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The Hidden Tyranny of the Sensitive Narcissist

Most people are familiar with the prototype of the narcissist: the person with the big ego and the arrogant attitude who always has to be the center of attention and goes over corpses to get attention. But there is an even more dangerous kind of narcissist whose insidious and destructive behavior can be hidden for much longer: the covert or sensitive narcissist.


The big misunderstanding with narcissism is often that people think that the narcissist loves too much or only himself. However, the true narcissist is incapable of love, not even for himself. A person with an actual narcissistic personality disorder is so damaged psychologically and emotionally in early childhood that he or she cannot and will not connect with his or her own inner being.

In essence, he or she is terrified of his or her own deeply hidden feelings of shame, guilt, worthlessness, inferiority, and terror. Therefore, he/she creates a false personality with which he/she tries to draw energy and attention from the outside world and to fill the enormous void within himself: the blow-jaw, the spiritual guru, the macho, the boaster, the perfect woman, etc. Meanwhile, under that layer of bluff, there is a vulnerable, damaged and highly manipulative person.


The true narcissist is only busy filling his or her own void with the energy of others, including his or her own children, with no regard for their well-being. People who have (had) an intimate relationship with a real narcissist or a narcissistic parent know all too well that a connection with a real narcissist is a dead end and destructive: you will never get the authentic, selfless love that you want as a partner, child, boyfriend or girlfriend. For the narcissist, lovers, partners, children and friends are only sources of ‘nutrition’: attention and energy that she uses to fill her void and to feel important.


The narcissist often uses charm and persuasion to get his/her way, but when the real narcissist feels threatened in his/her survival strategy, his/her original psychological ‘narcissistic wound’ is touched. Then he or she can become verbally or physically very aggressive and even violent.

The silent narcissist

In addition to the well-known extroverted, overt narcissist, who is often all too recognizable despite his charm and persuasion, there is a much lesser-known type of narcissist. This can be even more dangerous precisely because of his secret behavior because his / her true nature can remain hidden for a long time: the sensitive narcissist.

He’s such a good man… he’s just a little quiet.

The covert or sensitive narcissist is just as damaged as the extroverted, overt narcissist. They too have often been extremely neglected and psychologically, emotionally, physically and/or sexually abused in early childhood and have been unable to build an inner sense of self and self-esteem. (Note: Not everyone who has endured such abuse and neglect develops Narcissistic Personality Disorder!). The sensitive narcissist is therefore also incapable of love for himself or others.

The difference

The big difference with the overt narcissist is that where the overt narcissist is extroverted, prefers to jump on stage and appears to have an elephant skin, the sensitive narcissist is introverted and hypersensitive to anything that can threaten or damage their image and false self-image: criticizing, questioning, having a different opinion, exposing lies and raising secret, dishonest or covert behavior.


Sensitive narcissists have elevated victimhood to an art form, using anything that can get others to give them attention, care, and energy—up to real parts of their actual traumatic past. However, they will never take responsibility for their own healing and are not interested in accepting real help or therapy.

When their partners do take them to a therapist, they often only participate for form, to prevent them from getting divorced and losing their source of nutrition. Introverted narcissists prefer to live on the unlimited attention and care of partners, children, grandchildren, acquaintances, etc.

Power Sources

Incapable of real relationships and friendships, they gather around them people who are blind to the trap and sometimes start feeding them out of actual altruistic motives: their narcissistic food sources.

When they finally threaten to let them go, sometimes after years of misery and psychological abuse, they can, like the extroverted narcissist, turn to seriously manipulative and aggressive behavior, in the worst case resulting in: suicide threats, murder, arson, dismissal. , defamation, financial ruin, etc.

The Hidden Tyranny of the Silent Narcissist

The tragic prince(ss)

Sensitive narcissists work in secret and often appear to the outside world as humble, sensitive, melancholy, tragic, pathetic, and often exert a strange, hypnotic appeal . This one is different from that of the extroverted narcissist, who openly brags and brags.

The sensitive narcissist can especially exert a magnetic attraction on people who need to ‘save’ others from their own old psychological damage and fall for the charms of the ‘noble but damaged prince or princess’ who must be rescued from his tragic fate and past.

That this prince or princess takes absolutely no responsibility for his own life and well-being, has no introspection and shifts the blame for everything that goes wrong in his life onto others or the outside world, sometimes only becomes clear after years. The silent narcissist is often a master of drama, false sentiment and the use of crocodile tears.

Not deeds but words

Sensitive narcissists can also propagate high ideals or values, but if you get to know them better, you will discover that they mainly consist of a front. They rarely put their words into action and do not live up to their lofty ideals.

Behind the scenes

Behind the scenes, in their own environment, where the outside world does not see them, sensitive narcissists can unleash a real terror on their families and loved ones. Like the extroverted, arrogant narcissist, the sensitive, introverted narcissist will project and take out all the old pain and shadow parts of himself that originated in his youth on loved ones or family members.

He or she will bark at them, criticize, shame, cheat, frighten them with worsening rages and violence, and deprive them of so much love and attention that they will wear his shadow projections for him. They gradually come to believe that they are the ones who are bad, inferior, ugly and stupid – and whatever else the narcissist wants to get rid of his own unwanted, damaged inner child parts.

Chosen Children and Shadow Children

In addition, the sensitive narcissist can choose the same or sometimes changing family member, often a child, to play the role of ‘the perfect child’: he must perform and excel to feed the ego of the narcissist. Publicly, the narcissist will praise the child—but not for the child itself, and often not even in front of the child.

In addition to this ‘chosen child’, the narcissist often chooses a ‘shadow child’ or scapegoat to bear his/her worst shadow projections. This is the most barked, mistreated and withheld attention and care. But the ‘chosen child’ also receives no real love: it only serves as a signboard and feels all too well that the attention it receives is not unconditional. He or she is not loved for who he/she really is. In severe cases, both the chosen child and the shadow child also run the risk of being sexually abused.

Dynamics of the sensitive narcissist

When the narcissist is not a parent but a teacher, counselor, coach or spiritual leader, they can play the same game with students, clients, students, followers, etc. The dynamics are the same and so is the danger.
The Hidden Tyranny of the Silent Narcissist

Friends and acquaintances

In their circle of friends and acquaintances, hidden narcissists can get away with the image of the noble, suffering soul for years – until something or someone threatens to disrupt their carefully constructed world. Then they can suddenly explode and erupt into (verbal) violence or cold venom – but only at the person who threatens their world, and rarely in public, with witnesses present.

The extroverted and introverted narcissist in the spiritual world

In the spiritual world, too, you can find both types of narcissist, ranging from fairly harmless but energy-consuming to highly damaging and dangerous. The moment you find out that you are dealing with a narcissist, you are sometimes years and a lot of heartache further. That is why it is good to be aware of the different types of narcissism and of the signs that you may be dealing with a narcissist.

In addition, it is important to recognize what it is in yourself that made you perhaps come under the influence of a narcissist. When you have healed this within yourself, it will not happen to you a second (or third, fourth, fifth) time.

Signs you’re dealing with an extroverted, overt spiritual narcissist

  • – The overt spiritual narcissist is very keen on attention and public and will do anything to get publicity.
  • – He or she likes to fulfill a leadership role in which (fellow) students, clients or followers are not treated as individuals, but as food for his or her ego.
  • – The overt spiritual narcissist is very jealous and cannot bear much if others are more successful than the narcissist himself.
  • – He or she can very well play the role of the selfless spiritual leader or expert, but actually uses his or her sometimes considerable qualities for personal gain: that can be money, but also attention, power over customers and followers, prestige and status .
  • – A spiritual, overt narcissist may behave extremely charmingly, but he or she will not tolerate contradiction and may be furious or extremely mean when someone questions his or her words or practices.
  • – People who ‘drop off’ the spiritual narcissist by leaving the group, dropping out of training, etc. are treated as pariahs and sometimes even threatened: directly or through other group members under the influence of the narcissist.
  • People tend to want to follow the spiritually extroverted narcissist, see him as a savior, hold hands and deny signals that something is wrong.

Signs you’re dealing with an introverted, hidden spiritual narcissist

  • – The hidden, introverted spiritual narcissist is more likely to find you in the role of the noble martyr: the victim who has so many gifts in the house but is unable to really bring them into the world.
  • – Like the extroverted narcissists, they crave attention and prestige but will try to get it in more hidden ways: flattery, making themselves dependent on the other person, binding the other person to themselves through manipulation, deceit, exploiting their weaknesses and victimhood, etc. In addition, like the overt narcissist, they are fiercely jealous of the success of the one they first admire or want to see as a savior. They may suddenly lash out at them or at those they see as competitors for their attention.
  • – The introverted spiritual narcissist can also seem very charming and can exert an almost magical attraction on people who are prone to his dynamics.
  • – People tend to want to rescue, protect, guard, and deny signals that something is wrong with the spiritually sensitive narcissist.

What makes you fall for the charms of the spiritual narcissist?

People who come under the influence of a spiritual narcissist do not realize this at all at first. If they’re an extroverted narcissist, it’s like they’ve met the perfect religious leader, teacher, tutor, or twin flame who is finally going to give them all the attention, support, and knowledge they’ve always craved.

If it’s an introverted narcissist, it seems like they’ve met the perfect, but somewhat weak and needy twin flame, soul mate, student or client: they’re going to heal them!

the act

In all cases, the narcissist is very good at acting and manipulating: they are not even aware of it, they have been doing it all their lives and believe most strongly in their acting. That’s why they are so convincing. In addition, people who fall for the narcissist can’t really imagine that someone could be so unscrupulous and have such a total lack of empathy. They themselves are often very empathetic.


Followers of an extroverted spiritual narcissist are often unconsciously looking for the perfect father or mother who will save them or elevate them to the same status. This pattern often stems from childhood and/or past lives in which they have come to believe that they cannot stand on their own, need the brilliance, guidance, or approval of an apparently stronger or better person to survive.

Admirers and lifesavers

People who are blind to the fact that the introverted spiritual narcissist is in fact using them, either as an admirer or as a lifesaver, often have developed a survival strategy in childhood (and/or past lives) in which they are unaware of saving others as a way to earn their livelihood. You could call this the ‘saving angel’ syndrome , or the ‘need to be needed’‘. The above savior/princess patterns can even alternate within one and the same relationship with a narcissist.

Low self esteem

Often, those who become enthralled by a narcissist have low self-esteem, low self-esteem (again due to their own injuries in childhood and/or past lives). They have also developed the survival strategy of ‘helping’: helping to feel that you are allowed to be there, that you are valued, that you exist. This, of course, is a huge trap and a strategy that can make people blind to the narcissist’s manipulation. So every narcissist will find an enabler .

To ask

With all these signals and patterns, it is most important to ask yourself a number of questions:

  • – Does this relationship, course, workshop cost me more energy, money, or effort than I get in return in energy and happiness?
  • – Do I always have the vague feeling in this relationship that I am unimportant or less(worthy)?
  • – Do I never feel good in this relationship for more than a day or a few days?
    – Do I experience that this relationship mainly consists of drama?
  • – Do I often not feel good enough with this other person, teacher, therapist, spiritual leader?
  • – Do I regularly feel that I have to save the other person?
  • – Do I feel subtly humiliated and brought down by this person, for example through negative interpretations, negative readings , psychological comments about my person?
  • – Is the other going to belittle me with ‘jokes’, especially if I feel good about myself or am currently achieving something?
  • – Does the other always sabotage my happiness by always suddenly canceling, forgetting appointments, having illnesses and accidents when I want to do something fun or am about to achieve something?
  • – Am I actually, deep down, a little afraid of this person?
  • – Am I actually afraid deep down that this person won’t make it or that he/she will die if I don’t save him?
  • – Does this person sometimes have unreasonable outbursts of anger that make me feel anxious?
  • – Doesn’t this person actually take real responsibility for his own well-being?
  • – Am I often confused about what is true and what is not true after a conversation with this person?

If the answer to most questions is yes, then you may be dealing with a (spiritual) narcissist.

What now?

If you suspect that you are dealing with a (spiritual) narcissist, it is wise to do further research into narcissism and its manifestations. It is important to protect yourself and any children against (further) abuse or psychological abuse.

There are good websites with more information not only about narcissism in the family , but also about the tactics that people with narcissistic personality disorder, sociopaths and psychopaths use in families and businesses: like this very enlightening website about serial bullies ( in Dutch).

When you are out of reach of the (spiritual) narcissist, it is important to take steps to start healing yourself and your own hurt parts. If you call in external help for this, make sure that the practitioner does not have narcissistic traits himself; and that he or she is familiar with narcissism and working with survivors of narcissistic abuse.


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