One thing about narcissists can be said with certainty: What you see on the outside does not accurately reflect what they carry inside.  Living to create self-flattering impressions, narcissists are posers.  As you have ongoing contact with them, you learn that they must maintain the superior position over you, and even as they feign compatibility, they hold you in contempt, as if you are permanently a nuisance.

Narcissists like being in the judgment seat over you, but they also like acting in ways that allow plausible deniability if they are ever called out for misbehavior. 

To that end, many of their attitudes are veiled, and this is especially true of covert narcissists.  Their aim is to maintain a psychological edge over you with the least amount of personal vulnerability.  They may not always state what they think or feel about you, but their behaviors and attitudes belie many disdainful hidden thoughts.

Your task is to become aware of the silent, hidden messages of narcissism so you can be least impacted by their manipulations.  Let’s examine, the patterns they maintain, then identify the disguised messages accompanying those patterns:

  • Narcissists need to feel in control over you.  The hidden messages pushing their control tactics include:  I don’t trust you.  You’re stupid.  Right now, it’s all about me.  You exist to do and think as I say.
  • They lack empathy.  Their hidden thoughts include:  You’re a bother to me.  What you think, feel, and need is irrelevant.  You are irrelevant.  Stepping into the personal dimension with you is too awkward for me.
  • They operate with entitlement and selfishness in general.  The unspoken messages can include:  I wish everyone would just cater to me.  I matter more than you.  You’d be a better person if you just deferred to me.
  • Narcissists seek ways to exploit and manipulate.  To that end, they signal:  I’m with you only to the extent that you will service my ego.  Standard rules of civility don’t apply to me.  I don’t need to be civil. 
  • They are willing to lie, cover up, and keep secrets.  Hiding behind strong defenses and a False Self, they imply:  Honesty is optional.  I have priorities that don’t concern you.  Accountability is overrated, and so is teamwork. 
  • They are easily critical and judgmental.  They persistently send the unspoken message:  I have the right to tell you what to do.  You are beneath me…always remember that.  You are more flawed than me.

When you confront narcissists about their surly messages, they fall back onto plausible deniability.  “What are you talking about?  I never said those things.”  Feeling clever, they rationalize that if they don’t overtly speak the insult, it never happened.

Did I mention that narcissists will gaslight at the drop of a hat?

Let’s go one step further as we identify some universal hidden messages inherent in the narcissist’s exchanges with you.  While they may not say these messages out loud (sometimes they do), the narcissist predictably holds thoughts like:

  • Your worth lies in direct proportion to your usefulness to me…that’s all.
  • Never assume you’re my equal.  You never have been and you never will be.
  • Ok, you have your separate opinions and preferences.  I’m not impressed.
  • Whenever I’m angry or feeling tense, you set it up.  You’re the defective person in this equation.
  • Why should I tend to you?  I matter.  You don’t.
  • I’ll receive all the affirmation you are willing to give, but it will never be fully reciprocated.  Understand?

Who you are is inevitably revealed with or without words.  Narcissists, with their disguised messages of disdain, reveal a lack of trustworthiness.  They are so enamored with Self that you will always be beneath them.  Always.  Living with Alternate Reality (meaning they make up “truth” to suit their need of the moment), they will condescend, shame, and invalidate.  At their core, they have no clue about creating relationship safety.  Toxicity defines them.

As you see the hidden messages accompanying the patterns inherent in narcissism, you can be freed to disengage.  They are misinformed, and they are not the keepers of truth about you.  Instead, you can cling to your own inner messages that affirm:

I’m smarter than you give me credit.

Lie to me, lie to yourself all you want.

I’m onto you, so I’ll cling instead to my own sensible thoughts.

I’ll not defer to your passive aggressive tricks.

No thanks.

~Les Carter, Ph.D.

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