Stalking, narcissistic vulnerability and the application of schema therapy “I was punishing her for me not being good enough”

Published date17 February 2023
Date17 February 2023
Subject MatterHealth & social care,Criminology & forensic psychology,Criminal psychology,Sociology,Sociology of crime & law,Deviant behaviour,Public policy & environmental management,Policing,Criminal justice
AuthorRachael Wheatley,Clare Conway
Stalking, narcissistic vulnerability and
the application of schema therapy
I was punishing her for me
not being good enough
Rachael Wheatley and Clare Conway
Purpose This discussion paper aims to further explore narcissistic vulnerability as a
psychological concept in relation to stalking, adding to the literature base by resurrecting this
focus and exploring practical implications of thisassociation through proposing a schema therapy
(ST) approach.
Design/methodology/approach Stalking results from an interaction of circumstances and a
vulnerable personality. Understanding the psychology of those who stalk, before and during stalking
episodes,is pivotal in helping the person stalking to desistand thus protect victims. Knowing how to most
effectively interveneat the earliest opportunity with those stalking is an area receiving renewedattention.
Not least due to the improved identification of stalking, but also the continued absence of empirical
evidenceon effective intervention approaches.This paper sets out to explore the utility of ST withstalking
Findings Recent research undertakenby Wheatley et al. (2020) with men who had stalked and were
detainedin prison within the UK highlighted narcissisticvulnerability as a key feature in their personalities.
The original study provided support for the linked conceptualisations of narcissistic vulnerability,
preoccupied attachment styles and the phenomenon of stalking. This paper extended discussions to
explorethe utility of ST to address narcissistic vulnerabilityin stalking cases.
Originality/value This is an original discussion paper combining research with stalking cases,
practitioner specialism,psychological theory and existingempirical literature to argue for the value of ST
for addressingstalking.
Keywords Narcissism, Stalking, Schema therapy, Schemas, Narcissisticvulnerability, Stalker
Paper type Viewpoint
Stalking as a problem behaviour is an ineffective, goal-directed behaviour which is thought
to result from an interaction of circumstances and a vulnerable personality (MacKenzie
et al., 2009). Exposing the psychological and motivational contributors to stalking and
tailoring psychological treatment and risk management plans accordingly is purported the
best approach in reducing the risk of recurrence of stalking (MacKenzie and James, 2011;
Nijdam-Jones et al.,2018). In the absence of evidenced effective intervention approaches
to address stalking (Nijdam-Jones et al.,2018;Purcell and McEwan, 2018), knowing how to
engage at the earliest opportunity, by understanding the psychology of those who stalk
before and during stalking episodes, is crucial. In an attempt to investigate what drives
individuals who stalk, Wheatley et al. (2020) undertook research with men who had stalked
and were being held in custody. Through accessing their subjective experiences of
Rachael Wheatley is based
at University of Derby,
Derby, UK.
Clare Conway is
Independent Practitioner,
London, UK.
Received 9 July 2021
Revised 8 December 2022
Accepted 8 December 2022
PAGE 76 jJOURNAL OF CRIMINAL PSYCHOLOGY jVOL. 13 NO. 2 2023, pp. 76-90, ©EmeraldPublishing Limited, ISSN 2009-3829 DOI 10.1108/JCP-07-2021-0025

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