Before you become your own therapist: what you should know.

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Trying to heal yourself from a Cluster B disorder like BPD or NPD is daunting to say the least. Obviously I’d prefer a professional therapist but without insurance or the means to afford a good insight/reparenting therapist who specializes in treating people with Cluster B disorders, I’m pretty much on my own. I do plan to research some university psychology programs that may take me on as a guinea pig, but I might be forced to travel far out of my area for that. Until I can find out more about what’s available, I’ve decided to be my own therapist and do this work myself (I am not a mental health professional but consider myself educated on these disorders). I’ve been working on my BPD for about 2 months and now on my NPD as well.

Under normal circumstances, I DO NOT recommend attempting to heal yourself of NPD or BPD! Personality disorders are deeply ingrained patterns of behavior that may have begun as a form of PTSD or C-PTSD but have been with a person for so long they have become part of the personality itself. Trying to extricate a PD from the core personality is like trying to perform a skeleton transplant. It’s definitely more doable than a skeleton transplant (I’ve never heard of a successful skeleton transplant), but it’s painful and scary. While there are rewards and even episodes of euphoria and amazing insights into yourself, looking into yourself so deeply is going to take you places in your mind you may not know how to cope with or be ready to process. It could lead to severe depression or even psychosis if care is not taken.

Still, if you are in a situation like mine where help is not readily available, and you are DESPERATE to be cured of your narcissism or BPD (not just treated with behavioral tools like CBT or DBT, although those are certainly useful), and simply cannot wait any longer, then self-therapy may be for you.

That being said, I think it’s necessary to keep things in balance. If you are going to try to reparent/heal yourself, I highly recommend the following to avoid going in too deep too fast and becoming overwhelmed. Because the unfamiliar and very intense emotions and dissociation you may experience can be VERY overwhelming.

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1. Avoid distractions.
Be in a place you are comfortable, which is most likely going to be your own home. Turn off the phone (but keep it handy in case of a psychiatric emergency), and don’t accept visitors. This work is intensely private and distractions such as phone calls or friends dropping by will interrupt your focus.

There may be those of you who want to use a close friend or relative as a “therapist” instead of doing it alone.
As long as the person is empathic and can listen without judging, and take on the role of a caring and supportive “surrogate parent” to you, this is perfectly fine. Keep in mind though, that transference is likely to happen which could complicate your relationship with them, so I don’t really recommend using a friend or relative as a therapist.

If you decide to use a friend or relative, they do not need to be well versed in Cluster B disorders or treatments, but they should be able to listen empathically and without judgment, but at the same time know they cannot give you any narcissistic supply. All they need to do is acknowledge you and listen.

2. Take breaks!
If you feel yourself becoming emotionally overwhelmed or dissociated or begin to experience panic, take a break. Your body and mind is warning you it’s too much too fast. Deep insight self-therapy is like scuba diving–a diver going to great depths needs to stop every so often and decompress, to be ready for the increased pressure at lower depths. Going down too fast without decompressing can kill a diver. You may be eager to dive in all at once, but don’t. The mental void you are going to be diving into cannot be handled all at once by someone who isn’t ready. So every so often, get up, take a walk, take a bath, eat something, watch a funny video, listen to some music, read a book, paint, clean the house. Tangible objects can be helpful too.

When you feel centered again, you can return to self-therapy. Or better yet, call it a day and wait until the next time to do more of this internal work. The important thing to remember is, if you start to feel panicky, too dissociated or depressed, acknowledge the emotion and STOP.

Panic and dissociation can be eradicated by grounding yourself: walking, counting, exercising, eating something. Basically coming back to earth and doing some mundane chore or activity will ground you and the panic and dissociation should disappear.

3. Limit your sessions.
Limit the time you spend on therapy. A therapist is paid to see you for a limited amount of time, usually an hour. There’s a reason for this (besides the fact their time is limited). Therapy sessions that go on too long can exhaust both the patient and therapist. Emotions coming to the surface need to be processed gradually. Sessions that last too long can have the same effect of overwhelm that not taking breaks from therapy can. Of course you want to be cured, but it’s not going to happen overnight. Be patient with yourself.

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4. Ground yourself spiritually.
I believe Cluster B disorders, especially NPD, are at least in part spiritual disorders. Doing the work involved to heal, which means looking deeply inward, isn’t exactly like dabbling in the occult, but it can be spiritually taxing, which could trigger despair or hopelessness. So before I start a self-reparenting session, I always say a prayer of protection and another one for success. Even if you’re not a believer in God or a Higher Power, you can imagine yourself surrounded by a protective, nurturing circle of light before you undertake this kind of self-therapy, or whatever other type of protective visualization you desire.

If you believe in God, I recommend LOTS of prayer between your therapy sessions–for guidance, success, insight, and protection. For me, it really works! I imagine God in the room with me, being my empathic but quiet therapist.

5. Behavioral treatments like CBT or DBT may be a viable alternative.
Treatments that focus on correcting/changing behaviors such as CBT or DBT (the latter most often used in borderlines) may be sufficient, if you’re high functioning and aren’t that concerned about actually eradicating your disorder. You may find just learning new ways of relating to people and reacting to things may be enough. Some borderlines and cNPDs who are low functioning due to their disorder, may want something more drastic than just treating the symptoms.

There are books that can teach you these skills, or you may want to seek short term therapy or attend a class to learn these skills. Many hospital psychiatric departments give CBT and DBT classes on an outpatient basis.

6. Know when it’s time to quit.
If you find that you are becoming more depressed or having other upsetting symptoms following a session that continue in spite of grounding activities and distractions, STOP TRYING TO TREAT YOURSELF and find a therapist ASAP. As I said before, I do NOT recommend trying to be your own therapist–unless you have no other alternative.

7. Educate yourself.
Read as much about your disorder as you can, as well as healing methods, so you can learn the techniques you will be using on yourself. There are articles online (stick with the scholarly ones written by experts in these disorders, please).

Better yet, read books. For people suffering from NPD, cNPD, and BPD, I highly recommend Dr. James F. Masterson’s books, a psychiatrist specializing in disorders of the self (NPD and BPD) and who has had great success healing patients with these disorders. I especially recommend these three books (he’s written others, but I haven’t read them yet):

1. The Emerging Self: A Developmental, Self, and Object Relations Approach to the Treatment of the Closet [covert] Narcissistic Disorder of the Self
2. The Narcissistic and Borderline Disorders: An Integrated Developmental Approach (gives two case histories of people with NPD who were successfully cured)
3. The Search for the Real Self: Unmasking the Personality Disorders of Our Age [NPD and BPD]

8. Research university psychology departments.
If all else fails, and you cannot afford a good therapist who specializes in treating cluster B disorders (and many health insurance plans will not cover treatments for these disorders because they’re considered incurable), you may be able to get free or low cost therapy at a university psychology department where they may take you on as a “guinea pig” for students working toward their doctorate degrees. I’m looking into this myself, but travel to an appropriate psychology department may pose a problem. But if you live in a large city, you shouldn’t have a problem finding such a department. Call them and ask if they need people to volunteer as subjects for Ph.D or M.D. candidates.

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