Leading psychologist and author of "Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving a Relationship With a Narcissist" Dr. Ramani Durvasula walks us through the 4 types of narcissism that you need to know.
Kyle: In our previous video with Dr. Ramani, we talked about the signs to look out for when dating a narcissist. Now, we are going to talk about the 4 different types of narcissism. Dr. Ramani, thanks for being back here with us.
Dr. Ramani: Thanks for having me.
Kyle: This topic is so fascinating, especially being in Los Angeles, which I feel like might be the narcissistic capital of the world.
Dr. Ramani: You know what I said to someone once? I said, you want to study tortoises - work in the Galapagos; you want to study narcissism - live in Los Angeles.
Kyle: I mean it is rampant here, I think so at least. Before we get into those 4 types, quick question: in your estimation, what percentage of the population is narcissistic?
Dr. Ramani: Yes, it’s a tough one because again, it’s a trait. It’s not a disorder where we can actually do an interview and figure it out. If I were to hazard to guess, people who are noticeably narcissistic, I would put that number probably to 10% to 15%. By no means do I think it’s a majority. When you think of your own friends, most of them are sane, good, empathic, kind people… but I do think that a 10% to 15%, that’s a lot of people. Now, again, I’m sort of pulling that number out of the air, which is just a difficult statistic to get. Not to mention that the measurement skills we have are not very good.
Kyle: Right. But to think, even if you’re in a room with 20 people, 1 to 2 of them would actually be classified as narcissistic.
Dr. Ramani: Easily. And it depends on what kind of room, like... if it’s sort of an entertainment industry that’s 50%, or if you’re in a lawyer/banker meeting or something like that. But I don’t know, some sort of like a community volunteer meeting, probably 1 to 2 is very much likely.
Kyle: So I was shocked to find out that there’s not just a blanket term - narcissism or narcissistic. There’s actually 4 different categories for this. Let’s talk about that.
Dr. Ramani: Yes, if you look at the research -and this is definitely as I’ve gone over the years looking at what’s been written- I really do think that 4 primary types have emerged. There’s sort of our classical grandiose narcissist, that’s sort of like the Chanel suit for narcissism - it’s the classic representation of the person who is sort of very egotistical, arrogant, attention-seeking, validation-seeking, look at me, I’m so great, don’t I have a beautiful house. They don’t stop to listen to anybody, again your garden variety grandiose narcissist. Far more problematic is the malignant narcissist. This is the person who is all the things the grandiose narcissist is: lacking empathy, entitled, grandiose and big and pompous; but they are also really mean. They will do really bad things, almost a bit psychopathic - they often won’t even feel that bad, maybe a little bit guilty, but not really.
Kyle: What do you mean they do bad things?
Dr. Ramani: They will steal money from a company, they will cheat on their partner…
Kyle: Oh, like really bad things!
Dr. Ramani: Yes, I’m not talking about take more peppermints than they should; no, I’m talking big ticket bad. They lie, they cheat, they steal, these are like really malignant. They just sort of… they make great criminals. And again, we could talk about it at some point, there’s a difference between a psychopath and a narcissist. By and large, a narcissist, even the malignant narcissist, will feel a little bad about doing some things, and will especially feel bad if they have hurt other people in their circle. So if they do bad things, they’ll be sorry they hurt their family; but they often won’t really care about other victims - that kind of thing. So that’s your malignant narcissist. Then, there’s some other types of narcissism that people don’t realize and are like, “Oh, that makes so much more sense.” The key one in that one is called covert narcissism. Covert is a word that means “secret,” really, so a covert narcissist is somebody who is very sort of put upon by the world - but they are still grandiose. So they will say things like, “Yeah, you know, I’m a really great photographer but the world never really noticed my greatness. I guess I just came up at the wrong time. And all these cameras you guys use, now it’s easy. But back when I was taking pictures, I could’ve been one of the great ones.”
Kyle: Is the covert narcissist older?
Dr. Ramani: They can be, but not necessarily. They often feel like life has done them wrong, they can be passive-aggressive. They are that person, they almost feel depressed. In fact, more than a few of us will initially think the covert narcissist has depression and will treat them for depression. Like, this is not getting better and it’s been ten months, even if they are on meds by now something should’ve happened.
Kyle: So someone who has been classified as a covert narcissist and then treated for depression will not show improvement?
Dr. Ramani: If they are depressed they will show some improvement for depression, but they’ll still walk around like, “Woe is me. Why doesn’t anyone see how great I am? I do so many great things for the world. I guess it wasn’t my time.” They’ll be very vulnerable, they are very hypersensitive to criticism so if somebody says, “Yes, those pictures are good but we’re not going to be able to hang them up in our gallery…” “Uh, what?” And they’ll throw a tantrum, they become really cold or become distant, “No, I’m not coming to your gallery opening, my pictures weren’t good enough for you.” That’s the covert narcissist.
Kyle: Kind of like, I’m not fired, I quit.
Dr. Ramani: Yes, exactly. They really do feel like the world never got their greatness. That’s the covert narcissist.
Kyle: There’s a lot of those in Los Angeles.
Dr. Ramani: There’s a lot of that. And then that often gets missed as “Well no, they are not even that confident!” I’m like, no, listen; they really… it’s always a nobody gets how great I am.
Kyle: So I know there’s a fourth one, but before we go into that, let’s dive into the how would I know -as I’m not a Clinical Psychologist- how would I know if my friend or this person needs confidence, needs a boost or if they are a covert narcissist?
Dr. Ramani: Look at how victimey they feel. How much “No one gets me or nobody gets how great I am” it’s because it’s always in the sense of it’s nobody quite gets their excellence, so there’s sort of an arrogance to them. Versus the person who really is like “No, I did not do a good job on this pie. I know I can do better, let me give it another shot.” So there’s almost like a sense of efficacy, a word that means I’m going to give it a try, I recognize what I did wrong. They often don’t take ownership, the cover narcissist won’t say “I see what my part is in this, I see why it didn’t go right.” The covert narcissist will blame the world.
Kyle: That is very clear.
Dr. Ramani: Yes, like… the world is to blame for what I did not succeed.
Kyle: Alright. What is our fourth type?
Dr. Ramani: The fourth one is a fascinating one. I read an article about this and I was like, you know when a scientific article gets you excited? Like I’m running around the university going “You’ve got to read this!” It’s called the communal narcissist.
Dr. Ramani: Communal. The communal narcissist is that person, for example, all over their social media feed is like, “Off to feed the homeless today!” But they are like really well made up, or “It’s dog rescue Thursday!” And they are always out there trying to save the world, they go to galas and they go to benefits and they write big cheques - but they need a lot of recognition, they need a lot of like “Can we name this after you? Can we name that after you?” and they walk around and say, “Look at all the good things I do.” They will have a website with them holding children in impoverished regions of the world but they are always very well put together and they talk about it a lot. Like, look at my greatness, I’m all about giving back. And that’s your communal narcissism because what you will see is a tremendous lack of empathy for these so-called people they are trying to help and in essence sometimes even a grandiosity, I’m above these things, I’m rescuing, helping, give me oh so much recognition and they seek a lot of validation for all their good works.
Kyle: I know people watching right now are going, “I know that person!” And if you’re not, maybe you are that person. I was given some really great advice by somebody out here in Los Angeles, he said… and it was to a group of people, he said: “You need to go volunteer, you need to go do something for somebody and not tell anybody that you did it. Just do it because it’s the right thing to do.”
Dr. Ramani: Well, I often say do good quietly.
Kyle: Yes. Now, did you mention earlier something off camera, something of a stealth narcissism?
Dr. Ramani: Well the stealth narcissism is almost like that covert narcissism, like you don’t… and this is where people get confused by it, because they’ll say, “I kind of feel bad for this girl or guy so I’m taking it out, I just don’t think that they have the confidence” but then every day is like, “Woe is me”. Or the thing a covert narcissist will do in a relationship, for example, is like “Yeah, must be nice you got that promotion, I’m happy for you. But I’ve been working at this for years, it must be a lot easier to get ahead in your job.”
Kyle: Really fascinating. Now, in our older video when we were talking about how to spot the signs of a narcissist, you really used the pronouns he, his, him a lot. Are men more likely to be narcissist than women?
Dr. Ramani: They are. I mean, the statistics have always been very clear on this. It’s much more prevalent in men. If I were to take all the narcissist in the world, my guess would be 8 to 20. That’s changing, sad to say. This is one of those times women are going to break this glass, they are catching up. But it’s definitely more men and part of that is socialization. Men even as boys are not taught to talk about their emotions as much, to not be as tuned into that. Empathy, compassion, vulnerability - these things are not valued in boys and are not valued in men and those are often the core of character. And so we tell boys, “Ignore those feelings, toughen up!” And that toughen upness can turn into things like a lack of empathy. And so men are also very measured on their achievements, being a provider, making lots of money, having a big title, having a big house. Those kind of drives which are definitely pushed more for men, more valued in men, those are very superficial drives and as a result, they are going to be more manifested in men, which again can make that greater vulnerability to being more narcissistic. We just tolerate it more. For women to behave in a narcissist way she is often checked earlier in the game, whereas if a boy or a man behaves that way he’s not called out.
Kyle: Would you say maybe even applauded?
Dr. Ramani: Oh not only they are applauded, they are CEOs, they are world leaders, they are our celebrities, they are our athletes, they are our music stars, you better believe it. In fact, if I wrote a book on narcissism, it becomes a how-to guide for how to achieve in the new world order.
Kyle: That is a huge, huge statement.
Dr. Ramani: Yes, and it’s true.
Kyle: If you wrote a book about narcissism it would be the how-to guide on how to succeed in the new world order.
Dr. Ramani: Yes. In business and in wealth accumulation, yes. In your interpersonal life, absolutely not.
Kyle: I want to talk very quickly about the mental health implications of leaning into that narcissism for success. What does that do to somebody’s internal mental health?
Dr. Ramani: I don’t think you could fake narcissism, I think you could fake it for a minute. I often talk about -and in fact, in my second book, I did talk about this concept of- acquired narcissism or acquired entitlement. By that, I meant: if you’re incredibly wealthy, you’re very used to the world running on your schedule, you have a team of assistants, people picking you up in cars, you don’t wait in lines… the world really works smoothly for you if you will. What can happen is that when they go back to normal life, like when they are with their friends or people from their past, they may have that very kind of quick entitled do this, do that. And then someone else says, “Slow down sister, I am not your assistant.” And they will often be like, “Oh my god, I’m so sorry”; and they will be genuinely ashen at that. I do think that they are not narcissistic per se, they are just used to running in the world in that way. But if they said, “Oh no, you will do what I say, I am that important”; then they are probably narcissistic. So the idea of faking narcissism to get ahead, I don’t think most of us can do it. I can give you a personal example. I remember way when I finished college, I tried to get into a job in the financial services sector, Wall Street kind of a company, I bummed… forget the first day, the first hour. I’m like, “oh all you guys want to do is make money” and they are like, “yeah”. And I’m like “no, that doesn’t… what about their feelings?” And they are like, “we don’t talk about that here.” So literally, I got the job, it was 9:00AM, 9:05AM I realized I made a mistake, by noon they were like, “we’re just going to keep you around doing some clerical work” and I started using their computers to apply for a job in Psychology. I could not sell water in the desert, I’m like let me give you my water, you’re thirsty and it’s hot. That’s me. Which is why I’m me and not a CEO, I don’t have what it takes. Most of us don’t.
Kyle: Well, you did find exactly what you were supposed to do.
Dr. Ramani: I love what I do, but it doesn’t pay well… you choose your place in the world but unfortunately, we do live in a very materialistic and consumerist society and as long as that’s the case, narcissism is going to win. Because it’s about putting yourself first and not really caring as much about others. And so, those are the people that are always going to get ahead of the line. Can some people turn it on and off? Probably not. If you’re narcissistic it sort of bleeds into other areas in your life and people say, “well, how do they even have friends?” Some people cut them a lot of slack. I think that the great narcissistic get away with the murder catchphrase is, that’s just how he is. That’s why they get away with a lot, not to mention that they can sometimes be very generous when it’s going to get them what they need. So they may buy everyone big dinners and take everyone on big vacations, so it creates this illusion that there’s a lot of people around them - I’m not so sure these people will be around just on the base on how they treat them, it’s all the stuff they are making possible for them, it’s all… Narcissists often have big beach houses, they are there for the waves, not for his personality.
Kyle: Well, well said. Excellent, always fascinating talking to you. Thank you so much.
Dr. Ramani: Thank you.
Kyle: For more information on all things mental health, make sure you go to MedCircle.com. There you can get a digest of all of the relevant the mental health news sent directly to you exactly when you need it. Are you dating one of those types of narcissists? Let us know in the comment section below. Thanks again for watching, my name is Kyle Kittleson and this is MedCircle.
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