Author: Kottler Jeffrey Ph.D.
It is true that therapists can create difficult clients or certainly train them to be more obstinate than
they are normally inclined to be. Some people, however, come to us with their manipulative skills
already well honed. At times these clients, described by Kernberg (1984) as “malignant narcissists,” take
sadomasochisticpleasure in triumphing over the therapist, even if it means engaging in essentially self-
defeating acts. They experience a tremendous sense of power over being able to block their progress in
therapy, all the while complaining bitterly of their disappointmentin the way things are going. Kernberg
(1984) describes one such client who repeatedly burned her arms and then hid the festering wounds
under long sleeves while she reported how splendidly her life was going. What power she, and other
clients like her, feel at being both victim and victimizer, able to reduce an omnipotent authority figure to
an impotent and frustrated mortal!
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