic adult, the best thing you can do for that child is to dilute the situation by helping the child meet lots of other people.)

Further, narcissists – if they are able to extend empathy at all – will manifest “cold empathy” or the ability to intellectually put themselves in other people’s shoes without themselves experiencing any measurable emotional or even physiological impact. (As my webinar leaders were prompt to say, whenever you’re confronted with someone who doesn’t feel empathy, run!)

There is little chance that the narcissist will change, so your best bet is to invest in some self-care in some form of therapy and an Escape Plan for yourself (and, above all, your children). If you take your NPD partner to meet your therapist, don’t forget that your NPD partner is a past master at manipulation. S/he will be sufficiently energized by the challenge you’ve raised to show you that s/he’s Right and In Control by attempting to turn your therapist against you or even seducing the therapist.

How does a narcissist work?

If you want to see a perfect example of psychopathic NPD dynamics in action, watch the Netflix three-season bonanza “Big Little Lies”. The character Perry Wright, played so frighteningly well by the actor Alexander Skarsgård, as The Psycho-Narcissist, renders his gorgeous, bright wife Celeste, played equally brilliantly by Nicole Kidman, The Classic Victim: she is battered, belittled and shorn of any source of personal satisfaction other than sex with her husband.

Perry offers us a demonstration of the basic NPD process: 1) Idealize the coveted object; 2) Devalue the object to gain control; and 3) Discard the object to inflict pain, demonstrating the abusive narcissist’s perceived superiority. Being human, the recipient of this unhealthy attention is confused, destabilized and transformed into a Victim. (This is also a mechanism frequently used by NPD bosses in professional situations that keeps the recruiters busy looking for new victims!) And, in Season Three, thanks to the outstanding, subtle portrayal of Perry’s mother by Meryl Streep, we get to see why Perry excelled at his Narcissistic Personality Disorder with a vengeance.

The fictitious Wright couple demonstrates the Narcissist’s Abuse Cycle:

  • HONEYMOON – The NPD Abuser “grooms” his Victim by demonstrating his love for the Victim.
  • ROUTINE – Life is pleasant, normal, and idealized. (They have home videos to prove it!)
  • TENSION – The NPD Abuser finds fault with his Victim, whom he may feel is about to escape him (like go out alone or get a job).
  • TRIGGER – The Victim, in perfect innocence, hits the NPD Abuser’s hot button by acting on her own needs (to socialize, to take initiative alone, to have an existence independent of her partner).
  • ABUSE – The NPD Abuser attacks the Victim, physically or verbally.
  • EXCUSES – The NPD Abuser extracts from the Victim recognition of guilt by means of an apology.
  • HONEYMOON – They kiss and make up.

Another public example of a perfectly perverse narcissistic mechanism, known as Reversal, that many of us cringed through, was Brett Kavanaugh’s trial, on October 3, 2018, when he – accused of attempted rape by the plaintiff – dramatically attempted to transform himself into The Victim, blaming the plaintiff for ruining his life.

Since the jury is still out on whether or not Narcissistic Personality Disorder (more darkly known as a perversion in French) can be cured, the victim’s best strategy is to:

  • Inform him/herself about NPD;
  • Predict consequences on his/her health, wealth and happiness;
  • Learn practical self-care skills like detached empathy, Nonviolent Communications (NVC), and the Grey Rock Method (playing the dormouse); and
  • Clarify and commit to values.

If you want to join the ever-increasing ranks of NPD Spotters International, please send me other cases you’ve documented around the world. (Boris and Bibi are already on the list!)

By Constance G. Konold
August 19, 2019

The development of corporate coaching

corporate coaching, executive coaching France

Build a stronger team with corporate coaching

The rapid development and acceptance of the coaching profession, beyond sports and music, is no mystery. It has evolved out of the void left by corporate downsizing, which has eliminated traditional in-company mentors – senior persons who used to “groom” younger employees over the years for certain functions and responsibilities in the company. Now those traditional mentors are put into retirement at an early age and “grooming” is at best haphazard. This, combined with more rapid personnel turnover than in the past, has prompted management to seek the services of outside contractual professionals known as “coaches”. Coaching has thus become part of corporate value-added strategy as well as a smart investment in an individual’s personal life and career.

If you feel that you or your organization can benefit from career coaching, reach out today to Constance G. Konold.

[Read more…]

Michel Jauslin, Area Vice President Operations France & Morocco, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts

Nothing predestined Michel Jauslin to a forty-plus year career in hospitality and yet he jokes that he has always had “a career road map” in his head.

Born in the Swiss Romande, Jauslin pursued a typical Helvetian education, attending the Ecole Supérieure de Commerce of Neuchatel with the intention of later studying law, until one day he picked up a friend’s book on wine and within a week was enrolled at the Lausanne Hotel School.

He remembers that decisive moment of sudden enlightenment with gratitude; it gave him the impetus and motivation that has propelled him through four decades of a passionate, international career. [Read more…]

An Exercise in Emotion

First, let’s recognize that some of us are illiterates when it comes to describing our emotions. We tend to use just the “primary colors” of emotions such as love, anger, fear, and the spectrum of sadness-happiness. They are instinctive. But guess what: they are not enough to describe the rich and varied lives most of us live in the Twenty-First Century.emotions

The first step of emotional literacy is to recognize emotions as an important form of mental activity, on par with thinking (cognition) that takes place in the frontal cortex; emotions just inhabit a different area of the brain called the amygdala, but are far from being minor in our overall functioning. Culture has sought to prioritize the various parts and functions of the brain, with horrendous consequences when we see what a mess our fight-or-flight world has become today.

The essential fact we need to retain is that all parts of our brain provide equally important services for a normal existence. As important as frontal-cortex intellect is, it cannot happen in a vacuum devoid of the rest of our brain functions without serious repercussions on our health, happiness, and ability to achieve full potential, or success, in our lives. [Read more…]

Realign your Career to 2020 Expectations

No sooner had the World Economic Forum established the specific skills set needed to survive in the 2020 workplace than it stated that “the problem is that none of these skills are easy to learn alone, online, or without effort”.

goldfish after career coachingEmotional intelligence and relationship management appear on the list as sine qua non for attaining top-ranking skills: complex problem-solving (#1), critical thinking (#2), and creativity (#3).

Career coaching would also appear to be the sine cure for professionals of all generations attempting to make the transition to the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution Workplace. Coaching is not a metaphorical crutch but a learning tool and a success accelerant that can no longer be considered as “optional”. [Read more…]

The Melting Pot(ential) Forum

On International Diversity Policy: A Summary of the first OECD-COPE Diversity Forum


On January 22, 2018, the OECD pioneered the first international forum on Diversity and Inclusion of disadvantaged groups (women, immigrants, LGBTQ, seniors and the disabled) under the auspices of its Centre for Opportunity and Equality (COPE).  The purpose was to provide “a platform for promoting and conducting policy-oriented research on the trends, causes and consequences of inequalities in society and the economy…” and to inform and influence the international policy debate that inclusive growth policies encourage shared prosperity.

The purpose of this summary is to share its valuable content with DHRs, CSR managers, recruiters, and policy makers and to help people of diversity get on The Right Career Path in the Right Company in the Right Country. [Read more…]

François Delahaye, Chief Operating Officer, Dorchester Collection – PDG du Hôtel Plaza Athénée, Paris

Ma curiosité sur la carrière de François Delahaye révèle qu’on peut bien réussir une carrière brillante et toujours trouver qu’on aurait pu mieux faire.

François Delahaye

Je voulais surtout l’interroger sur sa motivation, que je trouve parfois élusive pour mes étudiants et mes clients en coaching.

Une carrière satisfaisante, est-elle le résultat d’une révélation intuitive? d’un planning cartésien? d’un enchaînement d’opportunités – identifiées et relevées – sur le chemin du hasard?

Tous les modèles sont valables. En voilà un qui brille de par son originalité et la passion qui l’anime.

Que sont les “moteurs” dans votre carrière – les personnes ou événements qui vous ont inspiré de devenir ce que vous êtes devenu aujourd’hui ? [Read more…]

François Delahaye, Chief Operating Officer, Dorchester Collection – President, Hôtel Plaza Athénée, Paris

François Delahaye can enchant you with the extraordinary trajectory of his exceptional career and still make it seem somehow less than satisfactory. To him.

François Delahaye

The purpose of my interview was to inquire about the role of motivation, which I often find eludes my students and coaching clients, in a career that deserves the limelight it’s enjoyed for many years, at least among hoteliers.

Is a “successful” and thus supposedly satisfying career like Delahaye’s born whole from a moment’s inspiration? Does it require Cartesian planning? Does it emerge from a series of opportunities – identified and seized as such – on the yellow brick road of life?

While all those models may be valid, it’s still energizing to explore a model that is as brilliant and passionate as that of François Delahaye’s with the intent of passing some advice on to those waiting in the wings.

What are the “motors” in your career – the people and events that inspired you to become who you are today? [Read more…]

Les Recruteurs membres du Club des Chasseurs de Tête en font les cobayes pour Vous les Candidats

To read the article in English, click here.

Où est la limite au-delà de laquelle une simple évaluation de vos capacités et la transmission de vos résultats peuvent être ressenties comme une invasion de la vie privée et un grand méchant jugement moral ?

Bibliothèque de l’Hôtel de l’Industrie

Tel était le contexte de l’atelier proposé par deux cabinets d’assess-ment connus, invités du Club des Chercheurs de Têtes le 17 janvier 2018 à l’Hôtel de l’Industrie à Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris.

A tour de rôles, nos coachs du jour – Madame Claire PERES, Fondatrice et dirigeante de CAP Conseil à Paris et Madame Céline LABAUNE, chef de projet de CCLD Recrutement de Lyon – s’appliquaient à nous expliquer leur métier et nous rassurer dans nos forts intérieurs qu’il s’agit de techniques pointues et efficaces plutôt que d’instruments de torture pour nous infliger des critiques démoralisantes et désobligeantes. [Read more…]

The Headhunters Club of Paris fields its Recruiter Members as Assessment Guinea Pigs

Pour lire l’article en français, cliquez ici.

At what point does the evaluation of our capacities and the transmission of those results suddenly become threatening to us as an invasion of privacy or a nasty moral judgment of our character?

Library of l’Hôtel de l’Industrie

This was the underlying theme of the evening’s presentation by two assessment agency experts at the monthly meeting of the Paris Headhunters Club on January 17, 2018, in the historic library of the l’Hôtel de l’Industrie à Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris.

One by one, our two experts from different assessment agencies – Mrs. Claire Peres, founder and manager of CAP Consultants in Paris  and Mrs. Céline Labaune, project leader at CCLD Recruitment in Lyon – attempted to reassure our collective recruiter souls of the scientific viability and peaceful intentions of their preferred instruments of human capacity measurement: “assessments”.

Assessment is, of course, an English word that most Anglophones are familiar with as pertaining to evaluations and appraisals. Tests, if you will. It turns out that the English word has now merged seamlessly with the French language, albeit with perhaps some nuances that we recruiters, human resource directors (HRDs) and coaches need to have clarified for us. [Read more…]