Do you think someone you love might be a narcissist, and are you suffering from its effects in your relationship? I have written this article to shed some light on what narcissism is, its underlying cause and how it can be cured.
People who seem overconfident or too interested in them selves are often called narcissistic. Narcissism is a thought and behaviour pattern that involves many negative elements including:
- Fascination with the self
- Excess self-love
I want to show to you how these narcissistic personalities develop in the first place, how this differs from the natural development of a healthy adult sense of self, and answer a question you might be wondering – can a narcissist change?
What Psychologists Say About Narcissistic Personality Disorder Symptoms
- Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognised as superior without commensurate achievements)
- Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
- Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
- Requires excessive admiration
- Has a very strong sense of entitlement, e.g., unreasonable expectations of especially favourable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
- Is exploitative of others, e.g., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
- Lacks empathy, e.g., is unwilling to recognise or identify with the feelings and needs of others
- Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
- Regularly shows arrogant, haughty behaviours or attitudes
Whilst I was studying as a psychologist, so called ‘scientists’ had not yet been able to find the cause of this.
I left psychology and continued my studies with a Canadian Scientist and medical doctor who also felt the realm of psychology was limited in facilitating long term change, or providing a satisfying answer to the question, can a narcissist change.
In my experience I have found the true cause of this problem in adults is a grandiose sense of self which compensates feelings of inadequacy caused by constant criticism from earlier adult development. In my time in working with countless individuals I am yet to not cure a case.
Working through with my clients always leads back to the same common theme – traumatic memories lying dormant in the unconscious.
The Narcissistic Trance
Narcissism is a serious mental problem in adults. As it turns out, narcissistic individuals reside in what I refer to as a “child-like trance.” In other words, they actually feel and believe themselves to be emotionally like a young child.
Imagine being put in a hypnotic state where you think and act as if you were five; now imagine that that state never wore off and you simply acted that way in your relationships, your job, and even relaxing at home or in public. It has implications just about as serious as you might imagine for your life.
So how is this “trance” induced? Early in life, children are forced to adapt to less-than-hospitable social circumstances. This most often happens in the form of criticism.
A child who is constantly criticised comes to believe that he or she is:
- Lacking in self-confidence
- Unable to function in the world
These beliefs cause the individual, in turn, to feel:
- Hopelessly alone
These beliefs and feelings are profoundly painful. Not only that, but they are threatening to the person who has them. In order to cope with these painful feelings, the child develops narcissism as a defence mechanism.
The problem is, the narcissistic tendencies cause the person to be ineffective and don’t allow him or her to progress emotionally past the age when he or she received the wound.
With the narcissistic trance broken, the individual begins to feel like a competent and confident adult, with the qualities of being:
- Emotionally secure
- Loving towards self and others
- And truly attractive to others and self.
How Can a Narcissist Change?
From my years of practice, I have found narcissistic individuals are in a hypnotic trance where they are stuck at a younger age where the traumatic experience stopped the normal development of a whole centred sense of self.
When I say traumatic, it doesn’t necessarily only involve abuse. It can simply be in early development that, instead of being parented correctly and having consistent and adequate attention to their needs, they were unfortunately expected to parent and sooth a distressed parent.
Children are not designed to have to coach and help adults, and when this happens the child’s unmet needs internalise causing long term effects on the normal healthy development of self.
This then allows a narcissistic, trance-like personality to develop, in which, as an adult, the individual tries to restore the focus and attention on themselves that wasn’t there in the development years.
As much as this trance-like state affects partners who are involved with them as adults, causing a lot of pain and hurt to its victims, the world of psychology has failed to address this important question, of how can a narcissist change? They have failed to see what created it, and failed to understand that if it can be created, it can be removed.
Children and people, in general, were not born with these states. They are brought about as a negative consequence of neglectful environments. What actually causes the trauma in the minds of these individuals is the belief systems and thinking patterns that one has to take on in order to survive in such environments.
Belief systems like, I do not matter, I do not exist, no one cares about me, I am not important, I must gain my worth by helping people with their problems. As you can imagine, anyone carrying these host of beliefs has unconsciously learnt that love brings pain and hurt.
Their unconscious mind has therefore learnt human love and connection brings pain, neglect and feelings of being unloved. As they grow up as adult, when they are carrying so much hurt and negativity towards people in general, it becomes an easy decision to hurt others as we treat things and people the same way that we perceive them.
For example, if you unconsciously believe that a spider will hurt you or potentially kill you, our survival instinct have been wired to want to survive, we therefore show no remorse or guilt in killing or hurting something that could potentially bring us pain. And so, narcissists have been programmed to see human interactions as the same threat, which leads them to make bad choices and use others as their victims as a consequence.
However, there is another powerful implication: the only thing they have to do to get out of this harmful trance is to wake up. That’s it! So, that means we can stop asking ‘can a narcissist change’ now – we already have the answer…
Rediscovering the Authentic Self
The problem with expecting a narcissist to just wake up, is that the narcissistic personality is slightly disconnected from the parts of the mind responsible for discernment and judgement.
In a healthy adult with a mature sense of self, the mind naturally has an ability to judge the self. Unfortunately the narcissist does not, so when a narcissist is confronted and acts in denial or defends, it isn’t their fault.
In no way am I saying it excuses them being responsible for their actions, but more so, it is almost impossible for them to see themselves accurately or have the desire to improve, as those instincts have been buried in their unconscious.
It is very rare that one will seek help due to failed relationships as in their own mind they are not to blame.
It is, really only when one can see the effects on their career development, and start to feeling the increased difficulty of their adult responsibilities that they will seek help.
The narcissistic person has the experience of their adult authentic self already fully formed inside, but it is divorced from the conscious experience.
In other words, the mature, adult “true self” has been kicked out of the cockpit, while the immature intruder has taken over navigation and is causing the person to feel that they are childish and dependent on others.
In order to remove this state, the belief systems in which are causing this false self to be in the forefront can be removed if the beliefs mentioned above are removed permanently.
Can a narcissist change? I have helped many narcissistic individuals break free from their negative patterns, release their true selves, and become who they really want to be. My coaching process enables people who are stuck in all sorts of harmful patterns to reclaim their authentic self permanently.
Find out more about this process with the resources below, or book your free 1 Hour Introductory Consultation today.
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Felicity Muscat is the Founder of The Institute of Self Mastery which was created to help others fulfil the truest, highest, and most authentic expression of themselves in all areas of life.
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Felicity Muscat, former psychologist is now an international self-esteem, self-empowerment, and self-mastery life coach. Felicity is also a relationship and success coach, author of three best-selling books and Level 3 mind resonance coach.