Sunday, January 21, 2024

Narcissism Part Three: Early Warning Identifiers

 This is the third article I am writing in regarding to the Narcissist Type.  I have been studying this subject both in my direct experience and viewing several discussions on videos with counsellors who are trained to work with people who are suffering from "Narcissistic Abuse" within a relationship.  I am writing this article for several purposes.  One of these purposes is to review what I am learning and to be able to place the understanding of the Narcissist type on the Enneagram and to map out the dynamics of this type.  At this point, I am organizing my notes to upscale the video discussions to a higher level of empirical and psychological precision.  The discussions that I find are excellent and very empirical and experiential in an informal way, but still lack a precision that I feel that I need to feel complete with this subject.

One issue that I have is that I have looked at a few videos that are trying to give people some "early warning identifiers" so that people can disengage soon enough to avoid getting "enmeshed" in this Narcissist type.  What I have found is that the Narcissist type, probably through their own history of being wounded in their formative past experiences, unconsciously wishes to "trauma bond" with someone and pull this person into a relationship or friendship where he or she will engage in a dysfunctional power struggle which is characteristic of enmeshed family systems that so many people were raised within as children, with a high probability that the parents were Narcissist types.  The Narcissistic Abuse is part of the trauma bond experience and when fully formed can be a difficult bond to terminate and move on from.  In other words, the abuse itself is not merely an unpleasant aspect of the experience of being with them, but serves a function in keeping the relationship or friendship continuing through time.  The abuse is also not merely part of their need to be in control (which many of the counselors focus on) or their need to "win" in the power struggle that they create with their target person, it serves to create a dysfunctional bond that emulates their dysfunctional family system that they were raised in.  The bond can be very strong and be very hard to break.  It anchors into the target person as a "survival imprint" and the target person can be very anxious and even feel guilty if he or she tries to leave the relationship or friendship.

In some of the videos that I have been studying, the identifiers for the Narcissist type, especially the "Covert Narcissist", are, in my opinion, not early enough.  They identifiers are excellent to verify that one is already in a relationship, friendship, or business partnership with an Narcissist type, but not so excellent when it comes to sensitizing oneself to "early warning identifiers" so that one can disengage early enough that one pulls out of the enmeshment before it fully forms.  The "early warning identifiers" (EWIs for short) also need to be precise enough so that one does not accidentally mislabel a person who is not a Narcissist type and unwittingly lose a chance to form a good and worthwhile friendship or relationship.  One challenge with forming the EWIs is that most people have some narcissist traits and therefore the mere presence of Narcissist traits is usually not enough to form a valid EWI.

What I needed to do in my notes is to define a "narcissist scale" that goes like this:

(1) potential narcissism.  What Freud called "primary narcissism", where children have a kind of natural and innocent self centeredness that could develop into an Narcissist type.

(2) mild narcissism.  Where an ordinary person evolves some of the personality traits of a narcissist, but they have not congealed into a full blown Narcissist type.

(3) covert narcissism.  Where the traits develop into strategies and congeal into a full blown Narcissist type personality.  What I feel the line that is crossed is when the Narcissist type uses lying deliberately, not from fear of punishment or fear of being shamed, but as a strategy so hide their real agenda so that it can work upon people who do not see through the camouflage.  The hiding of the agenda is necessary for the strategies to work.  In other words, the deception is necessary.  Many of the counselors have emphasized this and have noted, intuitively, that Narcissist types do not merely lie.  Their lying is different and functions differently.  This is often not fully explained well.  They are called "masters of lying" or "compulsive liars", but neither of these descriptors touches upon the "how and why" of their unique style of lying.  It is also clear to me that the Narcissist type uses several different lying styles.  For instance, they wear a public persona mask and hides who and what they are (lie#1).  They will deny that they did something even when they are caught "red headed" or with a "smoking gun" (lie#2, and which may be reinforced by "gaslighting" where they will convince their target that he or she must have been mistaken and aggressively pressure the person to disconnect and lose confidence in their own experience and what they are learning from their experience, which can cause very serious psychological damage and render them vulnerable to be exploited by others).  They can make up a story and pull people into a victim drama to shift blame and control those around them through guilt (lie#3).  They can be vague and elusive when one is trying to pin them down and figure out what is going on (lie#4).  They can be overly complimentary in the beginning to make you feel safe around them (lie#5).  They can exaggerate faults to make a person feel worse about themselves and undermine their necessary self esteem (lie#6).  They can minimize their own faults or minimize how impactful their faults are to those around them (lie#7).  They can pretend to forget their agreements to rationalize breaking the agreements (lie#8).  They can hide their "pervasive anger" behind a pleasant mask so that one is surprised later on when the anger bursts out of them (lie#9).

(4) overt narcissism.  This is the stage where the traits are out in the open and can be verified more easily, though even when an Narcissist type is overt, there is still a mask of illusion.  They will still blame others, for instance, for what they do.  If they burst out in anger and show their pervasive anger, they will say that "they had to do it" because others "forced them" and they "had no choice".  This blaming others for what they do (lie#10) can fool some people who believe that the Narcissist type only needs to get rid of their enemies or to punish them to feel better.  When the Narcissist type is overt, there are styles of overtness.  They can work a community or group, and hold sway over them.  They can rise to power through a corporate ladder, steal other people's ideas and work to prove to bosses that they are worth promoting, etc.  They can pretend that others are "behind them" when targeting someone (the flying monkey effect, lie#11).

(5) tyrannical narcissism.  This is the stage where a person may rule through fear, murdering or poisoning opponents, torture people so as to make others comply for fear of being tortured, use censorship and media control, slander rivals with lies and propaganda, and even expand his or her empire to dominate other countries.

By having this scale, one can see that the EWIs are about differentiating between stage 2 and stage 3.  The mild narcissism is a trait of relatively ordinary people and because of this we forgive others when these traits show up.  The traits are not united into a fully organized strategy and life pattern that appears in stage 3.  What this scale implies is that stage 4 and 5 Narcissist types must start with being a stage 3 covert narcissist first.

I felt I made progress in forming my EWI list when I realized that Narcissist 3 types will operate behind a mask public persona when we first meet them.  They intend to fool us into believing the mask and therefore the mask is the key to forming a reliable EWI.  This is because the "mask" is part of a strategy and is not merely a random developmental trait that is forming due to the social pressures and dysfunctional family stresses that we all pass through.

The mask will pretend to be an expert or authority about certain things, will pretend to be good, generous, and even altruistic, and generally the mask will minimize faults.  It will have subtle arrogant flavor and may even communicate that they are better than others.  This is because an Narcissist type 3 is in competition with everyone and needs to prove that they are superior to others.  If someone seems to be more expert than they are or if their altruistic ethics are questioned, they will be tempted to put their rivals down, belittle them, and point out any fault, and even wait in ambush to jump on a weakness when it shows up.  It can be seen very early, even in the very first meeting.  There is aggression and "love bombing" with an exaggerated goodness or expertness being shown.  They might pretend to already be a success or an expert or very good at something, before they have taken the time to form those skills.  They feel that they do not have to work at achieving things like other people, because they have natural talent and are "entitled to success" and blame others not recognizing their talent for their failure or blame others for sabotaging them.

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