In Conversation with Julia Buckroyd

Professor Julia Buckroyd is a well loved trainer at Brighton Therapy Partnership. Most of you will know her for her expert work with Disordered Eating. Back in 2015 we interviewed Julia about her work as a renowned psychotherapist and trainer in the field of Disordered Eating, and you can read our interview here.

Julia will be presenting our forthcoming Brighton Therapy Partnership CPD event via Zoom (catch up available), titled Narcissism and Working with the Children of Narcissists on Saturday 13th November.  Ahead of this day we grabbed a cuppa and had another chat with Julia about her work on narcissism.

To find out more about Julia’s latest CPD workshop on Narcissism head over to our Events page here for more information.

Welcome Julia, it’s great to meet up with you again. Thanks for taking the time to catch up with us today and answer a few of the burning questions we have. First of all, we are curious about what led you to a specialism in narcissism, given most of your clinical work and research is focussed on disordered eating.

Over the years I’ve had a lot of clients with no voice; they couldn’t say what they wanted to say, and sometimes couldn’t even formulate it. These people seemed to use their eating disorder as a communication – to say what was unspeakable.

So, of course I started to think about who, was the intended recipient of the message. Very often it was a parent. Then I began to ask why it was so impossible to speak to that person. The answer seemed to be that the parent had an agenda for the child: you are to be the cleverest, most beautiful, best turned out, most successful.

In the face of that agenda the child was helpless. S/he was to be an extension of the parent and bring credit to them. The name for that difficulty in separating oneself from one’s child is narcissism.

It creates parents who are remote from the idea that parenting is about facilitating the child to grow into the person they have the potential to become, whoever that may be. A stark representation is the mother who comes to the hospital bed of her child who has attempted suicide and says: ‘How could you do this to me?’

Working with the children of Narcissists

Why do you feel narcissism is an important topic for therapists to get to grips with in their clinical practice?

The recognition of this dynamic can bring enormous relief to a client who is the child of a narcissist. Such clients often feel huge guilt that they aren’t doing or being what their parent tells them is what s/he wants and have a pervasive sense of not being good enough.

They haven’t chosen the right profession, supplied any/enough grandchildren, married the right person, brought up their children the right way, chosen the right sort of flat/house in the right part of town, fixed their hair the right way, earned enough money [all real examples].

If we can recognise this pattern then we can help the client gradually find and validate their own separateness, their own desire, their own voice. We can enable them to become their own autonomous and authentic selves.

Freedom from Narcissism

Managing Narcissism in Therapy

Many people will be wondering how best to support a client who is in relationship with a narcissist. Any top tips?

Narcissists rarely present themselves in therapy. Although they may very well be deeply insecure and frightened people, they generally present as invulnerable, knowing everything. (There is such a thing as a vulnerable narcissist who has an endless need to be looked after – but we’ll discuss that variation during the workshop.)

We are much more often faced with the children of narcissists. They are those clients who seem not to know anything about themselves: what they want, what they like, what their direction and purpose may be.

A prescribed path

Working on a prescribed path

They may well be on a prescribed path, but are close to abandoning it: ‘My mother thought I should be a doctor, but I’m thinking about dropping out of my training’; ‘I got married to a man my mother approved of, but I’m really unhappy’; ‘My Dad wanted me to work in the finance industry like he did, but I hate it’; ‘My mother keeps agitating me about having children, but I keep telling her that’s not what I want’ [all real examples].

They can be very dependent on the narcissist parent: ‘I always run my business decisions past my father because he knows so much more than I do’; ‘My mother and I text all day long and I often ask her for advice even though I’m married and have a child’; ‘I don’t feel ready to move out of home even though I’m 25’; ‘I don’t want to have driving lessons yet. I like having my Dad take me to the station and pick me up’ [all real examples].

Seeing this clearly enables us to see that this client is stuck at a much younger age than they really are and need our help to grow up and develop. That’s not accomplished in a few sessions, but with support and encouragement, we can help the client find their direction and purpose.

We really appreciate Julia taking the time to catch up with us once more, and for sharing her breadth of knowledge on the subject of Narcissism.

If you would like to hear more about this vastly interesting subject from Julia Buckroyd, then why not join us for the upcoming BTP online workshop ‘Narcissism and Working with the Children of Narcissists’ on Saturday 13th November.

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Receive free training updates, special offers, and expert articles straight to your inbox! You'll also get a 25% discount off a full price ticket for your first online event.

Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.

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