TL;DR WARNING: THIS IS A VERY LONG POST. READ IT ANYWAY.
I came across a forum last night called Heal NPD, whose founder, a man named Tony Brown, was actually cured of NPD through a psychospiritual therapy called Attitudinal Healing, which is based on letting go of fear, the primary emotion that keeps narcissists from being able to access their true self. There is a spiritual component to the therapy too, which I agree would be necessary. I don’t believe the gentle spirituality involved in this therapy would go against any religous teaching, Christian or otherwise. The important thing is to get well.
Tragically, Brown died a few years ago of heart complications due to prolonged diabetes and his forum hasn’t been active since about 2008. His wife tried to take over the site for awhile. I’m not sure what happened there.
I Googled Attitudinal Healing to find out more about how it works (Brown’s site is a little hard to navigate and some information seems to be missing or is no longer there).
I had doubts about Tony Brown’s credibility when I first read about him last night, but someone here who knows him and was active on his site assured me it’s absolutely true he was diagnosed with NPD and was actually cured of his disorder. Other members on the site were also working the therapy and it was working for them too. This is very good news for people with NPD and their victims. Of course, they need to want to be helped first. It may not work on malignant narcissists and psychopaths.
I just wonder why AH hasn’t caught on and mental health professionals are so adamant that NPD cannot be treated or cured and their victims are without hope, if this therapy has had so much success.
I don’t think it’s too well known outside of California (there are some things we people on the east coast and flyover states we’d like to see stay over there, like earthquakes and The Kardashans, but AH therapy isn’t one of them so can we get that and give you back Katy Perry or something? Please?).
AH has had success on other disorders too, including PTSD and C-PTSD (which is common in the victims of narcissists).
Attitudinal Healing is a spiritual/emotional therapy developed by Jerry Jampolsky, MD and Diane Cirincione, Ph.D. in California in 1975.
The following is from their website. AH has had some success in curing (not just changing the behaviors) of people with NPD who wish to be helped.
My own comments I have put in [brackets].
What is Attitudinal Healing?
Attitudinal Healing is based on the belief that it is not people or external situations that cause us to be upset. Rather, what causes us conflict and distress are our thoughts, feelings, and attitudes about people and events.
Attitudinal Healing is letting go of fear and our negative, hurtful thoughts from the past.
Attitudinal Healing allows us to correct our misperceptions and to remove the inner obstacles to peace. This begins at life, and at death; to have peace of mind as our only goal; and to make forgiveness our primary function. It is discovering the effect that holding on to our grievances, blaming others, and condemning ourselves has, so that we can choose to no longer find value in them.
Attitudinal Healing asserts that when we let go of fear, only love remains and that love is the answer to all of the problems we face in life. It is the recognition that our true reality never changes and that Love is all there is.
My cherished friend Judy Skutch Whitson suggested the term when we first began the Center in 1975.
Defines health as inner peace.
Defines healing as letting go of fear.
Regards our primary identity as spiritual and affirms that each individual possesses a quality of being or an inner nature that is essentially loving and that this loving nature is shared by all human beings.
States that love is the most important healing force in the world.
Does not tell other people what to do but offers them choices.
Emphasizes equality in every aspect of our lives and affirms that we are all student and teacher to each other.
Recognizes that peace is our only goal.
Emphasizes listening with empathy and without judgment or advice.
Sets the goal of living a life focused on unconditional love.
Attitudinal Healing views the purpose of all communication as joining and regards happiness as a choice. It recognizes that we are all worthy of love and that happiness is our own responsibility as well as our natural state of being.
Attitudinal Healing acknowledges that our only function is forgiveness. Rather than making decisions based on the fearful past, it states that we can learn to make decisions by listening to the inner voice of love.
The Benefits of Attitudinal Healing
The twelve principles of Attitudinal Healing are spiritual principles that lead us to love and away from fear. I think of the application of these principles as “practical spirituality” that can be used in every aspect of our lives. There is not one area where they do not apply. As we learn to change our attitudes and change our minds, we change our lives.
Some of the possible benefits of Attitudinal Healing include:
Experiencing ourselves as love.
Finding inner peace.
Letting go of fear.
Letting go of judgments.
Letting go of guilt.
Letting go of being a victim.
Letting go of our fear of death.
Letting go of unforgiving thoughts.
Letting go of pain.
Letting go of being right and making others wrong.
Letting go of blame.
Letting go of our fear of the past and future.
Letting go of being a fault finder.
Letting go of withholding love from anyone, including ourselves.
Letting go of our need to assign guilt or innocence.
Letting go of complaining and listing our hurts.
Letting go of our fear of intimacy.
Becoming a love finder.
Counting our blessings.
Focusing on love rather than on appearances.
Walking through life more lightly.
Living in a consciousness of giving rather than getting.
Recognizing that there is something greater than ourselves.
The essence of Attitudinal Healing is learning to release all thoughts from our minds except love thoughts. It is correcting the misperception that we are separate from each other and that others are attacking us. It is relinquishing the need to analyze, interpret, and evaluate our relationships. Attitudinal Healing is simply seeing others as extending love or as being fearful and asking for love. It is letting go of fear and guilt and choosing to see everyone, including ourselves, as innocent. Attitudinal Healing occurs when we make the decision to teach only love
The Twelve Principles of Attitudinal Healing
The essence of being is love.
Health is inner peace.
Giving and receiving are the same.
We can let go of the past and the future.
Now is the only time there is.
We learn to love ourselves and others by forgiving rather than judging.
We can become love-finders rather than faultfinders.
We can be peaceful inside regardless of what is happening outside.
We are students and teachers to each other.
We can focus on the whole of our lives rather than on the fragments.
Because love is eternal, death need not be viewed as fearful.
We can always see ourselves and others as extending love or giving a call for help.
A DEFINITION OF ATTITUDINAL HEALING
by Patricia Robinson
Co-Founder of International Center for Attitudinal Healing
Attitudinal Healing is not just adjusting or adapting our attitudes; rather, it is consciously choosing to let go of our fearful attitudes. It is a spiritual pathway that seeks to adopt a non-judgmental attitude toward oneself, others, and the world. The goal is not to change behavior, but to retrain and reprogram the most powerful instrument of change we possess, our own mind.
It is possible to have a single goal of peace of mind and a single function of practicing forgiveness. In doing this, we can learn to heal any of our relationships, experience peace of mind, and to let go of our fears. When we create positive energy within us, Attitudinal Healing can become a creative force in our lives.
The Twelve Principles of Attitudinal Healing are as follows:
1. THE ESSENCE OF OUR BEING IS LOVE, AND LOVE IS ETERNAL
Love can never be adequately explained or described. Love can only be experienced. Attitudinal Healing is really concerned with experiencing love rather than defining it.
Love, itself, is an energy force. It remains constant and is eternal. It is what scientists call the “life-force,” that which cannot yet be measured but is known to exist. It is a pure energy that flows through us. If it is not blocked by pain, anxiety, anger, all manifestations of fear, we can recognize the essence of love and learn to feel peaceful inside.
It is important to constantly work at clearing our minds and realize that the energy of love is all there is, and that which we call negative emotions keeps us from this sensation. We can learn to experience a life that is about loving ourselves and extending that love to others.
This is different than the way much of society views love. To the world, love is something that we want to GET from someone else coupled with the fear that we won’t have enough. When we live in this fear we are unable to give love freely. That is the work of the ego. Love, which cannot be evaluated or measured is to be shared.
The essence of love plays a large part in physical healing, as well. In one of our groups at our Center, a woman in her mid-fifties was complaining that she had been plagued by a constant back pain for about nine years. She insisted that she had never been without this pain for a moment. We asked her if she would be willing to partake in a small experiment. She agreed. We then asked the group of about fifteen people if they would be willing to send this woman love with their thoughts for about thirty seconds. All participants agreed. We then asked the woman if she would be willing to do the same, to send love back to the group at the same time. She did agree and we began.
It was a wonderful half a minute as we all focused on a single goal; that of sending love to another. When the thirty seconds were up, the tendency was to evaluate what had transpired. We, the facilitators, cautioned about that, and the meeting continued on with a lot deeper sharing than had gone on before. At the end of the meeting, the woman with the back pain excitedly said, “I just can’t stand it. I have to tell you that for the last hour I have not had any pain in my back.”
This example happened a long time ago, but it has remained implanted forever in my mind as a lesson in trust. What occurred in this meeting was not something tangible that could be seen or measured. The only thing that was happening for me at the time was my intent to feel love for this woman. My goal was not to take her pain away, make myself feel better, or whatever. It was only to be in the present, send love, and not be concerned with the outcome. It was a powerful lesson for me to realize that thoughts can be transmitted clearly and felt by another at a very deep level.
2. HEALTH IS INNER PEACE, HEALING IS LETTING GO OF FEAR
In order for us to feel inner peace, we first have to make it our single goal. We can then start to release all the obstacles that stand in our way.
We experience many emotions in our body. They are all related to fear, but to us they have many forms. Anger, jealousy, guilt, depression, or whatever, arise in us all the time. It is important for us to know that we have a choice about how we want to deal with these feelings. We can become helpless and be a victim, or we can actually change these feelings. The mind is the most powerful tool we have and we can use it to change these hurtful feelings.
For us to do this, we must become both aware and willing to change. We must get in touch with our inner voice, the one that is connected to our higher self instead of our self that is governed by the ego. It is the voice inside that tells us your truth without judgment. The next step is to go to the experience of the emotion.
For instance, when we feel what we would describe as anger comes up, it is very important to get in touch with it. This means that we experience it, acknowledge it, and are gentle with it. We in no way deny our anger because it is a very normal feeling and does not need to have a “bad” label put on it. Doing so only creates another emotion to deal with, that of guilt. It is only when we truly get in touch with our own anger that we can begin to change it. This can actually be done in an instant. It does not have to be processed at great length. Sometimes it is not really necessary to know the “why” and “how”. These words can often lead to more turmoil in our lives. When inner peace becomes our only goal, we can recognize that holding on to anger does not bring us peace of mind.
An amazing woman came to the Center about ten years ago. She was in a devastated state as her nine-year-old daughter had been diagnosed with severe leukemia. She was in Dr. Jerry Jampolsky’s office, when she heard him say that she could actually, at this moment, choose peace instead of experiencing the pain she was in. She managed, somehow, to really hear his meaning and was able to instantly shift her perception. This woman became one of our most active volunteers at the Center for many years and was able to help dozens of parents who were going through what she went through. This does not mean that she said, “You can choose peace” to each person when they were completely devastated. It means that she was there for them wherever they were. And because of her own experience, she was able to rely on her own inner strength so that she could be of help in any way she was needed.
Seeing the instant shift in the woman I just described was a remarkable experience for me. It was a lesson that told me that “nothing is impossible.”
3. GIVING AND RECEIVING ARE THE SAME
There are many people in this world who are labeled givers. Givers usually have a hard time learning how to receive. There are also receivers, who are great at receiving but don’t really know how to give. Givers are usually rescuers who manipulate the other person. If the person doesn’t respond to their expectations they are disappointed. The receiver, on the other hand, makes many demands on another and never seems to get his or her needs met. Both look to the external world to fulfill their needs, and both tend to have emptiness inside.
The Attitudinal Healing definition of giving and receiving comes from another place. It is egoless. There are no conditions, no expectations, and no boundaries put on the extension of people sharing love. When we have no goal or desire to change another person, or no need to get anything from them, a different dynamic takes place. We are actually only there for that person in an egoless way, and we can start to feel a sense of inner peace.
As we begin to feel a sense of joining with another person, we seem to forget about ourselves. We become less concerned about our own feelings as we extend and expand. It is at this point that one feels the gift of giving and receiving becoming one. The supply is endless, and we become more and more full.
This kind of interaction takes place in our groups at the Center each week. The Center provides a safe place for people to extend themselves towards others. They are able to forget their self-consciousness and through this become empowered with love to be able to reach out toward another without expecting something in return. At this point the person who is being helped almost automatically can let go of fears or anxieties and become one with those in the room. When people are truly operating in this mode, fears are released and healing begins to take place.
4. WE CAN LET GO OF THE PAST AND OF THE FUTURE
The past is there for our learning. All of our experiences are valuable ones and add to our growth if we choose to view it that way. Things that we have done that we label as “wrong” are merely experiences for us to learn from and build upon. It does not serve us, however, to dwell on the past. Things like “if only I had done this or that” or “I wish it were different” only serve to hinder us.
The fact is that we are in the present and we need to deal with what is going on NOW. This, again, is done by retraining our minds to stay aware and alert. It is so easy to slip into either the past or the future, but we are not truly alive unless we are living in the present moment.
The future can be exciting or scary depending on what is going on in our lives. We can dwell on the anxieties of the future all we want, but it surely does not give us any peace. There is an important distinction here. All this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t make plans for our future. Of course that is important. The distinction is that while we are making plans for the future, our consciousness remains in the present. We can’t foresee the future, so it isn’t productive to dwell on what may or may not happen. We can only set our intentions for the future, like making reservations, and then take steps to make them happen when they actually manifest and become the present.
The important aspect of this Principle is that we can elect to change past thoughts that are not beneficial, or that are hurtful. To do this, it is important to become aware of them, and then make a conscious decision to let them go. If they come back again, we just repeat the process. Every time something comes up that we don’t want to hang onto, we can make a fresh decision to erase the tape. One of the concepts that is particularly valuable in Attitudinal healing is “My mind can change all thoughts that hurt.” This is a powerful tool if we want to change our perceptions and create a new reality.
5. NOW IS THE ONLY TIME THERE IS AND EACH INSTANT IS FOR GIVING
This Principle is designed to help us stay in the present moment. It is very easy to lapse into the past or build up anxiety about the future. When we do this, we are often not peaceful. When we recognize this, we can focus our attention back to the present where it is possible to experience peace. If we stay in the present, we are best able to deal with anything that comes our way. If we are someplace else, it is not possible to make decisions. In essence, NOW is the only time there is. It is in the NOW that the love energy comes through us. It is in the NOW that we are not judgmental and we can see clearly what is going on.
We cannot control the external world. We will never be peaceful if we try to do so. We can, however, learn to control our thoughts. As we change our thoughts from those of getting to those of giving, we will start to notice evident changes in the outside world.
My most profound experience of an example of what can happen was when I was in Moscow recently with a group called “Children as Teachers of Peace” with Dr. Jampolsky who is Founder of the Project. We were at a press conference with the head of the Youth Organization of the USSR, the Young Pioneers. He gave a forty-five minute speech about how it was the fault of the United States that relations were not better between the two countries, etc.
We all listened to his speech and when he asked for questions from the children, they responded in a way he did not expect. They, one at a time, told this man how good the Russian people had been to us, how, if the people of the United States knew of the kindnesses of the Russians that we had met that there would be no wars, and they gave a donation from each of the children towards the Chernobyl disaster. As each young person spoke from his or her heart the man began to transform. His face began to soften and have more color. His eyes became moist. He came from being very guarded to being very responsive. I went up to him and spoke to him after the meeting. He thanked us so much for coming and it was clear to me that he was a different person than when he walked into the room. I, too, was a different person. I was so moved, that I felt in my heart that it actually could be possible to have peaceful relationships in spite of all obstacles that seem to be in the way.
6. WE CAN LEARN TO LOVE OURSELVES AND OTHERS BY FORGIVING RATHER THAN JUDGING
Whenever we make a judgment on another person, we make a judgment on ourselves. Forgiveness, in the Attitudinal Healing sense, does not mean condoning or agreeing with another’s behavior or setting ourselves apart and choosing to forgive someone because we feel they did something wrong. It merely means that forgiveness is a vehicle to clarify our misperceptions.
Simply stated, FORGIVENESS IS LETTING GO; choosing not to hang on to a belief that will cause us inner turmoil. In the sense of self, it is up to us to forgive ourselves first by taking responsibility for loving ourselves enough to no longer suffer and to become self fulfilled.
Using an “attack” as an example, there is a concept in the Course in Miracles that helps us to look at another person, not as attacking us, but as either asking for help or needing love. In relationships, this is often a most difficult principle to grasp, because our ego mind says that we are being attacked. The fact, however, is that there are no true realities, only perceptions.
A perception is something that, with focus and willingness, our minds are able to change. If we learn to see ourselves as the essence of love, we will have no need to defend ourselves and we can look at the other person in a different light. If we can start to realize that it is only in the places that we feel unconfident or lacking in some way that we can “have our buttons pushed.” When we feel OK about ourselves, there is less of a problem with how another person is behaving. Again, it is only our own perceptions that make us feel that we are being attacked. We have the choice to fill up with the powerful love energy so that we are able to not even have to defend ourselves.
7. WE CAN BECOME LOVE FINDERS RATHER THAN FAULT-FINDERS
It is very easy to find fault with others. We sometimes feel that if the other person would only change, then we would be much happier. This is another illusion. No one has to change for us to be happy. It is up to us to create our own happiness. When we look for faults in others, it is because we don’t necessarily want to see what might be the same fault, or what we fear could become a fault, in ourselves. Criticizing others is often just an outward manifestation of what is going on inside of our selves.
To practice Attitudinal Healing our job is to start to forgive, stop judging, and to love ourselves and others. When we begin to do these three things on a conscious level, we will automatically begin to see people and things differently. Gray days will not necessarily be “bad” days; they will simply become gray days as opposed to sunny days. We will start to see the light in each person, because there is a light in all of us. Some of us try very hard to cover it up, but since it is the very essence of us, at some level it will shine through. The more we can let our own light shine through, the more we can begin to see the light in others.
8. WE CAN CHOOSE AND DIRECT OURSELVES TO BE PEACEFUL INSIDE REGARDLESS OF WHAT IS HAPPENING OUTSIDE
If we wish to choose inner peace as our single goal, then we can realize that we need not be triggered by our external world which is a different belief system than we are used to. We all know how the world defends righteous anger and how it supports us to hang onto it. We can do what the world supports, or we can take responsibility for our own feelings, go inside, and choose to get rid of our anger, guilt, judgment, or whatever.
We are not robots. A robot is run by the outside world. Its buttons are pushed and it is programmed to do whatever someone wants it to do. We do not have to perform like a robot. We are free to do, to feel, and to act in a way that can give us the most peace. In essence, we can realize that no one is really able to “make” us feel happy, sad, lonely, or angry. We often feel this is the case when we say, “if only my spouse would act this way or that way, I would be happier.”
The truth is that we can all use these situations as a practice to work on ourselves. We can, at this time, go inside and see how we can change our perceptions of what is going on to make us more peaceful. To try to change the way the other person behaves is manipulation and control, and in the long run, simply won’t work. We can never change another person; we can only change ourselves. This takes awareness and willingness to keep monitoring our feelings so that we can recognize, acknowledge, and actively choose to alter them. It takes presence and courage to keep reflecting so that we can begin to change.
9. WE ARE STUDENTS AND TEACHERS TO EACH OTHER
As we begin to look at everyone we come in contact with as our teachers, we begin to look at life in another way. We become more observant and become better listeners. We begin to see that there is no order of learning, and that probably children are our best teachers.
Children are open and honest. They have not yet put up the barriers that we adults do. Our barriers are our protective covering that we can learn to release by being with children. The concept of student/teacher means that we don’t necessarily know what is best for another person. Nor do we have to. Only each of us knows what is best for ourselves. The learning comes with the shared exploration of knowledge with each other where we can build relationships to learn and grow.
It takes away from the hierarchical, vertical type of learning and puts it in a horizontal plain where interchanging student and teacher can make active contributions for the ultimate benefit of the whole. In this type of relationship we tend to feel the freedom to explore ourselves more fully. We have permission to go deeper and not be judged as wrong or foolish. It is this continual effort to give and receive from one another that lets us learn from each other how to experience love. From this we deepen and from this we grow.
10. WE CAN FOCUS ON THE WHOLE OF LIFE RATHER THAN THE FRAGMENTS
In order to feel inner peace we need to begin to focus an at-oneness with ourselves and those around us. This means that we can begin to dispel the feelings of separateness which consistently cause us only pain. It is another of those barriers we put up to protect ourselves from being hurt. When we get caught in the right/wrong, good/bad trap, we are only seeing a fragment of the whole. When we play this game, there is no way that we can be peaceful. It is always a no win situation regardless of what the momentary outcome may be.
We can learn to have a new attitude toward ourselves, others around us, and the world we see. We can recognize that there is a greater whole other than the tunnel vision through which we sometimes look. Through an active power within us, we can learn to sense a greater picture. This power allows us to expand and become aware of this greater whole so that we don’t need to get caught up in the conflict that others are experiencing. The conflict they are going through is their path, not ours. Our job is to stay focused so that we can begin to see each situation differently and not become a part of a meaningless pattern. To do this we raise our consciousness to a higher level of awareness by retraining our minds as each situation arises.
We can say to ourselves, “I do not choose to get caught up in what is happening right now, but instead, I choose to see the whole of life.” By doing this, our focus broadens and changes and we start to see things differently. There is a tremendous excitement in the experience of the changes that take place inside us just by changing our thought patterns.
11. SINCE LOVE IS ETERNAL, DEATH NEED NOT BE VIEWED AS FEARFUL
To conceptualize this Principle, we go back to Principle number one, “The essence of our being is love and love is eternal.” If we believe that life is eternal, the fear of death can be removed. When we reaffirm our belief system that the love that is our essence goes on and that we simply enter a new form, we can erase the fear of death. To the extent that we can erase the fear of death, we can truly begin to live fully in the present.
12. WE CAN ALWAYS PERCEIVE OTHERS AS EITHER EXTENDING LOVE OR AS FEARFUL, GIVING A CALL FOR HELP
This Principle is an extraordinary tool to be able to use in dealing with relationships. If we can keep this in mind as we interact with others, we will be able to mold our interactions in a more desirable way. When we are in a relationship with another person and it is clear that they are extending their love to us, there is usually never any problem. We can receive the feeling of love and support and respond with our love and support. We feel no conflict and things seem to readily get resolved.
If, on the other hand, we feel for whatever reason that we are being attacked, we tend to put up our defenses and either retreat or attack back. The flight or fight response goes into action. It is a conditioned response that we have learned to use to protect ourselves from being hurt. If we can begin to see this person that appears to be attacking us as a person who is coming from fear, we can begin to see a whole new dimension of the dynamics of the situation.
To develop the use of this Principle, as with all the others, we begin by retraining our minds to focus differently. It again means going inside to take responsibility for our own thoughts and not put the blame on another person for our own reactions in a moment of stress.
We are responsible for our own peace of mind and not that of another person. It may mean that as we listen to the words as they are being spoken to us, we focus on this Principle as what may appear as an attack is actually an expression of fear and a call for help.. When we do this, another dynamic begins to happen. As we become defenseless in the moment there is a shift in the energy and “the attacker” will feel it. He or she will not continue on with the same sense of urgency with which they began, because our shift in perception will create a space that will enable a new dynamic to occur. This new dynamic will change the pattern and the quality of our relationships.
In order to make these Principles work for us, we first choose to take complete responsibility for our thought patterns. We learn to become alert and cognizant at all times. Living in the NOW is essential to Attitudinal Healing for in the past and in the future our fears crop up.
Fear is the antithesis of love and it is impossible to live in both frameworks at the same time. If we want to live in love, we can do it by letting go of our fears of both the past and of the future. The reality is that in the moment we can handle it, no matter what we happen to be facing. Living in the moment we are able to deal with whatever may come along, be it emotional, physical or spiritual pain.
To begin to retrain our minds, it is helpful to keep a list of the Twelve Principles of Attitudinal Healing handy for quick reference. When we get into difficult situations it is important to be able to recognize that we can immediately change the focus of anything that may occur. We can choose any one of the Principles to help us at any time we wish. We can read them all or we can just choose one that relates to what is going on. No matter how we work with the Principles, we will find that we are able to change our attitudes very quickly and consequently change the dynamics of what is happening externally. The external circumstances may or may not actually change, but by our changing our perception, we will learn to both see and experience the world differently.
Attitudinal Healing takes willingness, awareness, openness and practice. That is all that is needed. It is important to not get discouraged with what may seem like failures. These are only learning experiences that will lead us on our path. Everything that happens to us happens for our learning, and from that point we can choose again so that our learning never stops.
(Written July 7, 1987)
Copyright Jerry Jampolsky & Diane Cirincione 2006. All Rights Reserved
I couldn’t find a Wikipedia entry for Brown, but I did find this on Facebook:
Recovery for those with NPD/narcissism
This was written by a man [Tony Brown] diagnosed with NPD, who recovered with therapy, and went on to found a site for those with narcissistic traits or NPD. I believe that recovery is possible for many, but that it takes a real commitment to work and change. I’ve read lots of his writings and I believe he essentially recovered, though a pull towards certain ways of thinking remained with him. He married and it was a good marriage. He died unexpectedly from a heart attack, as I recall, but he left a family and friends who cared greatly for him, a good legacy. Here are his thoughts on some aspects of recovery…
Some of the Factors that Affect NPDers Chance at Recovery
By Tony Brown
Healing is possible without exception for all persons who have Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). [I would gather this means malignant narcissists and maybe even certain psychopaths can be treated successfully!]
Having this condition is not an excuse not to take responsibility for yourself or justify destructive acts simply because that is what NPDers do. In this article we will look at some of the factors that may influence how successful those with this condition may be in achieving healing.
The first variable is whether you are in a crisis. It is common for persons to seek therapy either during or in the aftermath of an emotional crisis, i.e., divorce or end of a relationship, being terminated from work, substance abuse, or death of someone close to you. It is common for a person going through such a crisis to see how they have limited access to their feelings and have acted in destructive ways throughout their life. [This would be the Narcissistic Crisis described by Vaknin as necessary for a window of healing to open]
Coming to this place of awareness is an important step as it often leads persons to seek some form of treatment. Working through the crisis is essential though it is just the beginning of the healing journey. Very often a person will believe that they never had these feelings, or lack of feelings, or never acted destructively prior to this crisis. They may believe that resolving this crisis is the entire work of healing when in reality it is just the beginning for those of us who truly have NPD. If you stop looking and working on yourself once the immediate crisis is over there is a very good chance another crisis will come, and another one after that until you allow yourself to look at the whole picture of your life.
In reality it is almost impossible to do the actual work of healing until you have been able to achieve a peaceful or productive resolution to your crisis. A person in crisis often believes that their pain is so overwhelming that whatever their crisis may be it defines everything about their true identity. They are unable to step back and look at the good points in their life or see how their pain is not all consuming. If you truly have NPD it is essential to keep working on yourself after the crisis has passed so you can free yourself from this seemingly endless cycle of one crisis after the other.
Another important factor in your being able to recover is whether you have a support network of family and friends. It is emotionally draining to face yourself at the level required to recover from NPD. Having persons around you who can offer support away from therapy can be helpful in relieving some of the stress that is almost guaranteed to come along with therapy. Your therapist will expect you to not become overly dependent upon him and begin developing a life where he is playing less of a role in daily living. These persons don’t have to be well versed on NPD. You might be able to begin developing such a network among family, friends, perhaps coworkers, ministers of members of real world support groups. The most important thing is they are compassionate listeners who are not judging you as flawed or evil. Once such a network is established you need to allow yourself to trust these people and to call upon them both when life is feeling painful and when things are going well and you just want to establish more of a connection with other people. [Having a support system during the False Self final breakdown and emotional catharsis phase which will be too painful to go through alone]
The matter of paying your therapy bill can in some cases be a factor in the overall success of your recovery. Accepting responsibility for your own bill is an essential step in becoming a functional adult. Sometimes a well intending friend of romantic partner may offer to pay all or some of your bill thinking this will help you get passed your emotional dysfunctions. If this is for a short period with a clear understanding you are going to pay them back and than assume full responsibility for all further costs this is probably not a problem. However, if you are making no effort to find a job or do whatever is needed to get yourself in a position of responsibility this has a very high risk of stalling rather than enhancing your healing.
This is a point that is as important for your friends and family to understand and accept as it may be for you. They may believe that whatever it takes to get you into therapy is worth it to them, including paying for your sessions. Once again if this is a short term solution it may not be harmful. However, the sooner you are paying for your own therapy the sooner you will have a personal investment in the process. Such an investment will, hopefully, inspire you to work harder and get the most of the therapy you can afford. You are entitled to heal but you are not entitled to a free ride where others are paying your way. Addressing feelings of entitlement is one of the areas many NPDers face and this is just one of the areas where it plays out in your practical daily living. If you are serious about your therapy and appear to be making progress you may find your therapist is willing to make payment arrangements. If you fail to honor such arrangements or if they become aware someone else is paying your therapy bill they may decide to terminate the partnership.
Arguably the biggest variable in your recovery is how much do you want to heal? Are you only in therapy to appease a spouse, family, or maybe a coworker or boss? If so the chances of your therapy bringing any true healing ranges between slim and none. You may be able to develop some new skills, but in all likelihood true recovery will remain elusive. Therapy will require you to experience extreme pain, view areas of your life that will make you very uncomfortable, and will drain you at physical and emotional levels. Being able to sustain yourself and do this work will require a deep commitment unlike any you’ve likely ever made at any other juncture in your existence. It most definitely can be accomplished but you have to want it almost more than you have ever wanted anything before. You will have to push yourself to keep going even when you want to stop. How well you are able to experience and resolve conflicts, depression and other events throughout your therapy will depend to a large extent on this single question: How much do you really want it?
I’m adding this description too, from an ad from The Oasis Institute.. it’s a more general overview.
What Is Attitudinal Healing?
Attitudinal Healing is a philosophy based on the belief that it is not people or conditions outside ourselves that cause us to be upset. We are not victims of the world we see. Rather, our perceptions, beliefs and attitudes are the source of our conflict, pain and unhappiness. We are not only responsible for our own thoughts; we are responsible for the feelings we experience. By exploring these feelings, we can eventually heal them.
Attitudinal Healing defines health as inner peace, and healing as letting go of fear. It emphasizes listening with empathy and without judgment or advice. It views the purpose of communication as joining and regards happiness as a choice. Everyone is recognized as a teacher; therefore, we are students and teachers to each other.
This philosophy, and a process for applying it in a support group format, was originally developed at The Center for Attitudinal Healing, now known as CorStone. Jerry Jampolsky, a San Francisco area psychiatrist, was motivated to create a safe place for children with life-threatening illnesses to come to talk after overhearing an eight-year old boy ask a physician in a pediatric oncology ward, “What is it like to die?” and observing that the doctor changed the subject. Dr. Jampolsky and three friends formed this center in 1975. Since then, a network of independent organizations modeling the work of Dr. Jampolsky and his colleagues has been created in several cities in the United States and in more than thirty other countries.
The goal of an attitudinal healing group is inner peace. The Center’s Person-To-Person groups are for adults who wish to enhance the quality of life experiences by learning how to apply the principles of attitudinal healing in both their personal and professional lives.
All groups are facilitated by volunteers trained in the model of peer group support developed by The Center for Attitudinal Healing.
Group members read the Guidelines for Attitudinal Healing Groups and the 12 Principles of Attitudinal Healing at the beginning of each meeting. The Guidelines establish a group protocol, and the Principles are used by group members as tools for learning how to change painful perceptions and beliefs.
Group discussion involves not only issues of personal growth but also other issues relevant to the concerns of the group members.
Groups meet weekly, and there is no fee. Group size is limited.