We shouldn’t just dismiss them as hopeless until we know more.
The above quote is a common sentiment among survivors of narcissistic abuse, and healthy when we are trying to go No Contact with a narcissist who has tried to ruin us, or cope with a narcissist we can’t practically disconnect from. To give a narc any benefit of the doubt during these times is what has kept us trapped in a sick and destructive relationship. Many of us are also empaths and that’s the very quality that has kept us trapped in the hellish merry-go-round of the cycle of abuse. When we’re leaving our narc (or trying to cope with one), it’s healthiest for us to give them no benefit of the doubt at all. It serves us best to think of them as inhuman machines, devils, or monsters with no ability at all to love or to feel real emotions.
But is it fair or realistic to think of them this way? I don’t think it is, because narcissists aren’t machines, demons or monsters. They are human beings with a terrible mental disorder that causes them to attack and manipulate others for their own gain. I’ve come to a point in my healing where my narcs are safely out of my life, and I can finally afford to think of them as fellow humans and even have a degree of empathy for them. It’s nice to not hate, but am I deluded?
Do narcissists really suffer?
Obviously, I read a lot of blogs and forums about NPD and narcissistic abuse. There seem to be very few websites for people suffering from NPD, which you would expect, since narcissists are more likely to cause suffering in others than suffer themselves.
It has been argued that narcissists do suffer, but they suffer alone. They don’t want you to know. They aren’t likely to seek help for their disorder unless they’ve lost a major source of narcissistic supply, and the defensive structure they have built for themselves is seen by the narcissist as the flimsy house of cards it really is. I believe this is all true, but some narcissists are so out of touch with reality and their true self that they project their misery and emptiness onto others and keep lying even to themselves.
But occasionally, even on victims’ boards and blogs (the following is from a Christian-oriented blog with a strong focus on victims of narcissistic abuse whose pastor owner is unusually compassionate toward people with NPD), I see a post like this:
Wow! Reading this is very sobering. I an not a victim of this, but the oppressor! I admit that I have been this way. I am saved but I am discovering that my while life I have really been a selfish narcissist. My question is this- is hope for an unempathetic narcissist like me? I am honestly sick and tired of my selfish ways and the way I’ve hurt others and have lacked any empathy or emotional feelings for others. I trust that Christ can help me out of this, but does anyone have some advice or testimony for a narcissist who WANTS to change? I always see alot of literature for the victims of narcissistic abuse and I give my utmost respect to the victims, but what about us perpetrators who want to give this up? Any feedback put advice will help.
The narcissist, who calls himself “Michael,” followed up his post with this:
It bothers me a lot that i lack love and empathy for others. I can’t feel life the way I want to. I think my narcissism problems are largely fear-based, over rejections that happened to me at a young age. Also, I admit I’m just addicted to pleasing my self and I don’t know how to truly love someone else. It is no fun being a narcissist, it is miserable. It really bites when it seems everyone else around you knows how to love and feel deep empathy and passion, while you’re feeling “stuck in an emotional bubble”.
Posts like these ones by Michael give me hope that somewhere inside their blighted souls, narcissists still possess a seed of goodness and with enough water and sunlight, that seed can grow into something beautiful, healthy and good.
I remember several months ago a self-proclaimed narcissist came to this blog and wrote a seemingly heartfelt post that he or she wanted to change. It floored (and moved) me enough to write an entire article about it.
I still can’t get over my childlike excitement whenever it appears a narcissist wants to get well. I’m just like a 4 year old with an ice cream cone. Sam Vaknin calls this malignant optimism. Is he being overly pessimistic about the possibility of a cure, or is he right?
I don’t know the answer to that.
As a Christian (and a codependent), I tend to want to give people the benefit of the doubt. After all, we’re all God’s children. He made us in His own image. I always try to look for the good even when all I can see is the bad. I do believe in evil, however, and that there are truly evil people in this world. I like to think they’re not that common though. So when a narcissist says they want to change, how can I sit there and pass judgment and assume they’re just lying? To do that would make a narcissist of me. Maybe there are moments of clarity or windows that occasionally open in their dirty souls to let in the light. How can I say they’re not telling the truth? Maybe they are. They are still human beings with souls, after all.
Maybe they aren’t really narcissists.
Then there’s the possibility that a narcissist who goes on a blog or forum and writes a post about wanting to be cured, isn’t actually a narcissist at all. Very few narcissists have the insight or desire to change. Maybe “narcissists” who write posts like this really suffer from some other disorder that causes them to hurt others and lack empathy, like Borderline Personality Disorder or even certain anxiety disorders like OCD (whose sufferers may also seem to lack empathy) or psychotic disorders like schizophrenia (although the pleas for help I have seen by narcissists certainly don’t sound like they’re written by schizophrenics).
“Michael” (the above quoted poster who claims to be a narcissist), wrote about how the Holy Spirit was trying to change him but he kept fighting against it. He doesn’t sound much like a narcissist at all in this followup, but there’s no way to tell for certain without an official diagnosis. Maybe he has another disorder besides narcissism. It’s an interesting post though, because he speaks about the bullying and abuse he endured that may have caused him to develop NPD. If he does have NPD, he seems to have both insight and the desire, and that’s a good omen.
Wow thank you for that insight. I will also add i have a great deal of apathy in my life. It’s like i don’t care about others, God, life, or even my own well-being at times. But having Christ in my heart, it’s like the Holy Spirit wants it but my flesh does not.
I never handled shame or rejection well as a kid. At a young age, I was bullied in school until the end of my middle school years. I wanted acceptance from my peers- from women I wanted attention, from men I wanted respect. I didn’t receive either, so I put on a facade of myself to fit in so I would be “accepted”. My whole life I’ve been emotionally numb, and I hate it how it’s like I don’t even cry when i should, like when a loved one passes away, or when someone shows a deep display of love, just as Jesus did. Even in my Christian life, I feel like the Gospel hasn’t really penetrated me on that deep heart level yet because I cannot really love or feel love. I guess only God is the answer to this, because i sure can’t do this in my own strength.
The cost-benefit analysis of healing.
If it’s possible for a narcissist to be cured of their disorder (not merely treated), it’s not going to be an easy or a short process for them or their therapists. (I’ll explore this more in a later post, but I’ve already written about it in other posts about NPD healing regimes such as Attitudinal Healing and Reparenting). It’s a topic that’s fascinating to me, and I also have a vested interest in it because it gives me hope for the narcissists in my own life that I have cared about and even loved. This could include my beloved daughter, who may have a mild form of NPD (but is more likely Borderline–the jury’s still out on that).
Obviously, some narcissists would be more curable (or at least more treatable) than others. They must have both the insight into their disorder and the desire to change. They must be willing to undergo enormous psychic pain and terror as they confront their true self and shed their false self. Desire without insight isn’t possible, but insight without desire is. If narcissism has been beneficial to its sufferer, they may not want to be rid of their disorder, even though they still may be in immense psychic pain. Whether they are willing to be cured requires a cost-benefit analysis of whether undergoing intense and painful emotional catharsis is worth giving up whatever benefits narcissism has afforded them. For the vast majority, it probably isn’t. Even if they willingly enter therapy, once the painful process of healing is underway, they are likely to run away in terror and put their masks back on.
I have to be realistic too, and not dismiss the tragic possibility that a narcissist can want to change, but have no hope at all of it actually happening. All I can do is pray that God will step in and help them find their way to the light. I pray for them every day, as well as the more numerous people they have victimized.
Reblogged this on galesmind and commented:
Your empathic kindness shows through in this post. If a person is a Narcissist is it nature or nurture. If it is indeed a biological issue I don’t think they can. If it is a psychological issue then I think there is hope. Call me suspicious but a Narcissist adores attention and being the center of attraction. What better way to get attention from an empath that they can sniff out from miles away than to ask for sympathy. Dunno but it would make me suspicious and I would have to be thoroughly convinced that they can and indeed want to change.
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I don’t really know if it’s nature or nurture, but I don’t believe in “bad seeds.” I don’t think anyone is born evil, but I do think some people are lacking parts of the brain that enable them to feel empathy for others. I like to think their brains can somehow be retrained and maybe this is possible for some, I just don’t know.
Most experts think NPD is caused by childhood abuse and neglect, although there is likely to be a biological component too. They believe the ability to feel empathy and love is there at birth but destroyed at an early age. In that case, if the patient can be taken back to when the abuse happened and confront it and release their pain, then the true self could be resurrected, because it never really dies, it’s just atrophied and in hiding.
Thanks for reblogging. 🙂
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From what I have read there is a part of the brain that just doesn’t activate. Sam’s video was very interesting and explained a lot. I think the videographer spent too much time on himself and not enough on Sam. I think Sam would certainly agree.
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I agree it’s a very good video but how does the videographer spend time on himself? I only see Sam talking in the video?
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There were several instances of the videographer in the movie I saw where the he was talking about Sam’s effect on himself. A little of that would be demonstrative but I think he went on too much specially with the end sitting in a bath. Talking about how Sam affected him. I was really more interested in the wife. She fascinated me.
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I really believe anybody can change and God has the power to heal anybody, no matter what they suffer from. I think it’s quite compassionate and empathetic to want to bring healing to narcs, but there is also a danger in there for victims, because it is our own empathy that pulls us back in a traps us.
One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do is come to terms with the fact that not everybody wants to change. Some people know precisely what is wrong with them and they deliberately choose to be that way. My empathetic brain cannot fully grasp this, because who in their right mind wants to remain trapped, compelled to be cruel to others?? That’s irrational. I assume they must just be sick, unable to help themselves. If we could just show them the nature of themselves, find a cure, fix what’s been broken…. I have a hard time accepting the existence of evil however, and the fact that someone would deliberately choose it. Somebody smart once told me that there really is no deep psychology here, no pathology we can cure, the simple fact is that “they do it because they believe it is acceptable and they think they can get away with it.” That is the whole story.
For me, I perceive everyone else through my own eyes, so if somebody is a mess, they must have had an awful childhood, they must be suffering some kind of damage, they must just need more healing That, however, is not necessarily true of everyone. Some people have genuinely chosen to be evil over and over again and nobody can fix them, (unless God chooses to step in of course.)
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I agree with you that some people are not willing and have chosen narcissism as a way to cope. But it always starts as a defense mechanism to avoid further abuse and hurt. I’ve come to believe most narcissists were once highly sensitive people (HSPs) or even empaths but being that way was so painful for them they reverted to cutting off ALL emotions except rage and glee (or pretending to).
I don’t think anyone is born evil or chooses to be evil just for the sake of being evil.
For malignant narcissists with no desire to change and no insight I don’t think there is any hope for them at all. They have become evil, even if their narcissism started as a way to protect the too-sensitive self. NPD is very much a spiritual disorder, as much as a mental one, if not more so. This is sad but a fact of life. Of course God could step in, but for Him to do so would negate the narcissist’s free will. If they are to get well, it must be a choice they make on their own. No one can “make” them change or want to change.
You have some good insights.
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Reblogged this on Marilyn Munrow and commented:
As usual, love this. Thank you.
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You’re welcome and I love you too.
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Thank you sugar.
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I can’t reply directly to your comment above about Sam’s video, because no more nested replies are allowed (I have a limit of 4–I might have to increase it) …I thought you were talking about the video about malignant optimism I linked to in the article, not the film “I Psychopath,” which I agree, was as much about the filmmaker, Ian Walker, as it was about Sam. Sometimes I even wonder if Ian was a narcissist himself. Surely he may have been drawn into Sam’s darkness being in such close contact with him, but he did seem to be playing up his own drama and feeling more sorry for himself at times than trying to understand Sam’s disorder. My other criticism of the movie was Walker’s failure to include more of Lidija and the dynamics of her relationship with her husband. I think that would have improved the film immensely. You’re left sort of unsatisfied as to why she stayed with a man like Sam because you don’t ever really get to know her well, and I would have liked to see more of the interaction between them. Oh well, it was still an interesting film and started my fascination with him. Overall his writings and videos have been helpful to me (even though I have a few issues with his pessimism). Dealing with him on a personal level….not so much.
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Narcissists actually are machines. They are human tissue over cybernetic endoskeleton – the latest models are Cyberdyne models N-1000 and N-1000X. But they are programmed to behave in a very human-like way, so you would never know their true nature.
I learned this horrifying truth when I met Sam Vaknin one day for a interview. He admitted that he is not human, and then he proved it. This is how he showed me:
Just imagine my reaction to this revelation. Don’t mess with Sam – you will regret it! 🙂
Ok let me address your post seriously. Yes, Sam is being overly pessimistic. He is hopeless about NPD being cured and he projects his hopelessness onto everyone else. It’s not hard to see that. If you check out the books I recommended, like The Emerging Self (Masterson) or Narcissistic Patients and New Therapists (Huprich) or Humanizing the Narcissistic Style (Johnson), you’ll see that narcissists can do very well in therapy. I am always amazed when I hear this doubt over whether any narcissists can recover. Of course some of them can, and do. But given all the negativity out there, you have to read convincing cases of it happening to believe it. Vaknin wouldn’t tell people about these successful cases, because they would interfere with his narrative of hopelessness, and probably cause him to feel envy on some level.
As for your “narcissists who get better may not be real narcissists” idea, that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me; it’s a circular argument. If you use this argument, you can always say, “If any narcissistic person gets better, they can’t have been a real NPD; if they don’t get better they were a true NPD.”… the problem with this reasoning is that it assumes its own conclusion. It’s like psychiatrists who say that any schizophrenic who recovers wasn’t a true schizophrenic. They only say that to maintain the false notion that it’s an incurable disease.
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BPDT, your first paragraph had me laughing out loud–I just love your descriptions of how people with mental disorders can be displayed in a zoo of mental disorders as exhibit A, exhibit B, etc. And it is true we abuse survivors are probably too quick to label (and sometimes misdiagnose) people with various mental disorders. Having been exposed to so much pathology throughout our lives (and having our own mental disorders), we sometimes feel like we “know it all.” But we don’t–these are subjective opinions but we do need to write about our feelings and opinions about them. I’m certainly not the only blogger doing this. But I do appreciate your input.
I don’t mess with Sam and never have. We’ve had very short (like two sentences short) exchanges on Facebook and LinkedIn, always related to the topic of narcissism, and other than his comments here, which are mostly lists of links to his website, hardly anything has been said between us. I am aware of his pathology though, and wouldn’t dream of “messing” with him. He’s already proven at least once on this blog he is not someone you would want to mess with, because he will mess with you. As insightful as he is, I’ve realized he’s the malignant narcissist he says he is and possible psychopath. At least he’s honest. His information is valuable but no one should rely on his views alone–they need to be balanced with the views of others, including professionals in the fields of psychology and medicine. He is too pessimistic. I will watch your link. I liked that movie. “The Terminator,” lol. I don’t doubt you had a bad experience with him. I understand many people have.
I don’t know if narcissists who want to get better aren’t real narcissists. I cannot diagnose them, only speculate. So of course it’s possible they could have another disorder that mimics NPD. But then again, they just might have it. It would be ideal if they could prove they have been officially diagnosed and then say they want to be healed, but of course it’s not realistic to expect anyone to provide records proving their dx.
I wanted you to know I ordered Masterson’s book a few days ago. Your description got me really interested, because I’m interested in anything that gives me hope narcs can get well.
ETA: Oh my God, I just watched that “Terminator” scene. Are you being facetious that Sam actually did that (because I think you can be facetious but you are also very funny) because I can’t believe something like that could actually happen.
Do be careful and don’t mess with Sam. You don’t want to see what I saw – the horror of him peeling his skin back to reveal his true robotic nature! Just imagine in your mind the image of Sam doing that…
Hopefully Sam isn’t reading this. I wouldn’t want him to send one of his remote controlled narcissistic predator drones after me 🙂
I agree with a lot of what you said. But I still think your thinking contains the notion that NPD is a concrete/specific “disorder” that can be defined or caught, like a fly in amber. In reality people are so subjective and too difficult/unique to categorize with a label like NPD. That’s my opinion anyway.
Yikes. how creepy. You are funny though. I know there are people who actually really believe narcs are machines or androids or devils and I’m very skeptical about that, though I don’t doubt their souls may have been seared and they may even (in some cases) be possessed by evil entities. Anyway, you know my feelings about that. It’s hard for someone like me to accept a narc isn’t really human and has no hope of a cure. I did mention my “malignant optimism” and as the graphic for that implies, that kind of optimism could be making a fool out of me. But it’s just so hard to accept there’s not some goodness in them somewhere. I hold to my beliefs that no one is born evil.
Well, I don’t know if Sam is reading this, he could be but maybe not. I don’t think he’s been around as much, to be honest.
I’m wondering too…did you have some kind of idea there’s something going on with me and Sam beyond rather dry and quick exchanges about NPD? Because if you did I can assure you there isn’t and never was anything at all. But I’m wondering why you might think that.
Sam has already blocked me on Facebook for some obscure and unknowable reason, but I wasn’t too surprised because that’s the sort of thing he does. I’ve seen his temper which is volatile and he’s also so sensitive he will take offense to anything negative about himself (but he says he loves to be hated and criticized so try to figure that one out).
I don’t think NPD is that cut and dry. It’s a spectrum disorder, like autism, and there are different levels of the disorder, ranging from barely narcissistic at all and able to monitor their behaviors to the worst possible psychopath. It’s one of the hardest disorders to categorize, partly because its “sufferers” are usually so unwilling to make themselves available for treatment or assessment.
I was only joking with all of this. I have no idea what communication happened between you and Sam and was not even thinking about it.
You are not being malignantly optimistic. People with narcissistic books can do very well. Please check out the books I recommended if you get a chance.
My overall point is that there is no strong evidence that NPD is a “disorder” (i.e. if disorder is defined as a grouping of symptoms that occurs reliably together, at a frequency greater than would be expected than if the symptoms were just put together by chance…. that may not immediately make sense but it’s important to understand. In other words, there is weak evidence that NPD is a meaningful pattern of symptoms that actually forms one unitary syndrome. Of course, all the individual symptoms supposedly comprising NPD do occur in different degrees and variations. A lot of people have trouble thinking about this, because as humans we want to see order and meaning in things. One might compare this to the way a constellation is an artificial grouping of stars that are not truly related in any way, except for our projection of some meaning or appearance into a group of stars that would otherwise have no special relation to each other in nature). To most people this idea will sound crazy, but it’s not when you you really look at it closely. There is much less evidence for the validity of “mental illnesses” than you would think from what psychiatrists say. Perhaps the reason these “disorders” are so hard to categorize is that they do not exist in the distinct forms that people think they do.
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Good, I figured you were being facetious but the clip did make me laugh! 😀 Those movies are awesome.
I think the tendency to want to label people and put them in categories is due to our natural human urge to want to understand others and having neat boxes to put them in makes it easier. It’s a model though really, and psychology isn’t an exact science (or much of a science at all, it’s more of an art form) so that’s why these categories are so subject to change, especially in disorders (like NPD) where it’s hard to get people willingly allowing themselves to be studied.
But categorizing, like you said, is human and is our way of making sense of a sometimes very confusing world. Human beings are complicated, and sometimes the only way to cope with/try to understand why they do the things they do is by giving them a label, even if it’s not an accurate one. Call it a “working label” for those of us who must deal with them, if you want.
As we talked about before, there have been well known people in the field (like Thomas Szasz and RD Laing) who questioned the whole idea of mental illness as a construct to explain a sane person’s inability to fit into an insane world. Maybe we should be slapping dx’s on the world itself, and countries, and political regimes, rather than on people, who are, after all, only reacting to their environment.
I ordered Masterson’s book. 🙂 I can’t wait to read it.
bpdtransformation…Brilliant observations here. I have found Sam helpful, but when you mention his narrative of hopelessness- wow.. then I wonder “how that’s workin’ for him”. Great comment.
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Well, Sam’s narrative is working fine, because being a Terminator N-1000 model, he doesn’t have emotions so things don’t bother him. His mission after Skynet sent him here was only to connect as much narcissistic supply as possible and then to return and distribute it among his fellow machines in the future.
Sorry (well, not very) 🙂 Its so easy to make jokes about Vaknin haha.
Most of what Sam writes about personality disorders being unlikely/unable to recover is simply a big lie. It needs to be called out as such.
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Make jokes all you want. 😀 He takes everything so seriously. It’s kind of funny that he does. He won’t have a tantrum because he doesn’t come to this blog anymore. No need to tippytoe around his tender feelings.
I think he makes a lot of valid points and I’ll always value his insights about narcissism but I am in agreement with others that he’s way too pessimistic. It’ part of his illness.
Too bad I can’t do a live debate with Vaknin about NPD. That would be entertaining.
I think Vaknin probably suffers from “Humor Deficit Disorder”.
And as for you Lucky Otter, are you sure you don’t suffer from “Internet Addiction Disorder”? 🙂
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I’m not at all sure I don’t suffer from that. 😉
If you ever do an interview with Vaknin, make sure you wear steel plated armor. 😀
Oh, I have a better one. Wear a clown suit. A steel plated one.
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I like to think of narcissists as machines. Then I am less scared of them. When they open their eyes wide, in order to take in more information, to get a big supply, that’s just a machine doing that, nothing else. When my mother did that, it was like she was going to have a dance. When I went through hard times, she loved it. It was an out of this world feeling that she had, I’m sure, definitely not something I can relate to. I wouldn’t wish the crap I went through on my worst enemy, but she loved it happening to me. Isn’t that a machine?
But I demand humanity from my own daughter who has the traits. I can’t expect any less. Sure I want to be compassionate, but I have a lifetime of knowledge about these people. She enjoys bad stuff, I call her on it. It is my duty. She seems to listen to me. I might be getting through, but I might have a touch of the optimism myself. I know God has not left her, He promised never to leave my children, I raised them in church. I depend on that more than anything else.
So yeah, my daughter might have machine traits, but I demand humanity from her. It gets complicated at times, and for an ACON like me it is torture to try to sift through the bullshit. I even asked her once, “Are you lying to me? You know it is a narcissistic trait, as you have been diagnosed.” She has confessed a few times, that she is lying and I am hoping to stir up a conscience there. It might work that way with all the narcissists, but I know this is working for her I can feel it in my gut.
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How old is your daughter, Joan? If she is still young. she might be more malleable and actually still be able to internalize your reminders to her of what constitutes narcissistic behavior. Or she could just be playing you. If she’s older, she’s less likely to change, but I hope for your and her sake she can somehow shed her narcissitic behaviors. Has she actually been diagnosed with NPD, or is it possible she may be a Borderline? Borderlines are also attracted to “bad things” and can seem to lack empathy, although (if reminded that that they have hurt others) they usually feel some guilt/remorse. They can also be very impulsive and don’t plan out or think about the consequences of their actions (which is not the case with NPD).
Does she ever apologize and do you feel that it’s sincere when she does?
Oops, sorry we lost internet access for a few days. Had to call a guy in.
She was diagnosed with just narcissism. The mental health field doesn’t go any further. She is just 20 years old. Well, I am finding her very responsible towards me. I don’t know everything going on with her, as she doesn’t live with me. But I have been seeing some changes since she had the baby.
Her life has been up and down, she was in school, now she’s not. I’m hoping she works things out well. She is crazy about the baby, and he is surrounded by people who love him. It has all been very positive.
But I keep being honest with her about her condition. She doesn’t like it, but since there are no meds this is all I can do. She never apologizes, she blames others. I don’t see her lacking empathy though, she likes bad things, and I’m not sure if she is just liking them or empathic towards them. It is hard to tell.
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Joan, you may want to read my recent article about healing narcissism, ‘Healing Narcissism: Stephen’s story.” I will warn you–it is quite long but there are a number of therapies for NPD and she may not be malignant so maybe one of these therapies could work. Some are alternative therapies and have no empirical evidence or studies sanctioned by mental health professionals.
I’m currrently reading a book by James f. Masterson: “The Emerging Self.” BPDTransformation recommended this book to me so I ordered it from Amazon. Used copies are cheap. Dr. Masterson believes narcissism can be cured through a certain form of psychodynamic therapy that can access memories from childhood and the true self, but it also depends on what sort of narcissism she has. Not everyone is hopeless about the possibility of curing NPD. I do think there’s way too much negativity, both among survivors of abuse and professionals in the field. Call me a malignant optimist, but maignant pessimism is just as bad in my book. Anyway, I haven’t finished Masterson’s book yet (I just received it) but I highly recommend you order a copy or get a copy from the library. I also think your daughter’s age is a factor–most 20 years olds are more than a little narcissistic.
My daughter is 21–she was just diagnosed with BPD (and PTSD). I’m relieved, but that doesn’t mean if your daughter has NPD she is hopeless. If she’s not malignant or psychopathic her prognosis may not be bad.
I’ll keep you and her in my prayers.
I’ve been reading about narcissism a great lot and find this blog very informative. Thus, thank you for that 🙂 I’d like to share a little about my own situation and what I’ve learned so far in an attempt to get better emotionally. Maybe this could be useful to someone (especially to those people who see narcissism in themselves).
I believe I have an NPD or at least some defenses/traits. Initially I thought I have got an avoidant personality disorder as going through the list of symptoms every single one of them mirrored the way I feel. Though, after having uncovered additional pieces of the puzzle of my dysfunction which appear to be entitlement and grandeur fantasies I realized that I’d only wish to have an AvPD as the more believable diagnosis seems to be the infamous vulnerable narcissism. As it manifests mostly as avoidant behavior and entitlement as well as grandeur are rarely truly expressed other than in my fantasies I can probably congratulate myself with doing the most of the harm to myself instead of the others. Moreover, I have no issues in reciprocating in relationships and have got an even exaggerated sense of conscience. However, the ugly truth is that I can rarely relax enough to nurture others just for the sake of caring for other people. There is always an additional value to it or a drive behind it. It is an incredibly huge fear that I believe I try to neutralize. Fear of getting rejected (abandonment) and fear of being bad/ unacceptable (shame). Abandonment fear makes me feel completely powerless towards other human being and shame is known to be the most painful emotion triggering the same parts of brain as physical pain. As much as I understand my personal experience has taught me that close human contact brings this lovely cocktail of powerlessness and pain. Thus, I’ve learnt to use a wall of coldness and superiority to bring back power to myself. My thought is, what if I would learn to empower myself through self acceptance and self-compassion instead of unhealthy narcissism? Also, as paradoxical as it may sound I get the feeling that if I allow to feel myself as the most important person in my own life (oppositional to the pathologically narcissistic ‘most important in everyone’s life’) that reduces the fear of abandonment as my value does not lie in the mercy of other people anymore. Basically.. what I am saying is I want to believe there is a solution to narcissism and inner child work as well as attitudinal therapy that I’ve read about here sounds the most promising to me. I’ve noticed changes in myself. Small and slow. But I guess I have no other choice but to keep making an effort. Another choice that I do not have is to talk about narcissists as ‘them’. Even though, I have been a victim of a narcissistic abuse myself way before I became one. I chose to hate the narcissism in my parents rather than hate my parents (not promoting putting up with the abuse in any way, though!)
Peace and love 🙂
P.S. If someone feels that I have not shown enough of remorse for the hurt I’ve caused to others and this post is not a valid attempt to change, I would like to say that I do feel guilty and humbled a lot after having uncovered the truth to myself. Gathering my courage to apologize and possibly make up to those I owe.
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Peli, you sound a lot like me! So much so that I feel like I could have written what you just did. The good thing about covert narcissists like ourselves (if in fact we are at all–I do not have an official diagnosis but just KNOW) is that unlike the more overt Ns, we are self aware and less happy with the way we feel and more likely to see how we can hurt others. But yes, I think we mostly hurt ourselves due to the avoidant behavior. For me, I run away when people try to get too close or find ways to avoid them, rather than outright devaluation or attacks. Of course this can lead to others feeling like I’m rejecting them when the real issue is that I don’t want to risk being abandoned/judged as “unworthy.”
I also notice I deliberately (but not really consciously) choose friends who I feel are somehow “beneath” me. I feel very threatened by people who are very successful because next to them I feel so inadequate, and I actively avoid them. Obviously it’s not a good thing to always associate with people who are less fortunate than I am as these people tend to be negative and draw bad fortune to themselves–and THEN I find myself becoming annoyed and feeling too depended on! So it’s easier just to avoid all people.
I have a lot of trouble listening to people too. When in a conversation, it’s almost impossible for me to really hear what they’re saying because I’m too busy thinking of what I’m going to say next, or wondering about how they are perceivijng ME. As a a result, I can’t have much empathy because if you’re not really listening, you can’t empathize. (In fact, this gives me an idea for a new article I might write later today). I think the trick to developing empathy is to stay in the moment somehow, and focus on the other person instead of yourself. We are always dwelling on the past or living in the future, we are never in the present.
It’s easier for me to empathize online because I actually have time to read and process what someone else is saying, and have time to think about a response. But in a face to face situation, I can’t do it or at least it’s very hard.
I also have the “overdeveloped conscience” you speak of. ALthough I think I lack empathy, I’m constantly feeling guilty or ashamed. But it’s essentially selfish–because the overriding worry is fear of being seen as “bad” so again, it’s all about the impression I’m making rather than genuine remorse. Shame is essentially selfish; true remorse is guilt, and that’s different.
I can also relate to the inability to hate narcissists per se (because if you think you are one, you’d be hating yourself–which we probably re anyway) so it’s sometimes difficult to write about narcissism for ACONs anymore, even though I hate narcissistic behavior as much as any ACON (and I also consider myself an ACON due to the abuse I suffered). But it can be very confusing and it’s hard to reconcile the hatred with the possibility I may BE one! I think it’s healthier to just hate the behaviors anyway rather than the actual person.
You might want to check out my other blog Down The Rabbit Hole, which I started for people like myself: http://healingnpd.com/
It’s my opinion that NPD (and BPD and oher PD’s) are actually exacerbations and complications of C-PTSD. We didn’t get this way because we wanted to.
Anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts! I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog. Please take a look at the other.
Hello again 🙂
Thank you for the reply. Will definitely check the blog.
I totally agree with your thoughts on C-PTSD. Eventually I think most of the dysfunction (apart from some mood disorders caused by brain chemistry or physical trauma to brain) comes from psychological traumas and personality disorder list could probably be used more effectively as important guidelines to the ways a certain person copes with the consequences rather than ultimate diagnosis. I think naming a PD can be helpful to the healthier person living next to the one suffering from it as it may bring some light into what is going on and could be the ultimate point to make a decision about their participation in the relationship. However, I believe that for the disordered person it is more like merely a step one to uncovering the deep rooted issues. Layer after layer, pealing like an onion, until the primary source of pain and dysfunction is revealed and hopefully healed to the point where our painful experiences become livable scars instead of agonizing wounds. I have found out that underneath my eating disorders there’s been depression and narcissism and underneath that there seem to be huge amounts of fear, anxiety and shame induced through traumatizing family relationships and others interpersonal traumas which have been at least partly provoked by my already learnt dysfunctional ways. I can also recognize in myself shame based flashbacks appearing in certain situations which is a well known characteristic in PTSD. Thus, I believe at a certain point it is actually useful to lose the label of a PD and dig deeper to work on the traumas and their aftermath underneath. I find narcissism to be especially dangerous to use as a label, as I have noticed that on the bad days when my chronic shame kicks in, narcissism becomes that ultimate piece in my hopelessly flawed person’s image because of its reputation of being the untreatable monster thing. It breeds more shame which breeds more narcissism.
On my way to check your other blog.. 🙂
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Thank you again for these thoughts, and I agree. I’ll write a longer reply later. Let me know what you think of my other blog, be sure to comment!