The Making of a Psychopathic Narcissist

Linda Lee makes a very important distinction here, one I’ve always believed. I agree with her that, like her mother, many narcissists switch back and forth between the covert and overt subtypes. When supply is abundant, they tend to become more aggressive and grandiose (this is why my ex was harder for me to deal with when things were going well for him) but when supply is low, they switch to the more covert form. Whether or not someone is “covert” or “overt” might have more to do with their life circumstances than a real difference in the type of NPD they have. NPD is NPD and it’s all pretty much the same at it’s core.

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“Narcissism–Living without Feelings”


I just read one of the most detailed and comprehensive articles about NPD I’ve ever come across, and also one of the scariest. It’s very long so you’ll need to set aside an hour or so to read all of it, but it’s definitely worth your time.

Some (but not all) of the issues discussed are the difference between healthy and unhealthy narcissism; how the borderline differs from the narcissist; childhood origins; the dynamics of narcissistic families (scapegoats, golden children, and bystanders); the 23 characteristics of narcissism (which take into account the less obvious Covert Narcissist); the development of the false self;  the physical characteristics of narcissists (this is new to me); and narcissism in modern society.

Narcissism by Richard Boyd, Perth WA – Energetics Institute, Copyright 2010
Narcissism – Living Without Feelings

The word narcissism is one that has in recent years has been increasingly used in popular press to describe personalities and lifestyles. One form of Narcissism is however a little understood personality disorder which is increasingly showing up in our leaders across political, business, sporting, psychological and spiritual institutions(Behary:2008).

Indeed narcissism and narcissistic is increasingly being used to describe the mass cultural shift to a “self” obsessed culture where there is rampant consumerism, the pursuit of power, excesses, and the abuse of others in the pursuit of these ends, notes Martinez-Lewi(2008).

The word narcissism comes from the Greek mythological figure, Narcissus, who upon seeing his own reflection in a pond, fell obsessively in love with himself and his own image. As you will see in this article, the true unhealthy narcissist we see today, while maintaining a false self or “mask” of achievement, perfection, and the attainment of all the symbols of success and power, hides underneath a self hating, insecure, fragile real self, which fears being uncovered and exposed at any moment.

The key point here is we all need a healthy dose of Narcissism, as else we would not back ourselves in life, nor have a healthy sense of self. There are healthy forms of narcissism. However unhealthy narcissists do not have a healthy sense of self but instead have learnt to live life from a false self.


Unhealthy Narcissists are not in touch with their true self, instead becoming a chameleon type of personality who seek to project an idealised image to others, and then seduce and control all others that have some value or utility for them, until that persons utility value is exhausted, and then they are dumped and abandoned without remorse by the narcissist.
In some ways unhealthy Narcissism is seen by some schools of thought as a form of depressive disorder as the narcissist underneath the false mask, moves between depression and aggression. The aggression is most prevalent where there is a threat to being uncovered or exposed as being false, wrong, corrupt, or exploitative(Ransky:1998).

The narcissistic person may be male or female, and is obsessive in their primary pursuit of satisfaction, whether that be power, money and other resources to prop up the false self. Another common term for the narcissist in the business context is the Corporate Psychopath, notes Paul Babiak(2006), a noted specialist on the corporate version of this pathological individual.
According to body-mind researcher and M.D, Alexander Lowen, in his book, Narcissism – Denial of the True Self, narcissists share many common traits with bullies, but due to their ability to project a compelling false, idealised self image, and high intelligence, are more likely to “get away with it”, and escape accountability.

Some narcissistic people are “healthy” in their approach to life and achievement, but they are not of the type to be discussed throughout this article. A healthy and productive narcissistic person goes about their lives in a passionate way, achieve their goals, but retain empathy, consideration for others, and often a mindset of contributing to their community. Healthy Narcissism has more of the following characteristics according to Lewi-Martinez(2008) and Meir(2009):
Life is not all about them;
They are able to have stable and enduring marriages, relationships and business careers;
They are often are involved in charity and community service;
These people make and keep promises to others and to themselves;
They can give and take from a grounded place;
They are usually empathic and engaging;
A determined leader who seeks recognition where due and earnt;
Confrontational and accountable to self and others;
Wisely fearful and knows limits;
Self possessed but not selfish;
Very competitive and likes a challenge;
Vain in their achievements but the achievements are real and earnt;
In contact with own inner needs and wants and the difference of each.


This article concerns itself with the unhealthy forms of narcissism. Narcissists are found in all walks of life. After reading this article you may identify your spouse, co-worker, friend, relative, parent, boss, therapist, spiritual mentor, favourite athlete, or local or international political figures as potential unhealthy versions of narcissists. They key aspect of these individuals is their grandiosity, and their overstated sense of self entitlement in life often despite often not working hard to earn any such rewards.

Some unhealthy narcissists will be seen to be hard working and have their own achievements to own. Normally these types of Narcissist will also overstate their own achievements and minimise others and their achievements(Lowen:1986). There is often an arrogance in their personality.
Achieving Narcissistic personalities normally have a strong rigid-perfectionistic streak which gives them the discipline to set goals, focus and achieve, but there is a clinical coldness or unfeeling aspect to their natures(Lowen:1986). Many unhealthy Narcissists appear to achieve but in fact are predators who feed off victims they encounter in life, using their victims’ efforts, skills, and hard work, which get assumed and taken by the narcissist as their own, without remorse, recognition or meaningful reward for those around them(Babiak:2006).

In a narcissist’s world, It’s all about them, as Narcissists possess no real empathy, they feign or act empathic, while they delude themself that they are entitled to special treatment, and to not having to bother with detail or drudgery(Babiak:2006). These narcissists often gather a following of helpers or “sidekicks” to manipulate into doing any effort based work for them. Instead they spent their time managing their “image”, being a “visionary”, being “strategic”, establishing key “contacts”, that they argue only they are able to successfully do(Lewi-Martinez:2008).


Some narcissistic personalities have an obsessive base in the personality where they micro-manage their own life, from work tasks to how they groom and dress, as they do not trust others or their standards of work. Other less rigid types are more focussed on positioning themself as indispensable, yet at the same time try to be unaccountable, being hard to track down, hard to get them to put things in writing, and they will avoid team roles where they are not the leader(Meier:2009).

Where possible they will delegate the work to a co-worker or “sidekick”. Narcissists hate mundane jobs and tasks that are “beneath them” and avoid them by manipulating others where possible to do such jobs on their behalf(Babiak:2006). Narcissists necessarily include others in their life so as to get the other person to do what they are unable to do, do not want to do, or what they feel is beneath them to do.

Read the rest of this article here.

The Vulnerable Dark Triad.

I wrote this article today, but it belongs on both my blogs, so I’m going to be redundant. 😛

Yikes! Does this mean I’m a narcissist?

Almost a year ago, I wrote this slightly jocular post after I read an article describing covert narcissism. It was the first time I’d actually read anything about it. Even back then, I recognized the symptoms as fitting me like a glove, but was far away from awareness. This slightly humorous, false self-deprecating attitude was typical of a lot of my posts at the time. I think somewhere deep inside though, I knew.

I can’t believe how different everything seems now.

Lucky Otters Haven

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…

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When the “fleas” of narcissism go too far.


Narcissists infect people, just like a disease. They have the uncanny ability of turning people into one of them, if you’re around them long enough. That’s why, whenever it’s possible, No Contact is always the best course of action. You cannot change a narcissist or reform them. What will happen instead is you will start to take on narcissistic behaviors yourself.

Narcissists are body-snatchers and will snatch yours and before you know it, you can become one of them. It may be the only personality disorder that’s contagious. Hanging around one too long is very dangerous to your self esteem, your identity, and even your soul. It’s more dangerous than making your escape, even if you don’t have a dollar to your name.

If you were raised by them, you may have a serious problem. Many (though not all) children of narcissists become narcissists or borderlines themselves. Because narcissistic parents can’t form proper bonds with their children and either use them as supply or scapegoats, children of narcissists more likely than not develop severe attachment disorders in childhood, and attachment disorders can easily become NPD, either covert or overt, somatic or cerebral. If the child is a little luckier, she or he can develop BPD, PTSD and many other disorders that make adult life difficult.


Overt/classic/grandiose narcissism (the type that best fits the criteria in the current DSM) develops most often in golden children who were held on a pedestal and could do no wrong, or were terribly spoiled, or it can develop in child who served as the parent’s flying monkey. It can also develop in a scapegoat who wants to prove their narcissistic parents wrong. Overt narcissists are usually extroverts who are good at playing the role of a confident, aggressive leader and many of them become financially and professionally successful. They are good at maintaining their mask for as long as they need to.

Covert/vulnerable narcissism usually develops in a scapegoated child who cloaks their grandiosity in an outer cloak of deference and humility, usually as a way to avoid punishment for acting too arrogant or aggressive while growing up. It can also develop in a child who is sometimes a scapegoat and sometimes a golden child. In a way, they are worse off than an overt narcissist, because they have a double layer of masks (false selves): the grandiose mask that hides the undeveloped, atrophied true self within, and a meek, shy and deferent outer mask that cloaks their grandiosity and sense of entitlement. That’s why a covert narcissist can be easily pushed around or bullied by others, but underneath their seemingly nice, quiet image there is seething envy and anger that isn’t expressed unless they are pushed to the limit and explode in rage. Their rage and envy is also likely to come out in passive-aggressive ways. Yet a covert narcissist is easier to cure because (a) they are far more likely to want help; and (b) their lives are miserable and their brand of narcissism isn’t adaptive in today’s world.

BPD is more common in women and some female covert narcissists may actually be diagnosed with BPD, because the disorders can seem so much alike and women aren’t diagnosed with NPD as often as men are. BPD probably develops most often when there is ambiguous attachment to the mother during early childhood and the child is inconsistently rewarded and punished. They learn early that people and life are unpredictable and no one can be trusted. They fear abandonment because they were never able to tell if their parent would love them or push them away. BPD also is correlated with early sexual abuse.

Fleas of narcissism are deadly because with prolonged exposure, they can cause permanent infestation. If it’s at all possible, cut off any narcissist in your life or avoid them as much as possible. Watch for red flags so you can escape before it’s too late because escaping once they “have” you is far more difficult and can be dangerous.

If you were raised by narcissists, no matter how damaged you are, if you didn’t become a narcissist yourself, consider yourself extremely lucky. There is hope for you to eventually be able to live a normal, happy life. If you’re a non-malignant narcissist, there may still be hope but the road to becoming a normal and happy person is going to be longer and harder.

How to recognize a covert narcissist.


When most of us think of narcissists, we think of the overt type– arrogant and full of themselves, outwardly aggressive, flying into rages if they don’t get their way or their supply is not cooperating, confrontational, demanding, and high-maintenance. Think of the tyrannical boss everyone’s terrified of; the demanding, high maintenance, conceited friend; the roommate who feels entitled to “borrow” your clothes, car or money without asking; or the abusive and philandering husband–those are examples of overt narcissists. They’re in your face. They’re outwardly obnoxious. They may seem nice when you meet them (otherwise they wouldn’t be able to trap you as prey), but as soon as you’re in their clutches, they begin to show their true colors.

The second type, covert narcissists, seem much more benign, even after they’ve reeled you in as a source of supply. They don’t necessarily drop the nice act. That’s why they’re so dangerous. Because it’s hard to put your finger on what these dolls are actually doing, you may think there’s something wrong with you for feeling wary or nervous around such a “nice” person. They are the true wolves in sheeps clothing. The red flags are much harder to see in a covert narcissist. But make no mistake–they are predators too.

Some examples of covert narcissists include:

— the compassionate and friendly nurse who “accidentally” kills her patients.
— the needy friend who gives you unasked for gifts or does unasked for favors, then complains that you are acting selfishly if you want to spend time doing something besides being with them.
— the spouse who plays “martyr” and puts everyone on a guilt trip because of “everything they’ve done for you.”
— the friend who seems to have a neverending litany of problems, but when you try to help them they never take your advice or give you a long list of reasons why the advice you give them will never work. This friend is an emotional parasite, and will make you feel drained.
— the parasitic spouse who won’t get a job (and doesn’t appear to be trying). They keep giving you “reasonable” excuses as to why they can’t find one or why they haven’t tried to look. Really, they are just trying to live off you.

Illustration by Mike Reed.

The red flags we normally look for to peg a narc are much more difficult to detect in a covert narcissist, because they can seem so friendly, charming, generous and even altruistic (yes, altruism can be selfish when it comes with strings attached). The website Info Self Development, in their article about covert vs overt narcissists, lists these tell tale signs for recognizing a covert narcissist:

–Emptiness, seems to have something missing that you can’t quite put your finger on
–Stubborn, rarely apologising unless they want something from you (see narcissistic supply)
–Ability to make you feel guilty, even when something is not your fault
–Entirely self centered; they are the center of their own universe
–Expert liars; charming, hypnotic, a master of manipulation
–Projecting their insecurities and defects onto you
–Very sensitive to constructive criticism
–Inability to form intimate relationships
–Inability to feel genuine remorse
–Blaming others for their problems
–Low emotional intelligence
–Highly materialistic
–Extreme lack of empathy
–Superficially charming
–A victim mentality.

I think the last one is important– victim mentality. These are the do-gooders, the “altruists,” the first person to volunteer for the church fundraising drive, the mother who volunteers as the classroom mother, the favor-doing friend. If you fail to “appreciate” their good deeds to their satisfaction or live up to their unrealistically high expectations (for example not volunteering ALL your free time to the church fundraising drive), watch out. That’s when they will work behind the scenes to ruin your reputation through gossip, lies, and triangulation. They are “martyrs” and you are selfish and evil for not sacrificing yourself the way they have “for you.”


They can also appear in the form of a needy “friend” who monopolizes your time with a seemingly neverending litany of problems or crises (sometimes brought on by themselves). They never seem to learn from their mistakes, and they will eat up your time and patience pleading or begging you to “fix” things for them. They almost seem to take a perverse pride in being victims. But any advice you give them will be dismissed or ignored. They will make excuses as to why the advice you gave them wouldn’t work. In some cases you may even be blamed for giving them the “wrong” advice, thereby making their problems even worse. They are emotional vampires who take and take, but never give anything back in return. If you ever have a problem, fuggaddaboutit. They won’t be there for you.

Covert narcissists may seem nice, but they aren’t. As with any narcissist, the best way to handle them is by avoiding them or cutting off contact with them if you can.

Yikes! Does this mean I’m a narcissist?

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.