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There is no cure for NPD, but talk therapy can teach these clients to modify the most self-defeating behaviors, to ‘understand’ their emotions & actions, & have more realistic expectations of others – but the fundamental structure of their dysfunction does not change.
CORE Q for all Narcissists (N)
“Do I really want to work on modifying my narcissistic patterns – to whatever degree possible?”
REVIEW – When considering the possibility of a Narcissist changing their damaging ways – we need to keep the Continuum of Severity in mind.
All humans growing up with abuse & neglect – no matter how ‘normal’ things seemed on the outside – will carry with them narcissistic characteristics. It’s inevitable. ( “ACoAs as Ns”).
However there are degrees of narcissism – of using oneself as the only reference point – in dealing with the world. (⬆️ CHART)
1. “Deep dish” Ns (NPD) are never going to improve on the inside. They can fake-care, fake-feel, be fake-well-behaved…. to get what they can from People-Places-Things (PPT) they want something from. They’re very good at mimicking ‘normals’, but don’t actually want to be like ‘everyone else’, often hiding their feeling of superiority.
Chapter 5 of the AA Big Book refers to such people:
“Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men & women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves.
There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault. They seem to have been born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasping & developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty. Their chances are less than average…..”
Someone on Quora asked : “Are NPD & BPD merely different manifestations of the same broken core, with a lack of self worth?”
ANS : “It’s a false assumption that the broken ‘core’ of the NPD is merely lack of self worth. Instead, one can say that the core is twisted, gnarled, distorted, & misshapen.”
As noted in other posts, these Ns either never go to therapy of any kind (“I don’t need it”), will go briefly, under threat of loss, but never benefit OR will go for years, never improving, & use what they learn about the variety of human needs & motives to better manipulate others.
2. Garden variety Ns (“subclinical narcissists” without full-blown NPD) have all the same underlying N characteristics to be worked on. But they also have the capacity to explore the causes of their damage & the willingness to work at replacing long-held defenses (character defects).
This is possible if such people :
👅 become”sick & tired of being sick & tired”, & can ‘do the work’
🦾 have the ego strength to stick to the life-long process, especially
when discouraged, AND
🔐 are provided with a safe support system, plus correct information – both about the damage (toxic Rules & toxic Roles), and what mental health IS – to give them something to aim for.
NOTE: Sympathy – is understanding the feelings of another, moved by their thoughts & feelings but maintaining somewhat of an emotional distance, while ↓
Empathy – is one person sharing in the mental & emotional reactions of another person’s observable experiences.
DANGER – Ns think they empathize, when it’s really co-dependent mind-reading. (More….)
Empathy comes in 3 levels:
a. Cognitive (under-emotional) : mainly logical = knowing or imagining how another person feels & what they might be thinking, putting yourself in their shoes, & seeing things from their perspective
b. Emotional (over-emotional) : common meaning = literally feeling another person’s emotions along with them, as if you ‘caught’ the EMOs, like a cold.
c. Compassionate (balanced) – understand another person’s predicament and feel with them (a + b), but clearly maintain one’s own sense of identity,
as well as spontaneously moved to help, IF needed & if one can.
🔺Much of Therapy for NPD includes trying to foster in clients the empathy which is lacking in narcissism.
And since they see everything only from their own point of view – point a. is the place to start – before expecting the other 2 levels to develop, which can only happen when the N is less rigidly defended against their own emotions.
NEXT: Overt Ns – themselves (#1)