Covert Narcissism (Stealth/Closet), Co-Narcissists & Co-Dependence - Malignant Self-Love - NPD (Narcissistic Personality

Covert Narcissism

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.

By Sparkster

* eBook by this author now available - Know Your Enemy: Reflections Of NPD (available at Lulu.com).

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Comments 9 comments

nybride710 profile image

nybride710 3 years ago from Minnesota

My ex-husband is a covert narcissist. I would much rather deal with someone who didn't try to hide who they really are than one who projects an image of Christian good guy. It was a real shock to me when I finally figured out that I was not crazy and that much of my anxiety and depression came from living with someone who was in reality two people. Not too many people got to see the selfish and angry person who I lived with. This relationship sucked my soul dry and I am so glad to be out of it.


sparkster profile image

sparkster 3 years ago from United Kingdom Author

Thanks for the comment nybride, it's amazing that so many people have had to suffer this kind of abuse when the statistics show that such a small percentage of the population are inflicted with this personality disorder. It's so true what you said, it really is as if narcissists suck your soul dry until it feels like there's nothing left - this is sometimes called 'soul murder' and is also why narcissists are often called 'emotional vampires'.


midget38 profile image

midget38 3 years ago from Singapore

Wow. Sparkster, this is interesting! I have always associated it NPD with other being just that and was not aware of the sub-types. Thanks for sharing!


rainneerain profile image

rainneerain 3 years ago

I have the ultimate covert narcissist story! One that would make your head spin. My story will undoubtably help you in your search to understand the poison these people spread because I have dealt with a mother who almost drove me to the brink of suicide and murder. Only the good lord kept me from hurting myself or this woman. I would like to tell you about it but it is a story that spans 20 some years and there isn't enough room on this page. If you would like to hear about it...please contact me. I was given a 24 carrot covert narcissistic mother . She worked in soul murder like other artists might work in painting and drawing. She was a true master. I would love to tell you about it...Thanks ...Rainnee


Lisa 2 years ago

I'm in recovery after 23 years of torcher, my 4 kids and family have been fooled. Isuffered 23 years of rollercoster depression, fibroid growths all over- including my thyroid, breasts and uterus, eventually PTSD. My youngest has suffered so badly he tried to end his life and prior came at me with a butcher knife. His dad never took off work for any of us suffering. Never a family vacation (I took the kids, while he stayed). I'm in the discovery part of divorce and daily I'm uncovering more deceit and lies. It's so devastating, I was violated, my kids were brain washed and my 23 yr old daughter can't love!!! I found out it was his mother that burdened him, now he burdens our daughter. He swindled me and was able to do me under financially because I trusted him 100%, he is a Pepperdine MBA, CFO and VP same company 27 years. He is a monster in sheeps clothing!!! He has manipulated everyone and the lies OMG! He had me give up everything (Nursing license, family inheritance, pets, time away from family, etc). If you are a compassionate nurturer, please wake-up!!! My GF had to point out to me what he is, and only felt safe too do so after he filed for divorce and moved out with my daughter, leaving me with a explosive angry 17 yr old son (I'm thinking he will try to have him finish me off?). TG my mother is still capable of helping me, she is the only one who can admit to and validate his abuse. Her and I both are in shock still.

If anyone is in Southern Calif. that has a good therapist experienced in coverts PLEASE reply!! My son and I need experienced help! If there is an experienced attorney to refer PLEASE reply. It is, as you know, VERY HARD TO TRUST ANYONE!

Help!

I don't even know how to safely exchange info to communicate to those who can help online .......


Grateful 61 2 years ago

I cannot thank you enough Sparkster. I cannot stop crying! It has taken me 30 plus years to realize that my sister" has been sabotaging my life and destroying my self esteem and sense of worth. This while coming across to everyone as the sane , butter wouldn't melt in her mouth type EVERYONE adores. I am not mad after all!!!

I have been left scratching my head on so many occasions over the years wondering just what it was I had "done" when all along she was undermining me to anyone and everyone she came in contact with. She has an insatiable need to be the centre of attention and the object of everyone's pity. She manipulates and lies in order to get this. She has totally ruined my relationship with one of my sisters and one of my nieces. I don't have the strength left to recover these relationships-she has done too much damage and besides they believe her. But again thank you for reaffirming what my instinct had been telling me all along. I just wish I had trusted this a long time ago.


Sandi 22 months ago

how is stealing ones drivers license or birth certificate part of this?


sparkster profile image

sparkster 22 months ago from United Kingdom Author

It's a form of identity theft. Once identification documents are out of the way, they then move on to stealing your physical and mental identity and leave you in a state of dissociation.


norton67 17 months ago

I've been going through hell in the work place because of a covert narcissist. I had no idea what was going on. First it started as a subtle covert attack on my reputation. One clique would be told I was a drinker. Another clique would be told I was a liar, another individual told something else completely false with all these different negative stories about me then converging in the workplace, yet no one knew the origin. I mean anything negative, such as he's forgetful, has bad breath beats his wife, beats his dog, I mean anything. Then started the sabotage. Workplace sabotage, every project that I just successfully completed seemed to be falling apart shortly thereafter. Anything I touched and completed would mysteriously be tampered with, but extremely cleverly tampered with that it almost appeared to be a new issue. This was going on for months. Then one day I saw him commit an act of sabotage, and I knew he must have did all the other things as well. I did not confront him because he is so well liked he would have turned it around on me, He would have had many supporters if I dare accuse him. He also uses rehearsed techniques, an extremely perverse use of Rosenbergs negotiation techniques, almost hypnotic. I can't believe how everyone is being controlled like henchmen by this guy. But its to my detriment. I need help in combatting this. I am just putting up with it because its all I can do. I have no where else to go. I could write volumes but will end this just to say it feels good to even type this, even if no one reads it.

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