Tag Archives: covert narcissists


It’s Narcissist Friday!  

(This post needs to be repeated occasionally, if for no other reason than to keep the T. S. Eliot quote in our minds.)


Why do the narcissists abuse people?  Why do they do such things?  They hurt.  They use.  They manipulate.  They destroy.


Some have attributed their cruelty to hatred.  Some to anger.  Others to envy.  Perhaps they look at the rest of us and create ways to demolish what we or others have built into our lives.   Perhaps they do it for fun, excitement, maybe challenge.

Narcissists can cause a lot of pain.  I read the stories people send to me privately and those shared in the comments and I grieve for those who have had to endure so much.  Some of the stories are hard to believe, but I know narcissists and I do believe them.  And, again, why do they do these things?

I have written about this before, but it seems important to say it again: it isn’t your fault.  You are not an inferior person destined to be the kick-toy for others.  You are not suffering because of some sin in your life.  Narcissists don’t need our sin in order to accomplish their nastiness.  God is not angry with you.  He did not send the narcissist to punish you.  Basically, it isn’t about you.

I’m not sure the truth will make you feel better about the reality in which we live, but I hope it allows you to feel better about yourself.  It’s the narcissist who is broken.  There is something lacking in them that allows them to hurt others without concern.  There is something in them that is very different from the rest of us.  No, they are not normal.

You see, the narcissist simply doesn’t care.  He will do whatever he wants.  She will say whatever she thinks.  Words and actions are part of the narcissists’ tools to get what they want.  They do the things they do because they are means to an end.  If it hurts you, so what?

But, you say, how can a spouse or a friend or a parent think like that?  I don’t know.  I just know that some of them do.  They manipulate in whatever way works.  If it takes being nice to you and making you feel very good, they will do that.  If it takes being mean and cruel, they will do that.  Either one is simply useful, not good or bad.

So is it envy or hatred or sadism or some other perverted motivation?  Maybe.  But I will guarantee you that the narcissist does not feel these things in the same way you do.  If they envy, they don’t think of it as envy.  It is probably much more like base desire.  If it is hatred, it may still have nothing to do with you as a person.  If it is sadism, it does not bring the pleasure you might think.  The narcissist is motivated simply by the desire to feel better about themselves.  Whatever it takes…

Don’t try to figure it out.  There is probably no cause and effect that will make sense to you.  Just don’t believe the lie that it is about you.  A few years ago I ran across this little selection from T. S. Eliot.  I have shared it here before, but it seems good to share it again.  It might help.


Half the harm that is done in this world

Is due to people who want to feel important

They don’t mean to do harm ­

But the harm does not interest them.

Or they do not see it, or they justify it

Because they are absorbed in the endless struggle

To think well of themselves.

T. S. Eliot


Filed under Narcissism

Tapeworms, Fleas, and Ebola

It’s Narcissist Friday!     


A parasite is an organism that lives on or in a host and gets its food from or at the expense of its host.

– CDC definition


You work and struggle to gain ground in your life, only to find it slipping away time after time. You put away money, and it disappears. You eat well and exercise, but never feel healthy. You produce good stuff at work, but never get promoted. You smile and try to be positive, but you can’t seem to lift even your own spirit. Something is draining you. Something/someone is taking what you are working hard to produce. But the drain is subtle, hidden, a little at a time. It’s hard to pinpoint at first, but the effect you feel is very real.

After reading the amazing comments after the last post, I came to realize that there is a general theme in almost all of our dealings with narcissism. Obviously, the suggestions you shared reveal both pain and anger. (I gathered them and listed them below.) Frankly, as I look at the list, I am saddened. The emotions you see in that list are strong. They are natural responses to a PARASITE.

Imagine the disgust you would feel if you found you had a tapeworm. Or how dirty you would feel to find fleas. We loathe parasites. They make us feel unclean, used, diminished, and angry. We swat a mosquito that threatens to suck our blood. We avoid viruses and bacteria as much as we can. The thought of those little monsters eating away at us and reproducing inside us is revolting. Their very existence offends us.

Well, that was disturbing, wasn’t it? Just thinking about those things bothers us. We understand the angst someone has toward parasites. We understand the anger and nausea. And when we think of the narcissist unable to love, but sharing a bed, we are just as sickened. When we think of a person who cultivates relationships simply to use the gifts and kindness of others, we get angry.

The narcissistic relationship is parasitic. The narcissist uses you to build his/her life. All the praise and support and kindness in the beginning of the relationship had the simple purpose of getting the narcissist into your heart. You relaxed your normal barriers, even for a moment, and you were bitten, infected, and poisoned. It took some time for you to understand what happened, but eventually you could see the damage the parasite was doing. Getting out of the relationship required purging: harsh medicines, strict boundaries, and consistent support.

The process for getting rid of a tapeworm is disgusting. The process for getting rid of fleas is time-consuming and repetitive. The process for getting rid of an infectious virus like Ebola can be life-changing. So, we should expect to go through a challenge when we decide to separate from the narcissist. It isn’t easy, and it takes time. The little eggs of head lice are called “nits.” To get rid of the lice, you have to get rid of the nits—hence, the term “nit-picking.” You feel like you find evidence of the damage from the narcissist/parasite in every little thing. You want to tell everyone you meet so you can gather support, but you don’t want anyone to know because you are so disgusted.

And you blame yourself. But even that is the product of the narcissistic relationship. It is in the nature of parasites to seek hosts. Listen: they find you! Think about that for a minute—a full minute. They watched and waited and planned and manipulated and worked to get to you. The whole focus of the parasite’s life is to find a host. Yes, you might have played into their hands. You drank contaminated water. You touched an infected person. You went outside without spraying. Whatever. But don’t blame yourself! The narcissist/parasite would have found someone else if it wasn’t you. They have to have someone.

And there are those who seem quite willing to pass the parasites on to you. They sell contaminated food, give away infested clothing or bedding, produce diet pills with tapeworms. You feel betrayed, tricked…and angry. You had no idea what you were getting. They just didn’t care. You trusted, but you shouldn’t have. It isn’t your fault.

No, don’t let anyone tell you this was a “symbiotic” relationship. That’s not true. The only time a narcissistic relationship is symbiotic (where both use and both benefit) is when two narcissists attach to each other, which does happen. Even though you thought you were receiving something of benefit, at least early in the relationship, you learned that was a lie. The benefit didn’t turn out to benefit you at all. The parasite uses and gives nothing except more pain.

Many parasites continue with their hosts until the hosts die. Some know enough not to take so much from the host. A dead host offers little. But, of course, there’s always another. The point is that the parasite doesn’t care. There is no feeling for the host, no investment in the host’s well-being. Listen: the parasite doesn’t really see the host as another being. The host is simply a food source. The narcissist depersonalizes others, doesn’t see others as real people in the sense that he/she is real. Using others is easy for them, because others are objects for using.

That brings to mind another term we have used for narcissists, and you will see it on the list. Predator. A predator is just a more vicious and destructive parasite. He/she destroys the life of another to feed his/her own. The things we call parasites are generally slower, but often just as deadly as a predator. Most narcissists move slowly and carefully, at least those willing to connect by long-term relationships. Some may hit and run, but most act like parasites.

I like the idea of a parasitic relationship in explanation of narcissism. You will probably see it in my writing in the future. Narcissists use people, in any relationship. They might be smart enough to use without damaging the other, but most just use without regard to the loss the other suffers. When the relationship no longer provides the “supply” the narcissist desires, he/she simply moves to someone else. Just like other parasites.

You may find this to be helpful in explaining your narcissistic relationship to counselors, friends, or family. If you can show them how you are being used without receiving benefit, they may be as offended as you are. Of course, that’s hopeful thinking. At least the concept might help you understand what has been happening.

So here’s the list I gleaned from your comments. I think I got them all. I did not judge or clean up the list. All I did was give consistent punctuation, remove duplicates, and alphabetize. Read through the list and empathize with the feelings behind the words. You may even use this when you try to explain your situation to others. This is how people who have suffered from narcissistic relationships describe what they have known as narcissists and narcissism.

Abusive Bully

Acute Self-Absorption Syndrome

Acute Selfish Syndrome

Addict of Self

Aggressive Egoist



Bulls**t Generator



Chronically Self-Centred

Con Artist


Covert Aggressor

De mentors

Demonic spirit




Devoid of Truth


Dr. Jekyl/Mr. Hyde

Emotional Hostage Takers

Emotional Predator

Emotional Terrorist

Emotional Vampires

Emotionally Deprived Individuals


Empty Vessel of Insolent Pride

Energy Vampires´ Or `Energy Suckers´




Evil Personified


Hard Hearted


Image Maker

Insolent Pride


Jezebel Spirit

Lord Voldemort


Master Manipulator

Murderer of The Soul


Narcissistic BSMM (But So Much More)

Opportunistic Social Predator







Puppet Master

Queen of The World


Ruthless Personality Disorder



Sheep in Wolves Clothing



Social Predator

Soul Sucker



Spirit Killer


Targeting Emotional Vampires



The Criminal

The Diminisher

The Monster in My Bed

Tiny Hitler


Toxic Blamer

Toxic Poo





Filed under Narcissism

The Pooooor Narcissist


It’s Narcissist Friday!     


N – Get off the road, stupid idiot! That guy drives just like your brother!


You – Why do you say such mean things? It isn’t like you are a perfect driver.


N – What complaint do you have with my driving? You are always criticizing me. I have to be perfect before I can say anything anymore.


Then, when you get home:


N – Well, you can breathe now. I didn’t say anything mean and we got home without an accident. If you still think you can handle such a mean person, you should probably drive tonight when we go out. That way you can feel safe. Maybe I can sit back and criticize your driving.


Ever notice how the narcissist can become the instant victim? I used to have a relative who could say anything, accuse of anything, or criticize anything. But if you dared to challenge, you would become the aggressor and she would be the victim.

Some people have trouble seeing the truth about the narcissist when the narcissist presents as a victim. It’s a popular way for the narcissist to deceive others. It covers their own cruelty, changes the focus from them and their behavior to you. Because they have no trouble lying, narcissists can quickly shift to acting hurt and abused, no matter what they have just done to you.

Also, the victim gets a lot of attention, sympathy. Of course the narcissist wants that attention. Perhaps you have seen a child fall down, then look to see if anyone was watching. If no one was watching, the child might just keep playing. If someone saw, however, the crying starts. We understand from early ages that those who are hurt can get attention.

Some narcissists are professional victims. Nothing ever goes right for them. No one is ever nice enough or helpful enough. Always in financial trouble. Always having health problems. Always fighting a losing battle with someone. Even those who get used by the victim narcissist still feel sorry for them in some way.

You see, it works. Most of us were taught to care for others. We have empathy. We see the pain of others and believe it and want to help. So we let ourselves be used. And we excuse the users.

I read once of a real serial killer who would get crutches and carry groceries to his car parked far on the edge of the parking lot. He looked so pitiful that people would offer to help him. When it was some young lady who offered to carry his groceries, he would let her help him all the way to the car, then club her to unconsciousness using the crutch.

Maybe your narcissist wasn’t that terrible, but most of us can understand the story. One of the narcissists I had to deal with became the victim the moment I suggested that I didn’t need his help. Now you know how “helpful” a narcissist can be. He wanted an opportunity to look good at my expense. When I didn’t allow that, he turned on me and became my enemy, all while presenting himself as the victim to others.

The narcissist spouse is always the victim in the divorce. The narcissist boss is always the victim when charged with some workplace cruelty. The narcissist mother is always the victim when confronted with her own actions. The narcissist church leader is always the victim when the people begin to say no. It’s one of the more effective tools in the narcissist’s toolbox.

In the meantime, the real victims are often ignored. The pooooor narcissist cries so loudly that everyone must pay attention. The real victim is holding in the fear and pain, often too confused to explain what has been happening.

How do you win against the pooooor narcissist? Sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you just have to go on to protect yourself and let others find out the truth for themselves. Narcissists usually win at their games because they know how to manipulate others and are ruthless in doing so. Very few of us can play at their level. Maybe the best you can do is say it out loud, “Pooooor so-and-so!” Hearing it that way seems to help your mind understand what your heart already knows. Just be careful who hears you.

Sadly, we all have to learn to ask more questions and be a little more skeptical, especially when we first hear the story of a victim. Remember that there are two or more sides in any conflict. Sometimes the one who cries the loudest is the one who is really to blame.


Filed under Narcissism

Dating a Narcissist?

It’s Narcissist Friday!    

(This blog continually attracts new readers.  With somewhere around two hundred posts on narcissism and narcissistic relationships, it can be challenging for anyone to really use this material.  The search function works very well, if you know what to ask for.  Otherwise, we will all have to wait as the blog posts are sorted and categorized in preparation for a new (and exciting!) website.  So for the next few weeks, I want to dig back into the archives to pull out some of the posts that seemed most helpful over the last few years.  Please feel free to comment.)


I had wanted to write something to provide to parents, particularly parents of daughters, to help them discern if the person their child is dating could be a narcissist.  Obviously, that’s a tall order – since not all narcissists are the same.  Then I found this and I doubt that I could have written it better.  Take your daughter (or son) through this and see how the questions are answered.  Or just give it to her/him and see what happens.  The webpage, on which you will find more, is at the end:

Is there anything you can do to avoid abusers and narcissists to start with?
Are there any warning signs, any identifying marks, rules of thumbs to shield
you from the harrowing and traumatic experience of an abusive relationship?

Imagine a first or second date. You can already tell if he is a would-be
abuser. Here’s how:

Perhaps the first telltale sign is the abuser’s alloplastic defenses – his tendency to blame every mistake of his, every failure, or mishap on others, or on the world at large. Be tuned: does he assume personal
responsibility? Does he admit his faults and miscalculations? Or does he keep
blaming you, the cab driver, the waiter, the weather, the government, or fortune
for his predicament?

Is he hypersensitive, picks up fights, feels constantly slighted, injured,
and insulted? Does he rant incessantly? Does he treat animals and children
impatiently or cruelly and does he express negative and aggressive emotions
towards the weak, the poor, the needy, the sentimental, and the disabled? Does
he confess to having a history of battering or violent offenses or behavior? Is
his language vile and infused with expletives, threats, and hostility?

Next thing: is he too eager? Does he push you to marry him having dated you
only twice? Is he planning on having children on your first date? Does he
immediately cast you in the role of the love of his life? Is he pressing you for
exclusivity, instant intimacy, almost rapes you and acts jealous when you as
much as cast a glance at another male? Does he inform you that, once you get
hitched, you should abandon your studies or resign your job (forgo your personal

Does he respect your boundaries and privacy? Does he ignore your wishes (for
instance, by choosing from the menu or selecting a movie without as much as
consulting you)? Does he disrespect your boundaries and treats you as an object
or an instrument of gratification (materializes on your doorstep unexpectedly or
calls you often prior to your date)? Does he go through your personal belongings
while waiting for you to get ready?

Does he control the situation and you compulsively? Does he insist to ride in
his car, holds on to the car keys, the money, the theater tickets, and even your
bag? Does he disapprove if you are away for too long (for instance when you go
to the powder room)? Does he interrogate you when you return (“have you seen
anyone interesting”) – or make lewd “jokes” and remarks?
Does he hint that, in future, you would need his permission to do things – even as innocuous as meeting a friend or visiting with your family?

Does he act in a patronizing and condescending manner and criticizes you
often? Does he emphasize your minutest faults (devalues you) even as he
exaggerates your talents, traits, and skills (idealizes you)? Is he wildly
unrealistic in his expectations from you, from himself, from the budding
relationship, and from life in general?

Does he tell you constantly that you “make him feel” good? Don’t be
impressed. Next thing, he may tell you that you “make” him feel bad, or that you
make him feel violent, or that you “provoke” him. “Look what you made me do!” is an abuser’s ubiquitous catchphrase.

Thanks and acknowledgements to Sam Vaknin, author of “Malignant Self-Love“.  The webpage where the above is found is:



Filed under Narcissism

The Humble Narcissist

It’s Narcissist Friday!    


(This blog continually attracts new readers.  With somewhere around two hundred posts on narcissism and narcissistic relationships, it can be challenging for anyone to really use this material.  The search function works very well, if you know what to ask for.  Otherwise, we will all have to wait as the blog posts are sorted and categorized in preparation for a new (and exciting!) website.  So for the next few weeks, I want to dig back into the archives to pull out some of the posts that seemed most helpful over the last few years.  Please feel free to comment.)


I am well aware that I am the ‘umblest person going. . . . My mother is likewise a very ‘umble person. We live in a ‘umble abode.  – Uriah Heep  (From Dickens’ “David Copperfield”)

It seems obvious that narcissists would have trouble with humility.  After all, their goal is to make you think highly of them.  They usually have to be the best, the smartest, the most desirable, etc.  But what if you are in a culture where humility is a virtue, something the “best” person would be sure to have?

This is where many narcissists are able to pass themselves off as something else, particularly in churches or service groups.  By being humble, perhaps a little more humble than others, the narcissist tricks people into opening themselves to his manipulations.

“‘When I was quite a young boy,’ said Uriah, ‘I got to know what ‘umbleness did, and I took to it. I ate ‘umble pie with an appetite. I stopped at the ‘umble point of my learning, and says I, “Hard hard!” When you offered to teach me Latin, I knew better. “People like to be above you,” says father, “keep yourself down.” I am very ‘umble to the present moment, Master Copperfield, but I’ve got a little power!'”

Humility, in the mind of Uriah Heep, was the path to power.  It was the way he could cope with the world and come out ahead.  But it was a deception.  Today there are politicians, preachers, teachers, and many others who appear to be humble and gracious people, but really only do so to have “a little power.”

Yes, humility may be just another tool in the narcissist’s box.  Those who are fooled get hurt.




Filed under Narcissism

I see you!

 It’s Narcissist Friday!  

(I am aware that this blog continually attracts new readers.  With somewhere around two hundred posts on narcissism and narcissistic relationships, it can be challenging for anyone to really use this material.  The search function works very well, if you know what to ask for.  Otherwise, we will all have to wait as the blog posts are sorted and categorized in preparation for a new (and exciting!) website.  So for the next few weeks, I want to dig back into the archives to pull out some of the posts that seemed most helpful over the last few years.  Please feel free to comment.)



Okay, I may be the last person in the US to watch the Avatar movie.  I watched it last week.  No particular comments on the movie.  But there was one thing that stood out and I think I will remember for a long time.  When the people wanted to communicate real connection, they said, “I see you.”

A couple of weeks ago I had an encounter with one of the narcissists in my life.  I have to limit the details because I don’t even want to come close to identifying him.  I was visiting with two friends when the narcissist came up to me (most likely to see why I was there—this was his turf).  He put his hand on my shoulder and I turned and we exchanged greetings.  So far, so good.  It lasted about a minute.  After very brief conversation, he began to berate the two friends with whom I had been speaking.  He spoke so negatively about them that I was afraid of what they would think.  Apparently they were (or pretended to be) in conversation themselves and didn’t hear what he said.

Now, the narcissist couldn’t have missed the fact that someone was standing with me.  He should have known them by name and position.  The only thing I can figure out is that he simply didn’t see them as anything important to him at the moment.  After his statements, he looked up at the clock and said that it was slow.  Then he walked away without a further word to me.

So, what happened?  He didn’t see them; at least not in the sense the Avatar movie uses the phrase.  Because his mind was on what he was saying, because he was positioning and preening, because he didn’t know if I was still a threat to him, he didn’t pay any attention to the people standing nearest to him.  He sent the same message to me when he walked away without finishing the conversation.  Once his little purpose was over, he moved on to the next opportunity to make himself look important.

You say, Dave, didn’t you try to defend your friends?  Didn’t you try to fix the situation?  Nope.  As I often am around narcissists, I was dumbfounded.  What had happened was so far from anything I saw as normal that it took me a few moments to understand it.  By that time, the opportunity had passed.

This is what the narcissist is like.  Others are not important until they are important to him.  He simply doesn’t see them.



Filed under Narcissism, Relationship, Uncategorized

Narcissism, Egotism, and Egoism

It’s Narcissist Friday!

(I am aware that this blog continually attracts new readers.  With somewhere around two hundred posts on narcissism and narcissistic relationships, it can be challenging for anyone to really use this material.  The search function works very well, if you know what to ask for.  Otherwise, we will all have to wait as the blog posts are sorted and categorized in preparation for a new (and exciting!) website.  So for the next few weeks, I want to dig back into the archives to pull out some of the posts that seemed most helpful over the last few years.  Please feel free to comment.)

I am about to finish “The Mirror Effect” by Dr. Drew Pinsky.  This book and “The Narcissism Epidemic” by Twenge and Campbell present a culture that is increasingly focused on the antics and philosophies of self-centered people.  Both books have something important to say, if for no other reason than to present the reality of the lives of the people Hollywood seems to find entertaining.  But, in my opinion, both books somewhat misrepresent narcissism and get it mixed up with a couple of other concepts.

The first is egotism.  Egotism is defined as excessively talking about oneself.  It reminds me of the country song, “I Wanna Talk About Me” by Toby Keith.  Egotists are focused on themselves and can hardly take the time to listen or care about others.  Now, I think someone taught them that this was the way life was.  The children of Hollywood often learn that they are the center of attention wherever they go.  People watch to see what hair style they choose, what clothes they wear, or what music they enjoy.  They are surrounded by admirers and sycophants all their lives.  Add to that the drug culture and the suggestion that drug use causes a stoppage of emotional growth at whatever age it begins and you have Martin Sheen saying that his son, Charlie, is still emotionally a child.  Children are supposed to grow out of egotism and into community.  In our culture, many do not.

Not all egotists are in Hollywood, but most are simply what we used to call spoiled children.  They need to be taught that life isn’t centered on them, no one really cares about their bodily functions, and the world doesn’t owe them either financial or psychological care.  If it wasn’t politically incorrect, I would suggest that many of them simply need a good spanking and an introduction to the real world.

The second word is very similar—egoism.  Egoism (note the loss of the letter “t”) is a philosophy that believes all personal action is fundamentally from self-interest.  Egoists believe that self-interest is the only valid reason for anyone doing anything.  So, according to this philosophy, those who go to war voluntarily do so for selfish reasons.  They may want recognition and are willing to take the risk or they may see a significant positive even in some kind of martyrdom.  Those who give generously to causes would have expectations of some kind of payback.  Those who are kind actually serve themselves.

Egoists have determined their philosophy after a certain jaded look at the world around them.  They see kindness and sacrifice and notice that many of those who do these things have self-interests.  They conclude that self-interest is the primary cause of all such actions and they accept that conclusion as valid.  A change of thinking may be as simple as meeting someone who actually knows how to love.

But narcissism is something quite different.  The narcissist is afraid and is driven to control, to manipulate, to abuse others, by his fear.  Whereas the egotist barely has any idea that there could be something about him that you would dislike, the narcissist is convinced that you would reject him completely if he ever let you close enough to know the truth.  The narcissist needs more than constant attention, he needs constant approval, and he will do almost anything to get it.

Of course, there are overlaps in these definitions.  The egotist may well be betraying a core of narcissistic need.  The narcissist would be the epitome, the ideal, of some form of egoism.  But it is generally helpful to remember that there are distinctions between the concepts.



Filed under Narcissism, Relationship

What makes a narcissist?

It’s Narcissist Friday!   


(I am aware that this blog continually attracts new readers.  With somewhere around two hundred posts on narcissism and narcissistic relationships, it can be challenging for anyone to really use this material.  The search function works very well, if you know what to ask for.  Otherwise, we will all have to wait as the blog posts are sorted and categorized in preparation for a new (and exciting!) website.  So for the next few weeks, I want to dig back into the archives to pull out some of the posts that seemed most helpful over the last few years.  Please feel free to comment.)


The answer to this is worth far more than the proverbial $64,000.  There is a general consensus, however, that the narcissist was made very young, through some trauma or series of traumas.  Abandonment or threatened abandonment by parents is a common theme.

I recently heard two stories of 4-year-olds who were sent out by parents to steal.  If they didn’t get what they were sent out for, they were not allowed back in the house.  Imagine what that would do…

One young lady I worked with was rejected by her mother from the earliest age.  In fact, she was told repeatedly, “I should have aborted you!”  She was never allowed to relax as a child, but was either coddled and pampered or abused and rejected.  Her mother would dress her up in expensive clothes and give her expensive hair treatments and parade her around like a doll.  Everyone would make much of her looks.  But the rest of the time she was considered a burden.  In other words, her mother was narcissistic.

What kind of confusion would it cause a child to be rejected for being a child, for wanting to play and laugh and wiggle; but to be praised for acting like an adult, when she was only four?

Through all of this, she learned one lesson from her mother:  she would be loved when she was not herself and hated when she was herself.  If she acted like her heart wanted to act, she would be rejected and abused.  If she acted like her mom wanted her to act, no matter how unnatural it was, she would be loved.

This appears to be a message learned by many who grow up to be narcissists.  They know in their hearts that they will be rejected if they relax or if they fail, or if they just are who they are.  In order to be accepted, they must create an image that is acceptable, even superior.  Control is the ultimate goal—control of what others think of them.  You are welcomed or pushed away based on what they think you will think of them.  When the narcissist looks in the mirror, it isn’t because she loves herself; it is to reassure herself that you ought to think highly of her.

So, yes, the narcissist is in pain and lives in fear.  That doesn’t excuse his cruelty, even if it explains it.  And not everyone who suffers such rejection ends up narcissistic.  For some, however, narcissism is the means they use to avoid and deny the pain.

But this is why it is so difficult to help a narcissist.  To go back to that time of fundamental rejection, to admit the vulnerability, is unthinkable.  Is it possible?  I do believe that the Lord can take us back into those most difficult times and lead us through them to wholeness.  There is such love and acceptance in the real gospel.  I do believe that there is hope in Jesus even for narcissists.  Someday I hope to see such a thing.



Filed under grace, heart, Narcissism

Overt and Covert

It’s Narcissist Friday!

(I am aware that this blog continually attracts new readers.  With somewhere around two hundred posts on narcissism and narcissistic relationships, it can be challenging for anyone to really use this material.  The search function works very well, if you know what to ask for.  Otherwise, we will all have to wait as the blog posts are sorted and categorized in preparation for a new (and exciting!) website.  So for the next few weeks, I want to dig back into the archives to pull out some of the posts that seemed most helpful over the last few years.  Please feel free to comment.)

Think about the people you know.  Some of them are what could be called loud people.  Others are quiet.  Some are outgoing, vivacious, gregarious, etc.  Some are inhibited, shy, withdrawn.  This doesn’t change just because someone is a narcissist.

It is easy to stereotype the narcissist as someone who must always be the loud center of attention.  But many narcissists have learned to avoid the limelight.  They control and dominate from behind the scenes.  In fact, you may not recognize this person as narcissistic at all.

Eleanor D. Payson has written about this difference in her book, “The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists.”  She differentiates between “overt” and “covert” narcissists.  The overt narcissist is what we have come to expect.  The powerbroker, the man in front of the camera, the mother-in-law who comes to your home and takes over.  The overt narcissist will come into your office space, sit on your desk, and dig through your papers.

The covert narcissist still wants to be in control but does so by “helping.”  Sometimes these folks offer to help with projects.  The only problem is that they end up taking over.  They work, or at least they motivate you to work harder, and they get things done.  But you feel stupid in the process.  When the project is done, it cost more than you had planned and it doesn’t look quite the way you had wanted it to.  But your “helper” assures you that this will be much better.  Your way just wasn’t good enough.  The covert narcissist will come into your office space to clean your desk and sort your papers.

This is the mother-in-law who comes to visit with her rubber gloves and cleaning supplies.  You find yourself angry and wishing she hadn’t come at all, when you are supposed to be grateful.  In the church, these people serve on committees and take jobs no one else will take.  It will be very clear that they are making a sacrifice to help you and you will be expected to praise them and honor them.  Never mind that they can’t seem to stay in budget or they alienate everyone else on the committee.  Never mind that the Missions Committee is now somehow responsible for setting the pastor’s salary and deciding what color to paint the outside of the church.

In all of this we have to understand that the goal of the narcissist is to look good and to feel good about himself.  It isn’t about you.  You feel like you are always being put down, but the truth is that the narcissist doesn’t really see you at all.  When Mom comes to clean, she just wants you to understand that she is really that good.  Aren’t you lucky you have her?

Interestingly, Payson suggests that covert narcissists often find their way to become a “doctor, therapist, minister, or missionary.” (p. 27)  These are all areas of service where one can appear to be helping while satisfying a need for control and favorable comparisons.


Filed under Narcissism, Relationship

First among Losers

It’s Narcissist Friday!  

Narcissism is a competitive condition. Let’s face it: narcissists are always competing. They are stronger and smarter and more deserving than you. They work harder or work less or work better than you do. Whatever they perceive as a positive attribute for you, they have to top.

The narcissist deserves to be in charge, to have more money, to have a lighter work load, to gather more sympathy, to be more popular, to get more attention—than anyone else. They will tell you stories about how bad they had it and they can always top your story. They hurt more from their pain, are rejected more by fools, and are less appreciated than you or me. It doesn’t matter if it is positive or negative, if it gets attention they have it more than you.

We are seeing more sports figures these days who reject second-place medals or trophies. Nothing matters except being at the top. Anything less than the best and most loved means nothing. It doesn’t matter what anyone says, they live by the motto that “Second place is just first among losers.”

One consistent characteristic I have noticed among narcissists is this idea that losing—in any way—is fundamentally unacceptable. I have heard narcissists push arguments way past any sense of reason just to get their opponent to concede. They will lie, cheat, steal, abuse, or attack to win a simple disagreement. Sports figures take drugs, businessmen cheat, entertainers starve and carve just to stay on top. Coming in second is just plain old losing.

Those in relationships with narcissists must understand this. There is no sympathy, no cooperation, no understanding when the competition begins. (Unless, of course, the competition is to be sympathetic or cooperative. Then you will lose.) His story begins with, “Oh, that’s nothing! One time I…” Your story is forgotten, in spite of the fact that yours is true. Her words begin with, “That’s nice, but…” or “That’s too bad, but I…” You are dismissed. Go sit in the corner while she tells her story.

The addiction to attention and admiration is so strong in the narcissist that anyone else who gets it is an immediate competitor. The narcissist will say nasty things about the person being recognized, insinuate whatever will bring the person down. I have seen parents take over the recognition that is given to their children and leaders take the spotlight away from honorees. Sometimes the actions of the narcissist are embarrassing to the rest of us. But not to the narcissist. It simply has to be done.

Of course, much of this refers to the behavior presented by the overt narcissist. Because they have learned to be more open about their desire for attention, the overt narcissist has little hesitation as he or she pulls the focus away from others. The covert narcissist must do this more carefully. Typically, the covert narcissist is a victim or a servant. They often stand there, looking sad or dutiful, waiting for others to notice them. Eventually someone will say something positive about the service or supportive about the struggle, and the covert narcissist will milk the attention by denying anything special until the other is almost gushing with praise or sympathy. Covert narcissists teach us that attention can be gathered by self-deprecation and understatement, and that those who appear not to be competing can still win.

I suspect that the narcissist sees attention as a limited commodity. There is only a certain amount of praise available in the world and he deserves all of it. There is a certain amount of sympathy in the world and she deserves all of it. Others should expect to take the second place.

Nothing and no one is worth more to the narcissist than attention. Lovers can never give enough praise or service or worship. Servants can never be trusted to give their all. With ruthless strength, the narcissist tears down anyone or anything that stands in his way to the top. Too many have found this to be true as the marriage or relationship ends. I have heard horror stories of how narcissists have lied and cheated to get their way in divorce and custody battles. They not only must win, but often must destroy.

Unfortunately for the narcissist, he isn’t usually good enough to deserve the attention he desires. He fails too often because his focus is not on the game but on how well others think of him. The quarterback may be amazingly gifted but if he can’t top all the rest, he pouts and curses. And something, probably the incompetence of those around him, is to blame for any lack on his part. The salesman may simply not be as good in his job as another, even though he is very good. But second place, losing, is someone else’s fault.

Perhaps one test of whether a person is a narcissist is how he or she tolerates attention given to another. Most of us can rejoice when someone else is praised. We might feel a little jealous or we might wonder why that person deserves the praise, but we don’t have to have it for ourselves or even take it away from them. The narcissist, on the other hand, can reveal much by the attitudes and words that are exhibited when others receive praise.

Those in narcissistic relationships should not be surprised to find themselves competing with their narcissists, even when they have no intention of doing so. It is just part of the deal.


Filed under Narcissism