By Alla Bozarth

Of the three types of narcissism,
benign, malignant and malicious,
the first can be charming and harmless,
the second is primarily self-destructive,
but the third is full of malice.

Narcissists move through life without
a sense of self or soul, wounded out of them
in infancy, when they looked into the eyes
of their elders and instead of seeing themselves
radiantly mirrored as welcomed, wonderful,
miraculous beings, worthy of protection and care,
later taught to love in turn and to share, they saw
only a dull vacancy, and tragically internalized that
as who they themselves were. The worst among them
saw worse than that—hate where love should be.
Or it may have come later, in inklings of inferiority
surmised from neglect or in being eclipsed by a shining presence
greater than their own— then manifest reactively by distancing,
unpredictable rage, or the envious viciousness of parents or other children against their sensitive natures. Their personalities and souls went away
before they were formed. Something else developed instead, a compensation,
which they used as their strength.

For some it was anger, mean-spirited revenge.
For some it was a way to control others through intimidation, need or charm.
For most it was the ability to play any expedient role.
Natural actors, they thrived with a script, or
the taking on of professional identity—
minister, officer, doctor, professor, lawyer, nurse, nun.
Preferably something with a uniform and title.
They believed they had no other way to make an impression.

They might have become so skilled at their craft
that others were easily drawn to them.
They might inspire affection.
You might find them at your table, pouring fine wine,
laughing over dinner, or in your church group taking charge,
or at the head of the class in the limelight.

But some you will find closer,
someone you think is your true love or soulfriend.
One day you will put all the warnings together and realize
this person is not her or his own version after all,
but a hollow performance that finally breaks down.
Some stress or fatigue will take it all apart and it will collapse
before your eyes, perhaps leaving you covered with venom.
At their malicious worst, they will spew their hidden poisons
onto those who are near, those from whom they drew warmth
and receptive vitality, those whose lives and light they stole
to carry on their playacted performances passing for a life.
They will use your caring ears and heart as a toxic waste dump,
giving you the full burst of rage and resentment they feel
at being unable to receive or integrate love, for not having it
sufficiently given on the terms they needed or wanted
when their receptors should have formed, or from bad wiring
in the brain to begin with, regardless of nurture.
They will milk your spirit dry and then
bite off your nipples and drain your blood.

I am telling you this so that you will be aware
of the insidious danger, so that you will realize how many there are,
human beings acting out their self-destructive and self-serving parts
on the stage of service to others, convincing others
of the lies they believe about themselves.
I am asking you to pay attention to behavior,
incongruity, the smile that hides a seething spirit.
Don’t let it go too far. Invite them out of your life
before you’ve been harmed. Protect the holy ground
of your home and circle of loved ones. Protect yourself.
Do not listen when they say you no longer care about them.
Care enough to prevent them from harming their wayward souls
by causing harm to your own.

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