A narcissist may seem emotionally intelligent and vulnerable at times, but it’s only because they want the spotlight on themselves. Another reason why they may seem emotionally intelligent is that they plan on playing the victim to control others and make them do their bidding.
Key Points –
A partner who opens up only to inflict guilt may be manipulative.
A person who utilizes a past trauma to justify a wrongdoing in the present may be Machiavellian.
An individual who broadcasts a past hardship only to re-route attention to herself may be narcissistic.
Why A Narcissist May Seem Emotionally Intelligent
A narcissist’s presentation is deceiving. Initially charming and fun, he is often well-received and displays capabilities that seem like emotional intelligence. Yet, distinguishing these tendencies from true emotional availability may shed light on Machiavellian tactics.
A person with narcissistic tendencies may seem vulnerable due to an ability to open up about past hardships. Yet, three factors may qualify this as manipulation versus vulnerability. First, the person uses a personal hardship to inflict guilt. Second, he excuses himself from accountability in the present by utilizing a trauma from the past. Third, the person redirects attention to himself by broadcasting a personal struggle.
These tactics allow a narcissistic individual the opportunity to play the victim in order to control and dominate others.
For example, Lisa’s partner recently broke up with her. At lunch with her daughter, Lisa laments about her difficulty living alone when Ann is at college. Ann feels guilt for wishing to return to school and wonders if she should stay home.
Lisa continues to make comments about her profound loneliness and sadness due to the separation from her partner and Ann’s return to college. Ann fears she is selfish for choosing to attend a distant college and, although she adores her school, decides to remain at home and enroll in a community college to prevent her mom from feeling sad.
Alternatively, Lisa opens up about the sadness she feels regarding the dissolution of her romantic relationship. Ann listens supportively. Lisa wonders if her constant need to be in a relationship is a possible flaw and tells Ann she is thinking about counseling. Ann encourages her mother and is relieved and reassured that Lisa is eliciting support.
In the first depiction, Lisa believes she is the victim and entitled to control her daughter in place of taking responsibility for her own issue. Conversely, the second scenario demonstrates Lisa’s display of vulnerability. She opens up about the emotional pain she feels and accepts her daughter’s support.
Taking responsibility for her plight, Lisa looks inward and uses the difficult experience to gain insight. Instead of attempting to influence a loved one, she accesses support and comfort while engaging in activities that help her evolve.
Opening up about past trauma may also be considered “playing the victim” if the individual uses the incident to escape accountability in the present. For example, Charlie is in a committed relationship with Rick but has an affair with a colleague. Rick is informed about Charlie’s alternate relationship from a mutual friend. When Charlie is confronted, he cries and says he feels he hasn’t received enough attention in the relationship.
He adds that he has suffered trauma in past relationships due to ex-partners who abandoned him. Charlie labels himself “jaded.” Rick is puzzled. Although he recalls being extremely attentive and present in the relationship with Charlie, he begins to doubt himself. He accepts Charlie’s assertion that Charlie has been wronged and therefore entitled to cheat. Rick makes a concerted effort to dote on Charlie in the following months, yet discovers Charlie is continuing to see people outside of the relationship.
Related: How to Deal with a “Kind” Narcissist