Not all narcissists are created equal. Learn how to avoid these 5 dangerous types of narcissist before they undermine your happiness.
Photo by Vince Fleming on Unsplash
by: E.B. Johnson
Narcissists are complex people, with a wide array of traits, skills and attributes that make them both attractive and toxic. The true narcissist is one who is unable and unwilling to look past their own consumptive self-absorption, and ? often ? the most dangerous narcissists in our lives are hiding in plain sight. In order to limit the damaging effects these self-centered people have on our lives, we have to learn how to spot the signs of a narcissist and cut the ties before they poison our wellbeing.
Understanding the narcissist starts with first understanding yourself, and the ways in which you can be manipulated and controlled by a narcissist. This knowledge to hand, it becomes easier to spot the different types of narcissist, and prevent their self-destructive behavior before it has a chance to eat our happiness alive from the inside out.
What is narcissism?
In the simplest of terms, narcissism is the tendency to think grandly of oneself, to the point of losing respect and compassion for others. The narcissist is a person who is selfish, vain and obsessed with attention. It?s all about them, all of the time. People are accessories to them, and little more than a disposable means to meet their own ends. The narcissist is dangerous and toxic. But they also exist all around us.
Narcissists are generally grandiose people who lack empathy for those around them, while also harboring arrogant, self-centered, demanding or manipulative tendancies. They have to be in control, and they have to be viewed as being ?superior? or ?in charge?. These tendencies, more often than not, stem from deep-rooted insecurities and issues that stem from childhood trauma.
The most toxic types of narcissist.
There are many different types of narcissist and not all of them are created equal. Some of these self-obsessed megalomaniacs are more dangerous than others, and the toxicity of their relationships varies from case to case. Knowing the most dangerous types of narcissist will allow you to avoid them to a greater extent in future, therefore helping you to establish boundaries that help you protect your heart and your peace of mind.
The covert narcissist
Though the traditional perception of narcissists often pinpoints a certain grandiosity (see above) ? not all narcissists are overt with their manipulative self-obsession. The covert narcissist is a person who quietly lords their superiority over others, losing themselves in a silent smugness that allows them to judge others from a distance as ?boring? or ?stupid?. When it comes to the covert narcissist, it?s all about keeping their conceits buried deep. Get close enough, however, and you?ll see just how shallow the waters really are.
The sexual narcissist
One of the most dangerous forms of narcissist is the sexual narcissist. This individual is a master of manipulation, and uses physical and emotional exploitation in order to feed their own sexual desires and need for ego-validation. Sexual narcissists are defined by the inequities they build into their relationships, as well as their constant violation of boundaries, and repeated abuse and neglect of their victims.
The overt narcissist
Unlike the covert narcissist, the overt narcissist loves to lord their superiority over others openly and publicaly. They are they type of person we most commonly think of when we hear the term narcissist, and they are one of the more obvious forms of narcissist to spot. Loving nothing more than arrogant condescension and excessive, blatant manipulation ? the overt narcissist never shies away from a put-down or excessive display of self-importance.
The circumstantial narcissist
Not all narcissists grow that way from childhood. For some, narcissism is a personality that develops after gaining a certain level of acclaim, status or public recognition. Though these individuals might have started life as caring, compassionate people, over time they come to believe that it?s socially or professionally acceptable to flex their ego commandingly over others.
The passive-aggressive narcissist
There are some narcissists that engage passive-aggressive tendencies in order to get the validation and control that they need. Examples of this sort of behavior can include verbal hostility, hostile humor and even blaming, stalling and making excuses. The passive aggressive narcissist is a master at subversive sabotage ? and that?s what makes them so detrimental to our wellbeing.
The damaging side effects of narcissistic abuse.
When a narcissist gets their claws into our lives, the side effects are wide-ranging and extremely toxic to our sense of self. Narcissists of every type undermine our self-confidence and make it hard to stay present in the current moment. Overcoming these effects is possible, but it takes know how to spot the poisonous and self-destructive patterns that keep us limited, scared and accepting less than what we deserve.
As humans, we long for connection, but that connection is hardly forthcoming when it comes to the self-obsessed. Unable to fulfill their inherent need for affection, those at the mercy of a narcissist often seek out absolution by sacrificing their own self-esteem on the altar of the other person?s over-the-top ego. Soon, these become internalized beliefs and self-destructive thoughts like, ?If I were a little quieter, they would love me more,? or ?If I fix myself, maybe he?ll finally love me??
Limiting of self
Those who are extremely sensitive or empathetic often respond to narcissistic abuse by shrinking themselves and taking up as little room in the abusers world as possible. This is a learned behavior that follows them through life, and one that is especially damning in times when it becomes necessary to stand up for yourself and the things you need. Like the infamous nymph Echo (who was forever doomed to remain a shadow in Narcissus? life) the victims of narcissists struggle to find their own voice in world that?s defined by the whims of someone who can?t see past their own selfish desires.
Putting others first always
Being an empath can be a gift in today?s society, but it can also be a curse. Those who find themselves at the mercy of narcissists often become obsessed with maintaining the happiness of those around them, and this often comes to the detriment of their own needs. Some even grow to hate their own needs, believing themselves to be unworthy or a ?burden?.
When we are neglected, abused or otherwise removed from the emotions and affections of those that matter, it can make us question the trust we have in others. This can lead to insecure attachment, or avoidant attachment, in which we manage our fear of being unloved by shutting people out or building up walls that make it impossible for them to get close. Likewise, we might also chase love, in a complex combination of unpredictability that causes unmeasurable damage in our personal and professional lives.
How to limit the effects of a narcissist on your life.
Even though we?re surrounded by narcissists, it?s possible to limit their negative impact on your life. Understanding the narcissist is just the first step. In order to truly protect yourself, you have to cultivate an authentic understanding of yourself. Incorporate these techniques in order to build your understanding of self and the things you need to safeguard your wellbeing.
1. Start acknowledging and honoring your feelings
Often, the first step in protecting our inner self from the toxic narcissist is simply acknowledging and honoring the feelings you have in the first place.
Our emotions are complex, and that means we can feel them on a number of different levels at a number of different times. Sometimes our grief is mixed with anger and our guilt with sympathy. It?s also possible to grow numb to your feelings over time, thanks to regular dismissal, invalidation or just all-around marginalization.
Allow yourself to feel what you feel and don?t judge yourself for it. Let the way you feel about certain people and situations guide you in the direction of what you need most in order to heal. If that means ending interactions with people that were once a part of your everyday, then that?s what it means. No one knows your situation better than you, so allow yourself to be that expert and feel what you feel when you feel it.
2. Accept that you cannot change them
One of the most difficult aspects of overcoming a narcissist-led relationship is coming to the understanding that they will never change ? no matter how badly you might want them to, or how sensibly you approach them.
Narcissists rarely change, because they see themselves as superior beings who others should be attempting to emulate. Even when they appear to be making strides, it is often only a means to manipulation, and it is not long before the same old judgmental, vindictive and critical adversary returns.
By holding out eternal hope that your parent, friend or partner will change, or ? by making the constant effort to change that person ? you only undermine your own life and the beautiful experiences you could be filling it with on your own journey to happiness. Accept that the only person you can change is yourself and you will cut that journey time down by half.
4. Pay attention to roles
Every relationship has roles and dynamics into which various members of subsets and social circles play. In some circles, there is the scapegoat; while in others, there is the favorite. There are many fluid roles within the typical social unit, but they are always commanded by the narcissist (when there?s one in play) and not always to the benefit of the other individuals involved.
Narcissists maintain their control over their social groups by creating division among its members. They alienate friends from one another and they alienate family members from one another by casting them ? simultaneously ? in the roles of villains and victims, creating a warped system that makes it hard to know which way is up when it comes to group roles and relationships.
Pay attention to roles and take notice when they?re being used to create a seat of power for one, and roles of subjection for the rest. The best way to defend yourself against this kind of onslaught is by presenting a unified front, but that?s something that takes cohesion and communication to manage.
5. Stop blaming yourself
Being scapegoated by a self-obsessed person can cause you to internalize a tremendous amount of guilt and take on the blame for something you had little to no control over. Narcissists are experts at deflection, but it?s important to remember that we?re all responsible for our own behavior. If they bit your head off or attacked you ? that?s on them, not you. But you have to remind yourself of that every single day, and you have to make the conscious decision to stop letting their behavior weigh on your conscience.
6. Get in-sync with your needs and emotions
When we are overwhelmed by a narcissist, we become systematically trained to ignore our feelings. Feelings are a threat to the self-obsessed controller and abuser, who needs as little conflict from their subjects as possible, in order to create the self-centric world they seek.
Our feelings can often be a direct contradiction to the beliefs and desries of a narcissist, and that is something that is absolutely intolerable to them. That?s why it?s so criticdal to get in-sync with your needs and emotions, before they can steal them or invalidate them through manipulation and subterfuge.
To the narcissist, the only person who matters is them. The emotions, needs, desires of those around them are nothing more than an inconvenience, and one that needs to be dealt with using ridicule, shame and rage. If they can?t shut you up with intimidation, they?ll do it through projection, so it?s imperative that you have a clear view on what you?re feeling, what you need and what you want moving forward. Reconnect with your emotions and attune to the way you exist in the environment around you.
7. Battle for your boundaries
Narcissists gain their power by constantly attacking boundaries. Even when we start off strong against their onslaught, it?s hard to maintain that resolve when our sense of self is being endlessly tested. You?re not respected by the narcissistic parent, you?re objected ? and that makes it critical to battle for your boundaries and reassert them at every available opportunity.
Take a step back and take some time to create healthy boundaries that work for you and your needs alone. Think about what you need to be happy, and think about the type of environment you need to exist in, in order to be happy. Communicate these needs to your parent or family members and let them know that ? just like them ? you?ll no longer be accepting less than you deserve (even if that means limited contact).
8. Stop inflicting hurt on yourself
When we?re raised as the damaged bystanders of narcissists, we have a habit of picking up patterns that continue to inflict hurt for days and weeks and years.
Those who are abused by the self-obsessed are also those who are more prone to risky, self-defeating and destructive behaviors that work to reinforce the limitations projected on them by their abuser. That?s because self-destructive behavior is an internalization of narcissistic abuse, and one that allows them to maintain control over us long after their physical closeness has come to an end.
When you engage in behaviors or activities that hurt or undermine your true sense of self, you continue to give your abuser power over your life. You also exacerbate your trauma and create new destructive forces in your life that can seriously cripple your ability to heal. If you want to get past the abuse of a narcissist, you have to stop inflicting hurts on yourself first, but that takes looking inside and embracing that hurt, broken person there with complete, accepting abandon.
Putting it all together?
Narcissists are everywhere, and the effects they have on our lives are toxic and long-lasting. In order to protect ourselves from narcissistic abuse, it?s important to be able to spot the most dangerous narcissists in our lives, and recognize the damage for what it is. From covert narcissists to the sexually self-obsessed abuser ? not all narcissists are created equal, but their relationships are all catastrophically damaging to our self-esteem.
Build up your understanding of narcissists and the toxic impact they have on our lives. Spot the symptoms of toxic relationships in your life and combat them by having the courage to recognize things for what they are, while embracing your emotions and their true and authentic depth. Stop blaming yourself and accept that you cannot change the narcissist; only they can change themselves. Drop the blame game and get back in touch with your emotions again so you can start creating the boundaries that will keep you safe in future. Though narcissists can have a long and damaging affect on our lives, those challenges don?t have to last forever. Make the choice today to live a better tomorrow for you. After all, you?re the only one in control of your happiness.