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Book Review – Rethinking Narcissism

If ever there were folks who’ll drive you to eat (and do whatever else), it’s Narcissists, with their self-centeredness, unbridled self-importance, empathy deficits, need to be right, and lack of interest in what others think, say or do. Whether the Narcissist in your life is a spouse/partner, adult child, parent, boss or co-worker, Rethinking Narcissism: The Bad—and Surprisingly Good—About Feeling Special by Dr. Craig Malkin, will help you deal with him or her rather than eat over the distress they’re bound to generate.

What is so fascinating and instructive about this book is that Malkin not only covers the subject of narcissism thoroughly, but makes the point that many people who were raised by Narcissists are their total opposites, what he calls Echoists (from the myth of Narcissus). As described by Malkin, Echoists are characterized by having no voice of their own, feeling and acting invisible, having little sense of self or being special, and feeling worthless and impotent. Can you see the connection between having these traits and poor self-nurturing and feeding habits? Sadly, I’ve come to know many Echoists in my practice, workshops, and on my Food and Feelings message board.

Difficult as they can be, Narcissists are extremely fragile emotionally. Malkin explains with great compassion, that they “bury normal emotions like fear, sadness, loneliness, and shame because they’re afraid they’ll be rejected for having them.” So true. Although they seem emotionally secure and confident, inside they are as brittle as glass, as empty as shells. But, Malkin doesn’t give up on them, and at least half of his book (as opposed to many others written on the subject) is about how to deal with them.

Malkin offers specific approaches you can take with Narcissists and things you can say to them to discover if they are able to change. These are prompts said in a particular way to encourage their empathy and increase their feeling cared about. For those able to respond positively, Malkin explains how to continue to help them change and become less narcissistic. For those unable to respond, he describes steps you need to take to protect yourself from them—and protect yourself is exactly what you need to do.

I highly recommend this book, not only to learn about how to handle Narcissists, but for those of you who are Echoists and want to learn to find your voice, speak your needs, and feel empowered to live a life that satisfies you, not them or others. As a bonus, the better you get at handling the Narcissists around you, the easier it will be to manage your relationship with food.