If you are a man who has been dealing with narcissistic abuse in a toxic relationship, you are likely filled with self-doubt and you might not even know where to turn for help. Despite the popular assumption that only women are abused in relationships, the opposite is true.
Men experience toxic relationship abuse too – and they are not at fault.
You are not responsible for the toxic and hurtful behavior of another person no matter what your gender. I was talking with a friend about his feelings of self-blame after being in a toxic relationship. He was told that he was at fault by the abusive woman and because of his ability to be accountable to his own part in things became convinced that even though logically it could not be his fault he must still be to blame. This issue with men seems to go deeper because of the way they are taught by society as well as the lack of support surrounding emotional abuse toward men. Why is this? The issue is complicated.
Men seem to be taught that their feelings do not matter and when abuse happens to them in a relationship and it is somehow their own fault. Women who are abused are also taught it is their fault, especially with narcissists, however, it seems men have a secret shame they also carry about what it means to be a man and experience their emotions around abuse. Male survivors tell me that even though men recognize the abuse, they lack the support needed to truly personally acknowledge it and leave the situation. Friends may likely say you are weak and should just stand up to the abuser.
Good Men Take Care of Their Wives, Right?
Or in the case of a man with a narcissistic woman, the message might be something like “ a happy wife is a happy life” leaving the man with the belief that he has to accept the behaviors, that this somehow is normal. Men have told me they use avoidance or shut down in order to cope, pushing their own feelings aside to “ keep the peace”. Having very few outlets for being heard leaves a lot of men totally invalidated. As an example of what I am talking about, another male survivor of abuse told me, “Many men have this false thought that as a man they aren’t allowed to speak up about abuse. They fear they will be shunned and laughed at and told they “let it” happen. This is, unfortunately, a stigma that is very hard to remove.”
Men Who Speak Up Might Be Invalidated.
Men who have survived narcissistic abuse face the problem of when speaking out about the abuse they have suffered, people often do not believe them. What can be frightening at times is that people instead believe they, the man, are the abuser. It is a challenge for people to see at times that being screamed at and devalued by any gender is abuse including when it happens to men, and this can be incredibly invalidating and demoralizing for male victims of narcissistic abuse. Worse, invalidation is one of the most painful parts of this kind of abuse in general – so not being heard or believed can be especially traumatic for men who have been abused by females or any partner in relationships.
You Are Not Alone
There are so many things that I can not write and even as I am writing this I struggle to say all that I feel needs to be said. In order to help men who have survived narcissistic abuse by any person in their life, know you are not alone and your feelings matter, your experience matters. The delicate nature of feelings for both men and women makes it very difficult to talk openly about this. Some men find there is no support, not from family or friends when they mention the issues that are facing.
Your Abuse Experience is Valid.
The message I would like to give to men is this. Your experience is valid. Your feelings around that experience are real and they matter. Most of all though, you did not deserve abuse. Think of the abuse in reverse ( man abusing woman) it would be blatantly unacceptable on all levels. We know with the complexity of narcissistic abuse that in almost all situations the abuse can be covert and very difficult to be recognized by anyone outside of the relationship, This is not to minimize the abuse women also face but instead to illustrate the challenges men face when speaking about the abuse they have lived with.
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If you’ve ever been in a relationship with a malignant narcissist or someone who has narcissistic personality disorder, you might have wondered on more than one occasion whether you are the narcissist in the relationship. Thanks to the gaslighting and manipulation involved in the relationship, a toxic partner, friend, or family member may have convinced you tha you are, in fact, the one who is toxic and that they are the innocent victim. So, how do you know if you’re the narcissist – or not? What if You’re the Narcissist? (See video on YouTube or read below).
What’s the Difference Between Healthy and Unhealthy Narcissism?
Would you be offended if I told you that you have at least a little bit of narcissism in your personality? It’s actually the truth! See, every single one of us has some amount of narcissism.
So, let’s talk about that. One of the biggest things that people ask me when they first find my videos, articles, books or podcasts is, “but isn’t EVERYONE a narcissist?” And my answer is always yes. But…there’s more to it than that. See, there is such a thing as “healthy narcissism,” and then there’s what we call “malignant” or “toxic narcissism.”
Healthy Narcissism vs Unhealthy Narcissism
Whether it’s due to our culture, our technology, our parents, or some other cause, a larger percentage of narcissists seem to be coming out of the woodwork. Some people are even calling it an epidemic. And of course, in the past couple of years, tons of new so-called experts have come out of the woodwork, MOST of them doing the work because they have found someone like me and healed, so they’re trying to give back. There are some who aren’t so genuine in their efforts, but we won’t give them any more focus than they deserve.
Is there a narcissism epidemic?
As news and gossip around certain well-known narcissist-types swirl through the media and our minds these days, you’ve got to wonder if maybe there is a narcissism epidemic, right? In any case, there seems to be evidence of an increase in narcissism in our society, and there are those who would argue that there is a certain amount of narcissism that is healthy for most people.
Would you be totally shocked that I agree with “them,” that there is a certain amount of narcissism that is necessary to survive and certainly thrive in the world these days? It’s true. But a healthy amount of narcissism looks a lot more like a dedication to one’s own happiness and success – along with the ability to empathize with and generally care for other people and their feelings.
How do you know what’s healthy when it comes to narcissism?
What does healthy narcissism really look like? Well, it starts with self-esteem. It looks like loving (or at least being okay with) yourself and understanding that you have value without the need for excessive outside validation. It means that you don’t need people around you to be “less than” you in order to feel validated.
It’s being able to be genuinely happy for another person’s success and able to admit it if you feel a little jealous of it. It’s using those feelings to push you to inspiration and success, rather than to feel insecure and threatened by it.
And this next part is especially important. Healthy narcissism must coexist with healthy empathy skills.That is exactly the difference between a toxic narcissist (or sociopath, or person with narcissistic personality disorder/NPD) and a healthy person with a healthy amount of narcissism.
In fact, I personally feel that compassionate empathy – or the lack thereof – is the tipping point between relatively healthy narcissism and malignant narcissism.
When does it turn into malignant or toxic narcissism?
Officially, a malignant narcissist is a person who has narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) along with other antisocial features, paranoid traits, and ego-driven aggression. They may also exhibit an absence of conscience, a psychological need for power, and an inflated sense of self-importance and entitlement.
But here’s the part that’s really important here – it’s the empathy thing. When we say “narcissists have no empathy,” we don’t necessarily mean that they’re not capable of figuring out what you’re feeling. What we mean is that narcissists don’t FEEL empathy in the same way as most people do. They have no compassion, no remorse and they don’t feel regret – unless they regret a choice they made because it negatively affected them directly.
What I mean is that a narcissist cannot feel genuine empathy, and often, unless it benefits them directly, they don’t even pretend to understand how you feel. Of course, when it suits them, they are more than happy to use the ability to read people in order to manipulate them. In fact, even in the cases where they appear to understand emotion, it’s only to their benefit that they use that ability – only when and if it’s required to get what they want from you. THAT is “cognitive empathy.”
And there’s a big difference between the kind of empathy a narcissist displays and actual empathy. To clarify, in general, real empathy is the ability to sense, understand, and feel the emotions of someone else, even if you haven’t had an identical experience. Now, real empathy might be cognitive, emotional, and/or compassionate.
But either way, real empathy means, on some level, you can put yourself in someone else’s shoes. You can feel what they are feeling even if you cannot relate to what they are going through directly because you can sort of imagine how they must feel. You feel compassion for them and you care about their feelings because of this – and then you act accordingly.
False empathy is sadly used as a manipulation tactic by narcissists when they want something from you. As emotionally delayed as they are, narcissists are usually relatively intellectually inclined. They can “think about” what someone else is feeling, but it doesn’t affect their emotional state directly, nor does it play a part in how they treat the other person.
Malignant Narcissists Do Not Recognize Boundaries
Narcissists by nature are wired to do whatever is necessary to get what they want, and they do this in varying degrees of intensity, often pushing their victims to the point of emotional exhaustion, isolation, depression, and even various forms of PTSD – and then there are the physical symptoms involved with emotional and psychological abuse.
Considering who these people are and how much they seem to need from the people closest to them, you won’t be surprised to know that they are quite often attracted to their polar opposites, for obvious reasons. While a toxic narcissist will create excessive “rules” for you and will enforce them even to their own detriment at times, they will refuse to accept your own boundaries, and often, if you do have the nerve to try to express those boundaries to the narcissist directly, they will actually intentionally cross them, just because you asked them not to do so.
It is one more way they show you they’re in control. This may start off small at the beginning of your relationship. For example, let’s say you have a new friend who might be a toxic narcissist. You tell them early in the relationship that you really prefer they call you before they drop by. They do at first, but over time, there are little drop-ins that you don’t expect. They’re just dropping off that thing they borrowed from you that one time, what’s the big deal? Or they just happened to be in the neighborhood, but they forgot to call. Do you mind making them a little something to eat?
Then, before you know it, they’ve got their own key and they stop by anytime it pleases them. And they complain if your house isn’t company-ready. Yep. They will slowly push your boundaries bit-by-bit until they completely obliterate them.
Why do we accept this?
We tolerate this kind of abuse for a few different reasons – and you might be surprised to learn why. But here’s the thing. Often, when we end up in toxic relationships with narcissists, we also may have been raised by them – or at least, deeply affected in childhood by some form of abuse or trauma.
Many times, that does come from a disapproving or controlling parent – or a directly abusive one. Or, in some cases, our parents may have just been really neglectful of our emotional and/or physical needs. Let’s talk about why the narcissist chose you and how this is connected to the suffering you’re facing in this toxic relationship.
What do narcissists look for in a partner or friend?
Narcissists seek out empathic, highly intuitive people for a reason – we care about how people feel and we are driven to action by their intense emotional outbursts. This is because growing up, someone taught us that in order to receive love, we needed to keep them happy by doing SOMETHING – we either had to live up to their particular standards for us (and often, those were impossible standards), or we had to stay out of their way, or we had to do whatever they told us to do, or whatever your parent’s particular needs and demands were.
We learned that love was not unconditional, even where it should’ve been, and we learned that our value wasn’t in our individual selves so much as it was in our ability to serve the toxic person in our lives. So, we became people pleasers and we learned that loving someone meant to do anything we could to make or keep them happy, regardless of the personal cost to ourselves and our mental or physical health.
And let’s not forget how easy it can be to love bomb us – as people-pleasers, we are wired to want people to like us, and to seek the best in everyone. We are willing to put up with being treated like we don’t matter, and we are trained to literally put other people before our own HEALTH even – just to make them happy and to feel like they love us – even though that is clearly not the truth. See how that might make for an ideal source of narcissistic supply?
Narcissists Make You Feel Unlovable
In case you didn’t catch it – and just to remind you – the people who taught you that you weren’t lovable unless you served them and met all of their demands – they were wrong. Actual love doesn’t require you to give to the point of physical illness, or to put your own mental health on the back burner, or to ALWAYS give in and do what the other person wants, even when it’s against your moral, ethical, or personal beliefs. Real love doesn’t require you to give until you’re completely drained and never get anything in return. While a “real love” relationship might sometimes look like 40/60 or 70/30 in certain situations, the “average” ratio of give and take should be close to 50/50.
Bottom Line on the difference between healthy and unhealthy narcissism? Healthy narcissism is self-focus, self-confidence, self-interest, and personal drive, but these qualities must coexist with a healthy concern for others and the ability to genuinely empathize with them.
Unhealthy, malignant narcissism and NPD involve the lack of emotional and compassionate empathy and concern for others, combined with an unhealthy amount of self-focus. And of course, this kind of narcissistic person is secretly quite insecure and very troubled, in some cases – but you may never know that unless you look beyond the smoke and mirrors.
(Prefer to watch/listen instead of read? See video on YouTube)
Do you know a woman who seems to love being a perpetual victim? Someone who blames everyone else for her misery? Whether she’s your mother, your wife, an ex or a friend or relative, have you met a woman who seems to have sort of lost her ability to get what she wants? If you do, let me ask you a few questions.
First, is she of a certain age? And if so…does she seem to have an over-inflated sense of her own self-importance? Is she ridiculously entitled and does she require excessive and constant attention admiration from the people around her? Does she clearly think she is more important than others, even if she pretends otherwise? Might she have a tendency to over-exaggerate her accomplishments and/or her talents? Does she often talk about how she used to be famous or beautiful or rich?
Does she seem to think she might only be able to associate with people she deems special? Is it difficult to have a conversation with her that isn’t…well…about her? Does she tend to take advantage of people and their kindness? Is she the kind of woman who seems to want special treatment above everyone else, and does she forget or not seem to be able to care about how people feel? Is she conceited or stuck up or arrogant? Does she always need to be the best and have the best of everything?
And what happens if you dare to criticize her? Does she get upset or angry when she doesn’t get what she wants, or when people don’t treat her better than they treat everyone else? Does she seem to always have issues in her personal relationships and friendships?
And despite the fact that she tries really hard to seem perfect and infallible, do you ever secretly think she might secretly be insecure or that she might be dealing with a lot of shame about herself?
If so, you might be dealing with an aging female narcissist. In fact, she may have found that she’s not quite as capable of getting the kind of narcissistic supply that she’s used to. This can happen when the narcissist’s family and friends have just had enough and one-by-one, abandon them.
In some cases, the narcissist loses their ability to attract new supply because they get older and lose their looks, or because they become so self-involved that they forget how to do the whole love bombing thing – or any combination of these things. But a narcissist really NEEDS that supply to continue to exist, right? So what happens then? Do they become a real person, or do they just sort of lose it?
What is a Collapsed Narcissist?
When a narcissist is unable to obtain narcissistic supply, what can you expect? Some people call this a narcissistic crisis or a collapsed narcissist. Whatever the label, it’s a big problem – and often, not just for the narcissist, but also for the people around them.
For the record, let me define the collapsed narcissist: it’s what you get when a narcissist has stopped being able to obtain the proper amount and type narcissistic supply. And narcissistic supply is, in most cases, a person to help bolster the narcissist’s self-worth, self-esteem – value as a human being. In essence, a collapsed narcissist will feel like they’ve been denied the very supply they need to exist – their proverbial life’s blood.
This leads to narcissistic injury, and as the collapsed narcissist writhes helplessly in the pain of not getting what they believe they’re due (whether it’s meeting some big goal or simply getting the admiration and praise they feel they rightly deserve), their whole world feels like it’s falling down around them.
Psychology of the Collapsed Female Narcissist
When it comes to the collapsed female narcissist, they will quickly find themselves losing self-esteem and in so many ways, their self-image is nearly erased. They begin to self-devalue and self-doubt. They literally hate themselves to the point that they project this self-hate onto everyone else around them. So, since she figures that everyone “hates” her anyway, the female narcissist may as well hate them back. She sees no other option.
There is no more (or very little) social life for the collapsed narcissist. People, the narcissist reasons, are all fake and stupid anyway, so why should they bother to be kind to anyone? At this point, the female narcissist practically lives in constant attack mode, attempting to force people around her to provide the much-needed supply to which she was once accustomed. She becomes overly sensitive and full of rage and hate. She throws temper-tantrums that would rival a two-year-old and is outright intolerant, disrespectful, and often even violent in words and even actions to the people around her.
The previously-maintained facade of a nice/cool/easygoing/friendly kind of person falls away and the true face of the narcissist is revealed – rage, ugliness, and general disgust for humanity.
Female Narcissists and the False Self
Narcissists put up a facade or create a false self-image for the world. They need you to think that they are superior and they need to have the best of everything. Of course, covert narcissists put on a very different image of them having low self-esteem, which they really do, and they love to play the victim. They might also appear to be quite altruistic, but they only do this in order to get attention, not to actually help anyone. Grandiose and covert narcissists project themselves differently, but they both are just as manipulative, dangerous, and lack emotional and compassionate empathy.
All narcissists thrive on narcissistic supply which they get from others who they use, manipulate, and abuse. Female narcissists are, in so many ways, just like those mean girls that you hear about. They do what they can to make their appearance flawless, and narcissists who become mothers manipulate and control their children. Their kids quickly join the ranks of their main sources of supply. That is why children of narcissistic mothers don’t get to experience unconditional love growing up, and many of them were abused, physically, psychologically, or both.
But what happens to these female narcissists when they age? What do you think happens to them when their appearances change and end up getting wrinkles? What happens to them when their children leave the nest? And may even go no contact on them? And if she is divorced or widowed, how would she gain supply? You can see that is when the world of the aging female narcissist begins to crash down on her, she’s at risk of collapsing.
The Collapsed Female Narcissist in Action: What to Expect
While they are still unable to deal with any sort of blame, criticism, or perceived disrespect of themselves, they are actively projecting their own self-hate to the people in their lives – or maybe random targets such as people of different religions, races, or even political affiliations. This is when the gloves come off and the female narcissist blasts out her blatant bigotry and small-minded ways. You’ll see that anyone who is different from the narcissist is quickly minimized and put into a “not good enough” box (to put it very mildly).
This is also often when narcissists will go all-out to abuse their partners, whether physically, mentally, or otherwise. And yes, even female narcissists will abuse their partners and anyone else who comes into their inner circle. Some narcissists will excessively cheat, or gamble away their money. In some cases, it’s worse than that, but we won’t go into all of that today.
The loss of narcissistic supply triggers defensive behaviors, such as the whole “leaving my family and starting a whole new life,” behavior – in which the narcissist literally flees what he or she sees as the scenes of their failures and attempts to literally start over again. They may lose not only their primary source of supply – spouse or partner – but also their children, friends, and anyone else who used to offer supply.
This leads to the ultimate collapse and often, a mental breakdown from which they may never recover. If you look at the narcissistic personality as a sort of house built on stilts, imagine that the lack of narcissistic supply is a strong wind that causes the house to come crashing down.
The Choices of the Collapsed Female Narcissist
The female narcissist has two choices if she wants to move forward here. She can try to become a whole person and develop real coping skills (and in some cases, obtain a new source of narcissistic supply), or she can remain collapsed and poison everything else in her world in the process.
So back to the house metaphor – the narcissist could burn down all the houses around theirs in order to take revenge on everyone and everything else. What it all comes down to is that regardless of the reason for the narcissistic collapse, the narcissist blames everything and everyone EXCEPT her self. She must believe, ultimately, that she is a victim and that nothing is her fault.
Do you know an aging female narcissist?
If your mother was that narcissist and you decide to go no contact with her, you can bet that her world feels like it is ending. She same will go for any female narcissist you’ve dealt with – but when she is unable to find and secure a new, worthy source of supply, she will become openly mean to literally almost anyone she deals with, and she will believe she is in the right, every single time.
You might call her a Karen, if you were the sort of person to call out Karens.
Remember this. When a female narcissist is collapsing, she might feel like everything is falling down around her. Her world feels like it is nearly ending – and as she pathetically tries to hold on to the self she used to be, to hold on to her past, she will secretly loathe herself – but she will blame everyone but herself for this issue. She may not even recognize that she’s no longer the self she used to be. She may become more insecure than ever, and chances are that she will do her best to keep faking it. She might spend a lot of time in a plastic surgeon’s office, and she might find herself competing with other women in odd and uncomfortable ways.
The truth is that she hates herself for what she has become, even though aging is natural and part of life. I mean, don’t get me wrong – as someone who is 45 years old living in a society that values youth and shuts down women of a certain age – I understand why it can be difficult – especially for a woman who bases her entire value on external things and the ability to manipulate people to get what she wants.
The female narcissist would prefer that reality to be covered up – she wants to hide her current self so badly. As the female narcissist ages, her beauty begins to disappear, her kids are no longer around, and she is losing her sources of supply – those people who inadvertently were her “shield” to the world. And now that she’s no longer able to control people the way she used to, all of those terrible parts of herself she has been working so hard to hide are bubbling to the surface.
That means she will do lots of crying and will not make an effort to hide how pitiful she really is. Expect plenty of hoovering at this point as the collapsed narcissist will do what she can to get her kids back if they’ve gone no contact, not to mention other former sources of supply. You’ve got to remember: She is desperate right now as her world has crashed down.
A collapsed female narcissist can be even more dangerous and crueler than her younger counterpart, believe it or not, and be careful with her, because she will be the dangerous type who has nothing left to lose. It’s isn’t pretty, and while it would be really easy to feel sorry for her, don’t let her pitiful appearance fool you – she is more toxic than she appears.
Narcissists have this way of making us feel responsible for their happiness. After dealing with one of these toxic people for years, you might even allow yourself to feel responsible for keeping them emotionally safe – or at least for making sure they have whatever they want and need at any given moment. And, if you’re anything like I was, you might even have gone to extremes to do so.
For me, this was true even when I had to do something that I didn’t want to do, like pay my bills late in order to make sure my ex had the money he needed to pay for his hobbies or whatever he wanted. Or sometimes, it would mean doing something that is even further outside of your personal ethical standards – and I won’t elaborate here, but I can’t tell you how many people have shared stories like this with me. And I have a few of my own that would knock your socks off, if I’m being honest.
The same thing happened with my narcissistic parent, but in a bit of a different way. In this case, I knew what was and was not acceptable and I’d do whatever I could to try to fit in the mold that she had created for me. Often, this was to my detriment. For example, she would cook food that she knew I did not like, and she would act upset if I refused to eat it – to put it mildly. By the time I was 8 or 9, I had taken to pretending to like food that literally made me sick to my stomach in order to please her. Worse, I would later go sneak into the fridge and eat stuff that I DID like, which would also get me in trouble. And this would lead me to a lifelong struggle with my weight.*
*Side note, I am not blaming anyone but myself for my struggles – and I’m working on getting that under control. But the truth is that my weight issues could cause serious health problems (and have, in the past), and at least the psychological part of them are partially related to the situation I described.
Does any of that ring true for you? Whether you had a narcissistic ex, or a narcissistic friend, or a parent, did you find yourself feeling the need to keep them happy? And if so, have you ever wondered exactly why? What exactly caused you to try to keep them satisfied even if that meant going above and beyond at your own expense?
Logically, if you think about it, it makes sense that you (or anyone who found themselves at the mercy of an abusive narcissist) would, right? Because you knew that if you did not give the narcissist what they wanted and needed, you would face whatever consequences they might enact. You would be the focal point of their narcissistic rage and the narcissist would even devalue you even more. That is a terrifying thought that haunts anyone who has ever been in a toxic relationship with a narcissist.
But starting the moment you realize what you have been dealing with, you’ll start to change. It will seem slow, but before you know it, you will get to the point where you begin to understand that you have been abused. You’ll realize that your boundaries have been violated over and over again by the narcissist.
That will be right around the time when you reach a point where you know that something in your life needs to change – and fast!
That’s When the Narcissist Will Snap.
The narcissist snaps because they lose control – of YOU. See, your understanding of this person and their personality issues will get clearer and more comprehensive as you study them and their typical narcissistic behaviors, checking them against videos and podcasts like this one. As this happens, you’ll find yourself thinking a little differently, and you might even stop trying to coddle and protect them from the disappointment or anger that will inevitably come when they notice you’re no longer tolerating their childish behavior.
When you realize that you’ve been actually enabling the narcissist by giving them narcissistic supply, you might even get a little angry. Your anger might propel you forward and you might cut their source of supply off, whether you do this in a “cold-turkey” fashion or you use a more subtle “fade-away” kind of method.
What to Expect When the Narcissist Finally Snaps and Loses Control
In any case, when you do finally have enough of the mind games and manipulation, you’ve got to know it won’t sit well with the narcissist. They feel like they cannot function without you at this point, and even though you have given of yourself to the point that it has caused you a lifetime of mental and emotional exhaustion, not to mention the possibility of physical health problems, all the narcissist knows is that they aren’t getting what they need. The fact is that there is literally nothing you could possibly do to actually be “enough” for the narcissist anyway.
But they’ll be happy to keep draining you forever if you allow it. And if you don’t – well, that’s when the narcissist will often snap and lose control. If you’ve been there, you already know how scary that can be. And what should you expect when this happens? Well, let’s talk about it.
Narcissistic Injury, Followed by Narcissistic Rage
The very thing that causes the narcissist to snap is when they endure narcissistic injury – which is a painful reminder that they are not as good as they believe. Then they become desperate for more supply. See, in any case where a narcissist gets upset, hurt, or offended – or when they don’t get special treatment or favors – or literally, anytime they don’t get what they want, they will demonstrate narcissistic injury to guilt you into doing what they want.
And once you’ve realized who they are and you’ve stopped trying to please someone who will never, ever really be satisfied…well, that’s when the narcissistic rage will set in.
Narcissistic rage is a tactic the narcissist uses when they know they’re wrong but won’t admit it, or when they don’t get what they want, or when people don’t treat them different or more special than others, or when their sense of entitlement is threatened. Basically, anytime things don’t go their way, they will get inconsolably angry in an attempt to bully or coerce you into giving them what they want.
So, once they see you won’t budge and you won’t do whatever they’re demanding in any given moment, they snap and fly into that narcissistic rage, which is also a sign of them losing control of their emotions. You can compare it to a toddler having a violent tantrum – and while they may be relatively intelligent in other ways, narcissists are about as emotionally mature as that toddler. When they are feeling unhappy, upset or angry, or put-upon in any way, they will spin out of control and stomp their feet and hold their breath, proverbially speaking. Even literally in some cases.
Devalue and Discard
When the narcissist is losing control, you can expect to deal with them tearing you down in any way they can. The devalue phase will be in full effect. This is they will beat you down emotionally, insult you (outright or covertly), and make you doubt yourself and your self-worth.
This is a typical part of the narcissist’s cycle of abuse and when they do it effectively, it can cause you to believe you don’t have a chance of finding someone better, or that you’re not worthy of love or consideration. Don’t fall for it, my friend. The narcissist chose you for a reason – probably because you really are the amazing person they thought you were in the beginning when they were idealizing you.
In fact, it is common for narcissists to use devaluation to keep you from leaving. See, by implanting such ideas in your head, they hope you’ll feel like they’re your last resort. Again, do not fall for it! (And let’s be honest – if you’re anything like me, you realize that being alone would be far less difficult than continuing to be with someone who makes you FEEL alone.)
Loss of Narcissistic Supply Leads to Next-Level Narcissistic Abuse
Now, don’t misunderstand me here. The fact is that the narcissist will devalue you even when they are receiving ample supply from you. But if you cut it off, or even if you simply express that you also need to care for your own needs, that is enough to make the narcissist snap. And that’s when you can expect them to get REALLY mean, while they attempt to further devalue you.
When the narcissist is losing control, expect them to throw a list of insults, mistakes you’ve made, and anything else they can think of to hurt you, at you as they dig deep into your insecurities, saying anything they can think of to hurt you. Remember: there is no level to which they won’t stoop.
Inevitably this will lead to you being discarded, whether they actually leave you or not. Either literally or figuratively, the narcissist will sort of “throw you away,” as in push you out of their life. This can happen as part of a rotating cycle of abuse that can go on for decades if you let it – or it can be a final “break-up” – a sort of “showdown” of sorts which will hopefully represent the ultimate end of a toxic relationship. And despite the fact that you might think otherwise right now, trust me when I tell you that this would be the best possible outcome. Other things that might happen are far more ominous – and yes, that includes that you might actually end up staying with them or getting back together.
And, if you’re still in the relationship or you’re freshly out of it and still hurting, believe me – I know it might not feel that way now. It will feel like your life would be over if you really lost this person completely. But, listen…I promise you that one day, when you finally do get away and you start to heal, you will remember this very moment and you’ll see what I mean. You’ll know I was telling the truth.
Do you need help and support in your narcissistic abuse recovery process?
How can you get support in your healing from narcissistic abuse? Start with your friends and/or family members who may understand and be willing to support you. If you don’t have supportive or understanding people around you, which is often the case for survivors of narcissistic abuse due to the fact that narcissists have a tendency to isolate you, you may need to look at some other options. Here are a few to consider.
When I was younger, I had a thing for a certain type of guy. I was seriously into these “dark and disturbed” types. The rebel without a cause. The guy who wrote poetry, who was probably a starving artist of some kind, and who hated the whole world and like 99 percent of the people in it. He would always have some cause he was super passionate about, and often called people “zombies” or “sheep.” He wasn’t super friendly and being the codependent I was, I would take pleasure in finding this kind of guy in dark corners of parties or other gatherings, and sort making it my mission to get inside his head and make him like me. We would end up having these deep, intellectual, and philosophical conversations that left me feeling like I’d had some sort of religious experience. I’d always be all googly-eyed, thinking that he “saw me” and that we were connecting on some deep level. The only thing was that after an initial couple of meetings, I’d always be left feeling like I’d been duped, but I couldn’t quite figure out why.
Can you relate? Let me ask you: Have you ever met someone who seemed to be sort of an introvert – they might have been a little shy, and might have even talked about how they were a highly sensitive person or even an empath, but the more you got to know them, they also seemed to kind of show a weird sense of selfishness and low-key egocentricity?
If so, you might have been dealing with a covert narcissist. This is what we call someone who is sort of an “incognito” narcissist. They might act like an introvert as far as most people can tell. People who don’t live with them might even assume they ARE an introvert – just a little shy, maybe a bit too sensitive.
So, how can you tell someone is a covert narcissist? What are the signs and how are they different from introverts and “regular,” more overt narcissists?
Well, that’s exactly what we’re talking about – how to identify covert narcissism. And, we’ll cover the traits you will see in a covert narcissist.
Covert narcissists are also often referred to as vulnerable narcissists, closet narcissists, and introverted narcissists. This is likely due to the fact that they don’t appear to have much self-confidence, as opposed to their overt counterparts. They are the eternal damsel in distress or the martyrs of some oh-so-noble cause.
What is a Covert Narcissist?
In a nutshell, a covert narcissist is someone who has narcissistic personality disorder (or might, if they’d ever go see a psychologist for a diagnosis), but who doesn’t seem to have the obvious grandiosity factor. They don’t always seem to act as self-important as the more overt narcissist. They don’t appear to feel like they’re better than everyone – at least not before you know them well.
They appear to be vulnerable and oversensitive, which will often manifest in their behavior as hostility and defensiveness. They will be the one who is quietly looking down their nose at you, judging you and everyone else around them harshly and often unfairly.
Covert Narcissist vs. Overt Narcissist: The Similarities
They do have a few things in common with overt narcissists, including:
But how does a covert narcissist differ from an overt narcissist?
Covert Narcissist vs. Overt Narcissist: The Differences
Unlike the overt narcissist, the covert narcissist will not necessarily display narcissistic behavior that is immediately recognizable. You might even think they’re an empath because they seem so modest, so sensitive and so very unsure of themselves.
While they will have the standard grandiose fantasies for their life – all of which are sure to be unrealistic and self-centered, not to mention ridiculously over-inflated, they will believe that their dreams are unrealistic and unattainable. They will blame the world for somehow holding them back, but secretly believe they are a fraud. You see a lot of “imposter syndrome” in people like this.
Ironically, the covert narcissist will even feel guilty for wanting what they want, and somehow this inner conflict leads them to suppress most of their true feelings.
This leads to the inevitable for a covert narcissist: their inner conflict translates into outer behavior, such as:
Being unacceptably aggressive when it comes to getting what they want
Covert Narcissists Play the “Poor Me” Game
Your average covert narcissist spends a lot of time feeling sorry for themselves. They practically invented narcissistic injury. But why do they do this? Why does the “vulnerable narcissist” play the “poor me” game so well?
It all comes down to one thing: covert narcissists hate themselves. In fact, they seem to believe that it is possible to hate yourself BETTER.
Though they continue to demonstrate the behavior they loathe, the covert narcissist is powerless to control their thoughts – and their deep inner conscience is NOT okay with the person they are (or have become).
Unlike their more overt counterparts, covert narcissists actually judge themselves more harshly than anyone judges them. And on a deep level, more harshly than they judge other people (at least those outside of his immediate inner circle).
Either way, while they seem to be outwardly unconcerned with the world, they certainly have quietly high standards for their lives. But these may be outside of “normal” high standards. For example, the covert narcissist might be broke, but he might claim that this is because he doesn’t believe in capitalism, and then he will feel superior to anyone who he considers a sort of “servant to their jobs” or who wants and obtains things of monetary value.
So, they will quietly stick to this unreasonable standard to the best of their abilities, happy to secretly look down their nose at the people they deem “lesser” or otherwise inferior to themselves.
For example, let’s say the covert narcissist is a passionate but broke musician who plays exclusively in basements and backrooms, and who does so because they claim they want to stay true to their art and they don’t want to “sell out.” And one evening after a gig, a record executive comes up to them and asks if they have a demo because they think they might be able to get a recording contract. The covert narcissist at that moment is likely to jump at this opportunity – because who doesn’t want a chance to be rich and famous?
But then, once they take the time to put together a demo and send it to the record exec, the guy either never respond or realizes he was more intoxicated than he thought that night and tells the narcissist that the deal is off. This sends the narcissist into a spiral of self-loathing.
And, of course, anytime the covert narcissist fails to meet these so-called “standards” and behaves in any way that their inner critic deems bad or not desirable (by, in this case, agreeing to “sell out” and sending the demo, rather than snubbing the commercial industry that they’ve always claimed to hate), they’re back to square one: hating both themselves and the “zombies” or “sheep” who caused them to fall off-track.
Now, they hate the industry, and especially the music executives who they say always want to commercialize everything. They even justify their rejection by saying that the exec in question just didn’t get their music because it is somehow above their level of understanding.
Later, they might even make up stories about how they were offered a record deal and turned it down because they wanted to avoid becoming a sellout.
Why the Covert Narcissist Lives with Self-Hate: Distorted Self-Awareness
It all boils down to one thing: a covert narcissist understands on some level that their self-inflating ideas are not quite realistic – at least on some level.
So, though they continue to have narcissistic thoughts and even occasional external behaviors, they are always holding himself to a very high standard. They spend their lives competing with the one person they’ll never be able to beat: themselves – or some version of that.
At the same time, they are incapable of openly accepting blame or responsibility for anything that isn’t positive, and in fact they relate any such admission to weakness and “badness” of other people – which, most likely, is because of the angry kind of envy that psychologists say is involved in the creation of any narcissistic behavior.
The Covert Narcissist is a Perpetual Victim
The covert narcissist is often mistaken for an introvert or a shy person because to the untrained eye, they appear to be a pushover who is generally unassertive. They see themselves (and others see them) as victims or as people who aren’t able to obtain what they should have or deserve. People who don’t really know them may say things like, “oh, they’re just a big teddy bear” or “oh, their bark is worse than their bite!”
They will also:
Have outrageously adolescent daydreams about being a big famous something-or-other
Have feelings of being worthless, countered by feelings of being different, separate or “better” than other people
Have a somewhat questionable grip on reality, leading to personal guilt and self-hate.
Claim to be “a little OCD”
Call themselves a perfectionist
What do you think? Any of that sound familiar to you?
Are you concerned that you might be a covert narcissist?
Question of the Day: Have you ever met a covert narcissist? How could you tell? What characteristics do you think most clearly identify the covert narc? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section, below this video.
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Can you imagine a family member you’ve known your entire life being so jealous that they would strip you of your clothes, shoes, and bags, simply because you’re enjoying them? It took me a while to realize that one of my cousins is a jealous, malicious, malignant narcissist.
This was eye-opening for me. I started by accepting that I was codependent. It took a lot of work for me to acknowledge that I was probably trained from childhood to be super nice, so the narcissists in my family can use me.
The first time I encountered my cousin’s disgusting habit of demanding things I had was back in 2000. We were both seated in the lobby of an upscale hotel. A friend of mine had asked me to wait for her there. On my feet was a pair of pricey espadrilles imported from Spain. My cousin said she wanted to wear them, and removed her feet from her flip flop sandals (she was very casually dressed). I thought she meant she wanted to try them on, but no, she wanted to keep them. My dress was a handmade tailored shift dress. It did not match flip flop sandals. As I was going to dinner with that same friend within the hour, I made her return my shoes.
My cousin is 5′ 4” a US size 16 with narrow hips and lots of cleavage. I am 5′ 11″ a US size 2/4, with wider hips and small chest. It isn’t possible for her to pull on one of my t-shirts over her head. My shoes are also a half size smaller than hers. However, demands like that happened all the time: clothes, shoes, bags, accessories.
Please note: My prescription sunglasses were saved not because she realized I’d be completely blind without them (sun-sensitive eyes) but because she would have to pay to have new lenses put in them.
Except for clothes, I gave her almost everything she asked for, thinking that I was being nice to my cousin who loved me. But the demands only got bigger. Once, she called me on the phone at 06:30 AM to ask me to pay her $6000 dentist’s bill – it was for a single visit – in an upscale Manhattan dentist. Her sense of entitlement was very strong. I refused to pay the whole bill, but when I gave her some of the money, I was acting as an enabler.
I didn’t realize her materialistic, demanding behavior was jealousy until after going to therapy and having someone explain to me how jealous sociopaths behave. The therapist said, “stop being nice.”
Even though her demands were over the top, I didn’t get fed up until 2012 over something relatively insignificant. My cousin demanded I give her a bottle of nail polish. I was staying at her home on vacation (at her earnest invitation – again, very demanding). It was a limited edition color, in deep blue-black. I bought it because it matched all of my outfits.
I am sure she didn’t notice I was wearing nail polish, but one afternoon, she was in my room and spotted the double, intertwined “C” logo on the cap of the bottle. She demanded that I give it to her. I immediately handed it to her and asked her to take me to a pharmacy where I could buy a fresh new bottle of deep blue-black nail polish.
A few days later, I noticed the bottle sitting on a shelf in her bathroom, in direct sunlight. I was very upset because the nail polish cost $24 at the time and she would be wasting money if she didn’t use it. I asked her why she demanded an expensive bottle of nail polish if she wasn’t planning to use it. She angrily responded that she “CAN’T WEAR NAIL POLISH” because she cooks every day. (Didn’t even think of painting her toenails). That’s how I knew the reason why she wanted the nail polish.
She saw the designer logo and decided that it was too good for me.
This is the narcissist’s ultimate goal. They are jealous of anyone who seems to be having a better time than they are. The covert narcissists will couch their demands in compliments so it’s very difficult to tell that they’re being malicious. If you’re codependent, you will be blind to the ways the narcissist is using you.
I’m so glad I finally learned that important lesson, thanks to the work of vloggers like Angie at Queen Being and the efforts of other qualified professionals. I am grateful for all of your help.