What is Covert Malignant Narcissism?

woman in gray tank top

WHAT IS COVERT MALIGNANT NARCISSISM? It certainly is a mouthful! It describes the nature of a personality trait and its expression. For a clear and more precise understanding of covert malignant narcissism, let’s break down all three components of the term.

What does narcissism mean?

The word narcissism means self-idealization. It is trait that is common to all human beings that it exists on a continuum. Excessive narcissism can lead to dysfunction. In rare cases, it can manifest as narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).

Per the Mayo Clinic, some of the symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder are:

  • A grandiose sense of self-importance
  • Marked sense of entitlement
  • Expectation of unearned privilege 
  • Embellishment of achievements and skills
  • Preoccupation with fantasies about power and success
  • A sense of superiority and a need to associate with others like them
  • Exploitativeness
  • Lack of empathy
  • Envy
  • Arrogance
  • Domination of conversations
  • Expectation of special treatment
  • Demanding the best of everything

Someone who is highly narcissistic but does not meet the criteria for narcissistic personality disorder will have less than four of these traits.

What does covert narcissism mean?

There are two subgroups of extreme narcissism:

What differentiates the two is how grandiosity is expressed. In the case of overt narcissism, the grandiosity is on flagrant display, whereas with covert narcissism, the grandiosity is present but introverted.

For this reason, covert narcissism is also known as introverted or vulnerable narcissism.

What is malignant narcissism?

According the Merriam-Webster Dictionary the word malignant means:

  1. Tending to produce death or deterioration especiallytending to infiltrate, metastasize, and terminate fatally a malignant tumor 
  2. Evil in nature, influence, or effect 
    1. Injurious: a powerful and malignant influence
    2. Passionately and relentlessly malevolent aggressively malicious the malignant tongues of gossipers.

In the context of human behavior, malignant narcissism is a term used to describe a strain of self-idealization so aggressive that it seeks to destroy any real or perceived threaten its self-concept.

Final thoughts

Ultimately, the term covert malignant narcissist might be used to describe a highly aggressive individual whose grandiosity expresses as introverted or vulnerable.

Confidential support is available 24/7/365 to anyone experiencing abuse.
In the USA call 1-800-799-7233 or log on to thehotline.org.
In the UK call 0808 2000 247 or log on to nationaldahelpline.org.uk.

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How to Mess with a Covert Narcissist: 5 Ways to Even the Score

close up photo of a woman laughing

IT’S NO SECRET that narcissists genuinely enjoy the power trip of pushing people’s buttons. Eliciting emotional responses from others boosts their ego by giving them a sense of power and control. Understanding a narcissist’s mindset is key to protecting your mental health and sidestepping their manipulations. This article breaks down how to mess with a covert narcissist.

What is narcissism?

Narcissism is self-idealization. It’s a personality trait that exists on a continuum, meaning we are all narcissistic to a greater or lesser extent. An excessive amount of narcissism can lead to dysfunction and, in extreme cases, narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).

What are the characteristics of narcissistic personality disorder?

According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder include:

  • An inflated sense of self-importance
  • A bloated sense of entitlement
  • The expectation of unearned privilege 
  • An embellishment of achievements and skills
  • Preoccupation with fantasies about power and success
  • A sense of superiority and a need to associate with others like them
  • Exploitativeness
  • Lack of empathy
  • Envy
  • Arrogance
  • Dominate conversations and condescend to others
  • Expect special treatment
  • Demand the best of everything

Someone who is highly narcissistic will display a combination of less than five of these traits.

What is the difference between covert and overt narcissism?

 Overt narcissism is characterized by grandiosity, exploitativeness, and a sense of superiority. Covert narcissism differs from overt narcissism in one respect: its grandiose aspect is introverted and enveloped in vulnerability. For this reason it is sometimes called introverted narcissism or vulnerable narcissism.

How do you mess with a covert narcissist?

Narcissists invest a tremendous amount of energy in cultivating and controlling the main sources of fuel for their egos, otherwise known as narcissistic supply.

Remember, there is a definite purpose driving narcissistic abuse. It helps narcissistic people accomplish a kind of psychological colonization of an individual by seizing control of their perception of themselves, the narcissist, and the world around them.

Losing influence over someone they have gone to a great deal of effort to subjugate is one of the worst things that can happen to a highly narcissistic person or NPD. A narcissistic partner breaks you down and builds you back up to deny yourself and prioritize them. It is akin to reformatting a computer hard drive and reconfiguring it according to your preferences. To them, losing you is like losing their computer, mobile devices, and access to their cloud data at all at once.

Thus, the best way to mess with a narcissist is to take back control over yourself and your life.  

5 tips on how to mess with a covert narcissist

Here are the five best ways to mess with a covert narcissist:

  1. Don’t lose yourself
  2. Stop allowing them to occupy your thoughts
  3. Stop allowing them to influence you
  4. Change your focus
  5. Be your own person

1. Don’t lose yourself

Feelings of hurt, sadness, and anger may trigger your own aggression and tempt you to seek revenge to gratify your ego. When you do this, you’re playing into your adversary’s hands. It’s what they anticipate and they will use it as confirmation of their smear campaign. Hang on to yourself. 

2. Stop allowing the narcissist to occupy your thoughts

The purpose of no contact is to set a hard boundary with yourself so that you can learn to stop centering the narcissistic person and learn to focus on developing yourself. This can be a long and complex process but it’s worth it to regain control over your life and destiny.

3. Stop allowing them to influence you

Remember, if you remain in a reactive state the narcissist is still controlling you. The first step to pulling the trauma bond out by its roots is by disengaging with them

4. Change your focus

Stop centering the narcissist and start centering yourself. It is far more helpful to invest in yourself so that you can grow in discernment and evolve expressions of unbound empathy into the practice of rational compassion. Use the words of Mahatma Gandhi as a talisman “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”

5. Be your own person

Release your attachment to the narcissist. Learn to connect with yourself. Use your time and energy to discover who you are, what you enjoy, and what personal accomplishments you’d like to achieve. 

Final thoughts on messing with a covert narcissist

Because of the fragile state of their egos, the life of a narcissist often consists of moving from one narcissistic injury to another. While they go to extraordinary lengths to create the illusion of a perfect façade, remember that most of what you see is performative. In reality, the more narcissistic they are, the more likely they quietly exist in a state of emotional rigor mortis.

This wraps up my thoughts on the best way to mess with a narcissist. If you would like more of my help, visit the coaching page to book a session.

Confidential support is available 24/7/365 to anyone experiencing abuse.
In the USA call 1-800-799-7233 or log on to thehotline.org.
In the UK call 0808 2000 247 or log on to nationaldahelpline.org.uk.

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Types of Flying Monkeys

Types of Flying Monkeys

FLYING MONKEY is a popular psychology term that refers to an enabler of a highly narcissistic person or someone with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). A flying monkey is an agent who acts on their behalf.

What are the main types of flying monkeys?

There are usually two main types of flying monkeys in a narcissistic person’s orbit. These are:

  1. The benevolent enabler, and
  2. The malevolent enabler

The benevolent enabler

A benevolent flying monkey is someone with a sociotropic nature that makes them an easy target for manipulators. Sociotrophic individuals suffer from the so-called “disease to please,” which means that they tend to put the needs of others ahead of theirs.

Often they unwittingly aid and abet a narcissistic person’s campaign of emotional abuse because predatory manipulators are quick to sniff out a sociotropic person’s powerful longing for external validation.

Benevolent flying monkeys are not consciously trying to cause harm. A benevolent flying monkey is likely to have been subjected to the narcissistic person’s love-bombing and gaslighting tactics. They are usually acting in good faith based on the narcissist’s persuasive vilification of the person they’ve targeted for abuse.

The narcissistic person will have used the DARVO tactic to manipulate their perception of events and the people involved so much so that the benevolent flying monkey wrongly views the victim-survivor as the perpetrator of the abuse. Once the narcissistic person has effectively pulled the wool over this person’s eyes, they triangulate them into the conflict and with strong incentives to protect and “rescue” the narcissist.

The malevolent enabler

A malevolent flying monkey is misanthropic in nature. They are bad faith actors who knowingly participate in narcissistic abuse because inflicting harm on others gives them a sense of power. Malevolent flying monkeys tend to identify with highly narcissistic people and NPDs because they are equally narcissistic in their own right. They usually share the same attitudes and beliefs and feel a sense of belonging in the narcissistic person or NPDs in-group.

Because a malevolent flying monkey is morally bankrupt, it doesn’t matter who is right or wrong. In fact, they are usually fully aware that an injustice is taking place. However, these types relish an opportunity to deny dignity and justice to someone who they feel is “not like them.”

Malevolent flying monkeys function as gatekeepers. Often they are foot soldiers of a larger system of oppression, i.e. sexism, racism, etc. and they engage in the conflict for the sole purpose of protecting a hierarchy that serves them.

How do narcissists recruit flying monkeys?

Narcissists successfully seduce flying monkeys into their ranks by appealing to their narcissism. Narcissism is an expression of self-idealization. It’s a trait that all human beings have to a greater or lesser extent.

Benevolent flying monkeys are generally prone to vulnerable or covert narcissism, while malevolent flying monkey’s narcissism is more like to show up as grandiose or overt narcissism.

Confidential support is available 24/7/365 to anyone experiencing abuse.
In the USA call 1-800-799-7233 or log on to thehotline.org.
In the UK call 0808 2000 247 or log on to nationaldahelpline.org.uk.

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What is DARVO in Narcissism?

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WHAT IS DARVO in narcissism?

To answer this question, we must first deconstruct the word narcissism, strip away the distortions of popular psychology, and understand it in its original context.

Narcissism is a word used to describe self-idealization. All human beings have a propensity to assign value to themselves. In fact, in and of itself, narcissism is not an inherently negative trait. On the contrary, a normal or healthy amount of narcissism is necessary for our mental health.

One of the keys to understanding narcissism is recognizing that it exists on a continuum. Problems arise when narcissism is excessive. Likewise, when it is deficient, it can pose a different set of challenges.

Excessive narcissism can inflate the ego to the extent that it generates a sense of superiority that eclipses one’s ability to value others. The most extreme expression of this trait is narcissistic personality disorder, also known as NPD.

The inability to see the value in other people can be an obstacle to treating others with respect and dignity. It fails to inhibit the individual’s aggression and relies on a plethora of primitive defense mechanisms to preserve the bloated state of the ego. For this reason, it is sometimes called malignant narcissism.

It is in the fertile soil of this brand of narcissism that DARVO can occur. DARVO is an acronym that stands for:

  •  Deny
  • Attack
  • Reverse
  • Victim, and 
  • Offender.

Jennifer J. Freyd, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of Oregon, coined the term DARVO 1997 to describe a defensive tactic commonly used by manipulators to avoid being held to account by scapegoating the person they harmed.

She explains:

“The perpetrator or offender may Deny the behavior, Attack the individual doing the confronting, and Reverse the roles of Victim and Offender such that the perpetrator assumes the victim role and turns the true victim – or the whistleblower – into an alleged offender.”

What is DARVO in narcissism? It is one of the most extreme forms of gaslighting commonly used by highly narcissistic people and NPDs to preserve their idealized image of themselves. 

Confidential support is available 24/7/365 to anyone experiencing abuse.
In the USA call 1-800-799-7233 or log on to thehotline.org.
In the UK call 0808 2000 247 or log on to nationaldahelpline.org.uk.

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6 Facts About Erotic Asphyxiation

What Is Erotic Asphyxiation?

Erotic asphyxiation (EA) is an increasingly common sexual practice, particularly among young people. It is dangerous and can lead to accidental death. It was first depicted in the 1791 novel Justine (Les infortunes de la vertu) by Marquis de Sade. Popular among people who engage in bondage, discipline, dominance and submission, it has become normalized through its depiction in pornography.

In this article you will learn about:

Let’s get started.

What is Erotic Asphyxiation?

Erotic asphyxiation is a sadomasochistic fetish of consensual strangulation during sexual activity, granting absolute power to one person through the complete surrender of the other. It is also known as breath play, erotic chokingsexual asphyxiation.

Common types of erotic asphyxiation

Some of the most common types of non-fatal strangulation are the constriction of the throat by:

  • Using one or both hands
  • Apply pressure with a forearm
  • Applying pressure with a knee or foot
  • Use of objects, such as a strap, rope, belt, scarf, cord, scarf, necklace, plastic wrap, etc. 

Physical outcomes of erotic asphyxiation

Some of the consequences of erotic asphyxiation:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Brain damage
  • Hoarse voice
  • Paralysis
  • Motor and speech disorders
  • Stroke
  • Bladder or bowel incontinence 
  • Dizziness
  • Memory loss
  • Tinnitus
  • Seeing dark spots
  • Tunnel vision
  • Memory loss

Why do people choke each other during sex?

Erotic asphyxiation is said to enhance sexual arousal and magnify the intensity of orgasm.

“We found that many people into choking remember growing up and watching porn with choking in it,” said Dr. Herbenick. “In a country where porn stands in for sex education and family conversations about sex, some young people do what they see in porn.”

How common is erotic asphyxiation?

According to a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine and lead by Dr. Debby Herbenick, a professor at the Indiana University School of Public Health. “And it is a thing, especially among young adults.”

People Choked During Sex


People Who Have Choked Others During Sex


Dr. Herbenick says there has been a shift in sexual behavior over the last two decades. The study found that choking during sex is most prevalent among 18-29-year-olds, among whom 40% had either choked a sexual partner or been choked by one.

“We found that 21 percent of women had been choked during sex as had 11 percent of men,” said Dr. Herbenick. “We also found that 20 percent of men and 12 percent of women had choked a partner.”

The study also found that 23 of the 347 female respondents expressed feeling frightened during sex as their partner had attempted to choke them by surprise and without consent.

How is erotic asphyxiation different from non-fatal strangulation?

What differentiates non-fatal strangulation from so-called erotic choking is context, intent, and consent. While both erotic asphyxiation and non-fatal strangulation are dominant behaviors, there are some important distinctions:

Erotic asphyxiation is:

  • Consensual.
  • Occurs in the context of mutual sexual pleasure.
  • Is not intended to cause harm.

Non-fatal strangulation is:

  • Non-consensual.
  • Occurs in the context of abusive power and control.
  • Intended to cause harm and induce fear.

Is erotic asphyxiation as dangerous as non-fatal strangulation?

Although erotic asphyxiation is consensual and occurs in a different context from non-fatal strangulation, it poses the same dangers.

Certified sex therapist Kimberly Resnick Anderson explains, “Sexual choking or breath play is really dangerous. Even in the BDSM community, it’s never safe. There is always a lethal risk.”

Moreover, the rise in erotic asphyxiation has led to a quarter of American women report feeling scared during sex. due to a rise in non-fatal strangulation that takes place during sex without consent.


  • Glass, Nancy & Laughon, Kathryn & Campbell, Jacquelyn & Block, Carolyn & Hanson, Ginger & Sharps, Phyllis & Taliaferro, Ellen. (2007). Non-fatal Strangulation is an Important Risk Factor for Homicide of Women. The Journal of emergency medicine. 35. 329-35. 10.1016/j.jemermed.2007.02.065. 
  • Herbenick D, Fu TC, Wright P, Paul B, Gradus R, Bauer J, Jones R. Diverse Sexual Behaviors and Pornography Use: Findings From a Nationally Representative Probability Survey of Americans Aged 18 to 60 Years. J Sex Med. 2020 Apr;17(4):623-633. DOI: 10.1016/j.jsxm.2020.01.013. Epub 2020 Feb 17. PMID: 32081698.
  • Debby Herbenick, Elizabeth Bartelt, Tsung-Chieh (Jane) Fu, Bryant Paul, Ronna Gradus, Jill Bauer & Rashida Jones (2019) Feeling Scared During Sex: Findings From a U.S. Probability Sample of Women and Men Ages 14 to 60, Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 45:5,424-439, DOI: 10.1080/0092623X.2018.1549634
  • Thomas, K. A., Joshi, M., & Sorenson, S. B. (2014). “Do You Know What It Feels Like to Drown?”: Strangulation as Coercive Control in Intimate Relationships. Retrieved from http://repository.upenn.edu/spp_papers/168 
  • Savage, Dan (2020, September 9). Savage Love: Why Is Choking During Sex Common Among Young Adults? Retrieved March 1, 2021.
  • Engle, Gigi (2020, July 21). Why Some People Are Turned on by Choking During Sex—and How to Do It Safely, According to Experts. Retrieved March 1, 2021.
  • Phetasy, Bridget (2017, November 2). So You’re Into Choking… Retrieved March 1, 2021.
  • Wint, Camilla. (2018, March 23) Acute Upper Airway Obstruction. Retrieved March 1, 2021.

Confidential support is available 24/7/365 to anyone experiencing abuse.
In the USA call 1-800-799-7233 or log on to thehotline.org.
In the UK call 0808 2000 247 or log on to nationaldahelpline.org.uk.

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Are You in an Emotionally Abusive Relationship? (Men’s Edition)

Are You In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship (Special Edition for Men) | Narcissistic Abuse Rehab

Are You In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship? (Special Edition for Men) is an updated and expanded version of the recovery tool I created last year to help people assess their relationship health. This version is specially crafted for men seeking to determine whether or not they are experiencing psycho-emotional abuse in interpersonal relationships with family members, intimate partners, peers, and colleagues.

The creative inspiration came when Veronica Archer reached out to me and invited me to speak on the topic of Male Survivors at the ‘You Get To Be YOU This Time’ online conference, I wanted to contribute a recovery tool tailored to the unique needs of men and boys.

Why is emotional abuse difficult to spot?

Insidious is a word we often hear to describe psycho-emotional abuse because it is deceitful, underhanded and cunningly disguised loving-kindness. For this reason, most people who are targeted for this kind of aggression do not realize it’s happening to them until long after the fact. It is only when the damage has been done to the individual’s well-being and quality of life, that they discover that trail of exploitative tactics used to take advantage of them.

This book helps men reflect on their lived experiences and recognize how subtle patterns of abuse can manifest in relationships with manipulators.

Holding space for male survivors

Some of the unique challenges male survivors face are gender stereotypes, specifically that men cannot be abused and in domestic abuse discussions men can only be the perpetrator or the aggressor but never the recipient of abuse. In reality, some men experience domestic abuse in interpersonal relationships in the context of family abuse and intimate partner abuse, both in heterosexual and same sex relationships. Therefore, it is essential to hold space for male survivors of domestic abuse.

What you will learn in ‘Are I In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship? (Special Edition for Men)’

While the focus of the first half of the book is on recognizing patterns of emotional abuse in men’s interpersonal relationships, the workbook section helps men tap into their agency and opens up vistas for healing and growth.

After the relationship health self-assessment exercise, the workbook uses your discoveries to help you gain fresh insight about where you are today and what actions are necessary to help you reach your goals.

In conclusion

I would like to end this post by reiterating the message I shared with Veronica in the interview: I developed this tool for male survivors in the hope that men and boys will know that they are seen, they are loved, and they can heal.

You Get To Be YOU This Time

You Get To Be You This Time | Veronika Archer

You Get To Be YOU This Time is a new podcast series by Veronika Archer that aims to help people transcend and overcome long-term abuse in toxic relationships.

I am proud to be participating in a discussion on the topic of Male Survivors of Narcissistic Abuse. This is a topic that’s very close to my heart and I hope to provide as much useful information and resources as possible.

30 Internationally Recognized Experts

Veronika’s passion for helping survivors is contagious and she has organized an amazing and informative series with over 30 internationally recognized experts to help you break free from negative relationship patterns.

Some of the other speakers included in each 30-minute episode are:

  • Ashley Berges
  • Dr. Brenda Wade
  • Caroline Strawson
  • Darlene Lancer
  • Duane Robert
  • Dr. George Simon
  • Dr. Gary Sayler
  • Katherine Woodward Thomas
  • Laura Charanza
  • Dr. Marni Feueman
  • Dr. LeslieBeth Wish
  • Melanie Tonia Evans
  • Dr. Michael Kinsey
  • Dr. Ramani S. Durvasula
  • Randi Fine
  • Tracy Malone

I share Veronika’s belief that we all deserve a life where we can be our authentic selves, free from fear or shame. It’s time to start learning how to trust our instincts and applying them to our decisions so that we can attract healthy, loving, liberating, and supportive relationships.

30 FREE ‘You Get To Be YOU This Time’ Recovery Tools

Special gifts will be provided for survivors throughout the ‘You Get To Be You Series.’ These include recovery tools and strategies created by the expert panel.

Learn how to access your intuition, deepen self trust and create the relationship you secretly desire, without wasting any more time analyzing your ex and living in the past.

You will receive 30 free gifts (valued in total at over $3,000) to help you get to be you the next time around.

The sign up page goes live on August 18, 2020. Log on to join me and this extraordinary group of speakers here.

The Narcissist’s False Self

The False Self | Narcissistic Abuse Rehab

THE FALSE SELF IS A FAKE PERSONA dysfunctional people invent as a psychological defense mechanism against re-living adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), such as traumatic stress.

A child’s construction of a false self is an adaptive process. Children may develop it to cope with unmet needs, especially the absence of support the child requires to differentiate themselves from their caregivers.

When a child is unable to successfully evolve as a separate individual, a profound wounding occurs. It is this wounding that severs the child from who they really are, causing their true self to retreat into the mist of toxic shame.

Enter the false self

Once the child’s damaged true self is subverted, the false self is developed as a protective fortification. It is the psychological armor the child creates to survive in an oppressive climate of family dysfunction.

The false self is a façade that disguises a vacant, inert, embryonic true self. The true self becomes an unrealized seed with its innate ability to develop roots and nourish the spirit with a rich emotional life unrealized.

Because the disconnected false persona is bankrupt of constructive emotions, it is unable to experience or genuinely express love, trust, or empathy – making it impossible to establish authentic bonds with others. Instead, the counterfeit self relies on subterfuge and predation, mentally spinning deceptive webs to capture its sustenance.

Over time, the false self becomes a prison where the child’s true self is held hostage.

The false self and pathological narcissism

Pathological narcissism is a traumatic stress response that manifests as ego distortion. It is the invention of a fake persona as a coping mechanism for abysmally low self-esteem.

The child’s deformed ego may present as collapsed or inflated, or it may vacillate between these states depending on circumstances.

Narcissism as ego collapse: I am unwanted

The child who develops a collapsed false self learns to obtain the conditional love of their caregiver(s) through compliance and submission. Pleasing their caregiver(s) keeps them safe from harm and so their best defense is to be infinitely agreeable.

To survive in the dysfunctional family they must show up as vulnerable, weak, and co-dependent. They are only acceptable if their ego is collapsed.

Narcissism as ego inflation: I am perfect

Sometimes children react to their caregiver(s) conditional love, neglect, and/or abuse by withdrawing. 

Instead of collapsing into compliance, they balloon with contempt. In other words, the child adapts by concocting a counter-dependent false self with a glaringly inflated ego.

Both the inflated and collapsed egos remain undifferentiated, having internalized a tyrannical inner judge that is a facsimile of all the worst elements of their rejecting caregiver(s). Both ego structures are slaves to repetition compulsion in their adult lives.

The false self and addiction

Because the counterfeit self is emotionally isolated from the true self, it is also cut off from meaningful, authentic connection with others.

No matter how masterful it may be in its manipulations, the false self is a solitary figure. The consequence of this disconnected existence is that the false persona is prone to binging on poor substitutes for unconditional love and acceptance i.e. alcohol, narcotics, sex, gambling, work, gaming, adulation, people, etc.  

Freedom from the false self

Only an apocalyptic psychological event can shatter the cruel defensive armor of the false self which is every bit as oppressive as it is protective. To relinquish it is to experience the sum of all fears: ego death and the resurrection of the true self.


What is a Narcissistic Injury?

The Narcissist's Hidden Depression

IMAGINE LIFE WITHOUT the ability to experience genuine feelings of joy, love, or compassion.  It’s hardly a stretch to suggest that one’s internal ecosystem would be a bleak and desolate landscape. However, if you were to open up the mind of a pathological narcissist and look inside, what you would find is a psychological wasteland riddled with persecutory objects.

The ambiguity of malignant narcissism is that its outward manifestations are often the opposite of the internal reality, which is a gaping void. The gnawing emptiness within is a catalyst for grandiose pretensions that serve to preserve their idealized false self. Chest thumping boasts of supremacy are a safeguard against the toxic shame that has engulfed their true self.

Where others have a conscience, the pathological narcissist has a vacuum. For this reason, they are on a constant hunt to consume anything that might fill the void. Alcohol, narcotics, pornography, sex, gambling, people – you name it, the narcissist ravenously devours it. But it doesn’t fill them up because they are bottomless pits.

When narcissists encounter people who are able to manifest constructive emotions the narcissist cannot, it wounds their pride, stirs their jealousy, and causes a narcissistic injury. 

What is a narcissistic injury?

A narcissistic injury is a threat to the narcissist’s false self. The threat may be real or imagined. What matters is that the narcissist’s steely psychological armor is penetrated and they experience a painful reminder that their false self is an illusion.

Sensing danger, their ego sends all hands on deck to rescue the false self from annihilation. For this reason, narcissistic injuries go hand in hand with narcissistic rage.

The narcissist’s first line of defense is a disavowal of reality. They devalue the threat, stripping the individual of their humanity and reducing them to the status of object. The narcissist’s ego then fractures the object as it resorts to primary defense mechanisms, such as splitting and projection.

narcissistic abuse rehab | narcissistic injury | triggers | false self

Someone who was once all good is now all bad. A person once hailed as the light of the narcissist’s life becomes the very heart of darkness. The threatening object is made wrong so that the false self can be right. Thus, the narcissist vindicates themselves from any criticism, wrongdoing, and – most importantly – shame.

The more the narcissist uses splitting as an ego defense, the more anything resembling a cohesive identity unravels. Whenever the ego splits an object, an identical split takes place in the ego itself, causing it to become fragmented. The more a narcissist splits off from the abuse they inflict, the more it escalates.

To escape accountability, the narcissist uses a sleight of hand and projects their sadistic acts on to the people they target. This enables them to shape-shift into a new persona – which they do with the ease of a serpent shedding its skin. 

What are the causes of narcissistic injury

The narcissist is a paper tiger. Their psychological structure is too feeble to grasp a self-concept with any complexity. They are satisfied to worship an illusion of their perfect false self. This disposition is common in toddlers, but it’s crippling in adults.

The construction of a false self may have shielded them from adverse childhood experiences in their early years, but it is maladaptive in adulthood as it prevents them from living authentic emotional lives.

The need for emotional bonds disgusts them. Yet, paradoxically it is also something they covet.

While the false self mimics edifying emotions, it does not experience them. A kind of emotional rigor mortis defines the narcissist’s existence.

How do narcissists cope with narcissistic injuries?

Their fragility sends them on predatory crusades to boost their ego. They may sustain their insatiable false self with adulation or attention or with cruel power trips utilizing coercive control, and psycho-emotional abuse.

Narcissists believe that by destroying a person or thing, they obtain power over it.  They accomplish this through deception, seduction, and psychological cannibalism. To the narcissist, this affirms their imaginary superiority.

It is their way of making the false self appear real. 

y disorder fragility

Narcissistic Injury FAQ

A narcissistic injury is any threat to the narcissist’s false self. The threat may be real or imagined. What matters is that the narcissist’s psychological defenses are penetrated and they experience a painful reminder that their false self is an illusion.

Narcissists are shame-based and have fragile ego structures. They can suffer from low self-esteem, depression, rage, and paranoia.

Narcissists want power and control.


4 Subtle Ways Narcissistic Parents Abuse Their Children

Narcissistic Parents | Narcissistic Abuse Rehab

THE CHILD OF A HIGHLY NARCISSISTIC PARENT is born into a gaslit reality, in an environment where everything must revolve around their parent’s false self. From an early age, the child must learn to avoid wounding their parent’s fragile ego or risk their parent’s unbridled aggression.

An excessively self-absorbed parent cannot recognize the emotional needs of their child. The more narcissistic a parent is, the more likely they will see their child as an extension of themselves and not as a separate individual. The type of parent will punish any attempts by the child to differentiate themselves.

Highly narcissistic parents master the art of inflicting psychological pain on their children without raising a hand. One of the ways they accomplish this is by invalidating the child’s sense of reality through gaslighting, one of the components in coercive and controlling behavior.

The cumulative effect of emotional neglect and intermittent reinforcement on children over time can cause the child to suffer depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress. These conditions can persist long after the child has matured, and they are common among adult children of narcissists (ACONs).

1. The false self becomes a false idol

As a parent, the narcissist’s false self becomes a false idol that demands to be worshipped by their family unit.

Narcissists create glaring power imbalances between themselves, their spouse and children.

Love is neglect, abandonment, tyranny, and subjugation.

Because the narcissist’s needs supersede the needs of everyone else, the group internalizes the message that their needs don’t matter unless the narcissist says they do.

If the spouse is empathic, the narcissist undermines their authority. The children learn that might is right. They must appease the narcissist if they want to have their needs met.

2. The narcissist engineers dysfunction

Because a narcissistic family unit is an organism that operates in a gaslit pseudo-reality, it is less akin to a family and more like a cult or a dictatorship.

In this dynamic, the group can’t be supportive, accepting, healthy, or just. Instead, family members behave and interact in unhealthy ways.

The children must learn to navigate the power imbalances and the inevitable abuses of power that ensue.

Thus, the default setting for existence in a narcissistic family is dysfunction.

3. Love is conditional

Children of narcissists learn that love is abuse. The narcissist shows them that if someone displeases you, it is okay to punish them and call it love.

For the child of a pathological narcissist, love is having your personality rejected and replaced with one the narcissist prefers. Love is neglect, abandonment, tyranny, and subjugation.

Narcissists see a child’s individuality as an act of insubordination.

Love is intermittent reinforcement with spouses and children alike.

The child is love-bombed when the narcissist feels the child reflects their false self. The moment the child fails to do so, the narcissistic parent blithely discards them.

4. Narcissists reject children who are not like them

Survival in a narcissistic family depends on each family member’s ability to take on and reinforce the assigned roles, toxic attitudes, and habits of the narcissist. No one is safe from a narcissist’s pernicious scrutiny, not even their children.

In the narcissist’s view, anyone who does not echo their image of themselves is rejecting them. Failure to reflect and affirm their false self is a threat. Thus, a child who does not accept the role assigned by the narcissistic parent triggers a narcissistic injury.

A lot of different personalities develop in the narcissist’s ecosystem.

The narcissist cannot process negative feedback, and by extension, nor can their family unit. They have zero tolerance for any person or thing they believe may endanger their fragile false self. When faced with such a threat, narcissists attack — even if the source of their ire is an infant.

Narcissists see a child’s individuality as an act of insubordination. Their response to this perceived narcissistic injury is contempt, oppression, and rejection of the offending child. As an act of expediency, the narcissist casts the child in the psychologically devastating role of the family scapegoat. The narcissist condemns the child to bear the blame for all of the family’s dysfunctional behavior and its outcomes.


To grow up in a narcissistic family is to grow up in an inverted reality, where right is wrong, and wrong is right. Anything goes as long as you tow the narcissist’s line.

There will be flagrant betrayals, hypocrisy, double standards, cruelty, and abuse. If one of the parents is empathic, the children will get a daily dose of how to manipulate, exploit, and subjugate another human being.

A lot of different personalities develop in the narcissist’s ecosystem. How the child turns out depends on how they navigate the harsh psychological terrain of the family.

This article is also published at Medium.com.


Confidential support is available 24/7/365 to anyone experiencing abuse.
In the USA call 1-800-799-7233 or log on to thehotline.org.
In the UK call 0808 2000 247 or log on to nationaldahelpline.org.uk.

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