Covert Narcissists and Aggressors
When the mask comes off a covert narcissist or aggressor, it’s usually too late. Too late for what? Too late to recoup your emotional, and sometimes, material losses. Of course, you can’t reclaim lost time, either. But it’s never too late reclaim a more vital life. To do that, however, you must first reclaim yourself. Covert narcissists and aggressors know how to gaslight. And years of that can have you losing a sense of who you really are. So, for all you may have lost, there’s much to be gained once the mask comes off. You don’t just see them for who they truly are. You begin to know yourself again.
Covert narcissists and aggressors can be quite charming at first. (See: How Charming Narcissists Fool You.) (See also: Narcissistic Charm Can Easily Blindside.) They know just what to say and how to act to curry your interest and favor. Their aim is simple: to get something they want and to look good doing it. But there’s a really big difference between looking good and being good. It’s a matter of character. Nowadays, we have to be a lot more careful in vetting a potential relationship partner’s character. That’s why I wrote In Sheep’s Clothing and Character Disturbance.
Many have debated just how aware covert narcissists and aggressors are. The longstanding theory was that we all wear masks. And we’ve long believed everyone was unaware of both the masks and the reasons for them. But some folks are intentional with the masks they wear. Their life script is one of impression management. They know very well that they could not manipulate if they didn’t first deceive. If they were known for who they really are they might not even be liked, let alone invited into a relationship.
When the Mask Comes Finally Comes Off
Most generally, the mask comes off a covert narcissist or aggressor when there’s no more need to keep it. Once they think they have you where they have always wanted you, manipulators have no more need for pretense. But by then in a relationship, it’s too late to undo the damage done. So the only thing left is to cut your losses. This is difficult. It’s painful to realize what a character-impaired relationship has cost you. And it’s even more painful to reckon with what it will likely take to put your life back together.
Sometimes it’s a complete shock when the mask comes of a skilled covert character. But at other times it can be a real relief. Knowing and facing the truth can put an end to the gaslighting effect. Under the gaslight, you stop trusting your gut. But once the mask comes off you realize your gut was right all along. So, you’re free to start trusting yourself and your instincts once again. This is something to be truly grateful for. But sometimes manipulation victims just blame themselves for not waking up sooner. That’s not only sad but also pointless. And it often keeps manipulation victims from embracing lessons learned and moving on.
As mentioned earlier, my interview with Anne Nelson posts on the online Marriage Mastery Summit March 19. Also, look for an announcement on the resumption of Character Matters in podcast form in just a few weeks.