I only have a quick minute, but I wanted to capture my thoughts on this subject: Narcissistic Personality Disorder versus Passive Aggressive Personality Disorder.
NPD is a disorder in which the person fails to develop normal human empathy and emotion. In most cases it is completely intractable. In past years, it was considered one hundred per cent incurable. In recent years (don't have the links, sorry!) it has been considered more of a spectrum, with a few lucky and highly motivated individuals on the less severely disordered end of the spectrum capable of some improvement. It has been hypothesized that NPD could be caused by biology, extreme emotional neglect during the important 19-24 month window of development, and by over indulgent parents who in their smothering concern never allow the child to experience life where the little person is not the center of the universe.
PAPD is also a personality disorder, but it is not caused by biology nor is it intractable. It is mostly taught. Children who develop PAPD live in homes where anger is considered a sin, and therefore is not allowed expression or even acknowledged.
PAPD is the label for the behavior of an angry person who often refuses to admit they are angry, yet their anger will out. There are many different patterns of behavior they might indulge to express their anger, all of it indirect and sneaky. If you are truly interested, I recommend Kantor's book Passive Aggression: A Guide for the Therapist, the Patient and the Victim. They may transfer their angry feelings towards a sacred target which is forbidden (fundamentalist parents, for example) to a safer target which is allowed by their belief system (a wife, a child, a fellow driver on the road, etc). They also may deny they are anger yet engage in behavior that frustrates other people to the point that this other person will express anger, sort of manipulating other people to process their feelings for them.
Since people who grew up in homes where anger was not allowed have never learned the healthy expression of anger, when they come to believe that it is okay to be angry, they still have some big problems.
First of all, they have suppressed their feelings so long, they don't even recognize feelings as they are experiencing them. Their first instinct is to suppress and deny, so even though a situation may be frustrating them, they will meekly and silently comply. If you ask them, they might admit they are unhappy about it, but on their own they do not even recognize the change in their emotions. Once they do become aware that they are unhappy about what they are doing, rather than accept responsibility for their emotions and decisions they assign blame to the people nearby for "making" the PAPD do whatever it is they did not really want to do.
Secondly, when these feelings do burst through, they are often extremely overwhelming to the person. They feel exceedingly angry, since they have been storing it up for so long, and they feel exceedingly guilty, since deep inside they still have internalized anger is a sin. Also they may very well be indulging in sinful childish behavior when they are angry, as they are emotionally undeveloped. The remorse they express is real, yet the anger they feel is also real. They will often cycle back and forth through venting and repenting, venting and repenting.
Obviously there is hope for a person with PAPD. They CAN learn healthy ways to experience and express anger. Trauma therapy as well as cognitive behavioral therapy can come together to make all the difference for someone raised to become a PAPD person. This is not an overnight miracle, however.
Learning to recognize that they are experiencing feelings before those feelings become overwhelming takes time. Breaking the unspoken internalized rules about what one is allowed to feel, think and say takes time as well. Identifying the traumas that created this well of buried hurt and resentment will take time, especially when denial was taught, modeled, and rewarded, while honesty and transparency were condemned and punished.
Fundamentalist Christianity, and more specifically my husband's missionary parents, are responsible for my husband developing PAPD. My husband is responsible for his recovery, and for every word, thought and action he chooses to indulge in today. But there is hope for him.
There is no hope (in my opinion) for someone suffering from NPD. I realize the majority of abusers of either gender suffer from NPD. I am quite sure that is why all the literature is written claiming that abusers never change, are continual liars, and that a spouse's only hope of a healthy relationship is to get out of relationship with the abuser and look elsewhere for love. And if you are in relationship with an NPD, that is the ONLY ANSWER.
I know all about NPD because my mother is NPD. She is a complete fake as a person. She has never experienced any real emotion other than fear and anger, unless you count arrogance as an emotion. She is manipulative, cunning, able to switch personas at the drop of a hat when the situation calls for it. There is no level of ugly she will not stoop to in order to obtain Narcissistic Supply.
My husband is not NPD. He has real emotions. He has genuine relationships. He is kind and sincere. But he is a mess emotionally, and he has not learned how to deal with his emotions in a healthy mature manner yet. He is trying, though.
As the daughter of an NPD mother (and in spite of much therapy!) I came pre-programmed to choose to fall in love with a man who is emotionally unavailable to me. That kinda sucks, but if the shoe fits, eh. *shrug*
My husband is not NPD, though. I can figure out NPD before a relationship goes very far. Once bitten, twice shy.
The question is not "will my husband change?" or even "is my husband capable of change?" The answer to both of those questions is "yes". The questions that remain unanswered are, "will healing come to him without us having to temporarily separate?" and "how much worse is this going to get before it gets better?"
For those of you who were in a relationship with an NPD (Final Anonymous =) you have my deepest sympathy. There is no hell on earth like the hell experienced by someone trying to relate to an NPD as if they are a real human person inside. I know from experience. (I added a labels widget so you can find my previous posts about NPD.)
Okay, that's all for now. I took the time to write this because I am taking the time to think about it. There is no other motive, so please don't anyone be offended! Peace and good will to all, SS