Continuing this series about the personality, we explore personality disorders such as Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality and other personality disorders that cause people pain in relationships. In this episode, we discus:
Watch the next Soul Session in this series on our YouTube Channel.
Dealing with Difficult People - A Deeper Look at Narcissism
Debra Maldonado, Robert Maldonado
Debra Maldonado 00:08
Hello, everyone, welcome back to another episode of Soul Sessions with Creative Mind. We are continuing our series on personalities.
Robert Maldonado 00:22
We’re continuing series on personalities. Today we’re going to talk about what everyone has to face at one point in their life, dealing with difficult people.
Debra Maldonado 00:31
I never have to deal with it. We all do. We're going to talk about personality disorders.
Robert Maldonado 00:39
In particularly, one, the narcissistic personality disorder.
Debra Maldonado 00:44
A lot of people talk about the how to deal with their narcissist ex, or their mother or father. A lot of talking in the ethers of the internet on how to deal with these kind of people. We're going to talk about how we can approach it in maybe a different way, so everyone can be happy.
Robert Maldonado 01:07
I wouldn't go that far.
Debra Maldonado 01:10
How to have more power. Let's start with when we talk about difficult people — we're talking about over the top difficult, not normal selfish, or this person's just kind of dramatic sometimes — talking about people that you really feel that no matter what you do, you can't win. That feeling of frustration.We do describe that as that extreme where there's no rational way you can work with some people, where they feel like it's just out of the blue, irrational.
Robert Maldonado 01:52
Let me just preface this by saying, when you want to know about personality disorders, there's a lot of information you can get on the internet, certainly look for DSM 5 categories, or look for university centers that are presenting information on personality disorders, or clinical psychologists, psychiatrists that are online speaking about those things.
Debra Maldonado 02:23
So you get good information, instead of just someone saying “I had an experience with a narcissist, let me tell you what that is.” They're really not experts in it. Maybe they're experts in having a relationship with one but might not be from a deeper level of psychology, understanding the psyche in that way.
Robert Maldonado 02:39
Our contribution is essentially to look at this phenomenon that's called personality disorders from a different perspective, certainly from a coaching perspective, from a positive psychology perspective, but also from a spiritual perspective, which is often lacking in those conversations about how to deal with difficult people.
Debra Maldonado 03:03
We just want to get them out of our life and shut them out, put them in a box or a jail somewhere and not have to deal with them. When you say these kinds of disorders, let's talk about the biology of it. What's going on genetically, physically in the brain?
Robert Maldonado 03:22
We know everything has a genetic basis to it. Just like we inherit the color of our eyes, our type of hair from family members, guess what? Personality problems or disorders, traits are inherited as well.
Debra Maldonado 03:45
I never thought of this. I always thought that traits were something we learned, we were born more open, and then we just learned through our parents. But that's interesting that genetically we are predisposed to have certain traits or certain extremes of certain traits. So someone being more introvert or extrovert would be a genetic component of that.
Robert Maldonado 04:07
It varies. People that do the research on this look at how much is the genetic factor contributing to the variants that we see in personality, and how many of these people end up getting a diagnosis, for example, a certain type of personality disorder. They measure all that good stuff. There's pretty good information, the DSM 5 tells you exactly what the latest thinking is on how much of the variance is coming from genetics.
Debra Maldonado 04:42
Also, there are experiences that we see, and this is what you told me and what I've learned too when I was a hypnotherapist, they say that when people have severe abuse, that can turn on some triggers, more of a disorder. How does that work?
Robert Maldonado 05:03
It's really good to understand what are called psychodynamic theories or models of the mind. Because what we're talking about when we're talking about personality is a sense of self, in the sense of the ego, the I. So when there is a history of abuse, we know the sense of self is challenged by its environment. Because what we all need as human beings is nurturance, acceptance, love.
Debra Maldonado 05:39
It can be just withdrawal of love, it doesn't have to be harsh. Neglect would affect a person?
Robert Maldonado 05:52
Neglect is a big factor. Because especially early on, our system is designed to interact with the environment and shape itself around the needs of the environment.
Debra Maldonado 06:08
When the mother nurses a child, there's that release of endorphins and those really wonderful chemicals of love and bonding, and if that's absent, or if it's not consistent—
Robert Maldonado 06:25
Here we're looking at the sense of self, beyond the neuro psych of it. The sense of self starts to form very early on, and it has a lot to do with “Am I accepted by the environment? Am I taken in, nurtured, taken care of? Are my needs met?” We instinctually read what's going on with our mother, with the environment, with our family, and absorb all that into our sense of self. Let's say everything goes right. You're confident, you feel like “I can go out into the world and face whatever challenges come my way. I may face difficulties, but I'll get through it.”
Debra Maldonado 07:12
You have a self efficacy around just dealing with life, almost assuming that people will like you because you're liked by your family and accepted. You just have this assumption, and that usually plays out. If you notice people that are just likable, that's what they experience. And people that feel insecure have the opposite effect, they doubt themselves, they feel like no one likes them. Even if it's not showing, it appears to them externally that way.
Robert Maldonado 07:43
Certainly, from our perspective, we don't see that as brokenness. Because if your mind is protecting you, that's a sign of a healthy, strong mind. Whatever happened to you, even if you were neglected, or somehow mistreated, if your mind said “I'm going to defend myself against that, and be guarded, and look out for relationships and people”, that's a sign of a healthy functioning mind, not a broken mind. Whereas in clinical psychiatric circles those things would be considered to be some kind of problem, some kind of psychological, emotional problem, or what they call disorders of the self in some schools.
Debra Maldonado 08:30
So you see it as a natural way the mind, the ego tries to balance out and protect the sense of self.
Robert Maldonado 08:37
Absolutely. It makes sense that if you can’t trust the world to take care of you or others around you to take care of you, then you have to look out for yourself, you have to be weary of intimacy, which means allowing others into your psychological emotional sphere.
Debra Maldonado 09:00
Usually the people that have that “I wasn't taken care of as a child, so I'm going to be hyper vigilant to connect with people”, the people they mistrust the most aren't the actual mean people. They don't trust the nicer people that are actually giving them love. They reject those people because it just doesn't fit into their narrative. It's sort of weird that you're going to be so. If you ever had a friend that might have been neglected and you try to be nice to them, it's like it is painful for them to allow that in because it just doesn't fit there.
Robert Maldonado 09:40
It feels scary and vulnerable to them, rightly so. If you go by their early experiences, they are correct essentially in their misinterpretation of the situation. The only problem, of course, is that it does limit their functionality as adults, because they're still living the same pattern from early childhood.
Debra Maldonado 10:05
Wearing the armor they put on, which helped them survive in that early life experience. They didn't really fall apart. Let's talk about the extreme of that. We all get conditioned, we all have defenses. Let's talk about when it really goes wrong. We always talk about a spectrum, we all have a piece of every personality trait in us, but there's always a spectrum of intensity, then it goes to the level of disorder.
Robert Maldonado 10:40
From the clinical perspective, they go by a list of characteristics or symptoms, the behaviors exhibited by the person. If you have a certain amount of those characteristics, voila, you have a diagnosis.
Debra Maldonado 11:01
I remember when I first got the DSM, I think it was four or five. I was reading it, saying “I think I have these.” I diagnosed myself with everything, because we all have a little bit of those. If you read some of these are like “I can see how I can be that way or that way.” But when it's a disorder, it's predominant the way you would. Because if you read it, you think “I can be a little over emotional. Sometimes I can feel sensitive to criticism.” How would you define?
Robert Maldonado 11:37
The bottom line is that the person that is diagnosed with a personality disorder, their typical way of responding to life becomes that fixed way that they're always defensive. They're always putting others down or angry at people that appear to be criticizing any of those traits. They're very fixated on that way of responding. They don't have the flexibility to respond in other ways.
Debra Maldonado 12:14
It's that rigidity. I'm sure you've had friends like this or someone at work, where you're trying to talk it out and you can't reach them. That could be a sign, maybe there's something because it's so rigid, and there's no gray area, it's either all good or all bad.
Robert Maldonado 12:34
Let's talk about a specific one because there are different kinds. Narcissism, or narcissistic personality disorder is a big one, because it's thrown a lot around out in the internet and in different circles. It's good that people are curious and want to know what is this thing called narcissism and what's going on, how do I deal with it? In that regard, it's good. The negative part is that there's a lot of misinformation, a lot of demonizing of people that are purported to have this personality disorder and dehumanizing them.
Debra Maldonado 13:20
If someone had a physical disorder, they couldn't walk or they were handicapped, would you demonize those people? It's the same thing. It's just because it's psychological. The people who are physically challenged aren't hurting other people. But then people that have the disorders can be disruptive to people. So it's like they're the bad people.
Robert Maldonado 13:48
Of course, to some extent that's true. People with narcissistic tendencies or traits or disorders are going to mess up with your life. Let's look at this particular personality disorder, or the way it's defined. There's a pattern of grandiosity, the person feels like “I am the universe's gift to humanity, I'm here to bestow my gifts upon you. Everybody should understand that.”
Debra Maldonado 14:25
“There's nothing wrong with me. If you see something about me it has to do with you.”
Robert Maldonado 14:34
In regular social circles that's considered bad taste. If somebody acts like that, people run away. But these people can be very charming at the same time, because it's not impacting their intelligence. Often they're very intelligent, very capable people. People are armed by this self assurance, here's somebody who is confident and knows what they're going for and knows what they want.
Debra Maldonado 15:08
Don't you think people that are more insecure are drawn to those people? Because it's their shadow, they borrow that charm and power in a way. You're drawn to that because in partnerships, even romantic, we see this a lot with romantic partners, they fall for that person that just fills that gap they think they haven't themselves. If I ride the wave with this charming man, it gives me the charm in a way.
Robert Maldonado 15:38
Unfortunately, the other traits associated with personality disorder or narcissism are lack of empathy. You have somebody who is very self assured of their projects and their ideas, but disvalues and disempowers others around them, especially those that project onto them the savior or the great personality. They're going to use other people around them, and then spit them out basically, discard them when they're no longer worshipping them or acknowledging their greatness. They potentially could get hurt — emotionally, financially, psychologically, or in all those ways.
Debra Maldonado 16:34
If that person doesn't keep saying “You're great”, that person pushes them away. Even hurt, instead of just walking away, don't they have like a vindictive—
Robert Maldonado 16:47
They could. There's a lot of variety the way it plays out. There's also severity. People have mild traits around narcissism, and others full blown personality disorder, but psychologically what's going on — and this is where the psychodynamic theories come in handy — psychologically what's going on is their sense of self is very weak, very fragile. They're projecting this big, huge persona as a facade, as a defense mechanism against the world.
Debra Maldonado 17:28
So it's a defense mechanism, it's not really their personality, you're seeing their defenses.
Robert Maldonado 17:35
Exactly. Here it gets tricky as to why people would blame them and hold them accountable when you're talking about somebody who has psychological emotional problems. But it appears the opposite, it appears that this person has it together, they're very confident. But in reality, they're suffering internally from this fragile sense of self that continuously needs reinforcement, protection, self assurance from others, validation from others.
Debra Maldonado 18:09
The problem with having a relationship with someone like that, or to be a boss. They were saying that 30% of CEOs have some level of narcissistic personality. Not a disorder, but they have those traits. They even said sociopathic, that lack of empathy, just all about the money.
Robert Maldonado 18:34
That's another part of it, it's part of human nature essentially, because we know these people, I'm sure everyone has met somebody like this, but maybe didn't get involved with them or didn't really get close to them. But they're out there. They might be doctors, lawyers, politicians, all kinds of people. People are blindsided, because they're going from the assumption that these look like normal people to me.
Debra Maldonado 19:13
They first put on the charm, you're drawn to their charisma. We're all drawn to people that are confident naturally. When someone's confident, we tend to want to be around them because we feel secure in a way around a confident person versus around someone who doubts. If you think about the tribe, if you are on the brush, and someone's freaking out, you don't want to be near the scared person. You want to be by the confident warrior, soldier that's going to make you feel safe. We tend to want to be around those type of people that are confident, but then we get fooled. That confidence is just a game, it’s a facade. It's not real confidence.
Robert Maldonado 20:00
That's a tragedy. Also, [inaudible] doesn't really have a good way to help these people.
Debra Maldonado 20:09
There is no treatment for narcissists? The narcissist wouldn't go for it because they don't think they need help.
Robert Maldonado 20:19
It's kind of a catch 22 because the way they perceive themselves prevents them from saying “I need help.” It’s just not in their vocabulary.
Debra Maldonado 20:34
If you think about the emperor who has no clothes, that story, he was the only one who didn't know that he didn't have clothes on. That's kind of the narcissist, he or she doesn't know what he's doing. They're really blind to their own. Anyone with a personality, we're all, even our shadow, blind to our own, how other people see us and perceive us. With the disorder, we don't have the ability to self reflect or we don't have that sense of insight, because we have that rigid personality that's highly guarded, we'd be fearful for that person to face the weak ego because it would basically implode their ego, it would be almost like death to them to do personal development work or anything like that.
Robert Maldonado 21:30
It's hard to say, again, it would depend on the severity of the situation. But let's move on to the spiritual element because so far we've been talking about the clinical aspects of it and the way psychology and even the internet look at these problems.
Debra Maldonado 21:50
Do we want to talk about the other disorders or just move on? There's also borderline which is the black and white extreme of “I love you” and “I hate you”. They say 70% of women are more borderline and 30% narcissist. And the flip is, the narcissistic is typically 70% male and 30% women.
Robert Maldonado 22:16
I think it's more like 80.
Debra Maldonado 22:19
Predominantly, narcissism shows up in men, and borderline is a little different. It's very insecure. What would you say that looks like? The extreme “I love you” and then “I hate you”, that black and white.
Robert Maldonado 22:41
It could play out like that. But again, we go back to the sense of self. That sense of self is fragile, very much like the narcissists, actually they're related. Narcissistic personality disorder and borderline personality disorder are considered part of Cluster B personalities. Cluster B has to do with difficulty managing emotions. In the borderline, you definitely see the difficulty with managing emotions, especially any suggestion of rejection. They're always hypersensitive to being rejected by others. But of course, that's what they end up doing. By being either very needy and needing the praise and approval of this person or when they feel that this person has withdrawn their attention from me, or their approval of me, they demonize the person, they project all the bad onto them.
Debra Maldonado 23:56
Again, you feel blindsided, because you have a friend that you're just like “I thought that person really liked me.” Then you just say the wrong thing. I've worked with some people like that in my corporate job, all of a sudden they're just not my friend anymore. Did I say something wrong? You don't know what's gonna set them off. They're not able to talk about it. They don't want to talk about it.
Robert Maldonado 24:23
They have a lot of problems with interpersonal relationships. Intimate, really close relationships are difficult for them because of these traits.
Debra Maldonado 24:33
Histrionic is— what would you say?
Robert Maldonado 24:37
Histrionic is an interesting one. It's people that are overly dramatic, they're often mistaken for borderline but they don't have quite the sensitivity to rejection. They're more dramatic, everything is a big drama.
Debra Maldonado 24:57
Positive and negative. Like “Oh my God, that was the best thing ever!” but it's over the top, or almost out of the realm of normal. Would you say extreme, where we all have this sort of social graces that we have as human beings. And then there's this edge of normality, I guess that's typical, I would say, instead of normal.
Robert Maldonado 25:22
Again, we all have these traits. We all are a little bit narcissistic, we're all a little sensitive to rejection. Again, the only problem with people that are diagnosed with these disorders is that they've adapted these or adopted these defensive strategies as the go to way of dealing with everything. It becomes that pattern.
Debra Maldonado 25:50
Not just use it every once in a while, it's every time, this is the difference, that's the way to go. Let's go into the spirituality of it all. I always talk to people about that idea too, that if you looked at someone who was physically disabled or handicapped, you wouldn't say they're a terrible person. But when it's something mentally off with someone and evolves a relationship, it feels as though they're doing it intentionally, or they can be very harmful and hurtful and really bad. They could seek your money, they could break your reputation, break your heart. Or if it's a parent, having one of the parents with any kind of personality disorder is hard, because you're like “You're supposed to take care of me and nurture me and you're being so horrible.” But I love that we look at it like people that have these disorders can't help themselves, they didn't consciously say “I'm going to be a reckless person”, or “I don't care about other people.” They're not choosing this disorder, it basically was an effect of their defense mechanisms that are created genetically.
Robert Maldonado 27:16
If we could trade places with them, we would act the same way, we would essentially be playing out the same pattern of behavior. If you interchange your position with a person that's been diagnosed with having a personality disorder, you would essentially act out that personality disorder yourself. That puts a different perspective on it. The other fact is that it seems to be part of the human condition. We call it disorders and medicalize personality because it creates friction and social groups. Why is the person with narcissism, or narcissistic personality disorder seen as having some kind of problem? Because it causes problems within the group, they're going to betray the trust of other members of the group. It goes back to this idea of we're medicalizing and defining personalities that are outside the normality, based on what functions for society, for the group. Jung would call this the persona. What we're talking about when we're talking about personality disorders are really disorders of the persona.
Debra Maldonado 28:55
The persona that's created to interact the act of a defense, that's not who they really are on a deep level, on a spiritual level.
Robert Maldonado 29:04
At a spiritual level everyone is whole, everybody is the higher self, the pure consciousness, as the Upanishads say, the infinite consciousness. The only thing is that their personality, or their persona, their interface with others in social settings has become distorted somehow because of their past experiences and past conditioning. When we look at people demonizing these people, pointing fingers and saying they are the bad ones because of these psychological problems or personality problems, that's a very limited way of seeing what's happening to these fellow human beings. First of all, we're dehumanizing them by thinking of them through the label instead of seeing them as a human being first, just like we do with anybody that has diabetes, or autism or any other problem. We're being very judgmental, very narrow-minded in our approach to working with them. Now, understandably, we can see why people would tend to do that, because, again, these people tend to hurt them or act outside the social group norms.
Debra Maldonado 30:48
Can I ask you a question? Do you think it's also easy to label someone because it's like a defense mechanism as well for the person who's the victim of these kind of people? They feel that it's not me, it's them, I'm the innocent one, I didn't do anything wrong, that person was bad. That helps them feel like “It's not because I'm not lovable, or I'm not kind, they're the ones who have the problem.”
Robert Maldonado 31:22
Jung would say definitely projection is playing into that. Society wants to have these people labeled as bad and the ones that are causing the problems in society. That way they absolve themselves, or the group absolves itself of responsibility and says “If we could only manage these people, or these people would only get the right medication and the right treatment.” But again, at this deeper spiritual level, the question is, if you only like the people that like you or love you, and you only love them back, that's not real spirituality. That's simply what everybody does. One of the possibilities is that these personalities, or what we call personality disorders, are in the mix so that we can practice real compassion. Because there is no other way to practice it. Again, if you only like the people and are compassionate towards the people that are compassionate towards you, anybody can do that.
Debra Maldonado 32:50
You can have compassion for a family member who you get into a fight with, and they had a tough day, and you're like “I can have compassion for her, she’s having a tough time.” But there's that underlying love there. So it's not that much of a stretch to have compassion for the cruel, even really cruel, like psychopaths and murderers and all those people. It's not that you endorse what they do, but understand that they can't help themselves. Again, not let them off the hook but how do you have compassion? If you're a victim of a crime, what else is there left to do but have compassion? Because if the mind can create a beautiful spiritual being that's perfect, kind, loving, the opposite must also have to take place in Maya. There's dual, so the extreme of the most spiritual guru you've ever met shows up on the other end of the spectrum in the psyche. They say the tree reaches to heaven and also reaches down to hell. We're seeing all these parts of our collective psyche in a way. You may not personally be presenting those personality traits, but deep within us, we're all connected.
Robert Maldonado 34:09
Jung would say, if you are seeing these traits in a fellow human being, what you want to do is ask yourself, what corresponds in me to those traits that I'm seeing in this other person.
Debra Maldonado 34:26
Can I be a little bit of selfish? Can I be a little cold sometimes? Can I be a little braggy about my success? Can I be a little wanting the attention? I find that sometimes even looking at them is probably the easiest to see your shadow in those extreme cases because you get to see what you're really attached to and what your persona is attached to. Maybe you are triggered by the narcissist because you're really attached to being afraid of getting all the attention? You're the opposite. Of course, every individual has a different trigger. Also, what is it question about yourself, there's always something to work with. It doesn't mean that you should not keep boundaries, it doesn't mean that you should just let the person be whoever they are, because they're ill and need help. What you want to do is keep strong boundaries with these people, you want to establish strong boundaries. There's only so much you can do, you're not a professional, and hopefully, they can find some way to get some help. But what you can do with it is be more spiritual.
Robert Maldonado 35:45
Spiritual level is a little different than social interaction because on the spiritual level you're seeing the connection between you and them. If you're seeing them through spiritual eyes, there's no distinction. They are a part of you, you are a part of them. Then you're working with it at a very different level.
Debra Maldonado 36:11
So more of a holistic level versus us versus them, I get it. I love what you just said about they really give us an opportunity to work with our compassion. It's really easy to have compassion to people we care about, our friends and people we love. But to have compassion for someone who's a difficult person is the highest form of spiritual evolution.
Robert Maldonado 36:37
Finally, you see that the whole culture is narcissist. If you think about how we were raised and how we were trained to focus on accomplishment on the external. The bottom line is how much money do you make? What kind of work do you do?
Debra Maldonado 37:05
Are you married? How many kids do you have? Are your kids advanced in their classes? Are they getting their honor roll? You see the bumper stickers “My child made the honor roll.” There's a little bit of that braggadociosness, which is okay, but the thing is to own it and say “You know what, I can be a little braggy sometimes, I can be a little self centered. Sometimes I do you hurt people by saying the wrong thing.” You’re not thinking how the other person's going to feel when you say something, we all do that. To be gentle with ourselves, as well as compassion for ourselves, for our little picadillo that we do.
Robert Maldonado 37:47
The whole culture of Instagram is essentially ego building, persona building system. There's nothing wrong with this. Because again, the persona, the ego is a part of our natural psyche. We simply want to understand these things and their importance in the totality of who we are as human beings. If we don't understand that, we give them this inordinate importance, and we think and identify as persona ego.
Debra Maldonado 38:23
Really, the power that narcissists and people that cause us difficulties, we give them so much power to make us unhappy, to ruin, we're projecting all our power onto these people. The best thing we can do is have compassion and retrieve our power. See how they're like us, that's really the way to reclaim our power. You set boundaries and do all the practical things, but to truly own your power and not feel afraid or blindsided by a difficult person — how invincible can you be in the world, whole and compassionate and more well-balanced? Instead of building up your other persona to not be like them and put those type of traits in your shadow.
Robert Maldonado 39:13
Ultimately, people that trigger us through their personalities in whatever capacity they may, are giving us an opportunity to go deeper into ourselves to understand where is the source of compassion in me.
Debra Maldonado 39:34
Every time I'm triggered, I always have such love for the person who triggers me because I realize they're showing me a part of myself I couldn't see if they didn't show up. The more extreme, the bigger the payoff because you really can get to another level of growth. You can't really grow just by everyone agreeing with you and everyone telling you “You're doing a great job”, and never triggering you. People are basically sacrificing their own self for you in a way to help you grow. We're all helping each other, this world is full of triggers. If we use it and are not afraid of it, and understand that all people even if they don't have a disorder, we're all acting out of our own conditioning. We're not acting at a free will unless we're doing our shadow work, and conscious and moving forward with our life. We have to have compassion for everyone. Because everyone's just working with stuff they had to deal with in this life and the defenses of the ego that they are not conscious of.
Robert Maldonado 40:44
Everyone is facing a tremendous battle.
Debra Maldonado 40:50
Everyone has the battle of being human and trying to find our way back home. Great. Thank you for joining us today. This was a very enlightening conversation. I'm sure we'll get lots of comments on this one. We'll see you next week when we talk about the fun topic of the spiritual personality, spiritual bypassing. A lot of people have been asking us to talk about that. We'll talk about spiritual bypassing next week. Hopefully we'll see you then. Take care.
Robert Maldonado 41:22
Thanks for watching.
Debra Maldonado 41:23