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.