Every one of us has at least once in our life met a narcissist.
There are everywhere: they might be your mother who used to punish you with a silent treatment when you received a B+ on your algebra test, or your former boss, who was so charming that you daydreamed about having an affair with.
A stranger on the bus.
Or perhaps, the leader of your country?
Yes, I am certain we have all met narcissists. Perhaps right now, while reading this article, you are sitting next to a narcissist. Think about it… chilling, isn’t it?
The thing is that narcissists have different personas, masks, and faces, and some of them are easier to spot while others are not. I’ve had my share of meeting through my close friends and my family circle narcissists, so I can honestly tell you — they are mischievous, cunning, and adaptable.
So let me introduce you to just a few of the “faces” of narcissism.
The charming Helen.
First, let’s start with Helen. The so lovely, charming, center of attention Helen! She was always so likable. Everybody wished to be Helen!
“Helen, take me to hell with you!”
Helen is the Exhibitionist Narcissist, also known as Grandiose or Overt. They are so superficially charming; they have unlimited outward appearances: the hardworking doctor, powerful CEO, the stay-at-home parent with well-educated children, the famous actor, the politician.
Many of them may be financially and career-wise, successful, and those who aren’t would exploit others financially because of their sense of entitlement.
What do the Helens of this world have in common?
- They are charismatic.
- They have “grandiose” personalities.
- They have a sense of entitlement.
- They have that big Hollywood smile splattered across their face.
- They are chameleons.
- They love to brag about their achievements.
- They are always in control.
- They show superiority wherever they can.
- They believe the world revolves around them.
- They will be the first to accuse you of cheating, while they are the ones cheating on you.
- They will make you have to ask for “approval” for everything in your life.
Helen sounds like a mean, spoiled little brat, doesn’t she? Easy to spot, right? But all overt narcissists aren’t as cliche as Helen, and most are nowhere as easy to spot.
Helen wreaks havoc on the lives of those around her, with controlling abuse, until one day, if that day even arrives, the victim finds courage and breaks free from the Toxic Abusive Relationship. And when that happens, Helen erupts in rage, wrath, and further abuse.
Louise, the one you don’t see coming.
Louise, Louise, Louise….
How do I describe you? Louise is a special person. The one that stabs you in the back. The one that was always so helpful. I used to know Louise, or I thought so.
See Louise, that I knew is a mix of Closet Narcissist and Communal Narcissist. Even though Louise might be a Closet Narcissist, she would not fit in the closet. She carries a gigantic bag of lies with her.
Poor Louise, always so “vulnerable”, “introverted” and simply covert.
A hard one to spot.
She desperately needs external validation to crush her core feelings of low self-esteem and to do so, she uses very covert and manipulative tactics.
They are like a parasite; they attach themselves to a person or cause, to hold up to their belief of being special. Rather than seeking admiration for themselves, they divert the attention away to this third party, asking them to admire them instead, whilst bathing in the reflected glory.
So they’ve made an investment into something or someone and if it fails, there is no more glory for Louise.
So depression hits. Louise may think of herself as a trophy wife, the biggest supporter. She will talk behind other people’s backs, become resentful, envious, and malignant. She will truly despise others who get noticed and then she will play the victim card to get the attention.
Comparing Louise to Helen, Louise is more defensive and hostile.
- Needs to feel special by association.
- Mild-mannered and overly friendly.
- Thinks of herself as most caring, most loving, and most kind.
There are overlaps here.
Helen can be a Communal Narcissist — providing funds for good cause, having an audience to witness it, not because she truly cares but because it makes her feel empowered.
Louise, a Closet Narcissistic can be a Communal Narcissist too, doing things such as
- Raising funds online for causes she doesn’t care about — seeking publicity via Facebook or other platforms.
- Priding herself on being nice.
- Being territorial.
- Repeatedly stating that “I am very caring!”, “I am the best mother!”, “You can trust me! I am very honest!”, “I know how you feel, I am a compassionate and understanding person.” etc.
Dave wants to see the world burn.
Now let, let’s get to my “favorite ”narcissistic character — Dave. Obviously, I am being sarcastic.
Dave is the “Devaluing Narcissist” or also called “Toxic”, “Malignant” Narcissist.
These narcissists use grandiosity as defense, but when their grandiosity is punctured, they turn down on others to bring them down. They exhibit many other general narcissistic traits, but what is prominent in Dave is that they :
- Demean others in order to inflate themselves.
They are very envious of others around them and they express their jealousy by the “put down” technique. They can be very barbaric.
Former US President Donald Trump shows devaluation beautifully, putting down anyone who doesn’t agree with him: with public name-calling, badmouthing, and ridiculing.
But there is also another version of Dave, a “stealthier” one: they devalue others behind their back with statements like :
“She thinks only she can do her job, but anybody can do it!”, and “You know his mum is worried about his health because he gained significant weight…” etc.
Sometimes Devaluing Narcissists can be Exhibitionist Narcissists.
For example, on a good day Dave becomes Helen — charming, while on the bad days, Dave is Dave — devaluing, jealous and miserable.
There are prone to vengeful behavior in separation, parental alienation, and bringing false allegations. And they will stop at nothing to bring the other person down — ultimately to destroy them.
They must win, at all costs, and a compromise is never an option for people like Dave.
Setting yourself free.
Whichever face you have encountered — be it Helen, Louise, or Dave the result is always the same.
Many of my friends have managed to cut ties with narcissists, but the traumatic experience that they’ve undergone is not over, it can be re-activated at the slightest hint of danger and make them go into “fight or flight” mode.
The victim turned survivor will struggle with chronic feelings of fear. They will be confused as if they’ve entered the foggy maze, unable to find their way out. It can haunt them for many years. There will be a lot of panics, shame, and grief inside of them.
But those who choose a positive support system, such as entering treatment with comprehensive trauma-informed therapists, may escape the maze earlier and heal faster, regaining their sense of worth, and identity and ultimately learning how to go forward without ever looking back.
They will learn how to make themselves a priority and forgive themselves for what has happened to them. And then, when they are ready, they will forgive Helen, Louise, and Dave. Not because they deserve forgiveness, but because victims deserve their inner peace.
You might ask yourself:
“But how can I just forgive the self-piteous, malignant, remorseless creature behind the mask who has destroyed my life and the lives of our children?”
In time you can.