A question we hear asked a lot is how can the narcissist heal, or how can narcissists get better. The truthful answer is that the narcissist cannot heal. Narcissists cannot get better. The narcissist is a shattered persona. The narcissist's mind - their very self - broke into pieces under whatever stress and pressure they were subjected to before the personality was even formed yet, and before they could even understand what was going on.
And then it stayed that way.
And then it formed that way.
And then it grew into being that way.
There is no way to put this back together to make it whole. It is not possible. A personality disorder affects every aspect of a person's thinking. It colors every single thing they do, say and think. There is no way to change this. It's who and what they are. They are many fragmented pieces walking around behind a mask. In that way, it is similar to dissociative identity disorder, which we used to call multiple personality disorder.
Now, that doesn't mean there is no hope for malignant narcissists to become better in some ways - especially depending on which disorder they have. Some parts of some narcissists' behavior can be changed, through therapy and possibly medication. If they can understand they have a disorder, admit that the problem is with them and their thinking, and commit to treatment wholeheartedly, there is a possibility that some of their more awful behaviors can be changed - but again, that is all that can happen, and it's a long shot. Their way of thinking and feeling will not change. They will still be a narcissist. They will still be a shattered persona with no true identity and no true ability to love or see people as real and equal in importance. They can never be made whole.
If you drop a plate on the ground and it shatters, the plate is broken. Even if you could somehow glue it back together, there will be chunks and pieces and splinters missing. There will be holes and gaps and jagged edges. The pieces cannot truly connect to each other. It can never be the same. It can never be whole. It is simply a bunch of shards stuck together. It can function for a period of time, as the narcissist also can function for a period of time, but there is always the threat that it could come apart under pressure because it is already broken. With enough pressure, it will come apart.
This is why you cannot love narcissists back to mental health. There is no mental health to come back to. The possibility of them being a whole person was destroyed before you ever met this person. It was destroyed before they were ever even old enough to have a true identity. You cannot force them to be different. You cannot wish or make or hope the narcissist better. When you love a narcissist, you do not love a person, because there is no actual whole person there. There are simply endlessly-shifting masks and pieces coming to the forefront and then fading into the background as another takes over.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
J on November 18, 2019:
I’ve read about half of your articles this weekend and I am completely fascinated by them. Thank you for some very interesting insights as to how the mind of persons on spectrum of BP, NPD and sociopathy works. I have a few questions (I tried to use the “ask the author a question”-function, but it kept telling me it was too long so I gave up):
1. In a few of your articles (I’m sorry I did not keep track of which ones specifically) the terms sociopath and psychopath were used as the same thing. Why is that? As I understand it psychopaths are born and sociopaths are made, and though they might look the same they are actually quite different. Would you disagree with that?
2. When I read about the different personality disorders (particularly narcissism) I feel like I can relate to a lot of it. _a lot_ of it. However I do not think that I’m necessarily a narcissist, or BP or histrionic. I might be, a lot of it is Like an exact description of me, but a lot doesn’t match at all. Now I realize it’s a spectrum, and that most people probably have some degree of narcissistic defense mechanisms and behaviors. What I’m curious about is how to really know what’s “normal”. Like you wrote that a narcissist will only ever do what is in their best interest and will never change their behavior unless it has direct consequences to themselves. And so I’m over here like... aren’t all people like that? Is that not just human nature? Do we not all do what is in _our_ self serving interests? I might care about how my actions affect others, I might really do, to the extent that I’ll feel bad if it has a negative impact on you and I might even try to _ajust_ a bit, but if I was required to make _real sacrifice_ there really would have to be some reward or severe consequence directly affecting me in. What is really normal here? In my perception most people act in their own self interest, most people are not very empathic or particularly caring of others. I mean are they really? Or is narcissistic tendencies _just that common_?
3. Out of pure curiosity, and I realize this will be difficult to answer and that your answer might be pure speculation, but it will still be _qualified speculation_. You state that narcissists cannot love and cannot heal. What happens to a pathologically narcissistic woman after she gives birth? Like, what would she feel? I am not a mother myself, and despite recently turning 30 and having been told my entire life that my “biological clock” will set in “when I grow older” I still feel nothing but extreme irritation whenever I see a child of any age, so I wouldn’t know what loving a child deeply might feel like, but as I understand it when giving birth the body is SO full of hormones that it’s just not comparable to anything else. Evolutionary it must be so; if mothers did not love their children completely unconditionally the human species most likely would have gone extinct a long time ago; kids are unbearably needy, annoying and take everything from their parents, so if the body did’t pump new mothers full of extremely strong hormones to make them love their kids more than anything in the world many parents probably wouldn't want to do it. So how would a narcissist who just gave birth _feel_? What do their brains and body’s make of all the hormones? Also, in a _completely_ theoretical scenario, what would happen if the primary caregiver of an adult narcissist (who mistreated that narcissist as a child and thereby causing the narcissism) suddenly became loving and understanding and started treating the adult narcissist as a child again, loving them unconditionally and setting boundaries and like _being a parent_ to them as adults. Is there _no chance_ that the development that was halted could continue and the person they were supposed to grow into could form? Why not? Sorry for lots of stupid questions, I’m just so curious.
This hurt me! on June 23, 2019:
I was diagnosed on narcissistic spectrum (and also asd) , and this article is very insulting. I do recognize that I think of myself first in each situation and don't realize what others are thinking or feeling, but that doesn't mean I don't care. It just doesn't dawn on me to think about it. I feel guilty each time I'm told I did something insensitive. I don't deliberately set out to hurt people. Empathy is difficult to remember, but not impossible. We aren't psychopaths. You sound like you're writing about Dexter, not narcs. There is a big difference. The main difference being that we don't have malignant intentions.. we're just immature.
The Little Shaman (author) from Macon, GA on January 29, 2019:
@John: Personality and identity are not the same thing. It isn't a metaphor. The identity of pathologically narcissistic people is often seriously fractured from trauma, similar to what happens in Disassociative Identity Disorder. Once again, personality and identity are not the same thing.
Good luck to you.
John on January 28, 2019:
This article is ridiculous. I am a narcissist. I think and behave in ways I recognize are unhealthy, wrong, and sometimes unkind to others in an effort to maintain my unstable self-esteem. However, that does not make me "broken." Personality is not something that can "break" into "pieces" that are "shattered." It's a very nice visual metaphor and seems compelling, but these terms and phrases aren't explained by referring to any actual facts about how we know the mind works. You could replace narcissism in the article with nearly any other personality or mood disorder, and it would still make sense because the powerful metaphors aren't supported by analyzing of the processes underlying narcissism.
If any other narcissists are reading this, don't let this article bring you down. Frankly, it's irresponsible for this to be such a popular search result for narcissists seeking to better themselves. It takes courage to face a personality disorder and work on yourself. It is not impossible to heal and grow and don't let anyone ever tell you otherwise.
Source: a psychologist
The Little Shaman (author) from Macon, GA on December 09, 2018:
Alice: You can change your behavior if you don't like it. :)
alice on December 08, 2018:
So what's the point? Why am I here? If I can't change I might as well fully buy into my narcissism right?
Scott on November 21, 2017:
Well by those reasons why am I even living if there is no hope? Thanks for giving me hope when there was none