Charming Social Mask

The narcissist strives to maintain and protect his concocted self-image at all cost. The pathological narcissistic syndrome may be likened to a wheel in which the grandiose false self is the hub, to which are affixed spokes. The spokes have a specific purpose, which is to maintain, protect, and sustain the “hub” of the grandiose false self. Attributes 3-9 of the DSM-IV checklist constitute some of the spokes.

To begin with, the pathological narcissist uses people as tools of self-aggrandizement to affirm and maintain his false self — others are used for a perverse kind of “mirroring” to reflect the narcissist’s ostentatious self-regard. This accounts for why the narcissist “requires excessive admiration” (DSM-IV attribute 4), seeks to associate with “special or high-status people or institutions” (DSM-IV attribute 3), and is “interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his own ends” (DSM-IV attribute 6). Like a vampire who must feed on others’ blood in order to live, the narcissist basks in the admiration, love, approval, and compliments he elicits from others. If the other person ceases to provide him with “narcissistic supply,” he no longer has much use for that person and the relationship will markedly cool, if not end altogether.

To lure people into his web, the skillful narcissist puts on an attractive social mask. The narcissist not only has a counterfeit self-image, he literally dons a false façade of physical appearance and demeanor. He can be charming, gracious, and socially adept. He must also be a consummate actor, skilled at simulating the whole range of human emotions, especially those of love and kindness. The more successful he is at simulation, the greater the circle of friends and acquaintances who can be his primary and secondary feeding sources. Perhaps it is not accidental that some of the greatest villains in fiction are portrayed as charming. A good example is Dorian Gray in Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray

Admittedly, we all wear a public mask of some sort or another, for no human being is without any artifice or is totally honest with other people. What distinguishes the mask of the pathological narcissist is the enormity of the discrepancy between the mask and the person it conceals. Aside from using his charming social mask to attract admirers who provide him with his narcissistic supply, the mask also conceals the narcissist’s contrived false self from scrutiny and exposure. Concealment requires secrecy, evasion, dishonesty, and deception, which means that the pathological narcissist is a consummate liar who habitually lies, even about seemingly small or inconsequential matters.

  1. It’s a vey sad life for the tortured soul of the N. I watched the ‘charmer’ lie about the most insignificant portion of a story to make himself seem bigger than life in his own mind. The way he ‘flipped’ back & forth as the ‘worker’to the ‘boss’ may not even have been noticed by the ‘untrained’ eye. Sadly, I thought, what’s the point??? Why not focus on a slight long term goal but I learned through articles such as this that focusing & goals aren’t possible for N’s!!! Public awareness is a very important weapon to eradicate the ego inflating blood suckers from those compassionate souls who remain aware of what evil lurks!!! I, however, feel fortunate that I have the ability to love. Although I was once a victim, I am now a survivor! Knowledge is definately power. Thanks to articles & forums from which information is provided.

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  2. The narcissist that I dated for several years was involved with AA. Something was always a little off and I felt more alone when we were together. its like he was emotionally vacant. But he went to theae meetings all over town. san fernando valley, san gabriel valley and I asked him if I coukd go with him but he ever would answer me or ask me to go. well I later found that he was a speaker at one and the story he told was a total lie about how he had a horrible childhood, latchkey kid and all that, omg I couldnt believe it. and more importantly, he has girlfriends at these different meetings towns apart. Those fiela have no idea that they are dancing with the devil.He is so charming, so believable when he told his tale of woes, gaining empathy from all those people at the meetings. omg. they have no idea that he didnt care about anything they had to say about their story but only wanted their praise to him and how great he was for coming forward and sharing such a troubled past. omg. all lies he told. phoney liar. not a stitch of empathy, withheld Everything! leaves you feeling empty with the constant rejection. it just goes on and on until u leave..

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  3. My abuser is a an abortionist. He wears a beautiful mask as a doctor. Married with 2 babies when we met, convinced me he was separated and his ex wife was mean to him and never paid him any attention. Since I discovered him for who he really is, he convinces others I am a psycho. He is addicted to sex, drugs, and attention. Everything on this website is 100% my story and my experience with him. Such a relief to know, it was never me, he made me feel crazy. Never happier to be free, but very broken.

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  4. If this is the case that would make everyone a narcissist one way or another. Each person needs acceptance from people they are with or friends with. When one loves themselves, this could be , as it states in the bible, in Jesus you are loved and have to love yourself before you could love another. So, we are all narcissistic in a sense. I myself need to be told by my significant other how beautiful I look or how I do things so perfect to him, otherwise, yes, I will be cold and back away thinking he is not as interested as he was. This does not make me a narcissist. But I know a man who thinks he is all that and calls everyone narcissistic. His ex girlfriend, me. Maybe HE is the problem. One should look at themselves before they point the finger at the other. Only my opinion. Thank you

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  5. Oh I believe it! Mine was a very successful electrical engineer and high level manager, and after 4 decades of work there, fooling people all the way, he STILL has a group of buddies who think he walks on water. When he retired, 300 people came to his retirement party at the facility, many even flying in for the occasion. More people than that location of I*M had ever seen for a retirement party.How, just how, does the N manage to do this? I just shake my head in wonder…..and exasperation!

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  6. My husband spent the first two to three decades of his life constructing the perfect mask. Who would ever believe that a respected surgeon, that is admired and loved by so many, could possibly return home and abuse his loved ones? His professional position gives everyone the false impression that he is an empathetic, altruistic, self-sacrificing individual. WRONG. It’s a job and a ticket to entitlement for him. He doesn’t possess empathy, works to reap the rewards from both a monetary and social perspective, and believes that he is omnipotent as a result of it. Makes me sick to see the admiration he continually receives in every arena in life, just because he is a surgeon. He is one hell of a clever narcissist.

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  7. Mrs. Ed Miller Jr.

    I made up this saying, “Sometimes good people do bad things for good reasons and sometimes bad people do good things for bad reasons. ”
    Your articles have helped me to put words to my situation and now that I have identified the problem and can verbalize it I can now go about solving it and/or handle it. Tomorrow October 2, 2014 is my narcissistic husbands and I’s 15 year wedding anniversary and thanks to Ana we may just make it15 yrs. more. Thank you , Mrs. Ed Miller Jr.

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  8. To Karina and Suzanne: Karina, thank you for the kind words and support. That is very sweet and meant a lot to me. Especially since I never have talked about this problem with any local friends,and so get no feedback from them.

    To you both, I saw a quote on FaceBook early this morning that said: “Better to break your own heart by walking away, than to have your spirit broken by staying”. It made me think of you both.

    This quote rang many bells for me. First, though, I should clarify that the quote was not Narcissism-specific. I point that out because I think we have all had our hearts already broken by the Narcissists in our lives; though I do believe strongly we can make them break further by wallking away and never having the benefit of ANY closure on our relationships whatsoever, since the N simply will not discuss how he has dropped us like a hot potatoashe movedon to new Supply.

    The part of the quote that made me think specifically of Suzanne,was the part about not staying ay further in the relationship or you will have your spirit broken. This happened to me in spades,and is still happening (I’ll explain why in a moment). Some popular internet sites on Narcissistic Personality Disorder do mention that possibly 1% of N’s my be able to be “cured”, but that requires that the N WANT to be cured, which is statistically unlikely and certainly unlikely in reality. Can you imagine a Narcissist going to a therapist and saying “I am a Narcissist and want to be cured. Can you help me do that?” A thousand times NO!! Please do not entertain hopes that your N can be fixed, Suzanne. Please don’t!

    My husband and I both were in counseling for much of our 35 years together,and all that happened was it gave him a chance to point out to the psychiatrist all “MY faults”,and behave in his very best people-charming manner so that it was never obvious that any of our problems could possibly have been caused by him. The last therapist we ever went to said to me, straight out: “Oh, I don’t think [my husband] is a verbal abuser at all!” And then the therapist proceeded to stick out his foot and kick my shoe, as if to say, “Oh come on now, what are you thinking? This guy is a prince among men”. I could not believe it! Never went back to HIM again!

    Now, on to the topic of one’s spirit being broken, slowly but surely, if one stays in a relationship with the Narcissist. Suzanne, I just spent three hours yesterday with an intake therapist at our city’s University Hospital’s Mood and Anxiety Disorder Clinic, being assessed for a program to enter there, of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy/Dialectical Behavior Therapy, because at age 71, after 35 years of marriage to a Narcissist, my spirit is broken almost beyond repair. I cannot function. I have no joy, no interest in my glass art bead-making or my jewelry-making that I loved so much in earlier years.No interest in ANYTHING at all. I gave up playing my piano and listening to my classical music because I find no joy in it anymore I gave up doing anything that ever meant a lot to me. I cannnot keep my house clean. I am agoraphobic. I can barely make myself go to church or church functions. I do not want to leave my house. I sleep most of the daytime, just to not have to think. If I’m not sleeping, I’m crying. I can barely make any life decisions, and get easily confused.My self esteem and sense of worth is zero. Ihave no friends from the past, because my husband “got custody” of them all, And because he is so charming and handsome and believable in public, he lied to them all about me, and smeared my name among them, saying we split up because of all MY problems! He made himself appear to be the Victim! This angers me so much! It’s so unfair. But that’s what Narcissists do! Please don’t put yourself in a position of this ever happening to you. Please don’t let your spirit become this badly broken.

    The intake therapist said, in short, the only way I would get over my grieving and my depression and anxiety from my life as an N’s primary supply, and get my life back, would be to enter a program that meets every day for 5+ hours, and includes group and individual therapy, and would probably have to make a commitment to do that for as long as two months, before stepping down to a 3-day a week program. The thought of being in a group of strangers for 5 hours a day strikes terror into my heart! But I may have to do this, in order to get better. Please don’t put yourself in the position of having to go through this some years down the road.

    I am too old for another relationship, but you are not. You could make a healthy, happy life for yourself, Suzanne, if you leave your Narcissist now, before you are as damaged as I am. I wish all the best for you and Katrina,and all here who are fighting this battle.

    I have been reading about Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Abuse for 8 years. You would think it would have sunk in long ago. i highly recommend a book on the subject by the renowned psychiatrist, Otto Kernberg. You can get it usedfrom Amazon.

    Lastly, I have to interact with my husband several times monthly, because he insists on bringing his spousal support checks, as court-ordered in the Legal Separation Agreement, to me by hand. This gives him a perfect opportunity to continue hisverbal abuse. I must learn how to be strong enough to withstand it.

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    • oh wow the comments above break my heart…go to therapy, get well. life has blessings waiting for you. open your bible or google gods word on your fears and oppression. cry out to him and pray back to god what you read. literally on your knees. daily, many times a day. ask him to break these chains of fear and depression. please please do this. try anything. you are worthy not worthless. everyone is worthy, know this, say it. get involved in a bible study, volunteer, something safe eventually that can get you out of the home and around loving others. you will feel love by giving and learning and seeing people respond positively to you!

      I say this because I am just realizing my marriage is not just difficult, he is a narcissist. textbook! thought it was me for almost thirteen years now. nope, and I am leaving to protect my three kids. scared to death. never worked all marriage. but letting go and letting god! never understood this but two years ago went to a moms prayer group, as I was feeling lonely. kept at it for a year. learned to pray. now in a bible study with an amazing teacher, amazing. Margo Fiesler(google her, her study is online) /margo said being a Christian is just doing the next right thing, the next right thing and on. and pray, pray back his words from bible. have daily time w him and ask for what you need, thank him for what you have. sounds corny but has changed me. a lot. helps knowing god says he wants you here and you are perfect. margo says don’t go to others or feelings….go to your bible. it has helped me. feel part of a group, feel wanted and worthy. getting there anyway. powerful stuff if you open your sweet hurting heart to gods love, you are loved right now….always have been. What do you have to fear from a man destined for gods judgment, hell. he will be taken care of by god. unless he changes. you can live free of this mans judgement. you can! it is happening to me.

      trust me I have it bad, cheated on many times, double life, so verbally abusive. a monster really. everyone else sees his mask. I have been a pile weeping on the floor many days. I got on me knees literally day after day and cried to god please help me break free and fly, soar. I didnt know what else to do so I thought why not get on my knees and beg god for help. well its working, slowly but steadily I am feeling me pushing out of the fog! I so want this for you! I will pray for you….you can live in peace, it is a fact. I am a miracle and example of this, I would be horrible to have felt this transformation and not share it with you…..remember my dear, you are loved and worthy and perfectly created as you are:) sorry for my rambling….

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    • back from the brink

      Nancy, I understand.

      I have hit the mid-century mark and am in the process of divorce from a covert narcissist. So much is clear now. The strange looks and comments I received over the years from people we knew that I’d brushed off because I figured they were just having a bad day or they had mixed me up with someone else all made sense when our son said, “Mom, you don’t know what he’s been saying about you. He’s been making you sound crazy and controlling…for as long as I can remember.” My jaw dropped. Click, click, click…puzzle pieces fell into place. That explains that incident… That explains that incident…That explains… I can’t tell you how foolish I felt. It was so obvious, but I had learned to question my own perceptions and feelings, giving everyone the benefit of the doubt because that is what I had learned to do to survive in my marriage to my husband.

      The treatment I’ve received from “our” friends and acquaintances since separation has been horrible. Nancy, I understand the loneliness and the isolation and the inability to trust. I also understand how friendships are pretty much established as we get older, so finding friends gets more difficult. But I also know that God loves you and I more than anyone on this earth ever can. I also know that even at our ages he has a plan and a purpose for our lives. One of my “heroines” is Marilyn Hickey. She is an evangelist in her 80s. God has given her the blessing of preaching the gospel in the Middle East and inside mosques. That is unheard of. When I look at her and then I think of how God has used and blessed women in the Bible at older ages (i.e, Sarah), I know that God is able. He just needs us to seek Him with all our hearts, to trust Him, and to get out there and make a difference in someone’s life. We have spent so many years living with “mind games” and trying to protect our hearts while trusting men who seek to do us harm to make themselves feel bigger and better, that we have forgotten there is a world out there; and there are good people out there. Look at us!

      Nancy, please consider me your friend. I would like to consider you mine.

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    • Suzanne, I’m spiritual, but not religious. I believe we were born to live our lives to the fullest, to experience all that there is for us in this world. All the things that we’re passionate about, whether that be art, music, looking after children, writing, or even jumping from an aeroplane with nothing but a packed parachute on our back if that’s what takes your fancy😀.

      Anyone who prevents you from living to the fullest and following whatever YOUR passions are is preventing what any spiritual entity would want for us. That’s evil. Remember, marraige is a man made institution. Man imbued it with religious meaning – I get that because surely love is the most religious thing we can experience. But I don’t believe any God would want you to live a life of abuse because you were misled into marrying a narcissist when you were younger.

      The fact that he is using the religion that you obviously care about to convince you of his change (I’m sorry – I believe that’s what he’s doing), only makes him even more insidious and evil.

      Honour your God by living your life free of abuse, and free to follow your loves and passions.

      I wish you the best of luck. Bless.

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  9. After a few years with my narcissist I have left for a second time. First time we were only separated 2 weeks and talked me back with change. Second time we have been separated for 3 months now. On December 31, 2013 he had a born again experience and is talking to my Pastor saying he has been delivered. My Pastor is believing him but wants to take a few months to see if he walks his talk. I just read Nancy’s story. From the books I read only about 1% try to change. How do I know if he falls in the 1%. This man is tight with his money and is even helping me financially. How far would he go to win me back? I’m 58 years old and can not take much more. The stress has left me with RA. However at the same time you want to follow the will of God. He hates divorce. We both have already been in past marriages. I don’t want to fail again. But then again, I don’t want to be stupid. What do you think?

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    • Suzanne, I’m spiritual, but not religious. I believe we were born to live our lives to the fullest, to experience all that there is for us in this world. All the things that we’re passionate about, whether that be art, music, looking after children, writing, or even jumping from an aeroplane with nothing but a packed parachute on our back if that’s what takes your fancy😀.

      Anyone who prevents you from living to the fullest and following whatever YOUR passions are is preventing what any spiritual entity would want for us. That’s evil. Remember, marraige is a man made institution. Man imbued it with religious meaning – I get that because surely love is the most religious thing we can experience. But I don’t believe any God would want you to live a life of abuse because you were misled into marrying a narcissist when you were younger.

      The fact that he is using the religion that you obviously care about to convince you of his change (I’m sorry – I believe that’s what he’s doing), only makes him even more insidious and evil.

      Honour your God by living your life free of abuse, and free to follow your loves and passions.

      I wish you the best of luck. Bless.

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    • I’m still married to a narcissist after 25 years of ever-changing hell because I kept hearing my Aunt’s voice saying “God hates divorce”. We are separated now and I’ve been seeing a counselor, who has helped me come to the realization that YES, God hates divorce, but He hates abuse more!! God does NOT put the sanctity of marriage ABOVE His children!! You and your mental and physical health are much more important to Him!! My husband has suddenly out of the blue started apologizing to me (1st time EVER) and even seeing a counselor, both of which I have begged him to do for many years. But, I realize that more than likely this is him just “bringing out the big guns”, because all of his usual tactics to get me back are not only not working any more, but are back-firing and driving me further away. I fully expect him to start going to church, simply to try to get me to come back to him. I will never live with him again. After 10 months of living apart from him, I am finally starting to feel again. To feel peace, joy and glimpses of happiness. THAT is what God wants for you. THAT is what Jesus died for you and me for!!

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  10. i lived with this vampire for 35 years….still married but we live separately because I wouldn’t put up with the Narcissistic Abuse any longer, both verbal and physical. I witnessed this phenomenon every single day, still do when I have to interact with him, of the jolly, great-guy facade. People aabsolutely adore him! When he retired a year ago from a prestigious job at a high tech company, 300 people came for the retirement party…..from all over the USA! that was about 200 more than had ever been to a retirement party in the history of this company. You should have heard all the testimonials, seen all the slide shows, seen the people cry as they were saying all these wonderful things about him. I just wanted to either throw up, or jump up and scream, “You all have it totally wrong; he is a monster”. And to top it off, after all his thank-you statements, he called me up to the front by him, and he put his arm around me and said, “And I couldn’t have done it all without my wife”, and kissed me, and CRIED!!!! The fraud! That was all for show, you can be sure. Because we had been separated for 3 1/2 years by that time and he even had had a couple of girlfriends that EVERYBODY knew about! I just started sobbing, because the whole thing was so personally sad to me, and I so much missed what I WISH we could have had, in a relationship, if he hadn’t been a Narcissist. I slipped out the door a few minutes later and left the party And now, I am just sobbing, even writing this. No one should have to feel this way. I’m 71 and I just can’t take it anymore. Will the sadness never go away????

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    • That is really awful. You deserve a trophy for what you had to live with. And I mean that! This makes me feel sad. I wish I had more valuable things that I could add. I honestly wish I had more comforting things to say but I have been with a narcissist and therefore I can’t really think of anything, at least not right now. Right now I think It is just plain awful, isn’t it? I don’t really know. I guess the truth is that you, (and I) can never have a relationship with someone like this the way you probably imagined would happen. That would never have happened because a narcissist is what they are and that’s that. There wasn’t a thing you could do and you did your very best. Because If you could have done better, you WOULD have. so I hope you know that you have nothing to feel ashamed of. I’m starting to understand that now. But I’m still so sad about that fact and I am worrying that it will never go away even if I left this person right now. I’ve been betrayed, humiliated and abused verbally and emotionally more than once, and I am only now starting to get serious about ending it. But I’m scared. I feel like more pain is around the corner with either option. I hope It’s temporary and that I will be free soon. I hope.

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  11. OMYGOSH thank you, thank you for the valuable information you share. For those who don’t or refuse to acknowledge (such as fam and friends)… this is it in a nutshell.

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  1. Pingback: The Behaviors and Actions of the Narcissist | Process of Elimination: Understanding Narcissistic Personality Disorder

  2. Pingback: Very good articles | about a boy

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