Misinformation: Covert vs. Classic Narcissist

Uploaded 5/16/2014, approx. 5 minute read

My name is Sam Vaknin and I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.

Contrary to misinformation spread by so-called experts online, covert narcissists are not cunning and they are not manipulative.

Classic narcissists are cunning and manipulative. They often disguise their true nature effectively, knowingly and intentionally.

Classic narcissists are persistent actors with great thespian skills, but not so the covert narcissist. The covert narcissist suppresses his true nature because he lacks the confidence to assert it.

His is not a premeditated choice. He can't help it but shy away.

The covert narcissist is his own worst critic. Inverted narcissists are covert narcissists. They are self-centered, sensitive, vulnerable and defensive. Sometimes they are hostile or paranoid. Inverted narcissists harbor grandiose fantasies and have a strong sense of entitlement. They tend to exploit others, albeit stealthily and subtly.

Covert narcissists are aware of their innate limitations and shortcomings and therefore constantly fret and stress over their inability to fulfill their unrealistic dreams and expectations. Covert narcissists avoid recognition, competition and limelight for fear of being exposed as frauds or failures. They are ostentatiously modest. Covert narcissists often feel guilty over and ashamed of their socially impermissible aggressive urges and desires which they suppress and deny and keep at bay.

Consequently, covert narcissists are shy and unassertive and intensely self-critical. They are perfectionists.

This inner conflict in the covert narcissist between an overwhelming sense of worthlessness and a grandiose false self results in mood and anxiety disorders.

Covert narcissists team up with classic narcissists but in secret they resent and they envy them.

Cooper and Akhtar, two scholars, wrote about covert narcissists as early as 1989 and they compared the arrogant or overt or classic narcissists to the shy or covert narcissists.

When it comes to self-concept, the classic narcissist has grandiosity, preoccupation with fantasies of outstanding success and a reduced sense of uniqueness, feelings of entitlement and seeming self-sufficiency.

The covert narcissist has inferiority, morose self-doubts, marked propensity toward feeling ashamed, fragility, relentless search for glory and power, marked sensitivity to criticism and realistic setbacks. The classic narcissist has numerous but shallow relationships and intense need for tribute from others, scorn for others, content or often masked by pseudo-humility, lack of empathy, inability to genuinely participate in group activities, the valuing of children over stalks in family life.

The covert, on the other hand, has inability to genuinely depend on others and trust them, chronically of others, of their talents, of their possessions, of their capacity for deep object relations, for lack. Covert narcissists have a lack of regard for generational boundaries. They disregard others. They disregard other people's time. They refuse to answer letters as a form of passive-aggressive behavior.

As far as social adaptation, the classic narcissist is socially charming. He's often successful, consistent hard work done mainly to seek admiration. It's called pseudo-sublimation.

He has intense ambition and a preoccupation with appearances.

The covert, on the other hand, has nagging aimlessness, shallow vocational commitment, dilettante-like attitude, a charlatan, multiple but superficial interests, chronic boredom, aesthetic taste, often ill-informed and imitative.

As far as ethics, standards and ideals, the classic narcissist has caricatured modesty, what they call false modesty, a pretended contempt for money in real life.

Idiocentrically and unevenly more, this is the classic narcissist. His apparent enthusiasm is only for socio-political affairs.

The covert narcissist has a readiness to shift values to gain favor. He is a pathological liar. He has a materialistic lifestyle. He has delinquent tendencies, inordinate ethnic and moral relativism and irreverence towards authority.

When it comes to love and sexuality, the covert narcissist is in a state of constant marital instability. His is cold and greedy seductiveness. Extramarital affairs and promiscuity are common, and he has an uninhibited sex life.

The covert narcissist is unable to remain in love. He has impaired capacity for viewing the romantic partner as a separate individual with his or her own interests, rights and values. The covert narcissist is unable to genuinely comprehend the incest taboo, and he has occasional sexual perversions.

Finally, the cognitive style of the classic narcissist is vastly different to that of the covert narcissist. The classic narcissist is impressively knowledgeable, indecisive, opinionated, often strikingly articulate. Ego-centric perception of reality goes hand in hand with the love of language, fondness for shortcuts to acquisition of knowledge, and general infatuation with knowledge.

The covert narcissist's knowledge is often limited to trivia. It's called headline intelligence. He is forgetful of details, especially names. He is impaired in the capacity for learning new skills. He has a tendency to change meanings of reality when he is faced with a threat to his surfacing. His language and speaking are used for regulating surfacing, not for communicating.

So the inverted narcissist is a codependent who depends exclusively on narcissists. A narcissist is codependent.

If you are living with a narcissist, if you have a relationship with a narcissist, if you are married to a narcissist, and if you are working with a narcissist, that does not mean that you are an inverted narcissist.

To qualify as an inverted narcissist, you must crave to be in a relationship with a narcissist, regardless of any abuse inflicted on you by said narcissist. You must actively seek relationships with narcissists and only with narcissists, no matter what your bitter and dramatic past experience with narcissists has been. You must feel empty and unhappy in relationships with any other kind of person, with a non-narcissist.

Only then, and if you satisfy the other diagnostic criteria of dependent personality disorder, only then can you be safely labeled an inverted narcissist.

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So, Is My Narcissist a Covert Narcissist? Nonsense vs. Scholarship

Covert narcissists are individuals who suffer from an in-depth sense of inferiority, have a marked propensity towards feeling ashamed, and are shy and fragile. They are unable to genuinely depend on others or trust them, suffer from chronic envy of others, and have a lack of regard for generational boundaries. Covert narcissists are not goal-orientated, have shallow vocational commitment, and are forgetful of details, especially names. Inverted narcissists are a subspecies of covert narcissism and are self-centered, sensitive, vulnerable, and defensive, sometimes hostile and paranoid.

Inverted Narcissist (Narcissist Codependent)

Inverted narcissists are a type of codependent who exclusively depend on a narcissist. They are self-effacing, sensitive, emotionally fragile, and sometimes socially phobic. They derive all their self-esteem and sense of self-worth from the outside and are pathologically envious. Inverted narcissists are narcissists, and it is possible to compose a set of criteria for them by translating the criteria available in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for the classical narcissist.

External Regulation: Inverted Narcissist not Codependent or Borderline (with Daria Żukowska)

Inverted narcissism is a form of covert narcissism where the individual derives their narcissistic supply from an overt narcissist. They have a symbiotic relationship with the overt narcissist, as they receive attention and supply from them, even if it's in the form of abuse. Inverted narcissists are different from echoists, as they focus on self-annihilation and becoming their source of supply, while echoists are more focused on their own internal dynamics. Inverted narcissists are unlikely to become classic narcissists, as they are a subtype of covert narcissism and are more focused on obtaining supply in any form.

Confessions of Codependent Inverted Narcissists - Part 3 of 3

Inverted narcissists stick to narcissists because it is their psychological imprint and comfort zone. They feel more free and independent with a narcissist than without one. Inverted narcissism is not a form of full-fledged narcissism, but it shares some underlying patterns. Narcissism is a systemic pattern of responses that is so all-pervasive and so all-encompassing that it amounts to a personality disorder. It is important for inverted narcissists to become emotionally and financially independent.

Two Narcissists in a Couple

Two narcissists of the same type cannot maintain a stable, long-term, full-fledged and functional relationship. Two narcissists of different types or opposing types can, often do, maintain long-term, stable and rather happy relationships. There are two main types of narcissists, somatic and cerebral. The somatic type of narcissist relies on his body and sexuality to generate attention, adulation and admiration, while the cerebral narcissist leverages his intellect, his intelligence and his professional achievements to obtain the same. Stable and enduring relationships can and often do develop between dissimilar narcissists.

Narcissist: Destructive Envy and Romantic Jealousy

Envy is a compounded emotion brought on by the realization of some lack or deficiency in oneself. Narcissists cope with their pathological envy by either subsuming the object of envy via imitation or destroying it. The most dangerous species of narcissists are those who derive contentment from their own humiliation and end up driving the objects of their own devotion and accumulation to destruction and decrepititude. Romantic jealousy is a narcissistic defense that reflects the narcissistic traits and behaviors of possessiveness, objectification, and treating the spouse as an extension of oneself.

Potemkin Narcissists: Fake It Till You Make It!

There are two types of narcissists: Potemkin narcissists who derive ample narcissistic supply from mere appearances and narcissists of substance who strive for meaningful careers and creating things of value. Potemkin narcissists cultivate a following by emphasizing their alleged distinct character traits and create an empty brand. They are not interested in people except as instruments of instant gratification and sources of narcissistic supply. Narcissists of substance are concerned with leaving their mark on the world and creating a body of work of lasting value. They are workaholics and in relentless pursuit of fame, celebrity, and glory.

When the Narcissist's Parents Die

The death of a narcissist's parents can be a complicated experience. The narcissist has a mixed reaction to their passing, feeling both elation and grief. The parents are often the source of the narcissist's trauma and continue to haunt them long after they die. The death of the parents also represents a loss of a reliable source of narcissistic supply, which can lead to severe depression. Additionally, the narcissist's unfinished business with their parents can lead to unresolved conflicts and pressure that deforms their personality.

Narcissist of Substance vs. Narcissist of Appearances

There are two types of narcissists: those who derive ample narcissistic supply from mere appearances and those whose narcissistic supply consists of doing substantial deeds. The former type of narcissist aims for celebrity, defined as being famous for being famous, while the latter type aims for careers in the limelight. The celebrity narcissist has a short attention span, is indolent, and prefers the path of least resistance. The career substantial narcissist is very concerned with leaving his mark and stamp of the world with his legacy, is a natural-born leader, and is willing and able to negotiate, compromise, and network.

Confessions of Codependent Inverted Narcissists - Part 2 of 3

Inverted narcissists react positively to compliments and rewards, but can sometimes get stuck in bitterness and self-pity. They contest the diagnosis of inverted narcissism, seeing it as a partial form of the disorder with healthy parts still intact. Inverted narcissists experience self-pity and depression, and regret their behavior and admit mistakes. Their rage comes from feeling humiliated and inferior, not from repressed self-contempt.

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