Why a Narcissist will Never Change

Lisa E. Scott's picture

People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder are rigid and often unaware that their thoughts and behavior patterns are inappropriate. Research indicates they are rarely the ones who come in for treatment. Instead, the spouse, significant other, children, and parents of the personality disordered are the ones who suffer and seek therapy. Narcissists do not typically seek treatment.
Furthermore, personality disorders begin in adolescence or early adulthood and do not change over time.

While Narcissists often have a hard time dealing with stress and may have symptoms such as substance abuse or anxiety that can be treated with medication, it is important to understand that the personality disorder itself cannot be treated. These personality traits are so deeply ingrained that they defy change.

One analogy that illustrates the permanence of a personality disorder is to compare it to a mental illness. Mental illnesses (such as Schizophrenia or Bipolar Disorder) can be treated with medication and cognitive therapy. Most mental illnesses are caused by disruptions in brain cell receptors and synapses, which are believed to be genetically inherited. As long as someone with Schizophrenia or Bipolar disorder is committed to taking their medication regularly, symptoms subside and they feel and act relatively normal.

The onset of mental illness is typically quite sudden and profound. It is often described as though a heavy wool blanket has descended upon a person’s personality and smothered it. A personality disorder, on the other hand, is all pervasive.

With mental illness, a person’s personality is smothered or blanketed by the onset of the illness. Medication used to restore proper chemical balance in the brain helps to remove the blanket and bring back the true personality of the individual.

In contrast, the personality of someone with a personality disorder is virtually interwoven into every fiber of that blanket. It is the fabric and foundation of who they are. If you unravel the blanket, you unravel the person’s entire personality.

Therefore, the way I see it is simple: you have two choices. You either accept your partner for who he or she is or you move on. It is critical that you understand you have done NOTHING wrong nor is there anything you can do to change the situation. It is not your fault. You fell in love with someone who is incapable of having an adult mature relationship.

Personality disorders cannot be treated. Sometimes in life we must accept the fact that the only person we can change is ourselves.

"Consider how hard it is to change yourself and you'll understand what little chance you have in trying to change others."

-Jacob M Braude

Comments

MyTurnToBe Free's picture

Both

I accept my XHN for what he is, AND I have moved on because of it!

Silverandgold's picture

Terror of therapy

This is such an interesting topic, Lisa. Thanks for sharing your insight on it.

The more I think about it, the more I think that extreme selfishness comes out of a basic spiritual poverty. The narcissistic person has such huge (and perpetually unfulfilled) emotional needs, they loom so large for him, that he literally can’t see past them to see anyone else’s needs.

I used to have a narcissist in my life, and while he could be very sweet, his behavior was sometimes bizarre and deeply hurtful. I think this was motivated by a very deep and fundamental feeling of shame. He always talked about his childhood as being a very good one, because his parents taught him “discipline,” but I always thought he must have been terribly neglected emotionally. I don’t know many details, because he would never share them with me. But I think the whole elaborate fake self he has constructed seems necessary to him because the most important thing – the thing he puts all his energy into, all the time – is keeping everyone from seeing his true self, the self he is ashamed of.

I think he noticed, early on in his life, that he was just not like other people. He couldn’t share, he couldn’t form easy friendships, he just couldn’t be comfortable with people. He was afraid that this was because there was something really wrong with him, so instead he convinced himself that he was not like other people because he was *better* than other people. And now he frequently talks about, and looks for evidence of, this superiority. Most people don’t really buy it, but he doesn’t seem to notice that.

He’s a big man, very strong, a fifth degree black belt. He would be a terrifying opponent in a physical fight. He seems very confident, virtually all the time. But now, when I think of him, I think he may actually be the most fearful person I have ever met. I saw a dramatic demonstration of this, the last time I ever really talked to him. He had asked me for sex and he had come over to my house in the middle of the night. He knew that I loved him, he was feeling lonely, and he was trying – sincerely trying, I think – to be real with me, to be intimate, to connect with me. And this was so terrifying for him that he sat on my sofa with his head in his hands, shaking all over, almost in tears. Later, I think because his vulnerability with me made him feel ashamed, he threw me out of his life completely, and he’s never spoken to me again. The way he treated me (in this and other things) was terrible. But I’ve never been as angry as I probably should be, because thinking of his terrible fear always, even now, fills me with sadness and tenderness toward him.

So, to the issue of narcissists seeking therapy. If I am right about this man, how could he ever seek therapy for what really troubles him? If your whole life is about hiding what terrifies you and makes you ashamed, how could you overcome that? How could you ever approach a therapist and say, “My whole life, my whole personality, is a lie – but I am afraid that the real person I have spent my life trying to hide is worthless”? I think he would fear that doing something like this would literally kill him. Because, as Lisa says, this fakeness of his personality has infiltrated every part of his personality. If he let the fakeness go, what would be left?

7yeaeritch's picture

So you don't think

So you don't think dialectical behavior therapy can help a personality disordered person at all?

maruli's picture

Only a Shock May Help

"So you don't think dialectical behavior therapy can help a personality disordered person at all?"

In my opinion, narcissists are immune to any insight, that they need to change and that they need therapy, unless and until a severe shock shakes their entitlement and grandiosity delusion. If they suffer a loss or failure bad enough without being able to blame it on anybody or anything else, then they may wake up and start to wonder, what they have contributed themselves.
The worst for a narcissist is not a woman, who avoids being hoovered by going on 'No Contact', the worst is a woman, who resists his attempts at hoovering by coldbloodedly telling him everything that hurts a narcissist, calling him an emotional moron, telling him, that she is out of his league, that he is just not good enough and so on.
Even that of course would only work, if he wants that woman bad enough and fails to find another victim to replace her.

michele115's picture

I mean no disrespect and I am not a professional;

However, it seems to me the more I read the more I reflect and the more I learn about other's experiences...the only shock that might be helpful for those with NPD might be electric shock and I am very serious when I say that...

maruli's picture

The Narcissistic Bluffer

The following text is a copied entry from my blog. This is my personal version, why a narcissist cannot change.
Please bear with oddities in expressing myself, English is not my native language.

The Narcissistic Bluffer

A narcissist has a never satisfied need for adulation, adoration, admiration. Even when he has successfully got a woman into the role of his doormat, he still wants to get more narcissistic supply from additional sources.

If he were really good with some skills or qualifications, he would have no reason to be a narcissist, he could feel good about his true accomplishments. But his intelligence and general aptitude are somewhat limited. If he has a good memory and enough talent in his verbal expression to compensate for other deficits, then he is predestined to become a bluffer.

First of all, he carefully chooses his audience. They are all people, who have some kind of a problem, either psychologically or intellectually. From his subjective perspective, he chooses his suitable ditch full of people, to whom he can feel superior. All new age, religious and selfhelp groups are the ideal playground for the bluffer. Either he only pretends to have the problem of the group's focus, or maybe he has it very lightly, or he may only believe to be afflicted himself. He has not real convictions, in the core of his personality his is just gullible. He can change his religious and new age believes easily and radically, if he has exhausted the patience of one group and moves on to another. Everything except the narcissism is only skin deep, all the bluffer's convictions, attitudes and his pseudo-wisdom.

The bluffer enters the group apparently as a member like everybody else. But as soon as he gets the occasion, he climbs on a pedestal and starts to impress the group with his monologues. He comes well prepared, he has read books about the specific problem or belief system of that group, and he has memorized a lot of theory and advice, that he now pours out over the awe stricken audience. For them, it is impressive, but they have no clue, that he repeats, what he has read, without any deeper comprehension. Even though he has elevated himself upon a pedestal, the ground above the ditch is still much higher.

For an observer from a distance, all his pseudo-wisdom is nothing more then mental diarrhea. He pours out so much of it, that hardly ever anybody has a chance to get a word in. But he only focuses on his own performance, and he does not even notice, that when the genuine sufferers in the group talk about their experiences, he lacks empathy and understanding. He is a parrot and not a participant.
In religious groups the bluffer learns the specific scriptures of the group by rote and preaches from his pedestal. Here his role is even easier, because the religious believes make no rational sense to nobody except the believers. Only skeptical people outside are able to be critical about it.
He appears quite genuine and convincing, with an assertive body language and a strong voice. He is not consciously bluffing the others, he is also bluffing himself. He is oblivious, that what he repeats from books are only words for him, and that there is a more abstract and complex meaning for others, that he looses completely.

If anybody would ask really learned questions, it would fast become obvious, that the bluffer has no comprehension of what he talks about. It would be obvious to anybody but the bluffer himself. The bluffer reads some books about a topic, and then he believes he knows it all and is the specialist. When he meets a real professional with a degree, and he cannot comprehend him, the bluffer does not recognize his own limitations, instead he declares the professional as incompetent.

He succeeds to bluff the people in the groups, because all he does is talk. He could for example preach about the importance of responsibility, even though he himself has no clue, what responsibility means and how to apply responsibility to his own behavior.
The narcissistic bluffer could even join a self-help group of victims of jerks. He would sincerely believe to be himself the victim of abuse, even though he has a suffering doormat at home. When at the end of the micro cycle of abuse (entry 286) he himself had driven the woman into outbursts of calling him idiot or a**hole, he starts to believe her to be the abuser.

The bluffer does not communicate, he only distributes his mental diarrhea. Input by perception of the utterings of others is impeded. He has a filter, which allows the narcissistic supply in form of praise and admiration pass through a wall, of which most of other people's utterings, especially the critical ones, bounce off. He does not bother to listen, because while he believes that everybody else can learn from his alleged wisdom, he does not expect any valuable input from others. He does not listen to people's feedback, so he avoids to ever be made aware, that in reality he has no clue of what he talks about.

When one group tires of him, he just moves on to another. People, who recognize his performance as mental diarrhea shrug their shoulders and shun him. Those who attempt to give him any critical feedback are shunned by him. The bluffer has many superficial acquaintances, whom he has impressed. As long as he impresses them, they are blind to what is behind his bluff.
But he is very alone, because whenever people get close, they do not stay close for long. They experience the inconsistencies and discrepancy between his words and his behavior, and his hurting and annoying treatment drives them away, before they can become real friends, who would bother to give him the sincere feedback, that he would need. Instead they just avoid him.

He has no chance to ever improve. Over time the bluffer looses the touch with reality. He believes more and more in his grandiosity and expects, that everywhere the pedestal is already waiting for him, not only in the ditch, but also, when he moves around on the ground above.

With women, his method is similar. He bluffs any woman ready to be bluffed to believe, that he were the kind of man she is looking for. What person she is, makes no difference, as long as she looks up to him, accepts his pedestal as his birthright and gives him narcissistic supply. Not having a real personality, he again bluffs himself to believe to be the match for any woman, who gives him narcissist supply without resistance.

But if he ever errs in his choice of his victim and bluffs a fervently egalitarian woman to mistake him for an egalitarian man wanting a close and committed relationship, then trouble starts. When such a woman experiences in real life, that his behavior is the contrary of his big words, then his bluff stops to be impressive for her.
They are not in the ditch, and when he climbs onto his pedestal to be above her in his attempts to get her adulation, she pulls him down from the pedestal. The bluffer becomes furious. If he is not allowed to be above her on the pedestal, then he considers her appropriate place below him in the ditch. When he attempts to push her down into the ditch, she resists and they struggle until she can free herself.
At the time, when he bluffs her into the relationship, she considers him to be at par with herself. But as soon as she starts to see through his bluff, she wonders, if it is not he, whose place is down in the ditch.

Mountain's picture

My husband !

You have just described my husband! It is painful for me to listen sometimes because I know he is spouting off info that he read online or in a book, when the person that he is bluffing might be a professional. Wow! I need to read this again...

Jannie In the Sun's picture

His Mistake

"But if he ever errs in his choice of his victim and bluffs a fervently egalitarian woman to mistake him for an egalitarian man wanting a close and committed relationship, then trouble starts."

That is EXACTLY when the trouble began!

onwithmylife's picture

Lisa

that last comment says IT ALL...................

Used's picture

onwithmylife

that last comment says IT ALL...................

I BECAME THAT WOMEN,WHO HE THOUGHT WAS ON PAR WITH HIM..BUT SAW THAT I WAS ABOVE HIM SO DID I AND THATS WHEN HE TRIED TO BREAK ME... HE DIDNT SUCCEED , BUT HE HAD A GOOD TRY...