Covert Narcissism – Know Your Emotional Abuser

Covert Narcissism - Know your emotional abuser

Are you dealing with a narcissist?

Have you known and trusted someone for years only to finally and painfully wake up to the fact that you’ve been the victim of their extreme narcissistic tendencies?

Are you ashamed to have been fooled by a person who looks so perfect and innocent on the outside, that it’s hard to accept the truth – that you have been used to fuel their narcissistic supply?

For your own sanity, accept what has happened and move on because the person you thought you knew doesn’t exist, all there ever was, was a monster behind a mask.


What is Narcissism

Narcissism is more common than we think and to some extent, we all have a narcissistic streak in us, in fact, in moderate doses it can actually be healthy, contributing to self respect, providing a little ego boost when we need it and a little gratification here and there, but for most part, most of us are stable. By contrast, too little can result in low self love and low self esteem.

Too much narcissism is not healthy though it is destructive, to narcissists themselves and those who are close to them. Extreme narcissistic individuals think that the whole world revolves around them, hiding their egoistic self and self hatred with confidence and skill.

Unfortunately our ignorance about extreme narcissism makes it difficult to spot the extreme male and female narcissists who sneak into our lives! So, do you think you know an extreme narcissist and what are the signs that indicate you may be dealing with one?

There are two types of extreme narcissists – overt and covert and some are easier to spot than others.

Overt narcissists are more common and much easier to spot, they externalise their arrogance, are outwardly demanding and display extreme character traits and their confrontational communication style does not go unnoticed!

Covert narcissists by contrast, are wolves in sheep’s clothing and are the most tricky and perhaps most dangerous sort so let’s focus on them. Covert narcissists are underhanded, deceptive and act behind the scenes. They pretend to be lovers, givers, altruistic, loyal and kind. These individuals are projecting to the outside world a calm and patient mirror but on the inside, they are as deeply selfish and narcissistic as overt narcissists.

Both overt and covert narcissists have grandiose fantasies, feel entitled and exploit and abuse people but the main difference between overt and covert narcissists is that unlike overt narcissists, covert narcissists know that showing or displaying their true self will get in the way of achieving the power, recognition and the self centered success they crave.

They worry a lot about their lies being found out and are very vulnerable to stress but unlike overt narcissists, they don’t believe themselves, what they want others to believe about them. Covert narcissists don’t possess the confidence levels of overt narcissists and are prone to feeling guilty about thinking they could ever be something they know they can’t. They put up emotional barriers and try their best to suppress these feelings and not expose them to the outside world. They don’t feel guilty, however, about hurting others so in that sense they are the same as overt narcissists. They are still very competitive, conscious of their actions and calculated in their actions.

So how do you recognize a covert narcissist? The only sure fire way is to be close to that person from a personal angle, to have a personal relationship with them, because covert narcissists can’t hide forever from those who are personally involved with them but despite that it can take a long time before their cover is blown.


The tell tale signs to help you recognize 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.


Risk taking: Extreme narcissists often move from relationship to relationship very fast because they don’t like to be alone, needing constant attention. They are not at all risk averse and take all kinds of risks; financial, extreme sports or anything that make them feel alive and skirting with danger.

Denial: Narcissism often stems from childhood issues which I won’t go into here but a narcissist will often paint their childhood as near to perfect and if they seek help and deal with the root cause of their behaviors, then good for them but move on anyway, don’t continue to make yourself vulnerable.


Narcissistic supply

Narcissists want somebody to mirror them, they need people to reflect the false image that they have of themselves, not wanting to face the fact of who they are, what they do and how cruel they are. They don’t want to acknowledge the anger and rage that exist inside of themselves.

They see people as objects; if you can make them successful, if you can make them enter a certain group of people, if you blindly and naively love them, if you have anything that can be useful to them emotionally, socially or financially in the present or the future, then you qualify as a source of supply.

This can go on for a long time, until you are not useful to them anymore or you challenge them about who they truly are, worst still you expose them to the world! At this point they will discard you like an old rag, without remorse or regret; as if you never existed. They will also discredit you so that no one will ever believe that you have been their victim, if anything they will play the victim and point the finger back at you!

Narcissistic supply is the thing they need to bolster their weak sense of self and they take without giving anything back. Don’t count on a narcissist to be a shoulder to cry on, unless you are providing them with a good source of narcissistic supply; it is like a drug for a them.

Someone who can hurt you has power over you and attention whether positive or negative will feed a narcissistic ego. Being aggressive or angry at a narcissist won’t change anything, the best thing to do is cease all contact with them.


Who they target and how they catch their victims?

Narcissists can target anyone including strong and independent people but their favorite source of supply is most often highly sensitive, empathetic and caring, people with low self esteem, an inability to set healthy boundaries, and with issues they too are carrying over from childhood.

Narcissists are full of charm, they will charm you to death and tell you everything you want to hear, they study you, analyse you and know all the things that you want to experience in life. They’ll tell you that you are soulmates, they’ll promise you the moon so if it seems too good to be true, it probably is!

We all want to be appreciated, loved, held, thanked, praised and valued and a narcissist knows that, so to catch you, the narcissist will say the things to make you feel appreciated and appeal to your deepest desires and cravings. Narcissists are very intelligent, they have studied human behaviour their whole lives and they know how to manipulate people by stirring emotions deep inside of you. When you start falling for a narcissist watch out because they can lie and at the same time look at you so sincerely; narcissists are able to fool us because they pretend to be the person we want them to be.

Narcissists have envy and resentment that causes them to attribute power and goodness to themselves, and negativity and weakness to others. They seek out friends who are worse off than them because they fear being exposed for who they really are and they want to be seen as rescuers or as deeply caring for others. Covert narcissist always seems to admire people who are as successful as they would like to be but at the same time, they envy and hate those people for being successful. They claim that they want to see you succeed but then when you do, they envy you and hate you for succeeding.

The covert narcissist dwells on how much people do not appreciate them and are self critical, putting themselves down and saying things like I am not worth anything, I will never make it etc.


Narcissist’ s controlling and manipulation techniques

Gaslighting is a subtle, underground maltreatment, that can go unnoticed by the victim until it is too late. It penetrates you but it’s difficult to identify. Gaslighting is ambiguous, diffused, it is a dangerous kind of abuse. It leave no trace and you can’t prove it. Ambient abuse is perpetrated by dropping certain hints, by disorienting, its aim is to make you doubt your own sanity so that you are always left wondering what the narcissist is thinking and feeling. Don’t waste time trying to find out their motives or try to understand why they feel or think the way they do because it leads nowhere. Just accept you are a source of supply and move on. Gaslighting over a prolonged period of time can damage the victim sense of self and self esteem for a long time.

Silent treatment is used by narcissists who withdraw when confronted and is also a form of punishment they employ when you refuse to accommodate their needs. They ignore you out of the blue for as long as it takes, until you give up your own needs and agree to do whatever the narcissist wants you to do. Until you end up apologizing even, if they were in the wrong.

Divide and conquer is an approach used to isolate their victim. They’ll find out everything about you, your past, your secrets and use them against you, making you look bad while they are seen by everyone else as a perfect, loving and caring individual.


Dealing with a narcissist

Don’t waste your time and sanity trying to understand and help a narcissist. Don’t criticise them or confront them, they will twist things around and reflect all their flaws on you, leaving you looking like you are the abuser when in fact you just had your emotional buttons pushed and your mind played with, so you acted in self defense.

So don’t play mind games or seek revenge with narcissists because they’ll win, you can’t match their cruelty. Set boundaries and don’t tell them too much about yourself so they can’t use it against you.

They also fear being found out so they’ll go to any length to shut you up and unfortunately people believe them, they are so talented at faking emotions that most remain completely undetected.

No contact at all is the best way to deal with a narcissist. This information is from my research and years of personal experience dealing with and trying to understand a covert narcissist. It’s painful to accept at first and it doesn’t matter if the term “narcissist” is correct or not, all that matters is that people who behave in the ways described in this article exist and it’s in your own interest to acknowledge it, to protect your wellbeing and your sanity.