I wrote this article, because there are so many victims of the Narcissists, who don’t know how to protect themselves. And we still don’t talk about this theme enough. I feel deep inner need to spread the word about this terrible thing called Narcissism. With spreading words we can do all that is in our power to stop the Narcissists hurting more and more people. Parents, siblings and partners should love you, not manipulate, use and destroy you. Let's make this world a little bit better by being informed.
WHO ARE THE NARCISSISTS
When we say the Narcissists, most people imagine individuals, who are obsessed with themselves, who have a grand sense of self-importance and crave attention and admiration. We think that we can tell, when there's one around. But there are also other people with the same personality traits, that are much harder to recognize. They can live with you, work with you, and you would never label them as the Narcissists. We will come back to these people later, now we’ll bring more light to what generally is Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Narcissism (drive to feel special) belongs to the so-called Dark Tetrad (formerly Triad) Personality traits. The other three are Machiavellianism (a cold, chess-playing approach to life and love), Psychopathy (a pattern of remorseless lies and manipulation) and Sadism (a tendency to delight in the suffering of others). People with these personality traits are also known as Toxic People. Dark Tetrad describes four personalities, but there are people who manifest two or even all four of the traits. It’s the correlation between psychopathy and narcissism that makes narcissists dangerous. Let’s concentrate on Narcissism for now.
People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder:
- have an exaggerated sense of self-importance and being unique
- are craving admiration and acknowledgment
- have fantasies about being influential, famous, and/or important
- exaggerate their abilities, talents, and accomplishments
- are preoccupied with beauty, power, and/or success
- believe that the world owes them something
- exploit others to get what they want
- have no empathy toward others
- lie to make themselves look good
- tell rich stories about themselves from desire to gain trust and manipulate their listeners
- don’t experience genuine emotions, their ability to verbalize feelings is most likely a learned behavior
- know how to play on other people's emotions
- think other people are just tools and objects needed to satisfy their own desires
- are smart enough to know what you are looking for and pretend to be that
WHO ARE THE COVERT NARCISSISTS
There are two main types of narcissistic personality disorder - Overt and Covert. Overt types can be easily spotted. It's much more difficult to recognize a Covert Narcissist, who is more introverted. In the academic literature they are usually referred to as “Vulnerable”, “Stealth”, “Introvert” or “Closet” Narcissists. This type of Narcissists have the same traits as Overt ones and share the same goals, they just act differently. A Covert Narcissist is like a jar with poison, but instead of being transparent and open, it's closed, nicely packed and labelled Tasty Marmalade and probably coming with the slogan "Best in the World". So if you look for someone who is loud, insensitive and arrogant, you won’t see a Covert Narcissist.
"The Narcissists are subconsciously aware of what they are in fact doing themselves, but they project it onto you, with the result that you then get blamed for exactly what they are doing themselves."
Now we're starting to see, why is Covert Narcissism so dangerous and damaging. It's the worst form of malignant narcissistic disorder. The Covert Narcissists do everything to look like a good person. You can live with a Covert Narcissist for a long time without even noticing that you're being manipulated. You think that you're eating marmalade, but you are getting poisoned spoon by spoon. You feel emotional pain and you even don’t know where it came from and how it evolved. It takes time, courage and knowledge to see things in their purest form - as they really are.
UNCOVERING HOW THE COVERT NARCISSISTS ACT
Knowledge helps empower those who are interacting with the Covert Narcissists. You can protect yourself only when you can recognize the narcissistic personality and abuse tactics. So let’s look in details at how the Covert Narcissists act. Read slowly and carefully, it’s a long list. They:
- give compliments, 'cause they want compliments back
- use sweet talk to manipulate you
- are initially very charming and charismatic
- believe that they know best and that their way of doing things is the correct way
- have thrill or novelty seeking behaviour
- counter, block or divert your conversation whenever you want to talk about something that is unpleasant for them. They might even pretend they don't hear you and leave the room without an answer, showing you that you are invisible for them
- are hypocritical and apply rules to others not themselves
- lead parasitic lifestyles
- are well behaved in public, but abusive in private
- have fun with people only if they're having fun at another’s expense
- are not acting openly. Instead of directly blaming you, they make you question and second-guess yourself. They can get what they want indirectly through passive-aggressive behavior
- minimize their accomplishments so people reassure them how great they are. It’s ‘cause they constantly seek reassurance of their talent, accomplishments and skills
- take things personally and feel distrustful, mistreated, unappreciated, and misunderstood. Although they have fragile sense of self, they dream of greatness and don’t understand why people don't appreciate them. They feel that the world hasn’t sufficiently recognized their uniqueness
- have feelings of neglect or belittlement, anxiety, and delusions of persecution
- are highly threatened by opposing perspectives and viewpoints and hypersensitive to criticism
- regularly violate the boundaries of others, may regularly invade your privacy, go through your things, phone, emails or diaries, or expect that you mind read their wishes. They may even steal your things
- use more gentle tactics to achieve the same goals as Overt Narcissists. They might appear kinder than them, but don’t be fooled. Their emotional accessibility is rather a performance than a true act of care. They are mimicking emotions of others and are more cunning and deceptive than the Overt Narcissists
- can make themselves seem vulnerable, good-hearted, shy and humble. They can pretend to be a poor lost child, that needs your rescue. But as soon as you help, they got you
- play the role of victim and a martyr
- they do everything to keep the focus on themselves
- intentionally make you distrust your perceptions of reality or believe that you’re mentally incompetent. This is called Gaslighting
- are competitive and want to be always on the top, sometimes in unethical ways like cheating
- withhold such things as money, sex, communication or affection from you
- lack the capacity for self-reflection and introspection necessary for taking accountability for their actions, so they blame others and the world for their failures or anything that is wrong in their life
- use projection as a strategy. The Narcissists are subconsciously aware of what they are in fact doing themselves, but they project it onto you, with the result that you then get blamed for exactly what they are doing themselves. This is very sick and wicked strategy that people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder often use. During discussion with them you can easily feel you are going crazy
- may stalk or follow you, in real life and also online. If you are on social sites like Facebook, they stalk your friends, look in their profiles, then talk badly about them, or write comments, where they don’t belong to show their power
- deny anything that doesn’t reinforce their grandiose image, you can wave with a real evidence in front of their faces as much as you want
- try to make you feel small, unimportant and irrelevant, to make themselves bigger, more important and more relevant
- can enjoy creating confusion and conflicts between people, whether they are the family members, coworkers or friends
- are more likely to express envy, rather than put down others directly
- concentrate on empathic, compassionate and caring people. For these people it’s very hard to see, that they're dealing with pure evil, ‘cause they believe there's something good in everyone and that people, who are nice to them can’t lie. No, there are also really truly bad people, who are great actors among us, and it’s dangerous to be naive in this case
- can’t connect with you and your feelings, just because they are so preoccupied with themselves. They don’t feel remorse for the pain and emotional distress they cause and usually have little regard for your talents and abilities
- don’t put energy into anything that doesn’t bring them something. As if they said “I help you, but first tell me what will I get from that.”
- give, when they want something in return or to remind you that they gave you something whenever there’s a chance
- are not helping for a help sake, they are doing it for others to think about them that they are good. When they do something good, they make sure somebody’s watching. They might even be in a helping professions and appear that they care for others, but they are only motivated by need for recognition or egoistic pride
- might brainwash you into thinking that they are human beings with morality
- act like a chameleon changing their identity according who they are talking to
- are so sneaky that only close people who live with them for longer time can get a glimpse of a person whose words don’t match his or her actions
- lie and call you crazy, even when they are confronted with a direct evidence. They lie, deny and blame feeling no shame about it
- can apologize, but only if it serves them and they don’t mean it
- expect special treatment
- aren't good listeners. It’s mainly because they are self-absorbed and consider others boring
- are prone to boredom
- are hyper-sexual or have deviant sexuality
- ignore the needs of a child for whom they are responsible. They can place or leave the child in a dangerous situation
- are more likely engaged in domestic violence, child abuse and incest than Overt Narcissists
HOW DO VICTIMS OF COVERT NARCISSISTIC ABUSE FEEL
Covert Narcissistic abuse is, in the words of Dr. Craig Malkin, “kind of violence directed at men and women alike, that isn’t that obvious. It creeps into people’s lives in the form of whispered profanities, subtle put-downs, and simmering rage. It thrives in the shadows, as it always has, wreaking havoc with people’s health, safety, and sanity”. It’s not like a physical abuse where you see bruises. It’s more difficult to prove. It’s a form of spiritual rape.
This kind of abuse is so serious that it's victims struggle with symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD). CPTSD is typical for children who were brought up by the Narcissistic Parents.
As a victim you feel frustrated and isolated. You feel like you're the only one in the world who can see who your parent, sibling or a partner truly is. It looks impossible to explain to anyone, who's not experiencing the Narcissistic abuse directly. You fear no one will understand or believe you, so instead of reaching out for help, you decide to withdraw from others. You start to feel paranoid, self doubting and thinking if it’s not your fault. You are feeling alone and neglected, because the Narcissist doesn’t see you as separate individual and lacks empathy for you.
You can also feel helplessness, worthlessness, depression, toxic shame and emotional flashbacks. The longer you are exposed to a toxic Covert Narcissistic abuse, the more you lose self-respect and self-confidence. It's gradually undermined by the Narcissist. You feel you are living just to fulfill the needs of someone else. You put aside your dreams, desires and needs and sacrifice all your life to please the abuser.
"A Covert Narcissist is like a jar with poison, but instead of being transparent and open, it's closed, nicely packed and labelled Tasty Marmalade and probably coming with the slogan Best in the World."
Narcissist twists and turns reality according to his or her needs and convince you that you are the one who is abusing, so as a victim you don’t get what is happening. You feel lost, ‘cause your parent, sibling, partner or a friend are never satisfied no matter what you do. You feel unheard and unseen. Situation with the Narcissist is so confusing, that you often can’t even exactly identify clearly what you feel.
You constantly watch what you say or do around the Narcissist, ‘cause you are afraid of anger, punishment or that you become object of his or her envy. You lose ability to be spontaneous or assertive and you may extend this people pleasing behaviour outside of the abusive relationship. You can start to serve your partner, coworker, boss or whoever resembles your abuser. Especially highly sensitive, compassionate, and emotionally intelligent people then become extreme people-pleasers. You fear that you’re not enough and may constantly strive to ‘compete’ for the abuser’s attention and approval.
As a victim you may hear the abuser’s voice in your mind, amplifying your negative self-talk and tendency towards self-sabotage. You may sabotage your goals and dreams and think you don’t deserve good things, ‘cause the Narcissists made you believe that you are worthless. Many abusers are envious of their victims and they punish them for succeeding. So as a victim you associate your success with cruel treatment and start to be afraid of it. You keep yourself away from the spotlight. You try to survive by rationalizing and minimizing, and you are telling yourself, that the abuser is not that bad.
An intense trauma bond is often formed between victim and abuser ‘cause the victim is programmed to rely on the abuser for his or her survival (Carnes, 2015). So as a victim you may even protect your abusers from legal consequences, portray a happy image of the relationship in public or share the blame of the abuse.
You feel relief and energized when your parent, partner or friend isn’t there. In their presence you can’t relax, feel comfortable and act as yourself. You feel energetically drained when with them. You feel like you always need to ask for permission before doing anything. Narcissists control where you go or call. You are bombarded by text messages and asked where are you, who you are with and what are you doing. Any try for your independence is boycotted. You are manipulated into feeling that you depend on the abuser and can’t live without him or her. If you disagree with the Narcissist or say the truth, you are emotionally blackmailed by threats, anger, warnings, intimidation or punishment. So you feel fear, obligation or guilt.
HOW TO START HEALING AFTER COVERT NARCISSISTIC ABUSE
As result of the abuse you feel helplessness and hopelessness. But there is help and hope as well. You're not alone, there are millions people in the world who experienced the Narcissistic abuse. You have to reprogram your brain. The brain is plastic and our reactions to certain situations can be changed. When you decide to go on the healing journey, you decide to be who you really are, to be happy, free and live your own life. Recovery from this form of abuse is challenging, but it’s definitely worth it.
"You can protect yourself only when you can recognize the narcissistic personality and abuse tactics."
Uncover what is happening
The first step is becoming aware of the reality of your situation and validating it – even if your abuser attempts to gaslight you into believing otherwise. Study, search for information or find a professional, who is familiar and experienced with of the Covert Narcissistic Abuse and PTSD or CPTSD. You can join communities that concentrate on the Narcissists, like Redit Community r/raisedbynarcissists and discuss it with other victims.
Start to concentrate on your needs
Many victims were manipulated into thinking that when they do something for themselves, it's selfish. No, it's not. Do good things for yourself, that will help you gain back your destroyed self-confidence and self-trust. Live a healthy life, look at what you are eating, do sports, yoga, running and meditate.
The way the narcissists behave is painful, but remember, it has nothing to do with you. Don’t take what the Narcissists say personally. Be practical. Carefully observe what they say and what they do. Observe your emotions, try to find out where they came from. Observe your thoughts. When you start to concentrate on your mind, you might be shocked that it's full of negative thoughts about yourself. Awareness helps you cope with things. When you don’t understand, you can’t act the right way. Act rationally. Remember, it's not you. It's what someone programmed you to be. You gotta free yourself from the sick environment.
Learn to listen to your instincts
Your gut is many times smarter than your brain. Does your stomach hurt you? Do you feel tension? There is something wrong happening and it’s not your illusion as an abuser is trying to persuade you. The abuser took away all your spontaneity. Get it back by starting to take the spontaneous reactions of your body seriously.
Cope with the situation
When you gained new view at the situation, you can learn how to cope with it. You'll learn not to react, but to respond. You set boundaries and prepare an escape plan. Are you living with an abuser? You have to leave. If the situation can’t be changed even after that, go No Contact or Low Contact (in case of co-parenting).
You have to keep in your mind, that Narcissists don’t change. Personality disorders are resistant to psychological treatment as an individual must have insight and a willingness to change. But if manipulation, lies and abuse bring the Narcissists some kind of profit, they have no reason to stop their malicious behaviour. Imagine that a Covert Narcissist would admit that she or he was manipulating and lying to people all his or her life. They gave too much energy into making people think they are special. Their fragile selves would collapse, if they were uncovered. So don’t start to think that they will change. Realizing this was one of the most important things, that helped me on my healing journey. There’s no way you can fill their emptiness or change their mentality.
Don’t forget to be kind to yourself
Many times we react differently than we wanted, we wanted to be smarter or stronger (I created a Stop Narcissists Collection, that can help you with that. We will come to it later). Don’t blame yourself for downfalls. Remember you were manipulated and lied to for such a long time, that it will need the same or even more amount of time to heal. Give yourself time and don’t take yourself seriously. Laugh at your mistakes. Life is short, every second special and nothing lasts.
Live with animals
You don’t have to do it, but having animals like dogs and cats at home, can unbelievably help you. They give you pure unconditional love. When you take care of them, it also helps you to concentrate your mind away from black thoughts to something much nicer and warmer. It helps you experience more positive emotions. And if we look at it clinically, by petting dogs or cats level of oxytocin increases in you as well as in the animal. And that feels good and is healing.
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF AGAINST COVERT NARCISSISTS
You started your healing journey and would like to know how to protect yourself. Especially if you are before No Contact stage, still living with the abuser or you have to cope with the Narcissists at work or in the public.
"Don’t take yourself seriously. Laugh at your mistakes. Life is short, every second special and nothing lasts."
As I mentioned above, sometimes we blame ourselves for not saying the proper things or not being as smart, brave or strong as we wanted, when we interacted with the Covert Narcissistic abusers. Sometimes we even don't have a chance to say what we want. So I created the Stop Narcissists Collection, which is full of T-Shirts, Mugs and Tote Bags, that can help you protect yourself against the Narcissistic abuse. They are your silent friends, reminding you, that you are a valid and independent human being, who won’t accept narcissistic tactics anymore. These products will say it for you, so you don't have to get your hands dirty with the Narcissists. If you want to see details about the products, just click on the picture and it will open in a new window.
Practice it. The more often you do it, the more you will keep the Narcissists away from you.
DON'T PLAY THEIR GAMES
The Narcissists love to play games with you. Recognize it and don't follow them where they are leading you.
SHOW THEM YOUR VALUES AND BELIEFS
Don’t be their tool or slave, show the Narcissists that you have your own independent view of life.
DON'T TAKE WHAT THE NARCISSISTS SAY PERSONALLY
There’s a problem in them, not in you. No matter how much they try to make you believe otherwise. Show them what you think about it.
WATCH YOUR EMOTIONS - It's your emotions that the Narcissists are after. It’s their drug and ego supply. So don't feed them.
SHOW THEM WHAT YOU DON'T ACCEPT - When you accept Narcissistic behaviour, you are keeping yourself in their malicious circle. Step out from it by rejecting what they say.
SHOW THEM WHAT YOU ARE NOT - Narcissists love to manipulate you into something you are not and doing something you don't want to do. By being less of what they want you to be you become more of who you want to be.
GET YOUR VOICE BACK - Stop being an echo of Narcissistic Ego. You are not just a reflexion of somebody else. You are you.
This article is based on my own experience, shared experiences of other people, as well as on knowledge based on articles and books by psychologists and psychiatrists specialized in this field. If you identified that you are coping with the Covert Narcissists, please do everything to save yourself. Find help and start to heal. You are playing for your life. If you know someone who needs help, share this article with him or her. Help them find their way out of the Narcissistic abuse misery.