Narcissistic Altruism: The Gift That Keeps On Taking

Narcissistic Altruism: The Gift That Keeps On Taking

Have you ever met someone who was always happy to help you out of a jam, but who always did so with strings attached? You know the kind I mean. The ones who will cover your rent when you lose your job, or who will loan you a few bucks for groceries when you’re a bit short because you had to pay for something unexpected. Or maybe you know someone who gives big, expensive gifts, or who makes generous, sweeping gestures that impress everyone they know. Or someone who would “literally give you the shirt off their back if you needed it.”

Or someone who isn’t really even much of a giver, but who very occasionally demonstrates a monumental act of kindness, or who saves the day in some unexpected but somehow life-saving way every now and then?

Meet the Altruistic Narcissist

If you ever met a generous narcissist, one who goes out of their way to be charitable in some way or to “save the day” whenever possible, you know that there are nearly always strings attached to any kindness they dole out. This kind of person is called an “altruistic narcissist,” or one who uses their ability to give as a way to gain control of the people around them.

generous narcissist
The Robinhood Technique: The Altruistic Narcissist’s Most Common Manipulation Tactic

If you love a narcissist, you might be familiar with a form of manipulation I like to call the “Robin Hood” technique. You know, Robin Hood – the character who jumped off the pages and into the classrooms, movie screens, and televisions because he chose to steal from the rich and give to the poor. Except with a narcissist, the giving looks more like material generosity – at least to people from the outside.

Toxic, Misanthropic Generosity: With Strings Attached

Sharon Spano, Ph.D., says that not all giving is created equal.

“Regardless of their financial status, the narcissist gives whether they have money or not,” Spano says. “However, they give from a depraved sense of self.”

She adds that in extreme cases, “this type of individual may be addicted to giving, even willing to go into debt. The giving, you see, is more about looking good than it is generosity.”

In my experience, everything that a narcissist gives you comes with strings attached. I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard a narcissist say something like, “I can’t believe you won’t (do whatever I want). I mean, I gave you (whatever the gift/bait is)!”

Narcissistic Injury and the ‘Poor Me’ Act

It’s exhaustive, to say the very least – and when they don’t get what they want, narcs will go immediately into a standard victim/martyr mode: “poor me, nobody cares about me, I give and I give and nobody appreciates all that I do, blah blah blah.”

Around here, we call that narcissistic injury. And speaking of the side-effects that come along with this kind of misanthropic generosity, there’s one in particular that can make life even harder for the ones who live with or love the narcissist.

What is Narcissistic Injury?

Narcissistic Injury is what happens when a narcissist gets upset, hurt, or offended about being treated like an average, normal person, or when they don’t get special treatment or favors, or literally anytime they don’t get what they want. In other words, it’s a common narcissist manipulation tactic and also a demonstration of their lack of impulse control and emotional immaturity.

Narcissistic injury is often used in combination with narcissistic rage to get what they want from a target.

It’s All About Control: The Tradeoffs for a Narcissist’s Kindness

Yep, this grandiose form of generosity often has an even uglier side-effect for them. As I said, narcissists will often use their ability to give “stuff” to people as a way to exert some level of control over their lives.

“The narcissist knows the most dependable source of supply is to make another person dependent on them, so they encourage dependence,” says blogger Anna Valerious. “They know that being dependent is habit-forming so they are anxious to encourage you to this end. It makes for a steady source of narcissistic supply for them.”

And of course, it’s all calculated – a narcissist doesn’t do anything without considering what they’ll get out of the deal. That’s not altruism. Don’t let the narc fool you! All they’re doing is making sure you feel good and indebted to them so you’ll stick around and be their narcissistic supply.   

But those who aren’t inside the narcissist’s quietly controlling bubble can’t be as easily controlled; and the narcissist needs those people to be impressed and in some ways, dependent on him.

NFWB: How a Narcissist Gets a Smart Person Under Their Control

Anyone they live with and in any way support will often be reminded of where they might otherwise be – but outsiders need a little more coaxing before they’ll start to submit to the narc.

Ever have an NFWB (Narcissist Friend with Benefits)?

By providing benefits to outside friends, they cement their friends’ loyalty to them. In their twisted mind, the narcissist creates a sense of obligation for their friends by being a misanthropic altruist. That’s precisely why they must continue to do whatever is necessary to get the attention they so clearly desires. But what happens if the narcissist isn’t rich? What if they use up all of your family’s resources trying to impress people who don’t matter?

What if they give away your things, your food, your kids’ toys? And if they do, what if you complain? They will likely make a point of belittling you for not being “better” in some way.

As it turns out, you might come to a sad realization: you realize that this is all part of a grand cycle, one that could continue forever. So, what do you do next?  In many ways, it’s all up to you. In fact, according to listened professional counselor Marci B. Stiles, it all starts with a simple ability to understand the situation on a logical level.

“Understanding is often the first step towards fixing or modifying the problem,” Stiles says. “Narcissists can cause a lot of pain and it is important for people to know the attributes of a narcissist so they can protect themselves and develop coping strategies.”

Learn more about altruistic narcissists in this video, plus ways to deal with them.

Need help developing coping strategies for dealing with an altruistic narcissist? 

Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Resources

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