How to build a covert/fragile narcissist.

Some families have one child who is both scapegoat and golden child. It’s especially common in families who have an only child. You can imagine how crazy-making this would be. As bad as being a scapegoat is, at least there’s predictability–you know you’ll ALWAYS be treated badly, ALWAYS punished, ALWAYS criticized or diminished. In a family where one child fills both the SG and GC roles, they never know if they’ll be rewarded or punished for the very same thing from one minute to the next. Such children are held to impossibly high expectations (Golden Child) but are not allowed to outshine the narcissistic parent.  If they do so, they will be viciously devalued or punished.

There are two “solutions” to this problem, from the child’s point of view (outside of suicide or straight up insanity). Of course the child is never consciously aware they  are doing this.

1. The child will develop BPD.
Such an unpredictable and chaotic environment doesn’t allow the development of a proper “false self” and the child never learns to regulate their emotions because they never know how anyone will react to anything or what will happen in any given situation. They are forced to become emotional chameleons and are at risk of becoming codependent to malignant or high spectrum grandiose narcissists.

2. The child will develop Covert/Fragile Narcissism.
If the child is expected to fulfill some unrealistic standards (typical of the GC) and at the same time doesn’t dare to outshine the NPD parent because of the negative consequences they’ll face if they do, the child has to find a way to “bridge the gap” between the impossibly high expectations put on them and the simultaneous expectation to always be in the NPD parent’s shadow. Becoming a covert or fragile (“victim”) narcissist as a defense against this type of psychological abuse would explain their sense of entitlement and seething resentment and envy of others that can only be expressed passive-aggressively and never directly,  co-existing with feelings of unworthiness, self-hatred, and shame.   This type of narcissist can become codependent to a more aggressive or overt/grandiose narcissist.

Whether a child develops BPD or a covert/fragile form of NPD may have to do with innate temperament, or they may shade into each other, since they can be very hard to tell apart.  In the U.S., most covert or fragile narcissists are diagnosed with something else–most frequently BPD, PTSD, Social Anxiety, Asperger’s Syndrome/high functioning autism, or Avoidant Personality Disorder.

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18 thoughts on “How to build a covert/fragile narcissist.

  1. Question, how do we get sources about covert narcissists being frequently misdiagnosed with other conditions instead? I wonder where this fact comes from.

    I don’t think all abused kids get a personality disorder, it really depends on the child or else all of them would be covert narcissists or have BPD.

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    1. Covert narcissism isn’t recognized by the DSM — so if you got it, you are most likely going to get diagnosed with something else. I don’t have any numbers or scientific evidence to prove this, but it’s an educated guess. The symptoms of covert narcissism aren’t the same as overt narcissism, which is the one that’s normally recognized. However, there is the lack of empathy and feelings of entitlement. Only, in the covert narcissist, the feelings of entitlement may be hidden. Grandiosity and arrogance are missing.

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        1. That’s the problem. It really needs to be a diagnosis–because most of them are getting diagnosed with BPD, PTSD, Aspergers, avoidant PD,social anxiety or general anxiety. Anxiety is no doubt present and of course they also have PTSD, but it misses the mark and then they get treated only for their symptoms (anxiety, dissociation, and depression, not the actual NPD traits), not for the underlying disorder, which few therapists want to deal with anyway.
          On the plus side, it sidesteps the whole issue of the stigma of having NPD. BPD isn’t a whole lot better, but therapies for BPD could work on some covert NPD patients. The treatments are similar.

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        2. When I was with my ex, I just thought he had social anxiety and anxiety issues and AS but I have realized he was just a narcissist. Oh boy the overlaps. He also claimed to have PTSD but I think he used it to justify his treatment of me. He was also depressed too.

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        3. My ex claimed to have PTSD too. Well, maybe he did (I think most narcissists have PTSD also). But they use it to guilt trip and manipulate and pretend they aren’t narcissists. Or maybe they don’t know they are.

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        4. No, I don’t think he bothers reading it. He has me blocked on Facebook though lol. Not that I care since his timeline is so negative no one wants to look at it anyway. These days I’m told he does nothing but post cat pictures all day.
          You nex found your blog? I’m sorry to hear that. 😦 Is he harassing you? It’s too bad there’s no blocking function on WordPress.

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        5. I hope she won’t harass me. I was having anxiety all day about it and my heart pounded when I saw I had a notification here but was relieved it was only you. Yes she found my blog because she posted a comment there. It was your typical narc “apology” letter that was all calm and civil. The denying she did to me, saying she is sorry for how I feel about her, saying how hurtful it was what I wrote there, saying how she had always loved me and still cared and thought about me and was hoping I had found happiness. Told me about all her “medical conditions” and saying how she wishes I could look at her “diagnoses” and understand her and how she saw a doctor for months and made all these diagnoses.

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        6. I’m sorry she said those things. Yes, that is a typical N “apology”–somehow throwing a barb in there against you in their apology.
          My mother knows about my blog too, and never has referred to it, except to my son, when she asked him, “does she still write that THING?” Of course I don’t expect her to like it for obvious reasons. But she’s always downplayed or put down any success I ever had in anything else too, finding reasons why somehow it doesn’t count. She makes these little jabs and diminishing remarks, like calling my blog “that thing.”

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        7. But why do they send us these “apologies” and deny everything? We are out of their lives so what do they get out of it? Do they just want us to shut up and not write about them?

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        8. Even using a fake name wasn’t good enough because she told me what her real name formally was lol. As of she didn’t know people always use fake names online to protect identity. Why would I want to out my nex? Who would be stupid enough to do it? That is playing with fire.

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        9. Yeah, not a good idea. I know someone who outed their N ex (by name and posted photographs) and a week later her blog disappeared and so did all her comments on other people’s blogs. I’m a little worried.

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