Collapsed narcissist behavior

Collapsed narcissist behavior DEFAULT

Never contend with with a man who has nothing to lose, for thereby, you enter into an unequal conflict.  – Baltasar Gracian

(Read time 1-2 mins)

A collapsed narcissist is a narcissist who has experienced a severe enough narcissistic injury to have every piece of the scaffolding that holds up his false self, splinter and break, leaving him in a figurative heap on the floor. It may be so severe that he experiences disassociation temporarily. He has nothing to lose, no one to distract him, no one onto whom he project his inner hate, envy, rage and trash, no one to prop him up.

He is alone, and forced to deal with all of the darkness, turmoil and hate that he is typically able to avoid by inflicting it on his partner. He has to deal with himself, since he has no one to foist this onerous, toxic burden upon.

A collapsed narcissist can be dangerous. Being the target of a collapsed narcissist’s emotional frenzy, rage and wrath is very disturbing, distressing, and traumatic.

When a narcissist feels he has lost everything – his partner/supply, his control, his false self, his carefully-crafted reputation, he spins totally out of control. When a narcissist feels he has nothing to lose, it is not unusual for him to fly into a raging frenzy, and even go berserk.

Until she blocks him, it is not unusual for the ex-partner to be on the receiving end of the following (including, but not limited to):

  • abusive/raging/sarcastic/self-pitying/I-love-you-so-much/please-give-me-another-chance/how dare-you-do-this-to-me texts and phone calls (even upwards of 30 texts a day, and 30 phone calls a day)
  • proxies that the narcissist manipulates into calling the partner to try to facilitate a reconciliation
  • threats of suicide, screaming accusations of abandonment, raging screaming fury
  • crying and sobbing fits begging for another chance and promising to change, desperate attempts at love-bombing vis-a-vis carrots on a stick such as money, trips, marriage, you are the only one I have ever loved, etc.
  • subtle and not so subtle threats of revenge
  • attacks on her reputation  
  • stalking

Leaving a narcissist can cause a significant narcissistic injury, which can cause the narcissist to collapse. Statistics show that women in abusive relationships are about 500 times more at risk for harm when they leave their abusive partner. Therefore, prior to leaving the narcissist, it is important for the partner to have an exit strategy in place that includes a safe place for her to go, a support system, and documentation of abuse, if at all possible.

The collapsed narcissist that the partner experiences following a narcissistic injury, is the true narcissist, the narcissist without his mask: the raging anger, vindictiveness, threatening behavior, emotional manipulation, coercive control and the dark, frenzied, punitive behaviors.

It bears repeating, a collapsed narcissist can be dangerous.

*Please note: All of my articles are written with the use of masculine pronouns to describe the narcissist. This is solely due to my own experience, and not meant to imply that men are not also victims of narcissistic abuse, as they are too.

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Narcissism as 'Difficult Behavior'

A broad definition of narcissism, used in therapy, is that it is a pattern of behavior in which self-image is put before the true self. Because the true self is based on feeling, this puts narcissism at war with feelings, one's own feelings and the feelings of others.

A more practical, but still broad, definition for everyday affairs is that narcissism is organizing one's life around the goal of being superior. All other goals in life become subservient to this larger goal. So for instance, one could have a goal of service to others and self-denial. But with narcissism, one seeks to be superior to others in this goal. Narcissism at this level is basic in our culture, and in many groups is considered, despite abysmal results, a proper principle of living.

Superiority is not just about learning to do one or more things well, it is about hiding any evidence of imperfection in other areas. It is this 'war with the evidence of being human' that causes much social, parenting, and relationship friction.

However, there is a important distinction to be made between persons who want to be superior, and those who believe they actually are. This latter type, sometimes called a 'pathological narcissist.' has the inability to feel other people as separate from oneself. Instead, the narcissist perceives only a reflection of his or her needs and desires. From this comes the concept that other people are treated as supplies of gratification or narcissistic supplies.

Pathological narcissism has a deserved reputation for hurting people in its path. Most important to understand is that narcissism is a lot easier to see going than coming. There are at least two reasons for this:

One, people with narcissism often provide a dazzle that could be an element of any satisfying relationship, but the other ingredients that one assumes will also be coming do not materialize. After all, first meetings are never ones in which accountability is expected. But only as time goes on, one begins to feel (or really begins to realize) that one has been cheated.

Two, narcissism is seductive. That is it provides a promise which can't be kept. The promise may be explicit but can be implied. The promise at base is to provide confidence, love. pleasure, or a feeling of specialness. People who have been shown since childhood how to find pleasure and love in solid traditional ways will be less vulnerable to this seduction. People who have been raised in family systems that are tense and essentially pleasureless, even if high achieving, will be more vulnerable to the seduction. As our culture and families have become more narcissistic (focused on being special) the vulnerability to pathological narcissists has become widespread.

A pertinent question in living is how to protect oneself from pathological narcissism. (By the way, anyone with narcissism, apart from the limitation that imposes, can be hurt by the narcissism of others) Essentially the answer is to recognize the seduction or false promisein the beginning, but that is very hard if one is yearning for the good feeling. Largely people hurt by a narcissist recognize the betrayal at the end, but not the seduction at the beginning.

Familiarity with narcissism, either forced or voluntary, usually leads to the knowledge that narcissism is a tough difficult husk around a tender hurt core. But trying only to address the hurt part, as if the problematical part didn't exist has always failed. Empathy is only possible from a position of safety, and never from a position of naivety.

In a way, the damaging element of narcissism is its consistency. Everyone is defensive, unempathetic, conceited, and self-absorbed at times. But with narcissism the defense is so uniformly present, that chances to repair and re-balance relationships never occur. Slowly, the transactions of narcissism become 'normal,' and the effects on other continue insidiously.

A narcissist has an internal locus of control but externalizes responsibility. Stated another way, he or she internalizes credit and externalizes blame. This combination dominates relationships. The narcissist will not style him- or herself a helpless victim, rather he or she will imply that they are victimized by the incompetence or malfeasance of others, and defend his or her aggressive actions as 'setting things right.'

Keeping one's sanity and integrity in the face of narcissism consists of two tiers. The first tier is to keep narcissism and narcissistically traited people at arm's length in casual or 'accidental' relationships. This requires at least recognizing it. This can come both from recognizing behavior in the narcissist, but also more importantly, recognizing how you are affected by this person. This is appropriate for business relationships, casual relationships, authority figures, and distant relatives. In arm's length transactions, everything is spelled out or or specified. Nothing is left to work out as one goes along.

The second tier of defense entails learning to skillfully interact with the narcissist. This unfortunately requires a way of communication that is not optimal for other relationships. It is a special skill set, and is not magic by any means. Learning these skills may make sense if one has to interact closely, such as in therapeutic relationships, marriage, or co-parenting arrangements.

At this point, it may be of value to discuss briefly another difficult personality style, psychopathy. There is some over-lap between narcissism and psychopathy, but they are not the same. Psychopathy is composed of strong vitality and self-interest and a functional lack of feeling. That is, unlike narcissism, where feeling is denied but continues to have some sort of 'shadow' or 'reactive' effect, in psychopathy, the person is 'freed' from any guidance function of emotions. In psychopathy dominance and getting one's way are paramount, and how one is viewed by others is not important for its own sake, but only as a tool. Psychopaths are most upset by not getting their way, while narcissists are most upset by being devalued or ignored. Narcissism can be present with depression or 'collapsed states, while this never happens with psychopathy. But psychopathy and narcissism may occur together and form 'malignant narcissism', which is the florid form of narcissism most recognized (and feared) in popular culture. Psychopathy has both psychological and biological elements, as elaborated in this page from my larger website on character analysis.

Defining narcissism concisely yet comprehensively is difficult because it interacts with other personality aspects. Vanity and grandiosity are commonly recognized aspects but they are too simple to define it, and are not always present. There are many strains and different intensities. Some narcissism is deeply structured into personality during development, and some is just learned behavior from early experience. The latter is the least tenacious. Yet from the outside, or 'receiving end' there are several common elements.

Common 'Problem' Behaviors in Narcissism

  • Disattention Intolerance This term is meant to describe the well-known 'need for attention' but it also includes the disruptive behavior that happens when attention is directed elsewhere than the narcissist. Narcissists hate being interrupted but are big interrupters themselves. They will sabotage competing interests. Narcissists want all the attention of others, so that if anything of quality or novelty appears in the environment, the narcissist will disparage or malign it, and if possible lead targets away from it.
  • Criticism Intolerance A narcissist will not just reject or dislike the content of the criticism, he or she will experience the very act of criticizing as an offense. It is common for him or her to escalate immediately and lash out in the face of it (deflection), or pretend it never happened..
  • Roaming. Because narcissists invariably make a good impression in the beginning, but lose it with increasing familiarity, there is a tendency to constantly meet new people, and leave people that are starting to react with less adulation. This keeps relationships always superficial. Narcissists milk the leeway given new people, and tend not to stick around for 'repayment' time. A 'fast-track' career or many 'stepping-stone' jobs may actually indicate this roaming tendency.
  • Objectification of Others: Others are seen not as separate persons with separate desires and needs, but as means to an end., or ornaments reflecting upon the narcissist.
  • Criminalizing the Needs of Others: Narcissists insist on the illusion of no problems and the illusion of no seriously unmet needs. When others ask for something, rather than just saying no, they tend to stigmatize the target as being selfish, uncouth, malevolent, making unnecessary problems, etc... At the same time the narcissist tends to deny his or her own needs and desires while steadily manipulating others to meet them! It is not possible to bring a grievance or complaint to a narcissist without being attacked strongly while the narcissist manages to position him- or herself as the aggrieved party.
  • Inability to Cooperate: Cooperation obscures both status and attention. It is not possible to win or be in the spotlight while cooperating. Of course taking turns is difficult also. The uncooperativeness may be disguised for quite a while by the narcissist devaluing what the target asks for. In fact, it is not the intrinsic merits of the target's choice that has anything to do with the narcissist's refusal, but rather the mere fact it is the desire and goal of another. The target on the other hand, helps and complies with any of the narcissist's goals within reason. A lopsidedness is quickly established but the target erroneously accepts it as a consequence of his or her 'making bad choices,' or having bad ideas.
  • Monopolizing Initiative. A narcissist wants to be the 'prime mover,' the source of direction in interpersonal affairs. Targets often come to try to anticipate the needs and wants of the narcissist, by doing or providing something unasked. This is already a dysfunctional adaptation, but the point of this section is beyond that. Miscalculations are always possible in this 'pleasing' maneuver, but with a narcissist, almost always he or she will act like they do not want what has been done or given, and that it is crazy of the target to think that they should. This happens even if the narcissist has shown an overwhelming preference and craving for what they now reject. Besides keeping the target off-balance, it reduces him or her to having to wait around to be told what to do, a very submissive position.
  • Force Feeding: Narcissists want others to be pleased with them, but they will not pay attention or consider what others truly want, so others have to pretend to like what they get or risk being called ungrateful etc..
  • History Wipe The present effect of past events resides mostly in feelings. Since with narcissism there is a denial of feeling, there is naturally also a denial that there is any residual left from past events even the very recent past. This can be so seamless that the survivor questions whether he or she remembers correctly or if the event actually happened. And of course, it is not possible to seek or obtain either validation or redress.
  • Seduction: A seduction is a promise that cannot be kept. Most commonly, we think of seduction as romantic or sexual but it need not be. In narcissism, seduction may be premeditated but usually it is not. Simply carrying on with a too-good-to-be-true image and persona is seductive. All seductions end in suffering for the 'naive' party. Seduction occurs in business as well, and a lawsuit is not necessarily a remedy, since courts only enforce promises that can be kept.
  • Bait and Switch: Many types of people are stingy and ungenerous consistently. What can be so seductive with narcissists is that they can be so generous and warm when they believe it will get them something (and of course stingy and cold when they believe it wont). The advanced part however, is that after an initial experience of generosity, they will turn cold. The target will respond to not getting anything by trying harder. It is as if the experience of being in the special circle is given and then snatched back. The target feels he or she is at fault. This keeps many people involved a long time. A variation is to give someone an opportunity to 'prove themselves' but then shut it down quickly, leaving the target hanging and desperate to prove themselves.
  • Externalizing Problems. To the narcissist, the problem is always seen as completely outside his or herself. That means that anyone that is pointing out a problem becomes the problem. This differs from blame which is a less smooth externalization based on shame. With narcissism the externalizing is done without shame and often quite brilliantly and convincingly.
  • Anxiety Dump Biologically, there is a calming effect that happens when we are around someone else that in that moment becomes anxious (This is different from being around someone who has sustained anxiety). In a supportive family or community, this can have a benefit, in that members can take turns 'losing it' (as long as boundaries are functional) Onlookers and helpers can be calm but they will also want to stay and help. This phenomenon goes wrong in 'rescuing' or co-dependency', however. It can go really wrong in narcissism when the narcissist works to get the target upset and then walks away, without helping, not just calmly, but even calmer then before.
  • De-skilling Others. Narcissists quickly learn some questions or skills that others in a field are very likely not to know, for whatever reason. But instead of presenting these as 'advanced' or esoteric questions, the narcissist presents these as fundamental or essential. The effect is for the target to get unnerved and lose confidence, not only in his or her grasp of the subject in question, but in his or her ability to learn and carry on as a human. The basic shock tends to thicken the mind temporarily and produce halting speech and disorientation. The narcissist then presents him- or herself as someone who can be a magnanimous mentor and provide the expert help the target needs to regain competence. A variation is telling targets that an area of expertise the narcissist knows a lot about but the target hasn't even considered is essential. Another variation is treating the routine oversights or small mistakes that everyone makes as though they are representative of the targets overall performance. In de-skilling, an asymmetrical relationship is set up, and attention is kept away from the narcissist's overall results in the area, which may not be exceptional at all.
  • Appropriating Credit Narcissists often take credit for the work of others. When they are involved in situation, they tend to style what happens as a successful innovation produced by them, even if it is just a routine or predictable result for the circumstances. This feeds the illusion that they are indispensable.
  • Lack of Contact A common experience is being in a room with a narcissist and feeling like the narcissist feels he or she is the only one there.
  • Lack of Principles By this I do not mean antisocial behavior. Narcissists can be 'very proper.' Rather I mean that professed principles, factual statements, and historical accounts etc can change at a moments notice to the opposite or anywhere in between. That is because the only principle is support of the self image. This is why narcissists get a reputation for lying. They do not believe they are lying, the self-image is felt to be the ultimate truth. Somewhat differently, a narcissist that is in a position of inspiring others will sometimes do so with inspiring cliches and truisms that do not define any real stance that can be put into operation. What is being promoted is an image, not a principle or practice.
  • Difficulty Sharing Experiences or Pleasure Narcissists understand an exchange but do not understand sharing. Since love is based on pleasure shared, sex, celebrations, and joint recreational activities will never seem to work, however exciting the buildup, and even when all parties have sufficient means of enjoyment and there are no coercive aspects. Denial of feeling is also involved with this.
  • Refusing Information: Narcissists seem only to 'take in' that information which is consistent with their wishes. The rest just 'rolls off' no matter how many times and how clearly it is repeated. Since most good-intentioned people try to influence by giving information, this is a way of refusing influence. Sometimes the narcissists 'get their way because targets are exhausted, and so start to limit themselves to only what is agreed to exist just to get along. Narcissists often refuse to hear "no."
  • Sham Exchanges: Often a narcissist will request something from someone and offer a service or favor in return. This is hard to refuse because of the pull of reciprocity, and also, the narcissist's offer may sound fantastic. The target usually fulfills his or her part with alacrity, but the narcissist doesn't really try. If the narcissist is asked about it, he or she usually has actually forgotten, but will claim busy-ness or some unforeseen impediment. Because in life any single informal exchange (or sharing) does not turn out quite even anyway, the exploitative nature may be disguised for a time until repetition makes things clear. A boiled-down example is the person that never picks up the check at a restaurant.
  • Parasitic Relationships Narcissists will often date and marry someone with family money, a trust fund, etc... without feeling love. Expressions of feeling will be insincere, and unfaithfulness and secret relationships are common.
  • Receptive Vacuum This is a higher level of refusing information. When anything is said, whether statement, question, or report, that the narcissist does not want to hear, he or she convincingly acts as though it was never said. This is very different from anger, disagreement, or even 'normal' invalidation. It can lead the speaker to wonder if they are sane or if they really spoke.
  • Always Trying to Win: No one can rest comfortably around a narcissist because there is a tendency to make activities small or big into competitions or status transactions.
  • Vanishing: When a new more promising narcissistic supply appears, the narcissist suddenly drops contact with the person with whom they were interacting, even if that person had been pulled away from something else or promised some experience. The narcissist gives no notice, doesn't excuse him- or herself, doesn't acknowledge the effect on the person, and often literally disappears. The narcissist literally drops awareness of the existence of the previous source of supply. Or the narcissist makes appointments and dates enthusiastically, or promises to be involved in something, but rarely following through or stands others up. This is because there was a reason to make the date at the time, but later the narcissist is on to something else, and does not consider the follow-through important.
  • Unwilling to Fight: This may sound incorrect, given that narcissists are always trying to get their way and being upset when they don't. However, a good clean fight is two people struggling and competing around a conflict. A fight exposes the humanity and incompleteness of the participants. Instead, narcissists will intimidate or leave.
  • Crossed Generational Boundaries Narcissists will tend to allow children adult prerogatives without any sense of what is appropriate. For instance they might teach a nine-year-old to drive, give a twelve year old a drink or hit of a drug, allow a ten-year-old to stay up late and watch a racy movie etc.. This not only creates havoc in families and overstimulates children, it aids the narcissist in emotional seduction. (compare and contrast this to the phenomenon of grooming, described here on my abuse website.)

The Narcissistic Family System

In this concept, there are three roles, the narcissist, who acts as the 'definer of reality' or 'font of truth', the golden child, and the black sheep. The narcissist is the self-appointed sole authority on what is 'right' and 'good.' The golden child can do no wrong, the black sheep can do no right. Identical actions are treated differently depending on which child is doing it. The black sheep can specialize in either 'misbehavior' or 'failure and inadequacy' but his or her function is the same. In a nutshell, the idealized self-image of the narcissist is projected onto the golden child, and the disowned shame and faults are projected onto the black sheep. This replicates an internal split in the narcissist.

Black sheep, if not driven crazy, tend to go on to become very empathetic, while golden children, without necessarily going on to be narcissists themselves, tend to struggle with empathy. Sometimes the black sheep is a child and the 'golden child' is a grandchild, or vice versa. Narcissists often will try to 'take over' a nephew or niece or grandchild or grand-nephew or -niece to create this system. This can play out in a work-group of course. The narcissistic family system has some similarities with the alcoholic/addicted family system (explained within my page on addiction), and of course, the two often coexist and merge

Early Ways to Recognize Narcissism (Warning Signs)

  • Too Good to be True: This comes from name-dropping, impression management, denial or concealment of struggle, and plain lying. There are very few 'new dawns' or 'awakenings.' Real improvement come incrementally. If one has a feeling something is completely new and makes everything before obsolete, that is a warning sign.
  • Entitlement: This is expecting special treatment or expecting to be treated differently than others. At first this can seem like confidence, assurance, or enjoying the fruits of success, but time will show that it is out of proportion to contributions and devalues others. Another way to look at entitlement is that is expecting to receive that is divorced from what is happening in the relationship or with the other person. For instance the narcissist may expect to be well treated or served by a random stranger, someone he or she just insulted, or someone that has received bad news, etc.. This always leave an eerie feeling. The most popular entitled stance is victim, since it is both a social norm and an emotional impulse that victims be treated specially. One way entitlement plays out is the narcissist expects more than is reasonable from any exchange or deal where the the amount is not exactly specified or is based on 'how things go'. At settling time, the narcissist insists he or she has been cheated. Entitlement is present in propounding the Law of Attraction--the basic idea of which is that by thinking and manifesting value (narcissistic self-image), value will just find it's way toward one (entitlement).
  • Magnetism: This gives the immediate impression of specialness but it is not real evidence of that. It is built on extroversion, but derives from lack of self-doubt, concealment of actual concerns, disregard for social norms, entitlement, freedom from the worry of being consistent, implied promises, and believing appearances are the reality. In contrast, healthy people that are actually creative only come to seem special over time as one gets to know them. In other words, not only is magnetism not proof of emotional health, it is actually a sign of emotional unhealth.
  • Blaming Others: There is a tendency to blame others not just for things for which the narcissist is responsible, but also for frustrations where no one is to blame. This is entitlement and externalizing working together.
  • Self Involvement: A narcissist may be interested in others, but only as admiration suppliers or concrete suppliers. A tell-tale sign is that narcissists are not interested in what others are interested in. He or she may learn to mechanically ask about others' concerns but they will be clearly bored and switch the attention and focus back onto themselves quickly.
  • Always Dominates Conversations Often brilliantly, so that on first meeting and for quite a while, one can be quite entertained, pleased, and impressed. However, if this is consistent, and has a certain 'pressure' to it, it can speak to a need to perform, or get attention. This tendency will spill over if any serious, personal, conversations are attempted.
  • Generosity 'Out of the Blue': Sure there are people who are natural giving and warm but the beneficiaries of this are people they have already come to know and love. Narcissists on the other hand will use this as a seduction technique. If you don't know why you were 'singled out', then watch out!
  • History of Re-Inventing Oneself: Productive people change jobs but tend to stay in the same or a related field to build on the past. Likewise, social groups change slowly but not all at once. With narcissism there is a tendency to change type of work (physicians may change specialties), location, hobbies, and 'friends' in one 'fail swoop'. In part this is because it is possible (the magnetism of narcissism may allow one to penetrate a new group like a hot knife in butter) but it is also because the previous group was catching on and 'comparing notes.'
  • Denial of Struggle or Suffering: This is different than reluctance to discuss difficult times. It is the positive denial that suffering or difficulty ever occurred. Struggle or suffering is seen as a sign of weakness
  • Easily Distracted from Productive Activity into Status Struggles: This is self-explanatory
  • Lack of Empathy Empathy may be feigned since it is a social norm, but there will be lapses.
  • Asymmetrical Relationships: Apart from parasitic relationships described above, narcissists will often get involved with subordinates, students, disciples, younger people, financially dependent people, or people who lack confidence. Alternately they may be attracted to very hierarchical organizations like police or military. Unless there are opportunistic reasons, they tend to avoid relationships with peers or others that are outside any status structure.
  • Denial of Potential It has been noted that a pathological narcissist is always stumped by any question which presupposes potential, such as "What are your goals and dreams?" or "How do want/need to grow and change?" This is because it is not possible to be perfect and have potential at the same time.

Narcissists usually have at least one narcissistic parent or grandparent. Accurately complaining about mistreatment at the hands of another narcissist does not by itself indicate that the complainer does not him- or herself have narcissistic functioning. Two unrelated narcissists will tend to avoid each other but two narcissists related by family ties will be quite enmeshed if conflictual.

Also, as touched on above, narcissists will succeed in many new relationships for a fair amount of time, perhaps years, until the reality comes home to roost for the other person. This, combined with seeking attention, means that the narcissist will always have 'social proof' to the effect that they are wonderful to know. It is necessary to honor one's instincts and not just follow the herd.

Also, it is rarely advisable for a survivor to 'call out' a narcissist. Even armed with the awareness that the narcissist him- or herself will never accept the label, trying to expose the pattern to the larger group will backfire on the survivor. Narcissists are experts at agilely arguing from instantly created false premises, especially on the themes of specialness, righteousness, goodness, and victimhood. Narcissists usually offer average quality logic, but logic produces conclusions only as good as premises. Survivors, by nature, will feel compelled to address all points made, and will not be able to keep up. Would-be exposers are made to appear defensive, bitter, and jealous. Moreover narcissists instinctively understand the ploy of counter-attacking and never defending their actions. Survivors will then defend themselves, and the entire focus is on the survivor's behavior. One will never wrest validation or amends from the narcissist or his or her supporters. All that has been given and expended to satisfy the narcissist or to attempt to make the relationship or project 'right' is gone.

Limiting the harm of the narcissist is really based on prevention of the seduction which requires grounding and true feeling. Restoration or repair for the survivor comes from living well after the episode.

As mentioned above, the first tier of defense is often best staying at arms length, or not allowing oneself to be in a vulnerable position vis-a-vis the narcissist. That may not be possible if the narcissist is a family member, a co-parent, a boss in an otherwise great job, etc... In this second tier of defense, working with the narcissist, these are some incomplete ideas. They are not meant to be principles for general relationships (although none are by themselves toxic behavior), but rather special tools for difficult people:.

  • Never Struggle This is possibly good advice for all relationships but is especially for one with a narcissist. As said above, a narcissist will avoid a good clean fight but will avidly engage in a prolonged power struggle. But in this case, instead of draining both parties, a struggle will drain you and feed the narcissist. Being able to use power tactics, even against resistance, is like oxygen to narcissism. Trying just to 'stay even' will suck you in.
  • Never Argue Over or Discuss the Past Record: besides being crazy-making, it will never work to try to create a sense of obligation based on what has happened. Rather it will be turned around on you. Stick to present circumstances
  • Appeal to Their Self-Image of Generosity or Magnanimity: Narcissists hate to comply with demands, but love to feel bountiful to others.
  • Volunteer Yourself (or, Carefully, a Third Party) to Have the Problem: For instance start out "This has nothing to do with you but I need help with..." even when you think they are responsible for the problem.
  • Understand and Employ the Difference between Transactional and Reciprocal. It is natural to expect to be able to get something as well as give something in a relationship. Well-intentioned people often wish to give first and only receive later. This is almost automatic in relationships meant to be friendship or romantic, and in less close relationships, is still common, sometimes called a 'good will gesture'. However, with narcissism, there will be no natural repayment and if one is requested, the narcissist will receive the request as an offense. Exchanges will work but they must be more or less simultaneous, because to a narcissist, reciprocity only exists in deals, not in relationships.
  • Say What You Will Do, Avoid Saying What You Will Not. That is, maintain your boundaries and refuse to be pressured into something you do not want to do. However, try to avoid saying 'no', which is often received as a gratuitous provocation or hostile act by the narcissist. Rather, think in terms of counter-offering what you are prepared to do. This applies to all irritable, uncooperative people.
  • Employ Tokens. Tokens are things easy for you to give, and for which getting something in return is not important. Narcissists often like receiving even tokens because it is the direction of flow, not the actual good, which is important. It is frequently possible to substitute a token for what you do not want to do.
  • You Can't Satiate a Narcissist. It may occur to you to just give everything a narcissist has asked for in a situation in order to be done with it and left alone. But narcissists are known for being given a mile and then demanding another mile. There is no actual complete (even very large) amount of things the narcissist wants. Rather it is the direction of flow and continuity of the supply that is important to them.
  • Be Direct. In this one must choose battles carefully and be sure. But direct one must be, because narcissists simply do not get hints!
  • Go Ahead and Stroke. The narcissism is already there, you cannot increase it. Once the narcissist no longer fears being devalued, he or she may listen.
  • Praise Selectively: That is, since praise is listened to, praise the undistorted core intention of the narcissists behavior, or praise the effects, however minor, that you believe are positive. Narcissists want others to be pleased with them, and may provide more of what others like if it is not demanded.
  • Refuse to Have Your Needs and Wants De-legitimatized: Refuse to accept the format of 'right or wrong' and instead be firm that this is something you want. That is, force a plain yes or no. Narcissists of course hate to say no because it is not in their self-image. This stance is more for your sanity and integrity than for results. This is a trickier tack to take than the rest, and by no means does it imply that general self-assertion is useful.
  • Demand Upkeep: That is, explain that for you to take care of him or her, he or she needs to take care of you by doing 'x'. Because narcissists are usually good at taking care of their 'things' , this usually makes sense to them. Remember you are not pleading the justice of your case, you are demanding your due. Narcissists don't understand equity, they do understand (if not like) demands.
  • Play Hardball: Narcissists count on others to not play by the same set of rules, so things shift quickly when they are dealt with in a non-trusting way. Because they tend to wreak their actions compulsively, and against the trusting, they are often not 'well-covered' against real hard-boiled scrutiny. Of course, our culture tends to excuse a great deal if it seems aligned with ambition, and retaliation is a concern.

The 'Collapsed Narcissist

The pathological narcissists described above are usually very well defended in the sense that they rarely experience or express doubt or distress. However, when they are not able to control a situation--through natural events, confrontation by savvy others, loss of a major source of supply--there will be a collapse into a distressed state. Over a lifetime, every narcissist will spend some portion of time in the 'compensated' (or normal narcissistic) state and some time in the collapsed state. A few narcissists actually spend the majority of the time in a collapsed state. What is essential to understand is that in this state the narcissist is not really healing and the exploitation of others continues. Features include

  • Dysphoria. There may be complaints of 'depression' but apathy and motor retardation are not present.
  • Others are manipulated to provide material needs, not just narcissistic supply, but these contributions are made somehow to seem both inadequate and the narcissist's 'just due.'
  • Many changing or shifting complaints of physical illness and injuries (hypochondriasis and psychosomatic complaints)
  • Feelings and statements of worthlessness, and self-deprecation, but rage and intolerance if another person agrees! Grandiosity is still in full force and the narcissist is still self-involved with fantasies of great potential.
  • Inertia and work inhibition. The narcissist refuses to participate in anything he or she cannot control or be the expert in. This is true in the compensated state but there they feel they are in control and are usually busy. In the collapsed state, he or she comes to a standstill.
  • Not being able to control others, the narcissist fears he or she is being or will be controlled, and makes many statements and arguments to that effect.
  • Bursts of intense activity, at an emergency pace, which, if sustained may shift the state to compensated, but in any case consume the resources of anyone nearby who is drawn in.
  • May use others, especially a partner and children, to live a proxy life during this time. The others will have intense direction presented as help or guidance.

The 'Covert' Narcissist (Or 'Shame-Based' Character)

Although one idea implied in this discussion is that while narcissistic functioning is not well recognized in our culture for what it is, there is a type of narcissism that only decloaks behind closed doors, and is therefore called 'secret' or 'covert,' because naive onlookers do not even get a real chance to recognize it at all. The mistreatment is directed only at family members, or 'trapped members' of a social group. This is a manifestation in which the grandiosity doesn't get off the ground in a smooth way but still functions in the background, building tension and causing eruptions at 'acceptable' targets. The term rageholic is often used.

The 'foreground' acted out by the covert narcissist often is a caricature, but a sincere one, of humility or reasonableness, because there is deep split or conflict that is not buried as it is with the more 'classic' narcissist. Therefore imperturbability or 'untouchability' is not so prominent. The covert narcissist may represent a subset of permanently 'collapsed' narcissists as described above.

The concept of covert narcissism really speaks to the vulnerability of children in the home, many more of whom are deeply wounded by narcissism in their caretakers than is realized. Children are vulnerable because they are not supposed to know what is good for them, or have an equally respected place in the family. Alice Miller has written extensively on this point. Other features include:

  • If working outside the home, often is in a service profession helping others, such as teaching, nursing, social work, ministry, etc.., or possibly in a subordinate position in an organization. (Not to be mistaken with 'philanthropy for show' or cost free 'progressive social views' of the classic narcissist) In this setting there is some submission and graciousness, but great concealed resentment and envy
  • If not working out side the home, often talks frequently about devotion to family, hospitality, and community building. Often there will be a lot of volunteering.
  • Follows through very superficially with promises and commitments made in the course of roles described in the first two bulleted points above, while at the same time broadly accusing others of ingratitude.
  • Rages at home very frequently. Keeps family walking on eggshells. Holds court, monologues, lectures, and 'speaks for' others, but doesn't listen.
  • Espouses a narrative of endless victimization and vulnerability which at first may seem to be the opposite of grandiose but it insists on everyone else's constant attention and sympathy because nothing is supposed to come close to matching it.
  • Is preoccupied with his or her own needs and, at home, disparages the needs of others, and insists on precedence for his or her needs.
  • When not working, spends almost all his or her time at home, which gives the impression of being devoted to family, unlike a classic narcissist who tends to roam. This, however, is really about being in the place he or she gets the most narcissistic supply.
  • Because the covert narcissist doesn't roam and find new supplies, he or she is very jealous of the attention of people they do have at hand. Like all narcissists he or she will sabotage competing interests, but further, the passions, interests and talents of family or group members will be attacked ferociously and ground down.
  • Often is addicted or alcoholic
  • Although there may not be a full narcissistic family system as described above, there is usually intense sibling rivalry
  • Despite frequent lecturing on a pet dogma or two, rages and criticism are really unprincipled, based on the covert narcissist's irritability and not on any consistent position. Therefore it is never possible for targets to be 'right' even by agreeing.

The concept of the covert narcissist is included in this page both because many of the effects on targets are the same, and because it helps to understand the growing literature on recovery from abuse. It is sometimes called 'shame-based' behavior. Survivors of a covert narcissist have a hard time getting support or validation since observers outside the family will believe the narcissist is as benevolent at home as he or she is in public. A covert narcissist is best recognized by difficulty with criticism, irritability, nervous family members, perfectionism, and blame. While there is entitlement, it is more of a variety where they feel they should get favorable treatment rather than feel they will get favorable treatment.


  1. Ryzen cpu sales
  2. Octopus yard art
  3. Tortoises at petsmart

Some narcissists will excessively cheat, or gamble away their money. In some cases, it’s worse than that, but we won’t go into all of that today.

The loss of narcissistic supply triggers defensive behaviors, such as the whole “leaving my family and starting a whole new life,” behavior – in which the narcissist literally flees what he or she sees as the scenes of their failures and attempts to literally start over again.

They may lose not only their primary source of supply – spouse or partner – but also their children, friends, and anyone else who used to offer supply.

This leads to the ultimate collapse and often, a mental breakdown from which they may never recover. If you look at the narcissistic personality as a sort of house built on stilts, imagine that the lack of narcissistic supply is a strong wind that causes the house to come crashing down.

Read 50 Ways to Tell If Your Partner Is A Narcissist

The Choices of the Collapsed Female Narcissist

The female narcissist has two choices if she wants to move forward here. She can try to become a whole person and develop real coping skills (and in some cases, obtain a new source of narcissistic supply), or she can remain collapsed and poison everything else in her world in the process.

So back to the house metaphor – the narcissist could burn down all the houses around theirs in order to take revenge on everyone and everything else. What it all comes down to is that regardless of the reason for the narcissistic collapse, the narcissist blames everything and everyone EXCEPT her self. She must believe, ultimately, that she is a victim and that nothing is her fault.
Do you know an ageing female narcissist?

If your mother was that narcissist and you decide to go no contact with her, you can bet that her world is literally crashing down on her. The same will go for any female narcissist you’ve dealt with – but when she is unable to find and secure a new, worthy source of supply, she will become openly mean to literally almost anyone she deals with, and she will believe she is in the right, every single time.

You might call her a Karen, if you were the sort of person to call out Karens.

Remember this. A collapsing female narcissist feels like her world is crashing down around her, and as she desperately attempts to cling to her past, she will feel nothing but self-loathing deep down – but she will blame everyone but herself for this issue. She may not even recognize that she’s no longer the self she used to be.

She may become more insecure than ever, and chances are that she will do her best to keep faking it. She might spend a lot of time in a plastic surgeon’s office, and she might find herself competing with other women in odd and uncomfortable ways.

Read How To Outplay A Narcissist And Beat Them At Their Own Game

The truth is that she hates herself for what she has become, even though ageing is natural and part of life. I mean, don’t get me wrong – as someone who is 45 years old living in a society that values youth and shuts down women of a certain age – I understand why it can be difficult – especially for a woman who bases her entire value on external things and the ability to manipulate people to get what she wants.

The female narcissist would prefer that reality to be covered up – she wants to hide her current self so badly. As the female narcissist ages, her beauty begins to disappear, her kids are no longer around, and she is losing her sources of supply – those people who inadvertently were her “shield” to the world. And now that she’s no longer able to control people the way she used to, all of those terrible parts of herself she has been working so hard to hide are bubbling to the surface.

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Not without cause, malignant narcissism is one of the most searched for topics on the internet in part because seemingly there are so many people that appear to have those toxic traits that negatively impact on us. These individuals are notorious because they destabilize our lives, make us feel insecure, undervalued, disparaged, or inconsequential, and as I noted in my book, Dangerous Personalities(Rodale/Penguin), they can victimize us emotionally, as well as physically, even financially. They come into our lives as family members, friends, lovers, spouses, colleagues at work, bosses, or worst as national leaders. Once they enter our orbit, no matter how distant, toxicity is what they have in common and they always leave a debris field of human suffering behind them.

By now we recognize how dangerous these individuals are precisely because their pathology drives so much of their sordid behavior, especially toward others. Their common traits such as: a hyper inflated sense of entitlement, grandiose feelings of superiority or uniqueness, delusions of infallibility, incessant disregard for the truth, perennial conniving and scheming to take advantage of others, feeling that rules and laws don’t apply to them, and of course the need to debase others, coupled with callousness, not only wears on us, it can have devastating consequences.

The one area that is rarely talked about when it comes to the malignant narcissist is what happens when they fail? Failure in private, at work, or as leaders for the narcissist can be quite disquieting if not traumatic for the rest of us. As Stuart Yudofsky notes in Fatal Flaws, these individuals are so severely “flawed of character,” that they handle failure much different than you and I because they are not introspective or capable of reform, and are lacking in empathy for others.

We often see narcissists in glowing terms as successful leaders of industry, or as heads of state, and yet, more often than not, their malignancy will likely, in time, ensure their own downfall, failure, or even arrest. Be it because they cheat on taxes, because they embezzle money, they circumvent rules and laws, they cheat business partners, they devalue and torment their family or domestic partner to the point of divorce, or in the case of cults (thinking of Jim Jones and Charles Manson here) or as national leaders, they can lead their followers or their nation into actions that are destructive. And so, when calamity strikes or failure of some sort is inevitable, how the narcissist reacts and what we, as potential victims of their actions can expect to see, is what this article is about.

As with many personality disorders, those who are severely flawed of character, but especially the narcissist, when they face public disgrace, when they are outed as criminals or for their misbehavior, or when they fail in a very public way—that is when they become metastable, placing us as family, friends, co-workers, corporations, the public, or a nation in greatest danger. When things begin to sour for the narcissist here is what we can expect:

  1. They will falsely claim that everything is fine and that there is nothing wrong. They will try to first misdirect us or claim there is nothing to the allegations or circumstances.
  2. If evidence is presented, they will seek to have it invalidated or claim that it is false, fake, or a product of vague conspiracies, but most certainly not true.
  3. Any evidence presented, and those that present it will be attacked aggressively and vindictively. The better the evidence the more aggressive the attack. Individuals who are doing the right thing by reporting criminal acts, unethical behavior, or failings are to be discredited, humiliated, hounded and bullied—not even their families are to be spared if need be. The narcissist will engage supporters or enablers to simultaneously attack those who offer proof or evidence, even if it embarrassingly exposes their poodle-like behavior as that of spineless sycophants.
  4. Foolproof evidence will be portrayed as false and the result of: pettiness, jealousies, bad actors, malicious individuals, negativity, haters, enemies, losers, conspirators, opposition, gain seekers, the faithless (usually seen in religious groups or cults), or as we are seeing now in American politics, “fake news” or “deep state” actors. There is always a large constellation of people to blame, the narcissist casts wide to see which vacuous claim resonates, especially with their supporters.
  5. As they lash out with vindictiveness, the malignant narcissist will continue to talk about themselves in glowing terms; irrespective of their actual situation, as they are incapable of introspection, much less contriteness. They will trumpet their greatness, their achievements (real or imagined), their faux infallibility, and even portray themselves as worthy of being revered rather than reviled.
  6. They will seek to find someone to blame for their troubles or downfall, preferably someone that cannot defend themselves. A scapegoat is always useful and when there is not a real one, one will be invented. If they are not promoted or fired, it is because a cabal at work was against them. If they cheat their business partners, it was because they deserved it. If the wife gets the kids in a divorce settlement, it is because of her dastardly attorney, not his abominable behavior. If they lose an election it is because of campaign managers, unappreciative voters, trickery, fraud, or some other kind of malfeasance on the part of a conspiracy (conspiracies are useful to the narcissist because they conveniently require no evidence). As they are not married to the truth, they will prattle countless baseless reasons that all point away, never at themselves.
  7. As circumstances become dire, the narcissist will not take any responsibility—EVER! Anything that has gone wrong is the responsibility of others. They will blame spouses as undeserving of their greatness, ignorant colleagues who just don’t measure up, the disloyal (Oh, they love to blame the disloyal), those who abide by rules and laws because ironically, they abide by rules and laws, or those that just clearly did not understand the very specialness of the narcissist. Everyone, and I mean everyone from people long gone, to the peripherally connected, to the earthly departed will be blamed for the failure or downfall of the narcissist. Once more it is never their fault.
  8. In the process of casting blame, even the most loyal and stalwart will be discarded and denigrated if needed with reptilian indifference. For the malignant narcissist there is only the “good” — those that provide blind unwavering loyalty who are useful, and everyone else who is an enemy, useless, and thus “bad.” Whether you are in or out, good or bad, is not determined by history, by friendship, sacrifices, or how well you have performed in the past—it is determined by the capricious and selfish needs of the narcissist, and that can change in a moment.
  9. Expect lies to increase and to be repeated exponentially. They will, even in light of factual evidence to the contrary, lie more profusely and adamantly. Lies are and always will be the number one tool of the malignant narcissist. The only difference now is that in facing failure or public ridicule, the lies must increase in frequency and audacity to the point of incredulity. The narcissist will expect supporters, the unethical, and enablers to lie for them or even create plausible alibies. That they imperil others by compelling them to lie is the collateral damage the malignant narcissist does as they thrash in despair when they are failing or caught.
  10. And while lies will increase, so too will be the need to devalue others in order to further value themselves. They will attack everyone and anyone in the most vicious and vindictive ways. This is when we see their rage come through. Not just anger, but unbridled rage. They will say things that shock the conscience and they expect everyone to swallow what they say, much as their enablers do. The most decent of persons will be attacked, mocked, ridiculed, and turned into a human chew-toy as the narcissist unleashes untethered rage and hatred. They will dip down into a bottomless cauldron of antipathy and like an arterial spurt, will spew this toxic brew far and wide with metronomic regularity.
  11. The malignant narcissist lacking guilt or a conscience, is only concerned with respect and not being publicly shamed. Any kind of public embarrassment will cause them further anger, further rage, further attacks, further unethical comportment, and unprecedented incivility.
  12. If the narcissist is going to be brought down, they will also seek to bring everyone else around them down to vindictively make them suffer. How the narcissist vilifies, lashes out, or destroys others (spouse, friends, business partners, workmates, the general public) is up to the morbid creativity and depravity of the malignant narcissist, the viable tools they have available, and of course how dire or desperate the situation. The internet and social media are certainly useful as lives can be ruined with a single tweet. But so are guns and rifles, poison, and even assassins for hire. And if they command a country, they can put the security organs or the military to work on their behalf.
  13. In certain situations, as the end nears, the suffering of others is paramount to the malignant narcissist. It is their way of elevating themselves—sick as that sounds—by malevolently paying back society with even more suffering. As they lash out, they will show no concern or empathy because they have none. If others are suffering because of their actions, the narcissist simply does not care. Lacking a conscience or any kind or remorse, much like Robert Hare’s psychopath, they sleep very well at night while everyone else is anxious, worried, stressed, physically or psychologically traumatizes all the while nervously and justifiably pondering what further malevolence will take place.
  14. As they face failure, arrest, indictment, or dismissal, they will endlessly air their grievances. Narcissists are natural wound collectors and as such, they have been collecting and nurturing social slights and perceived wrongs just for this occasion. They will wallow in victimhood claiming they have been relentlessly and needlessly persecuted. They, of course, expect their attorneys, followers, or enablers to subserviently echo their flatulent claims.

So, what happens in the end? Difficult to predict. Each circumstance is different. Some will kick and flail and disappear for a while, intentionally or thanks to incarceration—biding their time until they can do it all over again. Others regroup, plan, scheme, and prepare another triumphant entry into the lives of the unsuspecting to victimize them when the opportunity arises. Others unfortunately, will seek to do harm as they face a breakup, a divorce, are fired from a job, are outed for their crimes, or are removed from office. Others will hound, stalk, or just make life intolerable for those they deem responsible. Their past can often give us insight as to what they might do, but one can never be sure—humans are terribly complex and as with many afflicted with a personality disorder, sensitive to the smallest of unrecognized but catalytic triggers.

In the case of narcissistic cult leaders, the cult members often pay with their lives as they did in Jonestown Guyana when Jim Jones came under investigation. In interpersonal relationships, violence is always something to be concerned about as J. Reid Meloy reminds us in his book, Violent Attachments.

And of course, in politics, much harm can be done when power can be wielded—but the worst comes when a malignantly narcissistic leader or head of state, severely flawed of character, claims that only they can fix things, that only they can shape the future, that only they have the answers, and that only they have a grand vision for the future and so out of necessity they must stay on to save us.

When you hear that, it should give you pause. That is when we have to worry the most. If you don’t believe me, let me tell you about one malignant narcissist of note. You may have heard of him—he was an Austrian corporal who painted postcards for a living. Full of himself and with no shortage of grandiose ideas, he decided on his own to run for office with one goal among various, which was to “Deutschland wieder großartig machen” — to make Germany great again.


American Psychiatric Association. 2013. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, Fifth Edition. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association.

Berke, J. H. 1986. The tyranny of malice: Exploring the dark side of character and culture. New York: Summit Books.

Butcher, James N., ed. 1995. Clinical Personality Assessment. New York: Oxford University Press.

Bushman, Brad J. and Roy J. Baumeister, “Threatened egotism, narcissism, self-esteem, and direct and displaced aggression: does self-love or self-hate lead to violence?,” Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology 73 (1998): 219-29.

Christie, Richard & Florence L. Geis, ed. 1970. Studies in Machiavellianism. New York: Academic Press.

Coleman, James C., et. al. 1984. Abnormal Psychology and Modern Life, Seventh Ed. Glenview, Illinois: Scott, Foresman and Company.

Evans, Patricia. 2010. The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to Recognize It and How to Respond. Avon, MA: Adams Media Corporation.

Hare, Robert D. 1993. Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us. New York: Pocket Books.

Hoch, Paul H. 1972. Differential Diagnosis in Clinical Psychiatry. New York: Science House.

Kilduf, Marshal & Ron Javers. 1978. Suicide cult: The inside story of the peoples temple sect and the massacre in Guyana. New York: Bantam Books.

Krizan, Zlatan and Omesh Johar. “Narcissistic rage revisited,” Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology 108 (2015): 793.

Lipman-Blumen, Jean. 2005. The Allure of Toxic Leaders: Why we follow destructive bosses and corrupt politicians – and how we can survive them. New York: Oxford University Press.

Meloy, J. Reid. 1997. Violent Attachments. New Jersey: Jason Aronson, Inc.

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Navarro, Joe and Toni Sciarra Poynter. 2014. Dangerous Personalities. New York: Rodale.

Navarro, Joe. Narcissists Among Us. Kindle Edition, 2012.

Payson, Eleanor D. 2002. The wizards of Oz and other narcissists: coping with the one-way relationship in work, love, and family. Royal Oak, Michigan: Julian Day Publications.

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Post, Jerrold M. 2003. The psychological assessment of political leaders. Ann Arbor, Michigan: The University of Michigan Press.

Radzinsky, Evard. 1996. Stalin: The first in-depth biography based explosive new documents from Russia’s secret archive. New York: Anchor Books.

Shapiro, Ronald M. & Mark A. Jankowski. 2005. Bullies, tyrants, & impossible people: how to beat them without joining them. New York: Crown Business.

Simon, George K. 1996. In sheep’s clothing; understanding and dealing with manipulative people. Little Rock, AR: A.J. Christopher & Co.

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Behavior collapsed narcissist

How to Avoid the Trap of the Collapsed Narcissist

The Little Shaman is a spiritual coach & specialist in cluster B personality disorders, with a popular YouTube show and clients worldwide.

A collapsing or compensating narcissist is a narcissist that is unable, for whatever reason, to get or have something they want, so they become unhinged because of it. People who are familiar with the horrors of living with a narcissist every day will understand this phenomenon very well. The terminology may be rather new, but the behavior easily recognizable.

Narcissists Construct Fictions About Themselves

This happens because the fiction the narcissist has constructed about themselves and their life is very fragile. It is not really a very good defense against the unrelenting self-hatred and self-abuse the narcissist piles on themselves nonstop. When this defensive shield becomes fractured in any way, all of that self-hatred, all of the pathological shame, all of the narcissist's true feelings for themselves come pouring in and they can't take it. They crack. Their facade is gone, the shield comes down and we see the disorder as it really is: terrified, hysterical, needy, psychotic, paranoid, delusional and consumed with need. A burn victim with no protective skin. And it's ugly. It's pitiful. It's sad. It's scary. This is where people get trapped back in to trying again with the narcissist. They feel sorry for this poor, pathetic creature. And who wouldn't? It's a very dramatic situation.

Narcissists Create a Fictional Image of Themselves

However manipulative narcissists are, the collapsed narcissist is feeling very real feelings. They are not faking it. They have a brutal and abusive superego that spits hate and insults at them 24 hours a day.

"Nobody likes you. You're worthless. You're stupid. You're ugly. You're nothing."

All day long. They get no rest from this.

Because of the abuse and self-hatred narcissists feel from this, they have created a fictional image of themselves that they project onto the world. Their sadistic, abusive superego says to them, "You deserve nothing" so the narcissist defends against this by saying, "I deserve everything!" Their very lives depend on keeping up this fiction, so when it does not play out that way, it validates the self-hatred and the abusive things the superego says. They really do deserve nothing and that's why they can't get what they want. This causes their facade to crack and let all those negative feelings in. This causes a downward spiral where they lash out at and abuse the people around them to get some relief from their poisonous self-hatred. These people then decide they've had enough of being treated badly and abandon the narcissist. This creates a situation where the narcissist has no one to carry the load for them and no one to prop them up. They are forced to bear the weight of their self-hatred and smothering negative feelings along. And they collapse beneath it.

Collapsed Narcissists May Become Suicidal

Collapsed narcissists may become suicidal, they may engage in self-mutiliation, such as cutting behaviors or other violence toward themselves. They may refuse to get out of bed or be unable to stop crying. They may become violent. They can even have a psychotic break or hallucinations. This is how great the stress is for the narcissist when their imaginary world does not remain intact. This is how devastating and poisonous their reality is. Collapsed narcissists can be very dangerous, as well. These are people with no empathy who are angry, upset and feel they have nothing to lose. That's a dangerous combination. They are also dangerous in another way.

People Often Believe the Narcissist's Hysteria

As stated earlier, this is the stage where many people are convinced to try again with the narcissist. They believe in the narcissist's hysteria and neediness. And why shouldn't they? It's real. People's internal lie detectors don't go off in these situations because there is no lie to detect. The problem is that even though it's true, this is still another manipulation. The narcissist is still a narcissist. There has been no change, and this behavior should never be taken as an indication that there has been. Yes, it looks dramatic and yes, it seems sincere. It is, in fact, both of these things. But it's temporary. A breakdown is not a breakthrough.

Narcissists Want You to Carry Their Emotions for Them

As soon as the narcissist has what they want again, the collapsed facade will be back in place and you will eventually be face to face with the same old thing again: an ungrateful, disrespectful, abusive, childish tyrant. These are the two faces of the narcissist, and that's all there is. They are as flat, predictable and one dimensional as the characters projected onto a movie screen, which is basically all they are anyway. The narcissist doesn't want the relationship back because they love you. They want the relationship back because they need you to carry their emotions for them, to prop them up when they are low and to be their punching bag when they can't take their internal struggles anymore. There is nothing for you here, there is certainly no love here. They may think that's love, and they may call it love but it isn't. It's narcissism

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2017 The Little Shaman


Kevin on September 06, 2020:

Its shocking to me after 30 yrs married i just started looking up personality disorders, always thinking the doctors had diagnosed correctly with bipolar disorder . I can say after my research she's 100% narcissistic all examples every one I have been unfortunately victim/ witnessed to, right down to saying not my problem about our problems to her actually saying that I DO THE THINGS SHE DOES!!? and I SAY THE THINGS SHE SAYS??! straight out lying is natural, hallucinations of impossible things that she says oh i was dreaming and next I WASN'T DREAMING I KNOW ITS REAL!!!! put downs and hateful words got to be so common I didn't want to come home from work, but if I was late in any way even if early I WAS CHEATING ON HER ,, NEVER FAILED, she called me every hated label there is , pedophile. Adulterer, incest with my daughter, i make porno movies, i have another family and this fictitious family has bad health problems that she makes fun of and mocks me for. Its insane !! I m a normal caring person, I have been with her since we were teenagers , some things happened but i thought

THAT was just PMS WELL THE LAST COUPLE years were unreal, she lost every person that bothered with her ,right down to her own mom, dad and siblings, they all have no contact, I continued to bare her anger ,shes called the police on made up charges and i have been going to court the last 2 years, 3 different domestic abuse charges on me but then she'll go to court and drop the charges!!!well here i am at home , with my daughter who is 21yrs. She is halfway across the country living with a guy she met , triangulation!!! I CAN HONESTLY THESE ARTICLES ARE RIGHT ON THE MONEY .

I READ SOME WITH MY DAUGHTER and she couldn't believe it.. yup its a horror show no one should have to go through, now im at the age when my kids are older and wanting to travel and do some things i always thought we'd be doing together and besides my kids I feel like an awful joke was played on 40 yrs of my life, who is this that i thought was my oldest and dearest friend ??? W.T.F.!!!! I HAVE to go to some counseling or something to get out this anger and pain in me, she seems just fine , of course she does the silent treatment and doesn't talk to our kids or answer their calls or texts. Unless she wants money or something. .

Frank on January 01, 2020:

Narcissism is real! They are like vampires sucking the life from you little by little. They have no remorse, they feel no regrets. They are monsters! I was marry to one for 30 years. She shame me, gaslighted me these are Narcissism terms I never knew before now I understand! My whole life has changed. Found out my wife was having an affair. She moved her lover in the house around our 4 small children!

Kate Poole on July 09, 2019:

Perfectly put - I have very recently finally faced the truth of a 30 year old intense friendship with an N woman. Now that she is approaching 60, career has ended, along with relationship, she came to stay with us for 4 weeks, during which time, my husband and I acted as if we were the parents of a very vulnerable and damaged child ... she was hysterical, self-doubting, apparently traumatized ..... 4 weeks later she moved into her own little flat, and the first time I saw reverted back to a condescending, devaluing, nasty person .... it was so Jekyl and Hyde I could no longer not face the fact that she is a narcissist ..... she got what she wanted, pulled herself together, then moved on, defences up, and attacking the very people who had opened their lives and hearts to her. The most telling thing is that she has absolutely no idea she has done anything wrong .... telling me I need therapy, and, to tidy my cupboards, have my kitchen floor ' professionally cleaned', give up aspirations of ever being a gardener, and putting my dog and husband on a diet ..... no awareness that any of this could be rude, condescending, or hurtful in the slightest. I'm finally done, and it is liberating ... but sad

Narcissistic Victim on April 08, 2019:

Every word is true. I experienced it. Always stay away from Narcissistic. If possible pack your bags and run away and never look back.

Narc survivor on April 08, 2019:

Beautiful explained

Denise on February 07, 2019:

there are always women out there that will chat online and send pics to prop them up, no worries there

Vee on December 20, 2018:

I’m 42 yrs old and I’ve been in an on and off relationship for 3 years. With a 50 yrs old guy who lives with his mother because he can’t afford his own place. He has insecurity issues because his ex wife and ex girlfriend prior to me both cheated on him.

On 11/2...he saw that I had written “your peeps are creative” to someone’s group Halloween photo. He freaked out and said I was hitting on other men. When I tried to hug him to calm him down, he pushed me off. He then deleted all my photos from his IG and FB. That same night his sister in law called and asked if he and I broke up. I told her what happened and she went and did a blast text message to his entire family about him being an abuser. She said she is purposely pushing me out for my own good.

He then text me that night extremely angry and told me he’s breaking up with me. He then blocked me from everything without even hearing my side of the story.

He has blocked me many times before when he had dumped me in the past (he usually breaks up with me every 4 months or so). But this is the longest he has ever blocked me (7 weeks).

On Thanksgiving, he was hitting on one of my friend (he doesn’t know she knows me). He told her that he dumped me because I burned and betrayed him. He also said he blocked me on everything because our relationship is cancer to his heart and that I shredded his heart to pieces.

Do you think what happened with the family knowing he’s an abuser is consider a bad enough injury that he discard me permanently?

i know he’s actively pursuing women on FB, IG and dating sites :(. He’s telling these women that he’s done with me and wants nothing to do with me. Now he told another girl he’s not ready to date yet and will shut off his dating account, but I can see it’s still active. What should I do? I don’t want to be out of sight out of mind.

His daughter and his sister in law still follows me on Instagram and watches everything I post.

John of Indiana on November 15, 2018:

And here we have one with access to the launch codes. Frightening times for us.

Oh, and personally, I was married to one for 9 years. Took 20 years to get my sense of self worth back.

Peter the cheater on August 18, 2018:

I was married for 30 years before being abandoned. After being compulsively lied to, found out he had been living a double life with Telstra co-worker. They show no empathy or remorse, verbally abuse family members, totally irrational behaviour and hold no accountability for their actions.

Our son had completed school just one week, his father left goodbye cards under our pillows.

Our son, daughter and myself came home to abandonment. What sort of freak show does this?

JB on July 11, 2018:

I have been in an 8 year hidden relationship with a narcissist. We were in hiding due to him being an in-law. His wife divorced him about a year ago but we still stayed hidden. He convinced me to quit my 20 year job so he could take care of me, but I was really taking care of him. Even tho his supply never ran out in me, he left me for his new supply about a month ago. Needless to say my rock bottom came very quickly and I began to educate myself on narcissism after a friend told me to "look it up online". I have had a crash course on all of the above and it has been very eye opening and sad. To think I could have stopped this years ago before I got so trapped in this situation. So... with much prayer and seeking God, I am moving forward slowly. Confident that I will find a good codependent support group and get another job. Just a thank you for being part of my internet education! This and other sources are a big help to those that have been discarded. Hold tight to your soul!

Donna on May 25, 2018:

I was married to one for 49 years and was discarded. I became an alcoholic I guess it was my coping skills. Now I have been going to AA with 10 months of sobriety. Your videos have been educating me and I am so grateful for the knowledge that what I was going thru was not my fault. Thank You Very much!!

How Does A Narcissist Collapse?

What Is a Collapsed Narcissist?

Narcissists are gregarious and outgoing, right?

Life of the party extroverts love-bombing, gaslighting and manipulating their way to fame and fortune (or at the very least a modicum of dating success and narcissistic supplies).

But what about those shy narcissists?

Covert narcissists are the ones who never get their pictures in the paper, don’t want seats at the tables of power and don’t enjoy flashing light bulbs in their faces. Grandiose narcissists often appear arrogant and exhibitionistic and can be exploitative, whilst vulnerable narcissists are shy and self-critical, overtly expressing feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. Shy narcissists can also be emotionally volatile and sensitive (Pincus & Lukowitsky, 2010).

According to researchers Kasey Stanton and Mark Zimmerman, the DSM has never really captured the true picture of narcissism as it presents in clinical settings. The clinical picture is generally far more subtle and varied than we might imagine. The problem for researchers is that people with high levels of narcissism are unlikely to admit to vulnerability, so most standard tests will tend to capture the more grandiose features of narcissism.

To help us understand what is going on in narcissism it can be useful to see the gregarious or grandiose narcissist and the deflated or shy narcissist as two sides of the same coin.

According to researchers Zoe Given-Wilson, Doris McIllwain and Wayne Warburton, people with high levels of narcissism “toggle” between vulnerability and grandiosity resulting in internal conflict. Because they are unable to manage the implications of self-awareness, this conflict can never be recognized or resolved.

At the dark heart of narcissism is a void.

This central void is fueled by a lack of identity and sense of self which makes a person suffering from narcissism painfully dependent on others for self-definition, although (as we all know) they would run a million miles from admitting dependence.

A narcissist’s sometimes perplexing behavior can be explained as an attempt to fill this central void with reflected glory. Although grandiose narcissists appear socially successful and at least initially confident and friendly, they are still vulnerable to and dependent on external validation for their self-esteem.

Both forms of narcissism are thought to “share common meta-cognitive deficits which result in conflicting feelings of grandiosity and vulnerability; however they cope by suppressing one and projecting the other, resulting in different presentations (McWilliams, 1994).” [My emphases] So, although they are part of the same overall problem, one aspect will dominate over the other at any one time.

Because they are often unable to access the vulnerable side of their personality, overt or “grandiose” narcissists will normally display their confident or outgoing side. This inflated self is in reality fragile and susceptible to negative social feedback (criticism, rejection or failure). Failure and criticism will bring them in touch with vulnerable feelings they would prefer to disown. They will often feel intense shame on being “called out” or given a reality check, and will attempt to bypass this shame by projecting it onto others in the form of blame, hostility or narcissistic rage. This can make them challenging workmates, bed mates and friends.

Shy or vulnerable narcissists, on the other hand, often appear self-effacing, fragile and introverted. Their vulnerable side is more prominent, but they will also tend to inflate their self-image through grandiosity and fantasy when it is available. They can appear shy but will seek social support and “narcissistic supplies” to bolster their fragile sense of self. They may respond to challenges in the same way as grandiose narcissists, depending on the situation. At other times, they may respond with passive aggression or the repressed anger of sarcasm and complaints.

Shy narcissists are normally hypersensitive to even mild criticism or challenges and have trouble accessing empathy for others, making them appear self-absorbed, just like their more gregarious cousins. They may seem generous and understanding, but underneath the facade of sensitivity their feelings for others are likely to be shallow and self-serving.

Although they appear self-effacing, shy narcissists will usually be envious of others and may be vindictive if they believe they have been slighted. They are constantly besieged by a sense that the acknowledgement they secretly desire will always elude them. This can lead to a sense of bitterness, excessive complaining and depression, a difficult combination of qualities which can make them hard to be around.

Because their self-image is inherently fragile, they will often seek powerful partners and friends in the hope of bolstering their social standing with vicarious success. Without a cause or a coat tail to attach themselves to, they will often seem lost or erratic because they lack the core stability that comes with a healthy sense of self.

Overt narcissists are easier to identify, but shy or deflated narcissists can be just as challenging and harder to pin down.

The reality of narcissism is a pendulum swinging between grandiosity and deflation, entitlement and vulnerability. Both types are painfully dependent on social feedback for self-definition.


Stanton, K. & Zimmerman, M. (2017). Clinician Ratings of Vulnerable and Grandiose Narcissistic Features: Implications for an Expanded Narcissistic Personality Disorder Diagnosis. Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 9(3), 263–272

Given-Wilson, Z., McIlwaine, D., & Warburton, W. (2011). Meta-cognitive and interpersonal difficulties in overt and covert narcissism. Personality and Individual Differences, 50(7), 1000-1005.

Ronningstam, E.F. (2000). Disorders of Narcissism: Diagnostic, Clinical and Empirical Implications, Aronson: New Jersey.


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