Once a Narcissist, Always a Narcissist?

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Fahim Chughtai

Everyone wants to know can a narcissist change. Narcissists are always concerned about how they are perceived rather than how they can change the perception.

There are three types of narcissism: grandiose, vulnerable, and pathological narcissism. Narcissists are never happy with what they have and always want more, more! People with Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) are never satisfied with life. They have unrealistic expectations about what they can achieve and their level of deservedness.

Narcissists are always lonely because intimacy is a two-way process. Narcissists use people as tools to obtain status, money, admiration, and other forms of affirmation.

This article looks at can narcissists change and how you can help them to change. 

Narcissist Profile

A narcissist is a person who is so self-involved and self-absorbed he cannot see things from any other point of view than his own. He is emotionally shallow and has no empathy for other people.

It is impossible for him to feel compassion for others or love them. He is incapable of feeling guilt or remorse for his actions. He is an amoral person who will use, abuse, devalue and humiliate anyone to achieve his ends.

He is a master manipulator, liar, and deceiver. He has a superb sense of self-importance and expects to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it. His sense of entitlement is so strong he demands special treatment and feels offended when it is not given to him.

He is envious of others and believes they feel the same about him. He lacks empathy and cannot be sympathetic or supportive. He is never wrong and always has an excuse or justification for his behavior. He is very sensitive to rejection and reacts with fury when he perceives rejection.

Can Narcissism Decrease?

If you recognize the narcissistic traits, then you might know someone with a narcissistic personality disorder. And maybe you’ve wondered if they’re ever going to change.

A recent study tried to answer that very question. A recent study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology[1]Wetzel E, Grijalva E, Robins RW, Roberts BW. You’re still so vain: Changes in narcissism from young adulthood to middle age. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2020 Aug;119(2):479-496. doi: … Continue reading explored how narcissism develops from young adulthood to middle age. Dr. Eunike Wetzel and her team of researchers from the University of Vienna used data spanning 23 years to figure out how narcissistic traits evolve.

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“Interestingly, they found evidence to suggest that narcissists become less narcissistic over time,” summarized Mark Travers Ph.D. in Psychology Today [2]Psychologytoday,com . The researchers looked at people’s answers to personality questions, given when they were 18 and then again at age 41. They concluded that on average, narcissism decreases over that period. The decrease was most pronounced for the trait of entitlement, and least pronounced for the trait of vanity.

How do narcissists make decisions?

Narcissists make decisions based on how they feel about something. They will never make a decision that doesn’t fit into their grandiose view of themselves.

If you want to understand the narcissist’s way of making decisions, it helps to think about a toddler running around the house. The toddler will run around looking for his favorite toy, and when he finds it, he plays with it and moves on to the next one.

When he has had enough of this game, he puts all his toys away in their proper place and goes back to playing with them again.

Narcissist is no different; they love to play with everything that is “their” until they have had enough and put them away in their special place (the Narcissistic Supply Source). This explains why narcissists always need more Narcissistic Supply Sources — they keep running out of things they like!

If you try giving your narcissistic ex-partner too much attention or letting him know how great you think he is because of what he does for you, don’t be surprised if you get slapped down by him soon after — he may not be able to handle being told “I’m great!” very well at all!

Can Narcissists Change?

Narcissists can change. They think they’re perfect and don’t want to be different, so it’s can be done with deep emotional work. It’s possible.

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Researches published in journals also support the idea of change, One research was published in The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease and another one was published in the Journal of Personality.

That’s the impression I’m left with after reading Dr. Craig Malkin’s book Rethinking Narcissism: The Bad — And Surprising Good — About Feeling Special. I was expecting some insights into how we could help narcissists change, I found hope.

Can Narcissists Changenbsp- Narcissist Blog

Anyone Can Change if (and that’s not big, but a crucial, if) they want to.

Dr. Malkin

“Anyone can change if (and that’s not just a big, but a crucial, if) they want to,” Dr. Malkin tells Talkspace.“I’ve seen dramatic changes from clients with NPD who are willing to roll up their sleeves and do deep emotional work, to learn to build mutually caring, connected, trusting relationships.”

Dr. Malkin

How to Change a Narcissist?

Therapists and common people can change narcissists but some points are important to remember according to Dr. Malkin:

Be Clear and Compassionate

The first thing we need to do is to be clear and compassionate. We need to understand what they’re experiencing, and then try to empathize with them. We need to let them know that they’re not crazy and that we understand what they’re going through. We need to be compassionate.

We need to tell them that they’re not to blame and that they’re not crazy. We need to help them to understand that there’s no way that they’re responsible for all of the problems in their lives.

Make Them Accountable

Next, we need to make them accountable. We need to help them to understand that they’re responsible for their own behavior. They need to understand that they need to be accountable for their own behavior and that they need to take responsibility for their own actions.

Being really honest in therapy

“It’s in experiences that immerse [narcissists] in close relationships, community, deep feeling, and a sense of belonging that brings them to that place [of change],” Dr. Malkin says. “In therapy, it involves intense risk-taking and honesty.”

What can you do if you are living with a Narcissist?

Dr. Malkin’s advice is simple: Be very clear about your boundaries and don’t allow narcissists to cross them. He calls this setting firm “bright lines.” A bright line is a clear limit that you will not allow a narcissist to cross.

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It’s like the red line that an oncoming train can’t cross or the bright yellow line that divides two lanes of traffic.

Dr. Malkin has four pieces of advice for setting firm, bright lines:

  1. Set clear limits.
  2. Be consistent and persistent in enforcing them.
  3. Never let a narcissist back you into a corner or box you in without a way out.
  4. Know when to say “enough is enough.”

Dr. Malkin’s last piece of advice is that you must enforce the bright-line limits. If you don’t, the narcissist will be back in a week or two and want to start the whole game over again.

Difference between a Victim and a Survivor

What happens if you do set firm, bright lines? The narcissist will be angry at first, but eventually, he’ll go away and find someone else to manipulate. This is one of the main differences between victims and survivors: Victims let themselves get re-victimized while survivors take control of their lives and their choices.

Last words

I hope you enjoyed my article about Narcissists and their relationship to change. We all want to believe that those we love, who we think need to change, can be helped by our efforts. But the sad truth is that to change a narcissist is not an easy task, It needs patience and understanding of narcissistic behavior. Narcissists only project a different facade. But deep down, they are the same people.

There is not much that their loved ones can do to change narcissists. Only they can decide to change. This doesn’t mean you should stop trying. It just means that you need to accept the reality of the situation if you want to find happiness, and peace and move on.


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1 Wetzel E, Grijalva E, Robins RW, Roberts BW. You’re still so vain: Changes in narcissism from young adulthood to middle age. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2020 Aug;119(2):479-496. doi: 10.1037/pspp0000266. Epub 2019 Oct 31. PMID: 31670564; PMCID: PMC7190428.
2 Psychologytoday,com

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