The Problems Encountered with Covert Narcissists
I just read a very interesting post – Facebook’s Whores of Deception – about the problems encountered when joining a Support Group for Victims of Narcissists.
The main problem being that the Support Group could be the vanity project (and source of narcissistic supply) of a Narcissist.
If you think that a Narcissist couldn’t possibly start and/or run a support group for victims of narcissists because of the usual assumptions made about Narcissists… then you’ve never encountered a Covert Narcissist – the type of Narcissist who plays the victim, the kind of victim that sees themselves as a martyr, the kind of martyr who intends to get a sainthood by turning their victimhood and martyrhood into heroics, the kind of heroics that may require the sacrifice of others (of you) for the cause, the quest, the victory of the Covert Narcissist.
If what bothered you about the above paragraph were the words – then you’ve never encountered a Covert Narcissist – and it bothered you, perhaps to the point where you’re already forming a reply to this post (which you may or may not decide to actually share as a comment) in your mind, which is angry and argumentative…
Remember this isn’t a competition, whether your Narcissist is Overt or Covert, Cerebral, Somatic, or any of the other types of Narcissist (official or unofficial), being a Victim of a Narcissist is painful, hard, confusing, and traumatic, whether you’ve known your particular Narcissist for a few weeks, months, a couple of years or for most of your life, whether they are a social acquaintance, online or offline, friend, work colleague, lover, spouse, parent – and anyone who is turning being a Victim of Narcissistic Abuse into a competition is showing signs of Covert Narcissism.
This does not necessarily mean that they are a Covert Narcissist as Victims of Narcissists go through several phases – one of which requires a plunging into the grief, the pain and suffering that they’ve been through, and when someone is going through that particular stage of recovery they may appear to ‘compete’ by making their pain the worst, the most painful, the biggest hurt ever – this is a self-acknowledgment, self-validation, self-confrontation stage where a person finally confronts, validates, acknowledges what they’ve most likely been denying and it can hit them (and those around them) very hard.
When we confront ourselves we can become confrontational in other ways – we may end up confronting everyone about everything that has ever bothered us because we’ve removed an inhibition and we’re a bit drunk on this newfound freedom and lack of an old inhibition. We can become more defensive because we’re feeling extra vulnerable, and offensive in the way we’re defensive. When we acknowledge what we’ve been denying we may become demanding that others do so too – that they acknowledge our truth because we’ve done it and we need everyone now to acknowledge it, perhaps to confirm what we’re finally admitting to, even if it took us ages to do so (others aren’t allowed to take ages to catch up to us, we need their support now). When we validate what we’ve been invalidating – we may become so focused on validating ourselves that we end up invalidating others. When we stop ignoring our pain, problem, we remove our finger from the leaky dam and the gush of water (of everything we’ve been keeping dammed up) which hits us can knock us over, suck us under and carry us away until we finally resurface and find our footing… maybe many years later.
Damage causes damage when we hide it, deny it, keep it locked up inside… when we reveal it, accept it, let it out of its cage, it may cause damage too. Healing sometimes requires a release of toxins from the system – most of us have tackled a puss-filled spot, experienced the disgust of bursting it, the bleeding crater it leaves behind, the ugly crust it creates as it heals, and the eventual relief and disappearance of what once seemed huge, horrible and terrifying to tackle. I know a spot on the skin isn’t the same as the suffering caused by a Narcissist… which is why it’s important to understand that the cure is going to be complex and may involve narcissistic behaviour in the Victim of a Narcissist (in you, in others who have gone through what you have gone through – even if they seem to have it easy compared to your experience of it).
Victims of Narcissists may also suffer from what is called ‘fleas’ in Narc-lingo which is basically the absorption of the Narcissist’s behaviour and traits due to being exposed to their behaviour and traits – all humans have a natural tendency to absorb the traits and behaviours of those around us and to mimic them (have you noticed that you may start using the vocabulary of your nearest and dearest, or copy someone’s posture when you’re with them, maybe even start talking with an accent if the person you’re with has one), this is usually considered a healthy and normal aspect of socialising (but all healthy and normal things have flip sides). But if you’re hanging out with a bitch or a bastard… you may become bitchy or bastardy… and may decide to end the association because you don’t like who you are when you’re with them.
And a narcissist can bring out your own narcissistic behaviour and traits. Narcissists have a way of bringing out the worst side of us – it’s one version of cause and effect.
Therefore someone behaving like a Narcissist – may not be a Narcissist, they may be the Victim of a Narcissist. Or they could be a Narcissist. Just remember that Narcissists are the ones least likely to advertise that they’re a Narcissist – especially if they’ve been studying the subject and have amassed a ‘list’ of how not to behave and be (they love these lists and hate them too, and may mention them during a tantrum caused by them not getting the results they expected from behaving and being a certain way) – and remember that most people have been ‘surprised’ to find out that their Narcissist is a Narcissist, because before they reached that conclusion about this person they often thought their Narcissist was anything but a Narcissist.
Our first experience of a Narcissist often has them placed on a pedestal of hero, angel, saviour, rather awesome, pretty damn near perfect, Prince or Princess Charming, our ideal in person form, etc, because that’s what they’re aiming for… the dark side and horror show comes after the honeymoon is over. The disappointment is a big fall from lofty expectations, high hopes, and dreams which we thought had come true.
Your anger at a Narcissist is more angry because at one time you thought the Sun rose and set with them – and you’re so pissed off at yourself for that and therefore at them for not living up to your vision, illusion – Shit, it was all an illusion, delusion… How very dare they make a fool out of you, your heart, your mind, your expectations of a happily ever after for you. You deserved that happily ever after not the shitstorm which came with thinking you had got what you deserved.
Be careful that you don’t pass the shitstorm on… as Narcissists do. Even if you’re not a Narcissist you can end up passing it along while dealing with the fallout from what your particular Narcissist passed onto you.
Some of the people you think are Narcissists… may just be in the thrall of the shitstorm of the Narcissist.
Please be careful before labeling someone a Narcissist – and treat those ‘lists’ which are abundant online that claim to help you identify Narcissists with a degree of suspicion (they could have been compiled by a Narcissist or by someone who thinks they know everything and they only know a portion of everything, or they’re generalising and maybe compiling a list to get ‘Likes’ online on a subject which is trending and popular as they crave the attention of others, want to belong, want to be a part of what’s going on, and if what’s going on is interest in Narcissists… they haven’t really thought things through because we don’t always think like that and people like sound bites in numbered list form). Everyone can be narcissistic, being narcissistic does not = being a narcissist. Pay attention to context and continuity.
Just as we may make mistakes in labeling Narcissists, we may make mistakes in labeling Victims of Narcissists – labeling systems are prone to human error especially when based on generalised criteria and/or bias.
For more a thorough perspective on what it is like to be a Victim of a Narcissist please read this post on this informative professional site – Narcissistic Victim Syndrome: What the heck is that? – a side effect of reading this post is that it may help you to distinguish between a ‘real’ victim of narcissistic abuse and a Covert Narcissist ‘victim of narcissistic abuse’. It’s interesting that this site’s post about the Covert Narcissist isn’t as well-rounded or as in depth as their other info on Narcissists… this isn’t the first professional site I’ve come across which has admitted to being perplexed by this type of Narcissist. This is however one of the first sites to tackle head on and in detail what it is like to be a Victim of a Narcissist and to put focus on that.
The cry of a Victim of a Narcissist finally accepting that they’re a ‘victim’ of a Narcissist and admitting to it openly can be an earthquake of a howl with many aftershocks.
The cry of a Covert Narcissist who claims to be a Victim of a Narcissist… is more of a Siren’s song luring ships onto her rocks so she can plunder their treasure, save their souls.
It’s actually not that difficult (which does not mean it’s easy) to tell the difference between a Covert Narcissist ‘victim’ and a ‘real’ victim (I’m using quotation marks because a Covert Narcissist could well be a real victim of a narcissist – Narcissists do end up with other Narcissists), as how a Covert Narcissist handles being a victim and how a non-narcissist victim handles it is very different, however if you’re a victim of a narcissist, and in the early stages of recovery and/or awareness of being a victim of a narcissist, then you may not be paying attention to the ‘signs’ which make a Covert Narcissist ‘victim’ stand out from a ‘real’ victim.
You’re focused on yourself and your pain, your story involving your narcissist, and you just aren’t in the head or heart place to notice anything outside of that (pain is a narcissist…)… you’re also probably not expecting to find other narcissists (because maybe your narcissist was your very first experience of such types of people existing so you think they’re rare and hard to find), certainly not in the sort of place which is offering a helpful haven for victims of narcissists…
If you have been involved with any type of Narcissist and have done what many people do while trying to piece together the confusing mess your life has become – searching online for the answers to your questions, trying to find a cure for the wound you have from which are spewing your innards, trying to hold on to what’s left of your sanity, trying to stop the flow of blood before this sucks you dry and leaves you for dead – then you may have encountered a Covert Narcissist during your recovery process (especially if you’re doing this online) because they tend to congregate where… they’re most likely to find the sort of people who appreciate their special brand of Narcissistic Personality Disorder and can give them the narcissistic supply for which they hunger.
You’re a part of their process just as they are a part of yours.
The post and story to which I linked at the beginning isn’t unusual, one-off, something only they experienced and therefore open for debate as to whether what they’re saying is in fact true or just in their mind. If you delve into the Narc community, the blogs, forums, support groups, which write and discuss the subject of Narcissists, you’ll find plenty of stories like that one, of people who went on a forum or joined a support group, followed a blog, seeking help, understanding, support from those they thought knew what they were going through and would therefore be empathic, and they may have found that but they also found the sort of people whom they did not expect to find there – Narcissists.
One which I’ve shared before is this one – Online Narcissists: A Case Study Called Puppygate – by CZBZ, who is one of the first bloggers to focus on Narcissists long before it became a trending hot topic. Her site is rich with information and resources, and she has many stories besides this one of online Narcissists in the Narc community. Another one is this one – Blogduggery: This is Not Okay Even if you’re in Recovery – telling the tale of someone plagiarising her blog posts as part of their quest to become a ‘guru’ who helps others recover from a relationship with a Narcissist.
CZBZ may be absent from her blog at the moment – she’s human, she has a life beyond her blog, she’s busy with offline world, but the work she’s done, her activity, over the course of many years is there, offered for free (she’s not peddling books, videos, a self-help system, a miracle cure for what the narcissist did to you, or herself and all the products which herself has produced for you and for which she expects you to pay for), for all (including Narcissists looking for a way out of their Narcissism).
A Narcissist jumping on the Narcissists as a trending hot topic popular issue bandwagon is going to want to make money out of it, get power over others out of it, become a ‘guru’, authority, and expert on it, and be followed by a mass of acolytes who throw the bodies of dismembered roses upon the ground on which they walk, who breathe their second-hand air and listen to their every word about Narcissists as though it was the gospel of a messiah… or at least the New Oprah. But you might not notice this about them… all you see of them is what you see when you see them, that first glimpse usually reflects you more than it does them, it reflects what you’re looking for.
If you’re the sort of person who joins forums and support groups seeking the warm embrace of a community who understands you and what you’re going through or have been through – in forums and support groups run by and/or frequented by Covert Narcissists, watch out for those who latch onto you immediately (often closely followed by others who want to reject you immediately because you’re stealing the Alpha Covert Narcissist’s attention away from them).
Covert Narcissists form close bonds with strangers very quickly – bonds based on shared vulnerability. You shared your vulnerability and they bonded with you over it because your shared vulnerability made them feel safe and strong. When a Covert Narcissist latches on, good luck trying to get them to let go… and if you’re vulnerable their latching on may feel like just the support you needed because you felt adrift in a storm and they’ve offered you an anchor and a port.
A Covert Narcissist is more likely to ‘celebrate’ the fact that you’re a victim of a narcissist. They will be almost jubilant that you’ve been wounded, hurt, are suffering, are in pain, your life is a mess. They won’t literally open a bottle of champagne and shout YAY, but there’ll be an energy about them, about their interaction with you, which will seem uplifting as though being a Victim of a Narcissist is a really good and fortuitous thing (this may be rather refreshing after slogging through so many dire stories and bearing the burden of your own all that way… and may only strike you as strange much much later).
They’ll be at the forefront of the ‘meet and greet’, welcoming you with open arms to the pity party. You’ll be too overwhelmed by their manner to say that you’re not here for the pity party – you’re here to heal so that you can get out of the pity party side of the experience. However there’ll be a lost and lonely part of you which will love this even if you hate yourself for it. Someone finally acknowledges you, your pain, and does so in a way which you were most likely afraid of doing (because you didn’t want to go there, into the quagmire, the quicksand, that place which means you have to admit that you were totally had, screwed over, that you’re really a ‘victim’). This person could seem like an angel, a Mother Theresa who sees only you and cares for you when you so badly need this kind of caring and attention – it can be intoxicating, and they will want you to drink deep from that cup they’re offering. They need to get you hooked on them.
At first their attention, their welcoming, their ’empathy and sympathy’, their helpfulness will feel amazing… kind of like when your particular Narcissist (whose influence on you and your life has just gotten you into this new relationship with another Narcissist) first noticed you and made the big bad world go away, it’s just you, the two of you, two special people who have found each other and can solve all the problems of the universe… they’ll encourage you to share your story with them (not a red flag), perhaps they’ll request that you avoid doing so where others can read it (red flag), DM them, email them, call them privately (red flag)… don’t share yourself with the others (red flag), the others don’t understand (red flag), the others on this forum or in this support group are awful really (big red flag), you’re not like the others (red flag… even if true), neither are they (red flag… even if true).
Soon they’ll be your only confidante (it’s a bit late for red flags at this point)… they’ve isolated you (you’re now exactly where they feel safe with you being and they can now be who they really are, or less of who they’re being for you)… and now the dynamic will change into one which is crossing that familiar threshold from honeymoon to hell.
At some point you won’t be able to reach them using the communication channels through which you’ve always been able to reach them. They used to answer you immediately before… now they don’t, and if they do you have to wait… and wait… each time a bit longer until… silence.
Are they okay? – you wonder while you still think they’re not a Narcissist (and thus their silence isn’t ‘the silent treatment’). Your mind and heart do somersaults of worry and anxiety for them, not for yourself. Did something happen to them? Should you check the hospitals of… shit, you just realised that while you told them where you live, gave them your real name, real address, real… everything, you don’t actually know anything real about them because the relationship happened so fast, the focus of it was all on you, and you just forgot… your manners, and others things like protecting yourself online from such things (dammit, you’ve always been careful until now about giving out personal info). But that’s just paranoia… this person… they’ve been trustworthy up until now… shhh, instincts and intuition, red flag collector… nothing has happened or changed yet, has it? And… it’s funny how worrying about someone else makes you forget your personal concerns (and yet, wait a minute… wasn’t your relationship with this person all about your personal concerns and sorting those out, but head on rather than through avoidance due to distraction).
The silence grows from their end, increasing the noise on your end.
So, during their silence (which confuses you, but you make excuses for them about it… red flag signalling many red flags missed) maybe you go back on the forum, return to the support group… oh, look, they’re there and… they seem to be fine. You decide to make sure by reading what they’ve been writing and sharing with everyone except you. You get a funny feeling, not a laughing kind of funny but a churning in the stomach which isn’t the butterflies of love or like funny.
Is that your story they’re telling to others? But this was supposed to be private! They made a point of making your story private, they insisted you shouldn’t share yourself with others… wait… what!?! It is your story but they’re telling it as though it was theirs!? WTF!?!
The story they told about themselves before (you came into their life and they absorbed you into theirs) didn’t have those details. Before they met you they were not, definitely not, a child of Narcissists (and in all your private conversations they never said…), but now… they’re suddenly a child of Narcissists but they’re talking about it like it was always a fact, and… their child of narcissists’ experience sounds almost exactly like yours. They’re using the exact words you used in private when you shared your story with them.
What is going on?
Should you come out into the open and say something or keep quiet, hide, run away… (this red flag is the one that… this one is planted in the empire of your heart because this is why you came to this place from the place where you once were in the first place)… this is your original Narcissist story, which lead you to this forum/support group, all over again.
How did this happen?
How did you end up getting caught up in the tangled web of another Narcissist while trying to extricate yourself from the tangled web of the previous Narcissist?
It must be your fault. It must be you. There’s something wrong with you… or is there just something wrong with everyone else? Is it their fault? Is it them?
What should you do?
You’re not sure how to feel, what to think, the confusing mess is even more of a confusing mess… just when you saw a light at the end of the tunnel, a train came and squished you onto the tracks.
Maybe you should contact them privately to express your… so you do that and they ignore you. More silence from them. They no longer need you. You get a bit angry, the kind of angry which does stuff – you go on the forum/support group and say something out loud. But the new Narcissist in your life not only got all of your private messages, they read them and didn’t ignore them even if they ignored you, didn’t respond, and gave you a dose of silence. They paid a lot of attention to them, the kind which a Narcissist does to protect themselves. They prepared a defense, and offensive defense, just in case you were bold enough to confront them or expose them in their kingdom.
And being a Covert Narcissist they go for the line of least resistance and let others fight their battles for them (and they’ve primed plenty of people to do that, you could have been one of those special primed people but you decided to be difficult so anything which happens to you is your fault, you brought this on yourself).
You get attacked by other forum/support group members for daring to question what their Alpha has said (even if what Alpha Covert Narcissist has said is a total contradiction to what they’ve said before – narcissists talk a lot, people don’t listen, don’t recall, fill in the blanks, make excuses). You get accused of being a Narcissist, a bully, an abuser… you name it, they’ll accuse you of it because their pain has been triggered and once pain has been triggered people get to say and do whatever the hell they want to and excuse it later with – you triggered me. You’re suddenly the representative of the abusers and oppressors of all of these people attacking you – you are the people they never had the guts to confront, and they get to confront them by confronting you. If only they would pause to self-reflect, see what they are doing and what it says about them, but people under the influence of Narcissists, especially Covert Narcissists, don’t and can’t self-reflect otherwise a cherished reality would implode and explode in their self-righteous online activist justice warrior faces and they’d have to see something they don’t want to see… something similar to what you are seeing only you’re on the receiving rather than the giving end of it (imagine if you were dishing this out to someone else under the influence of a Narcissist, would you want to see that about yourself).
You reel from the treatment which you’ve received from a place which claimed to be safe and offered a haven for Victims of Narcissists, where you would be surrounded by empaths, sympaths, HSP’s, and other sensitive and compassionate people. People who have been there, experienced that and would never want anyone else to go through that.
And yet you’re going through that and they’re the ones putting you through it, but they’re blaming you for what they’re doing to you and are claiming that you’re the problem. You’re the villain, but you know you’re not – they are, or at least the Covert Narcissist is… but where is the Covert Narcissist while all of this is happening?
About them… they’re sitting back and watching you and the others fight over them, over the mess, the drama, they’ve created. This is a classic Games People Play – Let’s You and Him Fight – Eric Berne had it as a Romantic game and wrote about it as a ‘woman getting two men to fight over her’ perhaps until the death of one, with the survivor not necessarily being a victor of her hand as she may have moved on to someone else or was never interested in anyone in the first place, she just wanted men to fight over her to feed her ego – which is why this is a favourite game of Narcissists.
This is one of the storylines which a Covert Narcissist creates, needs and gains narcissistic supply from – they love it when heroes are fighting a dragon on their behalf, they create both the heroes and the dragon and then they say ‘FIGHT!’ like one of those people who waves the flag at the start of a race. If both heroes and dragon die they don’t care because they can find other dragons and other heroes, all that matters is them and their Damsel in permanent Distress who occasionally moonlights as Mother Theresa (because it’s another of their storylines and a good way to recruit heroes and dragons). If the heroes succeed… they will be turned into dragons later on because the only hero allowed to succeed is the Covert Narcissist and if you’re a hero around them then you’re a competitor they need to get rid of ASAP. At some point you won’t know your place in their hierarchy, you’ll expect a reward far greater than the pat on the head they may give you – although it could be a slap in the face because they liked the dragon and you killed it, you meanie! If the dragon succeeds… they always loved you, Dragon, you’re special because everyone hates you and no one understands you like they do, you’re just like them (but they will try to recruit other heroes to kill you so don’t rest on your laurels).
So, what happened?
A Covert Narcissist happened.
Has anyone else been this unlucky?
Yes, but victims of Covert Narcissists tend to be too confused to speak about what has happened to them… and they’ve learned that sharing their experience only leads to hella more pain. So they keep quiet and you won’t find them active in forums/support groups – they’ll avoid those like the plague, and will probably not mention their experience online just in case it attracts the sort of attention they want to avoid.
Is anyone else… out there… who isn’t a Narcissist but who has had experience of Narcissists, who has been screwed over by Narcissists but who doesn’t want to join them because they can’t beat them?
Is there anyone out there whom you can trust to help you understand, explain, clarify… a hand to pull you out of the mess so that you don’t sink further and end up… you do not want to think about that, about what, where… you’ll end up if you don’t get some answers to your increasing questions and the pressure they’re causing.
There is someone who you can trust to help you understand, explain, clarify, take your hand and pull you out of the mess, etc…
But you won’t like the answer of who that is – YOU!
You’re the one who has to take your own hand and pull yourself out of this mess.
You’re the one you have to trust even if you’ve failed yourself in trust exercises before.
You’re the one who has to understand, explain and clarify.
You are not alone in this experience but you alone have to figure this experience out for yourself.
You can do that with the help of others, but you’re going to have to be careful about that – don’t expect to find someone else to do what you have to do for yourself for you – if that’s what you’re looking for you may end up having a bad experience involving a Covert Narcissist who claims to have the magic pill to cleanse you of all that ails you… which they will give to you for free at a price.
If along the way to healing yourself you fall prey to other Narcissists, pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and keep going. See it as part of your particular healing process – maybe your recovery needs an extra dose of narcissist so that you can build up an immunity to it. If you survived one, survived two, three… there’s a pattern here, can you see what it is?
It may not seem like it but it is… you’re going to be okay because you have you by your side. Your relationship with yourself may be messy, but it isn’t the Narcissist kind of messy, and you can get you out of the Narcissist kind of messy one step at a time (may require some crawling and breaststroke too).
You can help others who are going through what you have been through… how will you do that?