Can The Narcissist Be Cured?

15 thoughts on “Can The Narcissist Be Cured?

  1. Emma says:

    HG, you have been busy, working tirelessly for the good cause. Your productivity is impressive. Do you perchance own a time turner? Inventive as you are, it wouldn’t be surprising if you could turn the hands of time.

    I have been reflecting on what you say about curing the narcissist. I very much agree that curing the narcissist from NPD – as in, an external force or agent causing the narcissist to adopt an alternative coping strategy – cannot be done as any attempt to change is perceived as an exertion of control and met with hostility, forming a hermetically sealed defense mechanism.

    You also seem to suggest that it is impossible for the narcissist to change. Here I beg to differ. I can understand why you might think that, but such a believe is not in keeping with scientific findings, nor is it in keeping with observable fact.

    If I may elaborate, according to scientific findings, contrary to earlier assumptions, the human brain does not become set in adulthood, or “baked” as you say. Findings of neuroscience have now well established that the brain retains its plasticity to a high degree, even in old age. So the ability of the brain to adapt, to form new pathways, develop new functions – things that were previously associated exclusively with the developing child brain – remain intact in the adult brain. This is true in equal measure for those with NPD. And you don’t need to be a neuroscientist to establish this. You can simply observe that narcissists are perfectly able to learn, adapt and change all the time, i.e. their brains are adapting, forming new pathways, developing new functions etc. So physiologically speaking narcissists are capable of change as much as the next person. This means that it is perfectly possible for the narcissist to change their behavior, to adopt a different coping strategy. The fact that it is unlikely that that will happen any time soon is an entirely different matter.

    The following may illustrate the difference between impossible and unlikely. For someone with an amputation, it is physiologically impossible to regrow a new limb. For someone who is an alcoholic, it is possible to give up dependency on alcohol, adopt a different coping strategy and achieve sobriety, but the chances they will do so may be reduced due to predisposition and long term conditioning as an addict. So although achieving sobriety is possible, it is unlikely. NPD is closely related to substance addiction, NPD is not a physiological impairment like an amputated limb that cannot be regenerated. Moreover, the brain is not just like any other organ. Even in the case of actual brain damage, unlike an amputated limb, the brain is able to regenerate and develop new functions in other parts in the case of a fall out. There is already an extensive body of work on neuroplasticity which is only growing. The idea that the brain becomes set or “baked” and cannot change is untenable and obsolete.

    So, the inability of the narcissist to change is not physiological, it is psychological; Impunity, lack of awareness and the lack of motivation are preventing the narcissist from finding a less destructive and more fulfilling strategy for meeting needs. For an aware narcissist like yourself HG, it is the lack of motivation that is the obstacle for adopting an alternative strategy. As we can all observe here, there is absolutely nothing wrong with your abilities to learn, to adopt, to adjust, you do that all the time. You call it honing your skills. You have no impairment whatsoever in that regard. It is just that you simple do not feel the incentive to learn a different strategy because you believe NPD works for you. So, the only reason why you do not change strategy is because you are in denial about your addiction being a problem. But that may change, as unlikely as that probably sounds to you at the moment. Consider the following if you will.

    You pride yourself on being highly effective. How effective though is your strategy when it repeatedly fails to produce lasting fulfillment for your needs? You may argue that that is because of the failings of others. But then, you have to make up your mind. Either you are a master chess player and others are powerless pawns in your game, which means you own the game, you own the puppets and you own the outcome, or you are a victim, who is entrapped and enslaved in the game and who has no say over its repeated unsatisfactory outcome. Fact is, the magical-thinking-victimhood narrative is the prison you find yourself in and which keeps you repeating the same cycle over and over without getting any closer to your primal goal of finding lasting fulfillment for the bottomless chasm within.

    Ask yourself this: After a lifetime of following your strategy, has it brought you any closer to delivering you from that void inside? Has it brought you any closer to finding lasting fulfillment? Addiction to fuel and control is the repeated attempt to numb and control the tidal wave of unwanted feelings: shame, self-loathing, fear of abandonment, feelings of being unlovable, of being insignificant, of being vulnerable. You collectively personify them as the Creature and believe them to be the true self. These feelings are not the true self. It is an erroneous believe that we are our thoughts and feelings. That misconception has nothing to do with NPD though, identification with mentations is mainstream. The difference is, in the case of a narcissist, the identification appears to be exclusively with powerful negative thoughts and feelings and much stronger for that. Thinking and feeling is the activity of the self, like the movie is the activity of the screen. The image of a battle field or an idyllic landscape, it has no bearing on the screen. Similarly, thoughts and feelings cannot impact the self. Mistaking the activity of the self for the self, becoming identified with mentations is like the screen identifying itself with a character in the movie and entering the story. Then, from the limited perspective of a character, its own activity appears disturbing to itself.

    The fact that thoughts and feelings are not the self is something you actually describe in one of your articles HG. It is the one where you explain how you switch off the activity of your mind like a computer when you go to sleep. That is an accurate observation and you are an astute observer, albeit one who’s attention is excessively preoccupied with the fleeting activity of the self, to the point of forgetting yourself. Indeed in deep sleep the activity of the self ceases, but the self, the one we refer to when we say “I”, remains. Nothing happens to the self when thoughts and feelings arise and disappear, as they do all the time. This is, as you describe, an observable fact. Tell me, what do you know about yourself when you switch off the activity of yourself every night HG? What do you know about the self who does not arise and disappear like thoughts and feelings? Because that one is your true self whom you are overlooking. Remember, in the mythology, Narcissus dies because he forgets himself. A major clue, which surprising enough escapes most people. It is with good reason that “Know thyself” is one of the Delphic maxims carved on the temple of Apollo

    Being perpetually on the run for unwanted feelings is caused by the identification with them and by the inability to regulate them. The child who experienced these feelings had no other choice than to attribute them to itself, label and define itself in these terms. That identification is still active in the adult and continues to power these feelings and compounds the problem. The narcissist does not seek power and control over others, he seeks power and control over the unwanted feelings. Being unable to regulate his emotions he uses others as props to control these feelings but fails repeatedly as they continue to arise. As a coping strategy, addiction – the attempt to numb and control instead of deal with the root cause- cannot deliver lasting fulfillment as it is the very mechanism that veils the self and gives rise to the chasm. Despite your stellar intelligence and your incredible awareness HG, you seem to be overlooking that one tiny flaw in your strategy. But again, that may change.

    You have an investigative mind, together with your love of logic and desire for finding lasting fulfillment, it may at some point cause you to grow dissatisfied with your current less than ideal coping strategy of dependency. That dissatisfaction may become stronger than your resistance to face what you need to face and compel you to seek out an alternative route. Dissatisfaction is the only force in existence that will, eventually, compel you to change tact. But first, you will need to exhaust your current strategy sufficiently to the point of recognizing that it is not effective in delivering the fulfilment you seek. Your strategy is a solution turned prison. You recognizing this may or may not come to pass in this lifetime. That choice lies with you alone. But once recognized that dependency is unsatisfactory and cannot deliver what you want, you have incentive to shift focus and then you have everything you need to pursue a more effective strategy.

    Like you say, trauma cannot be undone, but it can be faced and it can be dealt with to the extent that you do not spent your whole life trying to numb and control the agony. There is no need to change who you are, to become someone else, as you seem to think. Just recognize the addiction as an ineffective coping strategy, and deal with the identification with negative emotions which cause the dependency in the first place, meaning, stop believing you are something you’re not. That’s it.

    As said, psychological lack, or want is caused by mistaking the activity of the self for the self. The intensity of the lack is related to how strong the identification is with thoughts and feelings. In the case of NPD, it appears that the experience of lack amounts to the chasm of insatiable want, due to solid identification exclusively with powerful negative emotions. Since that identification, born out of necessity, is forcefully rejected at the same time – you do not accept the Creature, the personification of the negative emotions, as yourself, and rightfully so – there is no placeholder to be identified with and the ignored self is experienced as a void, as a chasm.

    It is no use to try and change things on the level of symptoms. As you say, you cannot change your thoughts and feelings because they are symptoms. Besides, trying to drive your sense of self from a different set of mentations, instead of the one you are identified with presently, is pointless as that still perpetuates the core problem of overlooking the true self, although sometimes becoming identified with more positive thoughts and feelings as an intermediate step can be helpful. Same applies to the lack of empathy, it is a symptom of being driven by blind insatiable want which induces disregard for anyone or anything else. Stop believing you are something you’re not, and inevitably the related thoughts, feelings and actions will follow suit and change as the true self comes to the fore. Not overnight, as the addiction was not build overnight either, but when the root cause is dealt with, there will be less and less incentive to continue the exhausting frenzy of an addiction. If you don’t know how to regulate uncomfortable feelings outside of an addiction and how to stop identifying with them, that is understandable and a problem you need to solve. But that in itself does not pose an obstacle to change, it is the denial of the problem that forms the obstacle, since you cannot solve a problem you don’t recognize.

    At least 95% of the difficulty in dealing with uncomfortable emotions is caused by the resistance to them. Finding a level of neutrality, of benevolent indifference towards them, allowing them to arise and pass as they will without fighting them, reduces them to their true size: a series of innocuous images and sensations, arising and passing without much impact on the screen of consciousness. Breaking the chains of conditioning in this way is a tall order, but it can be done you know. Being aware is the single requirement for achieving freedom from past conditionings. Between the arising of thoughts and feelings and the subsequent ingrained reactivity that follows, there is a moment of choice, even if the process appears completely seamless due to long term conditioning. Being present enough to be aware of that choice breaks the chain. In this case, for now at least, your awareness and intellect seem to be fully preoccupied with being in the service of dependency so that choice of freedom escapes you. Due to solid identification you believe you do not have a choice.

    You say you do not experience feelings of happiness. In essence, happiness is not an emotion like anger, sadness etc. Happiness is the absence of lack and is the innate characteristic of the true self. The more solid and dense the identification is with negative mentations, the more the self is overlooked and ignored and the less its characteristics, – peace and happiness – is experienced. In the case of NPD, as the true self seems to be overlooked completely, giving rise to insatiable want, its characteristics of peace and happiness appears seemingly absent as they become shrouded by the dense cloud of negative mentations. Nevertheless, happiness may not be as absent from your experience as you may think HG. Every addict does experience, after a shot of their poison of choice, a moment of relief from want and the peace that comes with it. However fleeting, that momentarily absence of lack is a true taste of happiness. And that taste is so good, the addict is willing to go to hell and back to experience it again and again. What is called causeless joy or happiness is the absence of want that does not require any effort. That is when the innate nature of the true self is experienced directly, instead of via an object of desire that is labored for, chased after endlessly through effort. When the true self is realized, sense of lack subsides and causeless joy as its intrinsic nature comes to the fore. I bet you had not thought of yourself as one who is in pursuit of happiness HG, but here you are, hell-bent on ending want.

    As for the empath, the fact that the narcissist is physiologically capable of change does not make much difference to how one should deal with an abusive relationship, which is to end it. In a relationship, to try and change the other person, be that a narcissist or not, is a fool’s errand and doomed to fail. The incentive for change has to come from within, it cannot be implanted.

    There is of course the empathic wish to help and to heal. That wish has to be examined carefully. If the natural impulse to heal gets hijacked by the need to change someone because you hope they will then give you what you need, that is objectification of another person. Nobody likes to be objectified and rightly so. Especially the narcissist, who is already experiencing a hostile world. They will sense objectification unerringly and will invariably use the neediness to manipulate. If you need the narcissist to change, than with that need, you are effectively handing them the power to abuse you, as emotional dependency is what a narcissist knows like no one else.

    What is erroneously called love is often a projection of the own needs onto the other person and the belief that that person is the one who is going to fulfill your needs and make you happy. This is a mistake, regardless whether or not the other person is a narcissist, but in the case of a narcissist, it is a dangerous mistake to boot, as they will abuse the need.

    You can be forgiven for thinking love is a weakness HG, but it is dependency that is a weakness, that can be manipulated, not love. Love is the recognition of kinship and truly whishing the other person well, regardless of what they can do for you. Love is not transactional, it cannot be manipulated since it is free from projection and dependency. What the narcissist uses to manipulate is a combination of need, dependency, confusion and ignorance about NPD. Pure love that is unmixed with need, dependency, confusion or ignorance is rare. Narcissists may desire love but I think pure love is unpalatable for them because they cannot manipulate it. So they prefer dependency over love. When you offer love to a narcissist they do their utmost to try and corrupt it into dependency. This is a perversion that is extremely difficult to understand from the empathic perspective. Trying to figure this one out is what can keep an empath preoccupied and ensnared for a very long time.

    Well, I hope the above is a constructive contribution to the debate on NPD and helps to dispel the erroneous belief that NPD is some form of physiological impairment that is deterministic and makes it impossible for someone with NPD to change. Again, that belief is not in keeping with scientific findings, nor with observable fact as we can all see here. Since this blog aims to be a resource of accurate information on NPD, I thought it good to share it here.

    Anyway, this turned out a rather long reflection. It may take you a while to moderate HG.

    Thank you for continuing to keep up de good work of raising awareness about NPD.


  2. Fiddleress says:

    The narcissist I escaped (a Mid-Ranger, of course) a year ago told me exactly this; that he used to be a horrible person who enjoyed belittling people, but that thanks to some form of spirituality, he was now much better and had stopped behaving horribly. That he had been working each and every day on reducing the size of his ego, and he really thought he was cured. Which is why he could not understand why his ex had escaped from him! He did say he must have gone wrong somewhere in his recovery.

    Of course, he was not ‘cured’.

    He also said at some point that he was like a scorpion who could not help stinging everyone who came close to him, because it is in the nature of the scorpion to do so. It sounds like a lack of accountability, but I wonder if he came to realise that even if he tried, he could never change. The same way as I will never change deep inside, and I have tried.

  3. lickemtomorrow says:

    Bit slow getting to this one, but I have to say I’ve seen people on narc forums on Quora from time to time who claim to be “cured” narcissists. Every time I see it I just roll my eyes. They talk about what terrible people they were and how they have somehow managed to overcome their “bad habits”. It really is doing a disservice to everybody for these people to try and make such claims. What you also see is people whose lives have been impacted by narcissists congratulating them, and potentially gaining a false hope that the narcissist can change. I challenged on poster (one off occasion I may have mentioned here before) who said he was a narc, had thought about having affairs, but the element of control his wife was able to apply to the situation (because she obviously would not approve) prevented him. I said if he was actually a narcissist he would go ahead and have an affair and not care what his wife thought. I also mentioned HGs work which probably didn’t do me any favours there. My comment was never posted and I haven’t bothered to try to comment since. No one wanted to hear the “bad news”, even though it’s one of the ultimate weapons to achieving your freedom. Imagine how many of us would hang on, and did hang on, believing the narcissist could change. It’s always better to know the truth and thank you HG for providing it again, and in a manner that is easy to understand.

    1. HG Tudor says:

      You are welcome and well done for standing up for accuracy. There will always be those who will not listen. Those who claim to be cured narcissists were either

      1. Not narcissists but had some problematic behaviour which has been corrected (along the lines I explained in the video) , or more usually
      2. Narcissists who claim they are cured but they are not and cannot see it.

      1. lickemtomorrow says:

        Thank you, HG. I tried. And they need to know where to get accurate information, which is here.

        And unfortunate loss to the readers, but hopefully some of them will eventually find their way here.

        And thank you for confirming what I was thinking about the narc “confessors”, too.

    2. K says:

      There are so many inaccuracies on Quora. Elinor Greenberg, Psychologist, Author, Lecturer, and Consultant on Narcissistic Disorders doesn’t understand gaslighting, she writes that people with NPD can change and are capable of love.

      Based on her answers, it wouldn’t surprise me if she were a Midranger.

      1. lickemtomorrow says:

        Hi K 🙂

        I have seen such information posted by Elinor Greenberg and was shocked! (I seem to be ‘in shock’ a lot lately 😛 ) People were recommending her on Quora as well. She’s definitely taken a polar opposite position to most other therapists and I’m thinking the same as you. In fact, I think she is the one gaslighting. Narcissism is the only possible explanation. Why would you spout such nonsense when you have so many wounded people testifying to the harm narcissists can do? I wondered if she wanted to be ‘the’ standout therapist who had some ‘cure’ for narcissism and which could hold out hope for ‘sufferers’ and their long suffering victims as well. If so, it feels like she’s leading a whole lot of people over the edge of a cliff. Her understanding doesn’t fit with my experience. From my perspective, and in that sense, I think she is a charlatan. And a very damaging one at that.

        You know what? I’d love to see HG in a conversation with some of these people. The people who think they know what he is and that he can change. That would be very satisfying. Enough of the falsehoods already.

        1. HG Tudor says:

          I agree with your observations.

          1. lickemtomorrow says:

            Thank you, HG.

        2. K says:

          Hello lickemtomorrow
          HG would run circles around them! Something I would thoroughly enjoy witnessing. EG thinks that CBT works; she has absolutely no idea that she is being played (manipulated).

          Once you understand the dynamic and start connecting the dots, you can “See Through” the entire charade with such clarity; it’s blatant and this is why inaccurate information on Quora or YouTube is so dangerous and counter productive.

          Millions of people around the globe are suffering unnecessarily due to NPD abuse and it’s unacceptable.

          1. lickemtomorrow says:

            No doubt HG would run rings around them, K. And I would love to see that, too. In the meantime I’ll assume she is being played or alternatively playing others. Understanding the dynamic and connecting the dots are especially important in terms of the bigger picture. It’s being able to see the forest, which you can’t do if you’re among the trees. As for EG, she appears to be deep into the forest, and whether that’s as a blinkered empath or an unaware narcissist she’s doing those who believe what she is saying a disservice. So, definitely counterproductive and also possibly dangerous. Empaths are inclined to hold on to hope and narcissists are relying on them to do that. It keeps us locked in the demented dance which will always be to the empath’s detriment. And there are so many people suffering. I hope some of them eventually find their way here for more accurate information. I do find comparison helpful as a means of shoring up my critical thinking. So I will investigate other sources in order to do that. Many of the people seeking help are quite genuine. It is often the people hosting the services that you need to be more wary of. With the understanding we have gained here it is not difficult to spot some of the deficiencies. There is a lot to understand and while some have snippets of the right information none of them will compare to what we have here <3

        3. K says:

          If EG is an unaware Narcissist, then she is manipulating AND being manipulated, of course she won’t she it that way (Control); they are part of each other’s Fuel Matrices. We can see the disorder for what it is; they can’t and this is one of the reasons why NPD is so fascinating.

          1. lickemtomorrow says:

            Good point, K, about manipulating and being manipulated. I never think about narcissists being part of eachother’s fuel matrices, and yet I have witnessed it first hand. You are right, it is fascinating and by the grace of HG we have the ability to see the disorder for what it is. In a way no one else will ever present it to you. The learning goes on!

  4. K says:

    It’s astonishing but there really are “experts” that think a Narcissist can change if s(he) really wants to?!? Nope, they can’t; personalities are fixed.

    Psychopathy is normal to the Psychopath, Narcissism is normal to the Narcissist and Empathy is normal to the Empath. Ditto CoD and Normal/Apath and Serial Killing is normal to the Serial Killer.

  5. Asp Emp says:

    This video was good to read – it is understandable that ‘narcissism’ cannot be “cured” – because it is a brain-wiring ‘system’ that is part of the individual. A brain cannot be “re-wired” once it is part of genetics / DNA. Yes, it may be “possible” to do the “re-wiring” by surgery in 100 years. However, genetics can be ‘interfered’ with long before surgery on “re-wiring” the brain.

    Again, it requires science and the medical ‘worlds’ to recognise and ACCEPT ‘narcissism’ and what it does to individuals before the ‘affects’ it has on people around them. This is the FIRST ‘hurdle’ to get over before anything else can be done about it. Yet, we have HG, doing all their “research” and education in which they have…. somewhat…. been ‘blind’ to, to date…. people NEED to STOP freaking out at the word ‘narcissism’ and LISTEN and take on board that there are different aspects to the ‘human psyche’ that are widely ‘ignored’ (brushed under the carpet)…. are they too scared to actually ‘face up to the truth’ – the reality here?

    No, a narcissist cannot be ‘cured’ in the sense of the word. Just like a deaf person cannot be ‘cured’, like a blind person cannot be ‘cured’. But all can be ‘given the tools or resource (if fkg available!!!!!!) to assist….. somehow….. why does ‘life’ have to be so fkg difficult??

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