Sarah* was surrounded by strong personalities who systematically devalued her role, and that of her colleagues, in the workplace. Frustrated by the lack of recognition and plagued by insecurity, she consulted a psychologist. It was during this conversation she confided that senior staff bullied junior staff. Staff without elite connections were bullied and often left the organisation, sensing they were next in line for redundancy.
Listening intently, the psychologist advised that she should consider seeking work elsewhere.
Months later, after commencing her job search, and after being made redundant, she eventually secured work elsewhere in a recession-hit industry.
‘The experience was profound’ she said. ‘I had heard of people who worked for progressive causes, but who suffered from too many layers of comfort, but I never expected to come across such a blatant case of it.
I am sure that many people who work for progressive causes are genuine, but not all. They [the ones I worked with] are the people who will use you up. I felt like yesterday’s newspaper – screwed up, thrown in the bind. Dead. ‘
And it wasn’t just me – they did the same to others. You have to get away from these people, said Sarah.
The whole experience left me feeling cynical but more questioning. For months afterward, I was left with a quiet sense of rage. It was the quiet rage that these people should be exposed. But who was I to shout their misdeeds from the rooftops, or rattle the cage of my transgressors? The reality was, I was a nobody.’
How to tell if you’ve come across an elitist or communal narcissist
People who’ve experienced people like this will probably readily identify them. They are the ones who lack empathy and who exploit others for their ends. If you’re thinking, these people are narcs – you’re right.
What’s the difference between confident people and people with narcissism?
Many people find it difficult to understand the difference between a confident person and narcissism.
• Everyone is a little narcissistic – but that does not mean that he or she has Narcissist Personality Disorder. There’s healthy and unhealthy narcissism.
• Narcissism, like psychopathy, operates on a spectrum – some lower on the range can have self-insight.
• Those higher on the spectrum don’t show self-insight.
• Confident people enjoy genuine, joyful self-acceptance. They accept their limitations and celebrate themselves; this is the anthesis of narcissism.
On the other hand, narcissists typically:
• Deflect blame onto their victims.
• They have a sense of superiority, so they don’t feel inferior.
• Demonstrate an excessive need for respect or admiration.
• Lack empathy
• Are out for themselves
You may be thinking, well that sounds like my boss, my spouse, or my ex.
Hang on, steady on, wait a minute; before you start pathologizing someone, you need to be aware, that just because your significant other has these traits, does not mean that they are a narcissist. They may be narcissist-like. Or to use common parlance, they may be only aggressive, rude, and inconsiderate people.
Cluster B personalities
You may have heard the term Cluster B personalities. Cluster B does not just refer to narcissists. It also encompasses psychopaths and those with other conditions.
• Among narcissists, there are a few categories. Covert narcissists, malignant narcissists are some of the better-known ones, but there are also elitists narcissists.
Can’t victims just get over it?
The ability of victims to move on depends significantly on the sensitivity of the victim, and the magnitude of the injustice dictates how easy it is to move on.
While a positive, proactive mindset has much to recommend it, some experiences would sear the souls of the hardiest of individuals. For example, if you are made redundant, as Sarah was, proactivity is better than defeated resignation; however, all the mindset, strategy, etc. will count for little if you’re unable to secure alternative employment at a decent rate of pay.
Further, the consequences of redundancy are often long-lasting and demonstrated by the evidence. There are a few well-known effects:
• We become less trusting of others.
• We carry these hurts around with us like we’re lugging bricks, and we carry them around and make new homes for them.
• In extreme cases, redundancy is a known cause of self-harm or suicide.
• Some people who are nasty and mean are easy to label as narcissists, but may not be. They could be something else, like a sociopath.
The communal narcissist or elitist narcissist
So, all narcissists come across as self-serving individuals, right? Wrong. One of the myths about them is that they seem like self-engrossed individuals. After all, why would an individual who is only really interested in themselves want to be working for a progressive cause? It all seems rather counterintuitive, doesn’t it?
These are people who seek to promote themselves, allegedly to others. This is counterintuitive. They regard themselves as empathetic. The boast of how much they give to charity. They tell you about how good they have been to their neighbour. They love being seen to be helping people.
Of course, not everyone who works for a progressive organisation or cause should be written off as a narcissist. Many people are very genuine, but you have to trust your own judgment; don’t be naïve, but also don’t cynically write off everyone aligned with a progressive cause as a narcissist.
How do you spot the difference between genuine people and fake nice people?
What tells you that they are fake is that there is a jarring gap between their idealised-self and their actions?
The elitist or communal narcissist is the person who is the social butterfly at events. They’re giddy with intoxication at being the centre of the universe. Other people’s eyes on them satisfy their need to have others endorse their inflated ego.
They tend to be self-important, they believe themselves to be special, they are inclined to display fake animated emotions, and they are happy to exploit people for their own ends.
They can also be the sorts of people who remain firmly in control while others lose it.
Could these people have been misdiagnosed?
The term “narcissist” is now so widely thrown around; you’d have to wonder if the term isn’t sometimes being misused. While the risk of misuse is a reality, the fact is that toxic people often inflict pain – a lot of pain – on their victims. Like many physical illnesses that can be effectively treated with the right type of drug, psychological illnesses often leave an indelible mark.
What are the health effects of these people?
Scientific studies conducted by medical professionals show that trauma registers at the biological level. Negative experiences of significant magnitude can’t be flicked off like dandruff. It affects both the body and the brain. It also compromises the ability of individuals to enjoy and participate in life.
According to Dr. Christiane Northrup in her Youtube video, victims of narcissistic abuse often suffer from chronic inflammation because of the release of cortisol into their system. In terms of the cortisol produced by adrenal glands, small amounts are fine. However, with high levels, the body produces cytokines.
2 Effective Ways to Deal with Elitist or Communal Narcissists
You can only cut them out of your life, or you can establish firm boundaries when dealing with them. You can’t fix them and their issues; you can only fix yourself.
You can certainly use therapies like Pilates, yoga, etc. to help you cope with narcissists and their behaviour, but while these therapies can help, a power imbalance lies at the heart of many relationships. In other words, although you control your actions and behaviour, you can’t control the behaviour of others. If that person is a workplace superior, and he or she could make a decision that disadvantages you, it’s likely that even if they give you a say, they might listen and then make a decision about your role in the organisation that you don’t like.