Saturday, October 06, 2007

Curing Punishment

Some years back, Dr. Robert Hare prepared a program for treating psychopaths in Canadian prisons, a program based solely on positive and negative reinforcement. But a left wing government put a stop to that heresy before the program began.

I think that's the only possible solution. One that should be tried. Narcissists are functioning at that level. The level of a three-year-old. And that's how you discipline a three-year-old.

In fact, that's how you train a dog. You don't moralize with him. You don't explore his feelings with him. You face the fact that he is operating in a different mode, where whatever works is what he does, period. He's a DOG, for cryin' out loud, don't anthropomorphize him!

So, don't yell at him not to pester you for attention. For, that is giving him attention. And if it's the best he thinks he can get, he'll take it and pester your for more.

Clue: IGNORING him for pestering you will work much, much better.

Simple positive and negative reinforcement.

Every time narcissists step out of line, whack them. It's as simple as that. Narcissists can control their feelings no better than we can. But, like us, they prove every day that they can and do control their conduct. If they fear adverse consequences for stealing, abusing, lying or whatever, they refrain from doing it. So, make sure there are adverse consequences.

Nothing will change overnight. But there would come a day when they have abstained from bad behavior long enough that they are no longer "a person who does that." That's redemption. It's been so long since they molested a child that they are no longer a person who molests children. It's been so long since he beat his wife that he is no longer a person who beats his wife. Redemption.

That banishes the Demon at the Door. It has a tremendous effect in reducing his level of repressed shame for what he is. 'Er, WAS, I mean.

That denied shame is what drove him to his bad behavior. He is a slave to it. He must be freed before anything good can happen.

That is why I think simple, strict, swift punishment for every bad deed is the only possible solution. We can't say that we are really trying to help narcissists if we can't say that we are giving this idea a shot to see if it works.

But that's "tough love" and no way to put on a grand show of being kind. I fear that there are too many hypocrites out there campaigning for an "Aren't I nice?" award, who don't care at all about really helping narcissists or their victims.

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At 5:11 AM, Blogger Lynn said...

Yep, it's true, the narcissist can be pulled into line with better behaviour with this type of treatment.

But on a relationship level, it sucks. Who wants to be their partners "all needs-meeting mother" who dishes out the discipline everyday? NOt me, that's not what I signed up for in a relationship.

At 8:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Narcissists attempt to manipulate everything and everyone in their environment. A system of simple hard fast rules with rewards and punishments might just work. No talking about it, no getting close to them personally, it would all be based on behavior.

Still, you'd have to get the people working with them to ADMIT that they are dealing with psychopaths, Narcissists and people with ASPD. I list them all simply because that's what those who attempt to help them do. Personally for me those lines are completely blurred. They are one in the same with varying levels of what CAN be labeled showing on the outside, on the surface. Underneath it's the SAME creature.

Most people who would have the opportunity to put such a system of rewards and punishments in place seem to me to go into denial. They rely on self reporting even though they have been taught not to. The victims are rarely if EVER contacted to find out what these people are really capable of.

Narcissists play on the ego of others and therapists who want to feel they are "helping" and "making progress" are no exception. So they believe when the narcissists "shows so" or says so that they are "changing" The narcissist is rewarded for changes that have NOT occurred in a real way.

The ONLY thing to do is to reward the act. A good "act" i.e. acting like a good person would bring a reward and a bad "act" would bring on a punishment.

This is interesting indeed. I'm not sure about being able to bring about real change in them. That's a personal judgment since I've seen too many times when so many believed the N was making a new and better life and becoming a better person while he was actually being more and more brutally cruel in private.

Great article, food for thought.

At 9:22 AM, Blogger Kathy said...

Oooh, you've got a point there. I never thought of that. I was picturing this being done in treatment, though the family could surely use coaching.

At 9:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

BINGO LYNN! That is exactly what got me out finally. I was sick and tired of being a caretaker, the narcissists relationship hall monitor. I resented being put in that position.

What for? It's all to no avail and when oh when do we get a thing out of such relationships? Nothing. I have raised my child, and I did a good job as he has turned out to be a thoughtful, sweet intelligent young man.

I don't need to take on a selfish baby who is dangerously abusive and try to care for him when he is utterly incapable of caring for me in return. This is exactly what the narcissist fully expects you to do and if you dont' do it YOU are being mean to THEM! LOL! It's funny but, in all seriousness this is how they think.

I guess the ONLY option in relationships is to get out and stay out.

At 10:11 AM, Blogger Kathy said...

Leaving the N is negative reinforcement. Just what he or she needs.

At 5:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

for what its worth i will share some about what goes on here at my house -been reading about narcissism for about a year and a half. been with my n for almost 25. he has definitely gotten worse over time. i had gotten enmeshed and took on much of his projection--until things got bad enough for me to feel enough pain to feel mad enough to look for outside help. i treated him like a normal human being= i included him in the workings of having a family- i assumed he was on the same page- there was enough "evidence" to be able to assume so- but also enough resistance on his part that i was always aware of it but never understood it. now that i have become more educated on narcissism and am sure that is what im living with i am viewing everything differently and am altering how i do things. its very sad, lonely and disappointing- to not be able to apply all my people skills to my most significant other- but that is my deal. he and i are no longer the "team" i thought we were or the team we need to be to raise our family. the "real world" stuff IS UP TO ME. the frustration and aggravation of the disappointment IS UP TO ME to deal with. i no longer turn to him for consult comfort reassurance advice or cooperation. all the while trying to keep him at bay- rather than abreast of what is going on- so that he doesn't disrupt or disturb my balancing of everyone and everything. i am not a control freak. i struggle to maintain my health and well being. i just respect how complicated life is and just want to be responsible,compassionate, efficient and keep an even keel.
i have detached as much as possible from him even though we still share a house and children. i avoid eye contact as much as possible. i pretty much ignore him as far as if he wanted to claim it he could back it up. i won't admit any of the sort to him. i do speak when spoken to. i do ask him an occasional question- more to "humor him". but i am very careful how i phrase them and very conscious of how i answer his questions. the more information you give them the more wiggle room they have and the more convoluted the conversation becomes. i must be getting pretty good at minimizing what i have to say because i can recognize his bait more readily and another clue i have is he is having to be craftier at instigating arguments. in fact some of the stuff he's come up with to try to stir up trouble is getting pretty lame and he is starting to sound kind of witless. although i can tell he is starting to be aware of it too- which is probably why i'm so tense anticipating another rage.
it is a very sick sort of dance.the more he figures out he's being excluded- the weirder approaches he uses to get back in. other people may think he's a "nice guy" because he has improved his behavior--now this is where you and i differentiate from standard everyday people-- we know that this is a RED FLAG- it is not successful therapy- it is not a redeeming quality- it is their "get out of jail free ticket" and thats exactly what they are using it for. and it pisses us off that it works. and we have a right to be mad.but that is ours to deal with too. and its okay for us to get help- but NOT to turn to them for any of it. going to the source of injury to get the healing does not work. the whole forgiveness philosophy on going to the perp for retribution does not work AT ALL with a narcissist.we will just get more garbage- maybe in prettier camouflage- which will only add insult to injury. so much of common thinking on how to "get along" and on codes of conduct and common courtesy are just tools for these people to craft their own workings- much like a puppet master.we need to see the strings for what they are and never never lose sight of the fact that they are twisted beyond redemption. no matter the psychological emotional or social ramifications of that- we can never stop knowing they will never adapt to what we want or need from them. they will ALWAYS resist us. and any conforming they APPEAR to be doing is a temporary bonus and should be viewed as only as much. they can never be fully trusted and they don't want to change because they want to be in control and we will never understand them. only make observations- never assumptions.jt

At 4:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"other people may think he's a "nice guy" because he has improved his behavior--now this is where you and i differentiate from standard everyday people-- we know that this is a RED FLAG- it is not successful therapy- it is not a redeeming quality- it is their "get out of jail free ticket"

Oh jt, jt! You are wise and brilliantly said exactly what they are doing when the behavior improves. In FACT I got really nervous if and when I saw the ex N playing "nice" on the outside of things and the "nicer" he "appeared" to be playing was a direct indication of how worried I should be. The abuse was always escalated in DIRECT proportion to that "nice" act behind closed doors. Always. RED FLAG indeed!

You put it perfectly. Thank you for sharing this with us. I really appreciate it.

At 4:08 AM, Anonymous Marisol said...

Sigh. Totally agree about getting emotional needs met, turning to them for comfort or's not gonna happen. I don't know if mine is unable to do that, or unwilling to do that, but he is perceptibly terrified and enraged at the merest hint that it is an "appropriate time" for him to do that. I don't know what's so frightening about it for him, but I definitely don't turn to him for that. It's like leaning on a table that turns out to be a holographic illusion--there is no table there, and you just fall. Like Lynn says, on a relationship level it sucks. The rewards and punishments thing does help with mine, as does praising the good behavior and ignoring the bad. (I got the praise thing from a book on passive aggressiveness, so maybe it's not a narc issue.) But it is very time consuming, because once a behavior is praised, he wants endless praise for it, he just can't make himself stop patting himself on the back for it and nagging you to do it too. It would waste much less time for me to do it myself.

At 8:48 AM, Blogger Lynn said...

jt, thank you for sharing, I'd be unwise to not listen to someone who has been with an N for 25 years. My hat comes off to you!

I've been with mine for 5.5 years, and been reading about narcs and abuse for 6 months, and our house is not much different than yours and I truly detached and became indifferent about 3 months ago. I had to wait for the anger, grief, disappointment stage to be worked through before I could get to indifferent, and this is when my N's behaviour really started to show something different, the realisation with him that I could actually end up leaving.

But that does NOT give me a false sense of security, no way hosay! Which is why it's good to read accounts like jt's, a good reminder to not get sucked back in.

I realised a long time ago there was never going to be any relying on this man for anything, I just wasn't aware of how bad it could actually get. I gave up any form of emotional reciprocity about 3.5 years ago, and have gradually been working through the stages to get me to an unemotional platform since then.

I'm there and I don't want to lose my footing, so I stay wary of the chinks in his new and improved behaviour (I use that term loosely) and I see plenty of chinks and gaping holes to re-affirm that there is not real change happening. It's veneer only. But while he's veneered, things are relatively calm and in some literature I've read recently, it's this 'relative calmness' that happens with abusers, the veneer of change happening, that spouses use as an escape route.

At 11:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is right on.

This is basically the strategy I have used with my father since I was in my early 20s. If he treats me disrespectfully or crosses boundaries, I bite him (i.e. snap at him, yell at him, whatever) and then I immediately leave or hang up the phone. If he treats me respectfully, then I act like a dutiful daughter who has a good relationship with her father. Positive and negative reinforcement.

Over the years, he has caught on and mostly acts OK towards me (though his predatory ways have worsened with respect to other people in his life).

You see, my father needs me. My father needs me to keep up the facade that he is a great family man with a fabulous daughter who cares about him. And that need of his (combined with my refusal to be emotionally engaged with him) gives me control over the situation. (I, in turn, want to keep the status quo rather than cut him off entirely, because my mother is still married to him.)

I feel like I am finally in the catbird seat NOW, but of course, as a child and a teenager, I couldn't just leave or walk away. Back then, I was a perfect target. And, sadly, others in his life are the new targets now.

-- The Happy Feminist

At 2:11 PM, Anonymous Stef said...

Yup, that is pretty much the strategy I finally adopted with my NPD father. It worked well for many years--we were able to have a superficially friendly relationship and I never let him hurt me or drag me into his maelstrom again. Eventually he crossed a line and I don't talk to him anymore, but if you do want to have an NPD in your life, you must keep him at arm's length and maintain your boundaries.

At 2:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Real quick here,
It wasn't "a left wing government" that put a stop to Dr. Hare's program. It was a simple lack of money.
Always the money ...

At 2:26 PM, Blogger Kathy said...

But it was.

That'sacademia's attitude too - that punishing the poor things would be evil. And everybody knows they're 95% left.

Plus, everyone knows where the left likes to get and put money. Click the links.


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