The most recent meeting of Fells and Dales Counsellors explored Grandiose Narcissism as an adaptation in response to an early lack of empathy. Kohut’s Self Psychology Model was used as an initial stimulus to the debate.
It was noteworthy that people with narcissistic traits present for therapy relatively rarely. However, a good proportion of clients in therapy are the children of narcissists.
We used professional and personal experience to think and talk about the particular challenges of working with people who relate in this way. We recognised that we are best serving these clients when we can meet the vulnerable parts of the individual. These parts might have low self esteem or feel shame and inadequacy , or be interpersonally isolated. The therapeutic challenge is to access this suffering through the thicket of a complex defence mechanism. When defences include a sense of entitlement, grandiosity or bravado, and an extreme sensitivity to criticism, the work is delicate.
For our May meeting of Fells and Dales counsellors, we explored the relationship between twins, and in particular to what extent the twin bond is “special”. We read a research article by Tancredy and Fraley on ” The nature of Adult Twin relationships: an attachment-theoretical perspective” from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,2006, vol.90,no1,78-93.
The article defined the main characteristic of attachment relationships as comprising proximity seeking, separation distress, and the use of one another as a secure haven and safe base. Twins were then measured against non-twins to assess whether twins used each other as attachment figures rather than mother in the first instance and then siblings or other key figures.
An interesting finding was that twins do not fully acknowledge the presence of their co-twin until the end of the separation-individuation process at around 36 months so until then are more focused on the mother to meet their needs. However, for identical twins who share the womb space, there can be ” an embodied sense of the other” which creates a lasting attachment greater than that between fraternal twins or non-twins.
We then discussed the relevance of these findings for the therapeutic relationship and the extent of sibling rivalry between twins.