In a previous article, I introduced the idea there are several types of narcissists: “Many clinical psychologists agree on the number seven. The most dangerous kind is “malignant narcissist”. This one is a predator, very intentional in hunting their victims and causing harm. They feed on people’s suffering. They don’t feel remorse. For all the other six types, they don’t intentionally seek to harm. All that they crave is to nurture their ‘false’ sense of self and don’t care if this means hurting others within the process.”
I have been noticing many people are confused and only familiar with the classic overt and arrogant narcissist. Its origin is rooted in Narcissus, the Greek Mythology persona known for his beauty and self-admiration, which killed him. Hence, I thought of giving a try to explore the different types in more detail.
Narcissists different types
It is important to note all narcissists make use of the same abuse and manipulation techniques, more or less. The difference from one type to another is the explicit or covert/subtle attribute of the tactic. It depends on their level of IQ, as well as the development process of their false self.
Some of the most common techniques are gaslighting, invalidation, projection, mirroring — the ability of copying and then simulating virtues, continuously violating your emotional boundaries because they don’t have any, etc.
Here is a small example to explain the difference between gaslighting and invalidation:
Let’s suppose you are sharing with me (the narcissistic individual) that you are hurt:
- Gaslighting: No, you don’t feel hurt! You don’t even have the right to feel hurt.
- Invalidation: You feel hurt? Once again you feel hurt when I talk about your mother (exasperated facial expression)! I don’t know how to talk to you without you saying you are hurt!
In the latter situation, it’s not about doubting your feelings. Instead, I am criticizing them.
Please be aware that the traits I am going to share about the classic narcissist are the foundation. In other words, all seven types share them. What is making the overt narcissist easy to be spot is his arrogance and taking responsibility for who s/he is. Thus, this type is, to me, the least dangerous one of all.
The Classic Overt Grandiose Narcissist
They think they are great. They lack humility. They are full of themselves. They are the favorite topic of their conversations. They are self-absorbed, selfish, and arrogant.
They have low levels of empathy. They feel entitled and superior to everybody else. They want constant attention and admiration. They don’t have a big problem taking advantage of others. They are interested in what they want, and usually, that’s just about it.
Let’s try to explain the entitlement through the following example:
You are a contestant in a singing talent show and did such an incredibly outstanding performance being so passionate and vulnerable in your delivery, which moved the audience and resulted in a standing ovation.
Ironically, your family members didn’t get that excited and cheer you up enthusiastically. Why? Because you — perceived as merely their extension — must be granted all the favors.
It doesn’t make much sense to be encouraged for what you deserve in the first place! Your parents would talk about your achievements with pride to others, though, because it is making them look good.
The malignant Narcissist
They believe they are gods. They are completely disconnected from their conscience. They don’t feel guilt, remorse, and empathy. They don’t feel bad about the horrible things they do.
They have a very sadistic side and take pleasure in the suffering of others. They view taking advantage, using, and screwing other people over for their benefit as a very normal, natural, and necessary part of life. They are too cruel and dangerous.
The “malignant narcissist” that we find at the end of the spectrum of NPD was described in the words of Psychologist Erich Fromm as:
Extreme, exploitative selfishness, the most severe pathology and the root of the most vicious destructiveness and inhumanity, which he considered to be “the quintessence of evil” (1964, p. 37).
Psychoanalyst Otto Kernberg (1970) followed up on this, viewing the malignant narcissist as a sadistic psychopath.
The Covert/Vulnerable Narcissist
They tend to always portray themselves as victims. They also believe they are superior to others but underrecognized for this specialness. They feel slighted by life.
They are usually very covert-aggressive and tend to devalue other people. Many times, they come across as constantly depressed. They feel very taken advantage of, so undervalued for how wonderful they are in reality.
Their grandiose delusions are substantiated by those good deeds, as well as this ability they think they have to empathize and understand what is going on to make the world a better place.
The Communal Narcissist
They portray themselves as abnormally understanding and empathetic. They behave as if they have some nurturing superhuman powers. They would advertise loudly how much they give to charity and how little they spend on themselves.
They use the fact that they are doing good deeds to validate the belief that they are better than the rest of humanity. They use them as a means of gaining narcissistic supply.
Their grandiose delusions are substantiated by those good deeds and the amazing ability they think they have to empathize and understand what is going on to make the world a better place. None of what they do will be in private.
The motivation for helping others is never genuine. It is always self-serving. They are very popular outside the household for this illusional image. Many of them are NGOs or cults leaders. When being at home, they are cruel and abusive, especially to their spouse.
The Inverted/Codependent/Mirror Narcissist
They depend exclusively on a narcissistic supply from their narcissist to feel superior. They crave to be in a relationship with a narcissist regardless of any abuse inflicted on them.
This person feels empty, unworthy, unhappy unless they are in a relationship with a narcissist. They are selfless, graveling, and even sacrificial when it comes to the narcissist in their life.
They are terrified of losing them. They nearly behave as if they were their slave, putting up with horrific abuse. It is too disturbing to witness this dynamic of relationships.
The Somatic Narcissist
They are mainly obsessed with their body. They are consumed with their looks. They are, in general, the health nuts. The ones too strict and measuring everything they are eating, always looking at the mirror to witness their body’s transformation.
They are relentlessly having cosmetic surgeries. They get their narcissistic supply from the compliments they get on their looks. They are those social media slaves, continually posing with their shirts off or with the bikini on.
The Cerebral Narcissist
They think they are intellectual geniuses. They get their narcissistic supply from their superior intellectual abilities, whether real or perceived. They will be the ones throwing around words and language that prove they are smarter than other people.
They will make sure everyone knows which college they graduated from and all the accolades that they achieved. They show their superiority by trying to be the smartest, the most intellectual person in the room.
They would not bear with anyone perceiving them as anything short of brilliant. They downplay others’ intellectual abilities as beneath them.
Narcissists and smear campaigns
Narcissists engage in smear campaigns because you are not providing them with what they need from a relationship anymore: the narcissistic supply. Their agenda is clear: they need others to be upset with you exactly like they are.
Narcissists need control, to be able to manipulate you, to do whatever they want to do and behave however they want to behave; and have no one to challenge them and make them accountable.
Here is how their internal talk looks like: “I need you to show me that I am a perfect human being and that I do no wrong. If you can’t do that, I will discard or abuse you”.
In other words, whenever you become a bad narcissistic supply source, they need to form those stories with which they first convince themselves through constantly repeating you are the problem in their mind.
Secondly, they start spreading those stories so that they could make the world believe they are your helpless victim who was so devoted, sacrificed so much, and that you are ungrateful for all their efforts and selfless investment.
You need to understand it is easy to get trapped in their stories both for the narcissist’s friends or extended family members, as well as for the close family ones.
For the first group, the reason is quite simple: they don’t see the abuse, more particularly when the narcissist is a covert one with communal tendencies — a very popular and adored person outside the household for portraying themselves as a virtuous person.
You would be gaslighted by those ‘flying monkeys’ — people who would be brilliantly manipulated, defend the narcissist, and be happy to unconsciously do their crappy work while being very well-intentioned.
When it comes to the second group, there are two main factors that you need to take into consideration. The first one is the kind of affectional bond formed between the narcissist and their victims.
The partner is generally codependent, suffering from low self-esteem, and always preferring doubting themselves to getting out of their vicious circle. For the children, it depends on the roles. The Golden child either becomes a narcissist or suffers from perfectionism Syndrome in adulthood.
In the former case scenario, it is almost impossible to see the truth given the bond is too strong and toxic. The Golden Child perceives their narcissistic parent as a god/goddess no matter what they do.
They are most likely to feel responsible for their wellness and feel so guilty whenever their parent is upset. It takes a toll on their sanity forever, and it is sad to witness the eternal harm.
The attachment style they develop is the one shared by all the narcissists: the ‘Avoidant dismissive’ one. Of course, there are plenty of kind-hearted individuals having this attachment style as well. Like for everything in psychology, it is a spectrum going from the darkest to the brightest places.
For the latter case scenario, chances are high this child becomes self-aware at some point in their life, and destroy all the horrible outcomes of the narcissistic parenting style, even without realizing their parent is a narcissist.
They take care of breaking their limiting beliefs about themselves, which have been vehiculated to them by their narcissistic caregiver. They would call their parent out — because this is what their integrity is telling them to do — whenever they feel ready to bear with the result of the confrontation.
This Golden child is more likely to develop the ‘Fearful avoidant’ attachment style before being brave enough to commit to the painful transformation and move back to the ‘Secure’ one.
There is another role we call the Scapegoat. As the name is stipulating it, this is the child who deserved all the projection of the toxic narcissistic parent. Projection is an abuse tactic common to all narcissists.
It means accusing you of their shortcomings and emotional chaos since they are so unable to manage their internal world.
The narcissistic parent attributes this role, in general, to the child who doesn’t fit some very superficial traits the narcissistic parent is looking for in their kids who are anything but separate individuals.
There could be other reasons for a child to be attributed to the Scapegoat role: being the child who “sees the truth” from their very early age… This child is more likely to develop an ‘Anxious preoccupied’ attachment style when becoming an adult.
Interestingly, whenever the golden child who transforms into a perfectionist sets themselves free from the narcissistic caregiver and calls them out, they automatically become the family new Scapegoat!
There are other roles, but I will probably go through them another time; the introduced ones being the most common and disturbing roles.
Last but not least, the second reason for the close family abused members to remain blinded to the truth is one of the most powerful unhealthy ego coping mechanisms we call ‘Denial’.
It is too difficult and painful to grieve a delusional life. It takes tons of courage and mental strength. I sympathize and can only hope it will be possible for more and more people to break the circle and stop their family’s curse.
With love, Myriam
P.S. My major source for the narcissists’ different types is Jill Wise: a life-long survivor of narcissistic abuse. She was raised by and married to a malignant narcissist. She has endured years of parental alienation, has repeatedly been targeted by narcissists throughout her life. She has an intimate understanding of all aspects of narcissistic abuse and CPTSD. She uses her experience and what she has learned to help educate others and bring awareness about narcissistic abuse. She is also a certified Narcissistic Abuse Recover Coach and works with clients all over the world to heal from the trauma of narcissistic abuse and parental alienation.