Overt traits of covert narcissists

They are extremely judgmental of others.  This is because they have so many insecurities they are hyper critical of those around them.  Their criticism of others bears absolutely no relation to reality, if fact, the more threatened they are of the positive attributes of a person, the more critical they will be and the more inclined they will be “to bring them down a peg”.

They are usually charming to the person’s face and viscous about them behind their back. They are quite capable of all sweetness and light and make horrible comments under their breath as they walk away. That charm will be increased when they want something from a person.  This can include material goods, money and status.  There is absolutely nothing authentic about their relationships with others.

Their motto is “attack is the best method of defense”, so no matter what happens nothing is ever their fault.  This denial of responsibility refers to everything from taking a wrong turn in traffic, a failed relationships, abusive behaviour or even a badly cooked meal. They will project every potential negative feeling about themselves on to someone or something else.  A classic comment from a covert narcissist is “now look what you made me do”.  Their arguments are so illogical and so repetitive that there is no point in giving a counter argument.

You will never have a more isolated or lonely “relationship” than that with a covert narcissist.  They may act like part of a couple but every now and then they will drop a comment that makes you think “they have absolutely no idea who I am”.  They will also constantly tell you “who you are” and “who they are”, they never let actions speak for themselves, they always accompany their behaviour (and yours) with a narrative that paints them as nothing less that flawless and is designed to devalue you, they will often feign pity for you for being so substandard and imply that you are very lucky to have them because not many people would tolerate such an imperfect partner/ friend like you.

Covert narcissists are completely amoral and without conscience or remorse.  They objectify other people and they only see them in terms of what they can harvest out of another for their own gain.  They do not care if they suck someone dry, they will merely cast them aside and go on the hunt for a better resource of attention, money or status.  When a narcissist cheats, lies or abuses another person they see it as a “hit, a point or a score”, it makes them feel powerful and in control.

Narcissists are extremely condescending and they need to be like this because they have to feel superior at all times.  It is as though they think that if they “permit” the freedom of expression of others in their presence that they will completely and disappear.  Because like all bullies they are weak and cowards, so they have a tendency to negate, devalue and disregard the thoughts/opinions and feelings of others almost out of a fear that they will be over shadowed. However, if you listen to the content of what they say, there are no core values/beliefs and their opinions change depending on who is in front of them and how much they think they can “impress”.

They are the people who can walk over someone who is obviously in distress/dying on a busy street and will get annoyed with them for “being in their way” (unless of course there is an audience in which case they will be the epitome of “compassion”). They despise it when people talk about their illness or misfortune but expect 100% attention/empathy when they are talking about themselves.

Their emotional/self-awareness and interpersonal/social skills are extremely low. They also have absolutely no capacity for logic (which is directly related to their inability to take personal responsibility for anything – including things that they say themselves), it is for this reason that you can never have an authentic connection.

The saying goes “if you are looking for offense, you will always find it” and so it is with narcissists.  Their radar is constantly in search of possible slights on their character. Like all highly critical people they are extremely sensitive to even the mere hint of anything other than an accolade. This could include not being at home when they called by (naughty you, you should have known), to laughing at yourself (which they will see as an indirect attack on them).  Everything that happens around them, they revert back to themselves.  For example, if you go on holiday somewhere nice and have a great time, they will see that as you doing it on purpose “to rub their nose in it” because they couldn’t get time off work/spent their money on an extension of their house.  Either way you went on your holiday specifically to insult or make them jealous.  They literally cannot understand that you might have booked your holiday without them in mind.

If they know that you want/would like something from them, they will deliberately withhold it from you because they would see that as you taking advantage of them and that is their job not yours!  This could be anything from old clothes that they are discarding that you admired, a lift to the airport to someone to listen to a problem you are having. The answer will always be “NO” unless there is something in it for them.

They are extremely envious of others (to a pathological extent), they will try to hide it but they will also try to get some of what you have from you.  Even if they have much more for example in material wealth, they will still try to take from those who are less affluent.  This is linked to the fact that they cannot feel gratitude for what they have and are always looking for more even if it means cheating, stealing or lying.

The covert narcissist constantly needs low level attention, they don’t necessarily want to be a pop star but they do expect to be the centre of attention in all of their other relationships, they will constantly charm new people and utterly ignore those who they think that they “have”.

Narcissism and suicidal feelings

If you come from a narcissistic family of origin or have had a narcissistic partner, suicidal feelings are “normal”.  This is because you have been drip fed poison about yourself over a long period of time, interjected with acts of “kindness”.  The acts of “kindness” were performed simply to keep you doubting yourself. In reality the narcissist wants to destroy you because it gives them sadistic pleasure and makes them feel strong. They invalidate everything that you do or take credit for it themselves.  If you come from a narcissistic family of origin you will have been caught up in a system (more than one person), that has constantly devalued you.  This only adds to the confusion that you will be experiencing, one person could be wrong – but all of them?

What the narcissist is out to achieve is to murder your soul.  To attack your personality because they do not have one.  They do it by choice not by accident, they know how to behave but they choose not to (all you have to do is notice the difference in how they behave publically vs privately).  They get away with it in part because you project good intention on to them where there is none, even if we think that they are “up to something” it is our incredulity, politeness and our cultural mores that keep us stuck (such as you should respect everyone, being vulnerable and open is a “good” thing, don’t judge people and universally trust everyone until proven otherwise)

A narcissist might well speak of you in glowing terms in public and at the same time demean, humiliate and abuse you behind closed doors.  This is an inverted smear campaign designed to discredit you if you say anything about their abuse.  They are extremely paranoid and their fear of exposure makes them capable of anything, even murder.  That sounds very melodramatic but when you are dealing with someone who has no conscience there are no limits to what they will do.   They do not see you as a sentient human being, merely an object for them to feed off, provide drama and entertainment for and generally make them feel more alive inside their emptiness.  Being offensive and crippling others self-esteem just makes them feel powerful.  Another really unpleasant thing about narcissists is that the nastier you are to them the more respectful they will be to you.  So if you are abrupt and uncooperative with them they will simply see you as a bad source of narcissistic supply and move away.

No matter how strong a person is, there is no way that they could stay strong under a constant vicious, vile and sadistic attack like that.  It is no wonder that sometimes you feel filled with a sense of utter despair, unloved (and unlovable), and helpless.  The reason for this is that you were looking for love where there is none, you were told that they love you, but a narcissist notion of love is to draft someone else into their service.  The minute that doesn’t work for them, that person will be totally discarded like an empty wrapper, the only time you will hear from them again is when they want something from you.  It is not your fault that a narcissist treated you the way that they did.  In fact, it has nothing to do with you at all, it could have been anyone with a kind and trusting nature that they felt they could push around.  Knowing that does not take away the pain or scars that they have inflicted but it is a good starting point to take back ownership of your life and to become the whole and beautiful loving person that you were always intended to be.

To do this you have to do a few things:

  • Work on creating stronger boundaries
  • Realise that no one has the right to tell you who you are, what you are thinking or the motives behind an action or decision that you took
  • Realise that you are being lied to constantly with only a light dusting of truth to make their lies seem credible
  • Know that they will say bad things about you behind your back, there is nothing you can do to prevent that (they can do it about anyone) authentic people will see through their smoke and mirrors
  • It isn’t personal, it is an extension/function of their personality disorder
  • Try to remember who you were when you were a young child, before people tried to mess with your head
  • Keep a journal
  • Show compassion to yourself
  • Be careful (judge without being judgemental i.e. is this person a good fit for me, my strengths and my weaknesses) about who you let get close to you

Projection

 

 

One of the most difficult things to understand in a relationship with a narcissist is their projection of their own dysfunctional behaviour on to you.  This is particularly difficult and painful if you happen to be a child of narcissistic parent(s) because before you are developmentally mature you are being told some really toxic information about who and what you are, because you “trust” your parent you believe them not realizing that they are projecting all the thing that they do not like about themselves on to a very small, vulnerable and suggestable child.  A narcissist has no boundaries so they will even consider a baby to be “bad” if they cry or won’t go to sleep.  Narcissists are not problem solvers so they will never consider why a baby is crying and what could they do to remedy the situation, they will just think that the baby is doing to annoy them and will give them their “just punishment” by ignoring them, putting them out in the garden or yelling at them (narcissistic rage).

Once that child becomes able to talk the narcissist parent will start to name call such as telling the child that they are selfish (“think of all the sacrifices I made for you”), always looking for attention (“You are so needy, will you give me some space”), a horrible child, truly ghastly child, they will threaten abandonment, call them liars (if a child dare to mention that the parent’s behavior is less than perfect (such as favouritism) the will swing around and say well “if you were nicer to me I would be nicer to you” or plain “don’t be so stupid”, or that they are a failure.  On a rational level the child knows that they did not do or are not what they are accused of being, but because they are hostage to their parent(s), there isn’t any way out. As a result the child either numbs out completely or becomes highly reactive and hyper sensitive trying to anticipate the parent(s) needs before they do.

What is actually happening here is that the narcissist cannot tolerate the feeling of shame that s/he has so they project their behavior on to you to protect their own very fragile sense of self and make you believe that it is your fault.

With regard to adult relationships the narcissist will try to make you feel like you have just found your soul mate (be it a lover or a new friend), that you have so much in common – you like the same everything from values, food, film, music, books and holiday destinations (what could possibly go wrong?).  They will put you on a pedestal and will admire everything about you in an exaggerated way.  The thing is that when you try to climb down off the pedestal, they won’t let you.  So when you admit weaknesses or vulnerability they will totally invalidate what you said because s/he needs you to be perfect to reflect/mirror their own “perfection”.  They believe that you are going to save them from themselves by being this perfect person that they have created in their heads and “make it all better”.  When they realise that you are not going to make them feel better about themselves, the mask of the false self, slips and their true damaged self emerges.  They don’t realise that feeling better about themselves cannot be sourced externally. This also is a dynamic that happens between parents and children, the parent thought that children would make them feel fulfilled and fill the emptiness that they have inside them, but the children don’t, they have their own needs (that will never be met) and therefore have failed the parent aka “bad, selfish, horrible and needy irritants.

Because you didn’t make the narcissist feel better about themselves they will consider that you just didn’t give enough admiration, money, love, attention and praise.  There are a number of manipulation tactics that they will use to “make you try harder” such as narcissistic rage, silent treatment, never appreciating anything that you do for them, name calling and gaslighting etc.  The once adoring partner/friend turns into a monster and they will go to extreme lengths to hurt you and everything about you will annoy them and will be “wrong”.  They will criticise the way you look, the way you cook they will rant and rave at the way you speak until finally you feel like you are walking on eggshells and will tip toe around them just “to keep the peace”.  It is at this stage that the person who is involved with a narcissist will deny their own self of sense of self explicitly to avoid the wrath of the narcissist for just being.  Anyone with any sense of self left will leave the relationship at this stage (and will have to acknowledge that a smear campaign will be mounted against you always – because the narcissist is never in the wrong).  This is especially hard since the abuse did not come from you and other people will not see the dynamic and like Eleanor Rigby

Waits at the window, wearing the face
That she keeps in a jar by the door
Who is it for?

With a narcissist, it is for absolutely everyone else.  The less they know a person the harder they try to keep their mask on.  So narcissists will often perform amazing acts of kindness to complete strangers and neglect and ignore their own family.

Because the narcissist cannot even consider/contemplate their own inadequacies, terrible behaviour and psychotic turns they have to make it be someone else’s fault (projection) and who better than their nearest and dearest because they can abuse behind closed doors and anyone else would just walk away (anyone who wasn’t carrying their own narcissistic childhood wounds).

A narcissist will not take responsibility for their own horrendous behaviour therefore in their mind it has to be someone else’s fault.  They can flatly deny that something happened at all or someone else “made them do it” and they absolutely do not care who they might hurt in the process.  They cannot bare the fact that they feel so empty inside, they constantly compare themselves to others which makes the insatiable gossips and are riddled with envy, jealousy and the constant need to “put other people down” either by going after a person’s reputation, making up lies or by name calling.  All of this negative activity makes them feel better than/superior to everyone else, but only in the very short term.  Inevitably it has no long term feel good feeling, they know what they are doing and it only fuels their feelings of shame and unworthiness, because they have been behaving like this since childhood, acting out comes to them on automatic pilot, they have done it before they realise what they are doing and the damage just adds to their shame which in turn has to be projected on to someone else.

One of the most confusing thing about this kind of behaviour is that a narcissist can blame someone for something when that person wasn’t even present when a situation occurred (that the narcissist refuses to take responsibility for) the narcissist will loudly claim that another was responsible and that poor unsuspecting person will be completely confused when others start to behave in a hostile way around them.  You need to realise that their projection onto you was not your fault and you were not selected because you were weak, you were selected because either you don’t know what they are saying to you behind your back or because you won’t confront them out on their amoral behaviour, you know it isn’t going to get you anywhere and will only make them even more vindictive.

Einstein said that the most dangerous people are those who believe in their own lies.  So it is with narcissists they will look you straight in the eye and tell a complete lie.  With most “normal” people you can tell if they are lying/fabricating or exaggerating too much, because they look a little uncomfortable.  Not so with the narcissist they are extremely comfortable with their lies, because if their lie backfires on them they simply flatly deny that they told it and make up another one.

In synthesis, projection is all about a narcissist blaming someone else for their own psychotic, vindictive, cruel and pathological behaviour.  It is a very immature and deceitful way to behave but at this stage I hope you realise that there is absolutely no point in expecting any other type of behaviour from a narcissist and remember once a narcissist always a narcissist if they have done it once they will do it again.  Don’t be lulled into a false sense of togetherness with a narcissist, they are only being “nice” as a means to an end.  It is only a matter of time before the mask slips again.

 

 

 

 

Arguing with a narcissist

When arguing with narcissist it is important to know that you will never “win”, they will argue in an incoherent way and you will be left wondering “what just happened?”. They are deliberately destructive in their approach and are in the argument to win.

Here are some of the techniques that they use:

  • They negate everything that you say (even when it isn’t an argument),
  • So you say something like “my fried Mary is going to Greece on holiday next week”, they will reply “no she isn’t she is going to Spain”.  They say it with such certainty that you start to question yourself, even though you know that the narcissist has never met Mary.
  • They assume superior knowledge to you on absolutely everything even when it is blatantly obvious that they haven’t got a clue what they are talking about. For people who are so image conscious it is surprising that they don’t mind looking idiotic in this situation.
  • There is absolutely no point in accusing them of wrong doing because they are never wrong and will never admit fault. It is likely to make them defensive, aggressive and more determined to “win”.
  • Narcissists will never talk to you, they always talk at you, so you are never going to be able to make that connection and they will fire off one ridiculous statement after another.
  • They will use the hamster wheel effect, which is that they will argue round and round in circles without ever getting anywhere. This is done to frustrate their “opponent” (and all conversations with narcissists are competitions) and you will just give up because it is clearly a futile conversation.
  • They will hop from topic to topic. You could be talking about a domestic issue that needs to be resolved in a hurry and they will suddenly say “well you made us miss the flight to Paris three years ago!” “What?”
  • They will talk at you in a really condescending and patronising tone which implies that they are seriously wondering if you are bright enough to follow the “conversation”. If you get angry with them for not sticking to the point they will tell you to calm down and not be so emotional.
  • They will accuse you of things that they are doing. So they will accuse you of having an affair (because they are) and when you say “I was thinking that you might have been having one” they will go on the offensive and say “you are just saying that because I accused you first”.  They are big into projecting their shortcomings/faults on to you or other people.
  • They have a cycle of being reasonable and being completely hypocritical and unreasonable. This is very difficult because you never know which version of them is going to turn up.   This allows them to take the opening move like in a chess game  giving them the upper hand because you always hold back to see who is showing up
  • Never expect an apology there is no way that the narcissist will admit to any wrong doing, which means that there is no point in asking them to be accountable for their behaviour.
  • Use “we” instead of “you” because this will sound less threatening to them and more likely to bring the argument to a speedier close.
  • Don’t be provoked into taking their bait. They will try to escalate the argument simply because they find it fun and love the drama.
  • Pretend to take their excuses seriously in a way that they know you don’t such as “yeah right”, this is a very narcissistic thing to do because you are saying the right words but your tone and body language will let them know that you don’t believe them.
  • These conversations are exhausting and futile so get out of there as fast as you can

 

Lazy Parasites

Narcissists are notoriously lazy in practically everything that they do (unless they feel like they have a worthy audience or they are working towards a specific personal gain).  It is for this reason that they do not cooperate well either in the home or in the work place.  Because of their immense sense of entitlement and superiority they will see that it is the job of everyone else, to take care of their needs.

This laziness can be in the form of not wanting to do menial jobs around the house, not wanting to work outside the house to bring in a second income, riding on and taking credit for the work, opinions and efforts of others, not taking care of their relationships both familial and social, unless they perceive a person to be either useful or powerful in which case they can turn on the charm in a dazzling way.

Laziness also manifests itself in how they look for a partner.  A narcissist will automatically look for someone with low confidence and self-esteem or a carer/giver type, as they will know instinctively that they will be easier to control, manage and well give them more of their time, attention and resources than someone with a healthy sense of boundaries and a strong sense of self.  Just like predators in the wild, they will seek out wounded or hurting prey so that they do not have to expend too much effort or energy in hooking their target.  This prey will have already been primed from previous experiences to succumb to the initial charms and attention of the narcissist, they will lie, manipulate, cheat and will mirror what they think their prey wants to hear.

Once you become involved with the narcissist they will show his or her true parasitical nature and gradually manipulate their “partner”, “friend” or colleague into taking care of them.  They will do this absolutely without remorse or any sense of moral wrong doing or guilt.

Another ploy that narcissists will use to ensure that their needs are met is by invalidating the efforts of others and exaggerating their own contribution through lies, manipulation (either overt or covert) and drama.

A narcissist is “emotionally” very lazy and will not work on their “relationships” unless they think that the other person could be useful to them.  They will not take up the phone or write to a sick or depressed “friend” and they would seriously resent having to listen to them or worse still take care of them in some way.  That is not the role that they have assigned themselves and would definitely see it as beneath them.  Other people need to do that for them.  In fact, in the eyes of a narcissist, other people are not allowed to have needs or feelings, if they do they had better take care to keep them to themselves as it will only make the narcissist angry and resentful if they feel that they are being “put upon” in any way.  Their attitude is that other people are only there for their convenience.  If you are any trouble they will ignore and shun you until they want something from you.

Narcissists do not invest in their relationships once they have their target (friend, lover or acquaintance) “hooked”, as it takes too much energy and effort.  Obviously their own children take no effort to be “hooked” because the narcissist views them as their own property from the moment they are born.  Due to the parasitical nature of the narcissist, they will feed off the energy and efforts of others.  Consequently, if you are in close proximity to a narcissist it can feel like all the oxygen is being sucked out of the air or it is like being covered in ticks, having your blood slowly but constantly sucked out of you.

They will say things like “I would love to help you but…”, “I was going to bring you chicken soup but…”, “oh I was just about to do that, but you got there before me” the mechanism that is at work here is that they are trying to extract gratitude or a sense of indebtedness without having actually done anything.  Naturally they had absolutely no intention of doing anything at all.

The narcissist if a master in the art of harvesting compliments and praise for something that they didn’t do.  For example, take a husband and wife scenario: guests have been invited to dinner and the wife has done the cleaning, shopping and cooking all day long, then just as the husband (or vice versa) hears the car pulling up to the house, will jump into action and rush to the stove and start stirring pots or put finishing touches on the table.  The guests will turn to the narcissist who has been completely lazy until this point and pay a compliment to them and the narcissist will say in a totally insincere way “Oh no my spouse did it all” and the guests will think how modest s/he is and generous in their “praise” of their partner.

Narcissists unlike other parasites do not know when to stop taking, so they will eventually leave their partner so depleted that they can lose the will to live, if a narcissist makes a partner depressed or suicidal they will feel no remorse what so ever.  They will see it as an achievement in the ultimate execution of power and at the same time get annoyed with their “host” for lowering the quality of the narcissistic supply.  They will spend other people’s money with loose abandon if given access to it, they will take credit for things that they did not achieve, they will get angry if they are not given everything that they want without question, they will verbally, emotionally, sexually and spiritually abuse their partner in a way that will leave them feeling confused, exhausted and weak.  Just where the narcissist wants them to be.

No Contact

No contact is the only route for some people to take after being in a relationship with a narcissist, whether “partner, lover, family member or friend”.  When we realise that what we “loved” about the person was who they said they were and fell in love with their potential rather than their “true” selves we will probably start to move away.  A narcissist will react in anger at any sign that people are not convinced by their false persona any more, and who inevitably take steps towards distancing themselves from them.  They will try to force their sources of supply back into the positions that they have allocated them.  This can often come in the form of obsessive, invasive and threatening behaviours – which are designed to coerce and intimidate you “back into your place”.

There is absolutely no point in trying to reason with a narcissist at any time, but especially when they are trying to force you to bend to their will.  If you doubt your instinct that you should leave them ask them “Why do you love me, what makes me special to you?”  Take mental notes and pay extreme attention to the answer to this question, it might provide you with many answers (as painful as they may be) because more often than not the answer will be focused on the narcissist and not on you.  The best solution for you could be no contact.  No contact means you don’t answer phone calls, text messages, emails or little “love” notes that might be sent to you to lure you back.

It is possible that if you are living separately from the narcissist they might hang around outside your door, follow you after work or send you messages saying things like “I know where you were last night”, just to let you know that s/he is stalking you.  This is overt intimidation/abuse and designed to frighten their victim into submission or to disrupt their life as much as possible.  If a narcissist feels your fear they will consider it a win and that will make them feel better about themselves.

A narcissist’s “love” is their own fears and insecurities projected on to someone else, who will try their level best to make it “better” for the narcissist who will use lies, manipulation and faux “love” terms to keep you trying harder.  However, if you are reading this, you probably know that what they promise is never going to happen.  Like big babies, they just want you to take care of them and put a veneer on so that everything looks all right.  They will let you know that whatever you do it will never be “good enough”, the harder you try the more they like it and they will keep raising the bar until you are exhausted and feel like all of the life is being sucked out of you.

Low Contact is a phrase to describe a way that you can keep in touch with a narcissist in your life, on your terms.  This could be a family member, where you don’t want a huge bust up, but you do not want to play the role that has been “allocated” to you by the family, or it could be with an ex-partner, where you have to co-parent children together.  The terms for low contact do not have guidelines, only you can decide what works best for you.  Once you have clarified those boundaries in your own head, the challenge is to stick to them.  If, for example, the person that you are going low contact with is a family member, and they were over involved in your life prior to now, they may well behave like a thwarted lover.  You might well be subjected to histrionics, a smear campaign and them recruiting flying monkeys (real or imaginary) to attack your reputation and isolate you from other members and friends of the family.

A narcissistic mother will be very experienced at pushing your buttons, she may summons you to her house with pleas of not being able to cope and to try to make you feel guilty for not jumping through her loops, but it is important to stay strong and hold your ground.  It is hard at the start, but it gets easier as time goes on.  If an ex-partner is trying to force you in to being more reactive and involved, low contact works well. If you are parenting together or have to sell a property, avoid phone calls and text messages.  Write clear and concise emails stating exactly what you expect and what you are going to do in any given situation.  Text messages are too vague and can lead to misinterpretation, phone calls rely on memory – and can very easily be distorted.  So email, don’t get involved in the unrelated stuff.

Another way to go low contact is to withdraw emotionally.  This means:

Don’t react to his/her questions about you (they are trying to harvest information for leverage at a later date)

  • Don’t react to their probes, and there will be many
  • If they tell you sob stories about themselves, suggest that they seek professional help, that you do not feel qualified to help them. This is called grey rock and there is a section on this in this blog.

If it gets too intimidating, you can get a court order to tell them to stay away

Even if you go no contact and you move house or country, the narcissist can still try to influence the way that others perceive you through smear campaigns, lies and behaving like they were the victim.  This can be unnerving because you don’t know what they said about you.  That is something that you just have to let go of, because you cannot control what people say about you or what they believe and you might sense a shift in some of your relationships with people you know.  However, if they believe the narcissist they never really knew you in the first place.

Acquaintances who believe the narcissist who has gone on a smear campaign about you, might stop inviting you to social events or give you funny looks.  This will probably make you feel a bit paranoid for a while (understandably so), but a narcissist cannot maintain their mask indefinitely and eventually they will expose their true selves.  Narcissists use friendship as a means to an end so if they see that their smear campaign doesn’t affect you maintaining the “friendships” with others it will not be worth the effort.