What happens when a narcissist finally wakes up...at age 95?

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Pchambers
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What happens when a narcissist finally wakes up...at age 95?

Post by Pchambers » Wed Jun 10, 2015 12:42 am

Hi all, very happy to have found this forum. I'm 53 and my narcissist father is 95. I feel that NPD is a spectrum disorder, with worse cases and better cases. My dad is somewhere on the better side of the spectrum. But he is defintiely on it.

Here's the thing. A few months ago, my dad started to realize that things are, in fact, not fine in our relationship and that he may not have been a loving father to me. He actually entered therapy. I didn't believe it myself and thought, yeah, right, we'll see if he follows through on that (lol). But he has had about six sessions now, of which I have attended two. During those sessions, I spoke my truth and was completely honest with him about how his personality damaged me in childhood and continues to affect me today. He is shocked, horrified and feels awful to learn that he has in fact been a jerk to me this whole time when he believed all along that he had been a good father.

Highly unusual, right? I feel like I am getting a peek at the dark side of the moon, or the fridge without the light on. And it raises some very interesting questions that I guess most of us never get a chance to even ask:

* When a narcissist does finally reform, do they ever successfully find another way to be, or does the disorder prevent them from being any other way (especially in old age)?

* What might be some "best practices" for the reforming narcissist? What advice would you (Beth in particular but other voices welcome) give to a narcissist who is sincerely trying to break out of it?

I am trying to resist getting hooked into his progress, but you have to admit it is rather fascinating because it happens so seldom. Has there been any research on this?

Paula

Beth McHugh
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Re: What happens when a narcissist finally wakes up...at age

Post by Beth McHugh » Wed Jun 17, 2015 1:46 pm

Pchambers wrote:Hi all, very happy to have found this forum. I'm 53 and my narcissist father is 95. I feel that NPD is a spectrum disorder, with worse cases and better cases. My dad is somewhere on the better side of the spectrum. But he is defintiely on it.

Here's the thing. A few months ago, my dad started to realize that things are, in fact, not fine in our relationship and that he may not have been a loving father to me. He actually entered therapy. I didn't believe it myself and thought, yeah, right, we'll see if he follows through on that (lol). But he has had about six sessions now, of which I have attended two. During those sessions, I spoke my truth and was completely honest with him about how his personality damaged me in childhood and continues to affect me today. He is shocked, horrified and feels awful to learn that he has in fact been a jerk to me this whole time when he believed all along that he had been a good father.

Highly unusual, right? I feel like I am getting a peek at the dark side of the moon, or the fridge without the light on. And it raises some very interesting questions that I guess most of us never get a chance to even ask:

* When a narcissist does finally reform, do they ever successfully find another way to be, or does the disorder prevent them from being any other way (especially in old age)?

Hi Paula,
It's always interesting to hear a story like this from a psychological side. Being a devil's advocate here, my first suggestion is that your father may not have had NPD, but merely had a few strongly developed traits of the disorder. I do get clients who are convinced their loved one has NPD, only to find that, on doing a diagnosis, the criteria is not fulfilled but that the person has two or three very strongly expressed behavioural patterns that are narcissistic in nature but that narcissism as such is absent. This might explain why your father was so abhorred when he heard your side of the story -- he was emotionally able to "hear" you, accept it and not even try to argue or put it back onto you. Without giving you a diagnosis by proxy of your father, this would be the simplest explanation for your father's current behaviour. He believed he was an "ok" father, but has now accepted he hurt you.

And yes, there are variations in the degree of narcissism a person displays -- sort of a "spectrum"-- but we don't want to confuse it with autism! My article on Margo's Story is an example of sadistic narcissism -- a more deeply ingrained version of the more common milder narcissism. You can find that story and others on NPD on the main page. It is possible your father may have only just fulfilled the criteria for NPD (was he ever formally diagnosed?). During times of stress, the traits of narcissism will increase. Perhaps your father is less stressed now. However, narcissism is known to get worse with age as the power base needed for the true narcissist diminishes and all around suffer. Without knowing your life story and your child/teen/adult interactions with your father, my guess is that he didn't have NPD, since personality disorders are for life -- hence the term "personality disorder" and all personality disorders are in a separate category to all other mental illnesses, including bipolar and schizophrenia, because they are permanent and form part of the person's character, unlike other mental illnesses which wax and wane and there is an awareness that what they are suffering from is not normal. This is absent in all the personality disorders, hence their segregation to a category all their own. Another clue is that he voluntarily entered therapy. NPDs don't do this unless something very important is threatened and even then, the traits come out pretty quickly.

* What might be some "best practices" for the reforming narcissist? What advice would you (Beth in particular but other voices welcome) give to a narcissist who is sincerely trying to break out of it?

The best your father can do is to apologise for any hurt he inflicted and to listen to you speak your truth. Beyond that, there is not much you can ask for. If he truly has NPD, he would not really be able to do this to a satisfactory level. Because a personality disorder is lifelong, if he can do these things successfully and truthfully, and empathise with you, then he didn't have NPD. This is not a disorder you just "snap out" of.

I hope you do get to have a few peaceful years with your father, Paula.

Best wishes,

Beth



I am trying to resist getting hooked into his progress, but you have to admit it is rather fascinating because it happens so seldom. Has there been any research on this?

Paula
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Re: What happens when a narcissist finally wakes up...at age

Post by Pchambers » Thu Jun 18, 2015 12:00 am

Thank you Beth. He has never been formally diagnosed. I accept your theory that he never really had NPD per se but rather had some NPD traits that were strongly developed. That's probably the case, since all the books I have read about NPD portray people who are worse than my dad. Hence my theory that it is a spectrum disorder. I resonated deeply with the books, especially the ones on how narcissistic parenting affects the children. But based on your response, I see now that it is, in fact, not a spectrum disorder; it's a toggle switch. The person either has it or doesn't. And the fact that my dad is now in therapy and listening and apologizing are clear signs that he has never had it, even though he has had several very pronounced traits that resemble NPD. That works for me. Thanks.

Stress is a bit of an issue at this time because being 95 is not easy, especially not for someone with narcissistic tendencies. My dad has always liked to believe that he is much more and much greater than he really is. Though he is in amazing shape for 95, he is diminishing and he knows it, which naturally is very hard for him to accpet. Hence the new bad behaviors on his part that made me finally say "Enough" to him, after 53 years of silence. And my "enough" is why he decided to enter therapy.

I really appreciate your advice to keep speaking my truth. I will. At the very least it has been surprisingly freeing for ME.

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Re: What happens when a narcissist finally wakes up...at age

Post by Beth McHugh » Thu Jun 18, 2015 12:03 pm

Hi Paula,
I'm glad this has put your mind to rest. Thanks for getting back with your thoughts. You keep speaking your truth, and I wish you happy times at last with your Dad. How wonderful that he is in therapy -- he is sorting out his life and this can only be of benefit to you both.
Good luck!

Best wishes,

Beth
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Principal, Your Online Counselor

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Re: What happens when a narcissist finally wakes up...at age 95?

Post by mawwil » Sat Feb 06, 2016 10:17 am

Paula,

I just joined this forum and am so glad that I saw your post. I'm also 53, my father is 76, and I too feel that my father has some strong NPD traits but might not have NPD. When I read about NPD, I always feel that most of the descriptions of the traits are not correct for my father, but there are about 3 which he definitely exhibits to a high degree. My family has recently moved to the town where my parents live after living about 10 hours away for 16 years, and I'm trying to deal with this new high degree of exposure to my dad. I've often dreamed of a scenario where I attend counseling with him and point out all the times that he's hurt me so deeply so that we can work through it all with a counselor. My mom currently attends counseling with him, but she can't possibly reveal to him the raw truth since that would make her "the enemy". In fact, I think she has probably diminished all that's happened in her mind in order to deal with the pain. I find that she currently does a lot to orchestrate situations so that Dad won't blow a gasket or go into a depression. That actually makes me mad at her, even though I don't know what else she could do.

Anyway, thank you for posting your story. It's given me hope that there could be some resolution, although I dread dredging it all up.

Melissa

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Re: What happens when a narcissist finally wakes up...at age 95?

Post by Pchambers » Mon May 02, 2016 4:06 pm

Hi Melissa and everyone,

Paula here. Melissa, I am glad you found this forum too, and that I came back to it after many months to see your post. It gives me a little relief to know that my post has helped at least one person.

My situation has evolved. I ended up having three or four therapy sessions with my father in the spring and summer of 2015. I liked the therapist very much because she helped make sure my father really heard me and she validated many aspects of my experience. The opportunity to speak my truth was a blessing. Even though he did not change as a result of hearing my truth, just my act of speaking it was helpful and healthy for me. He did issue a couple of apologies (weak ones but we take what we can get) and the tension between us has decreased because I felt heard. All of that is to the good.

What's happening now is, he is continuing to age. Now he needs more help and is feeling more out of control. For example, his memory is really going, but because he doesn't trust anybody, he thinks he is being tricked or lied to when his caregivers correct him about something he does not remember correctly or thinks never happened. He never believes anybody and unfortunately he handles it by being mean to the other person, critical, judgmental, angry, yelling. He just lost a good caregiver because she couldn't stand being treated like that any longer. When he loses a caregiver, it drains time and mental space from both me and my mom as we scramble to find a replacement. He thinks nothing of this and imagines that we enjoy tending to his needs.

I am very much afraid of the next step: putting him in an assisted living facility. He will refuse to go, guaranteed, and I will not want to force him, but to keep him covered by in-hime caregivers is likely to get more difficult as time goes on and I am afraid he will never learn to be nice to people who are only trying to help him. Just tonight I told him he has to be nicer or else he is going to keep losing people. To his credit, he did say he would think about it, but I feel a black cloud of doom hovering over me. I just know he is going to find ways to make me miserable on his way out, especially after my mom loses her ability to solve his problems. She's 88 and has mild cognitive impairment. I give her another year before she will have to retire from being his Problem Solver and Servant In Chief. Then it will be all on me. I have no siblings. I am pretty much screwed.

Any help would be much appreciated. Resources, wise words, advice, anything. I am very stressed about this coming storm even though it isn't quite here yet.

Oh, and by the way, here is how HE sees our therapy sessions. He told a friend, when boasting about how great our relationship is, that we went to therapy together and he "let me rail." That is a direct quote: "I let her rail, and things have been fine ever since." *headslap*

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Re: What happens when a narcissist finally wakes up...at age 95?

Post by Pchambers » Tue May 03, 2016 12:22 am

Juat found this article which I found to be helpful. Melissa, maybe you'd like it.

http://narcissismschild.com/2014/08/26/ ... c-parents/

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Re: What happens when a narcissist finally wakes up...at age 95?

Post by Pchambers » Thu May 05, 2016 1:38 pm

So, I saw my therapist the day after writing that (she had an opening, yay!) and learned some very helpful things. Bottom line: I am not screwed, because I am not obligated to do anything I don't want to do. When my mom is no longer able to solve his problems, that does not mean it somehow becomes my job. Just as my parents get to make their own decisions, I get to make my own decisions. It is perfectly okay for me to say to my Dad, "I am not willing to interview caregivers for you" or whatever else I am not willing to do. I have put up with a lot from him in my life and I don't "owe" him anything. He makes his choices and if his choices are not safe for him, it is not my problem. So be it. Live and let live.

Thought I'd share that for the benefit of others.

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Re: What happens when a narcissist finally wakes up...at age 95?

Post by julia-youronlinec » Thu Jul 07, 2016 7:05 am

I'm new here too.

I grew up not with one, but with TWO narcissists - my mother (currently 77 y.o.) and a live-in grandmother (her mother, died in 2000).

My grandmother was a real NPD, very full of herself. My mother is a mixed bag, and I don't think she could be formally diagnosed with NPD. But somehow she was the most difficult of the two, an insidious narcissist. Grandma was at least predictable, and kept to her own "territory". Mom was controlling, invasive, grossly irrational, a captious critic (only towards me). My childhood tactics was to stay away from both of them as much as possible, and never share anything.

My Grandma was admittedly abusive to my Mom when she was a child, with her husband's, my Mom's stepfather, support. Also, pathologically stingy. My Mom was happy to move away when she started college, I don't know if they went no-contact at the time or not. But somehow the power balance flipped around the death of Grandma's husband or Mom's divorce from my Dad (I was 4 or 5 at the time). My Mom became The Boss in their duo, with Grandma now living in our place most of the time as a guest of sorts (a person who valued her independence). They got along well.

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Re: What happens when a narcissist finally wakes up...at age 95?

Post by XavierK » Sat May 13, 2017 3:07 pm

It must feel like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders Paula.

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