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Taylor Swift Might Have Embraced the Term, but What Exactly Is a ‘Covert Narcissist’?

How to know when you are being secretly manipulated.

Parade/February 6, 2023

By Renee Hanlon

Taylor Swift sings on Midnights, “Did you hear my covert narcissism I disguise as altruism like some kind of congressman?” But “covert narcissism” is much more than a catchy lyric—it’s important to fully understand and look out for in your relationships. So, what exactly is a covert narcissist?

While narcissism is oftentimes blatant and obvious, it can also be a little more hidden. Therefore, it can be very easy to be fooled and fall for a covert narcissist. So how do you know what type of person you are really dealing with? We’ll explain what a covert narcissist is and the traits that you can expect to see.

What Is a Covert Narcissist?

Where a narcissist is someone who has an inflated sense of self-importance and openly expresses their own superiority, a covert narcissist may feel the same, but they’re not as obvious about it. However, what all narcissists have in common is that they want to make themselves look good at the expense of others. There are many ways of doing that, even though some are more apparent than others.

A covert narcissist is someone with a narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) that is subtle and harder to detect. They are most interested in how other people view them. So, outwardly they appear caring but the kind “acts” are actually meant to inflate themself and manipulate others.

Tracy Malone, author and founder of Narcissist Abuse Support, tells Parade, “Covert narcissists are exceedingly difficult to recognize and even harder to expose because they have built a fake persona with everyone they know. Most that are unaware of the covert traits see a charming, helpful, caring, compassionate, and often enlightened individual.”

The typical pattern of a covert narcissist is to come on strong at the beginning of a relationship with love bombing. Victims will fall under their spell without ever truly knowing the real person. Then, it’s confusing when all of that attention changes.

“Until you are completely infatuated, the charming mask will be used both in public and in private; then they are free to act differently behind closed doors,” explains Malone.

Related: ‘Love Bombing’ Sounds Romantic, but Here’s Why It’s Actually a Red Flag

Traits of a Covert Narcissist

According to Paul Wink in the study “Two Faces of Narcissism” from the Institute of Personality Assessment and Research at the University of California, Berkeley,” “Covert narcissism is marked by largely unconscious feelings of grandeur and openly displayed lack of self-confidence and initiative, vague feelings of depression, and an absence of zest for work (narcissistic deficiency).” Wink goes on to say that “covertly narcissistic individuals appear to be hypersensitive, anxious, timid and insecure, but on close contact, surprise observers with their grandiose fantasies.”

According to Malone, here are some of the specific traits that a covert narcissist might have.
An over-inflated sense of self-importance and yet very sensitive to criticism
Charming, yet socially awkward
Tendency to hold grudges
Envies people who have what they think they deserve or are entitled to
May appear to have empathy
Tends to put themselves down, needing excessive admiration to validate themselves
An introverted personality with superficial relationships (no genuine friends—only admirers and people they can use for supply)
Takes advantage of others for personal gain in a passive-aggressive way
Resistance to change due to real but secret feelings of anxiety and depression
Has grandiose fantasies about their abilities but may really feel inadequate
Plays the victim in a relationship
Never content—a quiet rage simmering just below the surface
Pathological liar
Related: How to Deal With a Narcissist… When You Suddenly Realize You’re in a Relationship with One

Differences Between Covert Narcissists and Overt Narcissists

An overt narcissist’s actions are visible to others and easily detectable. Covert narcissists, on the other hand, have subtle traits. They use outward appearances of charm and love bombing to manipulate which is a passive-aggressive way to control. The narcissist who covertly works to destroy your sense of self is just as dangerous as the one who overtly belittles you.

Covert narcissists have been described by spouses as “worrying, anxious and moody, defensive, bitter, and not mature and contented,” whereas overt narcissists have been described as “aggressive, outspoken, show-off, egotistical, assertive and not modest.”

Malone tells Parade, “Covert narcissists have created many masks throughout their lives that they present to the world. Imagine a mask as a character, role, or false persona that they play. Masks of normalcy are routinely invoked to create the illusion to the world that they are normal and not disordered. The mask chosen for you is customized to your needs; they made themselves your dream illusion. The role was defined by your own imagination and carefully orchestrated to trap you.”

Related: ‘Love Bombing’ Sounds Romantic, but Here’s Why It’s Actually a Red Flag

Causes of Covert Narcissism

“This is a very broad question and subject, but the long and the short of it generally is childhood abuse and trauma,” says Malone. “It can stem from a narcissistic parent, sibling or family member. A person who is abused learns methods of self-preservation and unconsciously figures out the best way to cope. They will, at that moment in time, sway one way or the other. They will either become like their abuser or not. We are, in fact, products of our environment and tend to take on traits that we learn and are exposed to. Narcissism is one of these traits.”

Wink further elaborated, “Psychoanalysts have attributed narcissism to parental insensitivity, which results in the child’s defensive grandiosity. The presence of grandeur is accompanied by feelings of inferiority, which reflect the child’s natural and nondefensive response to faulty and insensitive parenting. Through the use of the defense mechanism of splitting, the narcissist manages to keep the two conflicting feelings about the self away from conscious awareness.”

Signs of a Covert Narcissist

“If you put a frog in a pot of cold water and steadily turn up the heat, the frog will adjust to the raising temperature and will boil to death,” describes Malone. “Narcissistic covert abuse is often compared to this analogy because it happens slowly. Once caught, the heat (abuse) gets turned up.”

A covert narcissist will use many sly tactics to make their victim feel alone and confused. This is done by using some common tactics like gaslighting and rewriting history to fit their own story. And, everything the covert narcissist does is well calculated, so that everyone else is unaware of his evil side.

Related: What Is Gaslighting? 11 Subtle Signs of Gaslighting To Look For in Your Relationship

Signs of a covert narcissist are hard to detect. However, as Malone explains, “[The signs] are unoriginal, often cowardly, and exceptionally low on the emotional intelligence scale. Most victims don’t notice these methods or understand their meaning. They don’t see the person as they really are until they leave. The strategies are stealthy and designed to confuse”.

Typically, the public side of the person is charming. However, in private, their true colors will begin to shine. Some of the weapons that a covert narcissist uses are important to watch out for and include:
giving you the silent treatment
ignoring you
playing the victim
name calling/verbal abuse
pretending to forget the promises that were made

How To Deal With a Covert Narcissist

As you begin to question what is happening in your relationship, it might be good to start writing out your thoughts and feelings in a journal. Keep track of what situations arise between the two of you and how they are resolved. You may begin to see a pattern of behavior with the narcissist that is not healthy.

If you’re able to put some space between you and the individual, that could help you figure out the next steps for yourself. “This is the time to begin to understand why you were a victim and why you were targeted in the first place. Finding yourself again and healing should be your goals. Do not jump into a new relationship; find a therapist or coach who is well-versed in NPD to get to the root of the problem”, says Malone.

According to Cleveland Clinic, it’s also important to note that NPD isn’t a personality flaw it is actually a mental illness. Because of this, learning everything that you can about it will help you to make some sense of what is going on. Depending on the relationship that you have with the narcissist, it may be necessary to seek family or couples therapy—as well as individual counseling.

What To Do if You Think You Are a Covert Narcissist
The best place to start is therapy. Cleveland Clinic suggests working on cognitive behavioral therapy as a way to work through what triggers your negative emotions. This will help you to learn how to better respond so that you don’t hurt the ones around you. A therapist can provide great help in working through your insecurities to build self-esteem and help you to recognize your self-worth.

What Is Gaslighting? 11 Subtle Signs of Gaslighting To Look For in Your Relationship

Plus, next steps to take.

Parade/December 22, 2022

By Maryn Liles

What is gaslighting in relationships, and how can you tell if you’re a  victim of this manipulative form of emotional abuse?

Knowing the signs of gaslighting—whether you suspect your partner is gaslighting you or not—is important, because often, they can be quite subtle and difficult to pinpoint until you know exactly what signs of gaslighting you’re looking for.

Parade spoke to three Gottman-certified relationship experts to ask what gaslighting is and what subtle signs of gaslighting we should be wary of in relationships.

What is gaslighting in relationships?
“Gaslighting is emotional abuse,” says Stacy Hubbard, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Gottman Therapist and Master Trainer. “[It’s] a tactic used by batterers to control their partner. In essence, it is an attempt to make the other person question and doubt their own sanity.”

Mike McNulty, PhD, Master Trainer for The Gottman Institute and Founder of The Chicago Relationship Center, adds, “It’s a very manipulative tactic that people use for their own gain. By making the other person feel and look crazy, the gaslighter manipulates the partner for their own personal gain or benefit.”

However, being able to distinguish between true gaslighting vs. a few negative behaviors or reactions from our partner is critical, says Vagdevi Meunier, Psy.D., a Master Trainer for the Gottman Institute and founder of the Austin-based Center for Relationships. “It is really important that we make a distinction between 1) gaslighting that is part of a larger picture of dominance, control, and “intimate terrorism” and words and, 2) behaviors from our partners that might be dismissing or discounting of our reality. One, or even several, acts of dismissing or discounting my perceptions or opinion may not necessarily be gaslighting,” she cautions.

“If it is true gaslighting then the behavior is a clear example of emotional and psychological abuse. One person is systematically and with harmful intent trying to make their partner go insane or seriously doubt their own grasp on reality,” Meunier says. “Gaslighting, in its original form, is usually a part of what we call characterological abuse based on Dr. Gottman’s research on domestic violence,” she explains—which you can read more about in Dr. Gottman’s book, When Men Batter Women.

Where did the word “gaslighting” come from?

“The term ‘gaslighting’ came from the 1944 movie where a husband deliberately and systematically manipulated reality to make his wife mistrust her own sanity and perceptions in order to drive her crazy so he could take over her estate,” explains Meunier. “There was clear and premeditated intent here to drive her over the edge. Today, that term is used much more loosely and is often used to denote when one person is making another person doubt their perceptions, knowledge, or opinions,” she adds.

Why is gaslighting in relationships so harmful?

“The key ingredient here is intent to control, manipulate and subjugate one’s intimate partner. If this is the case, then the perpetrator of gaslighting is acting sadistically—in other words, they are deliberately damaging someone’s psyche without any care for the consequences on the victim,” says Meunier. ” This is what makes true gaslighting harmful in relationships.”

McNulty adds, “Even when it is done on a one-time basis, gaslighting holds potential to destroy trust between partners. For example, out of desperation, a person may gaslight their partner to cover up an affair or some other major betrayal. A one-time incident of gaslighting can totally destroy trust in the relationship because the partner who discovers they were gaslit, may be shocked that perpetrator could do such a thing.” Ultimately, he explains, “They will not feel safe in the relationship, and this lack of safety makes it impossible for the relationship to continue.”

What’s more, “Gaslighting is often used in tandem with other types of emotional and/or physical abuse,” Hubbard warns. “The abuser is attempting to control the other person and gaslighting can often be one tactic, but likely it is in combination with other types of emotional abuse—such as isolating the victim, making sure they don’t have access to their own money, making sure they are cut off from family and friends, not allowing them to work. In this dynamic where gaslighting can be present, there is no partnership or equality.”

Related: Here Are the Four Horsemen Behaviors Coined by John Gottman That Will Ruin Your Marriage—Plus, How to Avoid Them

What motivates partners to gaslight their significant other?

“Sometimes partners who gaslight on a one-time basis or during a brief period in a relationship, find themselves caught up in a betrayal they never imagined would happen—like an affair or something financial,” says McNulty. “Such partners fear their partner will leave if they learn the truth, and do not know how to approach their partner to own the betrayal and recover from it,” he explains. However, “When gaslighting is a pattern, the partner who gaslights typically has a very narcissistic or antisocial personality,” McNulty adds.

“If gaslighting is part of a whole set of behaviors that are designed to control and dominate, then the motivation to gaslight comes from that larger purpose: to have power over another human being,” explains Meunier. “Among characterologically abusive partners, one motivation might be ‘hostile dependency’ (i.e. I am going to make you feel so crazy, weak or unworthy that you won’t leave me because you will begin to believe no one can love you the way I do). Another type of abusive partner might have anti-social, or what is often called ‘malignant narcissistic,’ traits (i.e. It is my way or the highway, and I don’t care who I have to destroy to have my way).”

Ultimately, “Gaslighting is part of a system of battery, which is an attempt to control one’s partner,” says Hubbard. And while “that effort to control may be out of fear of abandonment, or a deep need to keep their partner in their lives, they are going about in a hurtful and abusive manner.”

11 signs of gaslighting in relationships

Here are some of the key signs of gaslighting in relationships:
You constantly question your reality—even on small things, like where you left your keys or what time you said you’d be somewhere.
You feel like you have no control over how you live your life—like not being able to do the dishes or laundry the way you like because your partner insists that things must be done their way.
You get shot down or called names whenever you express an opinion your partner doesn’t like—often leading to an irrational argument designed to confuse you and steal your peace of mind.
You question your self-worth—because your partner is constantly putting you down or attacking your character.
You feel like your partner is toying with you or playing games—as if your partner gets satisfaction out of making you feel crazy or stupid.
You’re suspicious that your partner is betraying you—whether it’s by hiding their spending habits from you or actually having an affair.
You have no control over money—which is yet another way your gaslighting partner can manipulate you and control your behavior.
Your partner makes up flimsy excuses when confronted—giving you poor explanations that don’t make sense or can’t be verified.
You feel isolated from friends and family—because your partner enlists support from others to make you feel crazy and alone.
Your partner never answers your questions directly—in fact, they’ll often deflect your concern by turning the focus around and attacking you instead.
You feel like you’re being watched at all times—often having to justify where you were and who you were with.
Related: 13 Ways to Grow Stronger as a Couple—According to Relationship Expert Dr. John Gottman’s Advice

How to tell if your partner is gaslighting you—4 questions to ask yourself

Meunier suggests going beyond the specific signs of gaslighting in relationships and asking yourself these questions:
Across the whole relationship, does my partner systematically and regularly control, manipulate, and try to reduce my self-worth or autonomy?
Does the gaslighting become one of many ways in which I am made to feel I am stupid, crazy, or irrational and therefore not to be trusted or given rights within the relationship?
When my partner discounts, dismisses or mocks my perceptions and reality, does this go along with a host of other behaviors and incidents when my partner prevents me from making my own decisions, having authority over my own space, my children, my work, my money, or my friends and relatives?
When I am told my perceptions and opinions are wrong or dumb, does it make me feel small and unworthy, and do I feel like this in a lot of different ways in this relationship

Can relationships heal from gaslighting?

“If gaslighting is not a pattern, the partners may be able to recover the relationship through seeking treatment—intensive couples treatment that helps them to create transparency and restore a sense of safety in their relationship,” says McNulty. “In this case, if the gaslighting partner is able to own their betrayal, express sincere remorse, and help create transparency and restore safety in the relationship, the partners are poised to discover why their relationship was vulnerable to betrayal and to build a better relationship. This is healing for both partners.”
It’s also important to keep in mind that “what one person calls gaslighting can often be their partner’s argumentative nature, their air of superiority, or their judgmental tendency,” cautions Meuiner. “Many scientists, doctors, and other highly educated and skilled people have a hard time being humble in relationships or knowing how to have egalitarian relationships. They may not intend harm on purpose and are often surprised when their partners get angry and hurt by their remarks. In these situations, healing is indeed possible. When the person engaging in the gaslighting behavior is genuinely concerned about the impact they are having on the partner, willing to look at their own contribution to the problem, and are willing to learn healthier ways of communicating in intimate relationships, then healing is possible and they have a good chance of building a flourishing relationship with the help of a relationship counselor.”

However, “If gaslighting is a pattern, then the perpetrator has to be open to very intensive individual therapy. It will take years to treat the personality disorder that led to this disturbing pattern of behavior. In the meantime, the couple will also need intensive couples therapy. In addition, the therapy will need to be supported by external measures that help ensure safety, such as polygraph tests,” McNulty emphasizes, to protect the victim. However, “Perpetrators generally are not receptive to participate in this type of treatment.” That’s why “repair and recovery from the gaslighting is generally unworkable,” he says.

Meunier agrees: “If the gaslighting is part of characterological abuse, it is very difficult to imagine that healing is possible. It would take a huge awakening on the part of the perpetrator to realize their behavior has damaged another human being’s psychological well-being and that they want to learn healthy relationship and intimacy skills.” Bluntly stated: “This is highly unlikely,” she says.

How to stay safe, if you think you’re a victim of gaslighting:

“Gaslighting is often a tactic used by abusers who are characterologically violent,” says Hubbard. “With characterological violence, there is a clear victim and perpetrator—there is not admittance of wrongdoing on the abuser’s part and, in fact, they often blame their partner for making them explode into violence. This is an unsafe dynamic,” she warns.

However, “Leaving an abusive relationship is very dangerous. This is when a spike in violence can occur or the abuser can stalk and kill their victim if they leave—so we are always aware of the risks of leaving,” she warns. “A safety plan and a well-thought-out escape plan needs to be in place. Seek help if you are in this position, or even if you think you may be.”

Evan Rachel Wood Talks ‘Phoenix Rising,’ Alleged Abuser Marilyn Manson: ‘I Don’t Believe That He Will Stop Until He Is Stopped’

The first part of the two-part documentary mini-series directed by Amy Berg debuts on HBO Max on Tuesday night.

Billboard/March 15, 2022

By Gil Kaufman

Evan Rachel Wood appeared on The Daily Show on Monday night (March 14) to talk about the 16-year journey she took to confronting her alleged abuser and the reason she hopes her new two-part documentary, Phoenix Rising, could help other people who feel trapped in a cycle of abuse come forward and speak their truth.

“I don’t believe that he will stop until he is stopped,” she said of Marilyn Manson, her former fiancé, who she claims in the film methodically groomed her when she 18 and isolated her before allegedly subjecting the Westworld star to ritualistic abuse. “And sometimes the greatest act of love is stopping that person from hurting themselves or hurting anybody else.”

The nearly three-hour mini-series, directed and produced by acclaimed Oscar-nominated filmmaker Amy Berg (best known for her Catholic church sex abuse film Deliver Us From Evil and the sex abuse in Hollywood doc An Open Secret), premieres on HBO Max tonight (March 15). The first part chronicles Wood’s rise in Hollywood as a 13-year-old star-in-the-making and her chance meeting with Manson (born Brian Warner) at a party when she was 18. In the film she describes how that evening turned into a years-long relationship and engagement with the decades-older rocker that she claims included vicious sexual, physical and emotional abuse, including alleged anti-Semitic taunts and threats against the actress, who is Jewish; Manson has repeatedly denied the allegations and earlier this month sued Wood for defamation over the accusations, which the suit claimed is part of an “organized attack.”

Wood explained why she thinks it took 16 years for her to open up about her alleged abuse at the hands of Manson, who has also been accused of similar acts by a number of other women, which he has also denied. “You’re running, you’re trying to forget it happened, and then, of course, it catches up with you and I couldn’t run from it,” Wood said, explaining that she threw herself into therapy after years of vowing to “take it to my grave” over her fears about making her experience public. “I was that afraid of retaliation, I just did not feel safe and I felt very alone. I thought I was the only one.”

The latter sentiment is one she’s said is common among survivors of abuse, another reason she decided to share her story. After testifying in front of Congress for the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights in 2018, Wood said she thought she had said all there was to say, though at the time she did not publicly reveal her alleged abuser. But when people began emerging online with similar stories, with “very specific details,” she said she recognized as things you could not know unless you’d stood toe-to-toe with your abuser, she knew she had to break her silence.

“I knew it was real, and that’s when it changed,” she told Noah, adding that the film also tackles Manson’s own self-reported history of childhood trauma because, “I do believe in accountability and healing and reform and I think there is a time and a space for that.” Without going to the root of violence in the home, Wood said, we cannot see that “violence begets violence.”

“There are people who can stop the cycle and there are people, like Brian,” she said, naming Manson for the first and only time using his birth name more than half-way into the interview. “That don’t want help. And he’s had every opportunity. He’s had so many people try. And he has refused it every time.”

Wood also noted that the statute of limitations on sexual abuse was one-to-three years when she started advocating for the Phoenix Act in California — though she said it often takes 7-10 years to “process, understand and heal” from trauma — a time frame she described as “nothing” to a survivor still trying to come to terms with the physical, mental and emotional impact of abuse.

She pointed out that she spent a total of four years with “him” (presumably Manson), someone she called expert at “brainwashing” and isolation, comparing that time to being in a cult. “When you’re in it, you can’t see the forest through the trees, up is down, down is up. It’s you two against the world and it is a secret that nobody will ever be able to understand,” she said. “And you gotta to break free of that illusion, and it takes time.”

Former Playmate says Hugh Hefner’s mansion had ‘cult-like’ atmosphere: ‘He believed he owned these women’

Miki Garcia was a Playmate and head of promotions from 1973 to 1982

Independent, UK/January 25, 2022

By Clémence Michallon

A former Playmate has denounced the “cult-like atmosphere” she says Hugh Hefner cultivated around him.

Miki Garcia was a Playmate and head of promotions from 1973 to 1982. She’s one of the participants in Secrets of Playboy, a new documentary about Hefner and Playboy set to start airing on A&E.

The documentary series features several former members of Hefner’s entourage, reflecting and sharing their accounts of the culture they say Hefner created at the Playboy mansion starting in the Seventies.

“It was cult-like,” Garcia says at one point. “The women had been groomed and led to believe they were part of this family. And he really did believe he owned these women.”

She adds: “We had Playmates that overdosed. There were Playmates that committed suicide.”

Garcia says she thought about writing a book, because she thought “maybe all of this stuff would go away” if she did.

“Hefner even sent someone to buy me off,” she says. “When you get someone that powerful to be that fearful, anything could happen. Anything. I had a bodyguard. I was that afraid.”

Through a mix of interviews and archival footage, Secrets of Playboy , a 10-hour documentary series, will explore “how the Playboy machine was a powerful force that, at its worst, manipulated women in a toxic environment, silencing their voices, pitting them against one another, and opening the door to sexual predators”, according to A&E.

Ahead of the documentary’s release, the PLBY Group, the company behind the magazine and its related properties, issued an open letter seeking to separate the current Playboy magazine from Hefner, who died in 2017 aged 91.

“We want to reach out to you in light of the forthcoming A&E docuseries that we understand will recount allegations of abhorrent actions by Playboy founder Hugh Hefner and others,” the statement reads in part.

“First and foremost, we want to say: we trust and validate women and their stories, and we strongly support the individuals who have come forward to share their experiences. As a brand with sex positivity at its core, we believe safety, security and accountability are paramount, and anything less is inexcusable.”

It adds: “As you know, the Hefner family is no longer associated with Playboy, and today’s Playboy is not Hugh Hefner’s Playboy.”

“Please join us in doing the most important thing we can do right now — listen,” the statement goes on. “It is critically important that we listen as these women share their stories and that we continue to fight harassment and discrimination in all its forms, support healing and education, redefine tired and sexist definitions of beauty and advocate for inclusivity across gender, sexuality, race, age, ability, and zip codes.”

Secrets of Playboy started airing with a two-hour premiere on A&E on Monday (24 January) at 9pm ET/PT. The programme will also be available on demand and to stream on and on the A&E app. New episodes will keep airing on Mondays until the finale on 21 March.

52 Ways to Identify a Covert Narcissist

52 Ways to Identify a Covert Narcissist

How to take a closer look.

Psychology Today/July 7, 2020

By Julie Hall, reviewed by Kaja Perina

Key Points:

  • The covert narcissist fails to develop emotional empathy, self-awareness, or a stable sense of identity and self-esteem in childhood.
  • Covert narcissists avoid the spotlight and prefer passive-aggressive means of controlling others due to their fear being exposed and humiliated.
  • Tactics of a covert narcissist might include belittling, triangulation, and avoiding direct responsibility.

The flamboyance of overt narcissists can make them pretty easy to identify, but what about the covert narcissist in your life?

Recognizing covert personality traits requires looking beyond obvious appearances, past common assumptions and expectations. For this reason, covert narcissism is more difficult to spot, and it can take years to recognize it in someone you think you know well. But the good news is that once you become aware of the patterns and signs of covert narcissism, you aren’t likely to miss them again.

Covert Narcissism Checklist

The more covert form of pathological narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is not expressed the same way in every individual, but there are typical patterns that are very common. If you see many or most of these attitudes and behaviors in a person you know, you’re probably dealing with someone who suffers—and makes others suffer—with covert narcissism.Is passive-aggressiveCriticizes and judges from the sidelines

1. Is passive-aggressive
2. Criticizes and judges from the sidelines
3. Is condescending and superior
4. Is threatened by honesty and directness
5. Swings between idealizing and devaluing him-/herself and others
6. Denies and dismisses others’ feelings
7. Cultivates a public image sharply different from his/her private behavior
8. Identifies as a victim
9. Is cynical and sarcastic
10. Makes unreasonable demands
11. Turns your problems into his/her dramas
12. Belittles and blames
13. Exploits and/or attacks others’ vulnerability
14. Is reactive to questioning or criticism
15. Plays on sympathies
16. Fakes or exaggerates illness/injury for attention
17. Withholds and stonewalls
18. Gaslights
19. Avoids introspection and lacks self-awareness
20. Uses platitudes in place of genuine insight
21. Denies own anger
22. Focuses on unfairness
23. Is envious and vengeful
24. Prefers to remain behind the scenes
25. Gossips
26. Triangulates
27. Holds a grudge
28. Needs reassurance
29. Is inattentive or annoyed when others talk
30. Has double standards
31. Hates to lose
32. Fixates on others’ problems and misfortunes
33. Flatters and fawns to win favor
34. Displays rage and contempt in private
35. Resists decision-making
36. Does not sincerely apologize
37. Avoids direct responsibility
38. Has an exaggerated sense of entitlement
39 Is impressed by the overt narcissist’s appearance of confidence
40. Lacks emotional empathy
41. Focuses on appearance over substance
42. Rushes to (false) intimacy
43. Is anxious and hypervigilant
44. Displays false humility and humblebrags
45. Is prone to paranoia and conspiracy theories
46. Crosses normative boundaries and codes of conduct
47. Pokes, prods, and pries
48. Feels special through association
49. Feels above the rules
50. Uses guilt and shame to control and punish
51. Expects caretaking
52. Conducts smear campaigns

The Overt Versus the Covert Narcissist

Like the overt narcissist, the covert narcissist fails to develop emotional empathy, self-awareness, or a stable sense of identity and self-esteem in childhood. Both feel defective and cope with underlying insecurity and shame by repressing those feelings and adopting a grandiose persona, a delusion of superiority and entitlement that they constantly assert at the expense of those around them.

Although covert narcissists avoid the spotlight and prefer passive-aggressive means of controlling others, this is not necessarily because they are introverted as is often stated. Rather, they lack the brash confidence of overt narcissists and fear being exposed and humiliated if they draw public attention to themselves. Often this is because they have been conditioned not to compete with a domineering overt narcissist parent.

Recognizing the covert narcissist in your life is the first step to overcoming your self-defeating cycles of confusion, guilt, anger, self-blame, and emotional and physical trauma.

9 Ways Many Narcissists Behave Like Cult Leaders

How to recognize narcissists’ manipulative and cult-like tactics.

Psychology Today/March 17, 2021

By Dan Neuharth Ph.D., MFT

Key Points:

  • Individuals high in narcissism, like cult leaders, often inflate their own sense of importance and behave in ways that are destructive to others.
  • Similarities between narcissists and cult leaders include a tendency to lie and turn others against each other for their own ends, along with little tolerance for dissent.
  • To escape the negative influence of a narcissist, be mindful of what you share with them and set firm boundaries about how you will and won’t be treated.

The strategies many narcissists instinctively use to get their way in personal relationships can be strikingly similar to the coercive tactics used by destructive cult leaders to indoctrinate and control followers.

If you have a spouse, family member, friend, or boss who is narcissistic, ask yourself whether any of the following nine characteristics of destructive cults and cult leaders sound familiar.

1. Cult leaders act larger than life.

They claim to be innately good, possessing special wisdom, answerable to no one, with no one above them.

2. Cult members are expected to subjugate their own needs for the “good” of the leader or cause.

Members are told that what the cult wants them to do is for their own good, even if it is self-destructive.

3. An “us versus them” attitude prevails.

Outsiders are viewed as dangerous or as potential enemies. This turns members’ focus outward, distracting from problems within the cult. Viewing others as enemies can be used to justify extreme actions because of the “dangers” that outsiders pose.

4. Feelings are devalued, minimized, or manipulated.

Shame, guilt, coercion, and fear appeals keep members in line. Members are taught to discount their own intuition and healthy instincts in favor of the leader or cult’s teachings. Over time, members can lose touch with their healthy habits and innate values.

5. Questioning and dissent are not tolerated.

Having doubts about the leader or cult is considered shameful or sinful. Members are told that doubting or dissenting indicates that there is something wrong or bad with the member.

6. The ends justify the means.

The “rightness” of the leader and cult justifies behavior that violates most people’s standards for ethics and honesty. In the zealotry of the cult, anything goes.

7. Closeness to the cult and leader is rewarded, while independence is punished.

Temporary ostracism is used to punish behavior that doesn’t conform to group rules. Members fear being estranged from the group and losing the promised protection and benefits offered by the leader and group.

8. Lies are repeated so often they seem true.

The cult leader cannot be wrong and never needs to apologize.

9. Communication is coercive or deceptive.

Things are not always what they seem. This fosters confusion, leaving members vulnerable. When confused, members seek solace in the aura of certainty the leader seems to possess.

If you notice similarities between such cult-like techniques and your relationship with a narcissistic person, keep in mind:

  • Cults and narcissists use powerful forms of manipulation, but there is nothing magical about what they do. Understanding their methods can allow you to avoid being taken in.
  • If someone is narcissistic, be mindful of sharing personal information with that person, as it may be used against you.
  • In any adult relationship, you have the right to confront, prevent, or remove yourself from manipulation or coercive control at any time. You do not need to give a reason, and you do not need the other person’s permission.
  • In any adult relationship, you have the right to ask questions, make your own decisions, and honor your values and goals.
  • Nobody has the right to tell you what to think or how to feel.

Landmark coercive control sentence a warning to all abusers – charity

Irish Examiner/January 22, 2021

By Liz Dunphy and Brion Hoban

A landmark sentencing, in a case tried under relatively new domestic abuse legislation, is “a shot across the bows to all abusers,” a leading domestic abuse charity has said.

Daniel Kane, 52, was convicted of coercively controlling and repeatedly assaulting his former partner during a domestic reign of terror in which he sliced her skin with a pizza cutter, fractured multiple bones, attacked her after surgery, burned her foot and stamped on her head.

Kane was sentenced to 12-and-a-half years in prison, with two years suspended.

He is the first person to be convicted of coercive control by a jury following a trial.

The successive attacks and demeaning verbal and psychological abuse “sucked the life and soul of confidence” out of his victim and shattered her sense of self-worth.

She became “meek and submissive” and said in her victim impact statement that she “might be dead or in a vegetative state” if doctors and gardaí had not intervened to get her away from Kane.

But Kane’s sentence tells abusers “very clearly that they can no longer control, stalk, assault, isolate or degrade a woman with impunity,” Mary McDermott, CEO of domestic abuse charity, Safe Ireland, said.

“What was once secret and privatised, is now public. In Ireland, the coercion and assault of any human being is a crime.

“Living in a ‘lockdown time’ we are gaining ever greater understandings of these household traumas and imprisonment.

Women’s Aid, a frontline organisation that supported the victim in this case, also welcomed the sentencing.

Sarah Benson, chief executive of Women’s Aid said:

“It is a pattern of multiple manipulative behaviours used by one party to wear down, isolate and completely control another.

“Today’s sentencing sends out a strong signal to domestic abusers. Coercive control is a serious crime and it will be treated as such by the gardaí and the courts.”

Coercive control, gaslighting and love bombing – pupils urged to identify toxic relationships during lockdown

January 19, 2021

By Louise McEvoy

Lockdown provides the perfect opportunity for young people to re-evaluate their relationships and take potentially life-changing steps to cut toxic ties with people.

This is according to Stevenage mum Marilyn Hawes, the founder of Freedom of Abuse, who is dedicated to protecting children from abuse in all its forms, through outreach work which includes visiting schools to give talks.

Marilyn is encouraging teenagers to use the space and distance from their friends, girlfriends or boyfriends during lockdown to think carefully about whether those relationships are healthy or not.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Marilyn trialled a course at two Stevenage secondary schools – Nobel and Marriotts – called Beauty or the Beast, which compared toxic relationships with healthy ones.

She said: “There is so much emphasis in schools about healthy relationships, but young people need to understand a toxic relationship so they can make an informed decision. They don’t understand coercive control, gaslighting or love bombing, for instance.”

Coercive control is an act – or a pattern of acts – of assault, threats, humiliation or intimidation that is used to harm, punish or frighten. Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse where a person makes someone question their sanity, perception of reality, or memories. Love bombing is the practice of showering a person with excessive affection and attention in order to gain control or significantly influence their behaviour.

Marilyn said: “It need not be a romantic relationship – some friendships can be toxic. It’s not about gender or sexuality.
“Our evaluations showed young people felt their PSHE – personal, social, health and economic – education was too focused on healthy relationships. If a youngster is living in a domestic abuse situation, the toxicity becomes normal and is the most repeated abuse later in life. Contrary to this, if a child lives in a happy, balanced home environment, how can they compare a toxic one?

“Following the course, we received many disclosures of teens experiencing issues, and also those who were alerted and made aware of peers they could support.

“We also explain that anyone who is a domestic abuser needs help. Fundamentally, there are deep-seated issues, many of which will go back to their own childhood trauma.”

Steve Morley, assistant headteacher and head of safeguarding at Nobel, said a number of parents, as well as students, made disclosures about domestic abuse as a result of Marilyn’s course.

Lesley Tether, assistant headteacher and head of safeguarding at Marriotts, added: “We have worked closely with Marilyn to educate our students regarding important safeguarding issues. With Years 10 to 13, Marilyn has covered controlling relationships, dating violence and, importantly, the red flags to be aware of. We had a number of disclosures following these talks, and the course has helped open the discussion to an otherwise taboo subject. Marilyn also has extensive knowledge on grooming, the dark web and criminal exploitation. In the current climate these talks are essential to any school.”

Marilyn said: “What is concerning is young people’s lack of knowledge regarding coercive control. It is easy to confuse possessiveness and jealousy with caring and being protective. During lockdown is a great opportunity – giving personal space – to review who is in your life and whether they should be.

“Are you with someone who makes you feel you are wrong? Someone who easily sulks and keeps it up for days? Someone possessive and jealous?

“Leaving it in the hope things will settle down gives a message you are OK with it, and in reality things will just become worse, so you feel trapped. Discuss it with the person and watch their reaction. If they refuse to hear what you are saying then just walk away – amputate them from your life rather than let them drag you down.”


Gaslighting: The Narcissist’s favorite tool of Manipulation – How to avoid the Gaslight Effect and Recovery from Emotional and Narcissistic Abuse J. Covert, Dr. Theresa (Independently published July 24, 2019)Order