This is true for most behavior modification and most motivation for change. People have to truly feel it or it won’t last. The difference with narcissists is that because of their disorder it is much harder for them to see that their behavior is a problem. Narcissists justify their trouble behaviors in many different ways, and it’s very hard to see something is wrong or should change if you feel justified in doing it. How can it be wrong when you have a reason?
Looking again to our domestic abuse example, what took the narcissist so long to change his behavior was that he felt totally justified in hitting his wife. He didn’t like the way it made him feel afterward and he knew it was not the right thing to do, but it was her fault for upsetting him and pushing his buttons.
She should change, then the problem would be solved and he wouldn’t have to feel bad about himself. In this way, narcissists neatly and effectively remove any possibility of seeing a problem with their own behavior.
The narrative is, “No, it wasn’t wrong because of this.” Or “Yes, it was wrong but you made me do it.” Narcissists do understand right from wrong. They just don’t believe they did anything wrong because they have “reasons” and those reasons are always feelings. The problem is always somebody else causing feelings in them.
This is of course, not true. People are responsible for their own feelings and their reactions to those feelings. Narcissists see themselves as simply reacting to things that are happening to them, rather than as someone who is in control of things happening. As long as this is true, the behavior is very difficult to change.
Making The Choice To Change
So, in order to change negative or abusive behavior, the narcissist must first, be able to understand that their own actions are creating their negative feelings.
Secondly, they must hate how the behavior makes them feel so much that they don’t want to feel that way anymore.
Thirdly, they must be able to understand that this behavior is a choice they are making.
And fourth, they must be able to recognize when the choice is being made and make a different one – even when they are upset.
These are all things that are extremely difficult for narcissists to do. Their disorder was created as a way to prevent them from taking unreasonable blame and criticism as children but has deformed and evolved into something that will not let them take responsibility for anything as adults.
They also have serious issues with impulse control, controlling their emotions and self-control in general. These are all things that make even just recognizing, let alone changing problem behaviors extremely difficult. In the end, the task is just too great for many of them.
Yes, narcissists can change their behavior. Since narcissism is a spectrum, some may have an easier time than others. But holding your breath waiting for them to want to do so is usually not advisable. It took them years to get into those patterns and it can take years to get out of them. Many never make it. And even if they do change some of their behavior, they are still narcissists.
They can no more change this than you can grow two inches by tomorrow. They cannot feel empathy for other people, they cannot love other people. They cannot become someone else any more than anybody else can. Even the best you could hope for from a narcissist is really no hope at all.
Written by The Little Shaman Healing Originally appeared on PairedLife.com