Covert Narcissism (Stealth/Closet), Co-Narcissists & Co-Dependence - Malignant Self-Love - NPD (Narcissistic Personality
Covert narcissism is by far the most dark, dangerous, damaging and difficult to deal with form of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) that exists.
No longer to be confused with co-narcissism, or inverted narcissism (a term coined by Sam Vaknin) and as the name suggests, "covert" narcissists are much stealthier in their methods than overt narcissists and are therefore sometimes referred to as "stealth" or "closet" narcissists.
"Closet" or "stealth" narcissists work under-cover and behind the scenes, operating covertly from behind the mask of sanity; the innocent, angelic exterior they project, like the wizard of Oz operating from behind the curtain - the "good as gold" angel that everyone has come to know the narcissist as, is nothing more than a false projection.
The closet narcissist has been pulling the strings and controlling their victim's life, as though they are nothing more than a puppet.
However, the victim perceives the narcissist as the amazingly convincing "good as gold" projection they falsely portray and the behind-the-scenes manipulation continues outside of the victim's awareness.
The victim has no idea that the covert narcissist is the real source of most of the problems they are facing in their life - they do not realize that the narcissist has no empathy and that most, if not all, empathy is feigned.
The narcissist gradually and insidiously manipulates the victim into co-dependence first by destroying their identification (ie driving license, birth certificate, etc) then going on to destroy their identity by ostracizing them, spreading truths mixed with subtle malicious lies; a distortion campaign of the victim's reputation.
The victim ultimately becomes isolated and loses contact with their family and friends, some of whom may be deceived by the narcissist's pathological deceit. The narcissist leaves no clues behinds and operates invisibly in the background whilst the victim remains fooled by their angelic facade.
The covert (stealth/closet) narcissist has sociopathic tendencies and abuses their victim(s) covertly, subliminally and insidiously long-term over time, violating their basic human rights, yet the abuse is so stealthy and under-cover that it remains invisible and stays unnoticed, often for many years or even decades gradually escalating over time - for this reason the covert abuse may progressively become more and more overt over the long-term.
By the time the victim realizes what's happening it's already too late - the narcissist has them cornered into a situation that they do not have the resources to get out of - they cannot escape and have unwillingly been manipulated into co-dependence.
Although the covert narcissist has the same traits as an overt or classic narcissist (ie grandiose fantasies, high levels of self-entitlement, need for adulation and adoration, etc), these behaviours are rarely ever expressed in their overt behaviour making covert, or closet, narcissists much more difficult to recognize.
Additionally, covert narcissists see their grandiose fantasies as being unacceptable, they see their fantasies as being there to solicit goodness and power to one's self and as being way beyond their potential, they feel inadequate and so they never go on to achieve the things they are truly capable of in life.
Their own sense of inferiority places limitations on their capacity for achievement.
Covert (closet/stealth) narcissists feels so inadequate about their fantasies and desires that they may 'borrow' ideas from other people.
For example, rather than deciding for themselves how they would like their house to be decorated, they may simply copy what someone they know has already done. However, the borrowing of such an idea is not a one-off occasion... it will happen time and time again over the years.
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Co-Narcissism (Inverted Narcissist)
Co-narcissism, a term originally coined by Elan Golomb and Alexander Lowen, can be considered to be a malignant form of co-dependence.
Whereas the term co-dependent can be applied to a broad range of people, co-narcissism can only be applied to those who actively, compulsively and obsessively seek to be in a relationship whereby they are controlled and manipulated (abused) by a classic narcissist. They are a co-dependent (or inverted) narcissist, which is different from a co-dependent, hence the term co-narcissist.
Although there are misconceptions that this term was also used to describe a covert narcissist, this is not the case. The term covert narcissist is actually an accurate description of closet or stealth narcissism. There is a very significant difference between a co-narcissist and a covert narcissist.
It's important to understand that covert narcissism and co-narcissism are extremely similar yet different. The narcissistic relationship is all about projection and reflection and so both the co-dependence and the narcissism within each side of the relationship fluctuates, switching back and forth in cycles, between each person in what has become known as "the narcissist's dance".
Due to the nature of the abuse, at certain times, the narcissism in the co-narcissist (co-dependent) is brought out and the co-dependence in the narcissist is brought out; it becomes regulated.
Because the reflection in such a relationship (not necessarily an intimate one), is always switching back and forth, it leaves people who are outside of the relationship being able to recognize that there is a problem but never being able to tell who in the relationship is the true source of the problem.
However, co-narcissists and classic narcissists are compatible and can therefore have a stable relationship with each other.
Narcissistic abuse can be perpetrated by either the co-narcissist or the classic narcissist, for if a classic narcissist is in a relationship with someone who is not an inverted narcissist, then they will attempt to manipulate and abuse them into co-dependence whereas if an inverted narcissist is in a relationship with someone who is not a classic narcissist they will refuse to take responsibility for their self and force dependence upon them by passing on all responsibilities.
Just like the covert narcissist, the inverted narcissist is also full of self-doubt, often under-estimating their true potential. They therefore rarely go on to make the achievements they are truly capable of in life.
On the surface inverted/co-narcissists often come across as being extremely quiet, timid and shy due to their inner feelings of inadequacy and inferiority.
Inverted narcissists may become so dependent that should someone cut off communication with them, they may harass that person with non-stop phone calls, they may attempt to visit them at their workplace without consent and/or they may continue to stalk them.
Inverted/Co-narcissists simply do not want to take any responsibility for themselves, it scares them because of their deep-rooted feelings of inadequacy.
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