From House of Mirrors:
Let’s take a look at why malignant narcissists not only don't change but become worse. Keep in mind, they have mastered a lifetime of this twisted way of being in the world, and are always pushing their warped behavior to the limits.
Narcissists are incapable of introspection. The narcissist maintains their delusions of superiority by constantly dodging reality. They refuse to take a good look at themselves because the feedback would not flatter them, and the narcissist must always appear good, even to themselves. They are incapable of looking inward and learning from experience, and instead opt to live in a state of denial. If you think your silence will send a malignant narcissist into deep thought about the relationship and their part in it, think again. The only thing the narcissist will be doing is stewing in hatred for you and pity for themselves.
Introspection can be defined as self-examination or the detailed mental examination of your own feelings, thoughts, and motives. Implicit in the word is that one will do this with self-honesty such that one’s flaws can be discovered, examined, and perhaps even corrected.
Few of us engage in this kind of soul searching on a regular basis, and when we do it is often in response to some kind of life-altering experience or circumstance. From learning we are about to become a parent to finding oneself facing economic implosion to bumping our noses on our own mortality, the trigger for those instants of introspection are as individual as we are—but the vast majority of us have them. And out of those moments, we often glean valuable insights that allow us to adjust our attitudes, our beliefs, our life trajectories—to fine tune how we live.
Narcissists are different. Because they are constitutionally incapable of seeing themselves as being wrong, introspection holds no appeal. Where you or I might smack our foreheads and query “what was I thinking??” the narcissist takes no such responsibility for something that has not gone the way expected or anticipated. The narcissist looks around for someone to blame.
Self-reflection, if engaged in by a narcissist, is an exercise in self-congratulation. The narcissist will reinforce his existing beliefs, rationalize his behaviours, and justify blaming others for untoward results. Rather than try to find out what is not working for him and finding ways to amend his beliefs or behaviours, the narcissist will find ways to make it someone else’s fault that things aren’t working. Because, in the narcissist’s own mind, it is not possible for him to be wrong: if something isn’t working, then someone else must be to blame…and the narcissist’s mental gymnastics will find a way to create a path to that blame.
Eight years after my mother stole my children to give to her childless brother for adoption, her whole plot came unravelled and the family became aware of the complex and devious means she used to manipulate them into supporting her and to shun me. Family members, facing the truth of what she did (when they stopped allowing her to triangulate and finally spoke directly to me), of course wanted to know why she had done such a heinous thing to her own daughter and grandchildren. Eschewing any kind of self-reflection, even in the face of a virtual wall of family disapproval, my mother denied any wrong doing and insisted that I was lying, that I had been an unfit mother (despite official reports to the contrary), and insisted her subterfuge was necessary to “rescue” the children.
On the other hand, my uncle, her older brother, was red-faced with shame and embarrassment for the part he played. A juvenile court judge had foreshadowed his decision when he informed the litigants that, should the report from the welfare department come back in my favour, he was going to confirm my custody. Knowing the report would find me and my home fit (and it did), my mother had to find a way around the juvenile court, so she got an emergency guardianship hearing in probate court and this uncle, who had not seen me in more than five years, testified that he had witnessed, first hand, my unfitness and the unfitness of my home. His testimony was pivotal in the probate court granting my mother a one-year guardianship. When I showed up at her house a few weeks later for my first scheduled visitation, the house was empty and a For Sale sign was in the front yard.
My uncle engaged in introspection and faced his part in my mother’s fraud. He was, appropriately, ashamed of his part, ashamed of allowing himself to be duped by her, and angry with her for her deception. My other uncle, the one who adopted the children, was more angry at her than ashamed of his part in it, feeling he was duped and therefore innocent of wrong doing. My grandparents were appalled at my mother’s machinations and apparently made no secret of it as my mother actually got a court order to prevent them from telling me where she or the children were! Once the jig was up, all of these family members engaged in introspection, in self-examination, to assess their own level of wrong-doing in the matter, all of them concluding my mother had done wrong and that they each had some part in it. Every one of them apologized to me at one point or another…every one except the perpetrator herself.
If my mother engaged in any introspection at all, it was to shore up her defenses and dig herself into her position that much deeper. From the time her deception was uncovered and virtually the whole family began to shun her until her death some 20 years later, she never budged from her position of hallowed righteousness: she was right, I was a liar, and the rest of the family was being duped by me.
The point of introspection is that you examine yourself, including your motives. It means you must be willing to find yourself wrong at some time in the past because, in order to make adjustments going forward, you must identify things that need changing. If you are incapable of admitting you have been wrong about something you have believed or done, then you are truly incapable of introspection.
The thing that brought this home to me most clearly was an argument I had with my NHusband, James. I don’t recall the subject under discussion (probably money) but I said to him that he had to change something going forward or he was doomed to keep repeating something that was not working out as desired. He stood in front of me, struck dumb by the idea. He was silent for a good 60 seconds, then narrowed his eyes and looked at me and said “I can’t do that.”
I must admit, I didn’t get it. I knew nothing of narcissists or narcissism at this point and what I heard was that he was unwilling to do that, so I pressed my point. He got very indignant and drew himself up into a rigid military posture and said to me in a voice dripping condescension “If I were to do that, it would mean that I have been wrong for the last 30 years…and I cannot do that.” Until I learned about narcissism, I truly was unable to fathom his logic…but now I understand.
Narcissists easily sacrifice reality to their delusions. They are incapable of introspection because it requires them to sacrifice their delusions to reality. To do that negates them as people. A narcissist’s psyche, his sense of self, exists in his delusions, not in the reality where you and I live. To honestly self-examine themselves, narcissists would have to be willing to shine the bright light of reality into the dark corners of their carefully constructed self-images, self-images that are not in keeping with the reality of their real-world personas.
My mother, as an example, took my children because she saw herself as a hero. My lifestyle and hers were poles apart (I was welfare-poor, she was affluent) and I was that way wilfully, in her opinion. This, in her assessment, made me unfit. At the same time, her adored younger brother and his wife were unable to have kids or to adopt—their state refused them as adoptive parents. Here was an opportunity for her to be a double hero—to “rescue” those children and to “rescue” my uncle from childlessness. She went to her grave with that delusion intact, never admitting her wrong and justifying her complex manipulations of our family and the courts in three states as being the “only way” she could accomplish her goal, a goal she had convinced herself was in the best interests of all parties concerned, including me! She was incapable of seeing the damage and destruction she wreaked on everyone involved because she could never, ever admit she might have been wrong.
And without the capacity to admit you have been wrong, introspection is beyond your grasp.
It is difficult to deal with a narcissist when you are a grown, independent, fully functioning adult. The children of narcissists have an especially difficult burden, for they lack the knowledge, power, and resources to deal with their narcissistic parents without becoming their victims. Whether cast into the role of Scapegoat or Golden Child, the Narcissist's Child never truly receives that to which all children are entitled: a parent's unconditional love. Start by reading the 46 memories--it all began there.