5 Clusters That Cover Every Trait In A Narcissist

— Reviewed by Dr. Sandip Roy.

You may know someone who always seems to bury your points to prove their superiority.

Worse, they want you to thank and admire them for pointing out “how wrong you were.”

These could be signs of narcissism, an abnormal personality type that involves a lot more than a desire to be seen as being above others.

Experts break down the features of narcissism into five clusters. Let’s explore them, so you may easily spot these in people around you.

Cluster 1: Envious, Jealous, Suspicious

The Green-Eyed Monster and Distrust

  • Envy and Jealousy: People with narcissistic traits often feel envious of others. They also believe that others are envious of them. We must note that narcissistic behavior can fluctuate over time. So, their envy and jealousy can oscillate between overt expressions and more subtle, internalized feelings.
  • Toxic Impact: Narcissistic envy is not just about wanting what others have; it can lead to deep-seated resentment and a desire to bring others down. This craving to put others down to feel superior can create a toxic environment around them.
  • Origin of Envy: There is a known relationship between trauma and narcissism, with narcissistic symptoms sometimes originating from emotionally abusive or manipulative environments (Ronningstam, 2010). This background can fuel intense envy and jealousy as a defense mechanism.
  • Suspicious Nature: They feel insecure because of constantly comparing what they have with what others have. They fear that people will rob them of what they own. Suspicious, they always question other people’s intentions and motives. The result is that they become distrustful of people, even their closest ones.
5 Trait Clusters of Narcissism

By the way, there is a difference between jealousy and envy; here’s a short table:

FeatureEnvyJealousy
FocusDesire for what others haveFear of losing what one has
EmotionResentment, longingInsecurity, distrust
BehaviorWishing to possess others’ possessions or qualitiesProtectiveness over someone or something, over-possessiveness
TriggerOthers’ success or good fortuneA perceived threat of losing someone or something
Table: Envy vs, Jealousy

Cluster 2: Grandiose Fantasies

Living in a Fantasy World

  • Belief in Specialness: Narcissistic people believe inside they are unique and can only be understood by other special people.
  • Grandiose Self-Importance: They have an inflated sense of their own importance and achievements. Grandiosity in narcissists is a defense against deep-seated feelings of vulnerability. When this defense fails, it can trigger intense insecurity and self-doubt.
  • Exploitation: They tend to take advantage of others to achieve their own ends. They justify their self-centered exploitative acts as a survival mechanism. They tend to believe, “The world doesn’t give you anything; you have to seize it.”
  • Victim Mentality: Despite their grandiosity, they often feel like victims, portraying and believing that they are misunderstood or wronged by others. Exploitation and victim mentality are common in grandiose narcissists. This comes from a mix of self-importance, entitlement, lack of empathy, and not getting everything they want.
  • Manipulative Tactics: They can manipulate and exploit anyone without feeling guilty. While they gain from this, they simultaneously show themselves as victims to garner sympathy and deflect blame.
  • Emotionally Empty or Cold: They are often emotionally detached, lacking the depth or warmth of feelings. They come aloof in conversations.
  • Spiritual Bypassing: Some narcissists use religious or spiritual beliefs to build up their sense of control and esteem. This can manifest as exploiting others under the guise of religious authority or martyrdom. Many cult leaders are narcissists.
  • Vengeful: They quickly become vindictive and seek revenge if they feel slighted. This is especially dangerous in a malignant narcissist — the most evil type of narcissist.

Psychologist Dr. Craig Malkin once said,

“Narcissism is about self-enhancement; it’s the perpetual quest to feel special.”

Cluster 3: Perfectionism

The Quest for Perfection

  • Narcissistic Perfectionism: Perfectionism is another hallmark of narcissism. They want to be seen as perfect at whatever they do. But there’s a twist — they are less self-critical but more oriented toward criticizing others. So they set unrealistic standards for those around them while maintaining an illusion of personal infallibility.
  • Unattainable Standards: Their drive for perfection in others is not just about having high standards; it’s about setting unattainable goals. This lets them maintain a sense of superiority and control over others. Of course, when people fail to reach the narcissist’s unrealistic standards, narcissists criticize them. This can make others fall into chronic dissatisfaction, constantly striving for impossible goals.
  • Origin of Narcissistic Perfectionism: Narcissist’s perfectionism often stems from environments where people abuse them emotionally or manipulate them. This reinforces their need to control and perfect their surroundings to protect their fragile self-image.
  • Frustration: Over time, their perfectionism streak can lead to constant frustration. As they age, they gather an underlying dissatisfaction with their lot in life.

Cluster 4: Insecurities

Hiding Behind A Mask of Confidence

  • Hiding the Self: Despite their outward arrogance, many narcissists are deeply insecure. So they hide their negative parts, vulnerabilities, and true feelings from others.
  • False Self: They create a “false self” — a persona that projects an image of infallibility. This false reality of a confident exterior can be exhausting to maintain.
  • Affective Instability: They go through intense emotions and unstable moods. This makes it hard for them to maintain good relationships.
  • Withdrawal: At times, they might withdraw from social interactions to protect themselves from perceived threats.
5 Trait Clusters of Narcissism Pin

Cluster 5: Arrogance and Entitlement

The King (or Queen) of the World

  • Arrogance: It is their very nature to exude a sense of superiority. They will be condescending and rude towards others at the first opportunity.
  • Entitlement: “Entitlement” is a belief that a person deserves special treatment or recognition. Narcissists have this built-in idea that they must be treated as special people, without actually being worthy of it. And when others do not meet their high expectations, they can quickly take offense and sulk.
  • Hypersensitive: Despite their outward arrogance, they are extremely sensitive to criticism. Feedback is not something they can handle with grace.
  • Fragile Ego: Their hypersensitivity to criticism stems from their fragile self-esteem. They require constant validation and admiration to maintain their self-worth, leading to volatile and unpredictable reactions to perceived slights.
  • Contingent Self-Esteem: Their self-esteem is dependent on external validation. They often harbor low self-worth and poor self-esteem.
  • Requiring Admiration and Attention: They constantly seek praise and attention from others. This makes them feel good and noticed, especially for their looks and wear.
  • Charming: They can be very charismatic and charming to pick up praise or favors from others. They can quickly find out what a person likes and can effortlessly slide into that topic. However, this charm does not seem to persist beyond the initial stages of a relationship or under specific circumstances (e.g., in public with an audience).
  • Devaluing: They tend to belittle and devalue others to maintain their sense of superiority. It is natural for them to judge other people’s good gestures and achievements as sub-par.
  • Reduced Empathic Ability: They lack emotional empathy and fail to respond responsibly to others’ emotions. Even when they seem empathetic, it is mostly a charade — they are not actually moved.
  • Rage: They are quick to anger or rage when they feel threatened, criticized, or opposed. The fallout of narcissistic rage can be extremely jarring and scarring.
Narcissism Cluster Traits
Narcissism Cluster Nodes (Image: Living with pathological narcissism)

Final Words

Remembering these five clusters of narcissism can help you see the narc behind the mask.

Most narcissists are charming. If they are talking to a room full of strangers, each can come off as if they were talking to only him/her.

But their confidence often hides deep insecurities and a need for narcissistic supply. These show up ugly when they have trapped you into a relationship.

Narcissistic traits can be linked to attachment trauma and emotionally devaluing environments. They may really have been victims before they became narcissists.

“Narcissism is an illness that can be likened to an emotional cancer. It eats away at the person suffering from it and those around them.”

But still, it doesn’t give hurt people any right to hurt other people.


√ Also Read: Narcissistic Relationship Cycle – 4 Seasons of Torture

√ Please spread the word if you found this helpful.

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