The topic of narcissism, and more specifically, whether treatment is possible, is riddled with misinformation and generalities that lump “all narcissists” into the same category. The truth is, all narcissists are not the same. Dr. Hawkins lists the nine critical questions to consider before answering the quesion “Can a narcissist change?” and coming to a conclusion about whether treatment is possible.
Can a Narcissist Change? Answer These 9 Questions to Find out!
Narcissism is a complex personality trait that exists on a spectrum. It’s important to dispel the common misconception that all narcissists are beyond help or that they are all psychopaths. In reality, many individuals with narcissistic traits can benefit from intervention and treatment. Dr. David Hawkins, the director of the Marriage Recovery Center, offers insight into the possibility of change for those who have engaged in extensive emotional and narcissistic abuse. To determine whether a narcissist can change, it’s crucial to answer these nine questions.
1. How deeply entrenched and pervasive are these narcissistic traits?
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a clinical diagnosis, but many people exhibit narcissistic traits without meeting the full criteria for NPD. It’s essential to assess the severity and pervasiveness of these traits. Are they deeply ingrained in the individual’s personality, or are they more situational? Understanding the extent of narcissistic traits is the first step in gauging the potential for change.
2. Does he show any level of attachment to you?
Attachment and empathy play a crucial role in determining whether a narcissist can change. While empathy might be lacking initially, it is possible for individuals to learn empathy. The depth of attachment to you, your family, and their lifestyle will influence their motivation for change.
3. Does he show any remorse or guilt for his behavior?
Narcissism is often associated with a lack of responsibility for one’s actions. Assess whether the narcissist demonstrates any remorse or guilt for their past behavior. Cultivating acceptance of responsibility is a crucial component of change.
4. Has any significant effort been made to intervene with a narcissistic man?
Effective change typically requires a strategic intervention. Simply hoping for change without a structured approach may yield limited results. Consider whether any previous efforts have been made to intervene and address the narcissistic behavior.
5. If so, what effort was made in the intervention?
Not all interventions are created equal. It’s essential to evaluate the nature of any previous intervention. Was it skill-based, decisive, and accompanied by consequences? A well-executed intervention is more likely to yield positive results.
6. How successful was the intervention, and how was the narcissist held accountable for true character change?
Success in intervention is measured by genuine character change, not just temporary behavior modification. Assess the outcomes of previous interventions and whether the narcissist was held accountable for lasting change.
7. If there was a significant intervention with professional treatment, what was the outcome?
Professional treatment that includes strict accountability is crucial for addressing narcissistic behavior. Reflect on the outcomes of such treatments and whether they contributed to positive change.
8. If no significant intervention has been done to date, are you willing to initiate it?
If no meaningful intervention has taken place thus far, it may be time to consider taking the initiative. Recognize whether you are a victim of narcissistic and emotional abuse and if you are willing to initiate a structured intervention. Seek the necessary support to do so effectively.
9. After the intervention, will you both be involved in individual and group counseling?
Effective change often involves multiple layers of counseling. Determine if both parties are willing to engage in individual and group therapy. These therapeutic settings can provide the necessary tools for healing and growth.
The notion that all narcissists are irredeemable is a misconception. While some may be beyond help, many individuals with narcissistic traits can change, especially when a structured intervention and treatment plan are implemented. It’s essential to assess the severity of narcissistic traits, the depth of attachment, the presence of remorse, and the history of intervention. With the right support and accountability, change is possible. The path to healing may involve individual and group counseling and, ultimately, couples therapy to rebuild a healthy relationship. If you or someone you know is struggling with narcissistic behavior, seeking professional guidance can make a significant difference in the journey toward change and healing.
About Dr. Hawkins:
The internet is inundated with hyperbole and misinformation about narcissism, leaving many people confused and hopeless. Get the facts on narcissism and emotional abuse from someone who has been researching, writing about and treating narcissism and emotional abuse for over a decade.
Dr. Hawkins is a best-selling author and clinical psychologist with over three decades of experience helping people break unhealthy patterns and build healthier relationships.
He is the founder and director of the Marriage Recovery Center and the Emotional Abuse Institute which offers education, training and counseling for people who want to break free of, and heal from, emotional abuse. Whether the perpetrator of the abuse is your spouse, partner, parent, boss, friend or family member, we offer practical advice for anyone trapped in a toxic, destructive relationship.
In addition to narcissism & emotional abuse, you’ll learn about the lesser known forms of abuse, including covert abuse, reactive abuse, spiritual abuse, secondary abuse, relationship trauma and much more.