“Okay I admit it — I am tired!”
For almost 10 years now I have been writing non-fiction on the subject of narcissism & codependence, helping families improve their marriage and home life.
Sometimes couples work together on our advice . . . but more often they take learning new relationship skills on single-handedly.
Often with a partner who causes more hurt than help.
People find us online and in many very real ways we provide shelter. A place to gain understanding and befriend others who are likewise committed to positive change in their family. A shelter where no one will tell them they are an idiot because they hold hope that things can change for the better.
Raging at the heart of this debate, is not only the issue of whether or not change is possible, but the strange idea that change is always something a person has to do for themselves.
“A person can only change if they are ready to really work on themselves” Is the standard nugget of wisdom I hear daily and you know frankly I am done arguing with it. Our detractors won’t listen to personal experience or logic and so why should I keep trying to convince them with data they won’t listen to?
So as I see it this article may be my last non-fiction piece I write on this subject for a long while. For a change of my own, this year I plan on writing fictional short stories instead.
But if you know me at all, then you know I won’t be giving up!
This change I am planning is because I have come to realise fiction may be a much better medium to get my very real and very non-fiction ideas across in a way that is easier for people to consider and understand.
Everyone loves a good redemption story. The trouble is, in my opinion, most writers don’t do them very well. Many Stars Wars fans couldn’t bear to continue watching as the awkward story line based on the redemption of Anakin Skywalker limped darkly to a close.
And if you listen to the deafening chorus of the chattering classes, you too have probably come to believe redemption of the narcissist not possible at all.
The truth is that real life redemption stories, if not so common in the ‘just chuck them on the scrap-heap’ world we live in today, still do occur and are both moving and motivational
Fiction is a great medium to share stories which actually originated in real life and in writing even give room for the characters to expose otherwise hidden inner dialog.
I have also come to see that stories hold an inherent inner logic that may be easier to grasp than non-fiction.
Like the simple story presented in the movie Big Daddy.
Was Sonny in this movie (played by Adam Sandler), ever likely to realise all on his own that he needed to grow up and then be capable of changing himself?
No he wasn’t.
I see Big Daddy as a very basic and simple redemption story of a single, deadbeat narcissistic man.
In ‘the redemption of a narcissist plot line’ not all narcissists are the same, but there are a few elements I have come to see as constants . . .
Standard themes in the narcissist’s story of redemption;
1. A profound shock that comes from a person or situation external to the narcissist. This shock is always what initiates the change.
This part is crucial. Emotional reactions such as pride, arrogance, defensiveness are lightening fast and by the time we are in our late teens usually hardwired in. The only way these reactions change is from a negative experience or highly charged emotional situation which in future causes fear, embarrassment or even love and trust to become an additional part of the same emotional response.
Once bitten twice shy gives the basic gist of it.
In the case of Big Daddy, this shock came to Sonny when the kindergartener teacher informs him Julian is considered the ‘smelly kid’ in class. This causes Sonny (and many viewers) the films big aha moment which changes everything. In real life we cannot decide to change hardwired emotional reactions without some kind of shock like this, so I would even argue that it is probably necessary the world gets involved in helping narcissists change.
2. The availability of a community of people to help support and educate the narcissist to learn less self centred habits.
Sonny didn’t simply come to his senses by being dumped on the street. His girlfriend dumping him at the beginning of the movie, in fact, has very little effect on him. By the time Sonny’s pride comes down, from the shock delivered by the much wiser kindergarten teacher, he has people around him supporting the changes he makes in his life. Without this support, the shock may have helped him for a little while, but eventually Sonny would have simply strengthened and rebuilt his false pride.
Just to be clear I want to mention a few things Big Daddy (and the real life plot-line of the narcissist’s story of redemption) does not include . . .
i. Sonny was not a psychopath and did not enjoy being cruel.
His character’s ego and irresponsibility hurt people sure, but this was the result of his irresponsibility and not his real motivation. Even when narcissistic people say and do mean or cruel things, it is not usually for the sake of being cruel (unless they want revenge) but rather a means to try and get their way in a power struggle or argument. Having narcissistic tendencies doesn’t make someone a psychopath no matter what anyone says.
I am not joking, I am tired of the dramatised sensationalism of this misinformation. Do narcissists hurt people? Yes they sure do! And if you want help with this we have the most well researched, comprehensive and inexpensive resources available. But if you want help dealing with a psychopath, please go find it (if you can) elsewhere and stop confusing it with NPD. No matter what anyone tells you they are NOT the same thing.
ii. Sonny’s girlfriend did not psycho analyse him and go ‘No contact’.
If you want to end your relationship with a selfish and self centred person, I have complete sympathy and sincerely want to offer you our help and support. The last chapters in Back From the Looking Glass deal with leaving directly and will give you clearly presented and well researched advice. ‘No contact’ is really a game of emotional bullying and will usually cause the conflict to escalate. If you share property or children with a narcissist, ‘no contact’ is probably not even possible and certainly not wise.
iii. Sonny did not admit he had a problem and get counselling.
This was not part of this movie and has not been part of the real life redemption stories we have witnessed. Rather than initiating redemption or change, counsellors are usually some of the first people to tell the narcissist’s family to give up on them.
Of course this kind of “shock & support” transition is not something you can just throw at someone out of the blue. That is why Steve and I put the time we do into supporting families in crisis who are in need of a major shift in their family dynamic.
Please don’t think you can shock your partner by using abandonment, anger or aggression, or that love on its own is going to make the change you are looking for.
Emotional manipulation is what narcissistic people hate the most and tend to respond very unpredictably to.
More important than figuring out how this shock might arrive in a person’s life (narcissistic people are usually pretty good at bringing this kind of shock on themselves), is building the kind of stable and supportive home environment in which change can be realised after a shock occurs.
Most narcissistic individuals end up having fairly serious personal breakdowns, but without different rules and a different emotional environment to recover in they will just end up rebuilding their old false self.
I have written more about the “Shock & Support” dynamic at the end of the last unit of my master class:
Please Note: This link above only provides access to members. But if you join our group in the next few days, because it is my birthday on Saturday, I will give everyone who joins (as well as all of our existing members) a free download (of your choice) from our bookshop as a gift.
If you are not a member already, the page to sign up is here:
After you register and get logged in you can click through and read more on my concept of “shock & Support” here;
Then before this special ends (the 17th of January 2017) – go and choose which free product download you want from our bookshop:
New & Old Members Both: Choose Which Book or Audio You Want as a Download
When you have decided what product you want, just email me the name of your choice to my personal email address:
And you can wish me a happy birthday as well 🙂
It may take a few days – but I will write back and provide you the download link as soon as I am able.
If you are new I will also send instructions on how to join our online Secret Facebook groups we use as our master class forums and classrooms. It is easy – but I will make sure the handshake happens when I write back.
For those of you who don’t want to buy our books and don’t want to become a member, from now on this blog is mostly going to tell stories based on the theme mentioned in this article above.
The first one should hopefully be published by the time this special ends 🙂
In the meantime getting help and support (creating change) from the privacy of your own home has never been easier . . .