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Has anyone, ever, managed to explain to a narcissist what a narcissist is ...and to accept that they are one?

(130 Posts)

Trouble in my family is brewing again, and I am being called upon to help and advise my siblings and their partners about dealing with our npd mother.

I have had very low contact with my npd mother for many, many years now, can't remember if it is 12, or 13 years, but a good long time. I have posted on here before about this, spent much time on the Stately Homes thread, and am quite happy most of the time with the boundaries between me and my m.

But my siblings are still suffering and want my help. One has written to our mother to tell her what is wrong and how he would like to change things, and has asked for my comments on what he has written to her. I have explained as much as I can, about dis-engaging, FOG, etc. and the fact that it is pointless to explain things as she won't see it in the same way. But, he doesn't want to cut her off. He wants things to change.

I feel sad that he is going to be very upset when she responds in a hideous way to what he has written, as she invariably will. I feel sad that I can't think of a way of him changing things without getting done over by her. He is and tries to be a loving son and is bewildered by how nasty she can be. He puts so much effort in, to no avail.

I just want to know, from anyone who has good knowledge on this subject <waits for Attilla and others> if there has ever been a narcissist who knows they are one, and whether if so, there is anything such a person can do to get help to be less of one IYSWIM?

Or does the very nature of narcissism mean that there is no way such a person could be made to recognise the disorder in themselves?

Any help would be much appreciated.


noddyholder Thu 07-Feb-13 13:32:26

From my experience they don't even recognise the word!

Middy86 Thu 07-Feb-13 13:33:47

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

AttilaTheMeerkat Thu 07-Feb-13 13:39:47

In answer to your question I am sorry to tell you that in my experience of them the answer is no. Narcissists do not do very well in therapy even if they do attend any such sessions in the first place (which they are unlikely to do because they do not think they are doing anything wrong in the first place).

I feel very sorry for your sibling as mentioned in your third paragraph and I also think any letter he writes to his mother will come back to bite him hard. The best thing to do with such a letter is to write it and destroy it afterwards.

Thanks for responding so fast, noddy and middy.

It would also be interesting to know what causes it. Could it be bad treatment in childhood? Or is it something chemical in the brain? or a combination of factors?

Thanks Attila. He has written it to tell her what he finds difficult (eg. her turning up at his house and causing mayhem whenever she likes and unannounced), and what his solution is (for him to visit her instead).

I too feel very sorry for him as he is trying his best, and I think he still believes he will get somewhere. But he has written because he now needs to take some action to protect his dw and their dcs.

noddyholder Thu 07-Feb-13 13:51:36

I sent a letter to my mother and the response was very very harsh and I no longer see her. I was quite gentle in my approach as I was literally her last friend(and was trying to reach out to her and explain that she needed to change in order to maintain any sort of relationship with her) she has fallen out with every other family member and friend although still has some contact with one of us.

AttilaTheMeerkat Thu 07-Feb-13 13:57:42

A book he may find useful to read is "Children of the Self Absorbed" written by Nina W Brown.

Am not surprised he has written but he will in he end have to decide whether to go low contact or no contact over her.

If he has sent the letter I would be fully prepared for her to go ballistic over what she would see as an unwarranted attack on her. She will likely be vicious in her response if she chooses to respond. I cannot emphasise enough the narc's complete lack of empathy.

I do not think there is one single thing that causes narcissism but a combination of factors genetic and environmental. To my mind I think both ILs directly caused BILs narcissism; he was enabled, protected and spoilt from a young age (particularly by his overbearing narc mother) and thus developed a huge sense of entitlement along with a complete lack of empathy.

HotDAMNlifeisgood Thu 07-Feb-13 14:01:15

Or does the very nature of narcissism mean that there is no way such a person could be made to recognise the disorder in themselves?


The only hope is if they recognise it themselves, on their own. But you certainly can't make them.

garlicblocks Thu 07-Feb-13 14:04:34

You seem to have informed yourself well on the subject, Scarlet, and are doing your best for your brother. Maybe the knock-back will prompt him to consider your ideas.

My mum agrees she's a narcissist. I've found ways of getting along with her; a mixture of firm boundaries and working with her need to look good. There's no hope with another close family member. I think some shit will hit some fans in the future, then we'll see whether this person wants to review their game plan.

I know two Mumsnetters whose narcissistic husbands have taken their views on board and got themselves diagnosed. One is still married, doing therapy in parallel and together; it seems to be working very well for them. The other, I believe, is waiting for their decree nisi. I also know another woman who thinks she's doing the same as the first couple I mentioned: along with everyone else, I think she's fooling herself and getting more enmeshed.

In my opinion it's not worth all the hassle. You can name the problem as you see it - narcissists do have 'moments of insight', which upset them a lot, and there's a chance they will consider your opinion at that time. You also get people who love the thought of the diagnosis, and will milk it for all it's worth - leading therapists a merry dance, using it to guilt-trip those around them and so on.

Your brother probably has all this still to learn. At least he's got you looking out for him smile

noddyholder Thu 07-Feb-13 14:12:18

My mother would LOVE a label even though she would refute it

LesBOFerables Thu 07-Feb-13 14:22:39

I think you will meet with limited success.

I know one who will actually AGREE if you say you are fed up with people who make everything about them, and reply by saying stuff along the lines of 'yes, I know someone who does that- it really frustrates me and sets off my <insert various psychosomatic illnesses here>.' Then you are invited to sympathise with them, or at least be reminded that if you ever upset them by saying they are pissing you off, they will take to their bed and lay it at your door to all who will listen.

There is no WAY they would accept they were a narcissist- they are only ever victims of the rest of the world.

Thank you all so much. As I feared.

I have told him to prepare for the fallout from all this.Though I do agree with him that he couldn't let the situation continue as it was, as it was having a big impact on his dw, and I agreed with him that putting his dw before his m was now necessary.

Garlic, that is so interesting that your mother agrees!

Sadly, I have been through what my db is about to go through and is going through now, so I am further down the line than he is.

His going through it now has confirmed to me that I will not go back to the pandering and therefore can never have a meaningful relationship with her. She has not done anything bad to me for many years now, so sometimes I waver and soften, and wonder if i should....etc. But actually hearing from my db about what she's been putting him through has strengthened my resolve and has also made me dislike her intensely. I am quite maternal about my dbs who are younger than me, and someone who hurts them in this way is no friend of mine.


There is no WAY they would accept they were a narcissist- they are only ever victims of the rest of the world.

Yes, Lesbo, this is so true and as I feared. Think I was trying to clutch at straws with this line of thinking.

schmoodles Thu 07-Feb-13 14:30:05

grin@ lesbo


sorry op

schmoodles Thu 07-Feb-13 14:30:50

time to name change anyway bof. its bloody terrible

LesBOFerables Thu 07-Feb-13 14:31:58


Like it.

I may change to LESBOferables. But then I'd have to stop dreaming about Enjolras [sadface]


Noddy - talking of labels, I actually think npd is just one of the mental disorders my mother has (this is only my diagnosis by the way). I often wonder about borderline personality too, though am not a psychologist, so not sure.

Sorry LesBOF, about the name failure thing grin

Abitwobblynow Thu 07-Feb-13 16:07:25

The thing about narcissists is that they have so much shame and self-hatred that they HAVE to cling onto self-absorbtion.

They are literally empty. They can't reflect, or take someone else's experience on board, because they have nothing to support that.

My H's two absolutely predictable statements: 1. no, I am not/no, it isn't 2. well, you.... (twisting it round onto me).

I have learned there is absolutely no point in engaging with him at all on any level, ever. My solution is to completely ignore him as I get on developing my own life and friends (separate support group), and as I have no interest at all in a romantic friendship right now, and he is a good father and we are united as parents, it functions at the moment.

But accepting that he really is this shallow/selfish/empty... took a very long time. Because it isn't quite human is it?

garlicblocks Thu 07-Feb-13 16:19:47

It's human, Jim, but not quite as we know it ...

I meditate. My mother doesn't, but she can sit perfectly calm and still for hours if necessary. I asked what she's doing/thinking/feeling during this time, as it looks to me like meditation. She enjoyed being asked. She sinks, as she put it, deep into her 'core'. What do you find there? I asked. Nothing, she said; it's empty and peaceful and ... nothing.

Lottapianos Thu 07-Feb-13 16:29:41

'My H's two absolutely predictable statements: 1. no, I am not/no, it isn't 2. well, you.... (twisting it round onto me).'

God I recognise this so much abitwobblynow. Both my parents are NPD. Whenever I share a thought or an opinion, the first thing out of my parents' mouths is something that starts with 'no.....'. That or they ignore me and act like I haven't spoken. It makes me so so very very angry angry I'm working on it all in therapy. You've hit the nail on the head.

Lottapianos Thu 07-Feb-13 16:30:53

'Because it isn't quite human is it? '

It's very weird and unsettling if I think about it for too long. Sometimes I can actually laugh about it, sometimes I get the rage. But I'm mostly just working very hard at disengaging. I'm sorry you are living with this every day sad

Miggsie Thu 07-Feb-13 16:34:08

No - it is always some one else's fault - they are, by definition, perfect. To themselves.

My gran rewrote history faster than a Holocaust revisionist.

She never ever did anything wrong - it was always someone else. And if she did admit anything, next time you saw her, she had done a complete flip and denied the conversation ever took place.

They suck you dry.

The thing about narcissists is that they have so much shame and self-hatred that they HAVE to cling onto self-absorbtion.

It's very sad isn't it? there seems no way out and no solution

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