The Secret Facade of the Vulnerable Narcissist
by: Christine Hammond, LMHC, NCC
At first, they seem so quiet and unobtrusive; a refreshing break from the normal banter of one-up-man-ship that frequently dominates an initial conversation. But then the sly remarks characteristic of inattentiveness began, along with a victimization mentality where the whole world is out to get them, and a hypersensitivity to unintentional disparaging comments. The switch is so dramatic that it is hardly noticeable until it becomes unnerving.
The narcissistic qualities of a vulnerable narcissist (VN) are masked by helplessness, emotionality, and reticent behavior. They are not dissimilar to covert or introverted narcissists which fly far under the grandiose radar of a typical narcissist. Here are some signs of a VN:
· They are typically highly sensitive people to the extreme level. Only their feelings have significance or importance, not another’s. Instead of using their sensitivity to understand and meet the needs of others, they take offense to the slightest emotional reaction, personalize other person’s feelings, and ultimately make it all about them.
· Just like the grandiose narcissists (GN), VNs like to be considered a perfectionist in their area of specialty. However, while GNs will insist they are perfect and believe others see them that way, VNs believe they are perfect but others fail to see them that way.
· The VN is similar to the emotional up and downs of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) but without the self-harming behavior that is characteristic of BPD. VNs might threaten to self-harm as in intimidation tactic but usually do not follow through.
· There is no healthy way to question the emotions and subsequent responses of a VN as they are always right. Even when the emotion is out of proportion to the event, it still cannot be examined for any fault.
· VNs are more prone to depression because the reality of their life doesn’t meet the fantasy life they feel entitled to receive. This inconsistency might cause them to quit jobs without any regard for the consequences of the decision because the work place does not live up to their expectations.
· The victim card is routinely played to justify actions that others may see as disconcerting. Typical statements include: “Everyone is out to get me because I’m better than them,” or “This is not my fault but someone else fault.”
· One of the other interesting characteristics of a VN is their classic passive-aggressive behavior. They typically will ignore a person as punishment for not doing what they were told, not looking good enough, or not being as smart as they are.
· Similar to BPD, VNs are plagued by chronic feelings of emptiness. However, unlike BPDs who try to fill the void with new and exciting relationships, VNs become more introverted. This withdraw is because no one will ever be good enough to engage in an intimate relationship. The fantasy person is non-existent.
· The massive insecurity at the root of narcissism is covered with silence instead of grandiose behavior. In fact, they are extremely judgmental of anyone who displays pretentious, flamboyant, or lavish behaviors.
· Unlike GNs, VNs ae very talented in using false humility and shallow apologies to get what they want. However, when pressed, even they will agree that they don’t mean it and will even blame the other person’s weakness for having to apologize in the first place.
· Because of the complete lack of intimate relationships, VNs may do better with on-line relationships than face-to-face. This allows the VN to maintain the illusory relationship as being more significant than it is.
· Instead of being charming like the GNs, VNs act aloft, smug, disinterested, bored, condescending, inattentive, and judgmental around others. They use this tactic to draw others in without having to engage in a real conversation.
Don’t let a VN fool you into thinking that they are unlike the GN counterparts. They actually have far more in common and are very capable of narcissistic behavior. It is just done is a sneaky manner.
To schedule an appointment with Christine Hammond, please call our office at 407-647-7005.