Are you dealing with a covert narcissist, also known as a vulnerable narcissist? Are you at your wit’s end and you don’t know how to handle this very toxic personality type?
In case you’re not sure what a vulnerable narcissist is, let’s define one really quickly – they are a bit harder to detect than your standard, more overt narcissist.
What is a narcissist?
A narcissist in general, is someone with a high opinion of him/herself. In narcissistic abuse situations, this refers to a toxic, verbally (and sometimes physically) abusive person who may have narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) along with 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.
and what are their characteristics?
The term “narcissism” is commonly used to describe people who are self-centered, self-absorbed, and even selfish. Narcissists can be found at the high end of the spectrum as well as the low end.
Some people with narcissistic personality disorder may function fairly normally in the workplace and their relationships in spite of having impaired empathy and a tendency toward grandiosity.
This higher functioning type is referred to as vulnerable narcissism.
Narcissists are often very insecure at their core; they may have trouble being criticized or being given constructive feedback about their performance or behavior because it threatens them so much. As a result, they will usually try to counter any criticism by telling you that you’re wrong or not seeing things clearly or by devaluing your experience altogether (“You don’t understand how hard I’m working!”).
What is a vulnerable narcissist?
The shy or covert narcissist is affected by what is referred to as “vulnerable narcissism,” which might be on the narcissism personality disorder (NPD) spectrum (a cluster B disorder, according to the DSM).
This type of narcissism is characterized by vulnerability and sensitivity, two characteristics that manifest with defensiveness and hostility.
Just like the standard, more covert type of narcissist, the vulnerable or covert has his or her share of grandiose fantasies, feels a pretty major sense of entitlement, and is quite exploitative of the people in his or her life.
What’s different about the vulnerable narcissist?
For one, his or her personality is characterized differently. The covert narcissist is plagued by constant worry, ineffective functioning, unfulfilled expectations (which lead to abuse of the narc’s sources of narcissistic supply – also known as the people in his or her life), and extreme vulnerability to stress.
The QueenBeeing SPANily, Official – We consider this to be the best narcissistic abuse recovery support group on the web. Offers several subgroups and features a vigilant, compassionate admin team full of trained coaches and survivors, supporting more than 12k members. SPAN is an acronym created by Angie Atkinson that stands for Support for People Affected by Narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships.
Other Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups– We also have separate groups for each stage in your narcissistic abuse recovery, as well as some for those who have moved past recovery and are evolving into the next stage of their own life. Survivors have unique and individual needs, even when they’ve moved on – so we’re still here for you.
One-on-One Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Coaching – If you prefer to get more personalized support in your recovery, you might like to schedule a session with one of our coaches to plan and execute your own narcissistic abuse recovery plan.
Find a Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Therapist – If you’re looking for a therapist for narcissistic abuse recovery, either because you cannot afford coaching and want to use your health insurance or because you have additional issues you need to address that do not fall within the realm of coaching, you will want to find the right therapist for you – and as far as we’re concerned, that therapist must understand what you’ve been through. This page offers assistance to help you do exactly that.
Communication as we all know is incredibly important in any relationship, but when we’ve been involved with narcissists, even the most skilled communicators can feel helpless and handicapped when it comes to being understood – narcissists will inevitably refuse to understand us, especially when what we’re saying is not something like “OMG, you’re so amazing.”
For example, try telling a narcissist exactly how you feel about the way they belittle and invalidate you – and watch how they twist the conversation around. In some of the most extreme cases, you will end up apologizing for not thinking they’re perfect and for having the nerve to even suggest otherwise.
And, when we go through years of this, not to mention that narcissists often isolate their victims from others who might actually offer some support, we sort of forget HOW to communicate – in a way. We stop feeling like we can (or even should) talk about OURSELVES, and we stop trying to make valuable contributions to conversations, in part because we’ve been conditioned to believe that we have nothing of value to say and nothing to offer.
We believe that we’re not good enough and that no one wants to hear what we have to say anyway. When we do speak up, we tend to keep it short and to the point when it relates to ourselves or our own opinions or beliefs.
There was a time in my life when, if you asked me a question about myself, I might not even know WHAT to say, or even if I did, I’d feel awkward saying it and wanted to get the attention off me as soon as possible.
This was because I had been conditioned to think that nothing about me was interesting or even worth hearing about.
We might also develop other issues – various compulsive behaviors, or an eating disorder or substance abuse problem, because sometimes, we try to sort of ‘self-medicate” to deal with our issues.
We could have flashbacks or panic attacks, and we will most definitely deal with a certain amount of self-doubt. Some of us experience suicidal thoughts – and in the worst cases, some people find themselves seeking or even carrying out the abuse they experienced as a child. On the flip side of that, you may go so far in the other direction that you are a different kind of unhealthy – for example, an abused child who grows up to be a doormat parent (as in, allowing your kids to become spoiled and run the show). It’s a fine line, isn’t it?
But back to communication.
There are certain issues that can directly affect our ability to communicate after this kind of abuse – and as always, I’m going to tell you that I believe knowledge is power – and the first step to power is to realize there’s a problem. We’ve got to first discover it and then admit it if we’re ever going to heal.
So, after abuse, the issues that might affect your ability to communicate are multifaceted. The first one I’d like to outline is our heightened reactions to various common relationship issues – we may become triggered over something small, such as an innocently-used phrase that used to mean something awful. Example from one of my clients: her narcissist would always say “Who are you trying to impress?” So when she was later in a healthy relationship, this same phrase uttered by her new partner triggered her and caused her to revert for a moment to her “former self,” the abused self.
This leads to my next point: emotionally-fueled disagreements. When we’re healing, we don’t always know how to deal with conflict and we may get overly emotional when we don’t mean to. Going back to the client I just mentioned, in that situation, her trigger led her to an emotionally-fueled discussion with her new guy – but in his healthy state, he actually calmed her down by validating her and reminding her that it was okay to be emotional sometimes, and then by comforting her and HEARING her (IMAGINE!).
We may also withdraw and become unresponsive when triggered by our old issues, which obviously affects our ability to communicate, and we almost always feel a serious aversion to conflict. This can lead to an inability to talk through our issues especially if we feel judged or like the person we’re communicating with is somehow not on our side.
We may always have a lingering doubt about how our partners in the future feel about us and sometimes doubt their faithfulness, especially when our narcissists include romantic partners in the past.
And thanks to the fact that many of us have never felt loved unconditionally, we often find ourselves having difficulty accepting any love at all – we are suspicious of people who try to offer it to us and we often need repeated reassurance of the fact that someone cares about us.
This of course can push people away from us and isolate us even further, which will make communication even harder.
So how can we get over this? What can we do to improve our ability to communicate after abuse?
First of all, you have to let go of the fear and start with the basics. Let me ask you a few questions.
Do you dread talking to strangers or those you barely know? Some people seem to be born with the gift of gab. They talk to anyone, anywhere, anytime, about anything. By understanding a few strategies and putting in a little practice, you can talk to anyone with ease, too. You don’t have to be mesmerizing. You just have to convince the other person they are.
A successful social conversation puts the emphasis on your conversation partner. It’s also a highly effective way to sell products and services.
You can become an excellent conversationalist, even after narcissistic abuse. Try these tips.
1. Make a good first impression. People make a lot of conclusions about you before you ever open your mouth. Conveying the message that you’re friendly, confident, and relevant provides a huge advantage. People will naturally want to engage with you and will listen to what you have to say.
* Stand or sit up straight. Put on your best confident smile. Look them in the eye.
2. Pay attention. Everyone wants to matter. By giving your conversation partner your full attention, you can accomplish that with ease. Avoid looking at your watch, your phone, or scanning the room. Keep your attention on the other person.
3. Avoid worrying about what you’ll say next. This could easily fall under the previous point, but deserves specific attention. Are you one of those people that’s viewed as socially awkward? That’s because you’re worried about what you’re going to say next. You’re not listening intently to the other person.
* When your mind is furiously working to think of something to say, you become fidgety, your eye contact wavers, and your anxiety is obvious. It makes others uncomfortable. Just listen, and the other person will give you plenty of material to move the conversation forward.
4. Turn the spotlight on the other person. You’ll find that your most successful conversations will be about the other person. People love it when you show an interest in them. Keep turning the conversation toward the other person, their interests, and opinions. Your new friend will greatly enjoy the conversation.
5. Worried about running out of things to say? Repeat the last few words of your conversation partner.
* “So, you went scuba diving on the great barrier reef?” Then just sit back and relax.
6. Always have something interesting to say. You will have to contribute something interesting to the conversation on occasion. Be prepared. You wouldn’t blindly reach into a dark closet and wear the first thing your hand touched. There’s no reason to blurt out the first thing that comes to mind. Be prepared.
* Watch the news before you head out the door and be aware of the latest global and local happenings.
* Have a story or two prepared.
7. Expect success. Your expectations and results match more often than not. Expect to have a good conversation. Believe that you’re a great conversationalist. Visualize conversational success.
8. Give one sincere compliment. Avoid making a direct compliment, because it can be potentially awkward and begs for a response.
* “You’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen” is too much.
* “Wow, you obviously work out. What type of exercise do you do?” is very complimentary without going too far.
* One sincere compliment is enough.
Even after abuse, you can learn conversation skills – or re-learn them.
Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is not considered to be a “mental illness,” but rather a personality disorder on the Cluster B spectrum that manifests in an inflated sense of importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others. This leads to troubled relationships and often, people with NPD will verbally, emotionally and psychologically abuse the people closest to them, including spouses, children, friends, co-workers and other family members.
Experts tell us that narcissistic abuse could be the result of the narcissist’s own insecurity issues. While many narcissists seem to be the epitome of self-confidence, the truth is that they often have deeply rooted insecurities that make them feel “not good enough” or like they need to push others down in order to have any self-esteem at all. In fact, the traits of narcissism likely manifest in these people as a way to overcompensate for the underlying lack of self-esteem.
Of course, the narcissist’s need for constant validation, approval, and admiration (the need for consistent narcissistic supply) is contradictory with their inability and unwillingness to validate others. And when a narcissist is unable to get the narcissistic supply they need to feel alive, they often react with anger, dismissiveness, defensiveness and even direct aggression.
One of the biggest questions people ask when they figure out they’re dealing with someone who has NPD is whether there’s a way to resolve the issue. They want to know if narcissism can be cured. They ask if there’s a way for narcissists to heal and whether it’s possible for narcissists to change at all. In this post, all of those questions will be answered.
Can a narcissist be cured?
The unfortunate fact is that because of how narcissistic personality disorder manifests in those who suffer from it, they very often won’t seek any help for the issues they have. They literally can’t see anything wrong (due to being ego-driven, it would nearly destroy them to admit they might need to change or grow in any way). The issues they face in their relationships, at work and even just navigating through society lead to an increase in their self-focus and increased lack of empathy because they assume everyone is against them and they are the only ones who are “right” – they need to see themselves as different and special and as the exception to every rule.
They could potentially be treated with psychotherapy geared at changing their behavior patterns and to attempt to improve their personal relationships, but to get any results beyond simple behavior modifications, the narcissist would need to admit they have a problem, dig deep to find their core wound and work through it with a qualified therapist. Then, and only then, would a “cure” be possible. They would need to learn empathy and compassion remedially, much like someone who learns to walk later in life.
Is there a cure for narcissistic personality disorder?
Dr. David Hawkins says he’s healing narcissistic personality disorder. Before a viewer asked me to look into it, I wasn’t very familiar with Dr. David Hawkins, who reportedly “debunks the notion that sending your man off for individual therapy for his narcissistic traits is effective.
He suggests that it is not and that “you, the partner of someone with narcissistic traits can be very effective in helping him to heal.”
In this video, I’m answering a question from a viewer on those controversial statements. The question comes from Robyn Newberry, who wrote: “Angie Atkinson, what do you think of that Dr. David Hawkins who thinks Narcissism can be cured!? I’m like, why even torture yourself by trying to do the impossible!? I’m sorry, but after the pure Hell I went through, I couldn’t do it again to myself and my daughter especially.”
But how can you be sure you’re dealing with a narcissist and not someone who is just traumatized and immature? I answered this question in this video.
Can narcissists change? Study Says Narcissists Can Be Taught Empathy
There was a study that claimed that narcissists could be cured by implying that they could be taught empathy. Well, sorta anyway. In this video, I’ll tell you what I think and explain the one valuable bit of information I find in this particular study.
What the Experts Say on a Cure for Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Most often, NPD is formed during childhood, often due to abuse or neglect, but in some cases, due to a parent who doesn’t set proper boundaries and over-praises the child, even when it isn’t warranted. In other cases, NPD can be formed later in life due to achieving sudden fame or even through a successful career move. This type of narcissism is called Acquired Situational Narcissism.
In this video, I explain the truth about narcissists and narcissistic traits.
Narcissism: Nature Vs. Nurture – How does narcissism develop?
In this video, I explain how narcissism can be the result of both nurture AND nature. What causes narcissistic personality disorder? What’s the psychology of it? Together, we’ll explore the causes of narcissistic personality disorder, both nurture AND nature, and then I’ll share my thoughts on whether narcissists are nurture or nature-based.
Ultimately, turning to narcissism ends up being how some people cope with the trauma that affects them in childhood. It becomes a survival technique they use in order to hide their extreme insecurities, self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy – often, even from themselves.
We all know that there are a number of conditions that are commonly co-morbid with narcissistic personality disorder, and over the next several weeks, we’re going to dig into each of them in depth. This week, we’re talking about psychopaths – and we’re going to cover a number of factors in depth – so be sure to subscribe if you haven’t yet so you don’t miss one of this series.When I say the word “psychopath,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind for you? If you think of a serial killer or other kind of criminal who is sort of a society “outsider,” you’d be with the majority of the population.
But you may or may not know that you could also be married to one – or be the child or employee or sibling of one. It turns out that psychopaths are hiding among us in plain sight – and while we may assume that we could spot one, the truth is that they can be quite undetectable to the average person.
One example of a psychopath that I used in a recent video was Gus Fring from Breaking Bad, and more recently the AMC spinoff called Better Call Saul. He’s someone you’d never suspect of being a psychopath when you first meet him – he works as the fair-minded, soft-spoken owner of a small chain of successful chicken restaurants who is unfailingly polite and doesn’t seem like he could hurt a fly. But when you see him kill someone with zero regret in his face and clean himself up without one ounce of apparent nervousness, you realize what you’re seeing.
What other examples can you think of in television or movies of characters who represent psychopaths? Share your thoughts in the comments – I may use them in a fututre video.
So what are the traits of a psychopath? We’re going to start with how a psychopath is diagnosed, using the Hare Psychopathy Checklist to highlight the diagnosable traits. developed by Dr. Robert Hare, a psychology professor at the University of British Columbia. Hare has taught and conducted research for more than forty years, with most of his career dedicated to the study of psychopathy.
How the Psychopath Checklist Works
There are 20 items on the checklist, some of which include: superficial charm, a grandiose notion of self-worth, the need for stimulation and impulsiveness, pathological lying, the ability to manipulate others and a lack of remorse and empathy.
In order to determine someone is psychopathic, doctors assign a score to each item, between zero and two points depending on whether a person matches each trait. This gives the highest-level psychopaths a top-out score of 40. To give you a bit of perspective, in the United States, one must score a 30 to be diagnosed a psychopath, while in the UK, you can be diagnosed as a psychopath with a score of 25.
Interestingly enough, many researchers say that psychopaths seem to have a significant amount of charisma and that they tend to have the ability to draw people in – or at the very least, to intrigue them. This is probably at least partially to their ability to charm people and manipulate them.
Another reason may be that psychopaths are often acting and mimicking normal reactions. Studies on psychopaths have found that psychopaths also do a lot of mirroring and straight-up lying to make people like them more.
Empaths May Recognize a Psychopath Better Than Someone Else
For empaths and other people who are tuned in, there are signs that can be recognized when it comes to narcissists – they tend to exhibit fake emotional responses, and we may notice them slipping up by having a weird tone or inconsistent body language. I think that relates to the fact that while they can mimic emotions and seemingly normal reactions – but they can’t actually understand them.
When it comes to psychopaths and their genuine emotions, you can expect them to be, at best, shallow and usually brief. Oh, and they definitely always have an ulterior motive for letting you see them.
They work to make you like and trust them, and they are good at it. They will charm them by telling them little insignificant secrets (which are often lies) and they’ll offer to help them out with stuff – favors around the house or loaning them money, for example, in order to gain their trust. Later, they’ll use these favors against them – either to make them do favors in return or in some cases, to get them to help manipulate someone else.
So that’s one of the qualities of a psychopath – they tend to have a shocklingly sharp way of manipulating other people and often take pleasure in doing it.
How Narcissists and Psychopaths Differ
Like narcissists, they often also have that air of superiority about them – but unlike narcissists, it’s often hard to see through it since they don’t really require any sort of validation outside of their own opinion.
Like many psychological conditions, there can be a spectrum of psychopathy, and on the most extreme end, the psychopaths could care less if you live or die – and it’s here where you find the most violent of the criminal psychopaths, including those who torture and murder people.
The full 20 criteria, includes: glibness and superficial charm, grandiose sense of self-worth, pathological lying, cunning/manipulative, lack of remorse, emotional shallowness, callousness and lack of empathy, unwillingness to accept responsibility for actions, a tendency to boredom, a parasitic lifestyle, a lack of realistic long-term goals, impulsive, irresponsibility, lack of behavioral control, behavioral problems in early life, juvenile delinquency, criminal versatility, a history of “revocation of conditional release” (ie broken parole), multiple marriages, and promiscuous sexual behavior.
This brings me to the question of the day: do you think you know someone who is a psychopath, or have you ever met anyone? What made them stand out for you? Share your thoughts in the comments section and let’s discuss it!
That’s all I’ve got for you today – but one last point I want to make: psychopaths are BORN, not made – and while their environment could certainly have an effect on their level of violent behaviors, their chemistry could be more powerful than their environment. Next time, we’re going to discuss how one becomes a psychopath in more detail.