It’s Narcissist Friday!
I have received a couple questions recently about how a narcissist can change. There is a surprising lack of literature on methods of treatment for narcissism. Most books are written for family members, spouses, and others in relationships with narcissists; in other words, the victims. In fact, most books that even mention the idea of treatment say something like this quote I found in a clinical book specifically about narcissism: “Narcissistic disorders are prevalent and believed to be among the most difficult clinical problems to treat.” I find the combination of “prevalent” and “most difficult” to be concerning.
Does that mean there are a lot of narcissists out there and there is nothing anyone can do about them? It may seem that way, and that’s why most of the books are about how to deal with them, avoid them or recuperate from them. Most family counselors, pastoral therapists, etc. have never tried to treat a narcissist and most wouldn’t know where to begin. Fortunately, that seems to be balanced by the fact that so few narcissists believe anything is wrong with them. Their problems are easily blamed on others. Not many narcissists will ever come to a counselor for treatment.
The problem, in general, is that narcissism is usually a survival technique learned in early childhood through repetitive traumatic situations in which the child feels powerless, rejected, and valueless. The particular technique used is to deny the negative feelings and the negative self-appraisal and replace the perceived reality by a more positive and personally-designed substitute. Since the narcissist knows that the substitute is not real, he must continually reinforce it and reject any attempt to reveal the truth.
Now, if you understand the above paragraph, you see why narcissists are hard to treat and usually don’t seek treatment. Counselors who understand narcissism often find that the most reasonable types of treatment don’t work because the narcissists will not cooperate. They will not do homework, will reject the counselor’s assessments, or will lie to manipulate the exposure.
So what can a narcissist do if he really does want to change? He should find a good counselor, someone who has an understanding of and experience with narcissism. If he truly wants to change and isn’t playing a game, there are things that will help. The counselor will want to look at what happened so long ago and why the child chose that survival technique. The narcissist will find this process very difficult, but going through it will be the key.
Now, I have no fantasies about being able to cure a disorder the professional therapists find daunting. As a Christian, I believe the Lord can do anything, even cure a narcissist. I also believe that it would take a miracle from Him to accomplish forward progress and I would not hesitate to ask for one. I think a narcissist should go to the Lord, with the counselor if possible. In the presence of the Lord, the truth can be confronted.
Narcissists do not deal well with truth. Many victims note how easily the narcissist lies. These folks are the ultimate utilitarians; they use whatever it takes to accomplish their purposes. Truth, like a person, is just a tool to use. It has little meaning outside of its usefulness. If a falsehood will accomplish the purpose more effectively or even easier, it can be substituted without qualms.
But for the narcissist to progress away from the disorder, the truth will have to be confronted and accepted.
In the last two “Narcissist Friday” posts, I shared a couple stories that are difficult to read. Both of them elicit sympathy from the reader. My purpose was to show how deeply the wounds that led to the narcissism exist in the life of the narcissist. In order to progress, the narcissist will have to look honestly at the feelings he or she experienced during that time and find a new way to survive.
I believe that the love of Jesus Christ provides a different way of hope and life. The narcissist does not have to hide the reality of his pain and suffering. He can take those things to Jesus and find peace and acceptance.
Easy? Of course not! Who wants to go there again? But there is hope….
What do you think?