One of the most confusing things that victims of narcissistic abuse experience are people who only see the “good” side of the narcissist. When victims are constantly being told by others that the narcissist is a wonderful person, it can gaslight them into devaluing themselves and questioning their own sanity. It is for this reason that having an explanation to a narcissist’s ability to be “nice” to others is so important for victims of narcissistic abuse.

The reason that narcissists are “nice” to others is because they have to maintain a charming, charismatic, and captivating public persona to create a support group that blindly validates their twisted perception of reality while providing them with a consistent flow of validation, admiration, and reassurance.

This article is going to explain a narcissist’s ability to be “nice” to others but abusive behind closed doors. We’ve also created a short video (see below) with information about the reason that narcissists deliberately hurt you so you can better understand the abuse that you’re experiencing.

A Short Video About the Reason That Narcissists Deliberately Hurt You

Narcissists Are Nice to Others So They Can Get Narcissistic Supply

Narcissistic supply is the validation, admiration, and reassurance that narcissists get from their external environment. If you’re to understand a narcissist’s ability to have a public persona that makes them appear charming, charismatic, and captivating while simultaneously having a private persona that is abusive and traumatizing, you have to understand a narcissist’s origin story.

It is believed that narcissism originates from an unhealthy childhood upbringing with primary caregivers who were emotionally unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent with the narcissist. The narcissist’s primary caregivers were incapable of mirroring their thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs.

This means that the narcissist never got the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they needed to develop a realistic sense of self and have a healthy cognitive development. This is also the period in the narcissist’s life where they developed deeply rooted negative emotions about themselves.

The reason for this is that their primary caregivers’ neglect caused them to believe that their true identity wasn’t good enough to be loved by others. This led to them developing a sense of inadequacy, being unlovable, unwanted, weak, and a fear of abandonment.

These are powerful negative emotions but because of their unhealthy cognitive development, they don’t have the emotional intelligence that is required to use healthy forms of emotional regulation to manage them. To avoid emotional turmoil, narcissists use the falsified identity that they created from the validation, admiration, and reassurance from their external environment to suppress all of their negative emotions deep within their psyche. 

To keep these negative emotions suppressed, they need an excessive amount of validation, admiration, and reassurance. On top of all of this, they need to avoid contradictions to their falsified identity (e.g. being criticized, held accountable for their behavior, not getting their way) as much as possible. If their falsified identity is contradicted, their negative emotions will be triggered and their emotional stability will be compromised. 

One of the biggest reasons that narcissists are “nice” to others is to get enough narcissistic supply to suppress their negative emotions and protect their fragile sense of self. This allows them to remain relatively emotionally stable but still leaves them vulnerable to contradictions to their falsified identity. To stamp out this vulnerability, narcissists need to maintain a public persona that creates a support group to validate their reality. 

A narcissist with a group of supporters

Narcissists are Nice to Others to Maintain a Public Persona That Creates a Support Group to Validate Their Reality

When a narcissist is nice to others it allows them to maintain a charming, charismatic, and captivating public persona that creates a support group for their reality. These supporters are known as flying monkeys and narcissist enablers.  

A flying monkey is someone who has been manipulated by the narcissist into participating in the abuse of their victim. A narcissist enabler is someone who doesn’t understand narcissism or narcissistic abuse so they approach the situation as they would a healthy relationship. 

Suggested Readings: Why Do Some People Become Flying Monkeys, How Do Narcissists Use Flying Monkeys, How Do Narcissists Get Flying Monkeys

Supporters play a crucial part in the emotional stability of a narcissist. The reason for this is because victims of narcissistic abuse are often the only ones who can see straight through the narcissist’s public persona to their private persona. They are the only ones who know how abusive narcissists truly are. 

When a narcissist senses that they are losing power and control over their victim, they will begin to recruit flying monkeys to invalidate and devalue the victim’s perception of reality before they have a chance to expose the narcissist to others. 

To do this, a narcissist will spread lies and gossip about the victim to mutual friends, family members, and/or colleagues. For example, imagine that a victim of narcissistic abuse has worked their way into a position from which they can safely leave the relationship. They aren’t controlled by the narcissist, they have an exit/safety plan in place, and they are ready to leave. 

To prevent a contradiction to their reality and falsified identity, a narcissist might go to the victim’s friends and family and spread lies and gossip about the victim (e.g. “Sarah and I broke up because she cheated on me. I tried to make it work for the longest time but she has been really abusive. I feel like I don’t know her anymore”).

In a perfect world, this approach to remaining in power and control of the victim would never work. But the truth is that when victims of narcissistic abuse escape the relationship, they are in really bad shape. They’ve often been manipulated into neglecting their own thoughts, feelings, emotions, and physical/psychological needs for long periods of time. 

They might have developed maladaptive coping mechanisms to deal with the abuse that they were experiencing such as drinking alcohol, over/under eating, sleeping too much, illegal substance use, etc. It is very common for the physical appearance of the victim to change drastically throughout their narcissistic relationship. 

When this is combined with a narcissist’s tendency to isolate them from friends and family, the victim might find themselves without a support group because their friends and family have witnessed their steady decline with no explanation as to why. So when the narcissist comes around spreading lies and gossip with their charming, charismatic, and captivating public persona, people believe them and turn into their flying monkeys!

a narcissist recruiting flying monkeys

What this does is it gives the narcissist a fill-in source of narcissistic supply because they get gratification from being able to trick others into believing in their reality. It makes them feel smart and clever while feeding their sense of specialness and uniqueness.

It allows them to keep their falsified identity intact because now they have a ton of flying monkeys validating, admiring, and reassuring their every move. And it prevents the victim from exposing their abusive behavior to others.

A support group is massively important for a narcissist to have so one of the reasons that they are nice to others is to maintain a public image that is captivating, charming, and charismatic so when the day comes that they need help invalidating, devaluing, humiliating, dehumanizing, and degrading their victim, they can do so effortlessly. 

Suggested Reading: How to Deal With a Flying Monkey

Narcissists Are Nice to Others Because They Have Communal Personality Traits

Communal narcissism is a contender for the hardest narcissistic personality to spot because they get their narcissistic supply from doing good things for other people. But here’s the catch, they only do things for other people when they have an audience to validate, admire, and reassure their actions.

Communal narcissists need to have their “charitable” lives documented. They will have people record them handing money, food, and water to those in need. They’ll even go as far as volunteering in a developing nation just so they can take pictures with the people that they meet. It is all about the audience!

3 Characteristics of a Communal Narcissist

  • They are dedicated to specific charities or causes: It is very common for communal narcissists to dedicate a lot of their time to specific charities or causes. So much so that they often neglect other important responsibilities that they have, like being a good parent, colleague, friend, or family, because they don’t bring as much validation. 
  • They broadcast their mission or a calling to anyone who will listen: It is sad to say but kindness doesn’t get as much validation, admiration, or reassurance as it should. A communal narcissist will be very vocal about their mission or calling to make up for society’s neglect of kindness. 
  • They come across as a martyr: A communal narcissist will invalidate, devalue, and degrade people they believe aren’t as “virtuous” as they are (e.g. if they are someone who bikes everywhere that they go to save the earth by minimizing their carbon footprint, they might lash out at those who don’t).

If the narcissist in your life sounds nothing like a communal narcissist, it is important to remember that narcissism exists on a continuum.

What this means is that narcissists who are considered to be fully communal are distinguishable from narcissists who are considered to be fully grandiose, malignant, or covert. However, victims of narcissistic abuse often experience abuse from narcissists who are more towards the center of the continuum. 

This means that there is going to be some overlap among the characteristics and personality types of the different narcissistic personalities. So, even though the narcissist in your life doesn’t match the criteria of a communal narcissist perfectly, they could still have communal personality traits that cause them to get narcissistic supply from doing “good” things for others.

It can be really difficult for victims of narcissistic abuse to watch the narcissist walk to the end of the earth to help other people but be really cold, distant, and mean-spirited to you. With that being said, one of the reasons that narcissists are nice to others could be because they have communal personality traits. 

What Should You Take Away From This Article?

The only reason that narcissists are “nice” to others is to maintain a public persona that allows them to get as much validation, admiration, and reassurance that they need to support their fragile sense of self.

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All of the content that Unfilteredd creates is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for clinical care — please visit here for qualified organizations and here for qualified professionals that you can reach out to for help. This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policies.

References

Nehrlich, Andreas D., et al. “Agentic narcissism, communal narcissism, and prosociality.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 117.1 (2019): 142.

Rijsenbilt, Antoinette, and Harry Commandeur. “Narcissus enters the courtroom: CEO narcissism and fraud.” Journal of business ethics 117.2 (2013): 413-429.