The Pathological Narcissist & Their Victim Connect In Very Different Ways

Although the abuse that these two individuals (the narcissist and their victim) have experienced in childhood is quite similar, the personality of the pathological narcissistic (perpetrator) and the pathological co-narcissist (caretaking victim) becomes forged in very different ways, yet both are left feeling the ravages of agonising shame.

It is important to remember that a child’s behaviour never occurs in isolation, always it has meaning, whether it shows itself as being a narcissistic “bullying” personality, or as a co-narcissist “pleaser” personality.

How each individual child manages their shame is likely to be the underlying cause and a contributing factor of whether they become a narcissist (perpetrator) or a co-narcissist (caretaker/victim) in adulthood.

The pathological narcissist’s behaviour, as per The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association, can be recognised by the following 9 criteria:
(1) Grandiosity, (2) Power & Control, (3) Being special, (4) Needing attention, (5) Sense of Entitlement, (6) Exploitative, (7) Lack of empathy, (8) Envious, and (9) Haughty and arrogant.

The pathological narcissist’s shameless personality develops a grandiose sense of self-importance.
Although they appear highly confident and superior individuals, underneath their ego is extremely fragile.
Their delicate ego leaves them easily offended, and prone to spiralling rages.

To the confusion of the co-narcissist victim who is in the relationship with them, they too must live with the narcissist’s confusing oscillations as they go between their Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personas.

Because the pathological narcissist does not adequately complete their separation and individuation process due to their early childhood abuse, they seem to be unable to distinguish between their own self and others.
Clearly, they have no boundaries, this accounts for why they treat their co-narcissist victims as an extension of their self, and why they exert excessive control over them, to the point where both become overly enmeshed in each other. 

This often causes a lot of frustration and resentment in the co-narcissist (victim) as the dysfunctional relationship is forged.
However, the more they resist, the more the pathological narcissist increases the dominating control. 

Their need to control is driven by their sense of grandiosity, entitlement, and exploitation.  So, when they give an order, they expect their co-narcissist caretaker (victim) to drop everything immediately. 
They have absolutely no empathy for what the other may be doing or feeling at any given moment.
Everything is about forging a connection with them, and any hesitation or resistance to jump to attention will be taken personally as an act of mutiny by the narcissist, and that is a punishable offence. 

Furthermore, any independent action by the co-narcissist (victim) can become the justification for the narcissistic anger, retaliation, and revenge.  
The narcissist acts with superiority and contempt, and this can play a big part in their feelings of envy. When envy is directed at a victim it can be very dangerous. 

The pathological narcissist cannot see anybody having anything that they do not have, this touches into their inferiority shame complex and triggers their shame anxiety, which is likely to release their rage. 
What they really want is for others to envy them (i.e. their status, their possessions, their looks, their intelligence, etc.) only then are they truly happy. 
In their grandiosity, you will often hear a narcissist saying that they had to end a relationship because the other person was envious of them, and they believe that fully. 

Of course, the opposite is the truth, they envied their victim for one reason or another, and then they could not handle the shame of their own inadequacy they had to get the victim out of their life.

Unfortunately, they are selfish, arrogant, demanding individuals, and everybody is nothing more than a pawn in their game. 
If their victim refuses to play the game, then they will be treated as an enemy, and they are likely to experience the narcissist’s rage to intimidate and control them into playing the game.

The co-narcissist’s (victim) over-identified personality characteristics, on the other hand, is in stark contrast to the pathological narcissist’s. 
Very often the co-narcissist, unlike the grandiose narcissistic, is a modest, gentle, and humble self that does not need to be the centre of attention or admiration. 
Far from feeling “special”, their humbleness keeps them grounded, allowing them to respond to the needs and wishes of others; this is an unconscious defence they used to stay safe when under the control of their pathological narcissist.

Because of working so hard to please others, unfortunately, they become out of touch with their own needs and feelings.
They prefer, for safety reasons, to fade into the background in their relationships, allowing others to have the limelight.  
They tend to become over responsible, therefore likely to take the blame for any interpersonal problems in their relationships.  They don’t look for attention or help for themselves but instead become serious problem solvers and rescuers at every opportunity for others.

The co-narcissist caretaker (victim) has no need to compete for the limelight. 
They learn early how to avoid trouble and further shaming by fading into the background and making themselves invisible, that way they are no threat to the narcissist they share their environment with. 
They become little helpers to everybody, not just Mummy’s little helper (i.e. they do the shopping, put on the dinner, clean the house, be pleasing, etc.). 

They also help outside the home (i.e. running errands for neighbours, helping the teacher, looking after the younger or more vulnerable children in school, etc.). 
Caught in a dangerous environment with a pathological narcissist (especially if it is their own home), these behaviours help the distressed child to regulate their self-esteem in a safe way.   

However, all this responsibility takes their innocence away, and they tend to become like 20-year olds trapped in a 14-year-old’s body.  With all the responsibility that they take on so young, they develop a high moral compass and an innate sense for distinguishing right from wrong. 
Often, they become the voice of conscience when they see injustice towards others.  They will fight for other people’s rights, and yet they don’t speak up for themselves most of the time.
They don’t tend to handle conflict well; any confrontation makes them feel very unsafe and shameful. 

Also, because they are highly empathic they are very sensitive to other’s pain, so when there is any disagreement, they are likely to back down rather than hurt another’s feelings or shame them. 

People see them as harmonisers who bring peace to all situations, and although they do manage to do that very well, this is likely to cost them to lose their identity in any narcissistic relationships they form. 
This is probably why they are like a magnetic force for pathological narcissists, who all want to be taken care of, and minded.  It is easy to see why the co-narcissist, as caretaker, is so valued by the narcissist, at least for as long as they satisfy their needs.

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Christine

Christine is a Psychotherapist, Educator, Author and Supervisor of mental health professionals for over 28 years. She was part of a team in the Trauma Unit of St. Brendan’s Psychiatric Hospital, Dublin, and has worked specifically with victims of pathological narcissistic abuse in her private practice for many years.
Her books, “The Three Faces of Evil: Unmasking the Full Spectrum of Narcissistic Abuse” and “When Shame Begets Shame: How Narcissists hurt and shame their victims” set out to to help those who have been affected by a narcissist and also to address the shortfalls in a therapist’s education, so that they become better equipped to work with survivors of narcissistic abuse.Much of her knowledge has come from her post-grad studies in Criminology and Forensic Psychology, and it is through these disciplines that she has gained her understanding of “The Dark Triad”, (Narcissism, Machiavellianism and Psychopathy).
These three faces of evil are vital information for understanding the full spectrum of narcissistic abuse and the dire effects on the victims.It is her vision that narcissistic abuse becomes part of the curriculum of all Mental Health clinicians.
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