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13 Feb

What Is Vulnerable Narcissism & What Makes This One So Dangerous

You’ve no doubt heard the term narcissist, but did you know there are different types? Vulnerable narcissism is the sneakiest one of them all.

If you know a narcissist, you’ll no doubt have an in-depth knowledge of the specific tactics they use to get their own way. If you don’t know a narcissist, it’s possible that you’ve met one, but that you kept away from them, simply because of an intuitive feeling they were no good. But did you know about vulnerable narcissism?

Being in a relationship with any narcissist is exhausting, damaging, and no fun in the slightest. I’m speaking from experience here.

Who is a narcissist?

If you’re not sure what a narcissist is, it’s someone with a specific personality disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder. It is characterized by surprisingly low self-esteem, but covered up by a ‘I’m better than everyone else’ attitude, and manipulative behavior which drags down those around them. You’ve probably heard of gaslighting, a type of abusive manipulation which narcissists use commonly.

There are many different types of narcissist, e.g. classic narcissists, the most common type, ranging up towards malignant narcissists. The latter is a type of narcissist you do not want in your life. This type of person is extremely manipulative. In fact, there are studies which show them to share specific traits with sociopaths and psychopaths.

As you can see, no fun at all.

There is another type of narcissist which you might not flag straight away. This is a type which flies under the radar to a certain degree. Sucking you in and making you feel sorry for them, before they unleash their sneaky manipulation tactics on you.

This is vulnerable narcissism.

What is a vulnerable narcissist?

When you first meet this type of person, they’re quiet and don’t push themselves forward into the conversation. They certainly don’t talk about themselves or try and go one better than everyone else.

Then, just when you think you’ve discovered a nice, quiet, unassuming person, the sly, negative remarks begin.

Vulnerable narcissism isn’t characterized by “look how great I am.” It’s characterized by feelings that the world owes them a favor and everyone is out to get them. It’s draining, to say the least.

Vulnerable narcissists are sensitive to the extreme. If you make a remark that is no way intended for them, they will assume it is and take great offense. They can switch from perfectly fine to extremely offended in an instant, making conversations a total minefield.

The traits of vulnerable narcissism

Regular narcissism is quite clear. This is someone who must have the best of everything, one-up everyone, and is always right, while everyone else is wrong. On the other hand, vulnerable narcissism is quite different.

The main traits of vulnerable narcissism are:

– Feeling and acting helpless

– Acting emotional, despite the fact they don’t have much in the way of empathy for others

– Not opening up about their true feelings, e.g. acting in a reticent way

– Extremely sensitive and take offense easily

– Despite being sensitive, they don’t use this to help others or recognize their feelings, it’s entirely turned inwards

– Everything is about them, and if it’s not, they will turn it around so that it is

– They are perfectionists, but they think that they’re perfect and nobody else sees it

– Regularly act as a victim

– Never take responsibility for their actions and instead blame it on someone else

– They believe everyone is out to prove them wrong or to get them, simply because they’re better than everyone else

– Regularly use passive-aggressive types of behavior

As you can see, there are some classic narcissistic traits in there, but their extreme sensitivity sets them apart. Having a conversation with a vulnerable narcissist is a total minefield. You must watch everything you say and even the slightest thing could be taken completely out of context.

Vulnerable narcissism also doesn’t come over as charming, unlike classic narcissism. Instead it comes across as judgmental, condescending, and a little smug. A vulnerable narcissist might seem likable at first, but after a while the cracks show.

Why vulnerable narcissists are quite dangerous

Malignant narcissists are very dangerous. These are certainly the most worrying of all the different types. However, a vulnerable narcissist is able to suck you in and hit you on the counter-punch, so to speak.

You feel sorry for them at first, but then you’re dragged down into their pool of negativity. You’re also extremely likely to say something which they will take personally, whether you meant it about them or not.

Vulnerable narcissists are extremely talented at taking a seemingly innocent remark and turning it, twisting it, making it about them, and then being so sensitive to it that it’s as though you’ve done something terrible to their pet cat.

The subtle approach of the vulnerable narcissist is what makes them dangerous. You might think they’re the exact opposite of a classic narcissist. Don’t be fooled. They have a lot more in common with the classics than you might think. They use underhanded tactics to draw you in and manipulate you in the exact same way.

Gaslighting, when done by a vulnerable narcissist can be even more successful, simply because you can’t see what they’re doing. This person doesn’t act overly confident. Instead, they appear a victim, someone you could easily hurt. Why would they be trying to hurt you? That’s what they want you to think.

The inherent risks of vulnerable narcissism

Vulnerable narcissism also makes a person a higher risk for developing conditions like depression. This sets them apart in some ways from their classic counterparts. They genuinely believe the world is out to get them. It can lead to paranoia and depression, perhaps even anxiety. The difference? They never truly believe that they’re lacking. They always believe they’re better than everyone, it’s just that nobody else can see it.

Put simply, being around a vulnerable narcissist can be frustrating at best, and damaging at worst. You won’t believe their manipulative tactics, because they’re too busy making you feel sorry for them. If you’re someone who is full of empathy, someone who is sensitive to the emotions of others, you’re a prime target for this type of narcissist, I’m afraid.

Empaths in particular are prime targets. They want to “save” the narcissist and make them feel better by dragging them out of their “everyone hates me” attitude. But nobody can save a narcissist unless they want to be saved. Even then, they have to do it themselves. This is done via treatment with a professional who can help rewire the brain and use complex cognitive behavior therapy to change the way they think and perceive the world and their emotions.

The fact that most narcissists don’t believe they’re ever wrong, and certainly don’t believe there’s anything wrong with them, means only a very small amount will ever take up such treatment.

Vulnerable narcissism is an under the radar type of narcissism. But it doesn’t show itself until you’re in their grasp. You feel sorry for them at first, but then their negativity and manipulation tactics will drag you down to their level. 

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