You think you have found the love of your life..... but they turned out to be your BIGGEST mistake!
The Narcissists Pathological Relationship Agenda (NPRA) is a pattern of behaviour which is evident is the majority of their relationships, including the one with their children. Once you identify this pattern, you can superimpose it on every single relationship the narcissist has ever been in and make predictions about future relationships and how to protect your children.
Let’s unpack some of the elements of the NPRA.
This relates to something the narcissist considers important and wants to achieve or solve. In relationship terms this is primarily an unmet need from childhood, an dysfunctional schema or generational trauma.
The behaviours which a narcissist cannot control due to their pathology such as projection or narcissistic rage. The behaviours are a maladaptive efforts to self regulate.
Narcissists are by nature interpersonally exploitative and this manifests from the disorganised attachment style which has taught them that people cannot be trusted to meet their needs and so they need to use others by whatever means necessary to get their needs met. It is why there is a push/pull dynamic to these relationships. Narcissists desperately shift and change tactics in an attempt to meet their unmet needs, creating confusion for the partner who finds their their efforts, which previously had been wanted and welcomed, are suddenly cause for anger and criticism. They want someone else to meet their unmet need but don’t trust them to and so will often have a “back up plan” or take control in order to try to force you to meet their need.
We all have unmet needs from childhood. Many psychologists believe our unmet needs are our purpose, our own unique pathway to healing. Unfortunately for narcissists, their disorganised attachment means they are unable to go within to meet those needs and instead seek external resources.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs shows the levels of needs all human beings have met and unmet, depending upon our experience. For narcissists, their unmet needs are usually psychological needs and although their attempts to meet those needs might appear more sophisticated, at their core they often come down to being about belongingness (an aspect of attachment) and love.
Schemas relate to the basic emotional needs of a child and are broad, pervasive themes regarding oneself and one’s relationship with others. When these emotional needs are unmet, dysfunctional schemas can develop. The 18 schemes are:
The belief and expectation that your primary needs will never be met. The sense that no one will nurture, care for, guide, protect or empathize with you.
The belief and expectation that others will leave, that others are unreliable, that relationships are fragile, that loss is inevitable, and that you will ultimately wind up alone.
The belief that others are abusive, manipulative, selfish, or looking to hurt or use you. Others are not to be trusted.
The belief that you are flawed, damaged or unlovable, and you will thereby be rejected.
Social Isolation: The pervasive sense of aloneness, coupled with a feeling of alienation.
The sense that the world is a dangerous place, that disaster can happen at any time, and that you will be overwhelmed by the challenges that lie ahead.
The belief that you are unable to effectively make your own decisions, that your judgment is questionable, and that you need to rely on others to help get you through day-to-day responsibilities.
The sense that you do not have an identity or “individuated self” that is separate from one or more significant others.
The expectation that you will fail, or belief that you cannot perform well enough.
The belief that you must submit to the control of others, or else punishment or rejection will be forthcoming.
The belief that you should voluntarily give up of your own needs for the sake of others, usually to a point which is excessive.
The sense that approval, attention and recognition are far more important than genuine self-expression and being true to oneself.
The belief that you must control your self-expression or others will reject or criticize you.
The pervasive belief that the negative aspects of life outweigh the positive, along with negative expectations for the future.
The belief that you need to be the best, always striving for perfection or to avoid mistakes.
The belief that people should be harshly punished for their mistakes or shortcomings.
The sense that you are special or more important than others, and that you do not have to follow the rules like other people even though it may have a negative effect on others. Also can manifest in an exaggerated focus on superiority for the purpose of having power or control.
The sense that you cannot accomplish your goals, especially if the process contains boring, repetitive, or frustrating aspects. Also, that you cannot resist acting upon impulses that lead to detrimental results.
Trauma can be passed down from generation to generation in our cells, our beliefs, our behaviours and our culture. The symptoms of generational trauma may include hypervigilance, a sense of a shortened future, mistrust, aloofness, high anxiety, depression, panic attacks, nightmares, insomnia, a sensitive fight or flight response, and issues with self-esteem and self-confidence.
When a child grows up with a parent who isn’t able to self-regulate, it can result in a disorganised attachment because a secure attachment is formed through consistent co-regulation with the caregiver, which leads to the child being able to self-regulate.
Narcissists are unable to self regulate due to the breakdown of this system in childhood and so seeks out others to regulate for them (not co-regulation). Their partner (and even children) become “regulatory objects” to them, a thermostat by which the partner regulates their own emotions in order to regulate the narcissists emotions.
Now let’s piece all this together to create the NPRA so that you can predict future behaviours.
I will state at this point though that most narcissists have one or two dominant NPRA’s but multiple agendas will appear at times of extreme stress.
Common NPRA include sex, money, success, admiration. The key to knowing if it is unmet is that despite appearing to have what they claim to want, it will never be enough and will remain unmet and so narcissist pathologically pursues it (affairs, stealing/fraud, taking the credit for others success, centre of attention).
Inconsistencies include demands faithfulness but cheats, spends money on self but is extremely frugal with others.
Clues to NPRA are their career choice, sexual history, attitude to money, need for attention.
Job is police officer (thinks can heal generational trauma of not being protected by protecting others, fits their schema of punitiveness and vulnerability, and meet their unmet need of safety).
Pathological behaviours can include:
- neglecting safety of family in pursuit of recognition of protection of others
- attempting to control every aspect of their environment (including people in it) to feel safe
NPRA is to create a false sense of safety but in reality they are unable to meet this need and so keep repeating the same unsafe patterns, refusing to show any vulnerability and seeing it as a weakness in others, and punishing others who do not make them feel safe or who express not feeling safe with them.
Sexual history is promiscuity and failed relationships (unmet need for love and to belong, dysfunctional schema of enmeshment and abandonment, generational trauma of grandparent’s affairs).
Pathological behaviours include:
- unsafe/risky sex
- cycling through relationships quickly
- uses sex to “make up” after arguments, to reward good behaviour or punish “bad” behaviour by withholding
NPRA is to force “love” through sex. They will measure the quality of a relationship by the frequency, nature and quality of the sex, creating an environment where consent becomes coerced because you know the consequences for not agreeing.
Predicting Future Behaviour
If you have just started dating someone and you have concerns, narcissists will reveal their agenda early on in the relationships as they will talk a lot about it and derive great pleasure from it or become angry/jealous about it. They will also tell you in how they describe their previous relationships including the one with their family, particularly parents. Listen and watch!
If you are in a relationship with someone who you suspect might be narcissistic please know that it is not your job to save them. If they keep repeating the same behaviour and refuse to change, know that this is their NPRA and unless you can surrender to “groundhog day” existence of the same issues coming up again and again, GET OUT!
If you are co-parenting with a narcissist, identify the NPRA and in particular the underlying unmet needs, dysfunctional schemas and generational trauma, and help your child to build emotional security and resilience in these areas so they won’t be as susceptible to the pathological behaviours. To protect them in the long term, heal your own attachment wounds and recognise when you are dysregulated and have the tools to regulate yourself. This will create an environment where you can co-regulate with your child, leading them to be able to self-regulate which reduces the risk of them becoming a “regulatory object”. We offer numerous treatment options for PTSD (which inhibits your to self regulate) as well as the Circle of Security Parenting Course, which is attachment based.