It is an often repeated question that I am asked – why do narcissists operate from the same book or why do narcissists all behave in the same way? Is there some School of Narcissism, a University of Manipulation or a College of Coercion? The fact that much of what I write about with regard to my own behaviours and those of my kind resonates with so many, many people naturally causes this question to be asked. How is it that narcissists know how to behave in such similar ways? What is behind narcissists using such familiar and well-experienced manipulations? How do we learn to do this? Indeed, such is the similarity of experience that I am regularly asked by people whether I am their narcissist (I am not) and some even go so far as to write to me on a daily basis questioning my behaviour, pleading and chastising as they truly think I am the narcissist who is tormenting them (again I am not) but this is borne (in part) out of the recognition of similarity with regard to the operation of narcissists.
Do we all use the same book and if we do, how does this come about?
The first observation to make is that whilst there are similarities in the way that we operate there are also considerable differences. Of course, many of those who are ensnared by us find themselves ensnared by similar types (as in school and cadre) of narcissist, therefore the behaviours will indeed appear similar to the victim. However, Lesser Narcissists have a smaller range of manipulations, are rudimentary in their activity, have smaller fuel matrices leading to more interruption to their fuel supply which in turn causes more volatile and haphazard behaviours and have a low threshold on their ignited fury which will invariably appear as heated fury. These are considerable differences from the Mid Range Narcissist and both Lesser and Mid Range are different again from the Greater School.
Now, a Lesser Narcissist may use a silent treatment (the hallmark of the Mid Range Narcissist) but it is rarer, there are cross overs between the schools in terms of certain behaviours. For instance, all schools may use physical violence, however Lesser Narcissists do so more often and more brutally and without regard for consequence, Mid Rangers do so far less often, tend to use pushing, holding, spitting and slapping rather than punching, kicking, biting or head butting and Greaters, where physical violence is used (which is rare) may do so through a proxy or will do so in a manner less likely to be detected. Thus there is a similarity with regard to the use of physical violence but considerable differences in its frequency and application. Similar behaviours but with variations.
How about achieving coercion and control? The Lesser is a blunt instrument relying on blind fear through physical aggression (to person and property). The Mid Ranger will rely on being kind and good-natured moving to pity and emotional blackmail before involving threat, albeit it remains that. The Greater uses charm and reward before the use of threat which will be implemented if required. Thus all three schools engage in coercing and controlling victims but do so in differing ways.
What then of fuel matrices? The three articles I have previously written about those matrices show a commonality – we all need fuel – but significant differences in the composition and extent of those fuel matrices. The Lesser has a small fuel matrix with heavy reliance on the Intimate Partner Primary Source and is more likely to make use of a Non Intimate Partner Primary Source should the need arise. The Mid Ranger has a wider fuel matrix, but relies significantly on the IPPS also and less on a Non Intimate Partner Primary Source. The Greater has the widest and most varied fuel matrix and whilst there remains a reliance on the IPPS, it is not as great as the other two schools and indeed the Greater School can endure for far longer without a primary source at all compared to the other schools.
All three schools exhibit ignited fury when wounded (see the book Fury for more details in that regard) however the Lesser has a hair trigger in that regard and relies mostly, often exclusively on heated fury. The Mid-Ranger has more control than the Lesser but it is not substantially improved and their fury manifests more through cold fury. The Greater has a significant control over his or her ignited fury and will use both heated and cold fury should control not remain in place.
Not all narcissists are grandiose. Some are aggressive, others are passive aggressive. Some are haughty, others almost needy. Some focus on the physical, others on the cerebral. Some are successful and others are not.
Accordingly, it can be seen that there are similar strands with regard to narcissists, in terms of constitution, outlook and behaviour but with notable and significant differences between the schools. Therefore it is not accurate to state that all narcissists operate from the same playbook, but that it appears there are similarities. Again, as mentioned earlier, this appearance of it being the same may also be the experience of the victim because he or she has been ensnared by narcissists of the same school and cadre.
Yet, what if the differences I have explained above (and there are plenty more) are regarded as mere subtleties by victims and instead you point to the fact that we seduce victims, we love bomb, we devalue, we disengage, we suffer wounding, we hoover and we smear. Are those all not the operations of narcissists, are they not all the same? Do we not all regard people as objects as appliances? Do we not all lack emotional empathy? Do we not all experience envy, jealousy and hatred? Do we not all utilise black and white thinking? Do we not all have an overwhelming need for control of our environments? Again, these would be seen as significant ‘sames’ with regard to our kind and support the suggestion that we all operate in accordance with one, mystical, all-encompassing manual of narcissism.
It is clear from the many comments that I have read on my blog and social media platforms, from the e-mails I have received and the content of consultations that people have very similar experiences with regard to being a victim of our kind, whether it is romantic, familial, social or work entanglement. Thus it very much appears that we do indeed all operate from the same book and this raises the next question, how can that be? How is it that narcissists ‘know’ to operate this way, to have the same perspectives, to react in the same way and to deal with their victims in such similar ways?
That is a simple question to answer.
It is not the case that because one is a narcissist that one knows to operate in the same way as every other narcissist. No.
It is because we act in such similar ways that we are narcissists. If you do not act in this way, you are not one of us, if you do, you are and you belong to our club.
Manipulate, lack emotional empathy, regard people as appliances who belong to us forever, control people, need fuel, lack remorse, have no or poor boundary recognition, exhibit magical thinking, a sense of entitlement, have no concept of accountability, ensure it is never our fault, see only in black and white and so forth and you are a narcissist. Not the other way around.
It is the similarity in behaviour that makes us narcissists, not that we are narcissists so we behave similarly.