Can a leopard change its spots? Once we discover the real person, the person behind the deceptive outward appearance, we often wonder if they will ever change, if they can change.
The subject of change is open to debate. It is a question that has been asked time and time again. It is a difficult question and one that there is no straight forward answer to but I will give you my opinion and please note, this is my own personal opinion.
I believe that generally, no, these people do not change. They don’t want to change. They want everyone around them to change. Many professionals in the field of psychology will say that they cannot change, it is their personality, it is their nature and it is who they are. Change would involve the person with NPD recognising that the problems lie within themselves, having a conscience, learning to empathise.
Empathy is described by the Cambridge English Dictionary as, ‘The ability to share someone else’s feelings or experiences by imagining what it would be like to be in that person’s situation.’
I don’t know about you but from my experience I feel that even if they can imagine what it would feel like to be in another’s shoes at a particular moment in time, they simply don’t care. As long as the negative feelings are not felt by themselves, then the matter is not of their concern.
Our feelings are emotions that define our character and define who we are. Emotions in someone with narcissistic personality disorder have not advanced and developed with age as one would expect to see in a normal healthy adult. Their emotional maturity is somewhat limited.
If you believe that you are the one person who is going to change them, think again. You can’t save a narcissist from themselves. You need to concentrate on saving yourself from the narcissist.
If someone looks at themselves in the mirror and doesn’t like what they see, they may resort to cosmetic surgery. They may go for a face lift or a nose job in order that they may get to like the reflection that they see staring back at them. Does a narcissist like what they see in the mirror? Most of the time I would think that they do but I don’t believe that they take a very close look. They live in denial. They know that if they look too closely, they will see themselves for who they really are. Rather than their delusional image of their superiority being shattered, they take a step back from the mirror, not wanting to see what’s really there. By having blind spots, they can carry on regardless, fooling themselves that when relationships don’t work out for them, it’s always someone else’s fault, never their own.
Are there exceptions?
Yes, I believe that there are. Everyone in life has their difficult times and we learn to deal with life’s problems and move on. What happens to a narcissist when their problems become so overwhelming that they wonder, ‘Could this be me?’ ‘Could I be the one that has a problem?’ When every relationship that they have in their lives bites the dust, some may have this wake up moment. Change is an inside job. They need to want to change and sadly the majority never feel the need to change. The road ahead would be a very difficult journey, trying to change who they are, trying to change a lifetime’s beliefs and behaviours. Can it be done? If they have reached that point in their lives where they don’t like what they see in the mirror, where they realise that their strength will come from change and not control, then maybe, but don’t count on it. I believe that for those who possess just a few of the traits of NPD, there is a possibility that their behaviour may be modified for a time. Just how long that time will last remains to be seen.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy has shown a limited amount of success. I have yet to read of a malignant narcissist changing for the better over the long term.
‘As you get older you realize that some people are just shitty human beings and there’s nothing you can do to change them. If they don’t want to change, you can’t do it for them. Stop searching for the good in them that simply isn’t there.’
At the end of the day I believe that the likelihood of any significant change is negligible. Try not to fall for their assurances that they have changed. Assume that they are the same individual that they were in the past. A narcissist can put on a very convincing act, an Oscar winning performance, in order to convince you that they are a different person now. If you have managed to move on without this person being a part of your life, don’t go back to a long time ago and put yourself through all the pain and hurt once again. Those days are likely to return.
Dr. Lynne Namka, says that people with severe narcissistic traits have limited emotional intelligence – and tons of psychological defenses – standing in the way of recovery, being unable to see the depth of their pathology as to know their shortcomings would send them into great shame which would trigger depression.
The narcissist is likely to remain a narcissist until their dying day.