Honest answer. I do not know.
Revision (10/8/2014): My new answer is YES! A narcissist CAN be retrained to lead a happier and healthier life. It takes an absolute commitment to acceptance and change though – and I expect the process to last the remainder of my life.
This is the second attempt I’ve made in my life to get in front of my disease and try to get things back on track. The last time was after my 2nd divorce.
This was an exaggeration. While I did undergo therapy after my divorce, it was short lived – at the time the therapist was treating me for perfectionism.
Perfectionism did not cover all of my issues though – so I devalued him and left. Plus he kept getting my branch of Buddhism wrong, which pissed me off.
That was many years ago… I did well for a while, but then I think I slowly let go of the work that I’d done and, before I knew it BAM! I’m a complete dick again! Maybe slightly better – maybe not. I wasn’t even aware of how far I had slipped until very very recently.
There are no drugs that help. I take Wellbutrin so my head doesn’t explode, but it just deals with a symptom, not a cause. Therapy is only partially successful – and usually fails because the narc can’t be honest in session, or doesn’t care enough to make the session worth while. Narcs also have a way of getting under a therapists skin – it’s fun to mind wrestle a trained psychologist and win. We get high off of conquests like this. We get to prove our superiority against a worthy opponent. Once we do though – that opponent is no longer worthy, so the therapeutic relationship crumbles to dust. Spirituality is another possible dimension for healing, but there’s so much damage floating around in various spiritual communities that it may be hard for a Narc to feel comfortable or they may get TOO comfortable (target rich environment).
The most common question though is CAN I HELP HEAL MY NARC BY NURTURING HIM OR HER? Many times nons are completely unable to comprehend the full nature of our disorder. In general I am going to say no – trying to nurture and heal a narcissist is a very very bad idea… No matter how much you want to help, at best you’re just going to be helping to curtail some of the symptoms. At worst you could end up on the receiving end of a violent narcissistic rage response or you’ll end up experiencing deep emotional trauma.
If you have specialized experience, training, and are REALLY a whole person… AND your Narc is self-aware, wants to heal, and is COMMITTED to the healing process then there is a SMALL CHANCE that you might make SOME progress – but it has to be sustained progress over time – which is yet another hurdle to get past… You have to keep the Narc from regressing – which will happen often because we are small children trapped inside our own heads.
Bottom line – the only person that can heal a narc IS THE NARC – and only with trained professional assistance over time. Most people just aren’t built to withstand us… Those that try usually end up losing a part of themselves in the process… The relationship boards are replete with stories of nons desperately trying to help a Narc overcome their predilections – only to fail and fail hard!
You cannot rescue or fix a true narc. You cant even tell a narc that they are a narc unless they are already self-aware – and even then its a dicey proposition. So focus on protecting yourself instead… The narc will rage and move on to the next target. Get out early and stay away! Don’t let the narc back into your life – even if he or she tells wonderful stories about all of the healing they’ve done. Chances are – it’s a lie and you’re just being pulled back in.
And if you are a narc – well, I still can’t answer the question. I hope it’s true. I hope healing is possible. But frankly, I’ll settle for anything that helps me stop my self-destructive patterns.
Small steps… one day at a time.
-The Healing Narc