Example—Ted and Sue on a date
Ted, an Exhibitionist Narcissist businessman, went on a first date with an attractive woman Sue whom he met through an Internet dating site. Here is how each of them described their date later:
Ted: “I really impressed her! I told her about how many important people I know, and I took her to a fancy restaurant and I ordered a fabulous dinner for her and chose an excellent wine that she had never tasted before. I can’t wait for the next date. She is hot! Next time we will end up at my apartment for the night.”
Sue: “Boy, that was a wasted evening. My date was so obnoxious. All he did was talk about himself all night. He didn’t ask me one question about me. Then he insisted on ordering a steak dinner and red wine for me over my protests. I never eat red meat and the salmon really looked good. I wanted to try this peach and vodka cocktail, but he insisted on this special wine instead. That was how it was all night. Everything was what he wanted. If he ever texts or calls me again, I won’t bother picking up.”
Basic Exhibitionist Narcissist Relationship Style: They are insensitive and bossy. They expect whomever they are with to admire and agree with them about everything. Disagreement is seen as criticism and is met with devaluation They need continual reassurance that they are special, perfect, and always right.
- Closet Narcissists
Unlike their Exhibitionist Narcissist “cousins,” Closet Narcissists are uncomfortable when the spotlight is directly on them. They want to be “special,” but they are conflicted. They have usually been trained since childhood that they will be attacked if they openly display themselves for admiration. They often have had an Exhibitionist Narcissist parent who devalued them because he or she saw them as competition. They were only rewarded with praise for admiring their Exhibitionistic parent. Their own narcissistic grandiosity was squashed or was deeply buried in their personality.
In general, Closet Narcissists tend to be more insecure than Exhibitionist Narcissists. They feel too exposed and vulnerable to enjoy being the center of admiring attention. They are afraid that other people will see all their flaws and attack and devalue them the way their Narcissistic parent did. Instead they find ways to attach themselves to people, causes, religions, and other things that they admire and consider special. They then feel special by association.
They do not say: I am special, admire me!
They say: This is perfect and special. You should admire this! (my religion, my lover, my school, this book, etc.)
Instead of being openly demanding, Closet Narcissists sometimes try to manipulate the situation to get their way indirectly. They may play the victim and use your pity to persuade you to do what they want. They often pretend to be much nicer than they really feel inside.
Many people with Closet Narcissistic Personality Disorder allow themselves to be used by their more confident friends. They live for the praise that they hope to get by working hard for the people, causes, and groups that they admire. There is a song in the movie “Beaches” called “The Wind Beneath My Wings” that beautifully describes the type of appreciation that most Closet Narcissists dream about getting from the people that they idealize.
Example—Ted and Lara on a date
Ted is the Exhibitionist Narcissist that we met in my earlier example with Sue. Now he is out on a first date with Lara, who has a Closet Narcissist Disorder. Here they are each describing the date later.
Ted: He says exactly the same thing about his date with Lara as he did about Sue. Ted repeats basically the same first date with every new woman. For Exhibitionist Narcissists such as Ted, women are basically interchangeable as long as they serve the same function for him.
“I really impressed her! I told her about how many important people I know, and I took her to a fancy restaurant and I ordered a fabulous dinner for her and chose an excellent wine that she had never tasted before. I can’t wait for the next date. She is hot! Next time we will end up at my apartment for the night.”
Lara: “Ted is so wonderful! I can’t believe he wants me. He is so masterful! I love that he took charge and ordered for me. How did he know that I love steak and a good red wine? He is so perceptive.”
As a Closet Narcissist, Lara looks up to Ted and idealizes him for the exact same qualities that non-Narcissistic Sue found obnoxious. Lara also misunderstands Ted. Unlike Sue who quickly realized how selfish Ted was being by ordering for her, Lara idealizes him for it. She mistakes his selfishness for confidence.