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Marriage 911 04/25/17

Can a Narcissist Really Change?

Narcissistic man

I just spent four days with seven narcissists. No, this isn't the beginning of a joke. This was serious stuff and I'd like to tell you about it.

I spent four solid days with seven men from all over the country, all self-proclaimed narcissistically and emotionally abusive men. While they did not come excitedly or filled with remorse, they did come. What happened next was exciting, to say the least. I will recount for you how the four days unfolded.

All of the men knew they were coming to a Men's Intensive for guys who had been narcissistic and emotionally abusive. This was not any typical men's gathering—they knew they had behaved shamefully. They knew most of the darkness hidden in their hearts.

To get help for your marriage from Dr. Hawkins and his qualified staff, please visit The Marriage Recovery Center website or call 206-219-0145.

Scripture tells us, "But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes light." (Ephesians 5:13)

This was an encouragement to these men who came accompanied by a letter from their spouse on "What it's like to live with ______, the good, the bad and the ugly." Their darkest secrets, their "worst self," was about to be exposed.

Additionally, they were given the task of writing the same letter on what they have been like in relationship—the good, the bad and the ugly. They wrote what they were like on their worst day. Over the next four days not only would they read these letters to the other six men, but would write a letter to themselves as if it were written from their mate.

In addition to all of this "illumination" was the gathering of men who listened for the "thinking errors" that had supported their defensiveness, as well as, the encouragement and support to continue the hard work. Many times, these guys were confronted firmly with rationalizations, justifications and confused thinking. Each man, in turn, faced the parts of their character that had justified being defensive, shifted blame, and caused chaos.

While there were many moments of utter shame and remorse, two phone calls from victims set a heavy tone for the day. There was no place to hide as we listened to the episodes of abuse from the voices of the victims. There was no getting even, no playing the victim, no justifying harm.

Each man cried deep, remorseful tears. As the Apostle Paul says, "Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret" (2 Corinthians 7:10). Each man repented, took responsibility, and made a plan to eliminate troubled thinking from his life. Each man submitted to the Spirit of God and asked for a changed heart. 

What lies ahead for these men and their marriages? Will the narcissistic and emotional abuse stop? Will their accountability program really work? I'm not sure. Each man will have to continue working the program that started here. Each one will have to submit to the Spirit of God on a daily basis.

If you're like these men, know that you can change. Here are some steps you can take:

1. Remind yourself about the challenge of change.

Change is hard work. Change requires making a difficult decision and changing one's thinking and patterns of living. Change requires accountability to fully examine one's life and put a clear plan of action into place.

2. Remind yourself of the impact of emotional abuse.

Recognize the incredible damage done. Change can only occur when we have faced the impact of our behavior.

3. Remind yourself to remain accountable.

Change can only continue as you maintain a solid accountability plan. Transparency, accountability, and vulnerability are the only ways change can be maintained. Sin occurs in the darkness while freedom becomes possible in the light.

4. Remind yourself of the value of being a better man.

God called each man into being a new creation, changed from the heart outward. Each man had to see the possibility of being a better, healthier man, shedding the behaviors and attitudes of his old self. Carry these new actions forward and you with deal with conflict and your emotions in a healthier way.

5. Remind yourself of your need for God.

Change occurs by the power of the Spirit of God. Self-will can carry us only so far. Submitting to God brings a power beyond us of regeneration.  

What began as external motivation shifted to internal motivation by the end of the week. Real change for emotional abuse seems possible.

Do you struggle with narcissism/emotional abuse or have you been victimized by an emotional abuser? We are here to help. Share your feedback below or find out more about The Marriage Recovery Center.

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