But I Can Change


“But I can change.”

A phrase so often said by some of our kind. You will, more likely than not, have heard this sentence at some point during your entanglement with us. Usually it is uttered as part of a Preventative Hoover when the narcissist sees that there is a considerable risk that you are going to depart the Formal Relationship and in so doing threaten the provision of fuel from the chief source. It also makes an appearance as part of the Initial Grand Hoover to draw you back in, should you have managed to take those first steps towards escape. You will hear it in Benign Follow-Up Hoovers although following the effluxion of time you are more likely to hear the cousin, namely, “But I have changed.” Occasionally it appears within the devaluation phase, following an unpleasant episode as part of the further manipulation to keep you bound to the narcissist and providing fuel. Accordingly, its use will occur at different parts of the narcissistic dynamic.

To some, the sentence contains the magical words that the empath is waiting to hear. The empath’s inherent desire to fix, to heal and to repair longs for that acknowledgement by the narcissist that they can alter their behaviour, make new and fresh choices, learn from the mistakes and choose a better path. The declaration of a willingness to change is welcomed by certain empaths and they selflessly accept this statement, believing that all people have some good within, that it is a case of recognising this and applying a different approach.

To others, the words are welcomed but with caution. Perhaps the devaluing behaviour has been so deep and savage that the recipient is wary, fearful of their hopes being raised too soon. Their inherent desire to see change, for the good of both people in the relationship wants to agree, to grab this offer with both hands and see to its implementation, but dare they hope that it can be done? Indeed they can, for in that moment, as the cool, hard logic of caution makes its presence felt, it becomes overrun by the soaring emotional thinking that cries out – “He has realised. He knows he has done wrong. He wants to make amends. He wants to change.” The emotional thinking brings forth those twin sisters of pressure – Hope and Guilt. The empath, chained to the concept of hope, sincerely wishes that  the person that they love will change and become a better person. Guilt also weighs in, whispering, “What if it is genuine, what if he can change and you do not give him a chance, what a bad person you will be for doing that?” The emotional thinking will win out.

Rarely will this protestation of being able to change go unheeded. Rarely will the opportunity not be given to the narcissist who states that this can be done. It is only the informed, those who can apply their cool, hard logic and resist the rising tide of emotional thinking who can repel the allure of those enticing words. For everyone else, they are drawn into allowing the narcissist a further opportunity to keep they, the victim, in place.

Yet, who is it of our brethren who issues this plea? What is meant by it and can it really happen?

You will rarely hear it from the Lesser Narcissist. He sees no reason to change. He or she does as they want. If he smashed up the house or physically attacked you, well it was your fault that it happened and once the ignited fury has abated, the best you will get is that the reset button is pressed and nothing is said about the previous behaviour. The statement of change might be issued if the Lesser faces a fuel crisis and in absolute desperation it is blurted out in order to prevent the cessation of his primary supply but come the morning after, the intention will have evaporated and any suggestion of change will be rejected. The crisis has been averted, the wound healed and fury abated and the entitled Lesser is not going to make those changes, not when of course it was your fault ll along.

If reminded of his intention, he will brush it to one side, telling you he will look into it, that he is busy with something else at the moment but you can talk later, that he has to go to work, that he has someone to see and you will be left dangling. He will not return to the discussion about making a change or seeking help and fearing a further explosive episode you do not press further and there the matter is left.

You will rarely hear it from the Greater Narcissist. He sees no reason to change either. Oh, we know what we do but that is borne out of necessity and it is what must be done. Our needs, superior to yours, require this behaviour and if you cannot accept it, well we can easily find someone else who will, because, after all, we are the prize, the champion and the ultimate, so it is your loss. The Greater will not issue this plea as a Preventative Hoover or such like to stop you leaving. True, he will not want his primary source to escape. This is a matter of fuel provision but often more of pride and superiority. After all, the extensive fuel matrices of the Greater school ( see The Fuel Matrix – Part Three ) means that even if the primary source had the audacity to escape he has plenty of other sources to turn to in the meanwhile. He will however not want to suffer the wounding of this primary source escaping and will want to stop it, but he will use charm and threat to achieve this, not the plea that he will change. It is beneath him.

The only time you might hear these words uttered by the Greater Narcissist is purely because he sees the opportunity for more Machiavellian behaviours through manipulating his victim by engendering false hope. He will see the opportunity to increase his trade craft through agreeing to engage in therapy. He will see it not as a chance to change, but rather an opportunity to learn more about himself (and why not, since he is such a fascinating creature), understand more about his ways and indeed take on the challenge of therapists and the like. If he agrees to changing his behaviour and enlisting external advice and assistance he will also lay down terms and conditions for this occurring in order to further his own agenda. You will however never hear the Greater Narcissist use the phrase “But I can change” as part of some desperate plea.

Accordingly, this leaves us with the school which uses this manipulation often, far more often than the other schools and that is of course the Mid Range Narcissist.  The Mid Ranger uses this manipulation for the following reasons:-

  1. He sees him or herself as a good person. Their perspective means they genuinely regard themselves as decent people and therefore since they are decent, they will, well, do the decent thing and look at making a change;
  2. They regard themselves as giving and they are prepared to make that sacrifice if it means saving the relationship;
  3. They consider themselves to be something of a tortured soul, they have “their demons”, there is something eating away at them and they wish to address it;
  4. They need to be saved and you are the person who can save them. They lack the pig-headed arrogance of the Lesser or the sneering superiority of the Greater.

What is behind those driving factors?

  1. The narcissistic perspective. They consider themselves the one who does good and it is other people who cause the problems, but because they are SO good they will prove that by addressing the issues which have been raised. This is not because they actually believe there is something wrong with them in terms of culpability but rather it is actually an opportunity for them to show the world that they are good and it is other people who are the problem.
  2. This is the victim perspective coming to the fore. The world is a horrible place and no matter how much they try to help others, the world keeps trying to bring them down but that doesn’t matter because guess what? They will rise above it and they will be the one who takes one for the team, who makes the sacrifice and does so for the greater good.
  3. This is the victim perspective once again. They do not see that they are disordered. They do not recognise that they manipulate. They are incapable of doing so because they have no insight or awareness. They do however regard this whole concept of being a ‘tortured soul’ as a magnificent device for drawing fuel. Sympathy, concern and compassion all come flowing. This is not an acknowledgement that there is anything wrong with the Mid Ranger but rather he blames ‘the demon’ (whatever that might be) because blame-shifting is a key defence mechanism and blaming you, the neighbours, the weather or an intangible concept will all work for him.
  4. This is the victim perspective once more but also all part of the sympathy grab for attention. The Mid Ranger wishes to draw pity and compassion but then also be revered, for he is the fallen hero who has been saved and is then able to rise once more, in the magical thinking that plays out in his mind.

The Middle Mid Ranger and Upper Mid Ranger have sufficient cognitive function to realise that their behaviour causes a problem. This is where many victims (understandably) are fooled into thinking that the narcissist is actually showing insight (indeed this often causes them to either think that the narcissist is not a narcissist, or that he is but he can actually change) . The MMR or UMR may acknowledge that his actions cause hurt and problems, however, he or she will never accept ownership of the hurt and problems. For instance, they might say,

“I know that when I disappear for a few days you are worried sick, BUT I need space because you are always pestering me.”

“I understand that you are hurt when I say certain things BUT I am under pressure at work at the moment and you aren’t helping when you question me about why I am home late.”

They can see the consequence but they will not own the consequence. They are configured not to do so.

As is always the case, the uninformed victim accepts the third party explanation as the cause of the errant behaviour or self-flagellates and the victim blames him or herself. So the cause of the problem is regarded as pressure at work or the pestering of the victim.

The Mid Ranger will state he can change and moreover he will also act on the declaration which again sows the seeds of false hope and ensures the victim remains in situ and providing fuel. This is just a further part of the manipulation.

The Mid-Ranger may become more attentive, does not dole out silent treatments, removes the manipulations and stops sulking for a few weeks. This is a Respite Period and he has implemented this because when you said you would not leave, you became painted white again because you did what he wanted. You succumbed to his control and your gracious behaviour provided fuel. The golden period returns and this is what powers his altered ways. It is not because there is any recognition that he must change because it hurts you. The alteration is because you have done what he wanted, thus his split thinking makes you ‘white’ once more and this is what keeps the devaluation at bay, but only for a while.

Naturally, the unwitting victim, having seen changes effected (but not knowing the real reason behind them) is conned into thinking that these changes can happen again and therefore when the plea “But I can change” is made at a later time, the victim is swamped by hope because it happened before (thus it can surely happen again) and thus the cycle continues.

If you return to the Formal Relationship through an Initial Grand Hoover or a Benign Follow-Up Hoover you are painted white once more and the golden period returns, creating the illusion of changed behaviours. Until it tarnishes in due course.

The insidious manipulative manner of the Mid Ranger means that these changes come in many forms. He will alter his actions at home. He will cease the affair shelving the IPSS as your Respite Period Golden Period draws him back to you. He will help out, he will show that inkling of charm once again. He will of course herald his new-found redemption to third parties because this will garner fuel and maintain the facade and of course accords with his complete conviction that he is a good person. This will also provide him with ammunition to hurl at you at the appropriate time, in that he made the changes and if things have faltered it has to be your fault then.

The Mid Ranger will readily attend therapy sessions. This allows him to do several things:-

  1. Show you he is willing and a good person;
  2. He can maintain the facade, “Dawn wanted me to go to therapy and because I love her so much it was the least I could do.” (now tell me how wonderful a husband I am).
  3. He will use the therapy sessions to advance his own agenda. Often the victim will not know what is discussed owing to confidentiality. Therefore the Mid-Ranger, convinced of his own goodness and lack of culpability, will manipulate the therapist  (and will do so convincingly most of the time). Thereafter, the Mid Ranger will tell the victim that actually the therapist said that the victim is the abuser and that the narcissist is the victim. This might be true, an exaggeration of the observations of the unwitting therapist or a lie. Either way, this will leave the victim undermined such is the conviction of the narcissist. Ally that with the fact the victim has seen some changes, their own eroded self-worth and reduced critical thinking and it comes as no surprise that the victim is confused or even believes what the narcissist is saying.
  4. The narcissist can hold it over the victim. “I did as you asked and got some help. They told me there is no issue.” (Now you owe me and I am going to ensure I extract that debt from you repeatedly).

The desire to change is motivated by entirely different reasons than you realise and this desire is not genuine. The change is short-lived, never permanent and any and all behaviours associated with it, no matter how genuine they appear, no matter how earnest the pleading, no matter how many tears are spilled (and the Mid Ranger will turn on the waterworks) it is all part of the manipulation.

They cannot and will not change.

Grasp that understanding so that when you hear “But I can change”, cool,hard logic prevails and you resist the allure of hope. People are inherently optimistic. Empathic people even more so, but the dark side of this hope is vulnerability and our kind and in particular the Mid-Ranger count on that and exploit it.


31 thoughts on “But I Can Change”

      1. Good morning HG

        I find it amusing with the anti Trump here. I am not stating I am for or against Trump only that he isn’t the first of your kind to sit in the White House, the chances are high the next president will belong to your club to. Just because they are more charming, better looking means things should be overlooked?

      2. Twilight, other narcissist presidents possibly, but they were higher grade. A greater narcissist that doesn’t let his self centered grandiosity interfere, and who actually does his job and takes it seriously is enormously different than having a Lesser like we have now.

      1. Kelfairly,
        Yes, Americans know our President is a Narcissist. I don’t know where you live. I live in the Southwest of USA. We are in the middle of the midterm elections. Naturally, Narcissist are drawn to power and politics. There is no way I am moving to Canada.
        It’s too cold in Canada. While they are dealing with the snow blizzards, I’m hiking and drinking margaritas. My family is too Republican. I learned how to shoot guns when I was 5 years old. My personal and work connections are all in USA. Life has it’s challenges, but living here in USA, is not bad at all.

  1. I have never heard “But I can change”. Both, my mother and him, always told me, that their behaviour is normal. Both have a twisted perception of reality. For example: My mother tells me and others about a friend of her, that this woman should be satisfied, that her (three) children call her once in a week. That should be enough and would be normal. She should not ask for more, because that would be too much. At the same time my mother ignores, that she herself calls me up to 8! times within a day. You can make strokes at the wall and she would deny it.
    I would have been happier, if there ever would have been some words like “But I can change”. That would have meant, that she accepts, that there is a problem ! She has no problems and that is the fact and the truth. Others have problems and should go to therapy. No, she has no problems.
    On the other hand I am glad that she never said those words. These words create hope and let you think, that there is a solution. It is easier for me without these words. Now, that I see all those contradictions between her words and her behaviour I can take it, as it is. I do not care about it anymore. I do not ask for reasons anymore. And much more important: I do not care about the things she tells me about me, anymore. They are all product of her ill fantasy and her needs of control. And I have no problems anymore to lie a lot to her. I tell her that I will do this and that for her, but I don`t. There is no honesty in our relationship. So we both live in a land of fantasy. I have to be very careful, that I do not start to be that way to normal people.

    There must be a lot of pressure until a narc says: ” But I can change.” And of course it is, as always, some kind of manipulation. Maybe they believe it even at that moment, when it comes out of their mouth. But a second later it is forgotten. They do not want to see their own manipulative character, they do not want to see their own neediness and their egoism and they do not want to live in a real world. They want to live in La-la-land.

    They are always the victims or the “I know it better” and there is no place between that for some kind of reality.

  2. Grand piece of prize sh** that you are, I hope that this stuff you write will make it possible to identify and criminalise such behaviour. At the very least it gives the means to discuss the topic instead of having it brushed aside.

    I will never understand how you can cause such suffering and take pleasure in it. I will never understand how you are so disconnected from everything that you cannot feel their pain and distress but rather revel in it. How you see everything as existing only for YOU. It’s like 50% of your psyche was not made and what is there is intrinsically negative.

    The whole bank of automatic negative thoughts and so many other thought disorders and mental health issues originate in you. I have observed that at some fundamental level, even if beyond conscious awareness, you all know you’re defective and you spend your lives running from this fact. The biological apoptotic imperative of defective organisms to self destruct (suicide) is projected by you onto others instead, sadly allowing you to perpetuate while destroying the very beings that should survive.

    1. Leslie
      What was the nature of your entanglement? (Intimate partner, co-worker, family member etc). Also, how long have you been removed from it? (if you are).

      1. It’s always interesting to me to read when people say that they can never understand how Narcs do what they do. In my case, I do understand.i suffer with a similar disorder only my empathy was left in tact. Did I choose to be Codepebdent ? Hell f ing No!!! Yet I am. It’s the only way I’ve ever known. It’s instinctive. Narcs do not choose to be Narcs. They cannot wake up one day and say I’m not going to be a Narc anymore. It’s who they are. They did not ask for it. It’s like any other illness only theirs causes harm to people. I’m not making excuses, but believe me people no one wants to be a Narcissist, Borderkine, ASPD, or Codepebdent. It brings pain.

    2. Leslie,
      Interesting analysis although you are bringing the organically ecosystem process that happens at the celular level to a “social “ecosystem.
      In that case for that comparison to be viable, this process should be defined as present in ALL entities that conform a particular “social” ecosystem and not just exclusively to a particular group( in this case the narcissists) . The phenomena of evolution as re-adaptation of behaviours (not “self “destruction as I see it)is present even within normals, empaths etc.
      What I am trying to point out is that if that comparison is to be valid, it should not be biased to one particular group of the social ecosystem.

    3. adding:and in this evolutionary social ecosystems (un)fortunately the strongest are the ones that survive….independently which group they belong to….

  3. Hg, you clearly know, and clearly state, once you know you go….. meaning once we realize we are entangled with one of your kind, leave. Get out and stay out. I agree it’s the only viable option and the only healthy option. With that said, isn’t that counterintuitive from your kind? I realize you’ve said you don’t tell us this to actually “help” so to speak, even though it is helpful. You’re just speaking truth. However, since you think you’re a ok as you are and don’t really care one way or another if others are hurt by your kind, how is it you recognize that someone in an intimate relationship with your kind is being hurt?

    Further, does your kind view intimate partners as weak? If we believe the illusion and fall hard in the golden period, isn’t that act alone viewed as weak?

    Last, wouldn’t most people be viewed as weak? What exactly is viewed as not weak by your kind? Are any intimate partners viewed as anything other than weak? Would a strong person be amusing or something you’d not like as well?

    1. Because they tell me they are being hurt and I have learned to recognise the expressions of pain and hurt.
      Yes. There are degrees of weakness.

  4. One of the more puzzling things I’ve heard a narcissist say is, “I used to be so entitled.” He also admitted to being “spoiled” growing up. This man seemed to know in terms of outward behavior that these are not endearing traits. Can a narcissist say these things while still lacking real insight?

    1. Easily because a Mid ranger recognises that there traits are ‘frowned upon’ but accepts no culpability for such behaviour.

      1. HG, why do they not accept any kind of culpability? Why is that so difficult for them? I know that my ex and my mother have a little conscience (not a very big one, but there is one.) Sometimes it shines through and it is no fake. But both would never admit, that they have done something wrong

      2. Thank you for your answer, HG. As far as the narcissist’s thinking on this, would he actually believe that he has changed for the better? Could this be a narcissist who improved his mask by learning to hide his unpleasant behavior?

  5. During this hoover he has apparently had an epiphany and now he understands the root of the problem, he can change. He’s finally admitting to (some of) the lies I’ve caught him in that he’s been denying for months. Denying even though I had written proof. He’s justifying the lies by saying he was telling me what I wanted to hear to keep me happy, which is what he lives for. After all, how could he tell me the truth when I would have just gotten upset and angry? Therefore he is transferring the blame for his lying onto me. He had no other choice but to tell lies, surely anybody would agree?! But he won’t need to, now, as he’s explained why it happens. As long as I don’t get upset and angry and feed his deep-seated need to make me happy at any cost, even by sacrificing his integrity, he won’t need to lie from now on.
    I almost went with it. Yes, I thought, I am demanding and irrationally jealous, I do get upset and angry when he does something I don’t like. Of course he has to lie when faced with a crazy shrew like me, at least he’s willing to change.
    Instead, I thought about the sheer number of lies, how some were completely unnecessary and made little sense, how many times I’ve tied myself in knots trying to get the truth from him, how I’ve stopped trusting my instincts, how I now question everything I thought I knew, how he hurls accusations and insults at me to distract and deflect and how anxious and paranoid I have become. And I refused to take the blame. I didn’t make him a liar. He was not a truthful person until he met me. I am not unreasonable in expecting someone who claims to love me to tell me the truth. I do not deserve dishonesty. He lies to make himself feel superior to me. That I’ve caught him out so many times proves he is anything but.

    1. Littlebit
      So he fed you bullshit, blamed you, then layed out guidelines under which you would operate in order for him not to have to lie again (all your responsibility). Right then. Sounds rational. TO A LUNATIC! Which you are not.
      You thought logically and with your own needs in mind rather than his. Good for you.

    2. littlebit, my NX finally admitted to lies when I had point blank evidence (I spoke to the women he cheated with). He said he could be with one woman and be a good honest, faithful man. He would try to get better.

      Flash forward to one of the women picking up furniture at his apartment. He “neglected” to tell me she was there. I spoke to him about it and he said it was no big deal, she got her stuff and left, she had other people with her.

      I spoke to her and she said he tried to kiss her. Said that she was seeing someone and he told her she needed to choose between the other man and him. He had tried to touch her.

      He lied about things big and small. I want to get away from all the dishonesty, using and games. There is no honor in it. He projects an image of someone who is supremely romantic, passionate and faithful. What he is, is manipulative, misogynistic and deceitful.

    3. Littlebit, please take my advice on this. Do not get caught up in the confessions. Everything you said is my life this last 2 years of a 7 year relationship. It sounds as though you have thought about this rationally. Keep believing what you are telling yourself. The confession stage of the relationship almost did me in and I have pretty thick skin. They won’t stop, they make you crazy. There are lies on top of lies and just when you think you have it all worked out he will confess to more. It will be your fault every time. Pieces will be left out so that he can blindside you with them later. You will be expected to show no anger or hurt about the lies. That will be his condition (even though he will swim in the fuel of your pain) If you keep your emotions in check he will take the confessions to a darker level until he breaks you.

      The confession feed our addiction because we want answers and they feed the narcissist fuel because we can’t handle the answers. We can’t handle them because we feel, they do not. Don’t do that to yourself.

      Just keep telling yourself that his reasoning is not normal. Your thinking is. You deserve better than that.

  6. Wow. Just had this ‘I can change’ conversation with my mid range narc bf yesterday. He is so full of shit!! Lol!

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