The Spider Web of Narcissism — Dysfunctional Therapists Collude with Clients for Self-Serving Purposes
Your comments went straight through my heart, Kid at Heart. First, how great that you had the inner motivation, somehow, to persist at recovering from the spider web of a narcissistic family.
As for the line in my article that astounded you, there are narcissistic psychotherapists. When narcissistic clients hire a narcissistic therapist, the client can be seen as the victim! There is an unconscious collusion between the narcissistic therapist and the client that maintains the illusion of the narcissist’s ideal self-image (he or she is wonderful, or least justified in their judgments and behavior, in their own mind). The therapist may experience counter-transference and feel very sympathetic to the narcissistic client.
Counter-transference can also trigger a therapist to act out with a client (rather than seeking supervision). If a codependent client hires a narcissistic therapist, the original psychological wounds can be repeated and the client is re-traumatized as he or she compulsively reenacts the family dynamics with the dysfunctional therapist. Unfortunately, this dynamic leads to betrayals, such as manipulative, self-serving therapists who have sex with clients.
I use “codependent” broadly, as a descriptive term for people who have relationships with narcissists from a deep unconscious compulsion to repeat what is familiar, even if it is painful and self-destructive. Narcissists train their children to serve parental needs and neglect their own needs. Children of narcissists learn that being needed is the closest they can get to being loved. Their emotional survival feels at risk if they insist on being unconditionally loved. That is how they can get sucked in by self-serving therapists who have antenna for vulnerable people.
For whatever reason (in my view it has to do with spiritual readiness), you were fortunate to have an inner compass that guided you to excellent therapists who helped you break out of the narcissistic family system. Like you, I spent many, many productive years in therapy and accept that seeing through the dysfunction of my family system is one of my life lessons.
As far as the person you love dearly being convinced that you are a covert narcissist based upon the early days before you went into recovery, it is an opportunity for you to demonstrate that you have matured and healed. When we are in pain, we are narrowly focused on that pain and that can keep us self-involved and unaware of what others are going through. This is not necessarily narcissistic, unless it becomes chronic behavior. Ask yourself: are you like that now? Can you be a living example of genuine interest in others? Can you feel and express empathy? If you feel you owe this person an apology, can you make amends (see my article How To Truly Apologize)?
I very much appreciate your thoughtful comments and questions.