Recognizing the 'Hero' Narcissist
The Hero Narcissist is the type of narcissist who is invested in being the hero. The savior, the good guy, the fixer, the problem solver. Unlike most narcissists, the hero narcissist doesn't engage in overtly abusive behavior most of the time. They often appear concerned, compassionate and helpful. They are often extremely manipulative and use guilt, fear and something we can call "kindness bullying."
Kindness bullying would be using statements that sound compassionate or considerate to get people to do something. An example of this could be "Stop being so selfish and let me help you," or "If you love me, you would let me do this." These types of statements may or may not be well-intentioned, but trying to force someone to accept something through manipulation of their feelings is not OK. Many people may not even recognize that this in fact is manipulation, and it can be tricky to pinpoint someone else's motivations, so the rule of thumb would be that no means no. If someone says no, then regardless of how much help may be needed, it's no. Most people will respect the word no, even if they don't like it. Narcissists will not. They will simply keep pushing.
This is the type of personality we often see involved with charitable organizations, causes, churches and cults. A lot of people ask if the current inculcation of so-called social justice warriors are narcissistic. While of course they certainly are not all narcissists, some narcissists do gravitate toward causes and charitable situations for attention, power and fame. Victims have been bestowed with special status in our society in some ways and you can expect to see a few narcissists hiding among the actual victims in these situations. Maybe more than a few. No one can turn a noble cause into personal gain faster than a narcissist. This is unfortunately something we see all the time. Well-meaning causes are co-opted by narcissists and psychopaths every day.
There is also the smaller-scale hero narcissist. This is the person who, while not preying on strangers for attention or money or some kind of personal gain, will often be the indispensable member of the family or group of friends or workforce, the one who insists on taking over everything and "fixing things." These are people who are generally not asked or invited to help, but who barge in anyway, insisting there is a problem that needs to be solved - and that only they can do it for whatever reason. They may even covertly create problems just so they can "fix" them and remind everyone how much they are needed. The abuse from these people is subtle, and usually involves creating situations where people are forced to rely on them or feel guilty not involving them. Others may even believe that the hero narcissist really IS a hero. It takes careful observation sometimes to realize that their motivations are actually all about themselves, not the greater good or the well-being of other people. Ironically, often the only time you will see overt abuse from these people is when they are not permitted to help. If they cannot be the savior, they are being denied their opportunity to shine and they don't like that at all.
While most hero narcissists bask in the positive attention and glory of being the savior, there are those who complain nonstop about it and seem to bear their self-imposed burden with extremely ill will. However, despite their complaints, there is no amount of dissuading that will make them believe their help is not needed. These kinds of people are often more overtly abusive, and their "help" often comes with put downs and attacks. They are the kind of people who say things like, "Well, I guess I'll take care of this for the millionth time. God knows, no one else here can do anything right." Now of course, non-narcissistic people say those kinds of things out of frustration all the time, for example when others will not help with something. However, the hero narcissist has no reason to be frustrated because they are not being compelled to do anything, nor are they asking others to help. They are simply taking everything upon themselves and feeling justified in abusing others because of it.
The biggest difference between the hero narcissist and people who truly want to help is their motivation and how they behave because of this motivation. People who truly want to help often wait until they are asked. They may also volunteer, but they don't insist or simply take over. They don't believe they are the only ones who can solve the problem, they don't become angry when given suggestions or if someone offers to help and they don't insist people acknowledge their superior efforts. A person who simply wants to help will not insist that you let them and they will not abuse you if you refuse.
The hero narcissist, like every other narcissist, is an extreme control freak. It all has to be done their way, and if they cannot be the indispensable savior, they feel rejected, hollow and upset. For example, we often see this in narcissistic families, where parents will not allow children to solve or even understand their own problems. They may even create problems in the child's life, such as with teachers or other children. They then rush to the child's defense, glorying in their moment as mother or father of the millennium. In their retelling of this incident - and there will be retelling - it is all about how they felt, what they did and what someone was doing to their child. Their motivation is not the child or love for the child. It is self-aggrandizement. While most parents will defend their child because they believe the child is being abused or treated unfairly, to the hero narcissist, the child is an afterthought. It is all about them. The child is often then instructed to feel grateful that they have such a caring parent. How the situation has actually impacted the child is not important and is very often not even addressed at all.
Attempts on other people's parts to handle or solve their own problems are often met with anger or guilt from the hero narcissist. Sometimes they are met with an almost shocking indifference. This is one of the ways you can tell if you are dealing with a hero narcissist or not. A person who genuinely wants to help will not be jealous or angry of your attempts to solve your own problems; on the contrary, they will encourage this, and they will still care about you and your issues even if you don't take their advice or come to them for help. The hero narcissist doesn't care because they've been robbed of their chance to shine and suck up positive attention. You didn't bring your problem to them to solve, so it does not involve them. Just like every other narcissist, if something doesn't involve them, it doesn't interest them. More than that, if they feel purposely denied the opportunity to help, it may even anger them.
If you are dealing with a hero narcissist, you should approach them the same way as any other kind: don't react, don't feed in and remember: NO J.A.D.E.! They are just as toxic as the more overtly abusive narcissists, and in some ways, even more so because their methods of abuse and control are often not as obvious.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Is the hero narcissist as damaging as other types of narcissists?
Yes. More so, in some ways, because people don't see them coming.Helpful 34