It is hard to believe that there are people out there who use the cloak of altruism for their own benefit. For many of us naive desperate souls, it can be devastating to realize that benevolence can be cloaked in scheming self-interest. In his book, Dr. Craig Malkin author of The Narcissist Test terms these scheming do-gooders as communal or altruistic narcissists.
Though morally repugnant, there are many of these types who use the guise of social work for their own gain, -whether financially or to up their social standing or get a free supply of cheap labor. Altruism to them is about superiority, control, and personal benefits. Sadly, churches and charitable organizations are filled with these manipulative do-gooders.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a personality disorder characterized by a long-term pattern of exaggerated feelings of self-importance, an excessive need for admiration, and a lack of empathy toward other people. They crave power, and status and are deeply concerned about appearances. Furthermore, they have no qualms about using people around them to achieve their goals. They use, abuse, and discard people.
In the initial stages, one is swept away by a narcissist’s kindness, caring, and benevolence. Gradually, they reveal their true colors. You will find it unbelievable how from being cherished you are cruelly devalued. It fucks up your mind. Your brain experiences a state of cognitive dissonance – a state of mental confusion. What is real? What did I do? Was it my fault?
One must note though that these scheming do-gooders are not totally malignant or evil. Most fall on the narcissistic spectrum. Many don”t intentionally start out abusing but have found that social work is the easiest way to get their own needs met. They just hate doing their own dirty work because they are lazy, entitled, and arrogant.
Nonetheless, all forms of narcissism are exploitative and one needs to be wary.
Wolves In Sheep Clothing
No doubt every healthy relationship must have equal give and take. However these scheming do-gooders have a one-sided agenda, how useful will this poor downtrodden sod be.
The well-being of the recipient of their largesse is inconsequential.
In the guise of helping the needy, they expect to be compensated tenfold. They expect adulation, admiration, financial gain, and a bevy of devoted slaves.
Being the center of attention and admiration is what these personality-disordered types want. They are not really looking to help another human being but seek to control and manipulate for their own gain. They expect a drowning man to hand over his Cartier watch in exchange for saving his life.
These types are usually pillars of the community but are highly destructive and unloving in their personal roles as friends, husbands, wives, fathers, and mothers. The friends, spouses, and children of the communal narcissist find themselves in a particular bind because who would ever believe them?
Preying On The Needy
The narcissistic do-gooder preys on susceptible and struggling human beings. Social work and ministry are easy ways to gain recognition. Another person’s struggles are just stepping stones to fulfilling their own desperate need for admiration.
At its core, narcissism is about control, getting a steady supply to feed their fragile egos. The altruistic narcissist gives in order to receive. They manipulate people by making them indebted to their generosity. Obligation and guilt are the two weapons they wield to keep you tethered to them.
Pathological narcissists manipulate people in order to achieve their self-serving agenda – fame, gain, and devotion.
And philanthropy has become the easiest route to being in the limelight.
Charity Begins In Front Of The Camera
In today’s world, social work has become fashionable. What with celebrities showing up for humanitarian photo calls?
Being part of a charitable organization is the best way to up one’s social standing and garner publicity. A celebrity without a philanthropic cause gets less media attention.
No one really bothers about the people who are supposed to benefit from these organizations.
Moreover, who will call out those kindly narcissistic humanitarians even though their ulterior motives may be apparent?
Angelina Jolie and Meghan Markle are some of the celebrities that benefited from using social causes to win public adulation.
How much celebrities actually help these charitable organizations is an unanswered question.
Narcissistic Covetousness – Filling One’s Own Pockets
The recent news of Prince Andrew blatantly hiding behind the charity cloak to fill his own kitty is disgusting. How can someone so privileged and wealthy be so greedy? His behavior shows that greed can overrun common decency.
Being helpful and kind is critical for society to function. Unfortunately, social work is used by many people not just narcissists to achieve status and get certain things.
Greed – Taking From The Poor
My paternal grandmother was very much into social work. Every Monday, she’d take her big bag and trot off to church to help distribute food to the needy. Oh, she flaunted her good deeds to all and sundry. She’d make it a point not to miss her Monday social work.
As a child I was impressed. However, I was confused as to why she carried such a big bag when she went to do her good deeds.
One Monday, a potential customer had come to buy her pig (she bred livestock for side income). So I went to give her the message at church. While waiting for her to leave, I saw her packing in milk powder and other groceries into her bag. She was taking in much more than they gave the needy who had to line up for these items.
My 6-year-old brain was shocked. Can someone be that immoral? I know now that people on the narcissistic spectrum feel entitled. Their over-inflated self-view makes them unable to see wrong from right. It is all about satisfying their own selfish agenda. The poor are a channel for lining their own pockets. Charity is the means to their own selfish ends.
The Benevolent Schemer With An Agenda
One has to be aware of those benevolent narcissists who put on the cloak of kindness just to exploit.
I clearly remember the moment, stood in front of my mother’s dead body and wondered, ‘How will I manage?’ And like a perceptive mind-reader this relative beckoned me, put her arm around me, and said those reassuring words, ‘Don’t worry, think of me as your mother.’ I felt so relieved.
Two weeks post my mother’s death she came to my home and told my father she was taking me for the weekend. I was thrilled. The next day she scheduled work to be done. Since her sons did not bother with doing anything, I too went off to play. The moment the woman returned, she began ranting and targeted me since I was a girl and I was 1 year older than her oldest.
In her twisted mind, 11 years was old enough to support her in her quest to be the ‘Social Worker of the World‘. It never occurred to her that kindness begins at home.
Though narcissists and codependents may seem very different, their underlying behavior is strikingly similar. There is a strong overlap between narcissism and codependency. Both have a desperate need for other people’s approval.
Furthermore, both these traits stem from a dysfunctional childhood that damages their core self. This makes them incessantly look for external sources of validation and fulfillment.
A codependent prioritize others’ needs over their own in order to win affection and praise. While the altruistic narcissist uses people as a means to gain the admiration they desperately crave. The codependent lives for other people while the narcissist wants other people to live for them.
Unfortunately, my toxic childhood turned me into an over-accommodating codependent and thus a magnet for narcissistic abuse.
Trauma & Learned Helplessness
Growing up in an abusive family means lack and loss. My father was not just physically and emotionally abusive, he was neglectful in meeting even our basic needs. I grew up feeling not good enough and lacking in confidence. In childhood, one was unable to effectively cope with the trauma so the only way was resignation or helplessness. Hoping that someone would rescue us.
Anyone showing me any kindness whether material or emotional and I’d feel emotionally bonded to them. I suffered from toxic gratitude syndrome.
Moreover, not having any support from my family of origin made me accept and tolerate all forms of insidious abuse. From the blatant lies of my ex-narcissist partner to the cunning manipulation of a toxic friend. My brain had been programmed to accept abuse as love.
Even when we know it’s not right, not normal, our past makes us primed to accept manipulative behavior as normal. It takes a lot of effort and reality recalibration to accept that behind that kindly mask lurks a wolf.
Wisdom Comes With Experience
Recently, I extricated myself from another toxic relationship with an altruistic narcissistic friend. I clung to her hoping to be saved from my problems, Before I knew it, I was expected to live my life around her needs. When I balked at being her devoted slave she became disparaging and rejecting
It was my wake-up call, a blessing in disguise. Distance has given me a clear picture of the abusive dynamics. I am slowly building up my boundaries and self-esteem.
It is easy to get bonded to narcissists, particularly if they offer hope to the desperate. After all, when one is going through a difficult time it is such a relief to have someone offer a helping hand. Sadly, that hand comes with unreasonable strings attached. And we don’t realize it till one day it dawns on us that they don’t really see us. The human blood-sucker is busy sucking your blood instead of giving you the promised blood transfusion.
Human beings need other humans to survive. Growing up in an abusive and dysfunctional home is akin to floating on a rudderless raft. We try and clutch on anything that will help us stay afloat.
Traits of An Altruistic Narcissist
Always Look A Gift Horse In Its Mouth
Most people are not inherently malignant and exploitative, Narcissism is a multi-layer trait and most people are sort of in the middle, though some may be more extreme than others. It is all about self-interest and self-actualization. If one is been brought up getting away with selfishness and self-centeredness, they will continue that behavior until someone puts their put down. Only then will they realize that it is not acceptable.
It is up to us to work on our self-esteem and overcome our dependency needs. If we are self-reliant we don’t have to tolerate bad behavior. And intermittently kindness is not acceptable. Only constancy, compromise, and mutual compassion should be the mantras in all our relationships.
Fill your own cup, don’t expect or want someone else to fill yours. Trust your gut, if someone consistently makes you feel like shit, run.
Lastly, always look a gift horse in its mouth.
Image Source: Pixabay
Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself –
Rethinking Narcissism: The Secret to Recognizing and Coping with Narcissists – Craig Malkin
The Narcissist You Know: Defending Yourself Against Extreme Narcissists in an All-About-Me Age – Joseph Burgo
Narcissism: Denial of the True Self -Alexander Lowen
What a brilliant and beautiful and straight forward article. I googled altruistic narcissist because I didn’t understand it.
Such a clear article, thank you very much. It’s full of clarity, understanding and love!
Thank you, Leonie, so glad you found it helpful. Love n light to you.