'Difficult' people - how to survive them

Sitting listening to my clients, I often get a familiar feeling when a troublesome person they are talking about looms large in the room, filling it even in their absence.

The frequency of this experience surprises me, and leads me to understand that the 'difficult' person who has been brought to the counselling room via the client's story may be a 'narcissist'.

Could the 'difficult' person in your life be a narcissist? Your mother, father, friend, sibling; your partner,child, husband or wife?

Are you drawn in by their charm and repelled by their cruelty?  Do they make you feel both adored and despised?  Have you learnt to bite your tongue for an easy life even though it's not the life you want for yourself? Are you afraid to voice your needs?

The charm, control and mercurial qualities of the narcissist are well drawn by E.L James in the character of Christian Grey in the popular 50 Shades trilogy.  To my mind the strength of the story is not in the salacious sexual scenes, graphically described and often discussed in the press and amongst enthusiastic readers; the strength of the story is in the healing of the deeply hurt child in Christian.  Anastasia Steele is his incentive for change.  The consistency of her love for him and her feisty challenging of his more controlling behaviours enables him to see the need for change in order to be with the woman he loves.

Narcissists can exhibit a set of behaviours which are both enticing and repelling; at its worst this behaviour can be threatening or dangerous; at its best it can be confusing and perplexing as the narcissist baits and switches, charms and disarms and generally leaves people confused and abused. Narcissists do not aim to behave this way and are not fundamentally bad people - they have not had the benefit of unconditional love, consistent parenting or safety as children.

If you have a 'difficult' person in your life who keeps you where they want you with their minipulative and controlling  behaviours, it may be time to review the part you play in allowing them to behave as they do.  It takes two to create a relationship.  You can choose to put up with it, end it or change it.  We have more power to initiate change than we imagine.

Wendy T Behary in her book 'Disarming the Narcissist'  - 'It is possible to maintain your own composure and self-esteem when dealing with narcissistic people.  It can also help you discover empathy, and, in some cases, even compassion for the narcissist in your life, bringing to you more peace of mind and helping to improve your relationship.'