SITE: NPD Treatment
What Type of Narcissist does Well in Therapy?
Because of the explosion of interest in NPD & easy access to information about it on the internet, more people are identifying their narcissism & contacting therapists for help.
Some people with ‘N adaptations’ are better suited to psychotherapy than others. These clients can be considered ‘self-aware’, who seem to have several characteristics in common. (www.elinorgreenberg.com)
🔸Acknowledge the feelings of others
People with narcissism can develop more realistic empathy —
— if they imagine looking through the eyes of someone they feel is a lot like themselves (still being self-referent)
— consider how their children will be affected, or how they’re seen by people who idealize / value them
🔸Capacity for Self-Reflection
This is the ability to look objectively at one’s own motives & actions.
Self-reflection can be hard for Ns because doing so damages their protective shell of perfection – which keeps them from having to look inside for the source of their problems.
If their illusion of perfection is challenged, they’re capable of lashing out, or becoming trapped in a self-hate spiral.
Only a few Ns out of thousands are desperate enough to be self-reflective.
🔸Desire for Self-Improvement
There’s a subset of Ns who genuinely want to grow, & are willing to do the hard work necessary. These clients believe that change is possible, & can imagine improving themselves & their life. As one said: “Once I see that I could do something better, I want to learn how.”
Ns often have mental & physical health issues as well, including anxiety, anorexia nervosa, depression, & substance misuse. These problems can encourage the N to seek therapy. A desire to relieve existing emotional pain & prevent future distress can be strong motivators toward change – which is not a narcissist’s natural desire.
This is a general ability to be emotionally stable & in touch with reality when under internal or external stress.
Being in therapy can be like living in your home while it’s being renovated – a lot of chaos, uncertainty & mess during construction. Therefore a person needs strong internal support (guts), so that when the therapist challenges a deep-set N defense, & their underlying shame hits, the person doesn’t fall apart & stops functioning.
Dismantling the N’s world-view has to be done very slowly & carefully, which is one reason their therapy takes so long. It is also why so many Ns quit before reaching their goals. When necessary, the therapist can temporarily “loan the client their ego strength” to support the client while going through this difficult & delicate process.
They are able to navigate everyday life without significant difficulty, such as initiating projects & finish them. They graduated school, have a job, a relatively a stable living environment, & are able to make friends.
At the other extreme, if they’re too low functioning (in society & re. self-care), all their energy will be spent on simply surviving. So they’re much less likely to worry about their diagnosis – having to worry about their next meal or the latest eviction notice.
Naturally, there are functioning Ns who manage to look good on the outside, but will always try to handle their symptoms by themselves, while still negatively effecting family & colleagues.
All other things being equal, highly intelligent people are more likely to see the big picture & understand the difference between their perceptions & reality. As one self-aware N clients said: “Just because it feels real to me, doesn’t mean it IS real.”
There’s something going on in their lives they don’t like, & want to change. It could be that their second marriage is failing or that they didn’t get the promotion they worked for – again.
But with many Ns, as long as everything seems to be working for them, they’re not going to bother researching their diagnosis or going for help.
The Ns who do best in therapy have an innate interest & curiosity in why people think & act as they do. They read self-help books & blogs, go to 12 step-Programs & talk to friends about their feelings. So they’re much more likely to stick with long-term therapy because they enjoy the process of self-discovery.
NEXT : Growth GOALS (Part 2a)