Relational aggression is a big problem these days. And those out to harm you or your relationships can be overt or covert about it. Skilled covert-aggressors can even use surrogates to defame you or undermine your relationships. That way, they leave no “fingerprints” of their evildoing. Why do they do it? We used to think they came from a fearful, insecure place. But we now know they simply lack empathy.
Relationships with heartless characters follow a typical course. You get seduced by the tremendous interest someone shows in you. And most importantly, you mistake the interest for caring. Only later do you realize how utterly expendable you are, especially once you’ve outlived your usefulness.
Brash and vulgar narcissists naturally offend us. So, we naturally want to keep our distance and watch our backs. But charming narcissists are in some ways more dangerous. Like I say in In Sheep’s Clothing, dealing with them can be like getting whiplash. You only fully realize who they are and what they’ve done to you after the fact.
Malignant narcissists disdain all the qualities most of us think make us decent human beings. They see them as signs of weakness. And they see them as proof of others’ inferiority. That’s what enables them to feel superior. And that’s why they feel entitled to prey.
Researchers now know the reason disturbed characters have a hard time developing a healthy sense of obligation. When you feel entitled, you simply can’t feel obliged. You have to feel indebted before you can feel obliged. And you have to be deeply grateful before you can feel indebted.
A manipulator can be so confident of someone’s likely response that they don’t hesitate to show their hand. But most of the time, manipulators get their way by hiding their true agendas. They’re out to win, dominate, and control, but don’t want to appear so. They cloak their aggressive intentions in a variety of clever tactics. And these tactics produce the “gaslighting” effect.
Manipulators come in two main varieties. Most are covert-aggressors who carefully cloak their true intentions. But some others are more overt in their ways. They rely on a different strategy. But both types count on one thing to get their way: the characteristics of their targets.
Loving relationships can promote character growth, that’s for sure. But when someone has significant character disturbance no amount of loving care alone can fix things.
Grandiose narcissists so wantonly use and abuse because they have little heart. They lack empathy. And they have little shame. And the more lacking they are in these things, the more easily they exploit.
Behaving in a decent and civil manner doesn’t mean we have to allow ourselves to be taken advantage of or abused. It just means we don’t have to act like we believe we’ve been treated. Rather, we should act like we would want to be treated.