Updated: Aug 2
As someone who has dealt with a few of these types and observed 'them' at work, in close range, over an extended period of time, I know more than a little about the red flags that identify a narcissist ...
And like anyone that has dealt with this personality type, have found the experience to be bewildering, invalidating, soul-crushing, and heart-breaking.
However, when you get to the other side of the narco-paths betrayals, lies, manipulations, triangulations, orchestrations, sabotage and general chaos, you come to realise they are, in fact, extremely powerless and insecure people, playing as adults, struggling with their demons, beyond that confident facade.
I could write a book on this - maybe I will - however, in the meantime, I wanted to summarise some of my observations about how to identify someone who is a narcissist.
This is from my personal experience and if it resonates, I would encourage you to do your own reading and research, and seek help, if you suspect that you may be a victim of any kind of narcissistic abuse.
I wanted to do this so that it could possibly help people identify someone who may have an anti-social personality disorder which can be extremely damaging to anyone that gets sucked into their orbit.
But first, let me address some common myths (or deliberate smoke and mirrors?) that prevent us from identifying the narcissist.
The very first myth a narcissist hides behind is that they cannot be one because a narcissist is someone who loves themselves and is infatuated with their own reflection. Right?
While an obsession with physical appearance might be a narcissistic trait depending on how, when, and how often the vanity is displayed, it is not a necessary part of having NPD or narcissistic personality disorder.
The fact someone doesn't seem to be vain doesn't mean they are not a narcissist.
In fact, many narcissists, I have come across don’t care too much about their appearance and actually sometimes deliberately make themselves unattractive or look unkempt for the purpose of extracting 'supply' (for example turning up to a formal event in jeans just to trigger the host or diminish their partner, for example.)
The second myth is that a narcissist is always grandiose. If you look at the psychology of NPD you will see a narcissist doesn't have to be an overt narcissistic in the sense that they have a loud or extrovert personality that requires always to be the center of attention.
A narcissist, and sometimes the worst kinds of narcissists that do the most insidious damage, because they appear so harmless, are the covert ones. They still seek attention but do so in covert ways.
They are more common than the loud, overt narcissist, and they are the ones that play the victim, do shady and passive-aggressive things that make you look like the aggressor when you react, and use underhanded methods to diminish your sense of self-worth, self-esteem, and support structure, in ways that are difficult to call out without landing on their turf where you are painted as the bad guy, crazy or paranoid.
So having clarified those two myths, let me share my observations on the narcissists I have met and what they had in common and also summarise the extensive reading I have done on this subject over the years - readings I have done in a desperate hope to understand what was happening and why, in the process of doing the mind-boggling work of understanding why someone behaves in this way, why they are so confusing and why they act in seemingly irrational ways.
No 1 - Their primary aim is to get supply/fuel/attention.
I have found that when trying to understand why the narcissist does extremely annoying, hurtful, deliberate things that serve no obvious purpose, it has become clear (and this is bolstered by a lot of the readings you will find on this subject) that the primary objective in their life is to gain fuel.
Fuel is also often called 'narcissistic supply' by people discussing this subject. Supply essentially means your attention. But it actually goes much further than that - because not all attention is equal – at least when it comes to satisfying the narco-path.
That is why the narcissist targets certain people more than others and leaves some people completely alone. It is because they seek high-quality attention.
What high-quality attention, in this context, means is that it is either extremely emotive/emotional positive attention or extremely emotive/emotional negative attention.
This is why narcissists are drawn to empaths like moths to a flame because empaths are sensitive, sometimes easily triggered by stimulus to a response, and are often highly emotional, thereby giving the narcissist exactly what they crave – highly charged emotional juice!
I like to think of things in spiritual as well as psychological terms, and a narcissist, in spiritual terms is a vampiric dark energy sucking on light-life force.
This is where the term 'energy vampire' can come into relevance because a lot of narcissists are energy vampires - they have no life force of their own and, if they do, they do not know how to tap into it, so they need to steal from you, and they do this by triggering emotional responses to power up their tank.
They will then be satiated until, like a vampire, they need their next fix!
No 2 – They are deeply jealous and envious people.
Every narcissist I have ever come across has a deep-rooted envy of other people. Now, this is different from ordinary envy that humans have, which is usually a sign that we should be doing that very thing about which we feel these pangs of envy.
Usually, in such cases, when we act on the envy trigger and begin to make moves in that direction, the envy, in a normal person, dissipates, and is replaced by the excitement that we are now engaged on our path and we basically forget what the other person is doing.
A narcissist will envy someone even for things they themselves already have and things they do not even want! – simply because they are not envious of anything in particular, per se, they are simply envious of your happiness, peace, and contentment.
From a spiritual perspective, they are envious of the relationship you have with your Self and your connection to the soul part of you. They cannot access that same level of joy and contentment, so they will envy you.
This was one of the things that never made sense to me because I thought (foolishly using my rational brain) ‘why does such and such seem to want to sabotage me when they have much more money success power or status?’ ... or ‘they also have xyz or they don’t even want xyz – so why do they hate it when I have it too?’
The answer is because they are not envious of what you are and what you have (it just appears that way and they may not even understand this themselves because they have no self-awareness) - they are envious of who you are.
Incidentally, when I talked about life force in the point I made above about the narco-path craving and sucking your life force, I mean everything that comes from the soul or spirit like creativity, love, joy, passion, peace, empathy, and contentment.
They have none of that, so they often co-opt or befriend people that have these traits or, alternatively, they try to destroy people with these traits – but whether they ‘love’ you or ‘hate’ you, they will envy you.
Deep-rooted bitter envy and malice is one of the hallmark characteristics of narcissists. And they are very much aware of this envy, and how twisted it is, and, as such, many of them have spent a lifetime becoming masters at concealing it from people.
However, over time you will see what a driving force it is for them in terms of their psychology and why they do what they do. Because as much as this pathological gargoyle of envy is under control most of the time, sometimes it gets too strong to be controlled, and it bursts out in full, terrifying view.
No 3 - They are confusing because they appear to love you … and hate you at the same time
Hopefully, most people have had some experience in their life of being loved by someone who is not a narcissist and so we know what healthy love feels like … but, if not, here are some of the signals: it is relatively stable over time, it is supportive, it seeks to encourage, it is respectful of things like boundaries and privacy and is empathetic.
Narcissists do not love in this way.
So, when they ‘love you’ it can often be tinged with hate. Behaviors that are hateful (full of hate) are the norm and part of the crazy-making relationship with a narcissist.
Things like tearing you down, withholding from you and punishing you in sadistic ways, giving bad advice to make you feel stuck, indecisive and confused, sabotaging your forward progress and opportunities, controlling, humiliating, or shaming you in front of people, bad-mouthing you behind your back, ruining events and celebrations that are important to you, infiltrating your relationships and isolating you…. The list goes on.
When you read this, you will be aware those are not healthy behaviors and you might think you would therefore know pretty soon that someone is offering toxic love, but sometimes these behaviors are done behind your back so you may never be aware of them.
The narcissist is always your secret enemy, even while telling you they love you.
Narcissists will behave in very contradictory ways, almost as though they have split personalities, and they often appear completely different to different people because there is no true self.
Their ‘personality’ is nothing but a projection of various false selves. So they have a public self, a private self, and a secret self. Most people have different sides they show to different people but, with a narcissist, the secret self will be so shocking that you will not be able to reconcile it with the person who you have come to know (or think you know) and love.
If someone else shows it to you, you will say they are lying because the narco-path has done such a great job at convincing you that this false self is the real self.
I am talking about such radical contradictions such as a family man with a whole other family in another state, or a reputable corporate executive using fake profiles to troll and stalk people online.
Strange, perverse, and shocking behaviors that seem absurd are another characteristic of the narco-path (especially the ones with authority, power, and access). The absurdity of what they do is what makes it all the more powerful – because people who have never met one cannot imagine someone would do these things...
Continued in Part 2!