Thursday, September 27, 2007

Narcissists Can't Be Rehabilitated

I'd like to build some on the line of thought in the last post. I made a case that the grown malignant narcissist was a difficult, devious and generally obnoxious child -- to their peers and siblings especially and primarily. The logic is that the malignant narcissist is a case of arrested development. They have never progressed on to emotional, spiritual and mental maturity. So you get a constant view of the child they were at six when watching the operation of the grown narcissist.

Let's go from the thought above to this thought: The narcissist is a malicious child cloaked in an adult body. Because the malignant narcissist has always been what they are it is impossible to "rehabilitate" them.

Let us look carefully at the concept of rehabilitation and what it truly means. We're going to do so with the assistance of Stanton E. Samenow, Ph.D. who has spent a whole career studying how criminals think. His observations on criminals are completely transferable to our study of malignant narcissists. Most criminals are narcissists. Robert Hare has established as fact that all psychopaths have narcissistic personalities. Just because the narcissist in your life has managed to stay within the law (or not get caught) doesn't mean they don't think like a criminal. They do. The main problem we put in front of ourselves when trying to deal effectively with narcissists is that we don't recognize that criminals and narcissists do not think like we do.

Quoting from page 7 of "Inside the Criminal Mind" by the above mentioned author Stanton E. Samenow:

"We must understand that criminals are different, that they do not think like responsible people and do not want the same things out of life. It is also time to realize that unless we help criminals to think differently, they will continue to prey on us all."

Page 20:

"Despite a multitude of differences in their backgrounds and crime patterns, criminals are alike in one way: how they think."

Page 23:

"A surprising number of people who deal with criminals do not know how criminals think. How a person behaves is determined largely by how he thinks. Criminals think differently."

Okay, now humor me and do a little exercise. Read each of the quotes above again and insert "malignant narcissist" in where you read the word "criminal". If you know anything about malignant narcissism you can see that it is a perfect fit. Narcissists, at the very least, are criminals in their operations in the moral and spiritual realm. That they can stay out of the reach of the law doesn't mean they are not criminals in their thinking. I have stated in other posts that the narcissist is an anarchist at heart. What is an anarchist but a criminal who recognizes no law as binding upon him?

One of the thrusts of Samenow's book here mentioned is that the concept of rehabilitation is not congruent with the experience of the criminal.

One last quote:

"But rehabilitation as it has been practiced cannot possibly be effective because it is based on a total misconception. To rehabilitate is to restore to a former constructive capacity or condition. There is nothing to which to rehabilitate a criminal. There is no earlier condition of being responsible to which to restore him." All emphasis in the above quotes are the author's.

Samenow is not addressing the issue of NPD in his book. I am not wanting to misrepresent what he is saying. I am the one drawing the correlation between understanding criminals and recognizing the same principles apply in dealing with people who are malignant narcissists.

I want to make sure you've taken in what is being said about rehabilitation. You can not REhabilitate someone to a condition to which they've never been habilitated to. The false assumption that at some point in time the narcissist has been properly integrated into society and relationships is just that...false...and dangerous. They have always held themselves apart and superior to society, its rules, its norms and expectations. The narcissist is above all that. He has never been "normal", so to think he can become normal by your reasoned arguments and firm application of boundaries and controls is simply an exercise in futility. He spurns your efforts to reform him because he is perfect.

To believe that the adult narcissist who was a narcissistic child can somehow be transformed into an empathetic and normal human being is naive at best. They are fundamentally broken. They have always been broken. You can not rehabilitate a malignant narcissist. They've never been integrated into human society. They've never been "habilitated". They have held themselves above us all. They have rejected humanity. To think you as an individual have the power in your little ole' self to make the narcissist what they have never been is a bit of delusion and God complex of your own that you need to get over.

The only hope for the malignant narcissist is with God Himself. If God can't change him...for goodness sake, why do you think YOU can? While you place the fate and future of the narcissist into God's hands you need to start putting the miles between you. The hope of the narcissist changing is so infinitesimally tiny that you need not waste time sticking around to hopefully see it happen. I realize that not everyone who retains a vain hope of the narcissist changing their spots is thinking they can "save" the narcissist. Some people want to believe in fairy tales so they can cling to a dream. A dream that a nightmare marriage can become a good one. A dream that mommy dearest will someday love me and I'll have a happy family. A dream that dad will finally treat me like a real human being. These dreams may give you comfort today, but someday as you stand there holding the dust of your dreams in your hands when confronted by the harshest of realities that the dream was always hopeless, you will realize how much of your life was wasted on smoke, vapor and ashes. I'm trying to save you that outcome.

For those of us who can acknowledge that the malignant narcissist is likely even beyond the reach of God Himself, we can heartily commend the narcissist to the devil. Christians: even Christ Himself recognized that some people have the devil himself as a spiritual father (John 8:44). "Your father, the devil" never applies so well as it does to malignant narcissists. Know it. Live accordingly.

Do yourself a big favor and buy Samenow's book, "Inside the Criminal Mind". It contains some fundamental and foundational changes in how we think about and deal with criminals of all stripes which includes the malignant narcissist.


Anonymous said...

Its interesting as I read this, that I am also contemplating the idea that christians become very concerned with 'condemning' anybody outright. There should always be room for redemption...that's true. God is in the business of redemption, but He is God. As humans, all we have before us is the 'fruit of the tree' and the knowledge that there are 'wolves in sheeps clothing' out there. If you spy one, don't hang around waiting for him/her to change into a real sheep. The closer you get to them (to check to see if they are changing or not)the more likely they will get to you.

There is an epidemic of 'niceness' which is suffocating and paralysing us. Nobody is allowed to get angry because its not 'love', nobody is allowed to make accusations because it means dealing with messy problems, and when passive-aggressives use the excuse that you aren't being 'nice', they effectively cut off all hope of ever changing anything.

We keep forgetting that the truth sets us free.

This is all coming together nicely for me, thankyou Anna.

Anonymous said...

I keep hearing from people via my abuse site that their therapist has told them that Ns CAN Change & be rehabilitated and many do.

I tell these people to go back to therapist and ask for the APA literature on that. The therapist gets angry and says they have N patients they have helped.

My response, sorry but your therapist is full of crap and giving you false hope.


But again, Anna - TERRIFIC post!

Anna Valerious said...


It sounds like a bit of ego involved with the therapists there. The psych community KNOWS Ns are difficult at best to "help". What a badge to slap on one self to say "I have helped narcissists (plural even!) to change". I have no problem believing the therapist believes they have helped to change Ns. But I think they are only believing what the N wants them to believe. Robert Hare talks about the psychopaths he and his colleagues have worked with and states that even as much as they know about psychopaths they can still get fooled by the psychopaths. Same story for therapists and Ns. I would put good money on the fact that the therapist was duped by the narcissist. Pride would certainly get in the way of the therapist admitting they were they stay committed to the fallacy that the N was reformed.

If the therapist is angered by a request for substantiation of their claims for reformed Ns then that only confirms the therapist knows on some level they are telling a fairy tale story.

Anyway, a therapist has a vested interest in telling people that Ns can be reformed. It is what the therapist does for a living...helping people turn themselves around. To make such claims for the psych community by someone in that community is an attempt to pump up the psych community's abilities sans evidence. Just grandiose claims! I see less than pure motives for a therapist to push this kind of unprovable assertion onto someone who has been repeatedly hurt by a narcissist. Thanks for your thought provoking comment!

Anonymous said...

My N ex boyfriend has been spending $200.00 for 50 minute weekly sessions for years. In the over 3 years that I have known him...there has been no moment of clarity or progress. I think he goes because he likes the attention. Just like he likes that attention at being at any doctor's office. Guess what??? Money is money and all of these practioners need the bucks. They are glad to get it! That does not mean this NM is getting better.

I certainly made no difference in his malignant behavior. And I now know I never will. Time to move on before I am really steamrolled in all areas of my life. Time is a terrible and precious thing to waste. Share it with the deserving!

Thank you all for your contributions to my life and to that of my wonderful 16 year old daughter. I got rid of her sick father due to his hopeless mental health issues, I cannot continue to deal with sick men. It is so unecessary and wasteful. You are all my personal angels. Merry Christmas!

Anonymous said...

I have a confession to make. I heard from my N ex boyfriend over the holidays. I went into a major funk remembering the good times with him and was actually jealous of his current girl friend. (Of course, he wants to see me for a drink to renew the friendship...wants me to get over my previous anger).

After reading this I blog I am really embarassed since hoping that I can reform a NM is like thinking that I can help my dog change into a cat! DUH!!!!

Anonymous said...

Queennotprincess...NONONONONONONONONONONONONONO. You should even know better than to take his calls. He wants to suck you into his black hole of hell.

The "good" times... think of them as his calculated effort to fool you. He sees you as an idiot that he fooled, then and now. Imagine his thoughts back then..."I've got the upper hand"

And he thinks you are still fooled. Do not allow him to mess with you.

Stay strong, everyone, and leave the trash out of your life.

God bless,

Glenn said...

As I read thru this posts and the comments I was reminded of my dealings with a malignant narcissist Preacher. I was hoping that you would address whether you thought God could change these folks, and then you started digging into it!

I'm wondering if the reason that we don't see these people able to change, able to humbly come to God, might have something to do with the wheat and the tares parable.

NLT Mat 15:7You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote,
8‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
9Their worship is a farce,
for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’
10Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “Listen,” he said, “and try to understand. 11It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.”
12Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you realize you offended the Pharisees by what you just said?”
13Jesus replied, “Every plant not planted by my heavenly Father will be uprooted, 14so ignore them. They are blind guides leading the blind, and if one blind person guides another, they will both fall into a ditch.”

So if these narcissists are planted among us by the enemy, there is little hope that they could turn to God. Does this make sense to you???

God Bless

Unknown said...

I have been studying the np personality for months in class and online. My ex was a Np/sociopath/opiate addict/ptsd/ect.. and he had me fooled for awhile. He was even writing me long loving letters from prison after he was convicted of a variety of charges towards me. I believe in God and believe these people never would be able to live the life of a christian, Most christians say anyone can change. I've never seen one change for real. It is not hard to fool a therapist if u want to, they are human. When my ex was in the holding cell at court he went on at the mouth for 6 hours and another guy in his cell who was released that day came up to me and told me that the things he saying about me were vile, that basically he said he used me, never loved me, cheated on me, was bragging about his crimes and how he had the judge snowed, which he did, they are great manipulators. This was painful for me to hear but it just validate all that is said about the np's, they are full of shit. Once i knew for sure that he never loved me, i was able to move on. I have not written back to him since and I will not take a call, an email, text, or even a knock on the door when he gets out, I'll peek out the window and if it is him i will not say a word. This thing is incideous like a drug and even the slightest contact can suck you back in, so if you have had enough there needs to be NO CONTACT. They do not change. Restraining orders do not stop my exnp so i have to be the strong one and avoid him at all cost if I want my life back, otherwise i'll be dead cuz this guy gets nasty. God please give us the strengh and courage to stay away for good.

Jolee Wilson said...

I know this is an old post, but it has hit home for me. I so wish I would have found it eight years ago! I have been married to an N for 7 years. We have two children together, and the third is due any day now. From day one, I knew he was selfish, extremely so, but I didn't realize there was a name for it, until about three months ago. His behavior started to become worse, as did the verbal abuse and manipulations. I did some research, trying to find answers, and came across a book about N's and devoured it in two hours. It fit my husband to a 't'. I was shocked and saddened to learn that he wasn't just selfish, he had a personality disorder, one so destructive that our relationship was practically doomed. And here I had been praying for years he would change! To make a very long story short, I have proof he is cheating on me. I will save a lot of details, but I hired a p.i. I am not allowed, as of yet, to present all the evidence to him, yet I did ask him if he knew a girl named .... (It was the name of his girlfriend), and he denied it. I told him I had proof he had been spending hours at her house, and he still denied it. He told me I was crazy. I also know now, that when all the physical evidence is presented, such as pictures, GPS records, and phone records, he will still deny. Needless to say, I am going to divorce him, just can't yet while I'm pregnant. I hope your blog saves others from making the mistakes I did. NEVER TRUST AN N WITH YOUR HEART.

Candy Man said...

My House of Mirrors, rules for the fun house.
1.) Your feelings equal criticism to me.
2.) You can not call me out on misbehavior because nobody is perfect, just look at yourself.
3.)If you think I have apologized, think again, I am only sorry for being a human being that takes up a little space, breathes air and does right. The only apology I gave you was to shut your nagging up. At the end of the day we both know that it was you who has wronged me, but of course you can't admit that. Get a life, get over yourself. Quit bringing me your laundry list of troubles. Can't you see how special I am.
4.) I love you, I hate that we are at odds with each other. (Gotta love that)
5.) this is all a game for me, I will use your lingo against you, I listen to talk radio so be prepared to get slapped with some of that logic, and did I mention, I WILL WIN.
6.) You have to forgive and forget without any change, remorse, care, tenderness, emotion from me whatsoever because I have given you all that countless times and you can never recognize it. I have never told you this but, you might be insane. You should really get some help for yourself.

That's the best advice you ever gave me, I have stepped out of the fun house, breathing the fresh air, feeling little green leaves in my soul.

One day we were all talking about who we would like to go back in time and meet and talk with. No kidding this is what MN husband said, "myself" He would like to go back and chat with "Little Bobby" I could not contain myself, and he was dead serious, nothing unusual at all about that.
It's better out here everyone.

aNuManNow said...

After enduring 11 years of abuse within my marriage I have finally come to terms with the fact that my N wife is incapable of changing.
I admitted to her that "I'am no longer in love with her" due to all of the years of constant abuse. Her reaction was priceless and so telling for me. She was in utter shock. She said that "she thought that I would love her forever" even in the face of her piss poor treatment of me. She followed that by immediately throwing a "pity party" for herself and giving me the "silent treatment". There was no acknowledgement that her consistently abusive behavior and attitude towards me and everything I love contributed to my current state at all. It was all about how devestated she was by my confession. I told her "being treated unloved is worse than being told you're unloved" and thats what I've had to endure. My words went in one ear and out of the other.
One of our mutual friends is an ordained minister. Prior to the conversation my N wife and I had that day I had agreed to begin religous based marriage counseling. I see now that my participation in counseling would only subject me to more subtle abuse and prolong the inevitable. I am now making arrangements to free myself of this situation.
In 11 years I've developed an eating disorder, gained 50lbs, suffered with anxiety and depression, damaged friendships/relationships, struggled maintaining consistent employment, and am financially destitute. These are all areas of my life that have slowly deteriorated to dangerous levels due to the constant struggle of dealing with my N wife. Me breaking away from her is, literally, a matter of my "life or death". I fully understand that now.

SJP said...

Jodie had some good points about how Christians deal with narcissism. In my experience with other Christians, any resistance to evil (calling it what it is, telling the truth about an abuser, going no contact, etc.), is immediately seen as being sinful or unscriptural. But it's actually just the opposite. As Christians we're called to resist evil, not to enable or excuse it.
And this ties in to something else that is too often overlooked or misunderstood or underappreciated: Every human being is born with free will. Yes, God can redeem anyone who seeks redemption. But we must want and ask for that. We must choose it. It's the way that God has made us. And I believe that is because He wants sons and daughters who choose freely to love Him, and not just automatons He controls. He allows us to choose whether to do good or evil things because it's His design and purpose for our creation.
But some of us can't or won't accept that our abusers choose to hurt us. And it's why we cling to psychological explanations and promises of "treatment" that will make our abusers love us and stop hurting us. In this we fail to respect the choices they've made and their God-given right to make them. They aren't good choices, especially for us, and we need to see and accept that. When we do we'll be better equipped to choose how we want to manage our relationship with them, or even if we want anything to do with them at all. And that is a choice that each of us is entitled and equipped to make.