What is a Narcissist?

This is usually the first question I’m asked in any interview or forum where I have been invited to speak about my book, which is about narcissistic abuse. It’s also a very loaded question.

On a very basic level, a narcissist is someone who believes they are superior to others in some way. Some think they know everything. Some think they are extraordinarily good-looking. Some think they are simply the best and the most and that they are just “it.” They come off as having very high self-esteem and are overly confident but are not a bother aside from their need for unreasonable exaltation for their perceived value.

There are narcissists, however, who seek to fulfill their egotistical need to feel important through domination. They target a particular person—usually someone with qualities the narc does not possess but wishes they did—and then use various manipulative tactics to control and overpower the target. This domination has a two-fold result of giving the narc the sense of power their ego needs to feel superior and controlling the quality or qualities they envy in their target, or ridding of them altogether so that the threat doesn’t exist anymore. For narcissists don’t have the mental capacity to understand that others can possess something they desire, whether it be a personal quality, a physical trait, or a material thing. That’s why they can’t be happy for people they envy. That’s also why we call them malignant narcissists.

The problem with malignant narcissists is that they can become abusive. Narcissistic abuse occurs when a malignant narcissist uses a combination of verbal, emotional, physical, psychological, financial, and sexual abuses, to manipulate and harass their target until their target submits to them or is completely destroyed in some or all ways. The intent is malicious, and they express no remorse for their actions. As a matter of fact, they often convince their target and others that the target deserved whatever abuses were inflicted upon them.

Covert narcissists are especially effective at this because they have created this public image of humility and kindness and generosity that people tend to trust, thereby making their claims that the target is lying and crazy, a thief and a cheater, or even out to get them, completely believable.

There are supposedly several types of narcissists, and there is even a psychiatric diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (if you can ever convince a narc that they aren’t perfect and can get them to a psychiatrist for diagnosis). No matter what label you put on a person, though, there are good people and bad people. Good people do bad things; and bad people do good things. But if someone is intentionally causing you or someone you know any kind of harm with their words and/or actions, I would definitely caution you to dissociate or distance yourself from the person immediately, assuming you can and that you can do so safely. If you don’t set the boundary and you don’t remove yourself from the person, you can become an unwilling victim of narcissistic abuse like I did.

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