The Sting of Covert Narcissism
Covert narcissism is messed up! It is so twisted you feel like you are going insane just trying to get a grasp on what’s going on. It is so hard to pinpoint and impossible to describe. You can’t possibly explain it to someone who hasn’t experienced it themselves. Trying to makes you sound crazy, even to yourself. So now you question your own sanity. It is mind-boggling and exhausting. Many victims collapse into a pile of nothing and give up. I don’t blame them. I have been there many times. I know that pain firsthand.
The covert narcissist is a master at appearing innocent, kind, compassionate, generous, sincere, benevolent, and much more. To the world, they look not only normal, but even better. They could convince Moses that they are the perfect spouse. Yet underneath that, in the most subtle ways, they treat people with contempt, disregard, hatred, condescension, disdain, antipathy, and much more.
The covert narcissist is a master at subtleness. Their attacks are not outright and in your face. But they are experts at making others feel stupid, worthless, despicable and miserable. Their assaults are like a thousand bee stings. One or two bee stings here and there over the course of a lifetime would not be a problem. We wouldn’t even remember them over time. But imagine getting stung every single day of your life, multiple times a day, for years and years. For those who are living or have lived with a covert narcissist, we don’t have to imagine it. We are experiencing it or have experienced it. It is unbearable!!
Imagine this – you get stung by a bee (assuming you are not allergic). You are telling your best friend about it. You might get a moment of sympathy from your friend, but it would be extremely small and short-lived. The conversation would move on. Later that day you get stung again. You tell your friend. She might respond, “Wow, twice in one day. You sure are unlucky today.” Again, sympathy would be small, and life would move on.
Now a couple of days later, this cycle repeats itself. Your friend, who maybe has never even been stung by a bee, is already slightly tired of hearing about it. They want to talk about other things than bees. As this continues, you become obsessed with the bees that keep stinging you. At the same time, your friend is annoyed by it and thinks you are crazy. You have no scars or visible marks of any sort. To your friend, this looks like something that can easily be overlooked.
Your friends may try to convince you that bees are little and fairly innocent. Or that a bee sting doesn’t hurt that bad and you should get over it. They might even tell you that you are imagining this because no one gets stung that often. Or they might point out the great things that bees do for us, such as make honey and pollinate the flowers.
But you don’t want to hear any of this. After years of being stung, you want to extinguish every bee on the face of the earth!!!
This is like dealing with covert narcissism. The stings might seem small and insignificant in this world of violence. Everyone who watches the nightly news full of beatings and murders might tell you that this is nothing and you are over-reacting. You will hear from others that you are seeing things wrong and your perception is off. These individual events with your covert narcissist will seem so small and insignificant by themselves, like a single bee sting.
You will be told that it’s not really that big of a deal. Even by your covert narcissist! They say things like, “What are you so upset about?” “You’re over-reacting!” The exact words I once heard from mine were, “What are you talking about? I’m a great husband to you. You’ve never once had to worry about me hitting you or the boys. What have I EVER done that could have hurt you so bad?”
This is crazy-making stuff!! In the “bee” situation, you would think you are losing your mind if you were being stung every single day. It would be incredibly frustrating to keep trying to explain this to people who don’t believe you or don’t validate your feelings. Whether people believe you or not, you would eventually have to take it upon yourself and try to figure out why the bees keep stinging you. Why are the bees attracted to me? Why are they mad at me? Where are they coming from? What can I do about it? How do I get this stopped!?
Being with a covert narcissist is no different. You will be stung every single day, and maybe even every single conversation. You will be made to feel stupid and worthless all the time. They will manipulate everything to make you feel like every problem in the world is your fault. You will find yourself apologizing and don’t even know why. Their words come out harshly and accusatory. When you try to make peace, they defend themselves aggressively and attack you at the same time. There is never any time that you feel safe from being stung.
People who have never been stung by covert narcissism are not going to be able to understand. They either won’t believe you or won’t validate your feelings. You can’t wait for them to get on board with you. Eventually, you have to take this into your own hands and try to get some answers. Why is he/she attacking me? Where is all this coming from? What can I do about it? How do I get this stopped!?
I assure you that you are not losing your mind. Your frustrations, your confusion, your hurt….it’s all real. You have a reason to feel the way you do. You have a reason to be searching for answers. You have a hurt soul that needs to be healed. The pain is real. The scars are real.
Don’t stay and just keep getting stung. Don’t try to convince yourself that it isn’t real. Don’t try to ignore it or grin and bear it. Don’t wait for everyone else to see it. They may never see it for themselves.
Do get some help and support. Do some research. A simple google search of covert narcissism brings up tons of valuable information. Join online support groups. Get to a therapist, even one or two sessions makes a huge difference and can give you some direction.