Tamsin talks to Dr Supriya McKenna, a former GP and leading expert on Narcissistic Personality Disorder, about the disorder itself, how it manifests in relationships and how to divorce someone who has this.
Dr Supriya McKenna started her career as a GP and health writer and now works as an educator, writer, coach and trainer exclusively in the area of narcissistic relationships. Supriya mentors those who have fallen victim to all types of narcissistic abuse, including in the area of separation and divorce. She also trains family law professionals family in how to recognise and manage these personality disordered types – and has trained High Court Judges, Barristers, solicitors, mediators, CAFCASS officers and social workers.
Supriya is the co-author, with UK lawyer Karin Walker, of the highly successful ‘Divorcing a Narcissist – the Lure, the Loss and the Law’ and ‘Narcissism and Family Law – a Practitioner’s guide’ published by Bath Publishing. They also host a very popular podcast, ‘Narcissists in divorce – the lure the loss and the law.’ They are currently collaborating on their third book together, on the subject of post-divorce narcissistic abuse, which is due for publication in June 2022.
You can connect with Supriya on Linkedin, Twitter (@MckennaSupriya) and Instagram (doctorsupriya) or by email on email@example.com
Tamsin is a Chartered Financial Planner with over 20 years experience. She works with couples and individuals who are at the end of a relationship and want agree how to divide their assets FAIRLY without a fight.
You can contact Tamsin at firstname.lastname@example.org or arrange a free initial meeting using this link. She is also part of the team running Facebook group Separation, Divorce and Dissolution UK
Tamsin Caine MSc., FPFS
Chartered Financial Planner
Smart Divorce Ltd
P.S. I am the co-author of “My Divorce Handbook – It’s What You Do Next That Counts”, written by divorce specialists and lawyers writing about their area of expertise to help walk you through the divorce process. You can buy it by scanning the QR code…
(The transcript has been created by an AI, apologies for any mistakes)
Tamsin Caine 0:07
Hello, and welcome to the smart divorce podcast. In series four, we’re going to be talking to various different professionals and others who have gone through divorce and dissolution in a civil partnership to talk about the future, and how you can start helping things to look much more positively. We have some fantastic guests lined up. But if there is anything specific that you would like us to cover, please do get in touch. And you can contact me through our website, www.smartdivorce.co.uk. And I look forward to hearing from you soon. Enjoy!
Hi. So I’m going to be joined on the podcast today by Dr. Supriya McKenna. We talk about narcissistic personality disorder in which she is one of the UK leading experts. She’s written a couple of books with a UK leading lawyer on the subject as well. And we really get into some detail about what the personality disorder actually is, how it impacts victims and how it appears in in people’s lives. And we also talk about how to how to move through divorce when you are the victim of this abuse. I found it fascinating, terrifying, but really enlightening conversation that I had with Supriya and I really hope that you feel the same. Enjoy. We’ll jump right in.
Hello and welcome to Smart divorce Podcast. I’m delighted to be joined today by Dr. Supriya McKenna. She is a specialist expert in narcissistic personality disorder. And I’m going to tell you a little bit more about her before we get chatting. But before I do say welcome to Supriya. Lovely to see.
Supriya McKenna 2:09
Hi, thank you so much for having me on
Tamsin Caine 2:11
My absolute pleasure. So Supriya is a former GP and one of the UK leading experts in the field of narcissistic personality disorder. She works exclusively in the area of narcissistic relationships. This is not very easy to say I have to say, including the areas of separation divorce and post separation abuse, to work directly with victims of such relationships and regularly trained family lawyers, mediators and other professionals on how to manage clients, co workers or bosses with narcissistic personality disorder. She’s the co author with Top UK lawyer Karen Walker of two highly acclaimed books, divorcing a narcissist, the lawyer the loss under law, and narcissism and family law practitioners guide which I have just ordered.
Supriya McKenna 3:00
Tamsin Caine 3:02
Looks very useful. And she also co hosts a very popular podcast narcissist in divorce, the lawyer the loss and the law, you can find her websites the life doctor.org And on narcissists and divorce.com. And we’ll put those links in the show notes so that you can get hold of him, which should you need to. So let’s get cracking. So shall we start off by Could you tell us more about what narcissistic personality disorder is?
Supriya McKenna 3:34
Yeah, sure, lots of people are getting this slightly wrong, because obviously, these days, we tend to use it as a buzz word. So you know, we tend to use that word, narcissist, as someone who’s just a bit a bit mean or a bit vain, or a bit selfish, or, you know, someone who drives a sports car or, you know, it’s very active on social media, that kind of thing. And that actually, it actually undermines the seriousness of what a narcissist really is. Because actually a real and you will know this from your work with with these types of people, but, but a real real narcissism is actually narcissistic personality disorder. And that’s actually a real diagnosable condition with lots of criteria. So you know, this, there’s lots of diagnostic criteria that I’m not going to go through, because it’s far too sort of boring and dry. But what I will say is that, I think I think of narcissism as being a condition of low empathy, with a sense of entitlement. That, of course, is very important when it comes to the finances, as I’m sure you realise. And the narcissist also has an addiction to feeling special. So they need to feel special. So if you sort of put those three things together, the low empathy, the sense of entitlement and that addiction to feeling special, what that leads them to do is actually to exploiter, the people, and they do that in ways that are actually abusive. But it can be very, very subtle, very subtle indeed. So that’s that’s kind of how narcissism kind of peers but, but really, you have to go a bit deeper than that to understand it. So, it’s really, really important to understand that at the heart of narcissistic personality disorder, you’ve actually got a person with really, really low self esteem. And that doesn’t come across when you look at them. On the outside, it usually doesn’t look like that at all, most often, it doesn’t look anything like that. And, um, you know, if you have to sort of, when I give talks, I always say to the audience, you know, could anybody who sort of secretly feels as though they’re a bit special? Would you please raise your hand? And of course, nobody raises their hand. Why would you, you know, but the point is it actually most people, and it’s actually normal, most people secretly feel as though they’re a bit special. And it’s, it’s normal. And so it’s okay, because I can see sort of going. So normal, exactly. So it’s normal to secretly feel as though you’re a bit special, and it’s good for you, it means that you live longer, it means that you’re healthier, it means that your mental health is better, your physical health is better, that your relationships are better, you know, so all around, it’s a good thing. And that’s kind of where it’s differs from NPD narcissistic personality disorder, because a narcissist actually secretly feels as though they’re not special. And of course, it’s that secret. And it’s, you know, it’s just why you don’t see it on the surface. And so leading on from that, because they secretly don’t feel as though they’re special, what they do is they put up a sort of false image to the outside world. And that’s called the false persona. And they need other people to externally validate that false persona. So they need other people to believe in that false persona, and to kind of adore it or whatever, they need to validate that false persona. And they need to do that so that the narcissist can believe in it themselves. So if other people can believe in it, they can believe in it themselves. And then they don’t have to face those feelings of you know, inadequacy and shame and unworthiness and low self esteem. So it’s, it’s really, it’s quite sort of convoluted, but when you get your head around it, and it’s important to really, if you really want to understand narcissism, and if you want to manage narcissists, you know, it’s understanding that that’s key. But going on from that, that external validation I talked about, that’s actually got a name, and it’s called narcissistic supply. And it’s kind of like fuel that’s kind of the fuel that the narcissist needs. And that’s it’s so so so important to get this concept. So they get that that narcissistic supply by external validation for me, they’re being adored, from getting attention, or from drama, very important in divorce, conflict, very important in divorce, or even instilling fear into other people getting you know, feeding off people’s emotions, that gives them narcissistic supply, whether that be you know, positive emotions or negative emotions, it doesn’t matter. It’s all supply and they need it. I mean, they need it because they are addicted, they need to feel they’re addicted to feeling special, so that they’re not, you know, feeling the truth about themselves. And the last thing I need to say about this, and then I’ll just shut up, is that narcissistic supply is like a bucket with a hole in it. So it’s constantly leaking out. So the narcissist constantly needs to refill it. And so they’ve got loads of people. So if you imagine if you can visualise that bucket with a hole in it, and then loads of watering cans, and each watering can is a different person. So one might be the spouse, one might be the boyfriend or the girlfriend one might be the you know, the daughter or the son or the parent or the friend or the co worker or the girl in the shop, or you know, every single person that a narcissist comes across is a source of narcissistic supply, they’re a separate watering camp. And when you remove one of those watering cans, and the biggest and most important watering can is usually the spouse when you remove them in divorce or separation, of course, they take a big hit and what’s being poured into that bucket. So their narcissistic supply drops, the levels drop, and so they need to do something to get them back up again, get it back up again, because that false persona is now crumbling, and they don’t want they can’t deal with them at all. So they react with rage. And that rage is what causes them to quickly tops up the narcissistic supply because of the fear and the drama and the conflict etc that it causes and and it’s what drives that situation with narcissists and divorce. That’s why it’s so awful for the spouse of a narcissist and divorced because actually the narcissist wants to kind of annihilate the spouse. So wow, quick version.
Tamsin Caine 9:34
That’s, that’s really I mean, I do have lots of questions and just from just from your introduction, so I suppose my first question is around, is this something that as far as we know that people are born with or is it something that develops over over time through external influences such as trauma or something? Oh, Do we not know that yet?
Supriya McKenna 10:01
yeah. Now the the thoughts are that it’s mostly nurture, and not so much nature, right? The vast majority of its nurture. So it’s the way it really it starts off in babydom, and childhood. And it’s the way that the narcissist brain becomes wired as a baby or a child in response to an adverse upbringing. So there’s various types of upbringings that can cause it, like if you’ve got a belittling critical parents, they kind of internalise the message, they useless, and it kind of gets wired in, and then they need other people to sort of give them that validation to feel okay. Or it can be that they’ve got a narcissistic parents, so narcissists, they kind of learn narcissism. And so they’re just wired. Like, they become wired like that, because they’ve got to sort of tiptoe around that narcissistic parents. So they it all those workarounds that they develop, become wired in at an early age, and then they kind of become narcissistic themselves. It could be that the parent just gave him conditional love. So, you know, you know, you’ve got to be grade eight violin, by the time you’re four, you know, you’ve got to be, you know, there’s lead and all the school plays, you’ve got to get top marks and everything you know, and if you don’t, we’re going to ignore you or not give you any love. And so of course, then everything becomes dependent on on that conditionality of it. And again, that’s external validation. And the other way that people say that you can get it, and I’m not quite sure about this one, because it seems to me that the other ones seem to be stronger influences, but it’s that whole golden child thing. So you know, that the self esteem movement, where it’s, you know, my special, you know, my clever little princess, my special little prints, and there’s no kind of achievement for that, but they’re told that they’re marvellous and special, and they should expect the best. And so apparently, that that’s another way in which narcissism conform. I think the other three ways that I’ve described it are more important than that, but I have no evidence for that whatsoever. So but that’s, that’s my
Tamsin Caine 11:52
it’s interesting, isn’t it? And so, from from the, well, both, in fact, all of those sort of develop developmental ways that you might become a narcissist or become become affected by narcissistic personality disorder, I guess, I guess we could say. How do you recognise that in a relationship sort of early on? Or does it usually not appear until until later?
Supriya McKenna 12:26
Well, it’s really, really hard to spot it in the early days. And the reason being that characteristically the narcissist becomes the perfect person for you. So they’re very, very good at picking up on what it is that you need, what you want, how you express love, for example, and reflecting that back at you. That’s kind of part of that’s why it’s so so difficult. So in the early stages, they literally appear. I mean, there’s a Taylor Swift lyric, which I always quote, when she says, darling, I’m a nightmare dressed as a daydream. And that I just think that sums up you know, narcissism perfectly. It’s the nightmare dressed as a daydream, you think you’re in your Daydream. But actually, it turns into a nightmare, because they’re the perfect person to use it. So for example, if you, if you’re the kind of person that expresses your love, through giving gifts, they’ll shower you with gifts, you know, if you like to spend a lot of time with someone, they’ll spend every waking moment with you and all your values and your beliefs, and they’ll reflect them back to you and you will think you’ve met your soulmate. That’s usually usually what people say. I thought I met my soulmate. It’s not always the case. But that’s that’s usually the case. So hard to spot in the early stages.
Tamsin Caine 13:38
Yeah, it sounds that way. So is this something that happens in a relationship, which turns the person with the disorder so that you so that they, they kind of don’t know if it’s letting their guard down or kind of almost removing them? Like letting the mask slip a little bit?
Supriya McKenna 14:02
This is interesting, you know, I’m saying it’s you start off with that love bombing stage. That’s the first stage love bombing. The real word for it is idealisation, when they put that they put their partner on a pedestal, you know, the narcissist puts them on a pedestal, and they and they genuinely believe that they’re perfect, etc, etc, at that point, but then the next part of the cycle, and there is a cycle is the devalue stage. So it’s the cycle of idealise and devalue. So what happens next, and this could be weeks or months down the line, or sooner is that they’ll make sort of the old critical comment, you know, maybe disguised as a joke and they’ll sort of, you know, you look a bit fat in that or your arms look a bit fat in that top. Maybe were at the top with longer arms or you know, whatever it is, if you’re that’s if you’re you know, obviously a bit touchy about your weight or whatever your particular bit of touchiness is they’ll find it. And they’ve just sort of say something kind of, you know, mildly critical. And what happens then is obviously your heart sinks and you think well I’ll go to the gym or I’ll dress this differently or I’ll, you know, I’ll be better. I don’t know, it was wonderful before and I, you know, I don’t want to, I don’t want to feel like this, I want to get back to where we were before you know, bearing in mind that in that love bombing phase, your your brain has been flooded with all those feel good neuro chemicals, and then that devalues page, it’s because they’ve come crashing down. So what happens next is that you go back into the love bombing stage or the or the the idealisation stage, and it might never be as big as it was before you know. Or it might be you know, but but your your rope back into this kind of wonderful, you know, honeymoon phase again, and you think few everything’s all right brain chemicals, of course, the sky high again. And then again, you’re brought back into the devaluation phase. And this is that’s an essential part of the abuse. Those two things the the hot and cold is an essential part of the abuse, because of the way that it plays havoc with the brain chemicals, because it’s actually an addictive cycle. So the cycles are of varying lengths, and the love bombing and the devaluations of varying sizes. So you’re not you don’t know whether you’re coming or going you don’t go, Oh, I’m in the cycle of idealise and devalue. You just don’t know what’s going on, you know, you don’t notice that there’s a cycle. That’s all especially because it’s also variable. But that’s an addictive cycle from a neurochemical perspective. It’s just like when you’re playing a slot machine, for example, you know, the wins and the losses and the How long is it going to be before I win again, in tiny win or a big win or a small, you know, that it’s exactly the same? It’s highly, highly addictive. So you know, when I say you become addicted to the narcissist, I mean it, you know, and people will actually say that they can’t leave, because they feel literally addicted to the narcissist. And I don’t know if you’ve heard the term trauma bonding. But if you have that’s, that’s what I’m talking about. That’s trauma bonding.
Tamsin Caine 16:55
Yeah. It reminds me of everything you just said about the cycle and about the the devaluing part, and then the, and then the idealisation very much reminds me of, of physically abusive relationships, because it’s this, it’s a similar cycle, isn’t it, you know, the cycle of physical abuse, and then being, and then the abuse of being incredibly sorry, and loving and caring, and it’s our will, it won’t, he says, It won’t happen again, or she says it won’t happen again. And you know, they’re very, very sorry for what they’ve done. And then that comes around again, and it sounds like a very similar, very similar cycle. Yeah.
Supriya McKenna 17:37
I mean, I suppose the difference is that with narcissism, it’s usually much, much, much more subtle than that. You know, and it’s it, there’s always covert psychological abuse involved in narcissism, there can be physical abuse as well. But it tends not to be such a big feature, but it depends on the narcissist. So they’re not very good at self regulating, then, you know, you’ll get that kind of physical abuse side of it as well. Or as things spiral out of control, often towards the end of a relationship, they might sort of decompensate and start, you know, the physical abuse, but but in general, you know, narcissistic abuse, I mean, there’s always that psychological advantage, it’s not just physical.
Tamsin Caine 18:18
And it’s that subtlety, I guess that makes it that makes it, it’s sort of almost difficult to, I suppose to recognise it happening to you in the early stages, because it’s not, it’s not a black eye, or lightly, you know,what I mean
Supriya McKenna 18:35
You know, it’s just a bit of a critical comment. But what you know, if you think about the, you know, your arms look a bit fat in that top, I think, well, you know, they do a bit and you’re only telling me because you don’t want me to go out look at you know, you want me to feel good when you know, it’s disguised as I want you to feel good. You know, I think you’re fantastic. But so it’s really cleverly done. You know, so that you don’t think, Oh, I’m being devalued. It doesn’t feel like you’re being devalued, it feels it’s disguised as something else. Or it’s disguised as a joke, you know, you’re being you’re being sensitive, you know, I was only joking, you know, so it’s not easy to spot, not at all.
Tamsin Caine 19:12
N o it’s not,is it? So as the relationship goes on? Do I suppose the first question to ask is, do all relationships with someone with narcissistic personality disorder? Do they all end? Or can they or do they sometimes progress and be and be careful of using capita for after but kind of marriages that last a lifetime?
Supriya McKenna 19:40
Yeah, they can last last a lifetime. But they are toxic. And the the victim of narcissistic abuse is very, very unhappy if they do less. And, you know, I’m not seeing this so many times. You know, we’re lucky now we’ve got Google, you know, for all it falls, we can put in or you know, this happened and that happened and somebody you know, you might just chanced upon the answer, oh my god, this is narcissism or whatever. But you know, back in the day, that wasn’t the case. And so, so many of these toxic relationships, you know, in your parents or their generation, you know, they lasted forever, because the victim had really didn’t know. And of course, they’re isolated, as well as part of the abuse tactics is to try to remove your friends and your family from you. So you sort of on your own, you haven’t got a sort of reference point. You know, so a lot of those relationships, certainly in the old days just went on forever. But nowadays, they do tend to come to a close, I think,
Tamsin Caine 20:37
And is there something from your experiences, they usually a trigger that happens that that makes the victim of this abuse? Realise? Or do you feel that it’s, it’s a mounting of accumulation of what’s happened in the past?
Supriya McKenna 21:01
Yeah, yeah. I don’t think people… it’s always an accumulation, certainly. But a lot of people nowadays anyway, because that the, you know, that narcissism word is out there, maybe incorrectly used, but still, at least, it’s out there, you know, and so, a lot of my clients come to me and say, oh, you know, my speaker, especially with the older ones, my son thought that, you know, dad’s a narcissist, or, you know, whatever, they’ll be told by somebody who is sort of, you know, in the know, or just kind of, you know, aware of what the words that are out there, or, you know, they end up in therapy, and sometimes the therapist has picked up on it off or not, though, or, you know, they’re just, you know, they discovered the word in some way. And when they’ve discovered the word, and it’s, and they’ve done their research, you know, that usually, that’s kind of a trigger for, you know, for them thinking, well, I’ve got to find out whether this is true, because it’s very confusing for a long time. And then if it is, you know, inevitably they will, they will end up leaving, but it might take a few attempts.
Tamsin Caine 22:04
Yes. Okay. Let’s move on to, to that, because that, that seems like a sensible place to go from here. And from, from the clients that I’ve worked with, who have been in this position, and from the reading that I’ve done, and the leaving part can be, can be incredibly difficult. And I suppose, do you have? Do you have any advice for somebody who is in that position? Who, who knows that they need to leave as to as to how, because I guess that’s the starting point, isn’t it?
Supriya McKenna 22:43
Yeah. I mean, it’s so so difficult. I mean, you know, we’re mentioning the book, the book that there’s actually and you’ve got the other one, you’ve got the practitioners guide, the book for the spouse kind of takes that person by the hand and actually walks them through why they’re so confused, why they’ve been so confused for so long, you know, and, and, and how to sort of actually recognise, because it’s really coming to, once you understand what narcissism is, and the fact that you can’t change it, you know, they can’t be cured of this thing. And it’s actually not about you anyway, it’s about them, it’s completely about them. But that doesn’t help when you’ve given 20 years of your life or whatever, you know, thinking you are in love, you know, and I think when you realise it can’t be changed, and they can’t actually love and they can’t actually care. That’s usually the point at which people decide to go, but you’ve got to, I mean, you will know all about this, but it’s about preparing yourself and making, you know, being safe. And certainly from a financial perspective and trying to be as safe as you can from an emotional perspective. Because that narcissist is going to try and annihilate you. So it’s being prepared for what’s about to come, basically. And that’s financially that’s just usually absolutely diabolical. Because the narcissist will try to literally, they their sense of entitlement, that bit that I mentioned, you know, part of that that really important part of narcissism means that they think they’re entitled to absolutely everything, and that you’re entitled to absolutely nothing. And so and you’ve seen that, you know, and it says, just, you can’t make any sense of it. There’s no logic to this, it really is just the way that they’re wired. They genuinely believe that. And, you know, to their own detriment, they’ll take the financial pot, and they will, they will flush it down the loo you know, they will remove money, throw it away, give it away, spend it on unnecessary things, I’ll actually, you know, they’ll see that the rage is so great, and the desire to annihilate is so great, but they’ll actually reduce the financial pot so that there’s nothing in it for you even even to their own detriment. So, being aware of those things, and preparing yourself but and there’s no guessing, as I always say to my clients, you know, the only way out is through, you know, you’re gonna have to go through this hell. But you know, it’s one of those situations. where the grass is very definitely greener on the other side?
Tamsin Caine 25:03
Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s funny. One of the one of the things that you hear people sometimes saying divorce and unless so at the moment, I think but, but I’m going to take them for everything that they’ve got a new kind of go well, you know, that’s that is not a great way of looking at it, you’re going to end up through the courts, you’ll spend an absolute fortune on lawyers and barristers and so on. And you know, if you end up having to go to a final hearing, it’s 10s of 1000s that you will have spent on it. And, and that’s fine telling the victim that and they’ll, they’ll totally understand and believe you but but then you’ve got the other side. And if the other side is absolutely determined, as you’ve said, to do that doesn’t really care if it’s gonna cost 10s of 1000s of pounds, then it’s it’s a huge problem. So, okay, so the victim has left how how do I know? I was reading your website earlier and and you said that there are it is about being knowing what the pattern of behaviour is going to be because although it’s cunning and devious, it is the pattern of behaviour. If you’re pre warned you can navigate through so So where did so victim has left? What now?
Supriya McKenna 26:30
Well, victims left well that even that sort of simplifying it, because you know, very realise that they’re in the house, certainly, quite often the narcissist won’t move out. So the victim has left in terms of their saying they get they want to divorce, they’re still in the house, because there’s nowhere else to go, and they’re still being abused. Now the narcissist, of course, has ramped up their abuse, and they’ve probably brought in, you know, boyfriend or girlfriend or whatever. And they’re sort of, you know, parading this person around under under the victim’s nose, and, and that generally de stabilises them further. So, you know, their emotional state is just absolutely dreadful. So it’s, I mean, it’s this, there’s so so much to this, because, you know, they’ve got to, they’ve got to try to manage their emotional state, which is just horrendous. They’re going to have the, they’ve got to do all the practical things, like they’ve got to change their emails, you know, Nasus love abusing biotech abuse, you know, they’ll they’ll stalk, they’ll hack into computers, and they’ll hack into your phone. Or if they don’t actually do it, they’ll tell you, they’re doing it so that they mentally destabilise, you. So you think that everything you’re writing is I mean, it’s dreadful. It’s truly dreadful. So, you know, it’s doing all those very sensible things, it’s things like with the joint accounts, you know, to signatures if you can, or, because they’ll take money from joint accounts, they’ll run up credit card bills, they’ll, you know, as I’ve said, they’ll give money away, if they’re in business themselves, they’ll get colleagues to put in fake invoices for inflated claims, and then they’ll, you know, get the money back after the divorce, they’ll get their accountant to write a letter saying that their tax bill is going to be this much, and which it technically could be, I suppose, but quite often, they’ve reduced their earnings around the time of the divorce. So actually, they’re paying on account for money that so they get a rebate, in other words, and they’ll get that rebate after the divorce. And it could be you know, 10s of 1000s of pounds, so that all these sneaky things are going on, and you just have to be one step ahead of all of it. You know, you’ve got to change your will, so that they’re not a beneficiary early on. And there’s so many kinds of communication strategies that you need to employ because the narcissist is going to be well, I mean, I use that word annihilating, I mean it but from an emotional perspective, they’re gonna they’re gonna be wearing you down. And you’ll be thinking i wish i I’d never started this divorce process. And also at the same time, probably trying to rope you back into the relationship as well. So there’ll be you know, love alternately love bombing you again, the hoovering phase where they love bombed but even more than ever before, and they turn into the perfect person again, and that’s why it’s so hard. So that’s why, you know, you’ve probably been involved in cases where they’ve said, I’m leaving, and then they’ve gone, I’m not leaving, and then they come back to you six months later, I’m leaving again. You know, it takes seven attempts to leave an abusive relationship. And not a narcissistically abused Yes. I mean, I can see you going, Oh, my God, I’m exhausted. And it is it’s exhausting
Tamsin Caine 29:31
I mean, seven times to here to break to try and break free and and before you finally get there, and and in the meantime, you’re in the middle of this whole cycle, which was just, I mean, it must
Supriya McKenna 29:49
The courage of the people that leave honestly it is not to be underestimated. I mean, the is a momentous decision that they make when they leave and they know, they know what’s coming usually, or they know how they’re not, they’re not sure of exactly what’s coming, if they don’t understand narcissism fully, and they don’t know what they’re dealing with, but they know that it’s going to be bad. I mean, the narcissist will have threatened to just to financially destroy them, you know, they’ll threaten to burn down the house, take the children, you know, you know, take the car, they often do take the car. I mean, it’s very common to leave, you know, it’s just that, you know, they’ll do absolutely everything they can, they’ll take the photos of the children, when they were little, you know, they’ll take your computer, you know, or they’ll just all sorts of things take you off the account that you’ve got, of your own children’s photos, you know, they’ll remove you from that, they’ll do all these sort of awful kind of emotional abuse tactics that really, you know, hurt a parent, or they’ll use the children as weapons of abuse, or maybe if they’re at private school, they’ll stop paying school fees, so that the lesser the lower earning parents has to pay, or, you know, they’ll stop paying for extracurricular things. So they’ll happily use the children as weapons of abuse, you know, to try to fight about bad mouth you they’ll Bagmati to everyone, you know, everyone that will listen. And of course, they’re charming, and they’re plausible, that false persona, and they may have been priming all these people for a long time. And so these people will think worse than anything, you won’t have a support network quite often, apart from your absolute nearest and dearest. And everyone else will think that you are this terrible person, and they’ll project what they’ve been doing onto you. So they’ll say you’re the one that’s, you know, they’ll tell all their friends, you had affairs, you did this, you did that, you know, and that the and this happens, I mean, it happens pretty much every time. You know, I hear this all the time. And as I say, you know, you pointed out you it’s a pattern is very much a pattern, so to, to know that that’s what’s coming. And to leave, knowing that’s what’s coming is just I mean, it’s, it’s almost better not to know, in some ways, but then you’ll be financially and emotionally destroyed. So it’s better to know and to go, I’m going to go through this, yeah, I’m going to do this. Because the alternative is to be in what is essentially a loveless marriage because they can’t love, they’ll never be mutually reciprocated love or respect, you’ll never be cherished, and the children will similarly, never really have a, you know, it’s an extremely damaging situation for the children. So it’s that courage is just so great to be able to actually to do that and to leave, and I really want professionals to understand that and to me, you know, empathic and you know it because it’s so important, they need to support their clients, if that’s what they’re going through.
Tamsin Caine 32:47
Yeah, no, absolutely everything that you’ve just said, is, is so frightening. Lee familiar, not from not not on a personal level, I’m pleased to say but but from clients who I’ve watched go through it, it’s touching my heart with a client that, that I started working with probably about three, maybe a little bit more years ago, she thankfully, she did leave, thankfully, she’s, she’s out the other side now and, and is, is putting her life back together again, but it is taking an inordinate amount of time because as you as you with just very eloquently described, the way in which he systematically removed all of her friends from her life, and even turned pretty much everybody in the town in which she lives against her. And making them think that she was the bad guy. And I think this is this is one of the really difficult things, isn’t it? Because they’re charming. Generally, you said that before, you know, the person with this disorder tends to be very, very charming tends to win over people very, very easily. And you Your trust is kind of like, ah, well hang on, where do I Where do I put my trust? In this situation? It it’s just, it’s just so incredibly difficult. So where, where should I mean, my starting point with with working with clients is they tend to come and see me quite early on in the in the process, it tends to be either just before the left or just after they’ve left. And I have had one or two who have done exactly what you described and gone back. And but but generally, once they’ve left, my starting point is to say you need to go and find some emotional support and help first would your advice be the same or would you take different approaches somebody was coming up this sort of relationship?
Supriya McKenna 34:55
It’s really really important that if it when they get emotional support, they get it from someone who understands narcissistic personality disorder. And that is just so well, because people go to counselling, and they go to therapy, and it doesn’t work. In fact, it can make it worse quite often, because the majority of therapists and the majority of counsellors don’t have a deep understanding of it. So they sort of, you know, they continue to invalidate what the person is saying. Because they, they can’t really understand what’s going on why anyone would behave in this way, and it can’t really be true, and they just don’t really, you know, and also they sort of make it about the person. That’s what therapy is about, it’s about the person sitting opposite you, isn’t it? You know, so you’d sort of, you know, you’d make it all about them. And, but actually, this stuff is happening to them. And it’s actually not their fault. But a therapist would go, you know, well, what can you do to sort of, you know, how can you respond differently, how can you, they’ll make it about us, if they don’t know what they’re dealing with, they can actually invalidate that person’s experiences. So emotional support, yeah, really, really important, but it’s good. If you’re going to take get him. If you’re going to get professional, emotional help, you know, they better really understand what narcissism is really, really, really understand not just have a vague idea, but deeply understand it, otherwise, they can actually make things worse. And again, you know, it’s important man, it’s so hard with, with friends, etc. But if you’ve got one or two friends that actually will really listen, and really go along with you do the googling with you to understand narcissism themselves, that’s just a huge it can be as much of a help is actually sitting with a therapist, having a genuine friend who wants to understand it with you, we want us to really work it out with you, so that they can support you. I mean, it’s a lot to ask of any non professional, but sometimes that kind of relationship is, you know, is even more effective, and holding it together. Because, you know, if you’re leaving a narcissist, you’re stuck, you’re being abused through the divorce process, and they’ve ramped up the abuse. So you’re How can you heal when you’re continually being abused? I mean, you can’t really, you know, it’s, so the best that a therapist can do during the divorce process really, is just validate your experiences and be there and listen, and you know, and make sure you understand that this isn’t you and it’s not your fault. And, you know, but they can’t actually make you any better at this point, because you’re still being abused. So it’s just a continual process. But yeah, they need they need some emotional support.
Tamsin Caine 37:22
And I assume, from what you’ve said that having somebody there to keep reminding you that it’s not your fault, and that your experiences are real, and that you’ve not, you’ve not made them up. Yeah. And is, is really important. Even though you you’re, the person you’re working with might not be able to help you kind of stop sort of cure you. That seems wrong way, but help you to start getting back.
Supriya McKenna 37:51
Help you to heal
Tamsin Caine 37:54
But it’s useful, it’s important to have that support and that constant, it’s not, it’s not you
Supriya McKenna 38:00
Yeah, and that validation of your experiences, this is really happening to you, and you are not reacting in a way that is abnormal. And you know, this isn’t depression, this isn’t anxiety. Yeah, this is trauma, you know, and, and you are reacting in a perfectly reasonable way, the fact that you’re shouting and crying and one minute you’re, you know, up on one minute, you’re down, and you know, you don’t want to do and you have thought fleeting thoughts about suicide, or whatever. I mean, obviously, you know, we do that, and that’s, you know, but if you’re not, it just is fleeting, and you’re not planning anything, then those things are actually normal in this situation. And just to have somebody validate you and say, you know, this is as a result of your experiences, and, you know, and it’s okay, and you’re going to get through this Yeah, I mean, it is it’s it’s it’s so important, because the narcissist has invalidated you throughout they’ve gaslit you I don’t know if you’re that’s one of the things they do they gaslight, you know, so they lie and they make you it’s a kind of two, two step lie. So they lie about something, but they make you then question your perceptions of it. So they might say that never happened. This happened. And you know, or she never said that she said this or, you know, you’re remembering that wrong or even your feelings are wrong. So if you say I’m feeling my dogs died, I’m feeling sad. Well, you shouldn’t be feeling sad about your dog dying, should we stop feeling sorry for me because I’m working so hard at work and I haven’t got time to mourn the loss of the dog or whatever. And you’re like, oh, I should be feeling sorry for you know, your whole sort of everything is kind of questioned and you just stopped trusting yourself and in, in a narcissistic relationship. So you’ve been invalidated, your feelings, your what your memory, your perceptions, everything has been invalidated. And, and you just don’t trust anything. So you need someone to start validating you again. It’s very, very important indeed. You know, I mean, it’s it’s a really difficult situation for people.
Tamsin Caine 39:53
It really is, isn’t it? And I suppose that on top of the having somebody Who’s giving you emotional support. This is where the other diverse professionals like myself, like lawyers, like mediators also need to understand this disorder because it’s important that we fully believe the person who’s in front of us and trust what they’re saying as well because if they if they’re constantly being questioned in the relationship and made to distrust their own version of events and so on, they need to be believed in this is something that that Dr. Rachel said last week in the in the fortnight’s going in the podcast, the she felt that what she really wanted more than anything was for somebody to believe her and that was the most important thing for her. And I guess that’s where your work comes in with with training are the divorce professionals in this area.
Supriya McKenna 40:51
Hmm Yeah, definitely. I mean, there’s a little twist to this as well because you have to in our training we have to tell them this Yes, of course there is there wouldn’t
Tamsin Caine 41:01
wouldn’t be straightforward
Supriya McKenna 41:04
So you know, the problem is that very often a narcissist will present to a divorce professional or legal professional member, you know, and say, my, my spouse is a narcissist, they’ll be projecting their own narcissism onto the spouse so that makes it really difficult so you can’t just kind of blanket believe them. You have to look out and that this is one of the things that we train legal professionals in as well as the signs and how to spot when the narcissist the person coming to you saying the spouse is a narcissist is actually the narcissist themselves, and also have to spot when the person coming to you saying that spouse is a narcissist. They’re not a narcissist, that just being a bit mean, or, you know, because a real narcissist is doing all those dreadful things I’ve described already. Don’t confuse the word for the sort of colloquial term, you know, so they’ve got to be able to differentiate between those the, you know, the narcissist themselves saying their spouse is narcissist, and the people who just get using the word incorrectly, so actually, just blanket believing them isn’t helpful, either. And you can make things worse. Yeah, so it’s really important to, for people to understand that, you know, so yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s a big part of what we’re doing in our training of lawyers, is teaching
Tamsin Caine 42:16
It’s a minefield and very glad I ordered your book because I felt even more like I need it now. It’s it, I knew it was a minefield. And now I really, really feel that it completely is my field. And you mentioned a little while ago, when we were talking about emotional support about it being very important that somebody who has been a victim of this kind of abuse, that they find somebody who really has a deep understanding of, of this disorder. But other than coming to yourself, because I’m sure that you’ve got plenty of clients, but I’m sure that you know, and people can contact you, and we’ll put your details in the in the show notes. But, but other than you how, how do they make sure that they’re finding somebody who really, really understands this?
Supriya McKenna 43:13
I mean, there are a few narcissistic abuse recovery coaches, so Googling them, if they’re specialising in that, then, you know, you don’t, you don’t specialise in that without having, I think, a reasonable understanding, because it’s, this isn’t an easy field to go into, at all. So generally speaking, you know, people who’ve chosen to go into it would, you know, and marketing themselves in that way, do have a deep understanding of it. Because as I say, it’s not something you wouldn’t particularly want these difficult clients, you know, it’s, it’s not, you know, it’s not a sort of in out, in our job, you know, so you’re sorted. Now you find them and you’re off. Fantastic, you know, and this, there’s a lot to do, and, you know, working with these, these clients, so I would, I would, you know, Google narcissistic abuse recovery coaches, that’s one way to do it. And also, you know, looking at sort of psychotherapists, websites, etc, and actually all fit ringing them up and saying, Do you have specific? I mean, if they do, it will usually be on the website. Most don’t, I have to say the majority don’t. But, I mean, on our own podcast, actually, we interview a clinical psychologist who specialises in this field, and, you know, again, you know, she’s completely overrun, because there’s an awful lot of work in this area, but, but, you know, there, people are out there and people are doing it, but it’s a case of speaking to them really finding out when they do understand it. And the same, of course, as lawyers, you know, I mean, if your lawyer doesn’t understand it, they might tell you, they do. They might go yes, that’s high conflict, or, you know, but it’s not just high conflict. It’s there is an underlying personality disorder. It is not just a high conflict. So then when they actually take on the case, they deal with it and mismanage it really badly and, and lose you know, 10s of 1000s Maybe even over 100,000 pounds, you know, for their client because they’ve mismanaged it. So it’s so important to find a legal professional who really understands it. Not just someone who says they do not just someone who’s written a blog about it.
Tamsin Caine 45:14
Yeah, yeah. Which is it, it is easy to, to think that you understand it and not have that deep understanding that that you’re talking about. Because because it is, sadly, relatively commonplace, I guess. And we’ve talked about the fact that the word narcissist is used so commonly and and for someone being a bit mean, as opposed to the, the true sense the word, but I get the impression that, that even people with narcissistic personality disorder is is not uncommon, either. Am I would I be right in saying that?
Supriya McKenna 45:58
Yeah. So most people agree that it’s not that people, it’s about 5% of the population that would qualify for a diagnosis of NPD. So that pretty big, isn’t it? Well, yeah, whether that’s right or not. Now, figures vary. So a lot of the studies are American, or some say naught point 5%. Some say 6.2%. So those are the two extremes that most people agree it’s around 5%. But of course, narcissists don’t go, oh, put me in your study, I’m one. You know, it’s quite hard to do, isn’t it, you know, a by definition, they’re not going to sort of admit to being, you know, to all these things, because the false persona is a false persona that, you know, allows them to manipulate others for their own gain. So they’re not going to sort of admit to it, because it’s not in their interest to do so. And they probably have no awareness, the vast majority of narcissists have no awareness, that they’re narcissists. Anyway. So you know, it’s pretty difficult to actually put a proper finger on it, but you know, 5%, and if you consider that, you know, I always sort of, you know, use the analogy of a solar system. So the narcissist is the sun in the solar system, and there are all these planets orbiting this sun in different orbits further and further away. And the closest one is the spouse, and possibly around the other side, where they can’t be seen, you know, the lover, you know, the narcissist, and then you know, you know, then the family members, and then the friends, then the work colleagues, etc, etc. And the builder and the postman, you know, all these people are sort of orbiting this person. And none of them really, you know, the closer you are, the more abusive behaviours you’re going to be subjected to. But also, the more confused, you’re going to be by them, because you’re going to be spun around this sort of cycle of idealise and devalue. But the further out you are, you’re not going to be spun quite as much in the cycle of idealise devalue, but you’re brand new, but you’re further away. So you don’t get it either. You don’t really see the devalue so there’s each narcissist is affecting how many people? So it might be 5%. But it’s a lot more people than that that are actually affected? And it seems to be that it could be on the increase, it does appear that it could be on the increase.
Tamsin Caine 48:04
Yeah, it’s Yeah, it does feel it does definitely feel like that. You always kind of wonder, because we’ve got a greater awareness of it, and people are more happy to more more people because more people are aware of it, I guess more people are seeking help because of it. And therefore it’s, are the more people around or are we more aware is is a guess a question that we’re not going to know the answer to.
Supriya McKenna 48:32
But then it should if you think about if one narcissist has two children, three children, and two of them turn into narcissists, and then they go on to you know, you don’t see how it would, how it could grow. Media is kind of pandering to that as well. So practice, is it making people more narcissistic, or are they just more visible now? Because they you see them on social media, it’s a place for them to be, you know, it’s a place for them to get their external validation. And, you know, we we value wealth and status and power and all of that. And those are very narcissistic things to go for. Do we kind of feed that the society feed that and make people more narcissistic? And I you know, I don’t know the answer, and I don’t think anybody does. There’s a book called The narcissism epidemic, which, you know, it’s controversial in some circles, but it’s the pope but many people say, you know, it just show clearly that narcissism is on the increase. Some some psychotherapists, psychologists say, it doesn’t show it clearly. But, you know, we’ll only time will tell really, it certainly seems to be we’re definitely more aware. I think now, Mr. Trump has helped enormously, of course.
Tamsin Caine 49:37
I guess the awareness is a good thing because Because being aware means that people are victims of this will become hopefully more aware, and the people who are going to help them out are more aware of the situation. And…
Supriya McKenna 49:55
I can tell you what’s really important about that. Yeah, of course. Yeah. When you leave your narcissist it’s fast if your children are little, you break the cycle of generational abuse, you break that propagate, you know, those children have a better chance of not becoming narcissistic themselves, because they’re away relatively, you know, for for some of the time at least even if it’s only 5050 they’re away from that narcissist. And they can see the difference in the parenting styles because the other parent isn’t is no longer living in the house with the narcissist enabling the narcissistic behaviours, you know, that are happening to the children. So you’re actually breaking the cycle that and you’re stopping that propagation. And that’s why it’s so so important to pluck up that courage and leave if you can’t do it for yourself. Do it for your children.
Tamsin Caine 50:42
Yeah, absolutely. I could really talk to you for hours and hours because this is a horrific but fascinating subject. And I feel like we’ve barely skimmed the surface but I think I might order your other book as well
Supriya McKenna 50:59
get that facing book and it’s the one with the emotional support as well you know, and I mean, it’s been selling incredibly well so we’re very you know, we’re very pleased because now we knew this was a huge problem but even we are surprised at just how big a problem it’s turned out to be and when the demand you know, for people to actually you know, get hold of the book is is just incredible reading. So, you know, hopefully we’re making a difference.
Tamsin Caine 51:25
Well it’s great that they’re getting hold of your book and I’m sure that that there will be making a difference to a lot of people massive thank you for joining me today we’ll make sure that the all your contact details are put in the in the show notes along with links to the pages to order the book. I know your client facing one is available on Amazon, isn’t it and yeah,
Supriya McKenna 51:50
it’s on it’s everywhere. It’s Waterstones that’s the client facing on with a big heart on the front. I was divorcing a narcissist earlier the loss of the law and yeah, the other one is is is this one actually, this one here with them all
Tamsin Caine 52:06
That’s the tome. Take me a bit of time to read
Supriya McKenna 52:11
get to people say they kind of you know it’s a page turner because they start realising oh my god you know my answer narcissists are my uncle, you know it you just sort of so it is a bit of a page turner. That’s that’s what I’ve been told anyways, so.
Tamsin Caine 52:25
Fantastic. Many thanks for joining me, it’s an absolute pleasure to speak to you. I feel like I know. I know more and I can feel I can no less than before. But it’s been a pleasure to speak to you. Thank you.
Supriya McKenna 52:39
Thank you so much for having me on.
Tamsin Caine 52:45
I hope you enjoyed that episode of the Smart Divorce podcast. If you would like to get in touch please have a look in the show notes for our details or go onto the website www.smartdivorce.co.uk. Also, if you are listening on Apple podcasts or on Spotify and you wouldn’t mind leaving us a lovely five star review. That will be fantastic. I know that lots of our listeners are finding this is incredibly helpful in their journey through separation divorce and dissolving a civil partnership. Also, if you would like some foot further support, we do have Facebook group now. It’s called Separation, divorce and dissolution UK. Please do go on to Facebook search the group and we’d be delighted to have you join us. The one thing I would say is do please answer their membership questions. Okay, have a great day and take care
Transcribed by https://otter.ai