Sunday, December 28, 2014

How to Cure a Narcissist

No, the answer is not a bullet to the head.
A few primers before starting:
1) This cure is not guaranteed to work.
2) In this cure a narcissist is defined as someone who thinks they are the main character in their own movie. All other people are supporting character or extras. This is important as to a narcissist everything relates to them, and all other people lack agency of their own. Therefore a narcissist has no compassion, empathy, guilt, etc.
  • This is a different understanding of narcissism than the more classic view of people who are overly obsessed with their outward appearance (like a Jersey Shore cast member.) This style of narcissist can be ugly and/or fat, the key is that they think they are the only character in the movie.
  • To provide examples of this kind of narcissist. One example of this is a parent who uses children as a prop to communicate their own narcissistic identity to others. In this example, the child does not have agency, obviously as everything relates to the narcissist, a child is only an extension of the parent.
  • In this other example the narcissist literally says that their life is a movie with themselves as the main character, in case it wasn’t clear. Read it.

In all likelihood a Narcissist is not aware that they are narcissists, and/or will vehemently deny being one when it’s pointed out to them. If this cure is attempted it’s vital that the cure not be presented to the narcissist as a cure for narcissism. The narcissist must be ‘tricked’ into performing the cure.

How to do this?

It’s a fair bet that the narcissist often does not get everything they want, in particular from other people. The narcissist does not understand why the cashier at Subway is rude to them and won’t give them a free cookie. The narcissist does not understand why their child hates them and will not do what they’re told. The narcissist does not understand why everyone at work avoids them. The narcissist likely cannot get people to do what the narcissist wants, which may baffle the narcissist, as after all aren’t they the main character in the movie? Why isn’t the supporting cast and the extras helping to advance the plot?!

Approach the narcissist. Say you want to help the narcissist. They’ll like that; it’s about them after all.  Ask the narcissist if they sometimes have trouble getting people to do what they want. Ask the narcissist if they have trouble getting people to like them. If the narcissist says yes to either of those things, then ask the narcissist if they’d like to fix that. Would they like it if they could get people do what they want, and get people to like them?

Ideally the narcissist will say yes.  At this point the cure can be suggested.

Suggest to the narcissist that they read the classic self-help book by Dale Carnegie –How to Win Friends and Influence People.

The book is a rare example of something that does exactly what it says on the tin. How to Win Friends and Influence People is a book that will teach you how to win friends and influence people. If the title isn’t proof enough, it’s also been in print continuously since 1936, and according to the cover has sold over 15 million copies worldwide. The market talks, it sells because it works.

To drastically simplify things, the book achieves its goals by teaching two key principles.

1)      It is not possible to get someone to do something unless they WANT to do it. Using force, such as pointing a gun at them, may get that someone to do the thing, but that’s because they want to NOT get shot. To get someone to do something they have to WANT to do it, typically because they see a benefit for themselves, either in the tangible (money) or intangible (respect). The obvious implication of this is….. talking about what YOU want won’t get the other person to do what YOU want. You have to speak/think in terms of what THEY want. This is the “Influence people” of the title
2)      People love to talk about themselves and things that interest them. The quickest way to “win friends” is to listen to people intently, and ask them question about themselves that show that you were listening. Encourage people to talk about themselves. Once you have won someone’s trust/attention by being invested in them, they’re more likely to consider you a friend. Winning! You’ve now completed the “Win Friends” from the title.

None of these ideas are particularly revolutionary. And on the surface it does not seem like they would cure narcissism. A logical criticism of this is that the stated goals “Win Friends” and “Influence People” are still selfish goals; they are not natural or altruistic.

This is certainly true. When the narcissist has a stated goal that relates to them, of winning a friend, or influencing someone, the narcissist will initially start the process in a completely selfish manner. This is all part of the plan.

When the narcissist attempts to perform these actions of trying to think in terms of what other people want, it tricks the narcissist in to something the narcissist otherwise lacks, empathy. While attempting to get what the narcissist wants, the narcissist is forced to consider what others want, which causes the narcissist to realize that other people have agency.

Suddenly, by considering the wants of others, the narcissist will realize that they are not the main character in the movie. In fact there are many movies, the vast majority of which do not include the narcissist. Other people have interests and wants that do not relate to the narcissist.

If the cure works, the patient may still be selfish, and a bit of an ass- but now (by virtue of trying to get what they want via the Dale Carnegie method) the patient will recognize that others have agency and their own wants which means – the patient is no longer a narcissist.

This may not work on all narcissists. And it definitely won’t work if expressly presented as a cure for narcissism. But it’s worth trying. The only other cure is a bullet to the head.


  1. I appreciated this post, as I think it helped dissuade me from my thoughts that I should study successful narcissists to be more like them. I've felt this is probably necessary to my career, as the vast majority of those at the top seem to be such single-minded narcissists that they have a hard time acknowledging that anyone who isn't greater than them or fulfills a direct purpose for them exists, or that anyone has problems aside from their petty first-world ones, lest this negativity harsh their The Secret magic and taint their Art of Asking the universe for an additional toy.

    Perhaps it's too late for me, though, and I just notice these things because I'm already a narcissist and just one on the bottom, and how dare I feel like I shouldn't be ignored or that I deserve anyone's empathy. I'm not starving yet, after all. On the other hand, I feel bad asking to get paid on time when the company is struggling to pay for the CEO's vacation -- this led me to wonder.

    1. Smile - Follow the Dale Carnegie advice. Want to get ahead at work? Get better at listening to people and speaking in terms of what They want, not what You want. Works wonders.

  2. Narcissists are evil. They don't care about "winning friends and influencing people." They care about mind controlling MINIONS and manipulating and DESTROYING their targets. I was raised by a malignant narcissist and what you are referring to above is at best only a surface level narcissist. Once you have been bitten by one of these vipers you will know what they are and who their (spiritual) father is. They are servants of the devil and are here to destroy God's people (true human beings with a conscience and empathy for others.) No Dale Carnegie book is going to have any effect on these monsters. Most of them have already mastered every technique in that book as a form of manipulation in order to destroy their target.