Why DBT and mindfulness is helping me get more out of therapy.

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For anyone suffering from BPD who wants to undergo psychodynamic or trauma therapy, I definitely recommend taking some DBT (or CBT) classes first. This also applies to people with complex PTSD, as the symptoms of C-PTSD and BPD can be almost the same (and for Borderlines, usually co-exist together).

I’ve been in therapy many times throughout my life, but I never stuck with it before. I usually would quit, because I either gave up in frustration or things got too intense. My first instinct whenever things in life would get too uncomfortable was to run. I had zero insight into myself or why I reacted (or overreacted) to things the way I did. I always thought everything was someone else’s fault. Yet I was constantly apologizing for things that weren’t my fault. I know that’s confusing, but I was confused. I was ignorant about boundaries and then wondered why others got offended when I unwittingly invaded theirs. Either that or I put up too many boundaries, not letting anyone in or rejecting people who tried to get too close.  I had a martyr complex, always felt picked on and ganged up on, was constantly paranoid and hypervigilant, always feeling like everyone hated me and was out to get me. I was ready to go off on someone or act out at the slightest provocation, believing I was being attacked unfairly. I was much more likely to attack things than people (I was constantly breaking things; self harm was never really my thing) but my violence toward objects and verbal tirades still upset those around me and upset me too after the fact. People always told me I overreacted to everything, but I always felt like it was somehow justified. I couldn’t see the part I might have been playing in all that.

To be fair, I was horrifically abused both as a child and as an adult, so my paranoia and distrust of others wasn’t completely unfounded. I was trained to be a victim and tended to act in ways that ensured I would remain a victim, without knowing I was doing so. I still struggle with this. I still tend toward codependency.  I still find it hard to connect with people in any meaningful way.   I’m a long way from being the person I want to be or that I could have become, and I may never get there completely. But there’s a big difference between the way I am now and the way I used to be. Mindfulness.

mindfulness

What is mindfulness? It’s the ability to think before you act, be aware of your own actions and reactions, and have insight into your own motives and why you do the things you do. It’s staying in the present, instead of fretting about the past or worrying about the future. It’s being able to step back mentally and see yourself the way others see you. Being mindful keeps you from acting out in ways you might regret later on. You’re not constantly apologizing because you acted out without knowing, because you can stop yourself before you do. Being mindful is like receiving a pair of magic glasses that allows you a view of yourself you never had before. You might think that having this “inner critic” would make you self-conscious, fearful and awkward, but ironically, it does the opposite. Because you have the ability to know how to act before you act, you have more control over yourself, and therefore more control over how others react to you. Slowly, you begin to find that people are reacting more positively to you, and you have fewer reasons to lash out at others or overreact to things. You begin to trust others more, because you trust yourself more.

Mindfulness is a wonderful tool in therapy, and is helping me get so much more out of it than I ever did before. I took DBT classes in 1996, when I was first diagnosed with BPD, and at the time I sort of blew them off. Because I was still in my abusive marriage, I was still very sick and not really ready to do the work. As long as I stayed with my narcissist, I was not going to get any better, but I didn’t know that. My ex had me convinced that I was the problem, not him. Because of his triangulation and gaslighting, he had everyone else convinced I was the crazy one too and he was just the put-upon victim. He’d systematically goad me into a BPD rage, knowing he could, and then with a smirk of satisfaction, tell everyone how insane I was. His personality and manner came off as more cool and collected than mine did, so I probably really did look crazier and more out of control than he did. But he was pulling all the strings.

Anyway, back to mindfulness. It wasn’t until early in 2014, when I finally went VLC (very low contact) with him (and kicked him out of the house), that I started to change. First I started to write and that’s why I started this blog. Writing every day helped me gain insight into myself and my narcissists. After a few more months, I began to realize I needed to make a few changes to myself. I pulled out my DBT workbook (Marsha Linehan’s Skills Training Manual for Borderline Personality Disorder) and began to do some of the exercises. I had already been doing a few of the things, but this time I took it more seriously and tried some of the things I hadn’t before. One of those things was paying attention to my internal, bodily state whenever I felt an unpleasant emotion. By doing this, I was able to begin to name what I was feeling. Emotions are very physical things. By naming an emotion, you can allow yourself to feel it, realize it’s just an emotion and not “you,” and learn to have more control over it.

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In therapy, I find I’m constantly focusing in on my bodily state, whether there’s any tightness, pain or strange sensations. There always seems to be pressure or tightness in my stomach, chest and throat that goes away when I can name the feeling and begin to express it. Being mindful this way of my internal state and naming my feelings, I’m much less likely to act out against other people or break things. I’m working now on breaking down the protective emotional wall I’ve developed that overlies softer feelings of sadness, grief, empathy, and connection with others. For many years it seemed the only emotions I ever could access were fear (sometimes straight up terror), shame, guilt, anger, and rage–and mind-numbing, zombielike depressions where all I wanted to do was sleep.

There are many ways to be mindful. Some of them are very simple, like counting to ten before acting. Others require more concentration. We need to learn how to self-soothe, something we never learned how to do as babies or young children. Being mindful allows you room to learn self soothing techniques. The insight you gain into yourself by being mindful also allows you the ability and courage to dig deep when you decide to undergo psychodynamic therapy. You’re going to experience powerful emotions when you’re searching for the root causes of your illness, and being mindful allows you to experience them without overreacting, acting out…or quitting therapy.

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Healing a narcissist is like performing a skeleton transplant.

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Credit: notrightinthehead.net

While it’s theoretically possible to heal NPD (some psychologists like Masterson and Kohut specialize in healing narcissistic and borderline disorders and have had results), in the real world, it’s exceedingly difficult and has rarely worked. As a self-diagnosed narcissistic young man recently said to me, for a full-blown narcissist to be cured (rather than simply treated for symptoms) would be no less daunting and excruciating than undergoing a skeleton transplant. It’s a good analogy.

Full blown NPD is almost always so deeply ingrained in the personality–since early childhood in most cases–that to remove it would practically remove the person’s whole personality. Its removal could even kill them (they would be driven to suicide as the False Self gives way to the true one).

But not quite. There is a tiny, atrophied but still-living seed deep inside every narcissist that never got to grow into a plant: the True Self.

Back in November, I wrote a post called “Could Reparenting Actually Cure a Narcissist.” That was around the time I became deeply interested in whether or not such a therapy–one that addressed the root causes of NPD rather than treating symptoms–could actually work, and since then I’ve have read a lot more about it and know a lot more than I did.

At that time, I came up with a series of 4 steps (based on the work of various professionals who specialize in NPD) that might be able to cure NPD in some cases:

Stage 1: The Narcissistic Crisis. A narcissist may enter therapy when their entire world falls apart and they have lost their primary (or all of their) sources of narcissistic supply. Like an addict without a fix, he will be in pain and may submit to therapy at that point–anything to diminish the pain of loss. The therapist must not offer the patient any narcissistic supply during this time! They must simply listen and make the narcissist feel safe enough to open up and talk.

Stage 2: Cold therapy/cold empathy. The therapist must continue to not give the narcissist any supply while not enraging them either. It’s a delicate balance and the narcissist is likely to project their anger and frustrations onto the therapist who is refusing them supply. Working from the rage and frustration, the therapist can guide the narcissist to think about the reasons why they feel so much rage, and start to address the trauma and hurt behind the rage. This may take a very long time and the narcissist is likely to leave therapy. Another reason the therapist must not give the narcissist any supply is because once the narcissist gets supply, like a drug addict, they may feel good enough to leave therapy.

Stage 3: Reparenting. The therapist takes the place of the mother who abused/rejected the narcissist as a child. Physical contact may be necessary and a waiver can be signed to allow limited nonsexual touching. At this point the narcissist will be in great pain and will internalize the unconditional support/maternal “love” the therapist will be giving, mostly through listening and not judging one way or the other. The therapist must remain empathetic and at the same time detached enough to not allow the narcissist to try to manipulate them (which they will be trying to do).

Stage 4: Retraining and Internalizing the Conscience. When the painful emotions from the past are addressed and released, the therapist can start the recovering narcissist in an intensive brain-retraining program in pro-social behaviors and developing a conscience, just as a young child would. This would probably require institutionalization in a very restrictive setting, such as a hospital or high security rehab center. The narcissist would need to “earn back” privileges by having none to begin with. They would be forced to ask permission to do anything at all, and rewarded and punished for bad or good behaviors. At the same time they would attend classes on empathy and given opportunities to practice and eventually internalize this new brain connection.

I have no idea if such a program would actually work, but in the best case scenario, I think it could. Most narcissists won’t stick it out though, so maybe it could be instituted on narcissistic prisoners, who cannot leave prison, or those in mental hospitals (depressed narcissists are often hospitalized).

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Today I read an article by Melanie Tonia Evans, called “What Would It Take for a Narcissist to Heal?” Her idea for curing a narcissist is remarkably similar to what I’ve proposed (and others have proposed):

The Narcissist’s “Healing Cell”
I remember years ago (unfortunately I can’t remember the source, so if anyone knows please tell me!) I came across an article regarding a person’s theory about how a narcissist could heal.

Knowing what I know now I agree…

It goes like this…

The solution:

Solitary confinement with no possibility of contact with the outside world, or the gaining of narcissistic supply.

Then, a committed effort to meet and release the original emotional traumas.

Then, stimulation and re-learning of empathy, compassion, connection to life and others, and integrity. Effectively re-parenting where these brain pathways left off, in order to catch them up to present time.

Truly – what narcissist is going to go through that? What facility is there to have that happen?

Additionally there would have to be every method possible to stop the narcissist committing suicide, because if narcissistic supply was removed, the narcissist would not want to live.

Please note I am not stating this is the case for people with mere ego issues or even narcissistic tendencies.

I believe everyone – co-dependents, and even ‘normal’ people all have varying degrees of survival mechanisms which are creating them to be not aligned in the true harmony of Who They Are.

All of these fears emenate from inner wounds that we closed down inside of us and tried to protect.

I have worked with thousands of people with confronting and releasing inner wounds, as well as confronting and releasing my own inner wounds, and I know the courage and commitment it takes to face them, to let them go and be free of them.

And I know that the people who decide to do this, need to commit to dropping all addiction (avoidance techniques) to be willing to be with and meet their pain in order to finally deal with it, and be liberated from it.

That’s what personal evolution and growth is all about.

Quick fixes, opting out, and self-avoidance just doesn’t cut it!

I have seen people who have had enough of living a life through their inner wounds, absolutely make the decision enough is enough and do the work.

Interestingly, I have been receiving many more than normal emails from people claiming to be narcissists who have had enough of the pain, and want to heal.

I refer all of these people onto the Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Program. Their healing is identical to the healing for co-dependents. It is ALL about healing the traumas of abuse, and releasing fear, pain and survival programs.

These people may be in narcissistic injury and will discredit the Program later, or maybe the pain has become greater than the False Self – and maybe they are not fully NPD.

It is individuals suffering with NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) who I believe are incapable of doing this.

My definition of NPD is when a person has crossed the line into malicious, pathological, and conscienceless behaviour.

– See more at: http://blog.melanietoniaevans.com/what-would-it-take-for-a-narcissist-to-heal/#sthash.IN7qE2ct.dpuf

Evans goes on to explain why therapies that only address the narcissist’s behaviors (like CBT) don’t really work because they never even get close to addressing and releasing the original trauma that caused the NPD.

The most effective therapy for someone with NPD would be pretty much the same trauma therapy that works on people with other trauma-based disorders such as C-PTSD and PTSD–because NPD *is* trauma-based. But she also admits that a narcissist sticking out such a program for the duration (and it can take years) is highly unlikely. They are most likely to flee therapy during the painful process of retrieving memories and releasing painful emotions, because narcissism is all about masking painful emotions. She explains it this way:

It’s sad, and it’s tragic because narcissists are the product of abuse, sometimes bad genetics, and often cruel violence, abandonment or pathological engulfment.

They did not ‘choose’ logically to kill off their True Self and live a pathological life – being more and more taken over by a painful, empty, angry , demanding and never appeased False Self.

However, we have to realise the truth.

There is no helping someone who won’t (or can’t) help themselves.

Being attached to a narcissist is not like being attached to a helpless person such as a quadraplegic. I totally understand the devotion people have when they sacrifice their lives to lovingly assist others.

The narcissist, however, as this helpless to ‘get better’ person is viscious, calculating and he or she will abuse you all the way to your demise. THAT is why you need to stop trying to fix this person.

Whilst the False Self is on guard there is no breaking through to a narcissist, and no getting them to work on these deep inner wounds – which are EXACTLY what they have been avoiding, deflecting and projecting on to other people their entire life.

To meet the inner wounds is equal to annihilation for a narcissist – it just can’t be done.

Sam Vaknin describes it as the narcissist intuitively knowing that he or she does not have the inner resources to deal with the onslaught of these inner wounds. His belief is that a narcissist would risk a complete psychotic and catatonic breakdown if he or she did face these wounds.

Knowing what I know about energy healing – I do know it is possible in theory for a narcissist to energetically claim and clear wounds and re-connect back to the Source of wellbeing that all of us are connected to at some level…even narcissists.

It would be excruciating and gruelling, and incredibly painful – but (I believe) it could be done.

However, here is the sticking point.

The narcissist is addicted to narcissistic supply worse than a heroin addict is addicted to heroin. The narcissist literally feels like he or she would disappear into oblivion if not getting an energy supply (attention) from the outside. The narcissist has ‘killed off’ his or her connection to being an energy Source from ‘self’.

What this means is: the narcissist when feeling any emotional low (frequent) will frenetically need to get a ‘hit’ to try to offset the pain.

Deep inner healing and personal transformation for anyone is all about being with the pain and resisting these urges to self-avoid – and dealing directly with the pain instead.

The narcissist’s False Self is its own entity which has taken over the narcissist.

The False Self has all the reasons, all the excuses, and all the justifications to make what the narcissist does as ‘okay’.

It’s like a devil on the narcissist’s shoulder talking him or her into the most outrageous reactions and acts possible. Many narcissists (Sam Vaknin agrees) report that whilst doing these acts – it is like an out of body experience – it is like the False Self has completely taken over – and the narcissist is watching from the side lines unable to stop it happening.

That takes ‘knee jerk reaction’ to a whole new level.

So, is the False Self going to consistently go to a healing space over and over again, go within and leave alone the outside world and narcissistic supply in order to face and release deep inner traumatic wounds?

The answer is FIRMLY “No”…

What I have observed is that it is only narcissists in deep narcissistic injury ( life has hit SO hard), and are literally on their knees, who will dedicate time to inner healing. The reason is because when life kicks someone that hard – the ego is temporarily too injured to operate.

Life can be a HUGE humbler in the face of shocking catastrophe.

However, the narcissist’s brain has been established and hard wired onto obtaining narcissistic supply for most of their life.

Therefore as soon as a therapist grants the narcissist enough attention (narcissistic supply) for the False Self to reinstate itself again, those brain pathways start firing again, and the narcissist’s humility is incredibly short-lived.

He or she is back to the grandiose, entitled conscienceless version of hunting narcissistic supply – and on the story goes…

So the prospect of someone with NPD being healed (at least for those at mid-spectrum and above) does look pretty bleak, even though in theory (and in very rare cases) they could be.

Dr. James Masterson has apparently had some success though. I’m currently reading his book “The Search for the Real Self” (which I’ll be reviewing at a later point). In the book are two case studies of two men named Walter and Frank, both who suffered from NPD. Both were cured of their disorder using psychoanalytic techniques. Particularly moving was Frank’s story, because his narcissism was more severe and it took over five years of incredibly painful and intensive therapy for him to be healed of NPD and begin to experience actual emotions of empathy and love. I think the fact that this disorder was ever healed at all to be very hopeful.

But never, ever try to fix a narcissist yourself. You can’t.

Why isn’t there a 12-step program for narcissists?

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…and I’m not talking about this either. 😉

A commenter on this post wondered why there aren’t any 12-step programs for people with NPD, and that got me thinking — well, why aren’t there?

About a month ago, my friend Mary Pranzatelli and I were having a conversation about this very same thing on Facebook.

There’s a lot of good reasons why a 12-step program might be helpful to a narcissist. After all, narcissism and addictive disorders like alcoholism have a lot in common. This isn’t an idea I just dreamed up. Sam Vaknin also wrote about the similarities, as well as others like psychologist Tian Dayton.

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Here’s a quick list of things both narcissists and people addicted to substances have in common:

1. They are often in denial about their disorder. When a narcissist or an addict realizes they have a disorder they may want to get help. (This is actually the first step of programs like AA or NA.)
2. In some ways, both addiction and narcissism is a choice, even if it was made unconsciously (although there is likely to be a genetic component too that at least gives one a predisposition toward these disorders).
3. The narcissist’s drug of choice is narcissistic supply, which gives the narcissist an adrenalin rush. When it’s lacking or in short supply, they will crash and burn. The addict will also crash and burn without their fix.
4. Once a narcissist or an alcoholic (or drug addict), always a narcissist or an addict. You can stop drinking and using (or stop acting so narcissistic), but the underlying disorder is unlikely to ever be cured.
5. Treatments like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) work much like the 12 steps of AA–they change behaviors but not the underlying disorder. The person must make a conscious effort to replace the old behaviors with the new ones.
6. High possibility of relapse or “slipping” back into the addictive or narcissistic behavior patterns if the program isn’t strictly followed (or even if it is).
7. An addict or narcissist without their fix (or supply) can both act in antisocial, selfish and narcissistic ways until their fix (or supply) is procured.

and finally…

8. Because narcissism (and addictive disorders) have a spiritual component, admitting that God or a Higher Power can help you is an integral part of all 12-step programs.

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True, a 12-step program wouldn’t cure narcissism (just as AA doesn’t cure alcoholism), but I think such a program could help a narcissist who is self-aware and wants to change their attitudes and the way they treat others.

So why isn’t there a 12-step program for NPD?

Healing Narcissism: “Stephen’s” story.

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Disclaimer:
I am not a licensed mental health professional and as such, have done no studies or surveys to find out if the healing regime I am going to propose here would actually work on people with NPD. I have no guarantee such a therapy regime would work, but I feel like I’ve done enough reading about the disorder (NPD in particular), both from Internet material written by a number of people, and books by professionals who specialize in this disorder, to outline a possible therapy regime I feel might give sufferers of NPD (as well as BPD and other disorders of the self, and even PTSD) who want to get better some hope of doing so. This is not a therapy I “made up,” since I am not qualified to do so, much less diagnose anyone with any disorder. Instead, it’s an almagamation of several different therapies–drawn from both from traditional insight psychotherapy and alternative therapies proposed by both people who suffer from this disorder or are involved in alternative medicine and spiritual therapy.

For several months I have been reading everything I can about healing Narcissistic Personality Disorder, because as a victim of narcissistic abuse who has cared for and loved people who are narcissists, I have a vested interest in the possibility there may be hope for some of them. I also think our world would be a much nicer and safer place for the rest of us to live in if narcissists could be cured of their disorder!

In my readings, both on the Internet and from books about healing NPD (I just received a copy of James Masterson’s book “The Emerging Self,” recommended to me by fellow blogger BPDTransformation. Although I have not had time to read the book, I have skimmed through it and can already see that its premise of the narcissist getting in touch with their true self and confronting and releasing long buried true emotions of sadness and fear is not much different than therapies others have proposed for NPD).

Overview of Some NPD Healing and Treatment Techniques.
Following are some brief descriptions of some therapies that have already been proposed to heal or treat the symptoms of people with NPD. A few come from traditional psychotherapy disciplines; others are more alternative/experimental.

Cognitive-Behavioral Training/Therapy (CBT)

CBT

Currently, the only psychiatrically sanctioned and accepted “therapy” for NPD is Cognitive-Behavioral Training (CBT). CBT is useful and may help some narcissists who are not psychopathic or sociopathic learn to control and monitor some of their more antisocial and hurtful behaviors. It has been used with some success on prison inmates who want to change their behaviors, children with ODD and CD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder and Conduct Disorder) such as 6 year old Beth Thomas, who might have become a psychopath had she not had early intervention that intercepted her early antisocial behaviors and murderous impulses toward her brother and parents; as well as other people with NPD or BPD who are insightful and willing enough to want to change the way they act and stop hurting others.

The problem with CBT is it does not really cure the narcissist (unless done at a very early age, like Beth Thomas). CBT doesn’t address traumatic childhood issues or make the narcissist shed their protective masks or get in touch with the painful emotions that caused them to choose narcissism in the first place. It’s really just a band-aid and probably helps those who must deal with the narcissist more than it helps the patient. The narcissist remains a narcissist, and must constantly monitor their behaviors or be reminded by others to do so. The more positive behaviors never become internalized because the narcissist has not really changed from the inside.

That being said, I believe CBT is a valuable component in the type of therapy I am going to describe, but must be undertaken once the NPD patient has gone through a complete emotional catharsis resulting in the release of painful emotions stemming from childhood (or whenever they “chose” to become a narcissist to protect themselves). I’ll describe how this can be used later in this article.

Narcissists adopted their False Self to survive.
I hold to the probably rather unpopular belief that people with NPD started life as Highly Sensitive People (HSPs) or possibly even empaths. Sam Vaknin’s journal entries, especially his descriptions of himself as a sensitive and generous child who cried when his malignant narcissist mother was upset (I cannot find the link for that right now but will look for it), as well as writings and journals by other NPD sufferers on message boards and forums have made this evident.

It came as a surprise to realize this, because Narcissists (as opposed to those suffering from Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD), who really are hopeless and can never get better) seem like the most insensitive and cruel people on the planet. But their obnoxious and cruel behaviors stem from the False Self, not their true one, which hasn’t died, but is atrophied and in hiding. The False Self was constructed as an elaborate defense mechanism to protect the child from further hurt and abuse. Most people with NPD were abused or neglected as children, and being more sensitive than other children, the only way they could survive further hurt and abuse was to construct a False Self which makes them appear big and bad when deep inside, they still feel utterly worthless, despised and vulnerable.

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One thing I noticed in all these therapies (not including CBT, of course), is the key to healing is emotional catharsis. Crying–not the usual narcissistic manipulative crying–but deep and honest crying resulting from releasing past pain, grief and fear–is an absolute necessity if any healing is to occur. Of course crying is key in any psychodynamic therapy for any disorder that can be healed by such means, not just NPD. As the False Self breaks down and the True Self begins to emerge, painful emotions from the past will start to be released. This is necessary and healthy. In fact, healing from NPD (or many other mental disorders) isn’t possible without it.

The following are some techniques used for actually healing NPD rather than treating its symptoms. It’s probably prudent to keep in mind their efficacy is iffy at best. If a narcissist is neither insightful nor willing, none of these therapies will work. Insight and willingness to change are necessary and must come from the narcissist him or herself. As I’ve described before, the willingness to heal is a cost-benefit analysis. If the narcissist has benefited from their narcissism, they may not think going through all the emotional work required to heal from NPD is worth it.

1. Attitudinal Healing.

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Tony Brown was a self-professed narcissist who decided he no longer wanted to be one. He believed narcissism stemmed from fear. (He’s probably right). He healed himself using a 12-point (not the same as a 12-step program) technique of replacing thoughts of fear with thoughts of love. He called this therapy Attitudinal Healing. Eventually, he says, these thoughts of love and empathy become internalized and the patient begins to remember past hurtful incidents that turned them into narcissists. During this process, the patient finds themselves crying a lot as they remember things long forgotten and the many ways they have hurt their loved ones. AH is kind of a New Age technique, but his followers swear it has worked for them. Tony Brown died in 2008 of natural causes, just after he was cured. His forum, HealNPD, is no longer active, but you can read his material about AH there and posts by others who were undergoing AH to heal themselves of narcissism.

Criticisms of AH: There’s some skepticism because there have been no studies or empirical evidence for AH’s efficacy, and some believe thought-replacing isn’t deep psychology and therefore can’t access the true self.

2. Reparenting.

remothering

“Reparenting” is a term used by Sam Vaknin for his theories of healing NPD, but the techniques involved are not his alone and partly derive from New Age therapy practices and traditional psychodynamic therapy and Freudian psychoanalysis. Reparenting requires an initial accidental or intentional removal of all the narcissist’s sources of narcissistic supply, which sets into motion a “narcissistic crisis” (a time during which the narcissist’s defenses and masks break down). This is the only time a narcissist may present themselves for treatment. At that point, the therapist offers only “cold empathy,” which means giving the narcissist acknowledgment and the “mirroring” they missed out n as children, without offering approval, criticism, sympathy for the narcissist’s plight, or any other means of narcissistic supply. The narcissist’s frustration and anger with the therapist (transference) for only mirroring them but not giving them the supply they want (validation or approval) results first in rage, then dissolves into emotional catharsis and release of negative and painful emotions associated with childhood abuse and neglect.

Criticisms of Reparenting: Intensive therapy like this could not practically work unless the narcissist was in a closely supervised setting, such a a rehab center or hospital, because of the strong possibility that even a willing narcissist, when undergoing such painful cathartic emotions, would suddenly leave therapy and go back to their old ways. I personally don’t believe such a therapy would work permanently unless combined or followed up with behavioral training such as CBT to retrain the conscience and internalize it into the psyche.

3. M. Scott Peck: “Remothering” and physical touch.

woman-holding-newborn

Dr. M. Scott Peck proposed a technique similar to reparenting called “remothering” in his book “People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil.” Peck doesn’t go into great detail about re-mothering a patient in his book (and in fact doesn’t discuss treatment much at all outside of exorcism), but in his description of his malignantly narcissistic patient Charlene, he expresses his regret that he had not offered her unconditional love and support (not the same as narcissistic supply) and actually physically holding her as a mother would a baby, instead of allowing her to manipulate and torment him and making him continue to pander to her need for narcissistic supply.

Criticisms of “remothering”/physical holding: Peck’s briefly expressed ideas of holding (in a nonsexual way) and nurturing such a patient as a loving mother would are similar to reparenting, but would require the narcissist to be willing to allow themselves to become vulnerable enough to undergo such a treatment, which is unlikely unless they were undergoing a severe narcissistic crisis and utterly desperate. There’s also the problem that physically touching/holding a patient could lead to accusations of sexual abuse, or sexual feelings between the patient and therapist (which is a common but questionable outcome of transference/countertransference).

The problems of possible legal allegations of sexual abuse/harassment are addressed here, and there is a consent form in some states a patient can fill out to give permission for limited touching in therapy sessions to occur.

4. M. Scott Peck: Exorcism.

exorcism

Peck, a born-again Christian, believes that many cases of narcissism are a result of a malignant entity entering the body of the patient, at the time they made the choice to become a narcissist, whether in childhood or later in life.

In some cases, where the possession by an evil entity is not complete (that is, a patient with narcissistic tendencies who is not psychopathic or malignant), a patient can be healed through the centuries old religious rite of exorcism, formerly only sanctioned by the Catholic Church, and even then, was only approved in extreme cases that were approved by the Pope. Peck believes any highly trained psychotherapist with a strong faith in God (not necessarily Christian) and with strong unconditional love for their patient can successfully perform an exorcism on a patient who is willing and properly prepared ahead of time. Peck writes about exorcism in both “People of the Lie” and goes into more detail about the two exorcisms he successfully performed in his later 2005 book, “Glimpses of the Devil.”

Criticisms of Exorcism: Besides its obvious medieval and superstitious connotations, exorcism can be physically, mentally and spiritually dangerous for both the therapist and patient. Death is a possible result. There should be others in the room during the exorcism if additional hands are needed to control the patient undergoing the rite. But because I believe NPD is as much a spiritual disorder as it is a mental one, I don’t think exorcism should be dismissed as a possible healing technique in extreme cases where other therapies have not worked.

5. Dr. James F. Masterson: Psychodynamic Treatment of Narcissistic Disorders of the Self.

closet_narcissism

I have not yet read his book “The Emerging Self” (I just received it in the mail) but from what I have seen, the therapy is psychodynamic (as opposed to merely behavioral) and requires the patient to confront and purge past hurts and undergo catharsis. Narcissism and “closet narcissism” are not the only disorders addressed in his book; he also addresses similar disorders such as BPD which can be healed using the same or similar techniques.

From Wikipedia:

Masterson’s subtypes (exhibitionist and closet)
In 1993, James F. Masterson proposed two categories for pathological narcissism, exhibitionist and closet.[40] Both fail to adequately develop an age- and phase- appropriate self because of defects in the quality of psychological nurturing provided, usually by the mother. The exhibitionist narcissist is the one described in DSM-IV and differs from the closet narcissist in several important ways.

The closet narcissist is more likely to be described as having a deflated, inadequate self-perception and greater awareness of emptiness within. The exhibitionist narcissist would be described as having an inflated, grandiose self-perception with little or no conscious awareness of the emptiness within. Such a person would assume that this condition was normal and that others were just like them. [Masterson’s definition of the closet narcissist sounds more similar to the “covert” narcissist or “inverted” narcissist Sam Vaknin discusses on his website].

The closet narcissist seeks constant approval from others and appears similar to the borderline in the need to please others. The exhibitionist narcissist seeks perfect admiration all the time from others.

Criticism of Masterson’s techniques of treating NPD: I cannot offer any criticisms as I have not read his book yet.

6. Rebirthing.

rebirthing_session
Rebirthing session.

Rebirthing is a controversial New Age healing technique that involves deep and circular breathing. It has been proposed as an alternative healing therapy for people suffering from NPD and many other mental disorders, as well as for healthy individuals who just want to get more in touch with their spiritual nature. It’s supposed to improved the mental, emotional and spiritual well-being of anyone who decides to undergo this process. During the rebirthing process, the patient will begin to remember painful emotional incidents long forgotten and crying is common, but is usually followed up by laughter and a feeling of spiritual lightness.

Criticisms of Rebirthing: The type of deep breathing rebirthing requires can lead to hyperventilation and a feeling of being high (from intaking too much oxygen) or having left the physical body. In some cases it can freak out the patient or even cause a psychotic break, much like hallucinogenic drugs can. Because it’s an experimental, alternative therapy given by practitioners not schooled in traditional psychotherapy, there is no proof of its efficacy or empirical studies showing it actually works.

Skepticism among mental health professionals.
pIt must be said, that most professionals are highly skeptical about the possibility of healing (rather than just treating) NPD and feel that because they suffer less than their victims (or at least seem to), that it’s best to treat the victims for the PTSD, anxiety, depression and other disorders their narcissist has caused in them.

I won’t argue with this, but as I’ve said before, I don’t think narcissists, at least those with both the insight and willingness to change (which probably means the non-malignant, non-psychopathic types) are as hopeless as most mental health experts claim.

So I’m going to propose a healing regime here using a hypothetical man named Stephen that comprises elements of ALL of the above techniques (except rebirthing and exorcism due to their highly controversial nature), as well as CBT for helping to retrain the conscience.

There are a few prerequisites necessary for successful healing of NPD:

1. The narcissist must have insight into their disorder and know they have NPD and see how it damages their minds and souls. But insight alone isn’t enough.

2. The narcissist must have willingness to change from the inside–and that means a willingness to undergo intense emotional pain as their True Self begins to emerge and their masks break down. You can have insight without willingness, but not willingness without insight. Both must be present for change to occur.

3. The narcissist undergoing such treatment would be best treated in a highly supervised, even residential setting such as a hospital or rehab center, where their natural tendency to revert back to their old ways of behaving could be intercepted by trained professionals. This is especially necessary during the crisis period where their painful emotions may cause them to want to quit therapy or leave. They could sign a waiver prior to treatment that such attempts to escape would be intercepted or not allowed, and the patient brought back to treatment.

4. The narcissist is probably already undergoing a narcissistic crisis where they have lost all sources of narcissistic supply or a major one, such as a divorce, loss of a fortune or career, death of someone who was a source of supply, serious illness or incarceration. Having lost their sources of supply, the narcissist is already in a vulnerable state and if they are going to present themselves for help, this will be the time.

I am going to describe a hypothetical successful therapy used on a fictional man named Stephen who is afflicted with mid-spectrum (non-malignant) NPD, using a combination of the above techniques I think could be successful for some narcissists in a highly supervised and intensive setting.

STEPHEN’S STORY

'It's all about YOU, isn't it? YOUR hopes! YOUR wants! YOUR needs!'

1. The Master of the Universe has a Narcissistic Crisis
Stephen was a 45 year old successful owner of a video game company. He was married to a meek and quiet but intelligent woman named Lisa who elected to stay at home with their only child Cayden, who was two years old. They lived in a large home they built themselves, and owned two late model SUVs. Stephen could afford to take his wife and son on several vacations a year. To outsiders, they seemed like the picture perfect family.

But all was not well behind closed doors. Lisa was threatening to leave Stephen and take Cayden with her because of Stephen’s constant gaslighting, projecting, blaming her for their child’s excessive crying and misbehavior, and most recently, isolating Lisa from her former college friends and even her family. Lisa was so depressed that often she had no energy to take care of her son and Cayden was left to his own devices, at first crying and demanding attention from Lisa, but finally withdrawing into a quiet, withdrawn, almost autistic world of his own.

Lisa wanted to take Cayden to a psychiatrist, but when she proposed this to Stephen, he flew into a rage and accused her of calling him a bad father. He told her that if she was a better wife and mother, Cayden wouldn’t be having these problems. He also told her that taking Cayden to a therapist was something only a weak person would do. Cayden would just need to learn to “man up,” in Stephen’s words.

Lisa became increasingly depressed and one day she attempted suicide. Her suicide attempt landed her in the psychiatric ward, and Cayden’s care fell on Stephen’s shoulders. He resented his fatherly duties to Cayden, and grew increasingly impatient with him, and Cayden’s behavior grew worse. He resented having to leave work early or not come in to attend to one of Cayden’s many needs when his nanny would call saying there was a problem with his son.

sad-mother-child

One day Stephen was called into his boss’s office and confronted with his poor attendance and sloppy work. Cayden’s needs were not a concern to management. Stephen was told he needed to find some other arrangements or he would be let go. Stephen panicked. His high flying job and the money he made were the only things in his life he cared about. He hated to admit it, but Cayden was nothing but a burden. He had never really wanted a child at all due to all the responsibility.

Stephen’s problems continued. He had no choice but to keep leaving work when his son was sick or when the daycare center called saying he was throwing another one of his uncontrollable tantrums. Stephens’s boss summoned him once more and let him know he was being let go.

Stephen was devastated and began to feel hate toward his son for making him lose his job. He sat at home dejectedly staring at the TV or computer screen but felt so deflated he didn’t bother looking for another job. Cayden screamed and threw tantrums and Stephen, overwhelmed and filled with resentment for Cayden, began to physically abuse him.

A week later, Lisa was released from the hospital and announced she no longer loved Stephen and was taking Cayden with her to live with her parents. Stephen flew into a narcissistic rage and tied to stop Lisa from leaving, but there was no stopping her. She grabbed Cayden, tossed some of their things hastily in some bags, and took off for her mother’s. It was then she noticed the bruises on Cayden’s body and decided to press child abuse charges against Stephen.

Stephen was eventually arrested for child abuse. Now he had a police record and was probably unemployable, except perhaps in some sort of consulting role. He had lost his wife, his job, his child, and now his freedom.

2. Self-awareness and willingness.

Vector illustration of a man lock up in prison

In prison, Stephen broke down and cried almost nonstop. He made no friends because of his emotional instability. So he spent time by himself, reading books in the prison’s library about mental disorders and realized he suffered from Narcissistic Personality Disorder. At first he tried to deny this to himself, but in his heart he knew it was true. He also realized this disorder was the cause of all his problems. He didn’t feel remorse, exactly, but knew he needed to do something about it. Some of the prison staff took pity on Stephen and referred him to a psychologist who specialized in character disorders, NPD in particular. Stephen was desperate to change his ways and willingly entered an experimental but intensive therapy for people suffering from NPD and other character disorders like BPD. Although the therapist was a licensed Ph.D, he was open to incorporating alternative techniques in his regime.

3. Cold empathy.

narc_rage
Narcissistic rage.

Stephen started therapy (which he was taken to from the prison) with a litany of complaints about his failures and how no one understood him. He talked about his dickhead of a boss, his emotionally disturbed and annoying son, and his bitch of a wife who betrayed him. Stephen took no responsibility for his own contributions to his downfall. He demanded sympathy and often resorted to rages and tears during his sessions. Rather than sympathize or offer emotional support, Stephen’s therapist listened quietly to his litany of woes, only nodding here and there or asking questions when he needed to know something pertinent.

Stephen became enraged by his therapist’s supposed lack of caring and sympathy, and began to attack his therapist, calling him a charlatan, incompetent, and an idiot. He threatened to leave, but knew the prison wouldn’t allow him to quit, so his abuse escalated. Projecting his own feelings of rage and other emotions onto the therapist is a process called transference in the psychiatric community (the opposite, the therapist’s projections of their own emotions onto the patient is called countertransference and is nearly as common).

One day he became so enraged he physically attacked his therapist. An officer was called in to intervene, and together, they got Stephen to calm down. Stephen, defeated, slumped in his chair and dissolved into convulsive sobs. The guard stood nearby, and the therapist quietly waited for Stephen to finish crying.

4. Stephen’s True Self begins to Emerge.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After several more intense sessions like these, Stephen reluctantly began to talk about his mother, who had abused him as a child. He tearfully discussed the time she held his hands on the hot stove to teach him a lesson, and the time she locked him in a closet for two days for refusal to eat the vegetables on his plate. After releasing him, she made him eat the half-rotted vegetables from a plate on the floor along with the family dogs. Stephen recalled being a good kid until he was about 5 or 6, and always very sensitive to his mother’s moods. He wanted to please her, but never could seem to accomplish that. No matter what he tried–bringing her flowers he picked from the garden (which he’d be punished for), or hugging her (where he’d be pushed away), she always rejected him or punished him. At first he talked about these incidents in a matter of fact, almost flippant way, but after about three more sessions, he began to choke up and tears began to run down his face.

But these tears were different than the ones he used to shed to get his way or manipulate his sources of supply. These tears felt different and came from a deeper, more honest place. He was embarrassed about the uncontrollable crying he could not seem to stop. He tried to hide these tears but his therapist told him they were healing him, melting away his False Self, and to let them come. So reluctantly at first, Stephen did. He told his therapist his “heart hurt” and then he broke into wracking sobs and buried his face in his hands. This was the breakthrough needed to move to the the Reparenting/remothering level.

In some difficult cases where he patient is having trouble bringing emotions to the surface or recalling past events, hypnotherapy could be useful in helping the patient recall painful childhood experiences.

5. Reparenting Stephen’s Lost Self.

inner_child

When Stephen broke down into convulsive sobbing of honest grief for the mother love he never received, and his intense fear of her as a child, his therapist knew he was no longer being manipulated and these were honest emotions from Stephen’s lost self. So the therapist came over and sat down next to him, and encouraged Stephen to cry on his shoulder. If the therapist is an empath, I think that’s an enormous advantage, for I feel that for this type of therapy to have the most success, the therapist must be able to share and feel the patient’s emotions–even if that means crying or grieving along with them. This may also make the patient feel less alone and more comfortable if they are not feeling their emotions alone.

Stephen, in his infantile, vulnerable state, didn’t hesitate to let his tears flow and allow himself to be held, and they stayed like this for a long time. The therapist was careful to stay quiet during this event, and limited himself to stroking Stephen’s head and back and holding him gently as a mother would hold a child. He did not offer judgment, congratulations or explanations. He simply let Stephen release all that pent-up emotion that had been hiding inside him for decades. And felt along with the child that still lived inside Stephen and longed to be able to live a normal, happy life in the world instead of forever hidden away behind Stephen’s disintegrating False Self.

Stephen felt comforted and nurtured. He told his therapist he wished his own parents had held him like that. His father never had either, because he had died in an accident when Stephen was only a baby.

Several more sessions passed like this. In each session Stephen remembered other things that had happened to him as a child. He remembered how sensitive he had been and how he felt hurt by everything. He remembered how much his mother hated it whenever he cried. He remembered being bullied by other kids in school and always running away in terror.

And then he remembered when he had to make a choice. That choice changed the trajectory of his entire life and transformed him from a highly sensitive little boy into a heartless and cold narcissist.

6. The Choice.

monsters-nietzsche

Stephen recalled a dare when he was 8 years old. A group of boys who had bullied him dared him to set a paper bag of dried dog poop on another boy’s rickety wooden front porch and set it on fire. The boys promised him that if he did this, they would no longer bully him and they would be his friend and protect him against any further bullying. Stephen knew that doing this could set the other boy’s house on fire and at first he protested, explaining what could happen. At this point he still had a conscience. But the boys threatened him and told him if he didn’t do it, their bullying would become worse and they would kill his pet rabbit. Stephen believed them, so against his will, he complied.

They set out after dark for the targeted house. The boys watched from the darkened yard as Stephen lit the paper bag on fire and hesitantly walked up the front stairs of the boy’s porch and set it next to a dead potted plant. The deed done, all the boys ran away before anyone saw them. Stephen looked back in time to see the flames ignite the plant, and quickly start to spread over the railings of the rickety old wooden porch. He felt awful and considered going to the police, but he didn’t dare. He went to bed that night and had terrible nightmares.

bullied_child

The targeted boy’s house burned down and he, his baby sister, and his mother had to be taken to the hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation. Soon after, the family moved away, never to be seen again. No charges were pressed because no one knew who the culprit was.

7. Becoming a Narcissist.

narcissism_childhood

To protect himself from his unbearable feelings of guilt and shame, Stephen shut off his painful emotions of guilt and conscience. From then on, the group of bullies accepted him as one of them, and they continued to engage in tormenting other children and even petty crimes.

Almost immediately after the incident, Stephen’s personality changed. Due to his choice to disobey his own conscience, he was becoming evil. He became a narcissist to protect himself from any further painful feelings. It was all just too unbearable.

Stephen confessed not only this, but also the way he used and manipulated others for his own gain, how he obtained his high level job dishonestly by faking qualifications on his resume, the way he emotionally abused his codependent wife who was so easily manipulated, and the abusive way he treated his own son Cayden. He cried and cried some more, and in return, his therapist held him without speaking, only projecting unconditional love and acceptance.

8. Return to Humanity.

freedom_man

Within a few more weeks, Stephen felt like a different person. He had become a model prisoner, and also found God during his incarceration. He was asked by the chaplain to speak to prisoners after the Sunday services, and Stephen used his own story to help and motivate other prisoners. He proved to be a good public speaker, and took courses in psychology and motivational speaking. He started to write a book about his experiences.

Stephen’s therapy was followed up with an intensive outpatient CBT program, to help him internalize the lessons he had learned about right versus wrong, and further help him develop his fledgling conscience.

When finally released from prison after two years, Stephen found employment as a counselor for prisoners and became a professional motivational speaker. He published his book, which became a best seller. He was asked to appear on TV shows and interviews to promote his new book and offered hope to thousands. Soon he met and married a psychology professor and today they have three children, who he loves very much. He would never dream of abusing them. He’s a very involved father and admits he’s happier than he’s ever been.

Recently he met up with his prison therapist, and the therapist noticed Stephen’s eyes and whole face looked different. He looked younger and happier, but more tellingly, in place of the cold, dead eyes of the narcissist he used to be, Stephen’s eyes sparkled with love and joy. His smile, instead of a sneer, was genuine and happy.

Free association…thoughts on gratitude, pride and healing.

My head was exploding with ideas for new posts this morning (creative new ideas are almost out of control! Halleluia!) but since none are long thoughts and all came to me as I was running my morning errands and buying a few groceries (By the way, if you’ve never tried Bolthouse Smoothies, you haven’t lived. Blue Goodness is the best. Naked brand smoothies may be a little cheaper. Of course you can make your own too if you’re not lazy like me).

Free association #1. My daughter’s victory.

victory

I got a text from my daughter saying she pressed charges on Paul last night for assault (he had slammed her into the door, which was why it broke) and theft of property (he did still have everything of hers, including most of the money!) and the sociopath who passed himself off as such a “loving” boyfriend was arrested this morning.

Then the unbelievable (well, maybe not so unbelievable) happened. He called her from jail, crying and apologizing over and over again. I would doubt it’s genuine remorse as he is obviously a skilled psychopath–he’s probably just scared to death of her now and the fact he was called out and actually arrested for his despicable behavior, and he lost. I told her I was proud of her for having so much courage and getting justice.

I am ever so grateful. This proves there is justice in the world and karma WILL come back to haunt the evildoers who have no remorse for their actions. At the end of the day, they will get what they deserve, even if it takes longer than we expected. Sometimes we just need to grow some balls (even if we’re female) and throw away the Cowardly Lion act. With God’s grace and patience, we will be vindicated.

Free association #2: Pride: seductive and deadly.

pride

Proverbs 29:23 – A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit.

Galatians 6:3 – For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.

Proverbs 11:2 – [When] pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly [is] wisdom.

Proverbs 26:12 – Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? [there is] more hope of a fool than of him.

James 4:6 – But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.

Proverbs 16:18 – Pride [goeth] before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.

I’m treading on dangerous territory now as big changes are beginning to happen since I left my narc and was inspired by God to start a blog. Doors that seemed forever locked are now opening. I feel like I take up more “space” in the world–before, my world seemed very small and claustrophobic. I felt hopelessly stifled, and at the same time I was afraid to venture out into the wider world, which I am doing now, even if right now it’s just the wider world of the Internet.

This is all fine and dandy, but it contains a deadly pitfall: the sin of Pride.

Pride in moderation is fine and healthy, as long as we don’t give all the credit for our joys and achievements to ourselves (because we are not gods–in spite of what sociopathic “prosperity preachers” like Joel Osteen tell us). We need to realize that as humans, we are vessels made by God and our first priority is to give glory to God, in whatever manner or talents He has gifted us with.

Each and every one of us has a special gift or talent we were given and the painful lessons we learned in life may be the key to what our purpose in this life may be and where our true abilities lie.

If we neglect to credit God for imbuing us with his Spirit in the form of creative, empathic, scientific, or any other type of vision, we can become full of pride–and pride is a slippery slope to full blown narcissism. That’s why so many Hollywood celebrities have become so narcissistic–because they failed to realize they are not gods themselves–their success or outstanding talent is a tool that God imbued them with and they are merely vessels. God wants nothing but the best for each and every one of us. He wants all of us to realize the potential he created us with. However, his gifts are to be used to help us best serve Him and others, not to serve ourselves.

I need to continually remind myself of God’s enormous role in the changes I’m beginning to see in my life–as well as this new, unfamiliar, optimistic feeling that I actually have a future and a purpose in this world to help first myself and then pay that forward to others.

Sure, of course, there’s going to be a little narcissistic pride (like always bragging about my stats LOL), because we are human and imperfect. That’s okay as long as I NEVER forget that it’s not all about me. God wants me to use my writing and blogging ability not to become full of myself over what it can do for ME (because that’s the point at which everything falls apart, as these Bible verses tell us), but to use it as a tool to help others fulfill their OWN potential and help them find the person God wanted THEM to be so they can use their own Godgiven gifts…and pay it forward…just like in that old 1970s shampoo commercial that said if you tell your friends, then they’ll tell their friends, and on and on and on….I know we’re not discussing brands of hair products here but the analogy is a good one.

God wants all of us to succeed, in spite of what our abusers and narcs have convinced us is true. They are lying. Because God made you special, he made me special–we are images of Him and how special and loving he is.

If you think God didn’t give you any special gift, you are mistaken. If you think you lost or wasted your gift, you are wrong. I was sure I had frittered away and wasted all my talents and abilities due to prolonged narcissistic abuse. I was sure God hated me and was using me as an example of how NOT to be, how NOT to live, as a pitiful laughing stock to the rest of the world…I really believed this!…but again, I was so, SO wrong.

Just be careful about Pride, because it’s very seductive and deadly and can veer you WAY off course, into narcissistic selfishness and darkness…and will affect all those around you in a negative way, especially yourself.

Free association #3: Could insightful narcissists be healed?

innerchild

I like to look for the good in people and maybe I’m just hopelessly naive and unrealistically optimistic, but I absolutely refuse to believe (as many people do) that certain narcissists can’t ever recover from their disorder. Perhaps true psychopaths/sociopaths and the most malignant, evil narcissists have crossed a line into darkness and it’s too late for them to change, but I think as long as a narcissist has insight into their own behavior, there is hope for them to heal. I think insight is the first step to healing for someone with this devastating personality disorder.

Right now I can think of several narcissists who have enormous insight into themselves and I think they do have hope of recovery — even if they themselves don’t believe it. There are three I am thinking of in particular: Sam Vaknin; the narcissistic commenter KWWL who recently posted on my blog about their NPD and desire to heal; and my own daughter, who may have NPD (or BPD) but has expressed a true desire to change and stop doing manipulative and bad things. I am sure there are many others, and some of them may be reading this blog right now.

I have a great deal of empathy for narcissists like these, and in that spirit, I want to say a prayer for all narcissists who have been given the divine gift of Insight:

Dear Father,
Please show these troubled people that they have goodness in them, and are the way they are due to how they were treated as children and their terror of removing the masks that serve to protect the hurt child inside, and that they have become so comfortable wearing.

Let that hurt and lonely child out in the fresh air, let that child be nurtured with your love and our prayers, keep that child safe from further hurt, teach that child that doing the right thing can be just as satisfying (and much more so) as doing the wrong thing, and show that child where their true talents are, so they can begin to walk on the side of the sunlight instead of forever attempting to walk the fence that separates the darkness from the light.

Narcissists, even the most insightful, are in grave danger of losing their balance and falling into darkness (as we all are). Father, please keep them safe from themselves, and teach them that at the end of the day, their false pride can destroy them, not to mention those they come in contact with.

Finally, Father, for the narcissists without insight, please bless them with this gift. For those with insight but who don’t want to change, bless them with the desire to change.

Disclaimer: I am not a professional therapist, and do not have an advanced degree (just a BA in Psychology and Art), and have no guarantee anything at all would work for narcs, but in thinking this problem over so much (and doing so much reading by experts in this field–M. Scott Peck, Vaknin, Hare, George K. Simon, various bloggers who believe NPD can be cured, and others), I think an insightful narcissist could be healed through a four-point program–difficult and probably very expensive, but something that possibly could work for some under the right circumstances. (These ideas are not my own–they are an amalgamation of the ideas of others–even the spiritual element of prayer and faith are from the ideas of M. Scott Peck).

How to cure an insightful and willing narcissist.
1. Emotional catharsis (brought on by loss of narcissistic supply and preceding Cold Empathy from the therapist working with them): https://otterlover58.wordpress.com/2014/11/30/could-reparenting-actually-cure-a-narcissist/
2. Dream analysis and training in Lucid Dreaming (because this may be the only time the True Self is accessible).
3. Retraining the conscience through CBT (cognitive behavioral training)
4. Faith and prayer (from others)
Insight and willingness to change must precede all of this, of course.

I am also not suggesting we should enable or give narcissists what they want. We still need to go No Contact with the malignant, psychopathic ones and those who have done damage to us, and sometimes even the ones who just annoy us.

Narcissists, if they are ever to recover, need TOUGH LOVE.

kickass

Note to narcissists who may be reading this.
This is not and never will be a narc-free blog (see my Rules in the header). If you are a narcissist and want to talk about it honestly and civilly here, as some have already , I am inviting you to do so. If you want help, even though I can’t help you myself, I may be able to help direct you to some good resources (also see Info and Support in my header). If you don’t want to post on a public blog like this, you are free to email me with your questions or story.

Could “reparenting” actually cure a narcissist?

depression

Almost all professionals who deal with narcissists and psychopaths insist they cannot be cured, but say that Cognitive-Behavioral therapy can help “train” them to act in more prosocial ways. Of course, this isn’t going to work unless there’s something to be gained for the narcissist in doing so. Most won’t even enter therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy isn’t a cure though and does nothing to address the underlying problem or access the “true self” which even the narcissist has obscured from their consciousness with their elaborate series of masks.

I was thinking about a much more intense form of therapy, that would be costly and difficult, and takes into account several different methods of treatment, that may actually be able to cure narcissism. This therapy would take place in several stages:

Stage One: The Narcissistic Crisis/Narcissistic Injury
I was skimming through Vaknin’s book and toward the end he has a chapter about curing a narcissist. He believes these incorrigible people can actually be cured (which of course begs the question, why isn’t he cured? Or is he?) However, in order to be open to being cured they must have undergone a “narcissistic crisis” or “narcissistic injury”–that is, his or her sources of narcissistic supply must have been removed (such as after a divorce or the death of their primary source of narcissistic supply, loss of a career, financial ruin, incarceration, what have you).

In a state like this, without anything to prop them up or continually affirm their “greatness,” a narcissist will usually sink into a deep depression, and will do ANYTHING to make themselves feel better, even voluntarily entering therapy.

The tricky part would be identifying the depressed patient as a narcissist, but there should be enough signs in the way they talk about the glory of their “former life” and they will still lack remorse and empathy and blame others for their sorry condition rather than themselves. So identifying a severely depressed narcissist shouldn’t be too difficult for a trained professional.

The therapist cannot, under any circumstances, give the narcissist any sources of narcissistic supply or affirm them in any way, or give them any sympathy, at least not at first. In other words, they cannot mirror them. That will just make the narcissist feel good enough that their masks will go back up and they may think they’re “cured” and leave.

Stage Two: “Cold Therapy:” Deny the narcissist any narcissistic supply!
In order to force the narcissist to face what’s inside, it’s important the therapist does not affirm or mirror the narcissist. Instead, the therapist should stay nearly silent at first and make sure the narcissist is forced to confront his own emptiness. This will be extremely painful to them. They may leave, but if the narcissist is desperate enough he will probably stay. However, he will likely become angry at the therapist (transference) and rage. Still, the therapist must not show any reaction. When even their rage fails to elicit a response, the narcissist has no choice but to regress to the infant he really is.

Stage Three: Catharsis/”Remothering”
This would be a breakthrough point, and the point at which some real therapy could possibly be done. Becoming an infant will turn the narcissist into a blubbering, sobbing, needy, vulnerable mess. And this is where I can begin to see why in “People of the Lie,” M. Scott Peck, in his chapter about “Charlene” (a narcissist who entered therapy voluntarily because of her inability to maintain a relationship), wanted her to become vulnerable and baby-like so he could become her surrogate “mother” and give her the maternal nurturing she never had as a child. This might have worked too, had Charlene been ripped of all her sources of narcissistic supply and been undergoing a narcissistic crisis. Dr. Peck’s mistake was affirming her too much in the beginning of therapy and engaging her fantasies. By the time he realized his mistake, it was too late.

At the time I read Dr. Peck’s thoughts about how he should have “mothered” Charlene and held her in his arms (in a nonsexual way), I thought it sounded very odd and even unethical. But knowing more about narcissism than I did when I read that book, and more about why they’re the way they are, I can understand why Dr. Peck’s wish to “mother” Charlene may have worked. But not only did Peck start out all wrong, Charlene was not depressed enough to be open to such a technique.

So a vulnerable narcissist stripped of all their elaborate defense mechanisms, reduced to a dependent infant, is going to be going through an emotional catharsis as the true self (which was arrested in infancy and is still an infant) begins to emerge. They are going to be in unbearable terror and pain. A good (and very strong) therapist can offer maternal support through holding the patient during catharsis, stroking them in a nonsexual manner, but still must not tell them anything they want to hear, such as how they’re not a bad person, how they don’t deserve their pain, and the like. The therapist must remain quiet and let the patient go through the catharsis and only offer support by their mere presence.

smashingmirror

Stage Four: Retraining and Internalizing the Conscience
I’ve elaborated a lot on what Vaknin says about curing a narcissist in this post, and I’m going to elaborate even further. Because the narcissist, while rendered virtually harmless at this point in therapy, still doesn’t have a conscience. They would still go right back to their old ways if they stop therapy now or their circumstances suddenly improve. Psychologically, they are infants and an infant has no conscience: they must be taught by their parents and caregivers the difference between right and wrong.

So after a few sessions of this cathartic crisis (however long it lasts–by its nature it will eventually exhaust itself), I would propose something like the sort of treatment that was given to 6 year old Beth Thomas in the documentary “Child of Rage,” who at first wanted to kill her parents and brother and who tortured animals, but was cured of incipient psychopathy early enough that she was still able to develop a conscience and become an adult with normal levels of empathy and no desire to hurt anyone.

The narcissistic patient, if at all possible, should be in a setting, such as a hospital or residential treatment setting, where they are closely monitored and supervised by trained professionals. Any good behavior is to be rewarded, any bad behavior punished. Any privileges at all would have to be earned. Just like a small child, reward and punishment will train their brain to develop a conscience. This is basically the same thing as the cognitive-behavioral therapy currently used on narcissists, but it cannot cure a narcissist who hasn’t first been broken down by a narcissistic crisis and catharsis, because all their masks are still on. A narcissist who has been through the process of crisis and catharsis has lost their masks, and therefore cognitive-behavioral retraining would become internalized rather than just a “positive” mask they can wear to make them more bearable to others.

Disclaimer:
I am in no way a professional (though I did major in psychology in college). I’m certainly not qualified to propose new methods of treatment, but this process I’ve described isn’t one I made up: it’s basically a combination of Vaknin’s proposed method of breaking down all the narcissist’s defenses so they become infantile (with a little M. Scott Peck thrown in), followed up with cognitive-behavioral techniques for retraining the patient’s conscience in a highly supervised setting.

It would be a difficult and expensive therapy at the very least, but I really think it could work. Of course, it also requires the narcissist to voluntarily enter therapy, which means they would have to have suffered a grave loss that threw them into deep depression in the first place (the narcissistic injury or crisis).

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.