Tag Archives: Covert narcissists

5 Signs You’re Dealing with a Dangerous Narcissistic “Healer,” Therapist or Guru

Awareness of narcissistic abuse and its effects is quickly becoming more and more widespread. As the survivor community grows online in blogs, forums, Instagram pages, Facebook communities and across real life communities, the number of “healers” and “gurus” who purport to help survivors on their journey continues to expand as well.

While there are many incredible therapists, coaches, spiritual guides, authors, bloggers and advocates in a number of different fields who can provide a great deal of rich wisdom to the survivor community, there are also predators who mask themselves as healers in order to gain narcissistic supply (praise, admiration and/or resources). When consulting these resources, it is important to distinguish between authentic advocates who genuinely want to help and those who are looking to exploit survivors at their most vulnerable stage of the healing journey.

These predatory covert narcissists, like wolves in sheep’s clothing, are incredibly dangerous to the survivor community, because they pose the harm of retraumatizing victims who have already been through the psychological wringer.

Be wary: narcissists come in all shapes and sizes, and can wear many masks, including that of the philanthropist, the spiritual leader and even therapist.

Here are five signs you might be dealing with a narcissistic ‘guru’ or healer.

1. They engage in monopolization and sabotage of any perceived competitors.

Narcissistic gurus and healers feel entitled to be the only source of authority on a certain topic; genuine advocates understand the importance of sharing helpful information, even if it does not come from them. As Dr. Neuharth points out in his article, “14 Ways Narcissists Can Be Like Cult Leaders,” a narcissist ensures that his or her group is in an intellectual bubble of sorts, filtering out any information that threatens to overtake, undermine or compete with the views of the cult leader.

The narcissistic leader or ‘healer’ is not unlike a cult leader who discourages dissent among his or her followers and tries to limit incoming information that could threaten their guru-like status in the community. In this context, he or she attempts to filter out information from the survivor community by disparaging other perspectives and even actively attempting to undermine the credibility of any other healers or advocates who are performing similar work.

Rather than acknowledging that there are multiple voices, perspectives and sources of insight available to the survivor community, narcissistic gurus believe they own the ‘monopoly’ on discussing certain topics or issuing advice.

Many predatory ‘healers’ even go so far as to sabotage anyone they consider to be competition.  This includes therapists who are actually covert narcissists in disguise. Genuine therapists are interested in helping their clients and know they don’t have all the answers. Predatory gurus, on the other hand,  refuse to see the value of the survivor community benefiting from the wisdom and expertise of multiple people from a variety of fields. They are extremely condescending and treat those they deem “below” them with contempt. These frauds aren’t interested in what is best for survivors. They are more interested in building their own reputation and carrying out their own agendas.

You can usually tell you’re dealing with a narcissistic predator masked as advocate when he or she begins undercutting the work of other popular therapists, writers or coaches in an attempt to elevate their own work. Authentic advocates don’t have the time nor the energy to ever consider anyone as “competition” – they focus on their own work and promote the work of others that they also see as valuable, because they know that the more knowledge and awareness spread on the subject of covert abuse, the better.

2. They charge excessive costs in exchange for minimum value.

Don’t get me wrong – everyone should get paid for their work – whether that work happens to be in the arena of alternative healing methods or something more traditional. Yet there’s a difference between paying for value and overpaying for someone’s grandiose sense of entitlement.

Beware of retreats that cost thousands of dollars or expensive “healing” sessions where the practitioner continues to charge for sessions at an excessive rate without providing quality help. Narcissistic gurus do not believe in cost-friendly options. For them, the monetary gain is far more important than the well-being of their clients.

Narcissistic personality clinical expert Dr. Martinez-Lewi calls these money-hungry ‘healers’ “covert narcissists hiding in holiness.” According to her, survivors who are desperate to heal can unwittingly become “victims of some of the worst covert narcissists–those who play the martyr, saintly role masterfully. [These covert narcissists] have been taking advantage of emotionally vulnerable and fragile individuals for decades. They know just how to play them. They look deeply into the spiritual neophyte’s eyes and draw them into their trust. That is the beginning of the hypnotic fusing that takes place.”

As survivors ‘bond’ with covert narcissistic gurus, they may continue to hand over their hard-earned money continually without realizing they’ve been taken in. Authentic advocates who want to help survivors may charge for their services, but they know how to do so in a way that is also efficient for the consumer. For example, an author who is interested in providing his or her readers with the best deal may offer a cost-efficient bundle of books; a life coach may frequently provide discounts on coaching programs or offer a free consultation; a therapist may offer a sliding scale for any clients who may be struggling; a local Reiki healer may offer a Groupon or Yelp deal. There are many ways to offer one’s services while remaining accessible to survivors who need it.

For the genuine advocate, their customer’s needs always come into consideration. For a narcissistic guru, the quality of their services are less prioritized than their potential revenue.

3. They exhibit a “their way or the highway” philosophy rather than the idea that “it takes a village.” 

As mentioned earlier, authentic healers know that they are not the only voice of wisdom. They understand, intuitively, that their particular skill sets, perspectives and methods may not be for everyone and they are able to acknowledge that without being vindictive, envious or threatened by others in their field. In fact, they encourage their clients to consult other valid resources outside of themselves. If there is something they themselves don’t specialize in or don’t have life experience to refer to, they feel absolutely comfortable referring their clients to someone who can help them as supplementary resources.

This applies to communities for spiritual practices as well. If a yoga instructor hears that one of their students attends other yoga studios, that same instructor encourages, rather than discourages this, knowing that the yogi will become even more experienced as a result. If a meditation teacher sees their student dabble in different types of meditation, he or she doesn’t attempt to convince that same student that there is a certain type of meditation that is the “only” path to enlightenment. He or she doesn’t try to persuade the student to only stick with one type of practice or police their spiritual practices outside of their studio.

Truly enlightened people know that there are many paths to inner guidance and that everyone’s journey is different. They are there not to be the sole voice of reason for their clients, but rather to guide their clients to tap into and honor their own inner voice. True “gurus” don’t act like or position themselves as gurus – they invite others to access their own insight.

4. They participate in unethical practices and violation of boundaries.

Building upon this, genuine advocates for survivors know their source of expertise as well as their limitations. They know how to best help others from their own unique perspective. If they are researchers and writers, they focus on research and writing. If they are therapists, their primary focus is providing therapy to clients. If they are coaches, they do not step over into the territory of therapists by ‘treating’ disorders in real life or practicing trauma treatment methods that they would need to be trained in to offer (ex. EMDR). They are mindful of potential triggers and set clear expectations from the get-go.

Good practitioners in any healing field also do not cross the boundaries of their clients or build any inappropriate relationships that cause their clients to become excessively dependent upon them. They do not bully, coerce, invalidate, sexually violate or retraumatize their clients in any way. They do not become enraged if a client chooses to set boundaries with them. They are able to act professionally and mindfully, knowing what they can and cannot do within their particular realm of expertise. They also do not take it upon themselves to impose their own problems onto their clients or make their clients responsible for their own emotional issues. On the other hand, they know when to respectfully terminate or set boundaries in a relationship where the client is becoming excessively dependent or violating their boundaries. 

According to Dr. Disch, “Good, boundaried psychotherapy, pastoral counseling, addiction counseling, bodywork, medical practice, etc. should always be oriented to your emotional and medical needs and not to the emotional needs of the practitioner.”

5. They provide false hope and egregiously improbable promises.

Narcissistic gurus promise miracles that they rarely deliver – lofty claims like the ability to heal medical problems from a distance or heal complex trauma within a matter of minutes. They may attempt to offer programs or books that will help you “fix” an abuser or get them to act in certain ways. They might encourage dangerous forms of spiritual bypassing, shaming victims into forgiving or feeling compassion for their abusers as a way to heal before they’ve even begun processing their emotions. These services are harmful and can be very damaging to the healing survivor, especially if that survivor is looking for false hope that his or her abuser will change or are looking for a “quick fix” for the traumas they’ve experienced.

Authentic healers know their own limitations and understand what they can realistically offer to their clientele within their qualifications. They do not feed their clients false hope in an effort to get more money or clients – instead, they stick to the truth and what will best help their particular clients on their healing journey. They would rather lose out on a potential client if they know that client is better off with a different healer who can best meet their needs. To them, it is not about the quantity of clients – it is about the quality of the connection and services offered.

Be selective and mindful when consulting resources, forums and blogs in the survivor community. Many resources are helpful for the survivor, but others can be retraumatizing depending on the advocates and moderators involved.

It is essential to know the difference between advocates who are ethical, boundaried and have an authentic desire to help and covert narcissists who are looking for narcissistic supply under the guise of being healers.

And remember: a license is never a guarantee that someone is emotionally safe.

References

Disch, E. (2015, January 01). Treatment Abuse Checklist. Retrieved July 8, 2017, from http://www.survivingtherapistabuse.com/treatment-abuse-checklist/

Martinez-Lewi, L. (2013, August 15). Covert narcissists hiding in holiness. Retrieved July 8, 2017, from http://thenarcissistinyourlife.com/covert-narcissists-hiding-in-holiness-yoga-divas-spiritual-gurus/

Neuharth, D. (2017, April 13). 14 ways narcissists can be like cult leaders. Retrieved July 8, 2017, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/narcissism-decoded/2017/03/14-ways-narcissists-can-be-like-cult-leaders/

This article was first published on Psych Central as 5 Signs You’re Dealing With A Narcissistic Guru.


Shahida Arabi is a summa cum laude graduate of Columbia University graduate school, where she studied the effects of bullying across the life-course trajectory. She is the #1 Amazon bestselling author of three books, including Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself, featured as a #1 Amazon Bestseller in three categories and as a #1 Amazon bestseller in personality disorders for twelve consecutive months after its release. Her most recent bookPOWER: Surviving and Thriving After Narcissistic Abuse, was also featured as a #1 Amazon best seller in Applied Psychology.

She is the founder of the popular blog for abuse survivors, Self-Care Haven, which has millions of views from all over the world. Her work has been shared and endorsed by numerous clinicians, mental health advocates, mental health professionals and bestselling authors. For her undergraduate education, Shahida graduated summa cum laude from NYU where she studied English Literature and Psychology. She is passionate about using her knowledge base in psychology, sociology, gender studies and mental health to help survivors empower themselves after emotional abuse and trauma. Her writing has been featured on The National Domestic Violence Hotline, The Huffington Post, MOGUL, The Meadows, Thought Catalog and Harvard-trained psychologist Dr. Monica O’Neal’s website.

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11 Things I Learned About Narcissists And Sociopaths By Age 27 – That I Wish Everyone Knew

“How can you be so young and know so much about narcissism and psychopathy?” I’ve been met with this question frequently as an author in my twenties who writes about psychological abuse and covert emotional predators. The answer is, on the surface, simple: the child of a narcissistic parent becomes primed to meet more predators in adulthood. We tend to have porous boundaries, a high degree of empathy, resilience and intuition that gets used against us by toxic people. So we often go through a lifetime’s worth of experiences early on that give us hard-won wisdom and insights about toxic people at every point on the spectrum.

I’ve met toxic people across various contexts – from romantic to platonic to professional. From the familial to the foe. From the garden-variety narcissist to the eerie psychopath or sociopath (colloquial terms for those with antisocial traits and a lack of conscience).

I took my findings from childhood and supplemented my real-life experiences with an educational background in psychology and sociology in adulthood. I spent years communicating with and surveying survivors of covert emotional abuse about their experiences.

As a result, I learned not only to identify predators, but to study them, to find ways to counter their manipulative tactics and help other survivors like myself detach and heal.

Here are eleven things I learned about sociopaths, narcissists and toxic people by the age of twenty-seven – that I think everyone should know…

READ HERE: 11 Things I Learned About Narcissists And Sociopaths By Age 27 That I Wish Everyone Knew 

3 Sneaky Techniques Covert Narcissists Use to Disarm and Demean You

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We’re all familiar with loud, bold, and overly confident overt narcissists. These types of narcissists are visibly grandiose, aggressively posturing their superiority for all to see. They may be vain and somatic, overly focused on their appearance, or they may be on the more cerebral end, contemptuously putting down anyone and everyone who threatens their so-called intellectual superiority.

Fortunately, overt narcissists are usually easy to spot and hopefully easier to avoid investing in. Covert narcissists, on the other hand, present new challenges; they can appear meek, innocent, charitable, even humble at first glance. They can be disarmingly seductive, even loving, personable and gracious.

Yet beneath their quieter nature and seemingly sensitive façade lurks a contempt and sense of entitlement that is ultimately even more harmful simply because it is so startling and traumatizing to the victims who bear witness to it. Their tactics work to diminish, demean and sabotage their victims behind the scenes – which is why their manipulation and exploitation can leave their loved ones blindsided and reeling from the unexpected psychological violence they subject them to. Here are three manipulation techniques that covert narcissists use and tips on how to stay grounded if you encounter one:

1. Mixed put-downs, double meanings and coded language.

A mixed put-down occurs when a covert narcissist is threatened by someone else’s intelligence, accomplishments, status, appearance or any other resources he or she may covet. It involves throwing the victim off the pedestal while also offering potential for getting back on it. In order to put their victims down while still evading accountability, the covert narcissist will first provide a sweet compliment, followed by a backhanded “slap” of sorts (ex. “Wow Mary, you’ve really lost weight! Too bad about the sagging skin, huh?”).

This can also occur vice versa – the narcissist may first attack with an overly critical stance, only to seemingly ‘soften’ the blow with a crumb of a compliment to create confusion in the victim (ex. “You do know you’re completely wrong about that, right? Well, you’re hardworking, at least, I’ll give you that.”). This will allow their put-down to appear more like a legitimate critique rather than an excuse to tear you down unnecessarily. It “trains” and conditions the victim over time to seek the narcissist’s approval and validation.

Covert narcissists can even get creative and send a mixed message by contradicting their seemingly innocuous words with a devious undercurrent. For example, this may include giving you a compliment with a condescending tone of voice, relaying a humorous “joke” at your expense with a contemptuous look, using a startling gesture or provocative facial expression or saying something that can easily have two meanings (one innocent, and the other, abusive). Of course, they will do everything possible to convince you that they never “meant” to communicate the more malicious meaning, but the underlying undercurrent of something deeper is always present in such an interaction.

They may also engage in what I like to call “coded” language. This can involve putting you down in front of others by poking fun at something they know you’re sensitive about, but others may not realize is a vulnerability of yours. Much like an inside joke, the knowledge of how this comment affects you is shared between you both, but unlike an inside joke, it is meant to undermine you rather than build rapport. It also serves to evoke reactions in you that may seem excessive to any outsider looking in. This is a way for them to get away with their abusive behavior and provoke the victim to react in public. They then use their victim’s reactions to prove the victim’s “instability” while casting themselves as the innocent party.

To understand why covert narcissists employ these methods, remember that their ability to prey upon a victim’s uncertainty allows them to create a sophisticated “Gaslighting Effect.” In her article, “Effects of Gaslighting in Narcissistic Victim Syndrome,”psychotherapist Christine Louis de Canonville describes how this effect is amplified over time:

“The gaslighting, as a harassment technique, starts with a series of subtle mind games that intentionally preys on the gaslightee’s limited ability to tolerate ambiguity or uncertainty. This is done in order to undercut the victim’s trust in their own reality and sense of self. Even when the victim is bewildered and left wondering, “What just happened there?”, there is reluctance to see the gaslighter for what they are…it is this denial that is the cornerstone of the gaslighting relationship.”

Essentially, the victim reduces his or her own cognitive dissonance and confusion by choosing to “believe” in the abuser’s version of events. Slowly but surely, these covert put-downs, coded messages and ambiguous comments become integrated into a warped reality that the covert manipulator creates for his or her victim. 

Tip: When encountering a put-down like this, avoid reacting to the narcissist’s hypercriticism as much as possible. Instead, validate your own accomplishments and leave the conversation as soon as possible. The more emotionally reactive you are to a put-down, the more likely the covert narcissist will store that information and use the same exact tactic again in order to provoke you. If you react to their hurtful tactics and coded language in public, rest assured they will use your reactions as “proof” that you are somehow unstable. Keep your cool in public whenever possible and if possible, address it to them in private (though, it is likely they will never own up to it) if you have to.

If you are feeling baffled as to whether or not you’ve experienced a covert put-down, compare the way the narcissist has reacted to your success to the way other, healthier people in your life have. Chances are, the healthy people in your life congratulated and celebrated you in whatever arena the narcissist is currently putting you down in. This is a sign that the narcissist’s criticism stems not from helpfulness, but rather from their pathological envy.

2. The great diversion.

The covert narcissist does whatever is possible to distract you from the fact that they are putting you down in the first place. That means that they will create all sorts of diversions to get you from staying grounded in your own sense of what has just happened. This serves to disguise their malicious intent to gain control and power over you by keeping you in a state of perpetually walking on eggshells. Instead of focusing on holding them accountable for their behavior, they get you to refocus on your own behavior, personality, or fabricated flaws.

One second, they may be making a harsh, cruel comment about your body, and the next second, they’re being disarmingly sweet and complimentary about how slender you are, as well as how you “read too deeply into things” when you express your confusion about the sudden “switch.” Another minute, they’re planning a romantic evening out with you, and the next, they’re blaming you for expecting that of them in the first place – even if it was their idea to treat you in the first place. By intermittently switching from pain to pleasure, from dissatisfaction to loving admiration, they are able to hide the fact that they’re constantly shifting blame onto you.

This is how they “divert” from the fact that they’re putting you down and setting you up for failure by constantly shifting the goal posts. It is also how they change the subject rapidly when they are confronted on their shady behavior. Phrases such as, “I am not going to argue with you,” or “This isn’t worth pursuing” is common when they are called out on their insidious tactics.  No matter what you do or don’t do, the narcissist will rarely be satisfied and you will never be satisfied by their inability to ever take responsibility.

Tip: Stay true to what you experienced and observe the long-term patterns of behavior rather than what the narcissist claims to be doing or not doing. A narcissist’s longer-term predatory behavior will tell you far more than their contradictory words ever will. When a narcissist tries to “divert” you from the main topic by pointing out something irrelevant you did or said, or tries to stonewall you by ending the conversation even before it’s had a chance to begin, repeat the facts, stay focused on the issue and end the interaction without giving into their gaslighting attempts.

3. Tunnel vision minimization.

This is when the narcissist develops “tunnel vision” by hyperfocusing on something irrelevant or unrelated to minimize something you’ve accomplished, are proud of or something they know is considered an asset of yours. If you’ve graduated with a Master’s, the covert narcissist might start demanding to know when you plan to get your Ph.D; if you recently signed the lease on your dream apartment, they might change the subject to something in your neighborhood that seems unsavory or mundane. To a narcissist, there is always a way to get under your skin and inside of your head.

The presence of minimization can usually help you identify who the narcissist is in a group setting; while others are congratulating you on a job well done, the narcissist is often lurking in the corner, sulking and ready to burst your bubble like a needle to a balloon with a backhanded compliment, excessive critique or a “helpful” obnoxious reminder of something they perceive you’re lacking.

Remember: when a covert narcissist causes you to feel insecure, uncertain and unbalanced, it is often because they don’t want to deal with their own emotional issues and the fact that they may not be as special or unique as they desperately want to believe. This is what narcissism expert Dr. Craig Malkin (2015) calls playing “emotional hot potato,” where the narcissist continually passes off any unwanted feelings onto their victims. Minimization and projection act as self-serving tactics for the narcissist to avoid the discrepancy between the grandiose, false self and the true self.

Tip: Resist the minimization and maximize your self-validation. Instead of focusing on the narcissist’s envious attempts to minimize you, refocus on the people who are celebrating you. Realize that in the narcissist’s minimization is a secret confession of their own sense of ineptitude and entitlement; they want to be exactly where you are and have what you have but they know they never will. You really are that threatening to their false sense of superiority.

Most importantly, celebrate yourself. Self-validation and self-love are two of the most powerful tools you can have when conquering the sabotage of a covert narcissist.

References

De Canonville, C. L. (2016, October). The effects of gaslighting in Narcissistic Victim Syndrome. Retrieved July 16, 2017, from http://www.narcissisticbehavior.net/the-effects-of-gaslighting-in-narcissistic-victim-syndrome/

De Canonville, C. L. (2016, September). Revealing the two faces of narcissism: Overt and covert narcissism. Retrieved July 16, 2017, from http://www.narcissisticbehavior.net/revealing-the-two-faces-of-narcissism-overt-and-covert-narcissism/

Hammond, C. (2016, September 06). How to Identify a Covert Narcissist. Retrieved July 16, 2017, from http://www.pro.psychcentral.com/exhausted-woman/2016/09/how-to-identify-a-covert-narcissist/

Malkin, C. (2015, November). Rethinking Narcissism (Episode 4) [Audio blog post]. Retrieved July 16, 2017, from http://www.drcraigmalkin.com/podcast/DCM-Podcast-Episode-4.pdf

Photograph by Sergey Nivens. Standard License via Shutterstock.

This article originally appeared on Psych Central as 3 Sneaky Techniques Covert Narcissists Use to Disarm and Demean You on July 17, 2017.

Copyright © 2017 by Shahida Arabi. 

All rights reserved. No part of this entry may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author. This includes adaptations in all forms of media.

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About Shahida Arabi, Bestselling Author

Shahida Arabi is a summa cum laude graduate of Columbia University graduate school, where she studied the effects of bullying across the life-course trajectory. She is the #1 Amazon bestselling author of three books, including Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself, featured as a #1 Amazon Bestseller in three categories and as a #1 Amazon bestseller in personality disorders for twelve consecutive months after its release. Her most recent bookPOWER: Surviving and Thriving After Narcissistic Abuse, was also featured as a #1 Amazon best seller in Applied Psychology.

She is the founder of the popular blog for abuse survivors, Self-Care Haven, which has millions of views from all over the world. Her work has been shared and endorsed by numerous clinicians, mental health advocates, mental health professionals and bestselling authors. For her undergraduate education, Shahida graduated summa cum laude from NYU where she studied English Literature and Psychology. She is passionate about using her knowledge base in psychology, sociology, gender studies and mental health to help survivors empower themselves after emotional abuse and trauma. Her writing has been featured on The National Domestic Violence Hotline, The Huffington Post, MOGUL, The Meadows, Thought Catalog and Harvard-trained psychologist Dr. Monica O’Neal’s website.