Can a narcissist change? Part One
I have worked with people all over the globe for the past twenty years. When I talk about narcissism, people ask me the most common question: “Can a narcissist change?”
My answer is always the same – yes and no. Explaining the no part is easy. This information can also be informative to someone narcissistic to help them better understand themselves. I am not a psychologist, but this information comes from my clinical perspective and experience. I have spoken to a few experts in this field of narcissism, and they know I have figured it out. I must confess that I have never been able to understand a narcissist 100%. I am not narcissistic, but a narcissistic parent raised me. Over the years, I have educated myself and gained knowledge that can be applied to how a person thinks, feels, acts, and responds to various life situations. Therefore, I will explain it now. People are not born selfish; they are created. A narcissist can be made by a primary caregiver that lacks empathy, an egocentric role model, or repeated negative life experiences such as being bullied, raised in a dysfunctional environment, and they were traumatized.
Over the years, I have realized that many people are trauma ignorant. Even therapists, doctors, psychologists, law enforcement, or primary caregivers can be trauma ignorant. I know this for a fact because my son and I have experienced it firsthand many times. Some people have difficulty understanding how trauma impacts a person’s brain and life. You can be traumatized by a bully. The bully can impact your life in such a negative manner. If you did not get the support or empathy you needed from others when you were being bullied, this could create extreme anger. The anger can get repressed, or you can be taught to stuff down your anger. If you feel helpless and traumatized, a PART of you can get fragmented and wounded. You can develop a separate part or side of you that will become an angry, immature bully when you grow up. You become this angry, childish bully because you need to feel in control. And when I say you need to feel in control, you were not in control of your life growing up. You need to feel empowered, and when you are angry, the feeling of fear which is created within another person is the bully’s way of feeling powerful. You are forcing a person to fear you. Fear can be used to manipulate and influence another person’s behaviors, thoughts, actions, or lack of effort.
When we are born, we are like a sponge. Our minds and emotions are filled with outside information and stimuli. Information from our primary caregivers, religion, family unit, society, teachers, peers, movies, books, social media, magazines, and your community/origin of birth. All this information molds you into who you are today. Some people are “groomed” into becoming a narcissist. In my opinion, those people are the ones that will not change. It is all they know. They do not know any different. It would be like telling a person the Earth is flat. And trust me, some people believe the Earth is flat because that is the information they were fed all their lives. Forbes wrote an article that only two-thirds of American Millennials believe the Earth is round. Scientific America wrote that only 66% of Millennials think the Earth is round. That leaves 34% to believe the Earth is flat.
There are several different parenting styles. If you are a parent, which one is your preferred style? Which one did you experience when you were growing up? There are more than four different parenting styles. There is also attachment, dismissive, free range, and helicopter. The uninvolved and neglectful parents are unresponsive to their kids’ physical and emotional needs. They provide very little supervision, and the parent is absent from the child’s life. This is probably the most harmful parenting style. Dismissive parenting is a pattern of behaviors and attitudes that sends negative messages to the child. Signs of rejection, scorn, and disdain toward the child.
The book and movie, Great Expectations is a perfect example of how a young girl is groomed into having no heart or empathy. This young girl was groomed her entire life to become narcissistic and to use her beauty as a weapon to punish men. She was groomed into believing many different negative concepts about men, relationships, marriage, a woman’s role in society, herself as a woman, and her life’s purpose. She wants to find and be in love, but she knows she does not have a heart. She was groomed by an angry, bitter caregiver who could not handle her heartache because her heart was broken by the man she was going to marry. Therefore, this bitter, angry woman projected her issues upon this influential young child. As this young female child grew up, she was not allowed to think for herself. Her thoughts and opinions did not matter. Her primary caregiver knew what was best for her, and she was groomed into believing it. Her primary caregiver did not empathize with this young girl or men. So, you might be asking yourself, how can someone be groomed into believing that they cannot think for themselves? Let me give you the example I learned in hypnotherapy class. The story everyone was taught was about how an elephant is groomed into being a circus animal.
When the elephant is a baby, a thick, strong rope is tied around its leg. The rope is attached to a stake, which is pounded into the ground. The baby elephant will cry, push and pull on the rope daily. The baby elephant wants to be free, but something switches in the elephant’s mind over time. Eventually, the elephant will accept defeat. It does take 28 to 30 days for a new habit, behavior, or perspective to be formed within the brain. Therefore, the baby elephant will stop pulling and tugging on the rope. The elephant stops as soon as the elephant feels the rope tug. This is all the little elephant knows. There is no escape, so it complies with defeat. The sad truth is that when that baby elephant grows up and weighs a ton, it will still stop as soon as it feels the rope tug on its ankle. The elephant does not realize how strong and powerful they are. The elephant can run away and attack its captor and abuser, but it does not.
Now, you can be groomed for greatness. Many athletes, composers, musicians, and artists displayed beautiful gifts when they were a child. Some might support it when a parent witnesses these talents and skills 100%. Others can be threatened by it because a parent believes their child cannot publicly outshine them. A good movie about positively grooming an athlete is “King Richard.” He saw the greatness within both of his daughters. He wanted them to value their hard work and self-worth in playing tennis.
In the book, “You’re Not Broken”, by Christopher Duncan, I learned about the six core negative beliefs people have about themselves. Here they are.
- I am not worthy. When you believe that you are not worthy, you will try to be good all the time. You can turn into a people pleasurer to show your worthiness to others.
- I am not good enough. When you believe this thought pattern, you will do what it takes to be seen as good enough. You can become a giver and find it difficult to accept positive praise and gifts from someone that appreciates you.
- I am not insignificant. When you believe this thought pattern, you will seek out attention. You feel the need to be seen and to gain approval from others.
- I do not belong. This one makes me sad because I have seen these types of people push good hearted people away. They feel rejected inside and they fear rejection. Rather than being rejected by another person first, they will feel the need to reject you first. This is a form of self sabotage. Therefore, they will feel is strong need to create a sense of belonging within their community, church, relationships, and career.
- I am not capable. This is another sad one. If you are told you are stupid over and over again, you will eventually believe that you are stupid. Another way to prove to themselves and the world that they are capable is this core belief will turn you into an over achiever. You will take course after course. You will have all these degrees and certifications, but there can be this need that you are still not capable. You can have all these degrees, but how to you apply it? You can be left feeling stuck and confused.
- I am not perfect. I have seen this one too many times in women. When you believe this core wounded belief you will feel this need to be perfect. Your appearance has to be perfect. Your hair, makeup, body, clothing, house, car, children, and lifestyle has to appear perfect. You will post your perfect family photos on social media platforms, when in reality, it just a fake smile for the camera.
Once you know your core wound, you can learn over time to become consciously aware of how it impacts your life. It can no longer be seen as a negative but as a positive, that motivates you into self-acceptance and love. Here is an excellent example of a core wound being triggered and how I supported my friend in becoming consciously aware of it and loving it instead of fighting against it. Example: A good friend of mine does dog agility competitions. She puts 100% into training her dogs to be champions. She called me the other day, exhausted from a three-day match. She was complaining that after the three-day event, she was fried. She hates it. This was my response, “We both know your core wound is you have to be perfect, and you are 100% perfect when it comes to training your dogs. You give 120% when you walk out into the ring with your dogs. Since you use so much energy and focus for those three days, it is only natural and normal for your body to request a break. Your body wants self-care and needs self-care. Your body is forcing you to slow down. You are still perfect, and I love you. We cannot be perfect all the time and every time.”
Back to how we can be groomed to think, behave or engrain another person’s beliefs. Have you ever heard the following:
- You must marry someone with money and wealth
- Marry someone with a degree and promising career
- You can only marry a person of the same race, religion, level of education, status, or wealth
- A woman cannot marry man that makes less money than her
- The size of the engagement ring shows how much he loves you
- You need to keep your figure if you want to catch a man
- Good girl do this___________
- No man wants to marry a woman with another man’s child
- You will go to hell if you_____________________
- Men want only one thing
- No man will want you because you have small boobs
- I will only date a man that drives a ___________
- I will only date a woman who is ______ and has _________
- You are a slut, just like your mom
- You are too ugly. No man will marry you with a face like that.
- You are too stupid to get a job like that.
- Your dad was a worthless piece of ___ and you are too.
- You have to make him want to take care of you
- You need to be the woman every man wants
- You must be wife material or you will end up an old maid
- When you die there will be 70 virgins waiting for you in Heaven
Ready for more grooming? If you are a male, you can be groomed into the role of being the head of the family. You can be groomed into taking over your father’s business and/or carrying on the family tradition. You can be groomed to believe the following:
- Spinning the truth is acceptable
- Being a slum lord is acceptable because it is your money
- Breaking the law is acceptable when you do not get caught
- Get what you want, you must manipulate another person
- Avoid getting into trouble, blame shifting is acceptable
- To get what you want in life, you must force people to side with you
- To get a woman or man to love you, you must love bomb them
- If someone hurts your feelings or makes you mad, you must devalue them
- Blackmailing another person to get what you want in life is acceptable
- Backstabbing a person is acceptable when it gives you want you want in life
- Avoid looking bad publicly or in private, gaslighting is acceptable
- You are above people because you come from a wealthy family that has position and power
- People will respect you more when you are in a position of power
- In order to win the game of life, – lying, cheating, stealing, and creating a smear campaign is acceptable
Hulu has a series called Mrs. America, starring Cate Blanchett. The series is about the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). In the series, you will learn about how a conservative woman named Phyllis Schlafly, aka “the sweetheart of the silent majority.” What shocked me was how rigid she was in her actions, behaviors, and beliefs about a woman’s role in society. She did not want women to work, and she fought against it. She was narcissistic and did some somewhat unethical things to stop the ERA. What I found interesting is she did not want women to work, yet her fight against the ERA worked. Even when someone pointed out the truth that all her efforts to fight against them were work, she completely denied it. If she admitted that she was working and not just a housewife, all her efforts to keep women stuck at home and unemployed would appear pointless.
When a person is groomed at such a young age not to be allowed to think for themselves because of fear or harsh punishment, they will develop the following traits. Their young mind can be stuck in trauma. A few examples of what I mean is you can be traumatized by one harsh punishment or beating. A person can witness a family member being beaten, verbally abused, or tortured. This can be very traumatizing for a person to see. A parent or sibling can become ill, or you witness that person die. A primary caregiver who abandons, rejects, betrays, or shames you can profoundly impact a child or young adult. You can get in a significant accident, witness a horrifying world event, or survive a school shooting. A family member or parent can come home wounded from the war, and their horror stories can traumatize another person. You can be traumatized by trying to speak your truth and learn over time that your opinions do not matter. Many people have heard them say that children are meant to be seen, not heard. I love the book Bruce D. Perry and Oprah Winfrey wrote, “What happened to you?”. We need to learn how to stop when we notice another person struggling.
When your primary caregiver does not show or teach you empathy, you learn not to have compassion for another person. You can be taught that expressing your emotions is a sign of weakness. Just think about how men and women are groomed when they go into the military. I am not saying the military is wrong; I am just saying that the sergeant’s role is to groom out the weaker soldiers. The sergeant wants to find men and women who can react quickly, control their emotions, not get stuck in fear, and are willing to fight. Not everyone can kill an innocent person. I believe that is why some countries groom young children into becoming a terrorist. It can be morally and ethically wrong for a person to shoot and kill a child. The same goes for women. Many men are taught by their primary caregivers to respect and protect women and children. It can be traumatizing for the shooter if a person is forced into taking a woman’s or child’s life in a war. The shooter can develop PTSD and have nightmares about the event. The sound of a car or motorcycle backfiring can trigger traumatic memories of gunfire. They are activating the trauma memories “as if” it is happening now – in the present day.
Since a person is not allowed to think for themselves and take on the primary influencers’ beliefs, thought patterns, and behaviors, they will struggle with the following learned patterns when they become adults.- split thinking (all or nothing thinking. black or white. you are with me or against me)- not solution-oriented (- blame-shifting- stonewalling- gaslighting- triangulation- smear campaign- love bombing- manipulation).
All these behaviors can become ingrained, creating who you are today. Just like the elephant, the narcissist does not know of another way. That PART of them never had a positive or healthy role model that could teach them to think outside the box. The narcissist was not taught there were different options available regarding handling conflict or how to communicate coming from a place of vulnerability and compassion. Their way of thinking becomes rigid. Many people say that a narcissist, when angered, can act like an immature child or teenager. Everyone has different parts and sub-personalities. For example, a part of me is a daughter, mother, caregiver, healer, career/business, author, public speaker, educator, up-lifter, messenger, nerd, gamer, animal lover, cook, gardener, warrior, survivor, and role model.
So, in short, a narcissist is responding to their world and reality coming from a place of FORCE. This is what they were taught, and it is all they know about their world. They were led by example that if you want something in this world, you must manipulate another person. If you want someone to do something for you, you must love to bomb them to get a person to comply willingly. I hope you have enjoyed this blog post. There is so much to share about can a narcissist change part two. I am excited to share it. Thanks for reading!
Music by Illenium – Lonely