"The disordered character has plenty of insight and awareness but despite it, resists changing his/her attitudes and core beliefs. CDO's (character-disordered individuals) don't need any more insight. What they need and can benefit from are limits, confrontation, and most especially, correction. Cognitive-behavioral therapeutic approaches appropriate." page 21 In Sheep's Clothing; Understanding and Dealing With Manipulative People by George K. Simon, Jr., Ph.D.
The author then goes on to explain, "Most especially, disordered characters don't think the way most of us do. In recent years, researchers have come to realize the importance of recognizing that fact. What we think, how we believe, and what attitudes we develop largely determine how we will act." page 22
I am not going to argue whether or not NPD is character disorder. The entire premise my blog is predicated on is that NPD is a character disorder. Most of the time the terms "personality disorder" and "character disorder" (PD & CD) are used interchangeably by the professionals though there is a move toward classifying CD as a sub-set of PD. Whatever. The classifications are anything but scientific. Nevertheless, even when CD is considered a sub-set of PDs, malignant narcissism still fits the criteria of a CD. So the above quotes are applicable to NPD.
One point I'd like you to take away from these quotes is that a character-disordered individual is the sum product of disordered thinking. These disordered thinking patterns are entrenched as evidenced by the fact that a CD person can have "plenty of insight and awareness" but they do not apply those insights and awareness to their belief system. This is important to note because of the ways we often try to effect change in the narcissist. We try to appeal to their reasoning. We try to appeal to their heart. Neither approach has any hope of making a dent.
Don't make the mistake of thinking that they don't understand your reasoning or appeals to their heart or conscience. They "have plenty of insight and awareness". They do understand. They reject your appeals and your logic. They are able to completely deflect your reasoning and your emotional appeals. They will not allow you to change their belief system based on intellectual or emotional approaches.
Please be sure to interpret the imperviousness the narcissist demonstrates to an active and willful rejection of both your rational logic and your emotional appeals. This will enable you to stop trying to say it yet again in a "better" way assuming that the fault lies in your inability to express yourself clearly when in truth the fault lies with the narcissist. They are able to understand you and still disagree with you.
Traditional psychotherapy has been battered and beaten by the character-disordered. The more honest appraisals of the psych community (led in part by people like Dr. Hare) have determined that psychotherapy actually worsens the behaviors of the character-disordered. They have taken note that traditional psychotherapeutic approaches simply provide tools with which the CD individual can then use to manipulate people in his environment including the therapists. Freud based his therapy models on the neurotic personality. On almost every point, character-disordered people differ from the neurotic. They are almost a completely inverse image of the neurotic. It makes a lot of sense that traditional therapeutic approaches would fail abysmally when confronted with the CD. And it has failed abysmally. This includes all the 12-step programs out there. They do not work on the CD. And considering how often the CD can end up ordered into 12-step programs due to their attendant behavior disorders (addictions, etc.) then we would do well to take note of the real threat of making the character-disordered worse through such programs.
The only time there has been any successful intervention with the CD is when cognitive-behavioral therapy has been used. As the author stated, "What they need and can benefit from are limits, confrontation, and most especially, correction. Cognitive-behavioral therapeutic approaches appropriate." Think of training a dog. You don't train an animal to "behave" by sitting it down and having a heart-to-heart. You don't attempt to train a dog by describing what you want from him very logically. If you are to have any hope of shaping the animal's behavior you will proceed to operate on a clear reward/punishment system based on their behaviors. The same is true with how we train our very young children. Clear limits. Confrontation. Correction. Young children will not learn how to properly behave because you tell him how it hurts your feelings when he misbehaves. He is also insensible to the rational and logical. We shape young children by setting clear limits and enforcing them. We dispense rewards and punishment based on the behavior. Long before the child's mind has developed fully he can be trained to behave within certain guidelines. This helps keep the child safe and it helps us to teach them self-control and respect for others when they are very young. It can be extremely difficult to teach a child these things if we wait until they are older before we start the lessons.
Where the adult narcissist differs from the dog or the child is the reality that they are autonomous adult human beings making choices. They are free-will agents. This is why, when the narcissist refuses to change their behaviors, we are wise if we accept the narcissist's decision to behave how they do and get the hell out of their lives. We have almost no power to persuade them to change how they think in order to change how they behave.
If you must stay in the narcissist's life then you must follow the above guidelines for interacting with them. Firm limits. Confronting their bad behaviors. Following through on consequences for their bad behavior. Do not waste your time appealing to their "conscience" or their logic centers. Those are armor-plated. Do not make the mistake that the narcissist thinks like you do. They do not feel like you do either. They do not interact with the world and their relationships in any way like you do.
We all do a fair amount of projecting in our inter-personal relationships. I'm not talking about the negative projection of narcissists. I'm talking about positive projection. If you are an honest individual you will very often assume that others are also honest and proceed to interact with others based on that assumption. There are obviously serious pit-falls to assuming that the narcissist has similar good motivations and thoughts as you yourself possess. It sets you up to get taken. We have to consciously suspend our usual projection onto others of our ways of thinking and feeling when dealing with the character-disordered. This is essential. This is also difficult for us to do. We can feel that we are being "bad" when we stop assuming the best about the narcissist. You need to ignore that feeling. The narcissist has much more in common in his thinking with the criminal than with you.
I clearly remember feeling confused when I was first coming to acknowledge to myself my mother's bad behaviors and her bad intent. I couldn't understand why she could do such things when she clearly knew better. My mother has always presented herself as a font of wisdom to the people in her life. In fact, I can actually credit her for helping me turn into a decent human being. Why? Because she can really preach a good sermon! This lady knows what truth is. As George Simon stated she "has plenty of insight and awareness". I was a very sincere child and I wanted more than anything to be good. So I took what she preached to me and applied it to my thinking and my behavior. What took me nearly four decades to realize was that she did not do the same. I assumed that when a person knows what truth is that they then apply it to their living. That is what I did. Not perfectly, by any means, but my constant motivation was to be a good and decent person. I projected that onto my mother. I assumed that because she knew the difference between right and wrong that she was endeavoring to do right and not wrong.
I can now clearly see how she is expert at honing the consciences of those around her in order to set herself up with an advantage over them! If I am constrained by my conscience and she isn't...then that means she can get away with anything. It is like playing a game with a little kid. They set the rules up so that they can always win because they rely on you to stick to the rules while they can fudge them at will so as to gain the advantage over you.
Disordered characters are the sum total of their disordered thinking. You have no power to change their thinking. Don't set yourself up for failure by continuing to try to reason and cajole them into a new way of thinking. It ain't gonna work. They'll just be better able to intuit how to parrot back to you what you want to hear so they can bamboozle you yet again.