Occasionally I receive emails from people with NPD who have come across this blog and want to be cured. I posted about one of them in this post; yesterday I received another from a man who is considering reparenting therapy for his NPD.* He also plans to administer this therapy to himself due to the fact there are so few therapists willing or able to reparent a narcissist and because the few who do are extremely expensive. I’m not sure it’s possible to cure yourself of NPD, but if it is, I would love to find out more!
I have written about various healing methods in this article, but reparenting seems to be the most promising deep insight therapy that could work on someone with NPD, but only if the patient is both self-aware AND willing, as this man appears to be in his email. (I do not believe most malignant narcissists and psychopaths/sociopaths have any hope of being cured).
It always warms my heart to see a letter like his; I may just be one of those people Sam Vaknin calls a malignant optimist, but because I think NPD is really an elaborate defense mechanism adopted at a young age to protect a too-sensitive true self and may actually be a form of severe dissociation, I don’t think people like this man are beyond hope.
Here is the letter he sent. I love his analogy of curing NPD being akin to having a full skeleton transplant. 🙂
I’ve been reading your blogs on narcissistic personality. I first identified I have a problem with narcissism about six months ago and reading about it has been depressing, and very bleak. I’ve always known I’m self-centred and as a teen used to wonder why my empathy could more or less just switch on and off, often without my conscious control. But it is only since reading about NPD that I’ve realised what my issues actually are: I am convinced I have narcissistic personality disorder – I meet SO many of the criteria and as a method of getting by (or even ahead) in life I have trusted and enjoyed this system of habits and rules.
Narcissistic rage, while resulting in feelings of shame once an outburst had subsided, made me feel I was at least strong and able to defend myself from harm. It made me feel protected from being crushed or wounded, though in recent months I’ve realised it is simply an expression of me feeling crushed and wounded. One particular outburst directed at my lover left me reeling when I realised that if I stepped outside of my body and watched the argument happening, I’d have looked on myself with pity not fear. I’ve seen myself explode in senseless and bitter rage before and so it isn’t frightening to me anymore, it’s pathetic. There’s a line in the Annie Lennox song ‘Miracle of Love’ which I’ve been reflecting on a lot lately:
‘cool is the night that covers up your fears,
tender is the one that wipes away your tears,
there must be a bitter breeze to make you sting so viciously,
they say the greatest coward can hurt the most ferociously…’
I realised then, and especially when I was listening to this song lately that I am a coward, and that underneath my mask there is a scared little child who felt it must have done something wrong to deserve the feelings of being unloved I experienced in my infancy.
I have found your writing so interesting because if there was one idea I prescribed to growing up it was that we are here on earth to love, and as a huge fan of all things Celine Dion (for whom every ballad is a song of true, deep, sincere and selfless love) even the very music of my life was about loving deeply and experiencing life through love to the fullest. Something strange has been going on in the last year, I think my narcissism has reached a dangerous peak (I’m a performer so being the centre of peoples’ attention and lauded by an audience has, I think exacerbated my own self-involvement). I’ve realised through my reading that if I continue using the mechanisms of narcissism to cover up my fear and feelings of smallness, I will never be able to fully receive or give the love I grew up believing in so much. I actually think if it weren’t for all that Celine crazy love song schtick and the benefit of feeling loved unconditionally by my sister that narcissism would have swallowed me completely by now. I desperately want to avoid getting worse and so much of the online data about NPD is written from a victim point of view. The outlook is so bleak, and the process of realising that I am living this way has been almost traumatic.
Particularly difficult is the frequent assertion that because I am a narcissist, I simply cannot feel empathy for others. I will agree my empathy is not allowed to flourish or be of use much of the time because of the walls I put up around myself, but I KNOW I do feel it. Just as deep beneath my masks as my fear of being hurt, or rejected is my little boy self hiding under the bed terrified. And I believe when he sees someone upset, wounded, attacked, he wants so badly to whisper to the person ‘you can hide under here with me.’ I have had moments with friends or loved ones where I know they are sad, have wanted to reach out and hold them and comfort them but these walls I have spring up like invisible fences stopping me from reaching out. It’s as if the little boy wants to go to the friend and hug them and soothe them, but he’s just too scared to come out from under the bed. I believe that deep feeling is empathy. But my fear, learned from a young age has defeated it. It makes me sick. I don’t want fear to win. It’s a bizarre loop because victim-mentality repels me, which I know is a narcissistic trait. And yet it is partly through the fear of being a ‘victim’ and allowing myself to wallow in the bad things that happened to me as a kid which drives me to reject the negative events in early childhood and be a FULL human being, not just a narcissist who passes as one. I want to experience that Celine Dion love, of which I am sure I have felt more than just glimmers and been blessed with from others.
I believe love exists as a two-way street. I believe to receive someone’s love IS an act of love. To give love properly, we must be able to also receive and accept it. As RuPaul says ‘if you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gunna love anyone else.’ Well I want to learn to forgive the child inside for being so scared and angry. I want to teach him (myself) convincingly that it was not his fault he was adopted. That it was not his fault that he couldn’t protect his sister from her own demons spawned from the same young events. Or that somehow even if it possibly could have been his fault, it’s okay now. He was just a child.
I want to re-parent myself and unlearn the narcissistic coping mechanisms of devising a false self and put in place a new system. I feel like this is psychologically similar to having a full skeleton transplant, so I know it isn’t going to be easy. I am proposing to change myself in a big, lasting way. I’m choosing to become a proper adult, not ruled by the little boy anymore. It’s time for me to look after him, and I can only do that my knowing him. Knowing what it is I fear, what my true needs are, not just the needs of narcissistic supply. I must make this much clear: I reject my own narcissism. I do not want it. This system of self-aggrandisement, making myself emotionally unreachable, and of behaving so poorly to the people around me isn’t good enough. I want a better life.
Your blog has given me hope that this might be possible. Your compassion has been vital for me today. I’ve been typing this as much to organise my thoughts as to fill you in on what’s going on. I know you will receive a lot of mail, and I know you’ll be all too used to big long emails from narcissists talking about themselves 😛 But I say all this to say that your writing has been understood by me as a shared promise of hope. It’s really a wonderful thing you’ve done and I’m so glad I found your blog. I wish others would get to read it, rather than so much of the demonising bile dominating google on the subject of NPD. I believe it’s bad to try to turn people into cartoon villains. Every behaviour has a cause.
My main goal going forward is keeping mindful at all times of this little boy. I need to become his best friend and always listen to what he’s saying. I need to tell him ‘no we don’t lash out when we feel attacked,’ and help him grow up. He is, after all, me. I’ve had mild moments of self awareness where I have tried to learn more about treatment and even let my walls down from time to time to be honest and show my naked little self to those close to me. It’s hard for them to understand this stuff and unfortunately after a few weeks pass I find the walls have been slowly slowly rising again. Then it takes a big argument or event to knock ’em down and unfortunately one such event has cost me a really important relationship. The loss of the relationship, alongwith increasingly realising my charisma isn’t enough to get me by in life could be defined as my ‘narcissistic crisis.’
As you said: ‘Harnessing these moments of emotional nakedness is like trying to hold onto a dream while awake.’ My next step is to find a method, or try to invent one to keep me mindful. I think reading works like your own frequently, perhaps daily and reminding myself of exactly what my demons are might help. To hold my inner enemies close in this way may help me defeat them. You’ve helped enormously. Thank you.
* I have no idea whether he actually has NPD or has ever been diagnosed with it. He could have some other disorder. True narcissists rarely acknowledge their disorder or desire to be helped, but I’m sure there are exceptions.