Grandiose and “vulnerable” narcissists: how do they differ?

This got buried for awhile, but I think it’s one of my best posts about narcissism, so here it is again.

Lucky Otters Haven

Both the beggar and the king could be narcissists with a different M.O.

An interesting article in Psychology Today explains the difference between grandiose (invulnerable) narcissists, and “vulnerable” narcissists. Either can be somatic or cerebral, and either can also be malignant or non-malignant.

The two kinds of narcissists can seem very different on the surface:

Grandiose narcissists can seem emotionally cold, convinced of their achievements or success, and rarely if ever talk about their fears or their problems. They can be very quick to judge others though. On the surface they seem strong and tough. You won’t see them show emotions other than rage or pride, and if they are ever sad or fearful, you will never see that side of them. Like all narcissists, they are never happy,but they can “act” happy if they need to. And like all narcissists, they are incapable of love but may be able…

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3 common types of narcissists.

When most people think of a narcissist, they picture the stereotype:  a successful, wealthy male who is arrogant, grandiose about his appearance or achievements or intelligence, acts entitled, greedy, lacking in empathy, and is emotionally abusive to his underlings and his family.   He thinks far too highly of himself and while no one likes him, everyone respects him (or is terrified of him).  He doesn’t care if you’re scared of him or not; he just wants you to worship him and do his bidding.

But most narcissists actually don’t fit this stereotype. The traditional DSM description of Narcissistic Personality Disorder fit this stereotype best though, and that’s probably why most people picture an arrogant, successful man when they hear the term NPD.   While there definitely are narcissists who fit that description, most probably don’t.   And while NPD is usually diagnosed in males (females are far more likely to be labeled BPD or HPD), in actuality it’s probably just as common in women.  They’re just less likely to have been diagnosed with it.

I think one reason why NPD is more often given to males is because the label is so stigmatizing that it’s usually only given to people who have broken the law, and the vast majority of convicted criminals are male  (ASPD–antisocial personality disorder–is also commonly given to men who have broken the law).

I’ve noticed three main types of narcissists, and they can be either male or female.   Only the first type–the grandiose or overt narcissist–fits the traditional stereotype.

1. The Grandiose Narcissist.


The grandiose, or overt narcissist, fits the traditional stereotype of someone with NPD.   There are probably more males of this type than females, but both exist.    A grandiose narcissist is drunk on pride, and will become extremely angry or abusive should you question his superiority or attempt to expose him as the narcissist he really is.   Most grandiose narcissists are successful, though not all are.   Those who aren’t successful act as if they were, spending money they don’t have and bragging about achievements they never earned (or exaggerating them).   They use others for their own gain because they can’t recognize that those around them are human beings with feelings, not objects to be used and discarded as they see fit.  Grandiose narcissists expect you to worship them and look up to them as paragons of superiority in whatever they have deemed themselves to be the “best” at–maybe it’s their appearance or body (somatic narcissist) or maybe it’s their intelligence or achievements (cerebral narcissist).   If you criticize them they become extremely upset and angry and will either attack or sometimes, give you the silent treatment.  They expect the world from you but will give you nothing in return, for you, lowly servant, only exist to worship them and give them the admiration and adulation they expect as their birthright.

A woman of this type is likely to be conceited about her beauty or perfect physical appearance, and looks down on those who don’t fit her standards of physical perfection.  But there are plenty of cerebral female narcissists too.  Both types tend to act snobbish and arrogant toward those they regard as beneath them.   She will also be demanding and high maintenance in relationships, demanding constant attention and adulation. She would never admit it but she is actually extremely needy and will eventually drive away lovers (or unceremoniously discard them herself when they fail to meet her impossible standards).

The next two types are both examples of the covert narcissist.  Covert narcissists are less grandiose but in their own ways, they act just as entitled and have little to no empathy.   They are a lot less obvious than the grandiose type, and because of that, can be more dangerous because you never expected such a “nice” person to be so abusive.  Covert narcissists are the real crazymakers, because they’re good at twisting everything around to make you seem like the abuser or “bad guy” while they remain blameless.

2. The Do-Gooder.


Mother Teresa herself has nothing on the Do-Gooder.   She is a saint, a paragon of virtue, and never, ever does anything wrong.  She attends church every Sunday,  reads her Bible, volunteers at the food pantry or at the church or school, and if she can afford to, gives a good chunk of her money to various charitable organizations.   She’s the stereotypical Jewish mother who always frets and worries about your well-being, but is really overbearing and her “overprotection” is really all about controlling you.   She will smother you with her “concern” and make you long to escape to freedom.   She may make it difficult for you to do things on your own:  you will be told you “need her help” or her company even if you don’t need or want it.  If you tell her to back off and give you some space, she’s likely to take on the Victim role, acting all butt-hurt, maybe even crying. She will guilt-trip you, whining,  “But I was only trying to HELP!” or, “I’m your mother–and you treat me so badly.”    There are male Do-Gooders too, but I think it’s probably more common in females.

Do Gooders also like to act all sanctimonious and self righteous, like the Church Lady in the old Saturday Night Live skits.   She loves to make others feel inferior by devoting the MOST time to a charitable event, the MOST money to a cause, baked the MOST cookies for the school bake sale, and then crow about how much she has done, and how much God favors her because of all her good, unselfish deeds.   If you have failed to meet her standards of saintliness, she will give you a condescending, withering look, making you feel like the worst person on earth.

3. The Victim.


The victim type of narcissist is the opposite of grandiose, but is just as entitled and lacking in empathy.   These are emotional vampires that will suck everything out of you until you’re so exhausted and depressed you just want to go shoot yourself in the head.   The victim gets their supply in the form of sympathy or pity.  She will tell you all her problems and expect you to always be there at her beck and call, no matter how inconvenient this is for you.  She will make demands on you, expecting you to drop everything to listen to her latest crisis and will show no empathy if you have needs that take priority to hers.  In fact she may become angry or try to make you feel guilty, or project her own narcissism onto you and call you selfish.   But the favor won’t be returned:  if you ever have a problem of your own and want a listening ear or shoulder to cry on, she will either ignore you or find a way to turn the conversation back to her.  No matter how much you try to help, they keep making the same mistakes and never seem to grow or change.

These kinds of covert narcissists are especially infuriating because no matter what you suggest, she or he will find an excuse as to why what you suggest would never work.  They are frustrating because they never listen, and never thank you for your time.  They don’t really want your help; they just want your undivided attention and sympathy because it’s their preferred form of narcissistic supply.

The narcissist game of “Gotcha!”


An earlier post of mine described the 8 mind-games  that narcissists all love to play.   (Please be aware this was actually a reblog of someone else’s post).  One of the more popular games, played by both covert and overt (grandiose) narcissists is “Gotcha!”

“Gotcha!” can be played two different ways, but both have the same devastating effect on the narcissist’s opponent (victim).   Both are intended to bring your mood down as low as it can go and at the same time, reward the narcissist with supply (which you provide with your emotional reaction) which makes them feel better about themselves.

Here are the two versions of “Gotcha!”



This game is most popular with overt narcissists because it allows them to exercise their grandiosity and turn it into a handy weapon and suction tube for feeding.

In “Bug,” the victim always goes first.  You start the game by feeling down, depressed, or worthless after some misfortune.    The narcissist is good at faking empathy and love bombs you by spreading that phony sh*t on thick.  Eventually you let your guard down and confide in the narcissist all your woes, misfortunes,  and feelings of dejection.   You tell them your whole life story, feeling like you have found a kind shoulder to cry on.   A patient, empathic person who cares about you and wants to help you.

Not so fast, there!   Your narcissist is already planning their next move, and it has about as much to do with empathy as a Canadian Mountie has to do with a Taliban terrorist.    What is that next move, you ask?   They’re about to pull a bait and switch on you.   The next time you confide in them about losing your home, your spouse, your job, or your mental health, they will callously “share” with you all about the exotic vacation they’re planning to take, the big promotion they just got, or the new romantic partner in their lives.   They will crow about how blessed they are (“blessed” is a favorite term used by narcissists as a subtle envy-generator) and how unfair it is that others aren’t as fortunate as they are (this last is a snide put down, implying that you’re not one of the chosen people that God has chosen to shower his bounty on).

Of course you’re not an envious person, but hearing all about their perfect, blessed life at a time like this when you are suffering is too much.    The narcissist doesn’t care.   In fact, they may actually be lying to you about all those wonderful things.  They want to see you suffering and envious of them, because (1) your suffering provides them with a comparative ego boost (hey, at least they’re not as unfortunate as YOU!)  and (2) your envy inflates their ego even more.   They feed off your pain like a pig rolling in slop.

To them, you are just a bug, not worthy of respect or any real compassion.   Maybe they’ll getcha with some pitying contempt though:  “Oh, I feel so SORRY for you!”   It’s intention is to make you feel shame.  When you’re already down, expect to be stepped on and squished under the heel of the narcissist’s boot until there’s nothing left of you.

Wet Blanket.


This is a game almost always played by covert narcissists.   The tactics used to win the game are very different than “Bug,” but the end goal is the same:  to make you feel like shit.

As in “Bug,” you (the victim) begin the game.  (Of course you don’t know it’s a game, but that doesn’t matter.)   You think you’ve found a friend in the narcissist because they seem so interested in you.   You just found out some great news–you got that promotion, your book is going to be published, you just found out you’re pregnant after months of trying, you won the lottery.

Naturally the narcissist doesn’t like your good news. To them, it is very bad news, because in their minds, the good fortune of someone else diminishes them.  Life to them is a zero sum game.  There can only be one winner and it has to be them.    For something good to happen to you means it didn’t happen to them which means they hate your guts because you have something which they do not.   It doesn’t even have to be something they want:  the fact you have something good at all is an affront to them.  They must find a way to ruin it for you and in effect, bring you down closer to being as miserable as they are (evening the score).

So after a phony congratulations (maybe), the narcissist becomes a concern troll.  Out of “concern” for you (and always for your own good), he or she just has to “warn” you about the dark  side of your good fortune (and if possible find a way to put you down too, or tell you why it doesn’t count).    So if you got a promotion, you’ll get a speech about how much harder you’ll have to work and how you’ll probably lose all your friends stil in lower positions.  Or you’ll be told why your promotion doesn’t really count because it’s one of those “honorary” titles or it’s really just a “lateral” move.   If your book just got accepted by a publisher, you’ll be told that publisher is a crook or their business is failing and you’ll never see your royalties; if you found out you’re pregnant they’ll tell you all about how horrible pregnancy is and about all the drudgery and loss of freedom you’ll be facing; if you won the lottery, they’ll trot out stories about people whose lives were ruined after winning the lottery or they’ll remind you that “you did nothing to earn it; it’s only chance–I could have won too!”

Of course, after you listen to the narcissist’s “advice,” your heart will feel heavy and your smile might have disappeared.    You might even be gnawing the sides of your fingernails in anxiety over all the things that could go wrong.  Checkmate!  The narcissist won and now he can feed off your new worries too.

A variation of “Wet Blanket” is actually the mirror-image of “Bug.” After you’ve shared your great news, the narcissist brings down your mood by telling you how terrible their own life is and how they never get any breaks at all. The intention is to make you feel guilty for having so much while they have so little.

Whether it’s guilt, shame or envy the narcissist is trying to induce in you doesn’t matter. They just can’t stand to see anyone happy and must take you down to their level or obliterate you like a bug if you’re already down.

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


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.

NPD mood cycles can mimic Bipolar disorder.


I remembered something about my NPD ex tonight. He used to have mood swings that seemed in many ways reminiscent of Bipolar disorder. It was only later I realized what they really were–cycles of of grandiose entitlement and dejected self-pity. Whenever supply was abundant–such as when he was promoted at work–he became puffed up with pride and this resulted in an attitude of entitlement and grandiosity which he lorded over his subjects, namely me. He also seemed somewhat manic when he was in one of these grandiose phases.  These were the times he was the most likely to become overtly abusive, both emotionally and physically. Instead of being happy the way a normal person might when thingsa are going well for them, my ex became hostile and prone to pick fights. I learned to dread the times in which good things happened to him, because that was when his narcissism seemed to go into overdrive.

When his supply was running low, he sank into deep depressions, in which he lost all his motivation and energy and spent most of his time staring dejectedly into space or sleeping (or pacing the house frantically at night). His “manic” behavior disappeared and he talked very little when he talked at all. When he did speak, it was to moan endlessly about how terrible his life was and how everyone had it in for him (nothing was ever his fault, and he was still assigning himself Center of the Universe status).  He acted helpless and needy, and wallowed in self pity like a pig in mud. He sometimes threatened suicide (but never attempted it–narcissists generally don’t). As annoying as his depressed moods were, I preferred him that way because he was less overtly abusive (though still abusive in a covert, manipulative way). He acted a lot “crazier” in his depressive states and suffered terrible panic attacks on a regular basis. This actually fits with an NPD diagnosis: when a narcissist isn’t getting any supply and their victims aren’t cooperating, they begin to feel like they don’t exist, and can become very depressed and dissociated. The dissociation can lead to severe panic attacks and even psychotic episodes.

The terms “covert narcissism” and “overt narcissism” aren’t mutually exclusive. A covert narcissist (the depressed, “fragile” type) will usually become more overt (grandiose) when supply is high. A grandiose (overt) type will sink to a more covert form of narcissism when supply is low. The two types of narcissism are really just two halves of the same personality disorder. Grandiose narcissists are thought of as being high achievers, but that may be because since they get more positive supply to begin with, they have more reason to act grandiose.

Before I put two and two together and realized my ex’s bizarre mood swings were in direct proportion to how much praise and recognition from others he was getting, I was sure he had Bipolar disorder. Unlike most narcissists, he did see a psychiatrist (mainly to get meds for his depressions and anxiety; there was little to no desire on his part to improve himself), who actually gave my ex a Bipolar diagnosis.

The most common type of Bipolar disorder is what used to be called Manic Depression. During a manic phase, the patient is likely to be extremely hyper, grandiose, testy, and quick to anger. They have an unrealistic sense of their own invincibility that doesn’t line up with reality. This is very similar to the grandiose phase of someone with NPD.

The covert (depressed) phase of NPD can look extremely similar to the depressive phase of Bipolar disorder. The main difference is, a narcissist will generally not follow through on suicide threats (because they are intended to manipulate and garner sympathy, a form of supply) while someone who is Bipolar is in grave danger of suicide. A bipolar patient can also be helped by medication, while there is no effective medication for NPD (although antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs can help with some of the symptoms).

Further reading:

The Relationship Between Narcissism and Bipolar Disorder

The Pool Guy: a story about narcissism (part 2 of 2)

Continued from Part One.

Here are the final installments of the saga of a wealthy, grandiose narcissist obliging his neighbor (who wrote these posts) to be his “pool guy”– a source of narcissistic supply and target of intermittent abuse and love bombing.


The Pool Guy (continued)


He painted the pool guy black [devalued/discarded a pool man he had previously hired]. He went on a crusade to prove how easy it is to do what that “incompetent fool” can’t do. He spent a fortune in money and time. My neighbor paid twice as much to have an employee from the pool store come by and show him how to do it.

He’s completely incapable of hiring a pool guy. When I left him with that choice, he mentally split. I knew I’d seen that look. I was braced for silence, brooding, etc. Instead, he was flip, glib, non-nonchalant. He already had that episode scripted.

His admirers (me, his source of socializing; his realtor who stands to make $20,000) will deal with it. If we don’t, he’ll have another nice chapter for his narrative. Sources of supply let him down, and even the realtor can’t live with $20k. “Taking care of the pool — which is such a simple thing to do, I know, I’ve proven it to myself. He couldn’t work a little harder for $20k. It’s his fault it took longer to sell. Yes! That’s it! It’s his fault. He thought he could just bring people through the house and it would sell it self. Typical loser. He probably voted for Obama! Yes! That’s it.”

I could actually come out on the winning end if I were more in the psychopathy spectrum. I could send him emails saying how I’m surprised that realtor didn’t let my neighbor know the pool turned green in 4 days. Or, imply the realtor is one of those guys who voted for Obama. “What’s he thinking. The pool’s green and he wonders why it’s not selling! He thinks $20k should just come to him without doing anything to earn it!”

It’s been two days. I’ll walk over there in a couple hours. I might toss a couple scoops of magic powder in the pool. But, my position is that I agreed to walk around and be his eyes and ears. Help coordinate anything that needs to be done. I’ll leave the hose on a slow flow (to top the pool off, instead of having to watch it and constantly take action).

I think the realtor is having Open House. I should walk over and broach the topic with him. That’s the most I’ll get involved. Otherwise, I’ll wait till it spins out and let my neighbor know. He’ll probably call the guy at the pool store to come and do it. It will cost him more than paying a monthly fee for regular service. But, it’s just not in his vocabulary to do that.

I’m not worried about it. I won’t “play” it to my advantage. I was being sarcastic about that. But, I do imagine he’ll hold it against the realtor. He’s already bad-mouthing the realtor for not trying hard enough.

When I consider my position in the matter: I could try to keep it up. The risk to me is that it would turn into a project. I would try to make it perfect. I’d feel responsible. (The inverted or compensatory N, self-sacrificing). Then I would get bitter for what I give and how little I receive in return. It would turn into a blow-up and me disliking him.

I can probably do a little to keep it in shape (so it’s not a green 4-day disaster) without my traits taking over. I don’t think I have to “stand my ground” against what is clearly his manipulation. My self-awareness should allow for better than that.

I’m going to walk over there right now.


I just returned. The realtor seemed distant, short, unpleasant. I think I could see quickly what’s going on. My neighbor’s making the realtor earn his $20k, taking it out of his hide. Criticizing everything the realtor does, expecting perfection. He’s blaming the realtor for the house not selling at the inflated price my neighbor first picked. (My neighbor can’t look at it in the context of having bought the house for his son to go to college. It was just an expense. Now it has to be a huge return on investment. His son’s education living in relative comfort and security wasn’t the return.).

I suspect that part of that narrative is that I’m my neighbor’s trusted ears and eyes. My neighbor probably gave the realtor a verbal beating and let him know his absence won’t make a difference.  I suspect the realtor sees me as an extension of my neighbor. I’ll say something, leading to more unpleasantly.

I touched upon the topic of the pool. I think I broke through some ice and I subtly let him know we have the same concerns. I think he believed my neighbor “tainted” me and I was on the lookout to give my neighbor ammunition. A home-buyer arrived and the realtor said he would call me soon.


This was the last post until the end of October, when the forum member began to have problems with his narcissist neighbor again.   The neighbor’s pool was again the ammunition used to torment him.


My narcissistic neighbor put the house on the market and left me to keep an eye on the place. He expected me to take care of the pool which I made clear I wasn’t comfortable with. When he left, he treated it as if would be taken care of between me and the real estate agent, and he would return in September if the house didn’t sell. “Somehow it will all work out” (expecting me to do it even though I said “no.”).

Well, we’re entering November and there have been “complications.”

While here he groused about the people who work at a retail store he owns. (The same way he groused about the property management company who rented the house for a year or two. And, the pool guy who did something not to his standards. Also, the real estate agent who wasn’t working hard enough.). He was going to go home and sell the store. Well, the first thing he did was fire everyone and ran the place himself.

That was the first clue he wasn’t coming back.

Then he was going to rent it, and maybe I could look after minor issues with tenants (pay me for my time). I asked if he would have a pool guy, and he said he would let the tenants care for the pool. (I know how that works. It turns into a mess, leading to maintenance work.). I expressed my concern about that, how usually the cost of a pool guy is rolled into the rent so there’s no surprises.

He could tell I wasn’t eager to do it, so he called some property management companies. But, he didn’t get a good feeling about them (probably jaded about them like he is about pool guys).

Then, he extended the for-sale listing (with the real estate agent he doesn’t like). He expected the pool stuff to continue as it was.

Then, something happened which required the house be taken off the market. (A repair must be made. Nothing serious, but it could stand out as poorly done if not done right.).

So, 3-4 weeks ago I became the sole pool guy (because the real estate agent stops by now).

He has contacted some people to do the repair, only one has come by to see it. But, that repair guy didn’t call the neighbor with the info. I explained to my neighbor the repair guy did mention a price, but I assumed he would call my neighbor since I’m in the middle (nothing was written, etc.).

That was a week ago. I just communicated that I hadn’t heard from anyone else, and asked if he heard from that repair guy. (I also needed to let him know the pool condition is deteriorating.). He said “no. It appears nothing will get done until I’m there.”

I think he realized it’s a little more complicated than the average Craigslist advertiser can be trusted to do. There are 3 ways to do it, and none are perfect. (Especially not to him. The only perfect way to to do it is if he does it — but he fired everyone…. and so on, and so on.).

That’s how he is. He’s probably in the middle of a huge narcissistic injury with his business. The house was a disappointment. And now it’s rolling down to me. (Exactly how I envisioned.).

This makes me realize how glad I am to be self-aware. The feeling was more novel in June/July when he was here. Now I feel more accomplished at it. For example, before awareness I would have been emotionally invested in being “the guy” taking care of things, responsible for additional profit from the sale, etc. As expectations changed I would have taken it personally (injured, taken advantage of). That would trigger him into one of his “I knew it, you’re like the rest, a bum!” I would have taken it personally (not recognizing my own reckless exposure to it).

So, I spared myself that indignity (even though he would like me to feel co-responsible, which I can understand because I would do the same thing.).

Now I guess I need to contact the repair guy and ask him to call the 4-year old (because the 4-year old won’t do it.). But, I also think my neighbor wouldn’t let him do the work because of the potential for it to come out badly. I think blaming the repair guy is merely convenient.

So, I’m probably stuck for another two months.

It irritates me because I made it clear a dozen times I don’t want to have anything to do with the pool. Even on his last day here when he bought me my dinner and then sprung it on me how he expected me to take care of the pool… and then his whole demeanor changed when I said “no,” and I knew I had seen that look before. He fast-forwarded in his narrative to how that’s going to work when he’s disappointed (forgetting how I told him “no.”).

I tie today’s snitty reply *directly* back to that affect/personality change I detected at dinner when I said “no.” He was imagining this moment. (A Pavlovian salivation at the tasty supply which awaits.). I know that look because I do it too. (“You’re not going to do these things for me after I imagined you doing them? Ok, that works too. You can be the good guy, or the bad guy.”).

It’s interesting how I knew this was how it would go. There were times I was concerned I was being too uncooperative (invulnerable). But, I was right. If I had given into my eagerness to be the shining star, I’d be having a serious (self-induced) injury/rage right now.

I was tempted to assert my “no” when he put me in this position. But, there was a real estate agent involved too. I thought I could help out. But, I’m starting to let him know it’s not working out. He knows it’s starting to deteriorate and I don’t know what to do. (He knows someone at a pool store who he thinks he can fall back on to do it. The weather is cooler so it won’t get too bad now.).

It’s strange how he has to do everything himself. I asked how the sale of the store is going, and when he think’s he’ll return. I don’t want to put him in a bind being hundreds of miles from his property. I don’t mind keeping an eye on things. But, the pool part of it is irritating me. He’s going to have to get a pool guy or be prepared for it not being perfect when he gets here.

That’s what makes me nervous is that he has huge expectations on everyone else (but never notices he doesn’t do much better).



I’ve been beating around the bush about how the pool won’t be in good shape when he returns, and how it probably needs one of those weekly people. I’ve also asked when he’s coming back. All I get in reply is how it would be nice if I could do the best I could with it. (He doesn’t respond to how the sale of his business is going, or when he thinks he’s coming back.).

What really irritates me is that he spent over $2k on fake furniture to make it look nice. (It’s a common practice in the US.). But, he won’t spend $30 a week on a pool guy.

I think he imagined me to be “his buddy.” He returned home (to the drama he was planning, firing the employees, selling the business, knowing full well he wasn’t coming back in 6 weeks) and boast about how he’s got “a guy” taking care of his stuff here. It’s power! (“He’s my eyes and ears.”). To the extent I don’t perform, he can talk about how someone he thought was “his guy” disappointed him, left him with a big mess to take care of, etc. (He’s probably having a problem selling the business and saying “and on top of all this, I’ve got a guy taking care of my stuff… but he’s not working out. I must return there and take care of something. If I weren’t Superman…”).

At least it’s a learning experience. I saw it coming. I should have been firmer with the boundaries. I could probably still hire a pool guy and charge my neighbor that price for taking care of the pool. (He keeps saying he’ll pay me, as he ignores how I’m telling him…). Maybe I should do that. (“I spent 2 hours on the pool this week. At $15 per hour… Oh, you think that’s too much?” Then he’ll complain that “the guy taking care of my stuff is gouging me.”).

At least his expectations are set. And, more importantly, so were mine from the beginning. Honestly, all I hear is a plea to just do it because he needs to feel like people will do things for him. That’s *all* I hear. Money, it doesn’t matter. “I just want *you* to do it because I don’t have anyone else acting like they like me.”

I don’t recall how old he is. Almost 70. He lived his life accumulating a lot. He said he had to start “preparing” (downsizing, getting things in order). That’s probably a difficult/harsh reality he’s facing (relative to the capability/power he wielded and impressed himself with. I suspect the sale of the business is not turning out as he hoped. It’s not as valuable as it once was. He’s probably liquidating it at a loss. That’s probably an injury (raging at the parent company, the employees he “carried” and made a living for years, himself for not getting out sooner). Now the house is a tar baby. 

The weather is colder now, therefore the pool maintenance isn’t an issue like it would have been in the summer. I just drop a couple tablets in the chlorine dispenser 1-2 times a week. That’s not much more than the letting myself in 2 times a week to check on the house.

I’ve made it clear to him that it’s going downhill, he needs a weekly service person, and without that it will need work when he returns. His expectations are set. I’m sure he’s using that as part of his narrative to people he associates with where he’s at. I don’t care. (I knew how he is when I agreed to watch the place, then got suckered into co-caring for the pool with the real estate agent.).

Read Part One here:  


The Pool Guy: a story about narcissism (part 1 of 2)


Some of you who read this blog are probably aware that from August – December, I self-identified as a covert narcissist.  I won’t get into the reason why here (that’s been explained elsewhere and I don’t wish to go there again), but I was wrong (thank God!).  But during that period of time, I posted on a self-help forum for people with NPD.  Most of the posters believed they were covert narcissists (few of them had an official diagnosis).   I’m not sure most of them were even  narcissists at all, but just thought they were (same as me).   If you’ve been “infected” by narcissists all your life, you can develop a bad case of “fleas” and display narcissistic traits, without actually developing the disorder.   It can be very confusing and it’s fairly common for people with complex PTSD or Borderline Personality Disorder to believe they have NPD. (According to most experts though, if you believe you have NPD, you do not).

That out of the way, one of the “covert narcissists” on the forum in question, who may or may not have been one (I don’t think he was) told the story of how a bigger, badder narc turned him into a source of continual supply and constantly took advantage of and abused him, using every trick in the narcissist’s playbook.   The victimized man, who tells the story, seemed like a codependent type to me.  If he really is a covert narcissist, the story makes sense because when covert and grandiose narcissists appear together, the covert one will nearly always be in the codependent, victim role.

Since the tale he tells is so entertaining and hilarious as written, and because he has an enormous amount of insight and knowledge about NPD (impressive if he actually has the disorder!), I’m just going to quote his ongoing posts about his wealthy neighbor who was feeding off him like a bloodsucking leech, turning him into his “pool guy” and making his life a living hell last summer.

Since the story was told in quite a few posts on the forum and is going to be quite long (and the man is long-winded), I’m going to put this up in at least two posts.

The Pool Guy



My neighbor is here preparing his home for sale. He was here almost two years ago and we went to dinner then. He’s narcissistic. Very successful in life. Owned many businesses, bought/sold many properties. Lives on a beach. Very high standards, complains about others. He’s not disordered.

So, this is my first post-awareness experience. I’ve noticed myself catching why it’s comfortable to be with an overt/grandiose narcissist.

1. I notice I get supply from him describing his successes. There’s a definite “trickle down” feeling, like “he’s who I wanted to be, and he recognizes me as a worthy helper. I’m special because he likes me.”

2. We’ve gone to dinner a couple times. With others I would struggle to find things to talk about. It’s work to do it, and I don’t enjoy it. With him, when the awkward silence begins, all I have to do is ask him about one of his restored classic cars and he’ll start talking for 10 minutes.

And then I’m back to #1.

3. He took me to dinner last night. We stopped at a parrot store. (I love parrots. I go to this store occasionally and sit with a bird for an hour. They seem to have the same emotional maturity I do.). I found a friendly macaw and put it on his arm. I took a picture of him with the macaw. He said he would put it on his Facebook, send them to relatives, etc.

Last night I emailed the photos to him and felt kind of manic’y like I the attention he would receive belonged to me.

Summary. It’s very different now. I see what I’m doing as I do it. That halts my mental process which would typically grow to large proportions — and then butt-hurt (narcissistic injury) when reality didn’t keep up with my inner narrative.

[…]Last night I could recognize why I react the way I do (use this synergy for my benefit). I could equate it to the “inner narrative” and choose to consider more realistic thoughts about myself. Which in turn leads me to treat him more like a person than a source of supply. I end up feeling better about myself for dealing with someone realistically.


After spending a fortune and countless hours making his pool a paler shade of green, he informs me today he will leave on Saturday. Furthermore, he instructs, we are going to dinner tonight and Friday night. He’s buying. Anywhere I want.

I thought that was exceptionally nice.

So, we go tonight and, after the waitress places our order, my neighbor begins “asking” if I can keep an eye on his house, nothing big, and he’ll give me a key (which gave me that giddy feeling). All I have to do is walk through every couple days.

Sure! I can do that.

Then I ask, “you’ve got a pool guy, right?” He replies, “No, I thought you could do that. It’s amazingly simple. Of course, I would pay you for your time.” I began looking over my shoulder to see if it was too late to cancel my order. I realized I’d been setup.

Buying me a meal would have worked before I was self-aware. Weeks later I would have raged against myself — while absorbing the cost so I would still be seen as the narcissist’s favorite.

This time I told him I wasn’t comfortable with it. I’m not good with pools. (He knows that’s why I had mine dynamited 20 years ago. The largest ball and chain of my life!). He was disappointed. I was really tempted to give in, thinking I was being needlessly inflexible. But, then I remembered how much blood and treasure he spilled proving he was better than the pool guy — and he expectsme to be better than the pool guy too. So, I stuck to it, repeating I’m not good with pools. I never claimed to be. I’m retarded that way. (There’s a concrete carcass buried in my backyard to prove it.).

He dropped it suddenly and it was no problem. I thought he might brood, letting me know I’m on the “outs.” But, he was fine after that. I felt really good about how I’m able to navigate my old traits. I almost got caught off guard.

Later I realized I could have actually handled it even better. His whole thing is a bitter (and failed) rivalry with the pool guy. I should have cheerfully accepted what he as going to let me do for him. I could then hire a pool guy — charging my neighbor whatever the pool guy charges me. I could have saved him the humiliation!

Today I stepped into something a little by accident. He’s on a quixotic mission to fix a pool problem (in response to the pool guy screwing him). We’re also fixing a block wall and I have a masonry saw, so I cut some blocks for him. I noticed him in his back yard, so I thought I’d take the blocks back their for him.

I saw the pool was getting a greenish tint and just blurted out “oh wow, you’re getting some algae. You didn’t have that a couple days ago when you showed me what was wrong. Is it getting worse?”

Oh no. That was a narcissistic injury to him. I didn’t recognize it immediately. But, I could tell he was strewing about something, throwing more barbs than normal. He finally said something criticizing. I started feeling a narcissistic injury (Omg! He’s borrowing all my stuff! Using my internet! It would be so easy to hold his head underwater right now.). But, only 15 seconds into that feeling I dismissed it, knowing he’s narcissistic. It’s about him, not me. But, a little later I realized I caused it by voicing my thoughts carelessly.

So, it’s been interesting being in what would normally be an inverted relationship, keeping closer tabs on myself. I feel good about it.



I had dinner with him last night (Monday night) after not seeing him since early Friday morning helping him fix his fence.

1. He wanted to drive to Mexico for the weekend because the realtor was having “Open House” both days. I gave him a lot of info as if he’d go himself.

I normally would jump on something like that to be the “tour guide.” I would live in his memory, associated with what could only be described as a documentary-quality tour of [whatever]. Why be modest? Epic.

However, more than not being eager to visit the birthplace of diarrhea, I just really needed some space from the narcissism. So, I didn’t volunteer to do anything with him either Sat. or Sun. I gave him the self-directed tour info and played it like he was going. I didn’t ask any questions.

I was reminded of _____’s  thread about feeling awkward saying no. I felt bad because I knew he didn’t go. I knew he had to be out of the house for 8 hours both days. I felt like I wasn’t being a good citizen. I assume he suffered narcissistic injury because he didn’t invite me to go with him wherever he went. I would have probably done one day with him.

But, I decided I’m not responsible for him. I’ve helped him as a neighbor, I’ll continue to go to dinner or show him around town. But, not every day. I shouldn’t have to explain that nor be embarrassed. I treated it like I’m doing the normal thing.

2. We went to dinner last night.

OMG. It was like the “inner dialog” was bottled up. It was non-stop and sounded rehearsed like he’s had the conversation with himself for 3.5 days. I literally could not get a word in edgewise. Every time I tried to say something, he’d interrupt like he knew what I was going to say (so I didn’t need to say it) and proceeded to the rehearsed conversation.

It’s really interesting to see this now with my awareness. Compared to how I would normally get drawn in, reacting to “my kind of language,” I feel detached like watching a tv show. It’s totally different. Not so much analyzing him, but knowing my own reflexive behavior and controlling it (except for last Thursday when I thought I was proving my intelligence by pointing out his pool was getting worse. Ooops.).


In my previous update I described how he dropped the subject abruptly, but wasn’t injured. That threw me off. I thought something wasn’t right.

Last night we went to dinner. He asked me if I could watch the water level “since I’m going to be walking through the house every other day or so. Just top it off with my hose (which remains there).” I said “Sure. But, how often will your pool guy come around. He’ll do that too, right?” He had a puzzled look on his face, like we’d talked about this before, and proceeded to say there won’t be a pool guy. He’s only going to be gone two months and he “just added chemicals today, so it should be ok for that long.”

I’m being put in a position to “just do it.” There’s no way it’s going to be “ok” longer than 3-4 days. When he “flipped” two nights ago, he just didn’t care. I knew I knew that look. :) He already had Plan-B in his mind and that’s what happened.

So, I guess I’ll be informing him in 3-4 days that the chemicals are exhausted. I’ll probably hire a pool guy and charge him like it’s my time. He’ll never know he was affiliated with one of those guys whose entire profession he painted black.

He said he asked the realtor to throw a couple scoops of the magic powder in the pool whenever the realtor shows the house. “So, it should be ok.” I’ll talk to the realtor and see if he has any qualms about this arrangement. Maybe we can conspire together. He probably knows a pool guy. I can pass it along to my neighbor like it’s my time (which he said he’d pay me).

Continued in Part 2:

“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 narcissistic spectrum according to Lucky Otter

Man looking at reflection in mirror

A friend and I were talking about where exactly different levels of narcissism would fall on the N-spectrum. Of course narcissism (or any psychological topic) isn’t an exact science so giving the different levels numerical values seems a little silly, but in my mind this is how I view the different levels on the spectrum, starting with a Baseline of O (on most narcissism spectrums, “healthy” narcissism is at baseline) and the transition to NPD at around 5, which is smack dab in the middle. Narcissism becomes pathological (causing the person or others problems) at around 4.
Please note these are just my own subjective ideas.  I’m a geek who likes to classify things.

The Narcissistic Spectrum according to Lucky Otter

A person at this level is almost indistinguishable from someone with ASPD (antisocial personality disorder), but an NPD sociopath is more concerned about image or obtaining supply than a pure ASPDer. Most cult leaders fall here. (Psychopathy appears similar to sociopathy in behaviors, but describes a condition that a person is born with instead of one that was acquired; many psychopaths were never abused and were always like that, but sociopaths were made).

Malignant Narcissism:
A person at this level has severe NPD with antisocial traits. A person at this level will show more emotion (usually rage) than a narcissistic sociopath. Usually fits all the DSM criteria or most of them.

Severe NPD:
Not malignant because there is no sadism present, but person is still highly dangerous and manipulative. Fits most or all of the 9 criteria and symptoms are severe.


Moderate NPD:
A person at this level may be barely tolerable, if contact with them is casual or seldom. Fits more than 5 of the 9 criteria.

Mild NPD:
A person at this level fits 5 of the 9 DSM criteria for NPD but symptoms are not too severe and they may have moments of acting like a decent human being. NPDers at this level may occasionally respond well to therapy or seek it out.


Narcissistic Personality (Destructive Narcissistic Pattern disorder or DNP):
  A person here fits fewer than 5 of the 9 NPD criteria in the DSM but has at least three.  Symptoms may not be that severe and the person at this level is more in touch with their true self and may seek therapy.  They usually have the capacity to feel empathy but it’s limited.

Non-Pathological Narcissistic Personality:
Your garden variety self-centered jerk but may genuinely care about those they love.  Not particularly dangerous. Has moments of insight into themselves or empathy for others, especially their loved ones.

“Healthy” narcissism.
Most normal people can be found here.

O (Baseline) and lower:
People down in the negative digits might as well be wearing a “KICK ME” sign. They are almost always victims of narcissists and sometimes even normal people give them a hard time or take advantage of them.

The simplified spectrum. Psychopathy does not belong here at all.

Covert (“fragile”) narcissists may be found anywhere on the spectrum, but because their narcissism is more hidden and arrogance and grandiosity may be absent, a covert narcissist at any level is harder to identify. They may appear to have BPD, Avoidant PD, or Aspergers Syndrome instead (these are the three disorders most often confused with Covert Narcissism).

High-functioning (successful) narcissists are more likely to be found high on the spectrum, and sociopaths are often extremely high-functioning. There are many sociopaths (and psychopaths, who were generally born with a different brain structure and may not have been abused) in politics, religion, and heading huge corporations. Sociopathic traits and most NPD traits are generally sought after in the higher echelons of business, politics and entertainment. A person with just the “right” combination of antisocial behavior and arrogance, entitlement, grandiosity, and fake confidence can be a devastating adversary or competitor, and they will have no scruples about crushing you into the ground to achieve their goals.

Most high-functioning narcissists tend to be the Grandiose (classic, or overt) type that best fits the DSM criteria.

Covert and overt narcissists all have the same disorder, but for most, one form or the other is dominant. That said, they can and do switch back and forth in the same person. I think temperament is partly to do with whether someone is overt or covert (the more timid or fearful types leaning toward covert narcissism), but I also think circumstances (such as a sudden loss or gain of supply) can cause a switch from overt to covert or vice versa.

Low-functioning narcissists are much more likely to be covert.  They tend to receive less supply than overt narcissists, so their false self is weaker (the “deflated” false self, according to Masterson). Because of their discontent with their lives and general lack of success, covert narcissists are more likely than overt ones to seek help. If a covert narcissist suddenly begins to receive a lot of supply, they can become much more overt-acting (grandiose, entitled and arrogant). If an overt/grandiose narcissist suffers a huge loss of supply, they can sink into depression and become covert (at which point they are more likely to seek help).