In the last article (Part 4) I listed the formal characteristics that Mental Health Professionals might use to determine if someone has a narcissistic personality disorder and also listed some of the more informal observations of behaviours of narcissistic people.
In this article I will discuss a little more of the types of narcissism that those who have experienced this disorder either professionally or personally have begun to identify.
The common garden variety narcissist that most people are familiar with is the overt “out there” arrogant, self centered, full of himself (most often male), aggressive, obsessed with self image, flamboyant character. However as people study narcissists and their behaviour it has become more apparent that it is not just a “cut and dry” personality disorder with set characteristics. The one common factor to all narcissists would be that they are at their core “self centered”. To say that we as individuals share some behaviours and characteristics is true but we also have our own unique way of behaving and being, this is the way God has made us. So it stands to reason that narcissists as humans will also behave in different ways. Men and women are not the same in many aspects so there will be gender differences as well.
A number of different terms have come out to differentiate between different types of narcissism and I will briefly describe some of them here.
Overt narcissism – (as described as above) this is the “out there”, loud, dominating character. They don’t have any real feelings for others and no remorse for their behaviours. They are quick to pour abuse onto people and have a very over developed sense of entitlement. They will harass/bully anyone if they can safely get away with it, as in the poor kid on the checkout counter or the customer rep on company helplines. They will do the same to those that they have subdued in their relationships. They are often extraverted and can appear to be very funny, they are excellent actors and lie with absolute ease. They believe they are always right and will only ever tolerate things that are done their way. If you cross them and they see an opportunity, they will bully you and will do so publicly (if they can get away with it) and mercilessly. They will also seek to take revenge if they think they have been slighted. They often believe they are better than anyone else in almost every way and will focus on their personal image a great deal. They will exploit and manipulate people at any given opportunity to get what they want without a second thought for the person they are victimizing. These narcissists are more likely to be men.
Covert narcissism – (Also called introverted, hypersensitive or closet narcissism)’ this is a newer and less recognized form of narcissism that is gaining some acceptance as a valid type of narcissism. Covert is probably the reason that most people miss these narcissists, and covert is what best describes them. One of my most personal experiences is with a covert narcissist who sat right under my nose for many years and I completely failed to recognize it. In some ways covert narcissists are more damaging than overt narcissists as they use a cover of deception to hide their true identity. Covert narcissists hide behind a façade of kind, caring, “butter wouldn’t melt in your mouth” personality. They have an ability to show false compassion/sympathy and empathy. They may appear to be perfect and honest and full of integrity and they often hold very responsible positions. They are really difficult to spot unless you get to know them really well and are aware of covert narcissism. They fool people easily into thinking that they are the victim in a situation. For those closest to them they work hard to contain their inner turmoil but this will leak out at times with passive aggressive indifferent behaviour, or with projecting their insecurities on to those nearest to them. They will present as very fragile and distraught but will closely guard this deep sense of being imperfect and flawed. They reveal nothing of their true selves and those closest to them report true lack of emotional connection. They are also very sensitive to criticism. They have a sense of entitlement and superiority but hide this more carefully. They can be much more destructive at a personal level as they will quietly manipulate behind the scenes. They work extremely hard to hide any faults and or deviant abnormal behaviours and thoughts. They are also very vulnerable to stress and anxiety. These narcissists are more likely to be women.
I found this article today and it is a wonderful article that describes covert narcissism really well and is written by an individual with a background in psychology (I have not bought the training course at the end of the article as yet) http://spartanlifecoach.com/covert-narcissistic-abuse-unmasked/
Other types of narcissism or prominent aspects of narcissism is the Cerebral narcissist, the great and towering intellectual who is above all, and will use their intellect to reign superior over others. They are haughty and proud and will not hesitate to use their intellect to “smack” others down. They are often downright boorish in their behaviour and almost seem to be floating in a cloud of intellectual superiority.
The Somatic narcissist is very focused on physical appearance. They groom themselves perfectly and are often seen at the gym honing their physical appearance. You will see them often glancing in mirrors and windows at their appearance and they are truly a follower of Narcissus in having fallen in love with their appearance. They are always looking for praise and compliments about their appearance.
One thing that I have not mentioned so far is another common factor that all narcissists have, and that is their need for admiration. They desire to be admired and worshipped and that may be a clue as to where I am going with this discussion at a later point. I indicated that I have seen a difference in the way that male and female narcissists operate. It is my experience that many male narcissists will be more overt and openly bullying and demeaning of their victim where as female narcissists tend to be more covertly or quietly manipulative, so you won’t see the knife thrust into your back as they smile sweetly at you.
There are other forms/subtypes of narcissism and several of the articles go into more specific detail, if you are interested you can research these for yourself. Some of the reference articles also have more detail on these subtypes also.
So we have talked a lot about the types of narcissists and how they behave, but what about the impact that they have on their families or workmates or significant others?
It is my personal experience that narcissists suck the life out of you, they have been termed “emotional vampires” and this is a very apt description. They will take whatever they can get from you. They may take it quickly and move on or they may take it slowly and then discard you when you have no further use, but you can be sure that know how to “take”. Narcissists only give something if there is some benefit to them by doing this. They leave you drained physically, mentally, emotionally, financially and spiritually and think nothing of it.
Narcissists know how to cause confusion and disruption and chaos and crazy-making thinking in abundance. They will lie to cover themselves or make themselves seem more valuable or important. Even covert narcissists who wish to appear perfect will construct lies and deceit in such a way as to make you doubt yourself and your sanity, this is called “gaslighting”. For those of you who have lived with, worked with or been associated with a narcissist will know something of how they just make your head spin six ways since Sunday one minute, and then come and do the same again the following day, just when you think you have recovered. The picture below is an accurate description of how narcissists can make you feel. (he says from personal experience)
I want to add that the information that I put in my articles is largely from personal experience, and there is so much more experience that many others have in this area that I have not included. I apologize if there is information that I have left out and realize that this is just such a huge subject and that I will not cover it all in a few paragraphs. What I hope to do is cover the major aspects of narcissism that will lead into a biblical perspective at a later date.
In my next article I will discuss the ways in which narcissists impact those around them and some of the things they use to manipulate their victims. I will also discuss at some point the impact the narcissistic parents have on their children. There is a term/acronym ACON which is used and simply means “A Child Of a Narcissist”, and this is an article all on its own. So until next time, thank you for reading and God bless you.