I’ve read so many times that narcissists never change, but I have to disagree with this.
Narcissists can change for the better, because with God, all things are possible. This is quite rare, but it’s certainly something to hope & pray for. (I believe in hoping for the best but preparing for the worst) It happened with my husband’s father- he improved so much. I don’t know why he changed, but it was wonderful. He was caring & kind to my husband instead of his usual behavior- critical, bossy & generally nasty. Unfortunately though, he later developed dementia, & returned to his old ways. (Dementia & Alzheimer’s can exacerbate narcissistic tendencies. Sadly, this is quite normal.) After his wife (a covert narcissist) died in 2016, he returned to his much better behavior.
More commonly though, narcissists do change as they get older, & they get much more devious & creative. They have to change because as they age, they have to use different tactics if they want to remain in control. In my teens, my mother was a very intimidating & imposing figure. When she screamed at me, as she did so very often, I was always afraid she’d physically hurt me. If she tried this today at age 77, I wouldn’t be so intimidated. How could I be? She is much older & frailer now. Screaming at me now wouldn’t have the desired effect, so she has changed her tactic from screaming to speaking in a soft tone & saying the most vicious things she can come up with.
Narcissists are smart- they know what will be the most effective way to accomplish something they want to accomplish. They are experts at reading people, as they have to be to figure out the best way to use them. They also are smart enough to realize what worked well for them when they were 35 most likely won’t work as well at 75, & they must adapt accordingly. Besides, their children aren’t as easily pushed around at 40 as they were at 10. They have to find new ways to manipulate them if they wish to continue using their children.
Many older narcissists also like to reminisce. They like to talk with you about the past. Often it’s the usual narcissistic rhetoric- bragging about their great accomplishments at work or the vast numbers of people they’ve helped. But, narcissistic parents also can do something very hurtful- brag about the amazing childhood you had. My mother has done this many times. She talks about all the great things she did for me when I was a child. Some things were simply a parent doing what she should for a child, & some things never happened at all. When this happens, it used to hurt me a great deal. She was invalidating & denying abusing me! Instead she made me look like a screw up who needed her. Finally though, God showed me something that has helped me tremendously. This behavior is a coping skill. Dysfunctional as it is, this is how my mother copes with the guilt she feels for being so abusive. Rather than take responsibility & apologize to me, she reinvents the past to make herself look like a good mother. She also even tries to get me to agree with her stories, in the hopes of convincing herself & I both that the stories really are true. Once God showed me this, it made perfect sense to me. I no longer was so hurt by her stories, because I knew they weren’t a personal attack (even though they may feel like it sometimes). I knew instead they were a dysfunctional coping skill. It is her right to use that skill if she wants. It’s also my right not to validate her stories if I am so inclined, & I never do validate them.
Just be forewarned, Dear Reader. As your narcissistic mother ages, she may not mellow out like many folks do. She may seem a bit easier to handle in her golden years because she isn’t screaming, but don’t be fooled- just because she isn’t screaming or physically abusive doesn’t mean she isn’t still capable of hurting you a great deal.
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