On narcissists who want to be cured.

I wrote this a while back for my other blog, Lucky Otter’s Haven. This was before I self-identified as having covert narcissism (I believed I was an empath), but I’ll leave it as is. I never subscribed to the idea that all narcissists are hopeless or incurable.

narcissists_cant_change
We shouldn’t just dismiss them as hopeless until we know more.

The above quote is a common sentiment among survivors of narcissistic abuse, and healthy when we are trying to go No Contact with a narcissist who has tried to ruin us, or cope with a narcissist we can’t practically disconnect from. To give a narc any benefit of the doubt during these times is what has kept us trapped in a sick and destructive relationship. Many of us are also empaths and that’s the very quality that has kept us trapped in the hellish merry-go-round of the cycle of abuse. When we’re leaving our narc (or trying to cope with one), it’s healthiest for us to give them no benefit of the doubt at all. It serves us best to think of them as inhuman machines, devils, or monsters with no ability at all to love or to feel real emotions.

But is it fair or realistic to think of them this way? I don’t think it is, because narcissists aren’t machines, demons or monsters. They are human beings with a terrible mental disorder that causes them to attack and manipulate others for their own gain. I’ve come to a point in my healing where my narcs are safely out of my life, and I can finally afford to think of them as fellow humans and even have a degree of empathy for them. It’s nice to not hate, but am I deluded?

Do narcissists really suffer?

Obviously, I read a lot of blogs and forums about NPD and narcissistic abuse. There seem to be very few websites for people suffering from NPD, which you would expect, since narcissists are more likely to cause suffering in others than suffer themselves.

NPD

It has been argued that narcissists do suffer, but they suffer alone. They don’t want you to know. They aren’t likely to seek help for their disorder unless they’ve lost a major source of narcissistic supply, and the defensive structure they have built for themselves is seen by the narcissist as the flimsy house of cards it really is. I believe this is all true, but some narcissists are so out of touch with reality and their true self that they project their misery and emptiness onto others and keep lying even to themselves.

But occasionally, even on victims’ boards and blogs (the following is from a Christian-oriented blog with a strong focus on victims of narcissistic abuse whose pastor owner is unusually compassionate toward people with NPD), I see a post like this:

Wow! Reading this is very sobering. I an not a victim of this, but the oppressor! I admit that I have been this way. I am saved but I am discovering that my while life I have really been a selfish narcissist. My question is this- is hope for an unempathetic narcissist like me? I am honestly sick and tired of my selfish ways and the way I’ve hurt others and have lacked any empathy or emotional feelings for others. I trust that Christ can help me out of this, but does anyone have some advice or testimony for a narcissist who WANTS to change? I always see alot of literature for the victims of narcissistic abuse and I give my utmost respect to the victims, but what about us perpetrators who want to give this up? Any feedback put advice will help.

The narcissist, who calls himself “Michael,” followed up his post with this:

It bothers me a lot that i lack love and empathy for others. I can’t feel life the way I want to. I think my narcissism problems are largely fear-based, over rejections that happened to me at a young age. Also, I admit I’m just addicted to pleasing my self and I don’t know how to truly love someone else. It is no fun being a narcissist, it is miserable. It really bites when it seems everyone else around you knows how to love and feel deep empathy and passion, while you’re feeling “stuck in an emotional bubble”.

Posts like these ones by Michael give me hope that somewhere inside their blighted souls, narcissists still possess a seed of goodness and with enough water and sunlight, that seed can grow into something beautiful, healthy and good.

I remember several months ago a self-proclaimed narcissist came to this blog and wrote a seemingly heartfelt post that he or she wanted to change. It floored (and moved) me enough to write an entire article about it.

Malignant optimism.
I still can’t get over my childlike excitement whenever it appears a narcissist wants to get well. I’m just like a 4 year old with an ice cream cone. Sam Vaknin calls this malignant optimism. Is he being overly pessimistic about the possibility of a cure, or is he right?

I don’t know the answer to that.

malignant_optimism
Malignant optimism.

As a Christian (and a codependent), I tend to want to give people the benefit of the doubt. After all, we’re all God’s children. He made us in His own image. I always try to look for the good even when all I can see is the bad. I do believe in evil, however, and that there are truly evil people in this world. I like to think they’re not that common though. So when a narcissist says they want to change, how can I sit there and pass judgment and assume they’re just lying? To do that would make a narcissist of me. Maybe there are moments of clarity or windows that occasionally open in their dirty souls to let in the light. How can I say they’re not telling the truth? Maybe they are. They are still human beings with souls, after all.

Maybe they aren’t really narcissists.

Then there’s the possibility that a narcissist who goes on a blog or forum and writes a post about wanting to be cured, isn’t actually a narcissist at all. Very few narcissists have the insight or desire to change. Maybe “narcissists” who write posts like this really suffer from some other disorder that causes them to hurt others and lack empathy, like Borderline Personality Disorder or even certain anxiety disorders like OCD (whose sufferers may also seem to lack empathy) or psychotic disorders like schizophrenia (although the pleas for help I have seen by narcissists certainly don’t sound like they’re written by schizophrenics).

“Michael” (the above quoted poster who claims to be a narcissist), wrote about how the Holy Spirit was trying to change him but he kept fighting against it. He doesn’t sound much like a narcissist at all in this followup, but there’s no way to tell for certain without an official diagnosis. Maybe he has another disorder besides narcissism. It’s an interesting post though, because he speaks about the bullying and abuse he endured that may have caused him to develop NPD. If he does have NPD, he seems to have both insight and the desire, and that’s a good omen.

Wow thank you for that insight. I will also add i have a great deal of apathy in my life. It’s like i don’t care about others, God, life, or even my own well-being at times. But having Christ in my heart, it’s like the Holy Spirit wants it but my flesh does not.

I never handled shame or rejection well as a kid. At a young age, I was bullied in school until the end of my middle school years. I wanted acceptance from my peers- from women I wanted attention, from men I wanted respect. I didn’t receive either, so I put on a facade of myself to fit in so I would be “accepted”. My whole life I’ve been emotionally numb, and I hate it how it’s like I don’t even cry when i should, like when a loved one passes away, or when someone shows a deep display of love, just as Jesus did. Even in my Christian life, I feel like the Gospel hasn’t really penetrated me on that deep heart level yet because I cannot really love or feel love. I guess only God is the answer to this, because i sure can’t do this in my own strength.

abused

The cost-benefit analysis of healing.

If it’s possible for a narcissist to be cured of their disorder (not merely treated), it’s not going to be an easy or a short process for them or their therapists. (I’ll explore this more in a later post, but I’ve already written about it in other posts about NPD healing regimes such as Attitudinal Healing and Reparenting). It’s a topic that’s fascinating to me, and I also have a vested interest in it because it gives me hope for the narcissists in my own life that I have cared about and even loved. This could include my beloved daughter, who may have a mild form of NPD (but is more likely Borderline–the jury’s still out on that).

smashingmirror

Obviously, some narcissists would be more curable (or at least more treatable) than others. They must have both the insight into their disorder and the desire to change. They must be willing to undergo enormous psychic pain and terror as they confront their true self and shed their false self. Desire without insight isn’t possible, but insight without desire is. If narcissism has been beneficial to its sufferer, they may not want to be rid of their disorder, even though they still may be in immense psychic pain. Whether they are willing to be cured requires a cost-benefit analysis of whether undergoing intense and painful emotional catharsis is worth giving up whatever benefits narcissism has afforded them. For the vast majority, it probably isn’t. Even if they willingly enter therapy, once the painful process of healing is underway, they are likely to run away in terror and put their masks back on.

I have to be realistic too, and not dismiss the tragic possibility that a narcissist can want to change, but have no hope at all of it actually happening. All I can do is pray that God will step in and help them find their way to the light. I pray for them every day, as well as the more numerous people they have victimized.

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24 thoughts on “On narcissists who want to be cured.

  1. Thanks for this write up. After recently being diagnosed as a covert narc and reading up things on the internet as to how am I supposed to make a change within myself and try to feel things, I could only find how we are shown as full of malice, which to an extent is a valid and justified thing considering the abuse people had to suffer with. I feel bad because, I never asked for this to happen to me. I feel bad that I can never feel true happiness & sadness or just be intimate with my SO. I just want to make peace with the people who suffered because of me and most importantly I just wish I could feel things like a normal human being and be alive with gratefulness for what I have got.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope you stick around. Also, please check out my Resources page. There’s plenty of support out there for people with self aware, non-malignant NPD so I decided to make a list of the different resources, because they can be hard to find. Good luck in your journey to wellness! You CAN change if you really want to!

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    2. Everyone makes mistakes, the problem with narcissists is they cant forgive themselves and begin to express the feelings theyve blocked up out of guilt and more so than ever the fact that others will try to keep them guilty and push them back down. Its a mistake to hurt people but one that everyone makes but its worse to not be able to forgive yourself with people called ‘narcissists’ have sommuch trouble doing. Its far too difficult to be kinf to others if you cant be kind to yourself first. And for some reason people tell ‘narcissists’ not t be kind to themsleves because they dont deserve it. Its horrible how people try to push them back down and further by the things ive read but unfortunately people will say the most painful things and justify in any way they can (labeling is a good way to do that). If people cant forgive you, thats not for you to fret over you cant change that. But you can work on forgiving yourself. I hope you do. The best way is to focus on your compassion. If you dont have it for others then i doubt you have little more for yourself. Work on improving who you are on the inside. People do bad things and when yu cant forgive yourself and move forward people end up getting worse. Narcissists suffer a great deal already without others trying to make it worse. My best advice is to ignore them (already a difficult task alone) but its important to work improving how you see yourself (not who you are). Dont let others bring you down because they will, try not to be angry with them for it because that again is falling into it. Its a very long road to being at peace with yourself but you woll have so much to offer when you do. (To yourself and to the people yu choose to share it with) pain is lead, and lead can be turned into gold. Its painful now but any work on healing your heart will get you far closer to being happy as a whole. I hope this helps. Dont give up on trying piece by piece you can get there and heal. Heal everything you can.

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  2. Thank you for this thoughtful write up. I wish the topic would be studied further. Since the victims of covert narcissists tend to be compassionate, we struggle with wanting to ‘help the narcissist help themselves’ by sharing our new found knowledge about the dynamic, especially if we have children with them, as is the case with me. It feels wrong to just give up on someone; an emotion strengthened by our own co-dependency issues which we may be newly aware of as well – actively trying to focus on and overcome. We are already healing ourselves, and want to heal everyone! It’s an impulse! Doesn’t mean it’s a healthy one. We struggle with wondering if insight would actually make them aware of something they have no awareness of, thus at least nudging them in a direction of self-health (from a distance!) or if the impulse is really just a symptom of our own imbalanced addiction to them. Very difficult to discern. The main character in my life (husband of 23 years who left me cold with no warning or discussion) returned a year later broken and suicidal after an affair with a psychopath. We all (his family and mine) literally wondered if we should have him hospitalized for his mental health. That relationship was so intense for him (have you heard of inverted narcissists – covert narcissists who become co-dependent on overts?) because it broke down all of his preconceived ideas of himself – his ego was temporarily demolished. Once the psychopath discarded him, he felt a crippling void likely similar to the void I felt when he left me, but times ten. Since he has no real ‘true north’ or deepened sense of self, he was left a blubbering shell for a period of months, during which time I nursed him back to health, of course (being the excellent supply I am!) There was a glorious and twisted couple of months of his love-bombing the children and I as we bathed him in love, forgiveness and support (his explanation was he had been targeted, victimized – would never have left us, had been brainwashed by a pro etc) then, once he felt sufficiently adored and physically healthy, his sense of boredom set in, resulting in another abrupt discard of yours truly. He went back to his psychopath lover (who seems ever ready for another round) with hardly a look back. I, of course, was devastated but less so than the first time because I had spent that year apart doing my own inner work and research – a literal hermit – coming to grips with my own psyche, why I attracted this into my life, working through generations of pain, etc. In case it helps others, I wish to add that the most confusing part of the first discard was the initial shock – because my husband was not at all overtly abusive. He did not demean me. There was no recognizable meanness in our household. He did not have affairs. He was generous in various ways. In fact, I understood we were not just ‘a married couple’ but exceptionally close friends; frequently spent most of our days talking and laughing together, building our businesses, etc. It was inconceivable that he could do what he ultimately did, and have zero concern for its impact on me or our young kids emotionally. That’s where my research began. I internally dissected our entire history, then my personal history from childhood – then his – and began to see the pattern in both our lives. As for me, I was used to ‘nice but emotionally disconnected’ people, and mistook their physical presence and my ongoing service to them as love. That is how we lasted over 20 years with hardly an argument, but no ‘real’ emotional closeness. I believed my self esteem was lowered just because I was getting older. Did not realize until he was gone just how much of my own self I had been suppressing, ignoring, etc since decades. Anyway, the part that makes me struggle with sharing all of this potential data with him or at least hinting at it (again, from a distance – I enforce minimal contact but we do co-parent) is knowing even narcissists have a real potential for suicide. If he were to continue his now fully fleshed out addiction to psychopaths or overt narcissists, I suspect it could literally kill him one day. Then I would have to live with the “I wonder” – and our kids would pay a price. Spiritually, I am conflicted. At the same time, I am nearly certain whatever I share would not touch him at all, and I risk setting myself up for another round of pain by his ignoring the data. Intellectually I know I should not feel pain because of that, but…of course, I would. Then I tell myself, well just plant a seed – if he is ready, he will take it from there. Before I know it, I am obsessing about his well being, not mine – back in an old pattern already. Sorry this is so long. I had not the time to make it short.

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    1. Thank you for sharing this. I actually felt sad for your husband being victimized by a psychopath. One thing I’ve found out, is that narcissists (especially covert ones) are no match for people with ASPD or psychopathy and tend to become their victims. Of course, he went back because he needed supply (and the psychopath needed him to use or whatever). What a sick relationship. I’d write more and probably will later, after I’ve read over this comment a little more carefully. But the part about your N husband being raked over the coals by a psychopath kind of caught my eye.
      Yes, I have heard of inverted narcissism but was not aware it meant a covert narcissist who was codependent. But it makes sense, many covert NPDs are codependent.

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  3. Thank you for your reply. Yes, it is a sad situation – a sick food chain of emotional dysfunctions. Please take the psychological terms I use with a grain of salt. These are words gleaned from the web; just trying to wrap descriptors around the experience. Yes, the psychopath is a whole other matter. Terrifying, really. To me, the narcissist feels like an insecure child behind their mask; emotionally limited, selfish, dangerous, but still recognizably human. If you ever get a peek behind the mask of a psychopath, however, bone chilling. (I have gooseflesh just writing these words) Nothing but a dark, sentient void. Once you start going down that particular rabbit hole, the layers of realization are mind blowing, akin to a spiritual epiphany. If you never believed in God before, you may start because you’ve seen the devil, and his or her powers are awesome. People imagine psychos as serial killers or noticeably weird and different. It’s not like that. Their powers of manipulation are skilled. They knowingly alter the very chemicals in your body with a flick of the wrist, and you are enslaved like a crack addict – but you won’t know it. Can screw someone up mentally, emotionally and spiritually for life, I have no doubt – and the victim is forever lost in a swirl of confusion and destruction. I have compassion for the psycho too, but it’s sort of like being in a room with a demon. The fear paralyzes you and you pray like a child that if you are still enough, the demon will pass through and not notice you. Imagine a mouse with a snake. The mouse cannot change the snake’s nature. It’s worse than that. The psycho is a lizard. You are lettuce to them – passive food. And they hate you. They hate beauty, life, and can only experience rage, boredom, dissatisfaction and restlessness. They destroy for sport – to break the monotony of an empty existence. Again, very sad, very sick.

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    1. Hi Marie. Are you in therapy? You might be able to get a diagnosis from one if you are, or there are online tests you can take as well. What makes you think you are a narc? You might just think you’re one.

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  4. I am a narsisisst I want to change . I argue with the idea of changing constantly I want to feel
    And have a normal life like others but then I feel safe how I am . I feel comfortable like this . . All the things I read about narcissism are true of me I’ve done and do everything that I’ve read . From playing off lovers to hating mysled . It is a very lonely world and I wonder how In all the people I am surrounded by can I feel lonely but I do . I have odd moments that I feel
    Real but for the most I feel emotionally empty .
    I don’t even know when I’m Being real anymore it’s all a blur . To say I’ve lost ‘ myself ‘ is an understatement . I wish I get back my younger self where I did care about people and I did get on with people in a normal
    Way .

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for your honesty. Do you have an NPD diagnosis ? If not, it could be something else, not narcissism. But if you are, there are ways you can change. I don’t believe this is always a hopeless disorder.

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  5. After reading this post i wonder if anyone has ever been cured of narcissism. Being a covert narcissist myself i do want to change, but it doesnt seem possible. The narc is so ingraines into me that any attempt to change would still be solely for myself, to feel better and get more from other. I dont think im capable of being empathetic or loving. I can pretend. And its very convincing to others to the point that they could develop strong feelings for me, but the feelings are never mutual. Anyone that cares for me ultimately gets hurt as i dont have any genuine love or compassion for them. I can act it. But i could stop instantaneously and just shut them out and leave. I have a desire to change. I dont actually want to hurt people but when it comes down to it im as cold as a rock. Not that im looking for pity but life devoid of any real meaning is pretty shit. I tell myself i coild either get better or kill myself, being a narc however neither a likely.

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      1. Ive tried online therapy (which isnt the most helpful) and ill be seeing a psychologist in a few weeks. Ive seen her before but she didnt recognise anything wrong with me other than that im ‘just shy’. Ive never been diagnosed with a disorder, i just ‘think’ i am, and it was only recently.

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  6. I am looking for a cure too, as a covert narcissist I won’t and cant live like this anymore. I can’t bear anymore the pain of knowing what I am and what I do. This self-hatred will kill me one day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jean I totally understand how u feel. I hate the fact that all my thoughts are horrible and how I hurt the people I love. Discovering who I really am is a horrible nightmare. I would lose my arms or legs rather than always being alone. Good luck. Xx

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  7. Hi I think I have covert narcissistic personality and desperately want to change. I also struggle to deal with problems even minor ones. I have been depressed for the last year and I’m losing everything I love and care about because I feel like I have a mental age of a child. I did a counselling course and worked as a counsellor for a while which I loved until my clients started dropping out and I realised I knew nothing about emotions or thoughts. I also have dyslexia which make academic understanding aslo difficult. I honestly believed that when I lost my counselling job that I could be happy doing cleaning and spending time with my lush family however this didn’t happen and the anxiety and depression kicked in at the thought of hurting the people I most value. I realised that I had nothing to talk about as all I had done was talk about my job and believed I was finally good enough. I can see that no one will understand me because normal people easily understand love and how to put others before themselves. I’m so depressed and desperate for a cure as scared of losing the most precious gift of all and hurting my children. Always believed I had empathy and only now realise all my past relationships problems where down to me. Is there any hope please!!!!!!

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  8. Thank you for this. After finding credible information on NPD through a PDF by The Mayo Clinic, I have yet to find much else besides this in regards to assisting the much-too-educated and self-aware smooth-talker who suffers horrifically from NPD. Fuck, man, talk about “not being understood” – I wonder why? Nine out of ten articles that pop up contribute directly to their madness with hateful, inaccurate, and clearly biased views. I’ve never seen anything like it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Also, I’m currently writing a book giving unique insight into how Stealth NPD has effected my life, happiness, feelings, and thoughts.

      My superman of an ego had me truly believing I was suffering from antisocial personality disorder, with no conscience at all. After chronically failing at everything, whilst taking the role of the recluse, I began to see that I really am a good person with the capacity for love. I started writing my book freely, straight out of the heart (essentially feeling as if I was incriminating myself purposefully), and after 15 pages, one particular line stood out to me. Everything I had written except this one line was saying I’m technically a psycopath (my credibility is epic, trust me).

      The line read: “If you haven’t figured it out yet, what YOU think of me is definitively as important to me as my current job as a professional financial advisor at a Fortune 500 company. How sad is that?”

      Sociopaths or psycopaths don’t feel remorse at all, and I was such a great master at deception – to others as well as myself – that I literally did not know I actually had feelings.

      The other large difference for me was distinguishing what caused my intense depressions – finally figured out it was failure and direct ego-related life events. Once reality gets to be too much to handle, I’m out the door rarely heard from again.

      If you’d like to talk further about your thoughts and advice, and maybe some more about my book, I believe you would not only benefit from it but would enjoy it too.

      My email is cmcdowell.rose@gmail.com

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  9. I was young when I realized how evil I was. As I was growing up I watched people and prayed that I could one day be like them, that I would learn to care about anything but my perfect self-image, to give and receive love, but I learned after years of crying and looking for answers that there is no rescue for people like me. Everything I touch dies instantly and that’s how it will always be. I belong in hell.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re self aware though and that’s the first step to recovery. Have you looked into DBT classes or therapy? I know someone who has an NPD diagnosis and is in DBT and says it’s really helping a lot. Besides, do you have an official diagnosis? You may not have NPD.

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