Punishing & Redeeming Narcissists
As I've pointed out before, therapy doesn't modify the behavior of psychopaths and other narcissists. In fact, the evidence indicates that it just makes them worse.
I find that quite understandable. Psychopaths and other narcissists are like people from another planet: they are operaing on alien premises, not normal human premises. (See "Narcissists Are from Pluto" in the book.) So, you can't use the same kind of therapy on them as you use on other mentally ill people. It should, and obviously does, backfire. What you see as (normal, human) reasons for them to behave, they see as reasons to misbehave. In fact, therapy actually greatly increases the recidivism rate among the imprisoned population of psychopaths.
This is why I think all patients should be screened for malignant narcissism and/or psychopathy before treating them. They need a different kind of therapy.
Dr. Robert Hare came up with a simple regimen of positive and negative reinforcement. Reward them for being good; punish them for being bad. Relentlessly, as you do with a child too young to reason or moralize with.
I don't know, of course, but it seems to me that this may work. Because I do know that the only rein on a narcissist's behavior is what he or she thinks they can get away with.
If you keep at this therapy long enough, you have prevented the N from doing anything he needs to project on and abuse anybody else for. Yes, malignant narcissism is essentially a vicious cycle of misbehavior. The only conceivable solution is to break that cycle.
If you watch a narcissist like a hawk and whack him every time he steps over the line, he WILL behave. Eventually then, he no longer needs a whipping boy. He no longer sees himself as a person who abuses others. Because he doesn't do that anymore and hasn't for a very long time. That's redemption.
It's like getting off drugs or alcohol. If you quit drinking today, that's nothing. But if you stay clean for a long time, eventually your self-concept changes. You are no longer a drunk. That's redemption.
Now you have a vested interest in staying clean to preserve this improved status in your own regard. And it becomes much easier to do so, because your dismal opinion of yourself was what tempted you to drink, and it is now gone.
Like Hester Prynne in "The Scalet Letter." One day she realizes that she should hold her head up because she is no longer a woman who commits adultery. Redemption.
What accomplished redemption? Punishment. Swift and sure. It's an object lesson that becomes a deterrent to future misbehavior.
Punishing narcissists is not being mean to them. It may be the only thing that can help. And, as for their victims, it is simple justice, the right thing to do for their sake too.
narcissistic personality disorder narcissism