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Mark Goulston, M.D.

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Sleep Tips: Is A Narcissist Keeping You Awake At Night?

Posted: 01/24/10 12:12 PM ET

A frequent observation I have made as a couples therapist is that the more narcissistic partner is often a better sleeper than the more neurotic partner. Part of that reason is that narcissists are not bothered by guilt or anxiety regarding whatever their partner feels. The exception is when a narcissistic person's immoral or illegal behavior has put him or her at risk of being discovered or legally apprehended. At those times he or she will most often turn to alcohol or drugs to calm themselves down.

Narcissists can keep a neurotic awake, because the fear, hurt and/or anger (and subsequent guilt and anxiety over being so angry) a neurotic feels at being cared so little about can play over and over in their mind, making it difficult to fall asleep. What can you do about it if you're sleeping with a narcissist?

Since once they're in your life (and taking from you) and it's difficult to get them out, it may be helpful to know how to identify them early. To do so, try using The Narcissist Inventory* rating the person on a 1-to-3 scale (1 = rarely; 2 = sometimes; 3 = frequently):

  1. How often does the person need to be right at all costs?
  2. How often does the person act impatient with you for no good reason?
  3. How often does the person interrupt you in the middle of what you're saying, and yet take offense if you interrupt?
  4. How often does the person expect you to drop whatever you're thinking about and listen to him or her--and does the person take offense when you expect the same in return?
  5. How often does the person talk more than he or she listens?
  6. How often does the person say "Yes, but," "That's not true," "No," "However," or "Your problem is"?
  7. How often does the person resist and resent doing something that matters to you, just because it's inconvenient?
  8. How often does the person expect you to cheerfully do something that's inconvenient for you?
  9. How often does the person expect you to accept behavior that he or she would refuse to accept from you?
  10. How often does the person fail to say "Thank you," "I'm sorry," "Congratulations," or "Excuse me" when it's called for?

To score your inventory, add up the total:
10-16 =The person is cooperative
17-23 = The person is argumentative
24-30 = The person is a narcissist

And by the way, narcissists not only come in the aggressive type that we are so used to. Excessively needy people who whine, complain, make excuses and feel sorry for themselves can also exhibit many of the behaviors in the Narcissist Inventory and can be just as "self-involved" as the the more aggressive variety.

Second, it's a good idea to steer clear of them and not let them in your life in the first place. If they already are, try to minimize your contact with them. Whenever they demand something from you (they usually don't ask), have a handy counter request ready such as: "Sure and by the way that reminds me I'd appreciate it if you would do x for me." If they balk and say, "Never mind," respond "Okay." If they say, "Why do you always have to ask for something in return?" respond, "Because since what you're asking me to do is something out of my usual routine, it's a favor and I'm happy to grant it, but then of course I get to ask you one in return."

Third, the best way to clean out the narcissists from your life is to begin spending more time and building deep and lasting relationships with those wonderful people who are naturally generous, caring and kind. Not only will those people make you a better person, they will cause you to become so repulsed by the narcissists that you will no longer be able to be around them.

* Narcissist Inventory source: "Steer Clear of Toxic People," from "Just Listen" Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone (AMACOM, $24.95)

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