Parasite or Predator?

It’s Narcissist Friday!

Which is your narcissist?  You may read something about a characteristic of narcissism and decide that the jerk in the office really doesn’t fit.  Yes, he manipulates and uses, but he isn’t particularly aggressive.  He doesn’t seem vicious in his use of others.  He pilfers, takes a little here and there, and generally is a nuisance and unpleasant character.  You don’t know what he says to the boss about you, but he doesn’t seem to be after your job.

On the other hand, you read about the narcissist who swoops in and takes whatever he wants and leaves dead bodies behind.  He moves from relationship to relationship and never commits himself to anyone.  He has no qualms about using people for money, sex, privilege, or anything else.

It will be obvious to some readers that this describes the difference between a covert narcissist and an overt narcissist, which I have written on before.  This simply gives us a metaphor that some might find very helpful.

Generally, parasites move slowly.  Their strength is in their persistence and willingness to take whatever they can get.  Like a tick, the covert narcissist, creeps into a life and simply attaches himself.  He seems harmless, although it is difficult to see what he contributes to the relationship.  While he is a constant drain on his victim, the parasitic narcissist seems to know that it will be unproductive to take too much from the victim in too short a time.  The host/victim suffers slowly and in indirect ways from the attachment.

Parasitic narcissists may be part of families or churches or businesses and drain a little from many people.  In a church, for example, this may be a person who constantly needs prayer or financial support or attention.  There is nothing that can be pointed out as wrong, but the narcissist’s presence is a continual drain on the congregation and leadership.  In a family, there is often someone who takes a little here and there, generally putting a negative feeling into every event.  Mom has one of her regular headaches and must go lie down just when everyone is ready to eat.  Sister calls with a minor crisis involving her ex just as you sit down to watch your favorite TV show.  Every time there is an explanation, but it seems to happen a lot.  You can’t seem to get away.

The predator, of course, pounces and devours.  Predators are loud and aggressive and vicious.  If a predatory narcissist is at your workplace and has determined that you are to be his victim, every day is filled with fear and worry.  A young man sees a young woman as prey, rather than as someone to love.  Lust and desire seem to blind him to any pain he causes.  He seeks the weak person and, if something happens to stop him from getting what he wants, he simply watches for another victim.  He must eat.

Perhaps another thing should be mentioned in this context.  Sometimes narcissistic relationships are symbiotic.  That means they provide something for both the narcissist and the victim.  While that may seem strange to us, it seems to happen quite often.  Think about the rock star and the groupie.  The groupie is food for the rock star, something to be used.  But the groupie finds pleasure in being used by the rock star and willingly accepts the abuse.  I have seen wives look at their husbands with much the same kind of willing and joyful subservience, apparently very happy to be part of his life.  While this seems strange and dysfunctional to most of us, it is certainly a part of the narcissistic relationship in many cases.  In fact, it leads many counselors to believe there are actually two narcissists in the relationship, each using the other and each willing to pay the price.

One thing is worth noting: none of these narcissists will see the victim as a person worthy of love or concern.  The parasite just needs a willing host on whom to feed.  The predator simply needs a meal.  Both take what they want for their own purpose.  Even in the symbiotic relationship, which is often characterized by a complex system of negotiation and supply, there is little sense of value placed on the other person.  Narcissists don’t see others.  They use and abuse because they don’t care.


Filed under Narcissism

8 responses to “Parasite or Predator?

  1. Sheila

    Thank-you so much for reminding me why I am going through so much pain these past months in order to detach from my parasitic narcissist. When I want to break the no contact rule I read, and re-read, your posts. They give me such strength. One day at a time.

    Many blessings.

  2. Angela

    For us who read this and think..well, this is everyone I have ever known,raised by one type, marry an overt, then get sucked into a covert, and the cycle continues…WHAT is normal?? What is healthy? What does it look like, How can we recognize it….BEFORE we get too involved in their lives and vice versa?

    • WTP

      Hi Angela,
      Those are great questions! I have a N parent and have worked for a series of N employers. It is so draining and I am sick of being around these Ns. So, I have to figure out how to break this cycle. I think after I leave my current job I will not enter into a new situation lightly. Also, it’s important to look for red flags or similarities between the Ns of the past, current and potentially the future so you can figure out how to manage or avoid them. I am not afraid of conflict but I know that there is no such thing as healthy conflict with a sick N. So, I tend to avoid a bunch of these people (including my exhausting grandmother). I used to think avoiding Ns was selfish HOWEVER I have realized that I am not free to be healthy and help others if I am consumed by these people who may not be bad but that do such hurtful and destructive things.

    • Angela, thanks for this great question! The next NF blog will address this. So important!

  3. Tammy C

    Having a narcissist in our life is definitely draining, and I have found that even the covert ones can become overt when they think that they can get away with it.

    I believe that if a person is an employee or perhaps just not courageous enough to fight back enough to cause the narcissist significant discomfort, that narcissist could easily become an overt narcissist towards that person at a minimum.

    I also believe that narcissists have the ability to detect potential “hosts” and will eagerly pursue those that have the least potential to fight back!

    Think about how easy it is to agree with this: “If someone brutally kills an innocent child, they are pure EVIL and likely have been influenced by demonic forces”. Why wouldn’t we consider that same evil behavior as demonic when a narcissist is able to make people feel worthless and is so great at destroying lives???!!! If people saw it for the EVIL that it is, they would RUN FOR THEIR LIVES!

    My ex-N (while we were still married and I was pregnant with our second child), followed another man’s wife around a campfire. Every time she moved, he moved along with her. It was as if he SENSED that she was a victim of a N-Mother, she had a caring heart, was used to serving others, was feeling neglected, etc… She was the PERFECT host to replace me.

    From her perspective, he was Prince Charming, handsome business owner, etc… but in reality HE was the parasite that Pastor Orrison described.

    W, Sheila & so many others that have suffered in the destruction wake of a narcissist and it is sad. The good thing is that you recognize it and are equipped with Narcissist radar right along with me. I agree. NO CONTACT is the only way to go. My career-successful brother, ex-husband, and a couple of miscellaneous people in my lives have been OUT of my life for many years and I am MUCH better off without them!

    Angela, You are LOVED by Jesus Christ, unconditionally. Grow that relationship, grow in confidence in that love, get involved in a local bible believing church and plug into that incredible relationship that God so desperately wants with us.

    The Bible describes the church as the Bride of Christ, and commands husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the Church. So, when you see Jesus’ love in the eyes of a man for you, there is NO mistaking it. It’s sweet, it is patient, kind, loving, and real. That kind of love doesn’t exist apart from Jesus, and you can’t fake that for long.

    Until next time!

  4. Joy

    For many years, I didn’t recognize my ex-husband as narcissistic because he is passive aggressive in his expression of it. He does not rage, he gives you the silent treatment. He does not cut you down with verbal assault, he is quietly disapproving and disappointed in you. He does not outright insult you, he acts as if you do not exist. He does not rail at you, he looks past you and refuses to listen to a word you say so that you have no voice in the relationship. He does not tell you you are unattractive, he rejects you sexually and withholds affection. He does not criticize openly, he withholds all appreciation.. He will never admit he is angry, but you can feel that he is.

    He is so subtle, that everyone thinks he is great. He has a superman image to uphold in public. Sometimes he even remembers to show you affection or be considerate if others are watching. The only place it creeps out in a more overt form is in private.

    We are divorced now. I stayed for 28 years. I am one of those who was raised to stay married through thick and thin…to work out your problems. But I finally had to accept that I am not in control of working this out. I tried everything I knew, and he all about his image…he doesn’t care about me really. He acts like it sometimes when we are in front of people..but I know now to watch the whole act: private and public.

    I’ve been divorced a year and away from him for almost 3 years, but I’m still trying to pick up the pieces. He lives close by though, and still makes contact with me. I may move away one day, but I hate to as our children live here.

    • It sounds like he may be a covert narcissist. Passive aggressive describes a type of covert narcissist manipulation. They are generally more quiet, less obnoxious – that is, until you really get to know them. Covert narcissists can be even more controlling and insidious because they don’t actually seem to do anything wrong.

      I wrote on this a while back here:

      • Joy

        Yes, that is my ex. He is a covert narcissist..right down the part where you talked about controlling by helping. He is always helping others, which sounds like a good thing, but he never lets anyone help him. It’s a power imbalance. And yes, it always gets done his way.

        Since we’ve been divorced he’s offered to help me over and over…and I keep refusing. He hates it. He’s told the kids that he’d “like to help” me but I won’t let him. It makes him look so good..he’s so willing to take care of me even after I left him, but they don’t realize that for him is a control thing.

        He is an expert at twisting and turning things around.

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