Where does this silly idea that covert narcissism is the most malignant come from?

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I used to believe malignant narcissism was at the top of the narcissistic spectrum, but after learning and reading more,  I’ve changed my opinion somewhat.  I think malignant narcissism is actually a hybrid of NPD + ASPD (antisocial personality disorder) or NPD with sociopathic traits. So it’s not really “higher” on the spectrum than “normal” NPD, it’s NPD that crosses over into the psychopathy or sociopathy spectrum.    They are narcissists that possess all three of the “Dark Triad” traits–narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism.   I wrote about the Dark Triad in this post.

For some stupid reason, the web is filled with declarations of covert narcissism being the “most malignant” form of NPD. I call BS on that! Covert narcs are the most likely to be self aware and their NPD is less ego syntonic than the overt type.  They are far more likely than overt narcs to feel guilt and shame and want to change their behaviors and even present for therapy.    I used to frequent a forum where a number of diagnosed and self-avowed narcissists posted about their disorder, and the vast majority were the covert, fragile type and were definitely not happy being narcissists (if that’s what they were at all).  Covert narcissists, being non-aggressive, are (much like borderlines, who they resemble in many ways) likely to become codependent to an overt or malignant narcissist.    They are often victimized themselves (a malignant narcissist would never become a victim!).   I’m not defending covert narcissists.  They are still narcs and are still dangerous.   They should be avoided whenever possible. But it’s time to set the record straight.   The only reason covert narcissism might be more “malignant” is because their disorder is harder to see. Covert narcissists don’t wear a neon sign announcing they are narcissists.

Due to their sociopathic/psychopathic traits, malignant narcissism is ego-syntonic and the afflicted person will almost never think they are the ones with a problem. Even if they become self aware, they will still be “happy” with their disorder and tend to blame everyone else when things go wrong–and enjoy doing so.

Because of this, malignant narcissists will never present for therapy (unless they are forced to) and if they do, they can never get better, because the willingness to isn’t there. Non-malignant NPD, while difficult to treat, may be curable IF the patient is self-aware and willing and their disorder is ego-dystonic (which it often is in the covert subtype) .

There is a cruelty and sadism to malignant narcissists that’s missing in garden variety narcissists. Most narcissists don’t set out to deliberately hurt others, but malignant narcissists do. While they’re getting their supply, they also get a thrill from making others suffer.  Like vultures, they feed off your pain.   In contrast, some “benign” narcissists might even feel guilt when it’s called to their attention they hurt someone, even though they still keep doing it because they can’t help themselves and like a drug addict, getting their fix of supply is more important than the feelings of their victims. But malignant narcissists actually want to see their victims suffer, or at the very least, don’t care.   Malignant narcissists are almost always the overt, grandiose type.   It’s virtually impossible for a covert narcissist to become malignant, because they are generally not happy with themselves, even if they aren’t aware of their own narcissism.

There’s another difference too.    The malignant narcs I have known have a cold deadness to their eyes that’s not as evident in people with garden variety NPD.   Their eyes can also be very predatory, seeming to bore right through to your soul. That’s their one saving grace: their eyes warn you of how dangerous they are.

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About luckyotter

Recovering from BPD and C-PTSD due to narcissistic abuse from childhood. Married to a sociopath for 20 years. Proud INFJ, Enneagram type 4w5. Animal lover, music lover, cat mom, unapologetic geek, fan of the absurd, progressive Catholic, mom to 2, mental illness stigma activist, anti-Trumper. #RESISTANCE
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31 Responses to Where does this silly idea that covert narcissism is the most malignant come from?

  1. Kevin Taylor says:

    Just a little bit: being just a little bit narcissistic, Covert Narcissists are a little bit sadistic. Most of it manifests itself in teasing and sarcasm. Sarcasm is in fact an advanced form of wit that does take a little bit of understanding. The view amongst psychatrists for a long time now has been that all Cluster Bs inhabit the same spectrum. Now just casually refered to as “The Spectrum”. Still, Normies, beware the Dark Side! And build a wall around the West before it’s too late for you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes the eyes are chilling – a good warning!

    The differences with the overt / covert narcs is interesting. And the borderlines are again slightly something else…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Susan says:

    just made me think (anti social) my mother was /is extremely anti social. it enabled my father to abuse us in private, at first I thought she herself was like one of us and also abused… but that wasn’t the case. he died in 1995 and she is still this way. she has lived with two of her own sons.. at different times and refused to ever ever once use the kitchen of the house she was half paying for..!! she washes all her dishes in the SINK to this day and/or uses paper plates… everything she eats is from the microwave or a plug in grill thing… the kitchen is a walk up the steps! even with no one home she wont go up there and if I bring it up I get mean nasty snaps.
    one time my husband and I offered to come over and cook her her favorite dish, some shrimp..and she said we cant use the stove
    in her own home
    (its not roommates! its her own son! ) and he was on vacation for two weeks!!! NOT HOME ,NO ONE was home,not a soul but her…and she still refused to venture up the steps
    what is that???
    it makes me so uncomfortable all the “rules” and she has many more.. that it made it impossible to visit her for many years.
    I do lately (a whole 2-3 times a year) as she is 75. I just need to feel things are ok… but she has all these rituals and ways.

    nothing makes me more uncomfortable than “family” all living as separate islands in their rooms.. treating each other as strangers or worse (punching bags)
    and writing their NAMES on their food in the refrigerator as adults… (embarrassing to explain to my friends who came over)
    I feel so icky and creepy when I think of my past memories living there
    as an adult.. I mean early to LATE 20’s I had rules imposed on me about when I could be on the computer!! (based on abuse though) like not past 3 pm because my brother would come home and see me on it and get abusive.. (he slammed me into the desk once for being on it)
    til I moved out and couldn’t come over “past 3 pm”
    only based on when he would be home…
    ?

    Liked by 1 person

    • luckyotter says:

      Your mother does sound like she was quite abusive and I’m sorry you had to put up all those shenanigans of hers. But the kitchen and stairs thing? IDK, it could have been abusive but it sounds kind of OCD-ish too. But if she were a narcissist (I’m assuming here she is, based on her general behavior) then it could have been a covert means to control. I’m not saying here that covert Ns can’t be bad, especially if they aren’t aware of their narc-ness. They often collude with more aggressive abusers and carry out the behind-the-scenes dirty work. Sounds like that was what your mother was up to. Ns tend to get worse as they age, too. A few mellow out, but most do not.
      My “family” pretty much sucked too, but you already know that.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Susan says:

        colluding with more aggressive abusers is what she has always done. they all mellowed out and she is now left alone with NO abusers! so I do think she simply started to create some weird rituals that make her still feel in some sort of either chaos or control..
        its what she would tell ME..that I cant go in the kitchen etc..
        and now she is imposing it upon herself and there is no abuser around
        its all strange
        the abusers were my brothers and father.. he passed and my brothers are no longer abusers… she lives in total peace…
        but is still acting out rituals.. and plays victim.. when no one is even evil…
        one example is taking out the trash then complaining she doesn’t want to remind her son to do it…. then complaining about her very hurt arms.. yet still cannot bring herself to ask him to do it.. she is 75.. he can do it.. she is either afraid to ask or likes to seem like a victim
        she will tell me she is either freezing or roasting in summer/winter.. when he is right upstairs..again her own son.. and he can easily fix that for her.. but she says “no he is busy”
        instead she is getting shots in her arm from the Doctor for hurting her arms..
        she is acting like a kid in a sense
        she had total control ..now she is like.. me in a sense.. how I felt in that house…scared to say or do anything…. but she BOUGHT the house with him…
        I was a “freeloader” she is trying to change roles.she ALWAYS says she doesn’t want to be a burden.
        one time I was away for years with an abusive ex and I was home not more than 3 nights when I overheard my brother (this same one she lives with now) telling her to kick me out because im “using the heat and eating the food”
        I felt like a stray dog
        there was an empty room and empty bed..my old room
        how do you “use” the heat when its on anyway
        I found it cruel since I came to her from down the same street..in a house without heat in dead winter (even my shampoo and conditioner froze) with a flu and was trying to go to work that way… I mean..it was a dig.. he knew I was there because the house I came from had no heat…now she says every winter she is cold and cant speak up…is this a form of guilt ? its all stupid to live this way.
        anyway without all the details you know how it is 😦
        I know we can all go on and on with those details. it just still boggles my mind
        especially how they expect to be “good people” who are “going to heaven” because “God LOVES them”
        I guess I find that impossible.
        narcs and Jesus is a dangerous mix
        because to them he is a scapegoat.
        and if you try to take it away you will pay hell from them
        its not sincere
        its “he took my sins now shut up” literally.ive been told that countless times

        Liked by 2 people

        • Wow, I can relate to so much of what you said here, Susan. The details are different but the level of craziness is exactly the same. ((HUG))

          Liked by 1 person

          • katiesdream2004 says:

            Yes Susan that Jesus and narc mix is really mind boggling and confusing. Not that narcs ever say they are sorry but if they did, this missing piece of restitution needs to happen. They won’t do restitution, for example, contact everyone they lied to about you and set the record straight that they were sick and abusive to you. That would be a sign to me that their faith was sincere and that they actually had some sort of conversion.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Restitution!! Yes!! That’s exactly what is missing from these fake Christians.

              A truly repentant person would never say “I repented to Jesus and He took my sins away, so now you need to forgive me, too!” Someone whose heart has truly been changed would do exactly what Katie said: make restitution. Start by telling the truth to everyone they lied to about you to.

              Also, instead of demanding instant and total forgiveness for hurting you, someone who is genuinely sorry will tell you that they have no right to expect you to forgive them for hurting you so badly. But sadly, in my experience, a truly repentant person seems to be very rare.

              Liked by 1 person

            • katiesdream2004 says:

              Yes!

              Liked by 1 person

            • Susan says:

              yep! Bible even says “bring fruits WORTHY of repentance” (I think they try to get the “fruit” from YOU and cant! in a manner of squeezing blood out ) it says ..”don’t come to me before making restitution with your brother first” etc…
              they have Jesus and no one else… so we don’t feel OUR Jesus in them…I am so sad that I truly repented as a child, crying my eyes out daily for ten years for doing (as I look back) tiny sins.. from a childlike heart and mind… just wanting them to love me….. I cried and prayed oh please let me please them..let me be a good girl etc…I was always praying “let me be a good girl” because I was so angry inside!
              and I received peace from these prayers
              they hated seeing the peace. if I seemed happy,such as just coming from my room praying and received peace.. then abuse would ensue.
              it was like straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel!
              youre right they would have to go public and you can tell when someone is sorry.
              instead its look ive got Jesus to forgive me so I DONT NEED YOU!
              that’s EXACTLY what I dealt with.
              and what was said word for word.

              Liked by 2 people

            • luckyotter says:

              That’s so awful they wouldn’t even let you have the peace you got through prayer. I’m so sorry.

              Like

  4. Pingback: The Making of a Psychopathic Narcissist – A Blog About Healing From PTSD

  5. Hi Lucky, this is a brilliant post. How you figure these things out is amazing to me. I was going to reblog this, but then the part that I was going to write in the reblog field got longer and longer, so finally I decided to make my own post, but put a link in it to this post, as being my inspiration. I hope that’s ok? If not, let me know and I will change it.

    My post with your link is: The Making of a Psychopathic Narcissist
    https://ablogabouthealingfromptsd.wordpress.com/2016/03/19/the-making-of-a-psychopathic-narcissist/

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Diana says:

    Agree! My sister as a narcissist is as much overt as she is covert depending on what she wants and what her game is. She excels at both. She is one of the most cruel people in my life I have ever known. She is sneaky in her cruel narc games and manipulative and she is blatantly cruel and aggressive with her narc attacks. I think both are malignant in her and can be in anyone that is a narcissist.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. katiesdream2004 says:

    Wow this explains quite a lot to be about the different varieties of narcs in my family. I have a sociopathic narc story here:
    The first time my sociopath narc husband cheated on me, I was very broken by it. Of course it had all sorts of dramatic bloodletting involved. 4 months into my marriage, he becomes profoundly cold, vicious at times, indifferent, cruel and the abuse increases. As a mental health professional he is labeling me all sorts of things telling me I’m paranoid, etc, etc, for asking “where were you all night?”
    I ran around in circles trying to figure out what happened and he isn’t talking. That energy to pursue another woman and idealize her meant he had to subtract points from me in the cruelest way possible.

    I didn’t understand narcissism at the time, I went home to lick my wounds at which time my mother did a reveal about her narc past (Only I just thought “that was her pre-Christian days”.) but I remember being shocked by it. She told me she had an affair with a married Captain in the Army. When the wife and 3 children showed up at her door to beg her to leave her husband and their father alone, she laughed. She said “lady I don’t give a #(%( what you want, get off my porch” She told me her thought about the woman was “what a loser”. Apparently he got in trouble with the military for it and she found that hilarious as well.

    She was explaining this so I’d understand the woman my husband waltzed off with was laughing at me and thought I was a loser. She had that soulless look in her eyes and I think she enjoyed watching the pain play across my face as she informed me hubby and his lover were having a great laugh about what a loser I am. Later I realized there was a pattern of doing destructive things to people and then enjoying it and rehearsing it as a moment of proud accomplishment.

    I look at it now and see so many times where she is shoving a knife in, twisting it around, with a look of satisfaction on her face. She loved seeing people get hurt especially if they were pretty young women.

    My sister by contrast, is probably covert–she is more confusing than my mother. Someone that is malignant sociopathic, as you note, is pretty clear, their eyes tell you, but a covert can seem to be a victim more convincingly than a sociopath. She often thinks of her self as a victim expects empathy from people when she is so completely self absorbed she has no clue how demanding and entitled she is.

    Liked by 1 person

    • luckyotter says:

      Gosh, I’m so sorry, your mother seems horrible. Glad you’re not in contact with her. Your sister with the poor me act…yeah, that a tactic they use. If “supply” isn’t forthcoming, pity will do in a pinch.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Rachel says:

    So, if coverts aren’t malignant, why does it appear that they deliberately play their games?

    I left a narc who was not needy but appeared very kind, sensible and altruistic (I thought she was a god send and wonderful and would have never seen her for a Donald Trump-like overt narc)until you got to see behind her mask. I feel she was covert because her lying and smear campaign were so hard to spot and I thought I was going nuts. Her behavior is best described as insidious and it’s only months later that I can look back and unwind her lies and deception. It is only now that some of her triangulation appears on purpose. ( inviting me to dinner an hour later than her other guests so that I appear to be inconsiderately late and she can play the martyr).
    Maybe, I’m confused about coverts? Because she’s definitely a mean, sneaky, snake in the grass malignant type!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Susan says:

      wow how would she have all that time and energy!? that’s crazy! inviting you an hour late just to use it! well in reading your comment I can see that the “covertedness” is for OTHERS’ sake.. i.e. the people at the party… seems she would know YOU know whats up ..but THEY don’t. and you also DIDNT know at the TIME you were told to come an hour late… that is covert! oy. just reading that it was like all these little instances came flooding back to me.. they were female friends.. and I am female…. they pulled covert actions on me.. but they were for the benefit of people around..i could walk into the trap like a deer in headlights while people standing around her would be all coddling her , and sneering at me! amazing.how can they possibly get anything out of something they set up and is fake? well I don’t know but they sure do eat it up.

      Like

      • Rachel says:

        Oh boy! It sounds like you had some Machiavellian covert friends! Deer in the headlights is right-most people could never think of doing something so elaborate just for sympathy. Its crazy making. It takes time and distance to unravel it all. If they’d only use all that energy in a positive way!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Susan says:

          I agree! this one won who had popped in my head, she was in her 30’s! I was in my 20’s at that time, we were best friends and had so much fun together! she showed tiny signs of being possessive over me such as when I said , “I just want to stay in tonight” like one day a week.. her and I were inseperable, people called us Siamese twins but it was all positive! at first and then as SOON as she found a man!!!! I became this SUDDEN target! all in her head! I realized it was her own karma/energy coming back on her (many years later, as I was deer in headlights! CLUELESS!) it was that she had told the Church (we were both heavily involved in Church) that I was a previously married person!! this was a STRICT Church and men don’t even TALK to you unless interested in marriage lol…so she got jealous when men paid attention to me, or as she said even just LOOKING at me from across the room… so she made sure all knew I was off limits a permanent virgin LOL I was married but still a VIRGIN (yes these things happen haha) and I was very HURT because #1 I am pretty sure God doesn’t want people to stay virgins forever lol and #2 and most importantly.. she was SLEEPING AROUND casually!! AND divorced AND she got remarried!!! to that same guy.. whom she ditched me for……. and I NEVER SAID A WORD not a peep not a hint NOTHING, as I would never do that to someone!!!! I just let her turn all the Church against me… (if that could happen they weren’t worth anything either) even when I was becoming friends with the womans group.. she told them all something about me, I still do not know to this day but she ended up in her “tears” with them all hugging her… no one ever even talked to me in Church after that. I sat alone and kept attending for months afterwards figuring I am here to worship GOD. and I was content,but as I look bad I see a sad fool 😦 but I am proud of my character..it just didn’t belong there….by the way I dated ONE man from that church and he told me that since my father died, that I as a woman had no say over my life and couldn’t make my own decisions, and would have to ask male members of the church to help me make decisions LOL and that if I didn’t believe him, he could take me to female members to confirm that to me. (first and last date) I also left the Church. are they ALL narcissists!!! to take over someone’s life because their father died incensed me to NO END. so if they had their way, im a virgin forever then great! lol.except not one of them would SUPPORT me, if I have no husband or father right?????????? HYPOCRISY!!!
          no its go get a job make money.give it to us.. and give us also your life and authority for as a woman you cant make decisions ahahhaahhaaaaaaaa whew sorry! funny how people who come through an experience with even ONE narcissist can even seen clearly now ALL EVENTS in their life!!! at work church anywhere!!! we are so intuned now.

          Liked by 1 person

  9. Susan says:

    that same Church made me sign a paper, since I joined the choir.. not to sing! to watch their children in daycare!!! but the assistant pastor said that was officially joining the choir.. and the paper said I had to cover my shoulders at all times lol, it had a dress code. oh well sigh… it was just a fundamentalist Baptist church in Maryland in the early 2000’s! not some cult… believe me this is common
    basically I was a joyful person and they ruined and destroyed it
    same as a dysfunctional family, what is the difference?
    your family is abusive so you get a new family, and then they are too
    your father dies so they replace him for you, they say.. well then I can see why it just wont work.
    they have another thing coming.
    they have to face “themselves” and all they have done to real people
    that’s when they start squirming and getting MORE abusive just as my family did when I started Church! they are the SAME on a two sided coin
    I wonder what they want? its not healthy to want something you don’t have. and Church teaches you to do that. that HOLY is outside of you , and you filthy rotten dirty sinner out your head down in shame. but if someone dare shine and show happiness and joy.. that’s a target. this is definitely my experience! I do still hate the way it sounds like a self victim.. even sounds narcissisitic! “persecution complex” etc if only it wasn’t happening day in and day out!
    as I look back I am actually quite proud of the way I handled myself. I never confronted or outed that friend of mine.. I prayed for my brothers (abusive) took them to church! that’s from the HEART. I cooked them and their friends dinner and prayed out loud over it!!! a shy person! who had never even done that..it was from the depths of my soul but I got viciously attacked after that and for years to come abused by them. seems I have to pay for what I believe…:(
    they used to see me CRY in tears when they were in trouble!!!! (with the law) I was still just something to hit.
    its been almost 15 years later since that house of horrors ended for me… but that’s all I have to go on, that’s my memory.. I do not attend holiday dinners… I ask to go when they are not.. (I still visit mom and the brother she lives with, as he wasn’t that way) she was but she is 75 and I feel a duty to make her happy
    God will deal with her. He is in us .
    I no longer need their “love” I just see that my need was misdirected.
    its MY love, God taught me its my ability to love that I have. its something natural. they sought to make it unnatural for their sakes.
    why give me all this love if I cant direct at the living beings around me!? humans! family church etc..God sometimes makes me feel my people are in some alternate universe …since I am SURE a love like this that I have gets given AND received.. both… no way it gets locked up and tortured all the time… how can that be repented for?
    I found out I don’t want to know : )
    as its unnatural! I wouldn’t even want the burden of a person being sorry. im that done!
    they shouldn’t HAVE to feel shame for being an unnatural unloving being.. that also is a burden for me

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