I just finished reading a Scientific American article that delineates narcissists into two categories: Overt Narcissists and Covert Narcissists:
When most people think of narcissism, they think of the public face of narcissism: extraversion, aggression, self-assuredness, grandiosity, vanity, and the need to be admired by others (see “How to Spot a Narcissist“). But as far back as 1938, Harvard psychologist Henry Murray noticed another breed of narcissist among his undergraduates: the covert narcissist. While the “overt” narcissists tended to be aggressive, self-aggrandizing, exploitative, and have extreme delusions of grandeur and a need for attention, “covert” narcissists were more prone to feelings of neglect or belittlement, hypersensitivity, anxiety, and delusions of persecution [I’ve also seen this referred to as “inverted narcissism,” whatever that means].
Um, I’m prone to feelings of neglect or belittlement, am known to be hypersensitive and anxious, and there are times I believe I’m being persecuted…
But it gets even worse…
In the 90s, psychologist Paul Wink analyzed a variety of narcissism scales and confirmed that there are indeed two distinct faces of narcissism, which they labeled “Grandiosity-Exhibitonism” and “Vulnerability-Sensitivity”. He found that both shades of narcissism shared a common core of conceit, arrogance, and the tendency to give in to one’s own needs and disregard others. But that’s where the similarities ended.
Okaaaaayyy, I admit I can be selfish, but I don’t think I’m arrogant or conceited. But read on…
While Grandiosity-Exhibitionism was associated with extraversion, aggressiveness, self-assuredness, and the need to be admired by others, Vulnerability-Sensitivity was associated with introversion, hypersensitivity, defensiveness, anxiety, and vulnerability. Further research by Jonathan Cheek and Jennifer Odessa Grimes at Wellesley College found a moderate correlation between covert narcissism and the Highly Sensitive Person Scale developed by Elaine Aron.
Uh…I’ve frequently mentioned being an HSP and I’m definitely introverted….
In other words, while introversion, sensitivity, and narcissism are all partially separate traits, hypersensitive covert narcissists are more likely to report that they are introverted and sensitive.
I’m so busted. I’m almost afraid to take the test at the end.
But if I am narcissistic, I think I’m a pretty benign narcissist, as the disorder runs on a continuum from somewhat narcissistic to murderous evil psychopath. I would guess the same is true of all HSPs (who I noticed tend to blog about narcissism a lot)–that we aren’t malignantly narcissistic. I think a lot of HSPs and people who tend toward introversion also tend to feel guilty about everything too and feel bad when we hurt others, so that doesn’t seem to indicate malignant narcissism or psychopathy anyway. I think they missed the mark here, because narcissists don’t feel guilt or care if they hurt others.