Can EMDR heal narcissists? Our clinical team discusses how EMDR might be used as a tool in the treatment of perpetrators of narcissistic and emotional abuse. Many of the clients we work with who have narcissistic traits are in denial about their destructive tendencies, and we are exploring how we can use EMDR to help them work through some of the emotions and aggressive (and passive aggressive) behaviors that are keeping them stuck in a fight or flight mode and therefore unable to move forward in their recovery.
EMDR is very effective in helping people become less reactive to triggers and has been shown to help with things like anger, resentment and rage.
Can EMDR Heal Narcissists?
Understanding the Role of EMDR in Emotional Abuse Recovery
Emotional abuse can be a deeply traumatic experience, leaving victims with invisible scars that can last a lifetime. But what about those who perpetrate emotional abuse? Can they also find healing and change through therapy? This article explores the potential of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) as a therapeutic tool for individuals who exhibit narcissistic and emotionally abusive behaviors. We’ll delve into the perspectives of therapists Dr. Hawkins and Dr. Hunt Sharman, as well as Leanne, who provides insights into EMDR’s role in healing emotional abusers.
The Responsibility Deficit Disorder: Understanding Emotional Abusers
Emotional abusers, often characterized by narcissistic traits, can be challenging to work with in therapy. Dr. Hawkins introduces the concept of a “responsibility deficit disorder,” though not a formal diagnosis, to emphasize the profound resistance many abusers exhibit when confronted with their actions. These individuals tend to be highly defensive, self-protective, and rigid in their thinking, making it difficult for them to take ownership of their abusive behaviors.
Dr. Hawkins points out that emotional abusers often diminish, defend against, overwhelm, and dominate their partners. They evade responsibility for their actions, hindering any prospects of change. The victims of emotional abuse are in desperate need of therapeutic support, but the abusers themselves pose a unique challenge.
EMDR: An Opportunity for Change?
Leanne raises an essential question: Can EMDR help individuals who emotionally abuse others, encouraging them to confront their past trauma and foster change? Dr. Hawkins expresses curiosity about EMDR’s potential to assist in challenging these individuals to acknowledge their issues and eventually take responsibility for their actions.
One significant obstacle in therapy with emotional abusers is their pronounced defensiveness. They often enter therapy reluctantly, under pressure from their partners, with a predisposition to reject the need for change. Leanne, who specializes in EMDR, believes that this therapeutic approach can help emotional abusers by addressing their deeply rooted fears and frustrations.
Unmasking the Fear: A Hidden Emotion
Leanne emphasizes that beneath the anger and frustration exhibited by emotional abusers lies fear. EMDR can be instrumental in helping these individuals explore and confront this fear. By guiding them to connect their current emotions with earlier traumatic experiences, EMDR therapists aim to uncover the root causes of their behaviors.
Challenging Cognitive Patterns
Leanne and Dr. Hawkins discuss how EMDR can also address the cognitive aspects of emotional abuse. Emotional abusers often hold specific thoughts and beliefs that justify their behavior or absolve them of responsibility. EMDR may provide a platform for exploring these thought patterns, helping individuals recognize how their beliefs contribute to their abusive actions.
By encouraging emotional abusers to examine their beliefs and question what drives their actions, EMDR could potentially facilitate the transformation of their cognitive patterns. This process involves probing deeper into the emotional and psychological factors that underpin their abusive behaviors.
The Resistance to Change
A common theme in therapy with emotional abusers is their resistance to change. Dr. Hawkins highlights that these individuals often normalize their actions, deflecting blame onto their partners. Leanne raises the critical question of whether EMDR can aid in breaking down this resistance and encouraging these individuals to become more open to the therapy process.
Complementary Approaches: Talk Therapy and EMDR
Ultimately, both Dr. Hawkins and Leanne agree that EMDR can be a valuable complementary approach to traditional talk therapy when working with emotional abusers. While talk therapy can address cognitive aspects and offer guidance, EMDR has the potential to help emotional abusers access their suppressed emotions and traumatic experiences.
EMDR can provide emotional abusers with a safe space to explore their fears, frustrations, and underlying traumas. By lifting the lid on their suppressed emotions, this therapeutic approach may offer emotional abusers a chance to confront their pain and move towards healing.
The Path Forward
Healing emotional abusers is a complex and challenging journey. While EMDR holds promise as a tool for facilitating change, it should be used in conjunction with traditional talk therapy and other therapeutic modalities. The key lies in engaging emotional abusers with empathy, understanding, and a commitment to transformation.
In conclusion, the question of whether EMDR can heal narcissists and emotional abusers remains complex. While it may not provide a definitive solution on its own, EMDR can certainly play a vital role in helping these individuals confront their fears, unravel their cognitive patterns, and pave the way for change. The path to healing may be long and arduous, but with the right therapeutic support, emotional abusers can find a way to break free from their destructive patterns and embark on a journey towards self-awareness and growth.
About Dr. Hawkins:
The internet is inundated with hyperbole and misinformation about narcissism, leaving many people confused and hopeless. Get the facts on narcissism and emotional abuse from someone who has been researching, writing about and treating narcissism and emotional abuse for over a decade.
Dr. Hawkins is a best-selling author and clinical psychologist with over three decades of experience helping people break unhealthy patterns and build healthier relationships.
He is the founder and director of the Marriage Recovery Center and the Emotional Abuse Institute which offers education, training and counseling for people who want to break free of, and heal from, emotional abuse. Whether the perpetrator of the abuse is your spouse, partner, parent, boss, friend or family member, we offer practical advice for anyone trapped in a toxic, destructive relationship.
In addition to narcissism & emotional abuse, you’ll learn about the lesser known forms of abuse, including covert abuse, reactive abuse, spiritual abuse, secondary abuse, relationship trauma and much more.