By | June 10, 2010 563 Comments

Is He A Narcissist? Is He Salvageable?

This is a big topic, and I fully intend to flesh it out in future posts. But allow me, here, to consider this question from the perspective of the work I do with couples. It is often surprisingly easy, from a couples therapy perspective, to weed out the narcissists from the non-narcissists; and more importantly, the salvageable from the unsalvageable narcissists.

Narcissists, as we know, will struggle to see things from their partners’ perspective. But let’s be clear: it is the reasons they struggle with this, not that they struggle with it, that signals their narcissism.

At the risk of oversimplifying, narcissists struggle to appreciate their partners’ perspective fundamentally because they are deeply self-centered; and their self-centeredness does not arise from a neuro-developmental disorder.

But why do narcissists struggle to see things from their partners’ perspective? Mainly, because to do so, in their experience, would concede the primacy—the overwhelming significance and importance—of their wants and needs.

For narcissistic personalities, the mere notion of others questioning the primacy of their experience is felt variously as insulting, outrageous, unacceptable, threatening and punishable.

In contrast, less narcissistic personalities are less threatened to consider their partners’ perspective, because they have a more equitable view of whose perspective matters. To be clear, for less narcissistic individuals, their perspective matters a lot, but their partners’ perspective also matters a lot.

But I want to be very clear: it’s not that less narcissistic personalities don’t take their own perspectives seriously, maybe even more seriously than their partners’; it’s just that they’re not inflexibly wedded to the idea that their experience—how they feel, how they think, what they want, what they need—is always, by definition, more important and valid than their partners’!

Believe it or not, this is a virtual litmus test for problem levels of narcissism. When I work with couples, I am interested to encourage, and then see, something very important. I’m interested to encourage, first of all, the idea that “validating” your partner’s experience is not the same as endorsing it, agreeing with it, or even, necessarily, fully understanding it.

And “validating” your partner’s experience certainly doesn’t obligate you to abandon your own, possibly very different perception of the situation.

And so I often discuss this model of validation with couples in some depth—especially, the idea that you can recognize your partner’s experience; be willing, interested and curious to appreciate, and better understand, your partner’s experience, from her perspective; and recognize the sanity and  sense of your partner’s experience, again from her perspective, without any of this effort and interest requiring you to concede your own, and perhaps very different, experience of the situation.

As you can see, validating, in this model, is the process of recognizing your partner’s experience from her perspective. It is not a process, as noted, of necessarily agreeing with, or even fully understanding your partner; and most certainly—and I can’t stress this enough— it is not a contest of whose perceptions of any given situation are more accurate and right, versus less accurate and more wrong.

Many find this a liberating concept, as it can allow for a relaxation of a common and unhelpful defense: I can’t validate what you’re saying or feeling, because to do so would effectively invalidate my experience.

In other words, from the perspective I’m describing, it’s possible—indeed, with motivation and practice, surpisingly easy—to validate another’s experience without in the least invalidating your own. In fact, this is a model of validation that’s relatively easy to practice because it respects the integrity of one’s own perceptions and experiences.

Once the need for the above defense is removed—and I work hard with couples to remove it—the couple’s capacity to appreciate each others’ experiences of each other often improves significantly.

Partners discover that, because the integrity of their personal experience is preservable, they can actually listen to each others’ experiences with more interest, curiosity and less defensiveness.

In marriages in which some goodwill remains, partners who buy into the model of validation I’m describing often find themselves striving for even more—that is, more than merely endeavoring to listen to each other more effectively, they often find themselves striving to make their partner’s experiences less frustrating and more satisfying.

Conversely, where no goodwill remains in the relationship, everything I’m discussing becomes pretty much moot. Narcissist or not, the marriage, with no goodwill left, is almost certainly dead. It’s just awfully difficult to recover goodwill in a relationship when the “goodwill tank” begins in the therapist’s office with the arrow on empty.

In any case, what happens in my office is often very interesting. The highly narcissistic and, in extreme cases, sociopathic client, cannot do what I’m discussing. Specifically, he is unable, with sincerity and effectiveness, to apply the model of validation I’ve described.

I suggested above the reason for this: he is simply too deeply, inflexibly invested in the significance, if not superiority, of his experience to make enough room for genuine interest in his partners’ experience, even after he’s been introduced to, and given ample time to digest, the proposed  model of validation.

That is, this model of validation still falls well short of his demands. Sure, it’s nice that his partner is making efforts to recognize and appreciate his experience from his perspective. He’ll certainly take that, but he wants more than that.

Not surprisingly, what’s necessary—that is, what he still insists on and continues to demand—is his partner’s total capitulation to his way of seeing things.

This is the essence of his narcissism or, if you prefer, his deep, immutable self-centeredness.

Will these individuals show their cards immediately? More often than not, yes. More often than not, whether in my office or outside it (between therapy sessions), they’ll demonstrate, sooner than later, their inability to apply the kind of mutual validation under discussion.

But what about the smooth manipulator? It’s true that a smooth operator, a sociopath, for instance, can fake this process for some time, if he perceives it’s in his selfish interest to do so. (By “fake it,” I mean that he may seem to grasp it, apply it, and be invested in it.)

Yet, in my experience, even the manipulative individual masquerading as sensivitely invested in this form of validating communication, will almost always, sooner than later, reveal chinks in his mask; almost always, sooner than later, he’ll lapse into the highly self-centered attitudes and behaviors of the classic narcissist—attitudes and behaviors characterized by high, rationalized levels of under-accountability and non-transparency.

And so, while the slick manipulator may “get over” for a while, it’s usually not for long. That is, while he may present, initially, as reasonable, flexible and motivated, sooner than later his disguise will fray, revealing his true agenda in the forms of his usual presumptions and entitlement to ongoing gratification. 

And so who is the salvageable partner? Narcissist or not, I’d venture to suggest he’s the partner capable of understanding, and appreciating, the concept of validation I propose.

He will be highly motivated to apply it, which is to say, willing to work hard, consistently and sustainedly at applying it; and, of course, he must be capable of applying it.

But the nice thing is, if he’s willing to work hard at it, he’ll definitely succeed.

In which case he won’t be a narcissist or, at the very least, his narcissism will prove to have been less extreme, and less emotionally crippling, than we might have feared.

(This article, the first of several impending articles on this subject, is copyrighted © 2010 by Steve Becker, LCSW. My use of male gender pronouns in this article was purely for convenience’s sake. Females are also capable of the attitudes and behaviors discussed.)

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Good Morning , Steve

A very complex article. It certainly leaves one with the “What if ” and ” If only ” feelings.

I wonder if it would have been different if I were fortunate enough to have had you as a couples counselor. What if we had sought help when there was more goodwill left in the relationship ?? Would the story have a different ending ?

Or is he one of the emotionally crippled ones where there is no hope ?

Does his interest/love/convenience in his partner dictate how much he will invest personally ?

Or is it the partner herself who eventually settles for so little and gives so much ?


Thanks Steve:) What a thought provocking article:)x

Ox Drover

Great article Steve!!! And as NewLife says, complex. I add thought provoking, as well. Gives a lot of good information to “chew” on. Thanks!


Interesting. If I’d known then what I know now…..

Steve, please perform a Vulcan Mind transfer on every member of your profession.

I remember the guy who must have been trying to give me a clue – but it was too obtuse. Its about devotion.

Why would you devote yourself to anyone who isn’t devoted to you? Well, these days that is the question and the prevailing wind is in the direction of:Nope.

My head is going to explode with all the psychology I’m learning!
Ten years ago it was cookbooks! This is a complex recipe for recovery, but I am sure elegant to serve. I am sure of that.

Do we get degree’s for learning all this stuff or belts? How would be to say I am a yellow belt in Personality Disorders? HMM. Not quite the thing that one would describe at a cocktail party… but I say we are among many black belts here.

Thank you Sensai-san for another good one.

Wax on! Wax Off!

Keep working, we will be stronger…And make no mistake, there is a fight going on out there for your life and mine -the very prizes these pirates would take from us.

AVAST ASSHOLES! WE trained with STEVE and because of it have become more deadly accurate in recognizing your Jolly Rogers!


Does anyone know of a good Background Check site online…even if it costs? I want to check someone out that I met!


Go to
and cross reference them with all the avenues there. That is an excellent site to start.
If you know there home #, you can get there address or business info to check out.
Any articles will be on 123 site.

If you know ANYTHING about them….hobbies they may be in the news for, or charity functions… can confirm on 123.

It will give you their age, if they’ve owned property, who with….kids names, parents names etc….and where they have lived or recieved mail (city).

Depending on what you need to know…..

I like to check out cross referencing to see how accurate someone portrays themselves and how ‘open’ they are.

You can do a pacer search for criminal or bankruptcys’, civil also….in some states.
Or do a county recorders office search to see what they are involved with. ANything recorded willshow up.

Also a county court record search by name.

You gotta be careful and KNOW your looking at the same ‘Jim Brown’……and age/address you can generally find on 123.

If you know they lived in XX county at one point….do a search in that county.

There really isn’t ONE site that will give you the ‘low down’.

Check out Facebooks and My spaces….linkedin, Bing also……those should show up on 123 at the bottom.

There is SO MUCH you can find out online….but you need to cross reference and look at several things.

Also do the ‘google search’ of their name…..Bing search and yahoo search……sometimes they all have different items.

I have never paid (except Pacer 8Cents a page ) to search anyone. Found enough online free.

Good luck!


We recieve ‘lifetime achievment’ awards. And there is no red carpet event or celebrity to present these awards to us.
The LAA is presented in a dark room, with tears and pain….no applause, no standing ovation, no cocktail party afterwards.
We receive this award in silence.
It is earned by great pain, suffering and destruction in our lives.
We need to place it on the shelf and keep it’s memory alive, because it is the only award we need to be reminded of.

We earn this award, out and out. This is an award which can’t be bought or sold.

We take heavy classes on things we never knew about, we wax on wax off for years…..before earning this award….
THEN ONE DAY……we see it…’s sitting right up there on the mantle of our hearts…..and we wonder….’how’ did it get there.
Very few can see this award, but it is recognized by some loyal and good supporters of our journey.

Congratulations on becoming a LAA recipient…..your in good company.


THANK YOU for your articles….and contributions to LF!!!
I just can’t imagine the shiat you have seen sit before you. How, at times, do you not just want to strangle a person on your ‘couch’.

I went to your website and listened to your radio interviews….
PEEPS….I highly recommend listening to them.
Steves website is on his LF author page to the left.

Check it out……he’s SO insightful…..

Thanks Steve!!!!



It’s too much for me, all this label babble, psycho babble….I just want to relate to this as a human being and that means being unique and not under a label. Even the P was a unique unrepeatable P. Is he a narcissist? is he salvagable? no no no he couldnt give a damn, and either could I.

I hope you would never want to strangle the PERSON on your couch…I really feel this is more mysterious than you give it credit…and brilliant insight gets tiring….thanks though, and I’m just saying what I feel



Thanks for the suggestion. He isn’t a US citizen…he’s from UK.
I checked White pages and he’s there…address is correct from what he told me. Is there an international site that you know of…


My sister who is a phycologist, that almost lost her license for having an affair with one her clients and had an envolment with my first husband while I was married to him…in her ‘expert’ opinion.. claims me as a narcissist..

She is one of the most twisted people I have ever been around, selfish, manipulative, cunning, liar, sexual permiscuous, yet, she points the finger and identifys others as having issues…




hearing you loud and clear….being a psychologist is not a qualification that can render you a human being, maybe you think you know more than others, then you start labelling people wrongly and before long the LABEL is more important than the human being….


Regarding background checks, if you met the person online, Google their profile name or simple combinations thereof. My Googling led to a trail of 4 pornographic sites.

Ox Drover


I didn’t get much online, but for $225 from a private eye, I got COMPLETE CRIMINAL BACKGROUND, dates, crimes, sentences, parole violations, etc. on CONVICTIONS, SS# Date of birth, every place he had ever lived, who owned it and all the surrounding neighbors and their phone numbers. CHEAP and didn’t cost near as much as a couple of different internet checks I’d go for the professional rather than on line.

I would ALSO go to the “free” back ground checks and google them. Not everyone has land line phones now so can’t always find them that way, but GOOGLE, People search, Bing, and even Wiki sometimes will have them, don’t date him girl, and all those too. If he says he works for a company, call for him at work, meet his friends, meet his neighbors, even if you met him at church. As for ON LINE MEETING, NAH, I’LL PASS, I think it is too risky, and LONG DISTANCE (more than a half hour away, or as Matt says 2 subway stops) NIX THAT TOO.

Also, watch out if they are in the HIGH CONTROL OCCUPATIONS, like Cop, lawyer, judge, etc., even minister, and check for bankruptcy, and check withh the high school and college they say they attended or anything else you can verify. Can’t be too careful!


Alumni sites for his high school
run a worldwide search on his name at Alta

Try intellius because you want to have some idea before you pay a pi…..


also check bureau of Prisons inmate locator, Federal and State Parole offices and make sure you have his social security number and understand where he lives and has lived before.

2B, be careful.

A good PI background check is going to cost $500 – $1000 you won’t get so lucky as OX on price in your neighborhood and you will end up where I was, where they did $300 worth of work, but that was only a fraction of the story.



I get tired of the name calling and labels.. Psychologists and psychiatrists thrive on it.. and I have met more screwed up in that profession than I care to even think about.
I even met Walter Freeman as a teenager and he told me that there are more who committ sucide in those professions than any others..and this evil man gave people frontal and preforntal lobatomies… so what is this profession exactly.. it can be a place for sickos to hide out in..
Steve no reflection on you.. I just had the need to vent..

Evil is just evil and sure there are degrees of it.. and some we all have narcissitic traits in varying degrees.. it’s when they overtake eveything else that it destroys lives..

and my psychologist sister is a determint to people.. even her own children talk about how selfish and self-serving she is…

Yet.. she is full of judgement of how others behave and in later years now is a religious fanatic…

Blah blah blah…. I think people come in to this planet with a predispostion to doing bad.. like born evil.. sure they can be made and it’s a combo of nature vs nuture.. but innate being is difficult to change… unless shifted young.. as in I do believe that children that have been mistreated when shown love can change.. I have worked lots with children.

But adults pretty much are who they are… so if you see alarming traits.. run….!!
Someone said in another thread that smoking is a sign and I agree..

and drinking in excess… or any addiction that is so apparent that it becomes a part of a person.. it is a cover-up.. for something dark and devious in the nature…

see what you see and know.. and get away.. forget about therapy to shift them.. chances are it will never work …. I have tried it.. and the therapist was just making a lot of money an hour..
the people who want to learn about themselves and shift will do so…


Style1 & Bulletproof,

My spath ex is a retired licensed clinical psychologist. He used that against me all the time–had what I called his “diagnosis du jour” for me. That mixed in with his “spirituality” (taught classes on Psychology of Religion too) was lethal. If I wasn’t getting it from the psych angle, was getting it from his new age guru angle. We went to couple’s counseling–the therapist called him a narcissist to his face. Said “You” (pointing to spath) “are a narcissist and she” (pointing to me) is orbiting around you, trying to please you. Can’t you see that?” The spath ignored him, just completely ignored him and went on talking. Weird.

Even the spath said it’s hard to find a good therapist LOL. But there are some, and they can be wonderfully helpful. I found a really good one post-spath. A little dicey because spath knew most of the therapists in town, so I was cautious at first.
We worked through a lot of stuff, and I recommend him to anyone I know looking for a good, honest, no games psychologist.


I have an ex-friend who is a psychotherapist who dropped me as a friend during the time of hell, stuff was hitting me left-and-right, all angles, being slammed with so much chit year after year. It’s like I was drowning, would come up for air, then something else would strike (all brought on by the h-spath). I was a basketcase. She called me up and told me that she was dropping me “cause that’s what I do.” I was stunned! I haven’t talked to her since. What I realized about her is she is a hoarder (I didn’t know what was going on with her until recently when I saw a t.v. show about hoarders, then it “clicked”), having a beautiful home, but walking through her house was like going through a maze. She had wonderful possessions, all piled up on the floors of her house, chaotic-like. Every piece of furniture was covered with stuff. I use to tell myself if I had some serious problems, I wouldn’t have gone to see her professionally because first, she was a friend and second, I questioned her ability to actually help people solve problems. I have been disappointed by her because I think that here was this professional, knowing about psychiatric disorders, hearing me relate some of my experiences, and she couldn’t clue me in that, hey, there could be something really wrong with your husband (from a psychological standpoint). I remember her telling me last summer, “when I first met you, you and your husband were one of the happiest couples that I knew.” Yeh, that was then, this is now. I was hurt at being dropped during a heavy-duty crisis time. At this time, I wonder if her dropping me has something to do with the downturn of my marriage, life. I still don’t know what happened as she didn’t offer an explanation for ending the friendship. I’m at the point where I deliberately keep others at bay due to that experience, not wanting to have that happen again. I’ve had enough pain to sink a ship.



I can relate. When I came back here from far away I thought I was returning to an old best friend from HS. She’d written and been in touch over the years. She encouraged me so to come.

I came dragging a sick child and an upside down life and when I got here, she immediately flew into a rage and accused me of having an affair with her partner which was far from the truth.

I’ve never heard a woman be so viscous – the things she said.

I was polite on the phone giving her time to calm down and accept that she’d gone too far.

And then I hung up the phone thinking “I don’t have time for this shit”. Whatever this deal is, uh uh.

Spend your love wisely – your minutes are precious and it sounds like you recognize that.

When we write our book, won’t it be full of wisdom for the younger ones who probably won’t read it?

Sometimes we just have to let go and walk away. Pain isn’t a badge, its a burden. And that shift of perception makes all the difference. I think its something that we learn from the disordered so that we can go on after they are gone.


Oxy…thank you for the advice.. I am going to be so careful this time around. I feel so suspicious…but I wasn’t ever enough and then when I found things out…I was shocked!!! I don’t need anymore shocks to my system! THATS for sure. Thanks again!



I was polite when the ex-friend called, telling me our friendship was over. Thinking about it now, I wish that I’d had your healthy response, saying, “I don’t have time for this chit” and moved on. Pain is a heavy burden, on our shoulders day-and-night. I just can’t imagine or see how anyone who has experienced so much trauma can ever fully recover – it all weighs on you HEAVILY. Somehow, I am at the point where I wonder if this is all I’ll experience the rest of my life, unsafe people coming into my life to wreak more damage. If that’s the case, I’ll be a hermit.

Ox Drover

What a person does for a living doesn’t mean they apply that knowledge to themselves—I’ve known psychotherapists that were Psychopaths, I’ve known cops and doctors who were, and ministers, so no one is exempt by terms of employment or education. Sometimes I think Ns and Ps pick a “lofty” position of authority to mask their real intentions.

And, hey “what do you call a physician that finished LAST in his medical school class? WHY, DOCTOR, OF COURSE.”

So you know not all mechanics are = and not all psychologists or doctors are either, I know though that the GOOD psychologists and psychotherapists and psychiatrists are TOPS in my book, and the nut jobs among them are just like the nut jobs in any other profession, pieces of carp!

As far as “friends” who will dump you like a “hot potato” when the going gets rough, you know I think that is unexpected, but in a way easier than those that stab you in the back, at least with the ones that dump you even unexpectedly you know what to expect from then on! You don’t have to WONDER!


Oxy, I get very nervous and suspicious of course, if anyone that is older than 40 + doesn’t know about evil folks in this world. You know, those dense heads that say, “what are you talking about, he or she is so nice” … that to me, is the ultimate gas lighting of an evil person pretending to be naive.

All my bosses had Ph.D.s and higher. Over the course of 24 + years, I worked with most of them. I would eventually come around to why they got their Ph.D.’s. Most frequent answer to this question … they took psychology classes in college to learn about themselves. Because the answer wasn’t an instant fix, they took more classes … low and behold, their college years were over … and they ended up graduating with a Ph.D. Not because they wanted to help others, they wanted to figure out why they couldn’t feel, why they weren’t “Normal”, why they didn’t care about others etc.

Yes, Ph.D.s … Piled Higher and Deeper.


Speaking of Ph.D.’s I have a friend from high school who’s going to graduate with her Ph.D…

She tracked me down, not too long ago, and BOY was she a cold, snobby b*tch.

Maybe there is some link between narcissism and Ph.D.’s. They can’t possibly be sociopaths, because sociopaths are kinda “low rent” parasites with small attention spans, from what I’ve learned and experienced.



Yes, Ph.Ds can be sociopaths. My ex is–he went far beyond narcissism. A narcissist usually won’t set out to destroy you, won’t bother. Won’t take pleasure in your suffering. Won’t bother gaslighting. My ex claimed he had a “sub-personality” named Sam. And he wasn’t responsible for “anything Sam did.” So, choking me while I had a cervical collar on (following a car wreck)? Didn’t happen, or if it did, and he wasn’t going to say it did, then Sam did it, so talk to Sam.

Crazy stuff—talking to Sam while looking at the ex. I could go on and on and on. And he was a low rent parasite. He had no empathy at all–would step on a kitten (and did–killed it–said he did that as an “experiment in behavioral animal psychology” or some BS like that). And threatened to kill himself in front of me, showed me the shotgun he bought which he fondly referred to as his “people killer.”

The degree means NOTHING. He wanted the title and insisted on being addressed as Dr. X all the time. And very proud of his ability to be cold and unemotional–claimed that was what he learned so he could be a therapist. Except other times he called it “detachment” and said it was a result of years of meditating. Right. Whatever.

He is a sociopath. His kids have nothing to do with him. He bullied his patients and said it was for their own good. Promoted himself as a transpersonal guru. Very cunning and very destructive.

Even he said just about anyone with the time and money and reasonable intelligence could get a PhD. Oh, and money? I bought my clothes on eBay…he is wealthy (inheritance) but “didn’t believe” in spending money on anyone else. Would make me go shopping with him for his clothes at high end stores, so I could watch him spend a few thousand bucks…while I wore used sandals and clothes. Thing is, he ENJOYED that, found that disparity “interesting from a sociological viewpoint.”

The degree means nothing. Lack of a degree means nothing.


My sister emphasized her ‘Dr.’ title also..

It is all so phoney and used to manipulate and to have domination over others lives..

Now, that I think about it, I have never met someone in that profession that I trusted… they are trying to phyche you out and put you in a category..

So think about ‘their’ contrived control over others.. and you pay them lots to listen to your troubles…

Kinda interesting.. huh? related to the subject matter and the whole reason for this site..
And I have not been in therapy with anyone that really helped me.. I read and evaluated and dug deep in myself to klean some awareness as to why…

The psychiatrist that I went to for my sexual harrassment lawsuit was charged with shop lifting and lost her license for giving out too many perscriptions…
So what exactly is this whole thing with this profession..?

Sure, their are people that need medication for chemical embalances but other than that.. has there really been much change related to ‘talk’ theraphy..?? I bet not much.. and how lasting is it… ??
Just saying… sure awareness can be kleaned but can it be incorporated into behavioral changes?
And after what I have been though with all my giving and caring and trying and waiting and hoping and doing without and putting others first.. I WANT TO BE A NARCISSIST…


Analyze THAT!



I don’t believe talk therapy works. Has anyone been cured by therapy, anyways???

I went to a therapist once who seemed to be educated, until she brought out a floating star magic wand with one of those plastic finger characters on the end of it…

We were just about to start hypnosis, and then I stopped going…

Oh well.

Anyways. Yeah, I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m pretty sure after almost 3 decades of making “me” it would take, at least, that long to fix me. So… most likely I can’t afford it and I just can’t go to therapy that long!

Besides, my luck, (after getting better), I’d bump into another sociopath and get messed up, all over again!

I get you about the narcissism thing, but quite honestly, narcissists and sociopaths are truly the most ridiculous and pathetic of all creatures (imo) serving little purpose other than to exploit and harm humankind…

So, if I had to choose, be a humble victim type or a victimizer, I’d choose my spot.

Which is convenient.



That’s really frightening that your ex had another personality named “sam”.

I do wonder if multiple personality disorder is related to anti-social personality disorder, in any way.

My ex would do things (claim not to remember) and act out as if those things never took place. It was really strange, but I realize now, the majority of that stuff was manipulation.


Style and Pure,

I think talk therapy can work if we have a good therapist and actually work at it–sitting in a chair and talking isn’t gonna do much if we don’t do the hard work of diving deep and looking at things we may not want to look at, then making some changes. No one can help us but us. A good therapist is, among other things, a facilitator.

And it does take time—as you said, Pure, it took a long time to make you, and takes a long time to change. But it’s worth it, we’re worth it. And it can be a lot of hard work.

Pure–the spath doesn’t have MPD. He said he’d “introjected” his father’s personality (father’s name is Sam–he’s literally the ‘son of Sam’ lol) so the part of him that was “bad” or whatever was a sub-personality. This is in line with his post-grad work and training in Psychosynthesis, although it’s a horrible perversion of Psychosynthesis—which he uses to his advantage when he needs to/wants to.

Since I have no training in Psychosynthesis I had no idea what he was talking about…then I educated myself on it and realized he was full of ****. The Sam thing was totally self-serving BS. Pure manipulation and a great tool for gaslighting. Talk to SAM? Are you kidding me? Gosh, I want a sub-personality I can blame everything on too! “Sorry officer, it wasn’t me speeding, it was my sub-personality. Give HER the ticket!”

Great way to avoid any responsibilty for anything. He said he had many sub-personalities—not just Sam. There was the one who had to be in control, the one who liked to get high, the one who was gay, the one who couldn’t remember anything, blah blah blah. Total mind-f**king BS. And if I was skeptical of his sub-personality theory then I was ignorant. Typical. Spaths can be sooooo boring, so predictable. But really dangerous, really destructive.


I knew from the tone of this article that it was another Steve Becker classic and I applaud you for discussing this topic. If more therapists actually stood up and said – there are certain relationships that are worth working on and some that ar enot and here are the signs – well relationships with sociopaths sure wouldn’t last as long as they do.

I went to several therapists and counsellors looking for an outside view of what was happening in the dynamic between us but none of them would comment. None of them would say – this guy doesn’t appear to want to work on himself for the sake of the relationship so if you can’t accept what he’s offering then you better get out.

All of them waded into individual psychology – delving into my father issues and how these were probably at the root of trust issues I had with him. Had they considered the environment I was living in and asked the right questions they would have got a horror picture of the most toxic and life threatening relationship possible. But my ex was one of the smooth operators you describe above – so the problem was stated as ‘my anger’ – not the lies and deceit and broken promises he had made that aroused the anger.

Perhaps had we attended therapy for a long time he would have let his mask slip to the shrink, but he had subtle ways of undermining any efforts I made in this area – he would the therapist and their abilities, education or experience. Or he would change int he short term and announce that therapy was no longer required as he ‘got it’ or he would magically be unavailable for appointments scheduled in advance due to URGENT other committments that coincidentally fell at the very same time as appointments. It became too hard to keep pushing the issue to go so eventually I would give up and therapy would stop – life would go back to the regular status quo. Highly manipulative

All that time I was looking for someone to just tell me to stay or go – I even asked friends and family for their input and they would always back off and say ‘It’s up to you – nothing to do with me’. I didn’t have the presence of mind or confidence to make the decision on my own – I thought because he hadn’t hit me I didn’t really have an excuse to leave – being depressed tot he point of suicide wasn’t reason enough to end a miserable marriage. It truly was like being under an enchantment and walking around like an unthinking zombie. At times now it’s quite hard to cope with the barrage of thoughts that race through my mind.

Anyways – thanks for the article – it got me thinking about this topic. I’m so glad there are therapists like you out there who truly ‘get it’ about this disorder.

Ox Drover

Just like there are bad nurses, bad physicians, bad cops, bad politicians, bad lawyers and in every other profession, we can’t judge the whole profession by a few flakes. We just have to educate ourselves enough that if we go to a professional that we either get another professsional second opinion or we realize they are incompetent.

If you break your leg and the bone is sticking out and the doctor says “put a band aid on it and seem me tomorrow” you have a pretty good idea to go somewhere else. “Buyer Beware” it is up to US to know something about what we need.

Unfortunately too many people don’t educate themselves about what might be the right “treatment”


The couple of times that we saw a therapist, I could see things from my h-spath’s perspective, but he had a hard time doing the same, putting himself “in my shoes.” When I think about him, his mind seems blunted, like he can’t explore things too deeply.


The responses to Steve’s article are off track from the original content. The article is not focused on the mere value of therapy or a talented therapist versus a fraudulent one.

I understand articles provoke so many branches of thought but here we are looking at spouses , partners , etc – LIKE ME – who never knew when to fish or cut bait – AND STILL WONDER IF WE COULD HAVE DONE SOMETHING DIFFERENTLY.

Those of us who have truly loved a person with NPD have seen an unbearable amount of pain, deceit , discarding – the complete works – all the while thinking it may be US.

Steve is dispelling those hopes, those dreams and wishes of “IF ONLY ” to clear our paths for healing.

A bad therapist can’t help you anymore than a bad doctor, mechanic or house painter.

But an excellent one – like we have in Steve – is invaluable to a BROKEN HEART and shattered lives. And if you are trying to co-parent – it’s a life sentence .

Today’s article will serve to alert those here still in the fog to address the dreaded thoughts of “nothing I’ve done has changed anything in our relationship. What am I missing .”

And if you don’t understand the “PSYCHO BABBLE” – none of which is used in this article – you will never understand the personality you are dealing with.

And even as those facts penetrate our minds – it remains difficult and challenging to understand the “disconnections ” that exist in the one we loved.


this is a great post. It rings true with everything that I’ve experienced, as well as my attempts to find ways to distinguish between the hopeless narcissists in my life, and those who are, as you put it so well ‘salvageable’.

I haven’t found that I can cut people out of my life at the first sign of dishonesty, emotional rigidity, egoism, self-centeredness, etc. I mean, there would be no one left, if I did that. And I’d be a lonely hypocrite if I did that, given that I’m imperfect, and made my slip ups for good and bad reasons throughout the years. I’ve been working on ways to identify differences between people who just have human weaknesses and flaws (but who are capable of growth and improvement) and those sad souls we call narcissists, who truly are not salvageable.

I’ve found that there are some ugly truths that a narcissist cannot hide about himself. I’ve put it in other words here on the site, but it does boil down to whether or not a person can sincerely validate their partner’s experience. A narcissist cannot – he simply cannot. It is his blindspot, his Achilles heal. He cannot cover up this one fundamental flaw, if he’s a true narcissist. He does not recognize this as his fundamental flaw on any conscious level, so he does not realize he needs to cover it. It’s the one thing he can’t fake.

As a person with a lifelong pattern of attracting narcissists into her life, I’ve had to develop ways to ‘suss out’ whether someone I’m dealing with is capable of the skill you name – validation – it’s a skill that is essential to a healthy relationship, and it’s exactly what a narcissist cannot do. For me, it’s where the line gets drawn. Can they or can’t they empathize with and sincerely validate another person’s perspective (as you said, this does not necessarily require them to capitulate their viewpoint)?

In my dealings with people who are otherwise pretty good at appearing normal, healthy and emotionally invested in their relationships (narcissists), it’s this ‘validation/empathy factor’ that helps me know what I’m truly dealing with.

Thanks for a great post.



Wanted to clarify one thing – the narcissist cannot fake it (ability to validate) when another’s perspective comes into conflict with his own. Otherwise, he can certainly fake it.

Also, that’s Achilles’ heel, not Achilles heal 😉


Mine ex used to refer to himself in the third person..
disassociate from self.. he meditated all the time.. considered himself some guru that could look down on himself and his current life..
and I have oberved others that do this.. this is a clear sign that ‘something’ is off with a person..

Also, about accsations of getting off topic.. there are threads on here that get so off topic as in writing about what they are cooking.. or farm animals or the weather and many other things such as this..
This is a forum to discuss.. and all this psychology is just that.. opinion.. so if put out there .. it is fair to give opinion..

The just of this article is that some can have awareness and others not.. DUH!

But it takes a whole lot to bring awareness to an individual including self.. and the person must want the clarity and awareness in order to shift and implement change and I have seen alot and have seen little of it..

Adults for the most part are who that they will be.. and the profession of ‘psychology’ is not a science .. it is something ever evoling … and many use this ‘psychology’ to rule, dominate and control others and to feel ‘superior in their self-proclaimed insights or ‘knowledge’..
There is nothing wrong in bringing all this out on a site such as this.. as actually it promotes the path to more awareness of manipulation tactics…


Hindsight, without realizing the title after the author’s name, see how my above comment could be taken poorly.

It wasn’t my intention to be disrespectful or unappreciative of caretakers, of any kind, in any profession. Especially the author of this article in this forum.

I am still in the process of getting to know everyone, who they are, what they do, etc, that I’m a little overwhelmed with all the information. Not to mention, the amount of posts can take time to read and fully understand. So, my habit has been to just backtrack a few comments, and post to them…

Please accept an apology if anyone was offended by my ramblings.

I ramble a lot, and don’t mean any true harm by it. I was just trying to relate to the discussion to my own capacity, while adding my views of skepticism and disappointments regarding therapy… which are things I have experience with.


I don’t want to hurt feelings either.. but at times, these seem to be a group on here that tries to decide what is appropriate in the manner and what is discussed when they many times are the ones that take things way off topic..

I appreciate the input of all articles.. but if the writer of anything can’t take criticizm or differing opinions or discussions that take it to another similar topic.. then… why write..
I have written for newpapers and done columns and talk about differing opinions and they never bothered me.. and I am a screenwriter and if you can’t take critiques.. then you will not survive…



I get what you’re saying about constructive criticism. I guess it’s up to Steve to let us know if he was offended by the comments, or not.

Likely, he’s familiar with skepticism of talk therapy from dealing with the public. I think a portion of the public is skeptical of bearing all to a stranger (licensed professional) regarding very personal information; the benefits of doing so.

So, we could be jumping to assumptions here… because I bet Steve probably wasn’t offended – could see that we were just offering our perspectives.

kim frederick

And that’s exactly what his article is about….validating anothers perspective, while not being threatened about the validity of you own.
I don’t mind getting off topic if it’s pertainant or interesting…and if I don’t feel like it is, I just don’t read it, I move along to something that is.

As for therapy and therapists go, I have had some very good luck and found some very wise and insightful ones…has helped me enormously especially with co-dependancy issues.

I’m sure there are bad or incompetant ones out there, however.

I read on another site the expression, “cooling the mark'”. Cooling the mark is what a secondary con does to reconnvince the victim that the primary con is legitimate and can be trusted. This is exactly what a lot of therapists are guilty of, although, probably without malice, just ignorance.
So, if you ever get the feeling that your therapist is cooling the mark, MOVE ON and get a new therapist.

Ox Drover

TOWANDA!!!! YIPPPPPPEEEEEE!!!! HOOOOORAY!!!!! I just got an e mail today from the head of the parole board in My P-son’s state, I had contacted a state senator there who has as real PROBLEM with certain kinds of infractions inside prisons, and I wrote him a letter telling him that my P son was guilty of THAT infraction and 18 other serious ones, including a weapon in his cell, and this particular State Senator is head of the PRISONS DIVISION COMMITTEE in that state, so one of his minions sent a SIGNED LETTER to follow up the e mail he sent to the HEAD OF THE PAROLE BOARD for my P son’s permanent file.

Neither of these guys is a person that an inmate wants to be “on their case” or to even know their names, much less have a NEGTATIVE LETTER ABOUT THEM IN THEIR FILE!!!!! WHOOOOOOPIE!!!! TOWANDA!!!! HIPPPPPEEEEEEE! WHOOPIE DOOO AND HIP-HIP-HOOORAY!!!! So, great day for the good guys, you all!!!! Even a blind pig gets an acorn ever now and then!!!!

Purewater, don’t worry about it, I bet’ya Stevie has broad shoulders and isn’t going to pout about a negative comment or two. I’ve had “foot N mouth” diseasse a time or two here myself hee hee so don’t worry! (((hugs)))) I’m just glad you are here cause I can see you taking the bit in your teeth and running with all the information and support you are gaining here. You just keep on keeping on!!! (((hugs))))



Your response has further puzzled me as I was expressng a genuine angle, you say:

Bulletproof, I’m sorry you found my “psycho babble” (whatever in my article constituted psychobabble) and my analysis so “tiring” and unhelpful.

I feel like a “bold girl” who didn’t eat her vegeatables….and you reward with one liners the others who VALIDATED you….

no I didn’t say any of that!!! I think you have taken something “personally”….please re-read what I actually said, as I read your articles thoroughly before commenting.


Glad you are understanding the situation, as so much stuff goes without any challenge, I do not know why….you say:

I appreciate the input of all articles.. but if the writer of anything can’t take criticizm or differing opinions or discussions that take it to another similar topic.. then” why write..

yes, we are here to express out different views, and perhaps enter into a discussion that may help to clarify grey areas, feelings and opinions.

and I’m disappointed with the level of debate here, it feels like it is “owned” by an exclusive group whose self esteem is threatened if there is disagreement….who are all back slapping and are’nt we great!!!well y’know you are not great all the time, you can be also a pain in the ass…


“but at times, these seem to be a group on here that tries to decide what is appropriate in the manner and what is discussed when they many times are the ones that take things way off topic.”

I think the only ‘TOPIC’ is support/healing from a sociopathic relationship.
The topic is boundaryless……direct, indirect….however people are healing.
ALL of this ‘chatter’ can be helpful to someone….whether it be retating about farm animals or what I had for dinner.
It’s about bonding with another in order to support. Connection with a commonality.
Think outside the box!

I don’t think there is any ‘group’ on LF….we are all posters, some long time, some new, some pop in, some post once or twice….. and quite frankly…if someones lack of self esteem procludes them from perceiving themselves as part of the ‘group’ (ALL LF POSTERS/READERS)….then….that is not the ‘groups’ problem, this is an issue for that poster.
Anyone can jump in at any time.
Out of pure time spent on LF, and that alone…..there is familiarity between some posters. It is NOT a status, just a reality of time. Nothing more, nothing less.
This can not be ‘held’ against anyone.
If a new poster connects with another new poster….this is great….and can’t be held against them. Same.
There is NO PECKING ORDER ON LF!!!! If you perceive it that way…..we need to look inside.
LF has strong personalities, loveing personalities, painful personalities, angry, hateful, hurt, destroyed, scared, smart, self aware, blinded and stepped on personalities….
LF is not a cult it is a place of evolution, learning and surviving. ALL survivors are welcome.
It is support- plain and simple.

The above does not speak to the toxics we get from time to time. Unhealthy people, who’s personal agendas are revealed by thier postings. Posters will ignore them eventually, if they are not removed before.
I will offer advice, but I’ve got a keen sense when someone is bullshitting. I am not going to coddle someone for long. I will call bullshit and ignore.

Stop raising a ruckus and heal.


Geez.. lots of issues just flooded out of many that posted.

And Steve, no comment, but if I irritatated you by not writing something you ‘approve’ of .. I am sorry.. it’s my opinion and I am entitled to express it…

If you think back I have complimented other things that you have written..

And there is a ‘control group’ on here..

And I care not if I am considered in or out of a group on this site. That was not the purpose of what I said at all. That statement is plain silly … it is just an observation of mine.. some like to ‘play’ at ‘mother’ on here.. and sometimes, it is nice and others becomes a bit judgemental and controlling in appearance. I don’t like group connections such as this.. But it doesn’t bother me.. I am just making the obervation and stating it…

Brustled up some feathers…

Sorry.. take a breath…



When a person is doing something out of the ‘goodness’ of his heart to aid a community….why in the hell can’t we appreciate the effort.
THIS is NOT a newspaper column.
If you don’t find it helpful…..great…..stop attacking.
Politely disagree.

Steve Becker is providing us a service….if you don’t like his work, that’s fine…..but don’t act like pirannas with your views of his points.
Disagreement is fine and healthy….I don’t think this has taken a healthy path….it has festered in some to talk about ‘groups’ and passive aggressively attack posters here.

Go to Steves website and look at his other work….if you can’t appriciate his w.ork….then you will have a headsup NOT to read his articles and create a stink here.

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