book reviews, mental health, narcissists

Review of Narcissistic and Emotional Abuse: Shattering the Illusion, by Mrs. Anne McCrea

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that Bill and I have had our share of encounters with narcissists. I also have what would have been a professional interest in narcissism, thanks to my background in social work and public health. And the whole world has been subjected to the whims of the Grand Poobah of narcissists, Donald J. Trump, who is pretty much a walking billboard for the condition.

Since I’ve already written so much about narcissism in other posts, I’m not going to define what it is. I think most of us have a pretty damned good idea of what it is, although some people still haven’t gotten the message that our soon to be exiting president is a narcissist. Sadly, I think most people who know what narcissists are don’t understand what being involved with a narcissist means.

For instance, yesterday I read two accounts in the news about people who heeded Trump’s call to storm the Capitol. Both of these folks, who have been arrested and are looking at prison terms, are pleading with Trump to pardon them. They think he owes them that for their loyalty. But Trump doesn’t have any loyalty to anyone but himself. Moreover, the faux coup attempt of last week was a failure and, in fact, made things worse. So, even though Trump egged these people on and they threw themselves under the bus for him, it’s highly unlikely that he’ll feel any pity for them. His first instinct is to save himself. And screw all of the people who broke the law to try to keep him in office. My guess is that they will be at the mercy of the courts, and it’s unclear how much sympathy they’ll get from their judges.

Narcissists don’t care about gestures. They don’t care that someone “tried” if their try ended in failure. They only want positive results, and they aren’t believers in the idea that it’s the thought that counts. Their good graces are short-lived, and those who are in their sphere are only as good as their last good deed. And since the mob failed to “stop the steal”, so to speak, Trump likely thinks his supporters are losers and suckers.

Robbie Rist, who played “Cousin Oliver” on The Brady Bunch, dislikes Trump as much as I do. He shared this very astute cartoon four years ago today… It’s pretty much dead on.

In any case, I’ve read a lot of books about narcissism, but I’m always interesting in reading more. I don’t remember how I discovered Mrs. Anne McCrae’s book, Narcissistic and Emotional Abuse: Shattering the Illusion. She does have a Web site, as well as a Facebook page, but I found out this morning that I wasn’t a follower of her page. It’s possible that this book was a suggestive sell on Amazon and I decided to download it after reading some of the very positive reviews.

The first thing to know about this book is that Mrs. Anne McCrea is not a mental health professional. She is simply someone who has experienced the pain of being in a relationship with a narcissist. So it’s important to keep in mind that her views are mainly those of a layperson’s. The book is mostly well-written in British style, as Mrs. McCrea is from the United Kingdom. I did notice some grammar and spelling errors, but they were minor and not that distracting.

In 2014, McCrea launched her Facebook page, having studied narcissistic personality disorder. The Facebook page mostly has clever memes on it, but there are also informative posts on how to spot a narcissist and tips on how to get away from them. In 2017, she published her book, which is written in a sympathetic writing style to which I think many readers will respond. The book mainly contains a lot of what’s on the Facebook page, minus the memes and personal interaction. It’s a quick, easy read, though perhaps not the most professionally written or polished book on this subject.

This book is not so much about what happened to Anne McCrea as it is a primer on narcissistic personality disorder. A lot of what’s in this book can be sourced elsewhere. But she does include special interest chapters. For instance, she writes about children of narcissists, as well as families with narcissists in them– narcissistic siblings, children, parents, and co-parenting all get mentioned. I suspect that much of her material for those chapters may have come from her Facebook page and the forum on her Web site.

Anne McCrea’s story

After the sudden death of her husband, who took his own life, Anne McCrea was left vulnerable. She soon found herself in the clutches of a very controlling, manipulative man, who turned out to be a narcissist. It took six years to break out of the relationship, which also negatively affected McCrea’s daughter. At Christmas time in 2012, McCrea writes that the narcissistic man told her daughter that it was no wonder her “daddy did what he did”.

McCrea highlights other cruelties she experienced at the narcissist’s hands in a letter she wrote to the man after their breakup. She writes that one can’t expect “closure” from a narcissist, but writing the letter made her feel better. I kind of liked what she wrote about forgiveness. A lot of times, people say that you must “forgive” people who have wronged you in order to heal. McCrea writes that she disagrees that forgiveness is essential. She claims that she doesn’t feel pain for not forgiving the narcissist.

I tend to agree that forgiveness isn’t essential, although it could be that different people have different opinions about what forgiveness actually is. Some people think forgiveness means that all is good between an abuser and a survivor. I don’t think that’s necessarily true. I think forgiveness is allowing yourself to get over the pain and not dwelling on it anymore. But different people take different amounts of time to heal. It’s just like any other injury. Recovery takes time, and the amount of time it takes is highly variable and dependent on many factors. Mrs. McCrea writes that most people take about two years to get over a narcissistic relationship. I’ve found that to be pretty much true in my case, in that I stop obsessing and ruminating in about that amount of time.

Overall

This is a decent book about narcissism. I don’t think it’s the best book. I’ve read a lot of them, and while I think that one can learn a lot about narcissism by being in a relationship with one, I tend to prefer counsel given by actual professionals with solid credentials. But Anne McCrea has written a pretty good book, particularly for reference purposes. She offers solid advice and reassurance, as well as reputable resources for further reading. She does a good job of covering the subject. I probably would have preferred more information about her own personal experiences rather than the textbook information she includes, especially since she’s not a professional. I can get textbook information anywhere, but Anne McCrea’s personal story is unique to her. I think she should have written more about that, than a general “how to” guide to surviving relationships with narcissists.

The below review, which appears on Amazon.com, also gives me pause:

If it’s true that the author responded very negatively to constructive criticism about grammar, then perhaps she has a touch of narcissism herself.

I think my favorite and most useful sources for information about NPD are on YouTube. I like Dr. Les Carter’s Surviving Narcissism channel, which he runs with survivor, Laura Charanza. I also like Jess Stanley’s channel on narcissism— she’s another one who speaks from personal experience, rather than professional training. And I like Dr. Ramani, who is a very warm, empathetic, mental health professional who is a veritable guru on this issue and has also written books.

Personally, I would probably go to any of those YouTube channels before I’d necessarily consult Anne McCrea’s book. But it’s not a bad book and I can see why some people like it very much. And her Facebook page is also a good source of information– but it’s one of many available sources. That’s not a bad thing, given what we’ve all endured for the past four years. I think a lot of us need soothing and understanding and will be healing for some time to come.

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