Thursday, January 31, 2008

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.

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At 4:41 PM, Blogger sonicido said...

I remember my N speaking of "cause and effect" a lot. This is something-a view- that comes from a calculating mind.

I agree that they do understand "cause and effect".

Now, the trick is, to find someone to man the whipping post-because most of the time, their victim can not even install a post, much less use one.
The world today is very confused about punishment. There are some who believe all punishment is negative.

My Mom said, when she was young, families beat the crap out of family members who abused others in the family. Wanna get "whooped up" on? mess with one of the sisters.

Abuse is: a disregard for the rights of another. Violence, is when rights are ignored. Punishment, even physical punishment, is not a violation of rights. It is an enforcement of rights.

History proves that many times, freedom has come by way of, enforcing punishment for the violation of rights.

Date-rape was not heard of in the '50's. My Mom had brothers; and her friends had brothers; and if they didn't have their own, well, they had my MOM'S brothers...
My dad did not dare treat my Mom poorly, because her brothers were near by. He was forced to treat her well.

What did my dad do to get around the brothers? he simply behaved himself long enough to win my mom's complete and full devotion-then, he convinced her to move away; far away from her brothers. All her family. Her friends, and any of his family who may have held him accountable. Remember, the N is very calculating. They are very good at convincing.
This gave him full freedom to treat all of us, any way he pleased.
"A lot of trouble to go to..." one might think; well, N's thrive on process. Process of elimination.

Later in years, this gave my N a bright idea. "Take her away from all who might interfere. It worked for her dad! Move her to a faraway land- a land that I have already influenced behind her back. The perfect trap."

Now, I must depend on the court to establish a whipping post. And to use it. It has taken seven years just to be heard.

He needs to be punished for all that he has gotten away with, because he has had freedom to violate the rights of those who depended upon him for simple needs.
Cause and effect.

These days, we need to educate young people to be aware of bullying tactics and to be on top of those acts. It is our right to live in peace.
Adults need to be educated that it is their responsibility to nip the negative behavior immediately and never ignore it. This could mean, a great contribution to lessen teenage problems-that we are now so heavily plagued with.

Eventually, the playground for the N could shrink. Cause and effect will be their new world.

With less room to play, perhaps some will give up, before it has become a lifestyle!

At 5:58 PM, Anonymous Kim said...


As of today, I have read every post you've written. When I found you're site (a fortunate accident)a week ago I simply felt compelled to go all the way to the beginning (12/05) and work my way forward.

To state that you're exstensive experience, knowledge, insight, powers of logic & reason regarding NPD are good would be a vast understatement. You have helped me to snatch of those stupid rose-colored glasses and stomp them into the ground! I will no longer naively believe that ALL people are innately good and just need love in their life. You think I would have wisened up years ago when I first read O'Hare's "Without Conscience: The Psychopaths Among Us"

Well, I learned some valuable information on how to, at least superficially, recognize a Psychopath. And how to stay the hell away from them.

I really had no idea what NPD and/or MN was. Not until I visited your site. Now I find myself ruminating on the past, wondering if such n such was a MN. I'm not obsessing over his/her behavior; just want clarification on whether or not I should be wary of any person I meet in the future who displays one or more of the red flags you mention here.

You have most definitely taught me that self-preservation is NOT a selfish request, but a natural, instinctive RIGHT of all human beings. That statement of yours alone keeps my chin up high and a slow fire burning in my belly. :)

Thank you so very much for all the time and effort you have applied to this special website. You are helping so many folks out there in cyberspace who need education as well as comfort & support!! You totally Rock, Miss Kathy!! =)

At 10:41 PM, Blogger Kathy said...

I don't see how this kind of treatment could be given by family. Or even an employer, though an employer may be able to come close, and a family can put to good use the knowledge that just taking abuse guarantees more. Hare's plan was to use this kind of treatment on imprisoned psychopaths. Others would have to be in-patients for quite some time I think.

At 10:55 PM, Blogger Kathy said...

Woops, I forgot about kids. Parents can certainly take this approach with children they fear might be showing signs of bullying. Just "having a talk" with a kid like that means nothing to him or her. As a teacher, I always punished in a non-judgemental way. My attitude was "You did the crime, now you do the time," but I didn't get angry or personal about it. That's easier of course for a disinterested third party than for the victim or a worried and disappointed parent.

At 6:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know if I'd call it 'redemption' so much as 'reconditioning'... just because the term 'redemption' implies that there's something in there to redeem.

But I agree 1000% that narcissists and psychopaths tend to be made worse by standard therapy.

I think this is because... [drumroll]... standard therapy isn't really about giving people insight into who they are, and what needs changing, so much as it is about teaching people how to conform, so they won't upset the status quo. [You've commented both obliquely and directly about this, many times; the 'blame-the-victim' aspect of much therapy is only one part of it.]

So, for an N or psychopath, standard therapy just shows them how they're expected to act in order to 'pass' as human beings. This teaches them how to conceal their predatory motives more effectively, and how to bs faster, longer, and better.

Nothing can redeem a creature like this. But it can be aversion-trained.

When you want to stop a dog from killing chickens, you tie a dead chicken around its neck and leave it there [with the dog in warm, dry, sheltered outdoor quarters] until it rots off.

Even the most avid roller-in-dead-stuff dog will eventually reach the point where this is way too much of a good thing. Once he hits that point, he'll never as much as look at a chicken again.

I think, as you do, as Hare did, that we'd all benefit from a similar process for narcs and psychopaths. But let us never, never mistake it for true redemption.

A semantic quibble, purely. Rock on, Kathy!

At 5:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

just saw the confessions of joung v.d. sloot in the case nathalie. it is finallu really solved...

it is shocking and terrible to see how an N. mind(or is it in this case psychopat?)works.

one can only be devostated, it is so cold, without remorse, it is terrible to see that this young live ends because of such a totally mentally sick human being!

this young women became litterly a victim! it became her dead.

jt b

At 12:20 PM, Blogger sonicido said...

To Kim :)
I love what you said!
You know, all of us are waking up to a new dawn...
I think Kathy's purpose is that we all shine as bright as possible through the information she is providing. She's done the foot work, now we should do the leg work...trip the sukka's! >:)

Seriously, darkness runs from light; it can not remain in light's presence.

The more we learn, the brighter our light will shine.
I have found that my world has almost zero N's I do not attract these leeches like I used to.
The only leech I can't shake yet is the one attached to my kids.
But as they grow, that one will fall off, too.

It's a great feeling. I love it that Kathy has provided me with the tools to keep myself guarded for the rest of my life.


At 3:40 AM, Blogger Lynn said...

It sounds like a good theory. But I can't help imagining that the N morphs like the "Blob" you plug up a hole and it slimes out somewhere else.

These N's wheedle their way around everything, and it'll take a life time of 'ass whupping' to cover all areas in which they behave badly.

At 1:44 PM, Blogger sonicido said...

Lnynn-why do I laugh when I read insight that is so grim? :O
For some reason, I find humor- even in the horror of the truth of what you said. And what you said is true.

Maybe that is why they need to be exorcised. ?

At 3:14 PM, Blogger Kathy said...

Me too. I ain't holding my breath ;-)


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