The Dark Triad | You’re Collateral Damage | The Narcissist’s Playbook | Fewer Traits Doesn’t Equal Safety | Get Help
When we first started learning about narcissism, most of the material we encountered was clear about how dangerous narcissists are and how detrimental it is to be in relationships with them.
But now, much of the material about narcissism is leaning more towards the “self-aware” narcissist or the “vulnerable” narcissist, comparing narcissists to their targets, comparing their inner wounds, and claiming that there are ways to make things work with a narcissistic individual.
Toxic relationships don’t suddenly become healthy. People aren’t coming forward with the success story of the decade because the narcissist they know has suddenly had The Divine Epiphany and are deeply remorseful about their wicked ways.
If narcissists are truly evolving and becoming ‘self-aware’, why aren’t we seeing any real-life examples of improved behaviors and relationships?
Today, I address the question, are we gaslighting ourselves about narcissism? Read on…and decide for yourself.
Narcissism is Part of the Dark Triad
Narcissism is part of the dark triad. The dark triad falls under dark psychology, which looks mostly at insidious behaviors and analyzes manipulation, deception, mind control, and other malevolent schemes. The other two personalities that fall under the dark triad are psychopathy and Machiavellianism.
What many of us are forgetting is that narcissists are emotional and social predators. Narcissists act the way they do because they’re typically acting upon dark impulses that they have in order to meet a need; they’re acting from their primal instincts. To the narcissist, all relationships are simply a means to an end. They behave the way they do because they’re trying to achieve a certain outcome. And because they lack empathy and the ability to attach to other people, they’re okay with hurting you in order to accomplish that outcome.
Christine Louis de Canonville, psychologist and author of The Three Faces of Evil: Unmasking the Full Spectrum of Narcissistic Abuse, describes narcissists as the ‘First Face of Evil’. She further goes on to explain:
To narcissists, others are inferior beings, therefore fair game for exploitation. With a limited, primitive empathy, they are free to exploit, devalue and prey on others with little or no remorse. They also lack good boundaries, and without healthy boundaries, they disregard normal limits of social interaction.
However, many recent authors use an excess of different labels to describe the narcissist or the different levels of narcissism. One such label is the “vulnerable” narcissist, which doesn’t mean that they’re vulnerable like you and I are. They’re not sitting around getting their feelings hurt and talking to their neighbor about it. Vulnerable – when we’re using that word to describe a narcissist – is saying that they are easily offended and upset by anything that they perceive as being an insult or a slight.
The other label that we’re seeing now is the so-called “self-aware” narcissist. When you read that term or hear it, you might think they’re aware that their behaviors are detrimental and hurtful to other people. And it may also give you the false belief that they actually give a care.
Video: Where are all the ‘changed’ narcissists?
The Narcissist Considers You Collateral Damage
We’re beginning to gaslight ourselves about the seriousness of the narcissistic personality, when we need to remember that narcissists are manipulators. This means they are using manipulation in covert, deceptive, and underhanded ways to include making you feel that they have a bond with you and that they understand how much they’re hurting you. They may apologize to you. Sometimes they may even cry.
Being the compassionate person you are, you want to believe that there is some shred of humanity inside of them that you can appeal to. But narcissists are only seeking to serve themselves, no matter what their behavior may look like in any particular moment. Narcissists don’t care about their targets, which includes you, it includes their children, and they don’t care about hurting people.
The narcissist’s targets are considered collateral damage. They consider their targets a necessary sacrifice to get the outcome that they want to accomplish, which can mean different things to different narcissists. It can also mean different things to one narcissist depending on the day. One day the narcissist might decide that they’re sick and tired of living with you because they met someone a few neighborhoods over at a bar one night and went to that person’s house (unbeknownst to you) and that person has a very nice home.
Thus, in the narcissist’s underdeveloped mind, they have decided that they want to be in the other home. This also gives them a lot of background to work with where they can start to discard you. In the meantime, they’re going to be grooming the other person. Eventually, the narcissist is going to start triangulating the two of you. That’s just one example.
We need to remember that narcissists are dangerous. Due to all the material we have out there today, they are able to modify their outward behaviors and weave seamlessly in and out of society better. Some of them are sitting around, as you and I are, watching YouTube videos so that they can perfect their manipulation.
The Narcissist’s Playbook
We all know that narcissists follow a certain playbook. They act in certain ways: they seek out people like you and me who have certain traits of kindness and compassion. That’s not to say you should feel bad about yourself for being a kind and compassionate person. It only means that you want to start being able to discern who you are safe to be yourself with and who you’re not.
Often the question of the day is, Do narcissists know that they’re acting this way? Do they know they’re hurting other people? These questions can be answered very easily. When you’re at home or behind closed doors with the narcissist, they are unleashing their deepest abuse on you, but when the two of you are out somewhere – where there are witnesses – they may act completely different. Additionally, they probably don’t act that way on their job. So, they know the difference between right and wrong behaviors. The difference is that those other people are not the narcissist‘s target at that particular time. You are. This is why the narcissist tries to isolate you and brainwash you (yes, narcissists do brainwash you). This explains why you experience cognitive dissonance and why you start to believe you can’t trust yourself.
I have worked with very intelligent people in my coaching practice. People who have high–end degrees, who are doctors, attorneys, and business owners. These highly intelligent people are confused and saying things like, “Well, they’re not really that bad”. But then they start describing some of the narcissist’s behaviors and how they left the gas stove on and took out all the carbon monoxide detectors. That should be a red flag. But if you’re inside of a relationship like that, you may have normalized it to the point that you are now living in dangerous territory.
Fewer Traits Doesn’t Mean They’re Safer to Be With
Another mistake that we make is believing that if someone doesn’t check off all of the criteria on these checklists that you’re finding online, that they’re somehow safer to be with, and this is where I want to remind you that it only takes one pathological trait to completely destroy another person’s life.
An important fact about narcissism is that it falls into the Cluster-B category. So, if you believe you’re dealing with a narcissist, it’s highly likely that their narcissism is ‘clustered’ with something else. For example, you could be dealing with a narcissist who also has antisocial traits, or you could be dealing with a narcissist who has psychopathic traits, or a combination of all three. This why is why it’s often difficult to determine exactly which category they fall into because they don’t only fall into one. When you put them all together, you have a very dangerous individual.
Within the dark triad, people who are narcissistic are more likely to commit crimes. This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going out and robbing establishments. It could be things like forging a credit card application or getting loans in your name. They’re also more likely to create social problems.
Narcissists are destroying people’s lives. People are losing everything they have. They’re losing their jobs; they’re losing custody of their children. They’ve gotten to the point where they cannot get out of bed in the morning. So, we need to stop gaslighting ourselves and falling prey to the articles that are encouraging us to believe they are like us, because they’re not. They are masters at detecting certain vulnerabilities in people. This is how they’re able to make you believe that they’re more like you. They are predators. After very many long years of study by the psychological community, they have been included in the dark triad.
If you haven’t read up on the dark triad and dark psychology, do yourself a favor and read up on them so that you can come back down into reality and understand exactly what kind of danger you’re in. And if you have children, they’re in danger as well. When I talk about danger, I’m not trying to create mass hysteria because the danger creeps up on you very slowly and it’s not until your world is crumbling down around your ankles that you begin to realize it’s because of the narcissists in your life.
You don’t have to remain a target of narcissistic abuse from a member of the dark triad. It’s not easy but you can make it out stronger than ever before.
Recovery involves rewriting everything you thought you knew about yourself. It requires rebuilding your identity – or in many cases building an identity for the first time.
Like someone suffering from substance abuse, you need a narcissistic abuse recovery program that can help you avoid relapse by learning about yourself, habits, and triggers.
The Essential Break Free Bootcamp may be the missing piece of the puzzle.
I know what you’re going through and I’m here to help. Learn more about the course and see what my students and neuroscience experts have to say about it.
Source: Canonville, C. L. de. (n.d.). The 3 Faces Of Evil Book. Retrieved from https://narcissisticbehavior.net/the-3-faces-of-evil-book/