I had reason recently to think of how a narcissist responds to someone who appears to be superior. It will help to remember that the narcissist sees people as tools, toys, or obstacles. Even those who are superior fall into those categories. It will also help to remember that the narcissist does not believe that anyone deserves a superior position.
The narcissist is far too serious about his own ambitions to use a superior as a toy. He wouldn’t think of that as long as he sees the person as superior. If he is successful in bringing the person down, then the person (who is now inferior) can become a toy. But not until then.
Although these characteristics will be seen easier in a work environment, they are exhibited at home, at church, in families, and almost anywhere else. And let’s define “superior.” Anyone who is obviously smarter or stronger or more successful than the narcissist would be seen as superior. Anyone who is higher in rank or position would be seen as a superior. In the narcissist’s mind there is a clear hierarchy.
First, since no superior deserves his or her position, any superior will be an obstacle for the narcissist. This person takes what the narcissist believes rightly belongs to him. They have the answers, take the attention, get the praise, enjoy the respect, that the narcissist wants. If that person were gone, the narcissist believes he would get what that person has.
So this is why we see the narcissist saboteur. Think of the narcissist as the consummate ladder-climber. If you are on the ladder just one step above him, count on him trying to pull you down. The narcissist will see anyone between him and his goal (and his goal is the boss’ spot) as an obstacle. Again, this is obvious at work, but it happens at church and even in the family. Watch for the sabotage.
But we also sometimes see the narcissist toady. If the narcissist is on his way up, whatever that means to him, then he will have to use people to get there. Most narcissists are very intelligent and know when to give praise and service. There are many stories of narcissists surrounding popular politicians or entertainers. The way to the limelight is through their connections. Whatever it takes to stay in that loop is worthwhile.
But the leader who has narcissistic followers must never leave himself open. They will stab him in the back and try to take what is his. This happens in churches all the time. The associate pastor is a good servant, a faithful toady, until one day when the door opens just right. The senior pastor, who has come to expect loyalty from his good friend, is swept away and the associate steps in to take over. I suspect most people have seen this in volunteer organizations also.
Tools, toys, or obstacles. You don’t want to be any of them.