The typical image of a narcissist is one who sucks the air out of a room. He or she is the centre of attention and demands centre stage. This is the way that they boost their self-esteem void by making themselves seem far superior to all around them and they truly believe that everyone is there to serve their needs. They have a sense of grandiosity that gives them an entitlement to feeling like this. They are special, very special, amazingly special and everyone has to bow down in their presence. They might have had a childhood being told they were better than anyone else and in their minds, they are the next big thing to happen and it is only a matter of time before they are elevated to the star status they believe should be theirs. Only their feelings matter and only they matter. Once you know a bit about narcissism, they are fairly easy to recognise. Their ‘peacock feathers’ are on display for all to see and admire. In relationships, they are “prince charming” at the start, giving their victim all they want. They are the most loving, understanding, giving person their victim has ever met. This is the grandiose illusion that usually blows up in their victim’s faces some while later when the narcissist gets bored or spies a new victim.
Many clients I have had over the past ten years working with codependents, have stated interaction with people who fit the profile as described above. However, many times, contact with a narcissist is something different and for codependents, who love to fix and change people, this is hell waiting to happen. The Vulnerable narcissist is extremely sensitive and is initially, very difficult to recognise as narcissist. Let’s look at some of their traits:
They make all situations, feelings and reactions about them. They take offence at the slightest emotional reaction of others around them. They are the eternal, misunderstood “victim”. This makes them hard to read.
They have an issue with the outside world and the way that others view them. They see themselves as perfect but have an issue that the world does not see them in the same way. Grandiose narcissists, in contrast see themselves as perfect and believe everyone else does too.
A vulnerable narcissist is one who also broods, uses silent treatment, victimhood, passive aggressive behaviour and emotional distance to control victims. This is employed immediately they take offence.
In their mind, they are always right and everyone else is wrong. This makes setting boundaries impossible. They carry a lot of rage and anger towards the outside world and this is likely to spill over at any time.
They are likely to use threats such as suicide and self-harm in order to control the people around them, if they feel they are losing that control.
Unlike grandiose narcissists, vulnerable narcissists are more likely to become introverted rather than extroverted to fill their empty self-esteem void. They have few friends and do not enjoy social gatherings. They also encourage their victims to feel the same by isolating them from family and friends.
Vulnerable narcissists will use shallow apologies and compliance with boundaries to manipulate and not as a genuine gesture.
The big issue for codependents is that often, vulnerable narcissists act in an aloof manner, judgmental, detached and superior around others creating an illusion of mystery that draws people in. For a codependent, this “chase” mirrors their childhood experiences.
Unlike grandiose narcissists, vulnerable narcissists do not enjoy talking about themselves. They prefer silence and mystery to interaction. In fact, they will judge and complain about anyone showing extroverted behaviour.
They are likely to change jobs and relationships frequently with the impression that everyone is “out to get them”
As with all interaction with narcissists, it is advisable to get them out of your life as soon as you become aware of what you are dealing with, go no-contact and shut all available doors including social media.
There are some thoughts that the rise of social media and the ability to self-promote anything about ourselves has lead to a increase in awareness of vulnerable narcissism especially. It has been stated that if there are signs of the traits described above in personality, then a gravitation towards online relationships where a “facade” can be maintained is a natural consequence of the introvert nature often found with vulnerable narcissists. For a study published in Cyber-psychology, Behaviour, and Social Networking, “researchers found that individuals in the “vulnerable narcissist” category gravitate to social media, apparently because it presents them with an ideal way to interact with other people: among other things, social media allows vulnerable narcissists to present a carefully crafted image of themselves to gain the admiration of other users, for example by uploading attractive photos and promoting their own content, while concealing any qualities they consider unflattering”