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Norman M.
Norman M., Principal psychotherapist in private practice. Newspaper contributor, over 2000 satisfied clients on JA
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 2568
Experience:  ADHP(NC), DEHP(NC), ECP, UKCP Registered.
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Please excuse me if this is a little disjointed but I'm

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Please excuse me if this is a little disjointed but I'm feeling very distressed by the recent turn of events. Please also ensure that if you publish this question on your website that you remove all names from it first.

This is the current situation as I understand it. I am a 42yr old physically-disabled mother of two and I split with my ex-partner in April of last year.

My ex-partner and the father of my 4.5yr old daughter had a clinical psychological diagnosis 10 years ago (before I met him) as a narcissicistic ‘receiver', and is a self-confessed sex addict who, up until very recently, spent hours looking at pornography online and frequently practiced self-harm for sexual gratification (also risking death by electrocution), suffers from extreme perfectionism, and has sociopathic tendencies (often states that all people are vile and disgusting). He received treatment from a psychologist for six years. I believe Matthew is highly intelligent and mentally very unstable. Matthew frequently indulges in extreme risk-taking behaviours, physically, emotionally and financially and is not receiving any treatment or assistance for his mental health issues. He has not received treatment for 4 yrs. He is highly functional in many ways and achieves most outcomes in respect of his business enterprises.

It is my un-educated guess that, whilst he is living alone without adult company, he is currently suffering from delusions of grandeur and his ego has taken full control of his persona. He does not feel that he should have to live in a normal house and it seems he is currently living way beyond his means. The house where he currently lives costs $2000 per week in rent (average house rental prices in the city where he lives are $600 to$1000 per week), with utility bills of over $2500 per month. He uses one floor of the house as an office for his two businesses and staff of 4, which does mitigate some of these costs. In spite of having being on a salary of over $150,000 p.a. since January and having just one of his companies turning over $360,000 in the last two and a half months from just one of his customers, he assures me that he is now facing bankruptcy, has had to spend all the savings he had in the trust account earmarked for Sophia's home on paying his staff and that can not afford to keep his promise to buy a home for his daughter. In contradiction of these alleged circumstances, in the last few months he has managed to purchase a high-end Mercedes Benz and pay for three one-month-long overseas vacations, to visit his girlfriend and his brothers, and is now planning to make yet another trip, to bring his girlfriend back to live with him from France after Xmas.

Rules do not seem to apply to Matthew – it is as if he believes he is above the rules. He seems to be currently suffering from paranoia – he accuses me of trying to take all his money off him, take his daughter away from him and not letting him function as a father. This is not the case – when we split up, over a year ago, I was left with nothing but an $8000 medical bill, for the treatments I needed while we were together. When I asked that we split that which we had accumulated over our time together he claimed that we had spent it all on our 'lifestyle' and that I was entitled to nothing. I have not pursued this matter further, due to my own physical disability and ill health and my desire to maintain some level of civility between us for our daughter's sake.

Matthew also believes it is appropriate to say whatever suits him at the time, to get the result he desires (no matter what emotional impact his words are having on others). Then later, he changes his tune and tells me that he's changed his mind just because that was how he was feeling at the time and he no longer feels that way now, so what he said is now irrelevant. Twice in the last twenty-four hours he has embarked on an in-depth conversation with me over the phone about all these matters outlined in this request for help, in front of his daughter, without any concern of the impact of hearing us talk about these issues might have on her emotional wellbeing. The instant I realised that she was able to hear us I terminated the conversation.

He has repeatedly told me that he is not capable of trusting anyone, including himself. I also question his ability to give and receive unconditional love. Matthew expects other people around him to trust him absolutely and love him unconditionally and he becomes difficult, angry and resentful if they don't. I strongly doubt his ability to discern the difference between romantic love and infatuation.

Lying for convenience' sake is a matter of habit for Matthew – during our relationship he repeatedly told me that he loved me, he now claims that he didn't love me, that he was lying and that he stopped loving me when Sophia was born, four and a half years ago. During the next three years, he initiated frequent sexual intimacy with me although he now claims he felt no physical attraction for me. More recently, Matthew has repeatedly made misleading statements to obtain a desired emotional response from me, as well as to obtain his preferred immediate outcome to a given situation, then later denies having made those statements. He plays on my fear that he will abandon his daughter, as I was abandoned by my father. He intimates that if I don't accede to his wishes or if I ask him to examine his choices regarding Sophia's care he will abdicate any responsibility for her.

He is currently proposing to bring his new girlfriend, 'D', over from France to live with him and our daughter and this is setting off emergency warning bells for me. I have suggested that this course of action is an unhealthy choice for Sophia and Diana, for a number of logical reasons which Matthew is unwilling to listen to. I expressed my trepidation that Diana, as a young woman from a foreign country with no previous experience of small children, will find living in Matthew's house with Sophia to be extremely emotionally stressful, on top of the culture shock she will experience and the difficulty she may have with communicating in English. I suggested that it would be more appropriate for him to find alternative accommodation for her but was told that she could not afford to come and stay for more than two months if she lives separately. He has told me that he is deeply in love with this girl and that if she doesn't come and live with him (they have only intermittantly spent a total of 3 months together) he will have to go back overseas to see her and leave Sophia behind without him again. I have suggested that, if a cheaper house was rented for Sophia, Matthew and his business then Matthew could afford to pay for Diana's accommodation, thereby avoiding placing additional emotional strain on both Sophia and Diana. I have been told that it is none of my business, however I feel that where my daughter's emotional wellbeing is concerned, it is definitely my business.

Matthew wants Sophia to come and live at his house during the week and go to school daily from there, whilst spending only the weekends with me. I feel that Matthew's motivation for wanting Sophia to be with him is mostly driven by his unmet infantile need for unconditional love. Unable to cope with and understand Sophia's emotional needs, he is unwilling to put aside his own desires, in order to meet her needs. He is emotionally unable to care deeply enough about her to choose to acknowledge and change his own dysfunctional coping strategies and behaviours and thereby teach her to manage her emotions and behaviours in a more appropriate and healthy manner.

Matthew frequently experiences black moods which leave him wanting to ‘step in front of a bus' and having to decide, each morning, not to kill himself. He then blames external circumstances for these black moods – i.e. when we were living together he blamed my physical disability and pain levels and also his inability to ‘fix' me or cope with or change the situation. Even though he is now living alone, without these external influences, he has recently expressed a desire to kill himself, just before he left for his vacation in Europe.

Matthew recently took his elder daughter, Annalisse to Italy, on a vacation for her 16th birthday. At the end of the holiday, he chose to introduce her to his new girlfriend, a 27 yr old Romanian woman who lives in Paris. Annalisse, who has always expressed a strong desire that he mother and father be reconciled and resume their relationship, became so angry that she hit Matthew across the head very hard.– finally expressing her suppressed rage at his treatment of her and her mother. At that point Matthew told his daughter that he was no longer willing to participate in any further discussion with her. Sarah (Annalisse's mother) has now (according to Matthew) completely blocked all access to Annalisse and Annalisse has gone along with this.

I look at Annalisse with sadness and remorse, that I did not speak up on her behalf when I witnessed the emotional neglect she experienced when we lived together.

This is what I saw from the time I moved in with Matthew, up until now:

Annalisse, in distress as both Matthew and his ex-wife chose not to attend to her basic physical and emotional needs frequently displayed her distress by:

- refusing to eat and using food as a means of manipulation, control and negative attention-seeking
- being unwilling to take responsibility for her personal hygiene
- refusing to take part in a healthy daily routine that included family meals and school homework
- engaging in the highly inappropriate sexual activity of allowing herself to be repeatedly ‘felt-up' by a boy in school during class, then telling Matthew and I about it openly (I believe this was an ignored cry for help and am ashamed that neither Matthew nor I took any action about this beyond speaking with her)

Matthew, fearing the loss of Annalisse's unconditional love, allowed her free rein to make whatever choices she liked in her daily activities, regardless of the consequences or damage to her development, education and health and has been unwilling to put boundaries in place or deal with difficult decisions or courses of action that he believes might cause her to withdraw her love.

Matthew has an intense need for absolute control – yesterday he was unwilling to give Sophia some medicine or the rest time that she needed, simply it seems, because I asked him to do so. He is only willing to deal with these issues between us on his terms and only his terms - if he is not given absolute trust and freedom to parent Sophia however he sees fit, he has threatened to abdicate from his parental responsibilities and take a passive role as a father. He has told me that I am not allowed to ask for any financial help to meet Sophia's needs beyond that which he has arbitrarily deemed adequate. He has also told me that he intends to take Sophia overseas with him whenever it suits him and that he should be allowed to "come and go as he pleases". He has made a verbal promise to buy a block of land for Sophia but, as yet, has been unwilling to put this promise in writing or formalise it in any way.

Another issue of contention between us currently is the state of the public school system in New Zealand. I believe it fails to adequately deal with highly intelligent children as has been amply proven by the painfully disasterous educational experiences of Matthew, myself, my son and his eldest daughter. Matthew is unwilling to look at any alternatives, especially if he thinks they will cost him money, time and/or effort. He maintains that school with be good for his daughter yet he cannot give me a reason why he thinks the public school system will be of benefit to Sophia. I, on the other hand, wish to find an alternative way to educate our daughter that will give her the opportunity to fully utilise the wonderful intellect she has been gifted with and not ‘dumb herself down' just to fit in with the other children at school.

I am at a loss as to how to deal with these issues. Whilst I want to protect my daughter's emotional well-being, I do not wish to prevent her from bonding with and spending time with her father, as I do believe that, in spite of his mental health issues, he is doing the best he can to be a loving parent. I have written him the following letter, which I am afraid to send to him. I do not want to have to resort to going to court to resolve these problems.

I would much appreciate it if you could read the letter I have written him and give me some advice as to a suitable course of action.


I am angry that you have chosen repeatedly, over the course of this year, to prioritise other peoples' needs (including your own), over your parental responsibility to care about and meet Sophia's need for regular communication and emotional contact with you, while you are out of the country.

How is it that a man who ran a multi-million dollar company, as well as two other businesses simultaneously, is unable to get himself sorted enough to make a simple goodnight phone call to his daughter? In your text you said you really wanted to talk with Sophia - if so, why did you not set an alarm on your phone and organise yourself time to call her? I am certain you were quite capable of making numerous lengthy calls, all at the appropriate times, related to your business responsibilities and do not accept that it must be up to me to text and remind you to spend five minutes talking with your little girl before she goes to sleep. I point-blank refuse responsibility to instigate communication between you and Sophia - I will not allow you to project your guilt or lack of care and responsibility onto me.

Three times so far this year, you have chosen to fly away from your responsibility to parent Sophia and have dropped her like a hot potato into my sole charge and care, making no other concrete arrangements for her well-being besides a vague promise to phone her. Each time, it has taken me three frustratingly sad, long and difficult weeks of careful patience and tolerance, to attain some semblance of a normal, balanced, happy daily life with her. When you fail to call, her sadness and anger intensifies, her ability to listen, communicate and think go out the window, she acts out accordingly and she begins to doubt her own self-worth. When you return, again there is a hugely challenging emotional rollercoaster ride, as she readjusts to yet another complete change in routine. This has happened each time you've gone away and will happen again at the end of this year. I am not looking forward to it.

Do you honestly think that this way of living is good for Sophia? If you can't bring yourself to care enough for five minutes once a day (or even once every two days) to phone her, how can you possibly be capable of caring enough to meet her daily needs, emotional and otherwise, when she is living with you? You are a busy man, running two businesses and now faced with having to work even harder to build them up, now you are no longer CEO of TaxRefunds and, in your own words, facing bankruptcy.

When you do not wish to give Sophia (or anyone else) your attention, I have frequently seen you simply switch off, become cold and aloof and ignore her, then get angry with her when she rightly demands that you communicate with her openly and honestly. When you ignore her in this manner, as I've seen you do many times, you are sending a clear message to her that you feel that she is of no importance and does not matter to you. Is this what you want her to feel and think?

Sophia deserves one-on-one time, love, care and respect from both her parents, especially as she is a painfully accurate and true emotional mirror of both of us. As such, she also deserves to be guided with patience, tolerance and love through her emotional storms and not to be shut down or manipulated into feeling bad or wrong. Do you believe that you have the ruthless emotional self-honesty required for such a task and are you truly willing to take that on every day, four days a week when she starts school? Will your ego let you?

You revealed to me last night that you have not been to see Julian, or anyone else who is qualified to help you deal with your mental health issues, for four years. It is, therefore, no surprise to me that you have reached a point where you are making irrational decisions and choices as you have had no real support to help you maintain your emotional and mental balance. You also implied yesterday that you were feeling quite shocked to discover that I do not feel I can trust you. I find this surprising, in light of the fact that we have discussed this issue in depth before on many occasions, when I have expressed my view previously that trust is a two-way thing and that I do not believe it is possible to trust someone who absolutely refuses to believe he can trust anyone, including himself. So far, your actions and choices (not the least of which being your choice not to trust me) have made it impossible to trust you. You are not even willing to put into writing the verbal commitment you made to me, to buy some land and put it in trust, so that Sophia can have a home where she feels she belongs. Yet you still want me to blindly trust you with the care and emotional wellbeing of Sophia, in spite of all the hurt that has already been done both to her and to me.

I look at Annalisse with sadness and remorse, that I did not speak up on her behalf when I witnessed the emotional neglect she experienced when we lived together.

This is what I saw:

Annalisse in distress as both you and Sarah chose not to attend to her basic needs.

·     refusing to eat and using food as a means of manipulation, control and attention-seeking
·     unwilling to take responsibility for her personal hygiene
·     lacking in a healthy daily routine
·     being allowed to make whatever choices she likes in her daily activities, regardless of the consequences or damage to her development, education and health
·     engaging in the totally inappropriate sexual activity of allowing herself to be repeatedly ‘felt-up' by a boy in school during class, then telling you and I about it openly (I believe this was an ignored cry for help)
·     trying to deal with a lack of appropriate boundaries & loving parental guidance and attention

I saw you, fearing the loss of her unconditional love, choose not to put appropriate boundaries in place and choose not to deal with difficult decisions or courses of action that you feared might cause her to withdraw her love, not trusting her to continue to love you unconditionally.

I do not want Sophia to suffer a similar lack of loving guidance and attention in the time she spends with you.

Obviously, this is a lot to take on board and right now you are probably feeling hurt and angry with me, that once again I am challenging those of your choices I believe to be emotionally unbalanced and self-centred and those of your behaviours which I consider egotistical, narcissistic and damaging to Sophia's emotional well-being. As Sophia's mother, it is my duty and my responsibility to call your choices and actions into question, when I see that her needs are not being adequately met. Likewise, as her father, it is your duty to do the same, if and when I fall short of what is good for our little girl. If you choose not to take up and deal with your parental responsibilities, ultimately then it is up to me alone to mitigate the emotional damage to Sophia and find a way to guide and protect her as best I can.

I would much prefer that we at lease make the attempt to work together and sort this out. Please read this again, when you can let go of feeling angry and are experiencing a few moments of authentic self-honesty. When you can come from a place of love within yourself, to deal with this and with me, then perhaps we can get together and talk things through in a more healthy and rational manner. If that is not possible then I suggest that together we seek professional help, for our daughter's sake. You suggested that we might have to go through the court system – is that really what you want? I pray, with all my heart, that we can make our care and parenting arrangements for Sophia without having to resort to this.


Hello, and thanks for visiting JA.

I would not describe your comments as an educated guess, rather as a finely detailed analysis of your situation.

You may find it hard to accept that Matthew simply does not see the world from the same perspective as most of us. H sees it as a place in which he is always right, where anything that is unpleasant happens is the fault of someone else, and in which no-one else's needs are emotions are of the slightest consequence. His world view is NOT going to change, and therefore, any expectation of his reacting with empathy and co-operation is doomed to failure.

I do feel that you would benefit from some individual therapy yourself, so that you are seeing your situation with as much clarity as possible, without any false hopes or expectations, and for that reason, I’m going to suggest that you would benefit greatly from a course of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It is a form of therapy that addresses problems in a direct and targeted way and is brief compared with most other therapies.

CBT is based on the fact that what we think in any given situation generates beliefs about, and reactions to that situation, and also cause the behaviour and feelings which flow from those beliefs and reactions.

These ‘automatic thoughts’ are so fast that generally, we are unaware that we have even had them. We call them ANTS (automatic negative thoughts) for short.

If the pattern of thinking we use, or our beliefs about our situation are even slightly distorted,

the resulting emotions and actions that flow from them can be extremely negative and unhelpful. The object of CBT is to identify these ‘automatic thoughts’ then to re-adjust our thoughts and beliefs so that they are entirely realistic and correspond to the realities of our lives, and that therefore, the resulting emotions, feelings and actions we have will be more useful and helpful.

Cognitive therapists do not usually interpret or seek for unconscious motivations but bring cognitions and beliefs into the current focus of attention and through guided discovery encourage clients to gently re-evaluate their thinking.

Therapy is not seen as something “done to” the client. CBT is not about trying to prove a client wrong and the therapist right, or getting into unhelpful debates. Through collaboration, questioning and re-evaluating their views, clients come to see for themselves that there are alternatives and that they can change.

Clients try things out in between therapy sessions, putting what has been learned into practice, learning how therapy translates into real life improvement.

Please visit this website for much more detailed information on CBT:

If you cannot afford to see a therapist, there are good free CBT based self-help resources here:

I also think it is in the best interests of everyone concerned that you consult a lawyer as soon as possible with a view to making sure that each of you gets a reasonable proportion of whatever assets he has – bearing in mind that his comments about bankruptcy and so on may well de delusional. You may also wish to investigate his legal fitness to deal with the girls at all.

From what you have said he is in no way a fit and proper person.

Best wishes,


Customer: replied 7 years ago.

Thank you, ***** ***** your advice. Although I certainly do find it emotionally challenging to accept that he is unable to see the world as I do and react to another's needs in a normal fashion, I do understand that he is unable to act any differently and am willing to simply accept that he is as he is and that there is nothing I more can do but deal with it as best I can.

Your words have confirmed my fears, that I now need to seek help in determining his fitness as a parent. That confirmation has, in itself, given rise to a cathartic sense of relief and, having shed quite a few more tears and layers of grief, I feel more able to come to terms with the reality I've created by having chosen him as a partner and father to my daughter.

As I can not currently afford to undertake treatment myself, I will endeavour to utilise the CBT self help website that you directed me to. I am, as ever, an optimist (hopefully a realistic one) and am certain that, in time, both Sophia and I will be able to lead happy and fulfilling lives in spite of the dramas we have been dealing with.

Do you feel that supervised visits for Sophia with Matthew would be appropriate? For Sophia's sake, I do not wish to cut her off from access to her father as I am very concerned that this would be emotionally devastating to her.

Indeed, I do believe that Siophia will benefit from supervised contact, but I emphasise, supervised.

Matthew is, through no fault of his own, what he is, but Sophie (I think) may not be mature enough to understand just how different he is, and should thereforr be protected from his excesses.

It is abundantly clear that you have the insight and courage to do what you have to.

May I wish you all the best,
Customer: replied 7 years ago.

Thank you again, Norman, for your advice and kind words.

I have one further concern. Is this problem a matter of nature rather than nurture and Matthew's condition likely to manifest in Sophia? If so, is there any way to avoid this outcome and do you have any reccommendations as regards ***** ***** and/or treatment?

The causes of NPD are uncertain as yet - there has been no established genetic link however, and you can rest easy on that one.

Ther are a couple of theories that suggest that some parenting styles can contribute to its development - particlulary where a parent is quite unempathetic, or where the child is allowed continue in the belief that she is the centre of the universe.

I think the way forward is to ensure that Sophie is allowed always to express her concerns and emotions, gets lots of love and positive reinforcements, but is taught that others, and their feelings are important too.

There is a really good article here:

As to education - it really should be as straightforward and normal as possible. She should neede no special treatment whatsoever.

Finally, I’m going to suggest that you get a copy of the book “How to talk so kids will listen, and how to listen so kids will talk”. Its ISBN is 1 85340 705 4.

It has been around for a long time, but I believe it still provides sound advice - it is also a good read!

Norman M. and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you