Understanding Metanarcissistic Characters


What, you might wonder, is a metanarcissistic character? In short, it’s a person whose  character pathology goes well beyond mere narcissism. I haven’t heard the term used before, at least not widely. But I think it an appropriate one for a particular group of characters. And if you’re familiar with my work, you know I’m a stickler for accuracy in defining psychological conditions and issues. So, I chose the prefix “meta”after carefully contemplating all the other possible, appropriate prefixes. It derives from the Greek and means “beyond.” And some character disturbed individuals have a manner of relating that is much more serious than merely narcissistic.

There’s a lot of misinformation these days about narcissism and its various manifestations. So, it’s worth reiterating some points I’ve made before. Mild to moderate narccissitic features are common in several personality and character types. And some of these characteristics can be relatively benign – even attractive in some ways. (See: Charming Narcissists Manipulate Well.) Significantly character-impaired folks have strong narcissistic features in their personality makeup, however. And just what traits run strongest in them makes a difference, too.

Narcissism itself, like all character disturbances, is a spectrum phenomenon. It varies as to type and degree of severity. That’s why I felt compelled to come up with an accurate term for folks who are no doubt narcissistic, but who are ever so much more than that. Metanarcissistic seemed the most accurate label. And the most problematic  metanarcissistic characters are the folks I call the aggressive personalities.

Aggressive Personalities

I began researching the aggressive personalities many years ago. And I first wrote about them in Character Disturbance and In Sheep’s Clothing.  These folks are especially narcissistic but their pathology goes well beyond narcissism. Like many narcissists, they may feel entitled, fairly grandiose, and uncaring when it comes to your welfare. But as aggressors, they also actively try to overpower, control, and dominate you. Some are open and unapologetic about their way of relating. But others are stealthy and underhanded. And in In Sheep’s Clothing, I exposed these covert, manipulative types and their tactics in depth for the first time.

All the aggressive personalities, including the aforementioned covert types, are truly metanarcissistic. And I’ll have more to say about these types and what makes them tick in future posts. Egocentrism and attitudes of entitlement are some of their core narcissistic features. And I discuss how these attitudes prevent character growth on the most recent Character Matters podcast.



13 thoughts on “Understanding Metanarcissistic Characters

  1. Dear Dr. Simon,
    This weekend and last my husband has been asking me to invite our son and his kids over for a lunch and pool time. We had his family over for Easter, Mothers Day, and Fathers Day as well as having the kids overnight so they could go out for an evening.

    We haven’t heard from them since Fathers Day. Besides all the abuse they’ve inflicted upon us, (me in particular) for the past 12+ yrs, I can’t believe my husband isn’t glad to have a break from them?

    We helped them for the past 10 yrs just in getting married and babysitting 3+times a week for the past 8 yrs. All met with abuse. Constant demands never grateful, never gifting us, and now when they no longer really need us to babysit, we are abused by them and their friends and new family.

    My reason for commenting is THANK YOU for putting it into perspective for me. I’m perfectly fine with the silence and breaks!!! I was so worried my son and his family would never make it to heaven, now I know I cannot love them into accepting God’s plan. I continue to pray for them all the time almost daily, but I am no longer going to serve them regularly as I understand how I was wrong.

    I continue to care for my other grandchild and am constantly holding him accountable as you can a toddler, he has tried to be very demanding! He doesn’t like it but deep down inside I think he loves the boundaries.

    Thank you for your work in helping others to understand others and ourselves!

  2. Recently I’ve been dealing with what can be described as the aggressive covert narc described here. I tried to end the “friendship” by first making excuses to not visit while she’s in town, then ignoring her phone calls and texts, and now just outright blocking her. I don’t have the energy to explain to her why i want this friendship to end, also no point in that anyway to try to exonerate a person such as she telling her the reasons why, because that would lead to further conversations, lies, manipulation, etc. So I’ve blocked her and will not let her circle of friends know what I’m up to, doing my best to be invisible to her. People like this make is difficult to be rid of. I’m of use to her, and that is to help her with her connections here in her hometown, a place to stay for free on visits, and to listen to her BS stories full of lies to help her with her image. This person has moved out of state but keeps making home visits. It’s just draining to deal with character disordered people, and it’s difficult to be rid of them.
    What a job they can do to your mind!
    I’m learning (slowly) how to not embrace people into my life without a character check. It takes me too much time, then there they are, entangled. I’m so sick of it.
    But as of recently I am finally not giving a person so many chances, once they’ve proved to be twisted.
    Seems disordered people gravitate towards me. It’s getting easier and easier to drop so called friends from my life.

    1. Lucy,
      You are so right to just refuse her an explanation on your part and a denial on her part. They just LOVE to argue/debate with someone why it is NOT anything THEY’VE done but rather something is wrong with US???
      Had a neighbor do the exact same to me, lies, and judges my life, but makes nothing but excuses for her life.
      Dropped her the minute she tried to humiliate me, something I never do without a major repetitive warning.
      She did it to make sport of me.
      She tried calling the next day. Refused her calls. Emailed me, sure enough after her pleading to talk about it I email her back.
      She then tries to use my own statements against me, and then says she has no idea what we did because we didn’t really do anything wrong.

      Her own mother came over to visit with my husband and I not long after the incident. She was house sitting for them. She flat out told us she was sorry for their behavior and that they are both very selfish kids.
      We agreed by not saying a word and gently shaking our heads yes.
      Her mother is a wonderful lady who doesn’t deserve their bad behavior anymore than we did!
      Lucy, be sure of this the wicked will not go unpunished but those who are righteous will go free!!!
      It’s in the Good Book!
      Love to you!

      1. Priscilla,
        Thanks for the reply. It’s good to hear backup to reinforce what I try to do.
        I like that you dropped her the minute she humiliated you. No more chances. Boom. I’ve come to that point. Strike one, you’re out.
        Everything this woman says in texts I take it as her way to draw me back in. That it’s a ploy. Once I’m onto their game, everything they do or say, no matter what, doesn’t sit well, I assume it’s a ploy to meet whatever end they’re seeking. I won’t be toyed with, when I finally realize what’s happening.
        This year has been exhausting as far as me trying to live a peaceful, stress free life. Too many freaks out there trying to ruin it for me.

        1. Lucy,
          I didn’t always operate that way, I have always been gracious and forgiving to friends, family and strangers. Too forgiving and gracious doesn’t serve anyone well though.
          What my friend did was forgivable just not excusable. I’m glad I chose the path I did with her though.
          Her and her husband have done nothing but try to needle us and harm us since we dropped them. Guess they just can’t see how bad their narcissistic behavior truly is.

    2. It sure seems like there are a lot of character disordered people out there. They just use people. I have had my share, and sometimes think they gravitate towards me as well. I made the mistake of going to an event with someone I had previously determined it was not good to be around, second guessing myself I went anyways. I’m glad it was just a couple hours being around her-she constantly had to put herself on top-she is so smart according to herself. By the end of the time I am around her I am doubting myself. I hate to be so weak-minded but I struggle with doubting myself and thats what they love. You can’t win in a confrontation with them since its just a challenge they have to win.

      1. Kat,
        Yes, they always have to top you. I was friends with a girl back in the 80’s who would go to the grocery store with me and do our shopping together. Oh she loved to put me down for buying generic this or that saying she would NEVERRRR buy that garbage, doe sit even work???? (laundry soap)

        Well she would bragggg to me how she buys all these frozen foods for her kid and I’m so dumb for buying all this fresh junk and now you have to cook for your kids.

        One trip I was buying all my groceries for the week, $57.00/week. I got like 8 bags of food plus milk and she got like 1 1/2 bags for $127.00. She couldn’t get over it. Going on and on at the register in front of the cashiers how much I got for $57.00.

        The cashiers told each other in front of her how smart I was always shopping and how I was feeding my kids fresh foods, they would even ask what I was going to do with the leg of lamb I would buy. Back then it was consistently 99 cents a pound and .49 cents on sale!!!

        I cut it up in 2″ cubes and shish kabob it! Grilled it’s so good. So after that incident the cashiers all came to my register when I was back for my 2nd trip of buying whole chickens on sale when there was a limit of 4. They told me you can get as many chickens as you need you don’t have to keep coming back! They told me how smart I was for spending my money well for myself and my kids.

        Just goes to show there are little rewards that add up to BIG memories.

      2. kat,

        What you said there so reminds me of what my friend has said many times about her “friend” of 30 years has done. This person also became a “friend” of mine recently. We’ve both recently dropped this sick friendship now that we’ve put the pieces together. She’s just sorry it took her so long. This person didn’t have me doubting myself, but she did this to the other. I’d see how distraught and confused she’d become after being around her.
        We’ve both gone no contact.
        You’re right, you’ll have a confrontation and you’ll leave exhausted and confused. Sometimes I’d actually get a headache. No more. It’s over. I’m done with her.

        1. Priscilla and Lucy,
          The narcissistic personality is so exhausting to be around, and why be around it. They are not a real friend and I lose nothing but a user and a manipulator. Even if its the last person on earth I wouldn’t want to be around it.

          1. kat
            It takes me a little while to figure people out. Wish I could see things quicker. But my red flag goes up a lot anymore. And I pay attention when it does. And when it continually goes up, there is my answer.

  3. Priscilla, kat

    I’m noticing we’ve acquired some good coping skills. We’ve all been on Dr. Simon’ s site for a long while and have learned so much from his articles and from our bantering.
    Thank you so much for the continuing support.

  4. Dr. George Simon, thank you for all your eye opening research you contributed to this topic.

    Can you please explain what the difference between metanarcissism and malignant narcissism is?

    1. This is hard to accurately deliniate concisely, Chris, because there’ so many terms floating around out there defined a bit differently by the folks throwing the terms around. It’s a problem social and psychological sciences have had for a long, long time and it’s getting worse instead of better. But to be pure about it, the prefix “meta,” comes from the Greek word having multiple meanings, but the most accepted definition is usually translated “beyond.” Hence terms like “metaphysics,” used to describe ultimate realities “beyond” the realm of known physical physics. Most accurately, therefore, metanarcissism is narcissism in scope and degree that’s above and “beyond” garden-variety narcissism. I’m not sure how useful the term is or even how usefful the concept is. Malignant narcissism is a type of narcissism rooted in significant empathy deficits. You can find several articles here on the blog about the types and degrees of narcissism. I write a lot about this topic because it seems everyone is on the narcissism bandwagon these days and there’s so much inaccurate information out there about narcissism. As a dimension of personality and character, when it comes to narcissism, one size does not fit all. As I write about extensively, contrary to what you might glean from a lot of the misinformation out there, narcissism is a spectrum phenomenon, just as character disturbance itself is a spectrum phenomenon, varying in type and degree. And the “aggressive personalities” I describe in my books and several online articles are disturbed characters whose pathology goes well “beyond” mere narcissism. So, in that sense, you could say that the metanarcisism label would appropriately apply to them.

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