In part two, I want to talk about how a narcissist can and could POSSIBLY change. If you have not read or listened to the podcast, “Can a Narcissist Change? Part One“, I would suggest looking into that material. I know I will have some people do a knee jerk reaction and immediately say, “No! A narcissist cannot and will not change. I don’t care what you have to say. They just cannot change.” And when someone believes this, I would agree. I was in that state of mind as well. Just know that this is information and WHY I am sharing it with you is this information did help me heal and recover from narcissistic abuse. It supported me in looking outside the box for answers when what I lived and experienced was so messed up. I wanted to heal because I did not like who I had become. And I know, trust me, this subject is so delicate in my opinion. Therefore, I first want to support you. It has been reported that over 67% of all adults have unresolved trauma, often from early life events and situations, without even realizing it. I will explain this theory in this blog post. One thing I know for sure is if you have been narcissistically abused, you absolutely have significant internal trauma. Some people might disagree, but I want to explain my insights today. I know that it is reported that only 2 to 6% of narcissistic people do seek help. Therefore, this section is about the extremely small percentage of narcissistic people that want to change. I am not a psychologist or psychiatrist, but when I was working with a psychologist to quit smoking and I asked him if he knew about “parts or parts therapy”, he shared that he was not trained in this area. I am trained in this area. So, if you work with anyone in the mental health industry or even want to better understand yourself and others, this information could be enlightening. I want to unpack it all and then loop back up to the main topic, “Can a narcissist change?”
I first want to talk about trauma and how it impacts the brain. Trauma impacts everything in your life from chronic fatigue, anxiety, relationship problems, your ability to work, and financial worries. I want to give you a few examples of trauma types.
- Bullying (directly or indirectly)
- Community Violence (drive by shootings, robbery, hate crimes, subway shootings, military service members, terrorist attacks)
- Complex Trauma (repeated forms of psychological, emotional, sexual, and/or physical abuse)
- Natural Disasters (directly or indirectly)
- Early Childhood Trauma (neglectful, absent, or extremely strict parent, someone’s trauma traumatized you, witness violence or abuse)
- Intimate Partner Violence (directly or indirectly)
- Medical Trauma (car accident, sports injury, skiing accident, injured on the job)
- Physical Abuse (directly or indirectly)
- Substance Abuse (directly or indirectly)
- Social Media (viral video of a veteran blowing out his brains or child/teen suicide)
- Homeless (directly or indirectly)
There are three main types of trauma: Acute, Chronic, or Complex
- Acute trauma results from a single incident.
- Chronic trauma is repeated and prolonged such as domestic violence or psychological/emotional abuse.
- Complex trauma is exposure to varied and multiple traumatic events. These events are often of an invasive, interpersonal nature.
You might be wondering, “What is the most common trauma?” The most common trauma is physical injuries. Millions of emergency room (ER) visits each year relate directly to physical injuries. Some of these physical injuries can be related to domestic violence, injured on the job, sports, car accident, community violence, and natural disasters.
Now, most people think there is only 3 trauma responses (fight, flight and freeze), but there are actually 9 trauma responses. In the most extreme situations, you might have lapses of “memory or lost time” when someone dissociates. Schauer & Elbert (2010) refer to the stages of trauma responses as the 6 “F”s: Freeze, Flight, Fight, Fright, Fawn, and Faint. But wait…there is 3 more – flood, friend, and fatigue/flop. If you want more information, the link provided goes into much greater details. The image below shows in more details how a person reacts to trauma. Here is a link for more information.
Here is a perfect example of “friend”. Let’s say you meet someone new and they sit down and they tell you their life story or a horrible situation they are struggling with. Most people would sit back and think that person is crazy. BUT that is his or her PTSD trauma talking. The traumatized PART of them is desperately seeking help because they cannot access the cortex brain. They are stuck in the limbic brain. Next time someone does this to you, please STOP. Take into consideration that maybe they are traumatized in some way. How people react or do not react to a person’s trauma can impact their ability to heal.
In 2014, Pete Walker defines the 4 F’s from a “trauma typology perspective” and proposes differential diagnoses of complex PTSD:
|Response Type||Definition||May present as…||Mislabeled as…|
|Fight||posturing against or confronting the perceived threat.||explosive outbursts, anger, defiance, or demanding.||Narcissistic|
|Flight||fleeing or symbolically fleeing the perceived threat by way of a “hyperactive” response.||anxiety, fidgeting, over-worrying, workaholic tendencies, or fidgeting.||OCD|
|Freeze||dissociating in response to the perceived threat.||spacing out, losing time, feeling unreal, brain fog, or feeling numb.||Dissociative Disorder|
|Fawn||Placating the perceived threat in an attempt to forestall imminent danger.||People-pleasing, fear to express self, flattery, “yes” person, exploitable, fear of fitting in||Codependent Disorder|
Walker’s trauma typology suggests that we may experience one or a combination of the above. For example fight/fawn can be mislabeled as borderline personality disorder. Flight/freeze can be mislabeled as schizoid. Walker uses this model to explain the personality of childhood trauma survivors in relation to complex PTSD and developmental trauma disorder and what concerns me the most is neither are currently recognized in the DSM-V.
In the book, “What Happened to You?” by Dr. Bruce Perry, M.D. and Oprah Winfrey, he talks about how we all respond to stressful situation. The best way to describe it, is with these 3 images.
Let’s move on. At times a person that is loved by millions of people when called to be of service to God/Love, he or she will have to face their biggest fear going up the mountain. And when I say mountain, I am referring to the mountain in the book, “The Book of Mastery”, by Paul Selig. When I heard Will Smith acceptance speech, I knew that he was taking the journey up his mountain and watching him speak touched me. As of today, only 224,840 have viewed the full video of his acceptance speech. The cut version of his calling by God has 16 million views. This disturbs me because I was once on top of my mountain and a covert narcissist kicked me down into the valley of despair. I was ready to quit my job and stop supporting humanity with my gift of connecting and shining my light into those dark corners within someone’s heart. And believe it or not, I was traumatized by a Disney movie. Yup, a Disney movie and it felt like a warning of an upcoming future event. This was back in 2000. I was at the movie theater with my daughter watching Fantasia 2000 – Firebird. If you watch the video link, it shows you the spirit of life. She is spreading her love everywhere and when she reaches the top of the mountain, which is a volcano. Because she is so pure in her heart and curious, she awakens the volcano by accident. Watching the destruction and her turned into ashes, broke my heart. I was balling in the theater and I knew it was a warning for me. And when you read my book, The Undetected Narcissist, that is what happened to me. I was the spirit of life and he was the volcano. The deer in the movie that lifts her up and walks with her in the valley of despair is the Catholic nun who picked me up. I talk about her in the blog post, The Map of Consciousness. I am not Catholic, but this nun that had PTSD. We connected and healed each other. With hope, faith and spirituality, we reminded each other who we are, what we are, and how we serve. With the help of the 5 people I meet on my journey back up my mountain and declaring that I am a humble servant, now my tears of love for humanity are once again planting seeds of hope, change, wisdom, compassion, renewal, and rebirth in the hearts and minds across the globe.
Since few people have listened to Will Smith’s acceptance speech about his calling from God/Love, I am going to remind us all here today because it is important information that should not cut out or distorted. I respect everyone spiritual calling, even if at times I do not understand it. This what spoke to my heart and moved me the most. “Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family. In this time in my life, in this moment, I am overwhelmed at what God is calling on me to do and be in this world. Making this film I got to protect Aunjanue Ellis, who is one of the strongest, most delicate people I’ve ever met. I am being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people. I know to do what we do, you got to be able to take abuse. You got to be able to have people talk crazy about you. In this business, you got to be able to have people disrespecting you. And you got to smile and pretend that that’s okay. Denzel said to me a few minutes ago, at your highest moment be careful, because that is when the devil comes for you. It is like I want to be a vessel for LOVE. I want to be an ambassador of that kind of love and care.”
Since God/Love is shining this light on humanity for being trauma ignorant, I want to support you in discovering what many of us want to ignore, leave in the dark, and deny God/Love in. I want to show you what it truly is coming from a place of love, instead of fear. You cannot heal the world or each other if we keep our heads in the sand. The truth growth comes when you can take the subject of narcissisms, trauma, and abuse and claim the presence that God/Love is there. It has always been there. The challenge for most humans is we think we are agreeing to the thing that we hate, want to put in the closet, or even discharging it when the state of the divine has always been there. The terrible thing and horrible act keeps you tethered in pain, sadness, anger, fear, and hate. We must shine the light on these horrible subjects because this is the act of resurrection and reclamation. In order to heal, we must CHANGE our ways of thinking, acting, and behaving. God/Love chose the greatest person to use as a public example, which was Will Smith in the moment he slapped Chris Rock. I do not support domestic violence and I am putting that violence on the shelf, so maybe you can comprehend the meaning of WHY I am being called to share this information with you. When everyone heard about Will Smith slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars, what he was experiencing was a memory/emotional response. Memory and emotions are stored in the limbic brain. When you get stuck in the limbic brain, there is no sense of time or reason. Will Smith was triggered when he looked at his wife face and her reaction to the joke. In that moment, he could not access the calm, reflective, thinking, reasoning, values, and present time brain. He was on auto pilot and clearly showed me that he must have been traumatized when he heard his wife screaming with clumps of hair in her hands and shaking in fear. When he calmed down, he was able to access his cortex brain, but the damage was done on live TV. Therefore, this man is being called to face is biggest fear, which is public humiliation, rejection, shame, and hate. He realizes there is something seriously wrong with our world and society. It is not okay to abuse anyone and nobody should smile and pretend that abusing another person is okay. He was talking about abuse and he has had enough abuse. If you abuse a dog too many times, eventually some dogs will turn on you. We need to respect and love every living things on this planet that we are destroying. It has to stop and we need to wake up. So, I will take his hand and walk with him back up his mountain to be of service because he is being called in the same direction as I was.
I believe what happens to a child that is either not taught empathy, neglected, feels invisible by its primary caregiver, abused, and/or traumatized is their developmental brain flips. The main go to response in the brain is survival. I remember reading an article about the trauma brain and it helped me connect the dots to narcissisms and trauma. The narcissist is wounded and groomed into believe several negative core beliefs about themselves. That is why their behaviors during cognitive rational conversations can appear to be irrational and immature. They are disconnected in many way and desire to be connected. So they will…
- Have an obsessive desire to be chosen by new romantic partners without any awareness of how YOU and your body feels about the connection. That is why love bombing disarms the victim, especially when it feels so good.
- Some narcissistic people, mainly the covert narcissist will experience social anxiety about how new people will perceive them. Some will be quiet and shy as they observe everyone (covert) and another will be the center of attention.
- A narcissist feeds off drama and attention. Therefore, they have a need for consistent distractions from the present moment through creating drama, plotting, smearing another person, social media scrolling, stalking, chronic daydreaming, substance abuse, and hungry need for sex.
- Since the narcissist learned to not trust people through people’s actions, words, and behaviors, the narcissist will have a lack of self trust that leads to either procrastination and the self sabotaging shame/anger cycles.
Is your brain now overwhelmed? I hope not. There are ways the brain can get overwhelmed. We all have 5 senses and trauma can trigger each one. For example if your dad was an abusive alcoholic, whenever you smell his beverage of choice, it can trigger a trauma memory. A person’s perfume or cologne can trigger a person, if the new lover is wearing the same perfume as their past abusive partner. The sound of a car back firing, the tone of a person’s voice, and sirens going off can trigger a trauma memory. Watching a movie or even watching two people just having a disagreement can trigger a trauma memory. Feeling a bug crawl on you or a new lover touching you in a way that should feel right, but doesn’t, can trigger a trauma memory. Now, are your ready for your mind to be blown away? Burt Hellinger has discovered that we can have have 7 generations of trauma stored in our DNA from previous family members. Mark Wolynn wrote a great book called, “It Didn’t Start with You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle“. When I learned about this, I was amazed. How is this possible? There is the egg from your mom and sperm from your dad. The egg and sperm each contain DNA.
In creating this blog post, I can across a wonderful website that provides FREE material for mental health professionals and anyone in general. It is a great resource full of tools to better help people understand trauma and PTSD. They have an age range from 3rd graders to someone in 12th grade. The website is TRAILS Materials. My favorite pdf is the one on “Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors“, “Grounding Skills” and “Tips for Supporting Students Who Have Experienced Trauma.” Just click on the links to view the PDF’s.
Now let’s talk about PARTS. Everyone has parts. The best way to understand parts is the following examples. There can be a part of you that fears snakes. One of my friends is afraid of snakes and I said, “There is a story attached to that fear of snakes. What happened to you when you were little to fear snakes?” He went on to tell me a story of a creek he loved to visit and to go across the creek, you had to walk across a log. One day when he was walking across the log, he felt something slapping against his ankle. He looked down and realized that his shoe was stepping on a snakes tail. He got so scared that he fell into the creek. Even though he is an adult, every time he sees a snake, his body reacts. He explained that he can face his fear of snakes, it is just very uncomfortable.
Recently, I was in Lowes and saw this great outdoor swing. I walked over with my friend to check it out. When my friend said, “Try it out. Sit down”. I immediately said, “I can’t. There is a part of me that just can’t do it.” My friend looked at me puzzled. Therefore, I explain a “situations” phobia. Why I could not sit on the outdoor swing is it was dirty, it had a few stains on it, and at least 5 long, dark strands of hair. I told him that when my mom divorced my dad, she could not afford daycare. She temporarily found some who was willing to watch us. This woman’s house was so dirty. She was a hoarder. Her house grossed me out so bad that the only place I found comfortable to sit was on her front porch, which she picked fleas off her cat and dog. I my story does not traumatize anyone. Just remember to breathe and get grounded as we move on.
Anytime you pause and say, “There is a part of me that__________”, that is your part talking to you. That part always has a negative or traumatic story attached to it. For example, if you are a smoker, that habit of smoking became a part of you that used cigarettes as a form of comfort and relaxation in the beginning. Some might have done it to look cool, but you were getting some physical response from it. I tried smoking once and hated it. It did nothing for me, but for others it does. When I was working with the psychologist, I said to him, “There is a part of you that knows smoking is bad for your health and will eventually kill you. There is also a part of you that gets something positive from being a smoker. You have two conflicting parts. What I am going to do today is de-active the part or neural pathways in your brain that craves cigarettes and when you listen to the positive statements you consciously already know to be true, I will be creating a new neural pathway in your brain which will anchor into your brain that there is always something better to do than smoke. The more you listen to your custom recording, the stronger the positive suggestions anchor into your brain and the negative one, will be weak and eventually de-tach. You are re-wiring your brain to think, act, and behave like a non-smoker.”
The good news is you can heal those wounded or traumatized parts of you. What people do not understand is that negative part always has an underlying positive intent. I like to say that it is keeping you safe, preventing you from being wounded again, rejected, going without food again, etc. The problem is most parts are created when we are younger and at the time they did serve us well. When we become an adult, it can feel like self-sabotage. Let me explain.
I had a client over 20 years ago that hated Christmas. I was not self employed at the time. Each time he walked into the office playing Christmas music and was fully decorated, he made everyone aware that he hated Christmas. My boss wanted him to have a session with me. I asked the man why he hated Christmas. I asked, “What happened to you?” He told me this horrible story, which I will tell in the podcast. Long story short, I helped heal his wounded part that hated Christmas because he was killing the joy of Christmas for his young children.
If you grew up in a home of feast or famine, you can develop a part that hordes food. Everyone has parts and you can embrace those parts and become whole again. Now why does all this matter to you and how can a narcissist change? When I have worked with narcissistic people, I always try to discover if there is a PART of them that wants to change. A part of them that is fearful that they will ruin their child’s life or marriage because they are so damaged. There might even be a part of them that has been praying to God to meet someone like me. And this did happen. The second person I met on my journey back up my mountain was a narcissistic military trained sniper. And what speaks to me said, “He is a really dangerous man.” He was sitting just 3 feet away from me. He came to see me to quit smoking. When I saw what he did in my minds eye, I looked him directly in his lifeless eyes and told him what I heard. He said, “I am a very dangerous man and I could kill you within seconds without you even knowing what happened. I am good at killing people. I have done horrible things that I regret. The only reason I am alive is for the sake of my daughter.” This was truth in its purest form. That is when I smiled at him and said, “I have met monsters like you before. I am not afraid.” He laughed and said, “Oh yeah?” So, I shared my story.
This man had mercy for me after he heard what happened. He knew it was wrong to hurt a child and someone like me. And in that moment of connection with a narcissistic man trapped in the dark, my light and presence created a shift within him as well as me. We talked and it was the first time he had anyone to talk to that would not label him as a horrible person. He could not even talk to his wife about the things we shared. And the leverage I used was his wife and daughter. He shared how he recently got into a terrible fight with his wife and his daughter saw the dark side of him. He said that the look in her eyes terrified him. He did not want to be that person anymore. I said, “If you keep going down this path of unresolved anger, that light of love inside your daughters eyes will fade and disappear. She will never look at you the same way again.” And I showed him a picture of my son’s eyes looking at his dad when he was little. I told him that I showed my son that picture and my son declared that he will never look at his dad that way again. Then I added, “When your daughter witnesses you yelling in anger at your wife, you are telling her unconscious mind that this behavior is acceptable and normal. That is what married couples do to each other. This is not normal. If she keeps getting the same messages, when she becomes an adult, she will find someone who will repeat the same cycle of abuse. I know in your heart this is not what you want for her, correct?” This TRUTH spoke to him and he agreed.
I realized that he was part of my healing journey because he was what I FEARED the most. Therefore, free of charge and just having him an out of office client, I supported him in repairing his marriage, being a better man, and sparing his daughter. Before he left my state, he said that he needed to see me one more time. When I saw him 8 months later, he was smiling, there was a light in his eyes, his voice no longer sounded dead inside, and he gained some healthy weight. He gave me hug and said, “Angela, you are such an amazing person. There are not many people like you in this world. The world needs more people like you.” I then went outside and met his wife and daughter. It was so nice to finally meet them. His wife was very happy that I was willing to help him. She thanked me for saving their marriage.
So, the answer is YES! A narcissist can change. There are not many, but the world does need people like me to shine a light on this ugly, dark, horrible subject of how we turn someone into becoming narcissistic. My goal is to find leverage and to shine my light upon that leverage because that leverage is shining a light upon the narcissists heart, begging them to change for the sake of their young child. This is the key point I need to stress. When I illuminate my light upon a narcissist, I am not here to judge them. They have been wounded enough. I see them and know their pain. I hope you take this message to heart and allow it to awaken something inside of you. Because survivors of domestic violence, psychological and emotional abuse can temporarily take on some narcissistic traits and behaviors because they are stuck in anger. The longer you hold onto that unresolved anger, the longer you are preventing yourself from finding peace, living your joy again, and being your authentic self. Just know that you are not alone. Everyone, even a narcissist can change if he or she does the work and face their own demons.