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How I Learned To Spot Covert Narcissists


“How I Learned To Spot Covert Narcissists” by T. Knoll

When I started seeing a therapist, she asked me, “You don’t know what creepy is, do you?” I remember kind of looking at her in this quizzical way because I did not know what she was getting at. However, upon giving the query a little bit of consideration, it had dawned on me that I had spent my whole life marveling at others when they would say someone was creepy or weird or “off.”

I interpreted it as judgmental.

With some time in therapy and working with certain populations as a therapist, I started to notice. I started to notice that with some people, I had a visceral and immutable, distaste for them. Before giving and receiving therapy, I had just been desensitized to my own intuition and internal “alarm bell,” because of previous abuse.

Now, that I’ve extensively studied Axis II traits, treated people that were, for lack of better terms, pseudo psychopathic/sociopathic (with a number of outlined symptoms, but without all of the necessary symptoms for a diagnosis), and people with full-blown Axis II diagnoses; I can now spot narcissists, anti-social, and borderlines pretty quickly.

What I have noticed about covert narcissists, in particular, is that during the devaluation stage, they are the creepiest. By golly, please give me a psychopath or borderline any day. Now, the interesting thing about covert narcissists is that you can begin to spot their insidious form of abuse, if you look hard enough and “listen to your gut,” very early on.

The main way that you surmise whether or not you are being covertly traumatized, devalued, abused; however you want to label it, is IF YOU FEEL CONTROLLED!! Now, it is implicit that your narc will be loving the devaluation/covert abuse phase. This is what inherently makes them a pathological, character/personality defective person. Narcissistic people love controlling you and gaining the upper hand more than anything. Now, this is what you will look for when you are being devalued/covertly abused (the acute abuse phase, right before the discard stage):

5 Ways To Spot A Covert Narcissist

1. Your Feelings Will Be Discounted

How I Came To Spot Covert Narcissists

Your narc will begin to invalidate your emotions; minimizing your anger, sadness, joy, jealousy, etc., whenever they can. They will deny the credibility of your emotions so that you can begin to ignore and discount your own instincts so that they can escalate their abusive tactics without getting an appropriate response from you.

If they discount your feelings enough, then you begin to devalue your own emotional perceptions, which results in decreased emotional reactivity to their misbehavior. It’s a way for them to force you to respond in a clinical or unemotional way when they have tampered with your feelings. They want you to ultimately discount your own feelings so that they can get away with mistreating you and not get the appropriate emotional blow-back.

2. Your “No” Will Not Be Respected

How I Came To Spot Covert Narcissists

If you have clearly stated, “no,” to any particular request, the narcissist will violate your boundary. If you have stated that you don’t want to have sex, you are not ready for marriage, you don’t want to go on vacation to a particular place, etc.. They will systematically and insidiously begin to push you to do that very thing, you’ve indicated makes you uncomfortable. This is a way to make you hedge on your boundaries so that they can get you used to; ignoring your own desires, comfort levels, and priorities for them. This will lead to you making their desires the most important thing in your life.

3. Your value as a partner, human being, parent, employee, etc. will be minimized or debased

You used to believe you were pretty darn efficient at your various life roles. People tended to see you as valuable and proficient. You get with the narc and they progressively question your competency with slight digs, criticism, and judgment. Sometimes they put you in binds where you have to choose between them and the other people you love; leaving you feeling like you cannot please anyone; be it as a caregiver, a provider, a nurturer, etc.. Again, this allows the narcissist to continue to position themselves as the highest priority in your life.

4. Your wants/desires will be ignored

How I Learned To Spot Covert Narcissists

Let’s say that you have braved the vulnerable territory of asking your presumed loved one for more time, sex, kindness, loyalty; in a heartfelt way, with no ulterior motive or agenda. The narcissist will purposefully, withhold that which you have requested. This makes you feel desperate and rejected. This further diminishes your feelings of potency and worthiness and gets you to give more with the hopes that they will reciprocate your sensible requests.

5. You’ll feel small and inconsequential

How I Learned To Spot Covert Narcissists

There was a time when you felt “bigger,” more alive, and more substantial when you were with the narcissist. They valued your looks, your spirit, your youthfulness, your maturity, your sexual prowess, etc.. This idealization was downright heady. However, the acknowledgment and celebration “of you” is incrementally withheld.

NOW…you are ignored, slighted, mistreated, and deplored for nearly nothing. You can “just be you” and earn a look of disgust, a period of the silent treatment, get pushed away or not get a reply text/phone call/email, etc.. Narcissists do this to instigate a climate of debasement and an undercutting of your self-esteem.

All of this is done to erode your feelings of competency; so that the narcissist can control your responses, dictate your behaviors, destroy your sense of individuality, and reshape your identity.

The narcissist wants you as a puppet that concedes to their every whim and does as they see fit. He or she is the creepy puppeteer. The narcissist is an aspiring emotional ventriloquist that loves making you their dummy.

Have A Story To Tell?

If you have a story to tell and would love to share it with others, reach out to me at q/laughingatnarcs.

Your story could be the blueprint for someone else’s escape.

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About Author

I call myself the Rational Humorist. Narcs to me are cancer to humanity. The only way to beat cancer is to fight back against it.

The best way to defeat a narc is to see them as the jokes they are.

(1) Comment

  1. Invi says:

    I think my moms one, you mention the creepy part, she often says things that sound weirdly sexual.. I think there’s a deeper level of manipulation going on here.. honestly don’t feel comfortable whatsoever, thanks for this article.. correct me if I’m wrong, but I feel women know what to say if they have their eye on something and are interested? I don’t know, I don’t like to think things like that but jeez she sure seems strange to me.. for example yesterday she said “this watermelon taste really salty” etc etc but it’s not to me what she said, it’s how she said it. Like sexually suggestive, innuendo, this has happened so many times.

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