Ray Freeman 17th November 2017

As therapists, we are trained to listen to the words and interpret what they mean to our client.  Of necessity, we have to appear to be passive and be actively listening.  We are also trained to validate our client’s feelings, to paraphrase and reflect their moods and feelings too. 

All these essential techniques can make us appear to be too nice!  Our client has perhaps never been listened to and heard like we will do, ever in their lives.  This makes them think that because we have not interrupted that much and have validated and ratified their feelings that we are somehow a nice person. 

In my case this is certainly untrue!  I am listening, ratifying, validating, watching and prompting to get their entry point to my therapy room.  Their entry point is their point of weakness, I call this point A on their journey.  Weakness I hear you ask?  Of course, they may be towering stupendous, fully coloured in individuals but they have a weakness or they would not be sitting in your therapy room.  They have a weakness or limitation in their lives that causes them pain.   

Put in a different way, unless you know where to start how do you plot the process to the finish?  So you appear nice, but keep your professional boundaries and this will help you when the journey gets on to rockier ground. 

The therapeutic relationship with your client is the best indicator of successful therapy.  But, being too nice when we are trying to move them on their journey will hamper and stall the process.  I am not an advocate of time limited short therapy where everyone has deadlines so I do not mean that sort of moving. 

What I do mean is that if you are or appear to be too nice to your client then they be more able to think they can control your relationship with them.  Now you have created the client dance.  When you dance with someone, one of you has to lead, being too nice let’s your client lead the dance and you just go around the dance floor, getting nowhere. 

I always tell my clients about the journey, not specifically their journey but the process of therapy.  They are at point A, once I establish where that is and it is my job to guide them, at their own speed to their point of strength, point B.  

We are so fortunate that as therapists we get to choose when we work and even more importantly who we work with.  I am sure that if you really think you cannot work with someone then you pass them on.  Your client will not hesitate to do the same and if you appear too nice, then the dance begins and they are likely to end therapy with you without the success they wanted. 

Therapy is a process that needs a driver, it is no value sitting on the back seat with the passenger, sit up front and steer.  

Note; This topic is one small part covered in my Dynamic Effective Therapy Training Day.  The up to date list of training days is on the website. 

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We can look at this in two ways…. Firstly, they are all too common, they are amongst us everywhere causing upset and mayhem but on the other hand when you understand how they operate they are easy to spot.  Once spotted the best course is in the opposite direction. 

It must be said that this is a personality disorder but like too many mental health disorders they all too often go undiagnosed.  I also believe that the personality characteristics of narcissists are unique to each one of them.  So, it is not something that is either switched on or off but is a scale of mild to severe.  There are some common characteristics:

  • An over developed sense of self-importance.
  • Attention seeking.
  • A lack of empathy, cutting them adrift from emotion.
  • A huge sense of entitlement.
  • Envy
  • Arrogance and a sense of being owed something by everyone.
  • A lack of genuine kindness.
  • An inability to be in touch with their own emotions.

They believe in demanding homage and deference from others and when they do not get what they want they can be cruel, aggressive and abusive to their partners or those close around them.  Not only partners and siblings but also up and down generations, parent to child and the opposite direction.

The only definition for narcissistic behaviour is abuse.  This means there is always a victim which has already stated is likely to be a partner but also possible other close relationships.  It is often a partner as they like close contact with their victim. If they live elsewhere there could be other more normal influences.  This dissipates their control. 


They can be charming and will be the perfect partner (Mother, Father, daughter etc.)  to open you up.  This is called bombing phase.  Once you are bombed out, they can withdraw the effort that took and be themselves and the victim is hooked waiting for the ‘perfect’ to return.  It never does unless there is danger to their control of their victim.  I have known narcissists to return to the bombing phase at will to re-engage their victim, even when the victim has left the family home and sought refuge elsewhere.

The victim often returns several times as they are trauma bonded to their abuser.  This is a strong emotional attachment because of the bombing phase they wish would re-appear. Most will believe they have deserved their bad treatment but this is because of the other tactics highlighted below.  It takes time and usually several goes at escape, the realisation that the bombing phase, such lovely attentive behaviour, is false and has no emotion behind it.


Pathological lying – as normal as the rest of us tell the truth so the narcissist lies. 

Shaming – in public and in private a narcissist makes comments that demean or belittle. Their pleasure is making others feel small, stupid or weak.  It often comes in the guise of a joke but it nevertheless is very hurtful.  The victim learns to try even harder so they do not get this treatment but they never get to that point.

Minimising worth – At first everything was brilliant, the perfect partner made the victim so very happy.  When the victim feels safe and is bonded to the narcissist, the re-programming begins.  Compliments turn to the victims perceived shortcomings.  The way they dress or the hair style needs updating.  The way they dress is too alluring or not alluring enough.  Too much or too little makeup etc.  Over time this serves to minimise self-worth.  The victim ends up asking how to dress and behave before they have to be reminded of their defects.

Control – The narcissist will control everything they can. They do this so they can remain the centre of attention and receive the adoration they deserve.  Everything is controlled, conversation, dress, the household, finances and even who is friend and who is enemy.  This includes family too, even siblings, parents and children will be excluded if they are at risk of any influence over the victim.  The narcissist will create issues and problems that turn the victim away from other and towards themselves.  They want the victim entirely focused on pleasing them. 

This will mean that over time the narcissist and their victim have an ever-decreasing social circle which ultimately is just the two of them.  This tighter the circle the more difficult it is for the victim to escape.

Gaslighting – Where the word comes from explains what it means very well.  It comes from a film called Gaslight (1944).  It was a thriller based on a play by Patrick Hamilton (1938) about a woman whose husband slowly manipulates her into believing that she is going insane.  

The victim starts to question their own reasoning as the narcissist openly lies about events and conversations and by persistence the false known truth becomes the real as opposed to actual truth.  It encourages the victim to rely on the narcissist for their own sanity.  This is a very dangerous ploy where the victim can be permanently lost.

Smear Campaigning – If the narcissist is challenged by the victim they will often engage some or all of what remains of the social circle and smear the victim’s behaviour or attitude to these other people.  Of course, the narcissist has always been the perfect partner in public so becomes very believable when they are challenged.  They also play the victim brilliantly!  When the chips are down and the pressure is on, I have known narcissists to use tears for sympathy for what they have to put up with from the victim. 


The victim is the only possible victor if they realise what has been happening.  Telling them they have been abused does not get through, the trauma bonding takes care of those feelings.  They hear you in rationality but their feelings are irrational.  They are likely to be overwhelmed with guilt which prevents them walking away.  Or, they are so bonded to the narcissist they believe them over anyone else.  However, if there is a spark of what they used to be left buried deep inside them, then they have the potential to walk away.  It could take years or it could be never.

If they do leave, the narcissist will be onto the next victim long before their recovery.  I have treated many victims of abuse by narcissists, they become devastated by their former abuser moving on.  They find the next victim or already have them lined up by the bombing phase. Fidelity is not a narcissistic quality.   

These narcissistic personality characteristics are all too common.  Have I ever treated a narcissist?  Of course not, in their minds there is nothing wrong with them.  When one has appeared for therapy it is usually due to acting out a victim request to get help.  They try to manipulate the therapist to the point of walking away saying the therapist was not good enough. 

Be aware of the signs in new relationships.  If they are the perfect partner, if life seems too good to be true then it probably is not real.  If the relationship is new of if it is part of a family setting there is only one answer, walk away.

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At this time of year some of us optimistic souls set ourselves up for our annual round of self-ridicule and set some desired, but potentially impossible, goals for ourselves. We call them New Year’s Resolutions. 

The idea is often credited to an early Roman King called Janus (around 153BC), who put himself at the head of the New Year calendar.  As he had two faces he could look to the past and the future and this developed into the idea of self-improvement and growth for the coming year.

Although failure is not always inevitable, it almost seems that we expect our resolutions to fail and I believe that this becomes self-fulfilling: if we expect to fail we probably will get what we want.  We may laugh off the failure but effectively we do damage to our self-worth and self-esteem by it.  The reason for the damage is essentially that we always choose things that we really want and that are important to us, so the whole episode starts as something vital but we end by trying to reduce the hurt with a shrug and a joke…. that’s how we damage our self-esteem.

We seem to do what Janus with his two faces suggests, we reflect on our year and how we may like to change and improve ourselves in the future, so our resolutions really do tell us that we feel the need for change and growth. 

New Year’s Resolutions are achievable and can be lasting but you need to know how!

The obvious first, do not set too many of them and do not set yourself unrealistic targets.  For example, if you want to stop smoking (No.5 on the most popular list) do not try and stop at midnight on New Year’s Eve.  You are likely to be at a party or out with friends and you have been smoking all evening…. you cannot stop then; it just won’t work!

So, be positive in your selection and how you feel about improving yourself, it is not negative to think you need to improve.  Congratulate yourself on being positive and trying to grow and achieve!

Next, is what I call bottom up thinking, plan the steps to your success carefully, for example do not say, “I want to lose weight” (the No.1 resolution), instead say “I am going to lose 1 lb a week for the next ten weeks, starting on say 5th January.”   I promise it will end up being more than that!

Make sure you have this structure in place and start at the bottom, taking one step at a time and keep positive as you increase your self-worth.  A big help in staying focused is not getting stressed by the changes you are accomplishing: we can all get stressed by moving out of our normal functioning comfort zone.  Relaxing properly and regularly is a great way to help you stay positive but in every moment, you can reduce and control stress by being positive and happy with your journey. 

Be comfortable that you have got this far and enjoy that bit of success.  Too many of us push happiness into the future.  We say things to ourselves like, “When I get this or I complete that I’ll be happy.”  “A new job…partner… house…. will make me happy.”  My philosophy is that we should enjoy the journey and the process of getting there!

Being positive, happy and motivated to achieve your resolutions is just a state of mind. Make plans for yourself and make them sensible, measurable and achievable.  If you can’t do that by yourself then enlist the support of an understanding friend. If that fails, consider consulting a professional who would help you plan, or even try some hypnosis to motivate you.  Whatever changes you decide to make, harness the power of the New Year spirit to boost your motivation and resolve, and make the most of this traditional opportunity.


Be realistic about your targets.

Be positive about improving yourself!

Be specific and bottom up!

Be relaxed and happy about what you’re doing.


  1. Lose weight
  2. Save money/spend less
  3. Recycle/become greener
  4. Get fit/exercise more
  5. Stop Smoking


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Let’s talk Psychopaths….

 I see far too many people in my clinic that have been caught by a psychopath.  I truly believe there is a massive under reporting of this personality disorder that blights the lives of those around them.  Essentially they are unable to link into their emotions so all of their behaviour is a calculation for gaining respect and admiration from others.  Whether it is their intimate partner or their extended family, they need to be the head of everything.  The big one at the top of the family, even if it is only one other and where they cannot control extended family they will isolate their victim who will eventually turn on everyone around them as they see them as the psychopath does… a threat to power.

They can be charming at first but when you are convinced and trapped in their web they will turn on you, punish you for not behaving the way they want so their victim quickly learns to obey and avoid their wrath.  This will eventually cause their victim to lose their identity and become lost.

Watch out for the symptoms of a psychopath….
Pathological egocentricity. Total self-centredness and an incapacity for real love and attachment.
Considerable superficial charm and average or above average intelligence.
Ingratitude for any special considerations, kindness and trust.
Absence of anxiety often considerable poise and calmness.
Unreliability and disregard for obligations.
Untruthfulness and insincerity.
Antisocial behaviour that stems from an inexplicable impulsiveness.
Poor judgment and failure to learn from experience.
General poverty (absence) of any deep and lasting emotions.
Lack of any true insight; inability to see oneself as others do.
• Fantastic and objectionable behaviour, rudeness or instant mood shifts.
• An impersonal, trivial, and poorly integrated sex life.

Psychopaths also invalidate the thinking of their victims.  They wear down their intuition and the defences against manipulation.  This causes the victim to doubt themselves about all things including sometimes, their own sanity or health.

I will write about this personality again, it is far too common and their will be people reading this that are the victim of such an individual.  If this is you, seek help and get out.

As ever,


Also find me at Silsden Clinic

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At Last!

Hello……..At last I am in the 21st Century and am now going to be a blogger!  The idea is to try and keep up to date with what’s happening at Coaching & Psychotherapy Training. 

A week ago (I’m just catching up!) saw the end of teaching of our Diploma in Effective Psychotherapy.  What a great group of students, who are now completing their casework so they qualify as Psychotherapists.  

This first blog is just to make sure I can use this thing properly….More to follow.

As Ever, Ray.

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