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The Closet Narcissist Disorder of the Self

February is upon us and there is one more character type I feel obliged to describe so you all have a fairly thorough template of types to help you understand aspects of yourself and others. The Closet Narcissist is an interesting type as their narcissism is not as obvious as the Narcissistic personality disorder I described in a prior post. Rather than the blatant grandiose, self-centered, exhibitionistic Narcissist, the Closet Narcissist is subtler and lives underground as she serves the grandiose Narcissist in order to get her Narcissistic needs met.

This dynamic is often most noticeable in couples. There is one star performer or dysfunctional dominator and an accomplice hiding behind the more overt individual. The lead performer enjoys having someone to dominate and control, someone he commandeers to serve his needs and boosts his ego. The more subservient partner gets to share the light of fame, fortune, success or, more often, simply false bravado founded on nothing. The Closet Narcissist gets to feel important and special as he or she idealizes the other. The Closet Narcissist feeds off the projections she places on her mate; maybe his educational credentials, her powerful position at work, his accomplishments, her glamorous looks, his impressive motorcycle or his false sense of pride and cockiness built on the surface without substance or foundation. The Closet Narcissist feels weak and deflated inside and relies on the other to feel any sense of cohesion. Plus she can tag along on a ride with the dictating spouse and live a life that appears special; one that the person is unable to accomplish on her own. The Closet Narcissist lives the other’s life; takes trips decided by the mate on their terms for their benefit and the Closet Narcissist goes along because he can’t decide what he wants anyway.

This template can grow out of being raised by a Narcissistic parent or parents. If one had a grandiose larger than life parent, the child usually looked up to that parent and liked the glow he or she created. The parent may have accomplished little, but acted important or special. Often the parent was enamored and impressed by superficial values, materialism, good looks, power, presentation and general undeserved inflation and the child learned to emulate those values.

The child could not grow her Self as no one was truly interested in what mattered to her. The parents were more interested in promoting their own needs and the children were extensions of the parents and did not exist in their own right. That inhibited the child’s growth as an individual in her own right as she suffered the abandonment of self-engrossed or neglectful parents. Parental grandiosity can set a precedent of loyal submission and care-taking modes in the child. The child learns to serve the parent as demanded. The child is an extension of the parent and exists only for that reason – the trophy child filling the empty, yet camouflaged hole within the parent.

The Closet Narcissist inherits the internal emptiness as he has not had the opportunity to grow the self and accomplish the tasks of establishing his own identity. He can feel like an empty shell when he is not feeding on the other’s glory. When he feeds on the other, he can feel entitled too and experience the narcissistic good feelings of specialness, power and perfection. When he stands alone, the emptiness strikes and his lack of identity and self-worth are illuminated.

The Closet Narcissist is prone to fits of jealousy, envy and can be aggressive toward self and other. If her narcissistic identifications are threatened she can feel angry, vengeful and antagonistic. She wants to rein supreme, be competitive and special and will not give up her fragile identifications easily. Even if it is a less obvious power position, she still identifies with specialness, privilege and pride even if positioned through another. She can, at times, hate herself because she hasn’t grown an authentic self and knows she is a fraud hiding behind the other. When she suffers a narcissistic injury, she can feel humiliation and shame at being found out.

As in all the character types, one can grow up out of a defensive pattern and develop one’s true nature. Each of us deserves to be authentically who we are as we listen carefully to the tune of our own being. We have to focus on who we are and not hide behind others as a mask. We can establish our own self-worth through self-trust, discipline, focus and loyalty to our self above all. Then we shine on our own, live freely as we are, make the demands we need to make and have our life be a manifestation of what we love to be and to do. We can make a contribution to others from the light we generate from within and our light is our own — not a reflection of another’s source of energy.


This Post Has 3 Comments
  1. I wish true Narcissist’s wouldn’t read this to threatened a spouse and diagnose them.
    Then abuse them by name calling,keep hostage,control money etc.
    It’s been a difficult journey.

    1. I understand. Information must never be used as an abusive tactic and defense to harm another; that is misuse of information. And a narcissist defense is to attack others.

  2. This post describes perhaps what the rest of the therapeutic community calls the “co-dependent.” I would like to think that diagnosis in Orgonomic theory exists in a dimensional model, e.g. that narcissism exists on a scale rather than classifications. I mention that because I believe I fit some of the “dichotomous” criteria listed in this article but certainly not all. And I have a great deal of empathy for others, I also was not raised by a narcissist. But for whatever reason, I am always engaged in romantic relationships with narcissistic women, (typically covert narcissism). The diagnosis of a “closet narcissist” almost sounds like a death sentence to me. However, I believe with some therapy, some training on how to recognize manipulative behavior, and how to deal with one’s own emotional responses, I think anyone (including myself) can improve and not be a “closet narcissist.”

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