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Communal narcissism is a concept in psychology that deals with a combination of a narcissistic personality and a veneer of selflessness. 

It has been established that these individuals who are referred to as communal narcissists are usually involved in what may be considered altruistic behaviors, but their main goal is to be admired. These people might be high in empathy and agreeableness, but the motivation for their actions is self-oriented and stems from the need for approval from others. 

Such contradictory behavior can define rather intricate relationships; thus, it is difficult to distinguish genuine altruism from the obvious narcissistic self-promotion.

Communality means the inclination to demonstrate a higher level of concern for the group’s requirements than personal ones. It is a process that entails practices that are pro-social, and cooperative, and that foster the welfare of other people. Those with communal motives tend to perform tasks that are useful to other people, be compassionate, and promote togetherness in society. This concept is based on the social nature of man and the belief that people are most productive when they are encouraged and assisted by others.

Narcissism is defined by exaggerated self-esteem, the demand for recognition, and the inability to understand other people’s feelings. Narcissistic people require admiration from others to affirm their self-construct and may actively pursue it. Traditional narcissists are usually motivated by their achievements, control, and physical appearance, and they disregard other people’s needs.

Communal narcissism is a term that is derived from two aspects, which include communality and narcissism. It defines people who perform communal activities and positions as a way of gaining social approval and praise. More so, while typical narcissists may flaunt their achievements, communal narcissists want to be regarded as compassionate, understanding, and unselfish. They tend to occupy the role of the defenders of the common good and employ the appearance of selflessness to gain recognition [1].

Motive Behind Communal Narcissism

The major reason for communal narcissism is the desire for admiration. Even though community narcissists’ behaviors may seem to be selfless and oriented towards the benefit of the community, their motivation is usually rather egotistical. They want to improve their self-esteem and the image they present to the public, thus, they want to be seen as generous and compassionate people.

Desire for Praise: Communal narcissists seek validation and appreciation for their perceived altruism and hard work in the service of others. They get pleasure in being perceived as moral and essential to the society or group in which they live [1].

Image Management: Thus, performing the roles of the communal individuals, they present themselves as caring and donating people, thus obtaining social appreciation and recognition.

Are Communal Narcissists Truly Interested In Their Community?

The first and arguably the most important question that arises about communal narcissism is whether these people are truly concerned with the welfare of their community. Even though people may act in a way that indicates they genuinely care about others, their intentions are much darker and self-serving.

Although communal narcissists may provide support to others and perform kind gestures, these actions are likely to be motivated by the narcissist’s need for admiration. In these communal activities, they are often calculated and are mostly done to increase their status in society [2].

Their care and support are always selfish and are given based on the degree of reciprocation that the targets will provide. If they do not get the admiration that they anticipated, they may either pull out their support or develop bitterness.

Key Points To Consider

Public vs. Private Behavior: Communal narcissists are usually characterized by a high level of self-entitlement and a conspicuous lack of self-esteem; they may be very different in public and private. On the outside, they are presented as virtuous and selfless individuals who are only out to help others, yet on the inside, they may be more selfish and cunning.

Manipulative Tactics: They may use their communal roles to dominate the social interaction and influence other people. In this way, they can control others and make them loyal because they are presented as indispensable for the good of society.

Emotional Investment: As much as they may appear to care about things that are shared with a group of people, it is usually because they want that group to admire them. Their feelings may be overemphasized to gain attention and support their role of being kind-hearted persons.

Now let’s have a look at some of the common real-life situations to better understand communal narcissism.

At Work

At the workplace, communal narcissists can present themselves as essential members of the team and selfless workers. They are always ready to assist their fellow workers and perform additional tasks; however, their main goal is to be appreciated [2].

They may work on high-profile projects or assignments that provide opportunities to demonstrate their skills and willingness to give back. They demand recognition from the public for their efforts and may develop a feeling of bitterness if they are not given what they want.

Another type of narcissist is the communal narcissist who volunteers to assist his or her colleagues, with the main intention being to create a facade of being a helpful person. They frequently inform other people about the help they provide to others to make sure they are appreciated.

In Sports

In sports teams, communal narcissists work hard to be perceived as the life of the team. They are likely to be leaders in charge of something or occupy a position where they can be seen.

They may apply for the position of team captain or any other position where they will be appreciated for their encouragement. They do this to elicit approval from their teammates and coaches.

They oftentimes provide encouragement and support to other players but this support comes with a catch. They anticipate that they will be appreciated for the positive impact they bring to the team and may get angry when they are not appreciated.

In Support Groups

In support groups, they want to be perceived as warm, supportive, and strong figures. They present themselves as understanding and core stakeholders of the group’s cause.

They are likely to be more assertive and may talk a lot to be seen as knowledgeable and compassionate. They demand appreciation from other group members for the work they have done.

They can host meetings or gatherings, to prove themselves as indispensable for the group. They tend to participate in the group’s activities with the hope of being recognized instead of supporting the cause of the group.

In Volunteering

In volunteer work, communal narcissists utilize efforts to create an impression of themselves as selfless and kind. They take positions that enable them to be seen and have chances of being rewarded.

They like positions that are more public and where their work can be easily recognized and commended. They may not like to take assignments that do not involve the limelight or recognition behind the scenes.

They frequently announce their volunteer engagements and crave applause for their benevolence. They may use social media to make sure they get public recognition of their efforts and the work they have done.

Here we will take a look at some of the most commonly observed communal narcissism traits to help us identify individuals with communal narcissism.

Overemphasis on Altruism

The communal narcissists may also exaggerate their selflessness in most of the cases. They are always cautioning others about their benevolence and altruism.

Frequent Boasting: They often discuss the kind of work they do for the community, any volunteering they do, and any philanthropic endeavors.

Seeking Validation: They always seek recognition of their charitable work and ensure that everybody knows they are charitable [3].

Need for Recognition

Anxiety and narcissistic features are present in their communal actions, which make them seek attention and appreciation. They yearn to be perceived as the most compassionate people on the face of the earth.

Public Declarations: They display their philanthropic activities through public announcements which are mostly through social media platforms.

Expecting Praise: Such people anticipate and at times even demand appreciation and thanksgiving from others for the work done. If they do not get the recognition that they anticipate, they may get angry or become aloof.

Conditional Kindness

Their generosity and help are frequently given with a hidden agenda and are based on the amount of appreciation they expect in return.

Selective Help: They may decide to assist only those who will give them the best recognition or attention [3].

Withdrawal of Support: If they feel unappreciated, there is a possibility that they will stop supporting others or not be as willing to be supportive.

Manipulative Behavior

Communal narcissists are egoistic people who use the appearance of selflessness to dominate others.

Guilt-tripping: They can also pressure others into recognizing their input or to gain more power in a group situation.

Playing the Martyr: They tend to act as victims and make a lot of fuss out of how much they have suffered for others, all the time expecting people to feel sorry for them and praise them [2].

Inconsistency in Behavior

Their public and private lives are usually easily distinguishable, and there is often a significant difference between the two.

Public Virtue: In public, they are very virtuous and selfless to the extent of deceiving even themselves.

Private Self-Interest: In private, they are more self-centered and cunning, which means that they will not mind hurting people in their pursuit of what they want.

Exaggerated Empathy

The communal narcissists may be overly empathetic and emotional in their interactions, especially to get attention and compliments.

Dramatic Reactions: They act very emotionally to others’ issues to make it look like they are very sympathetic.

Over-involvement: They intrude in other people’s affairs and this is usually done with the intent of showcasing their compassionate side.

Difficulty Accepting Criticism

Similar to the original narcissists, communal narcissists are receptive to criticism in a negative manner. They may become offended when their intentions are being interrogated.

Defensiveness: They get offended, or even angry when their self-sacrificing behavior is ignored or when they are rebuked for it.

Rejection Sensitivity: They are easily offended and can easily turn into aggressive bullies when they feel that they are being rejected.

Exploiting Relationships

The communal narcissists are likely to use the relationships to gain much-needed esteem and dominance.

Networking: They also use their relations in a way that would help them improve their image and be recognized more.

Transactional Relationships: Their relationships are usually utilitarian, where the goal is to get something in the form of praise and admiration.

It is not easy to interact with people with communal narcissism because they act in a way that seems altruistic, but in reality, they are obsessed with receiving praise. 

Regardless of whether you are dealing with a communal narcissist in relationships, a communal narcissist mother, or a communal narcissist parent, there are some useful tips on how to handle such a situation.

Understanding The Dynamics

However, to tackle the issue of communal narcissism, one needs to know the reasons and actions of a communal narcissist. Understand that their apparent altruism is a way to manipulate and receive praise.

  • Be careful of their behaviors, including bragging about their good Samaritan acts, always wanting to be praised, and generosity with strings attached [4].
  • Remember that despite helping others, their motives are not always altruistic but rather selfish.

Setting Boundaries

It is significant to note that when dealing with a communal narcissist, one has to establish limits. This is useful for the preservation of emotional health and to avoid being influenced easily.

  • It is important to define quite specifically what kinds of behavior are permissible and what kinds are not. It is important that these boundaries are not crossed and one should be firm in ensuring that they are not crossed.
  • There must be continuity of the same message being delivered to the same target group. Communal narcissists will try to challenge your boundaries, therefore, you should not bend.

Managing Interactions

The way you communicate with a communal narcissist will determine how the relationship between you two will be. Use techniques that restrict their chances of dominating or influencing you.

  • It is advisable to avoid as much as possible any form of interaction with them. Do not pamper them, do not overpraise or indulge the side of them that craves appreciation.
  • If they are demanding compliments or appreciation, it is better to change the subject of the conversation. This assists in the reduction of their need to look for approval from you.
  • Self-focused individuals may even feed off of the feelings that they get from others. Therefore, do not rise to the bait and give them the reaction they want to get out of you.

How To Live With A Communal Narcissist In Relationships

It is also important to note that when dealing with communal narcissism in relationships, one should try to avoid being taken advantage of.

  • Trust is important and this is why the information exchange should be as open and clear as possible. Share your emotions and worries with them, but do not charge them with something [4].
  • Stress the aspect of reciprocity in the relationship, rather than focusing on the admiration that one feels towards the other.
  • Help them cope with the difficulties of a relationship by facilitating them to spend time with friends, and family and see a therapist.

Dealing With A Communal Narcissist Mother Or Parent

As earlier discussed, it is crucial to be both polite and assertive when dealing with a communal narcissistic mother or parent.

  • Point out the positive things that your parent has done for you while practicing your boundaries. This may help avoid possible conflicts of interest.
  • Limit the discussion of issues that cause emotional manipulation or create a sense of helplessness on your part.
  • If possible, encourage them to go for therapy or counseling so that they can be treated for their narcissistic behavior.

Dealing With A Communal Narcissist At Work

When it comes to a workplace environment, handling a communal narcissist is very frustrating because it affects the group and its performance.

  • Document the encounters especially if the person’s behavior impacts your performance. This documentation can be very handy in case of conflicts.
  • Always be polite and avoid using any slang or other improper language. Do not engage in issues that are related to personal life or anything that can evoke emotions.
  • If their behavior becomes problematic, suggest mediation or involve the HR department to sort out the problem in a proper manner.

Self-Care Strategies

Self-care is something important when dealing with a communal narcissist. Adopt coping mechanisms that will help you to stay psychologically and emotionally stable.

  • Participate in activities that can help you relax and take your mind off of things such as exercising, meditating, or doing other activities that interest you.
  • Be with people who know what you are going through. Sharing with other people who have similar conditions or attending therapeutic sessions can be helpful.
  • Make sure your requirements and health are not violated during the interactions with the communal narcissist.

1. Very Well Mind. Communal Narcissism—Understanding Collective Self-Centeredness. https://www.verywellmind.com/communal-narcissism-a-deep-dive-into-collective-self-centeredness-7561322

2. Choosing Therapy. What Is Communal Narcissism? https://www.choosingtherapy.com/communal-narcissism/

3. Simply Psychology. Communal Narcissist: Signs, Examples & How To Cope. ttps://www.simplypsychology.org/communal-narcissism.html 

4. Psychology Today. The Communal Narcissist: A New Kind of Narcissist? https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/finding-new-home/201812/the-communal-narcissist-new-kind-narcissist

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