Narcissism is a word we’re hearing more and more, with some psychologists describing it as the predominant mental issue of our time. Its toxic effects are far-reaching and long lasting, and you would do well to steer clear of all forms of narcissism.
But too often, you don’t have the knowledge you need to protect yourself from these happiness vampires and before you know it, you’ve innocently opened the door and let a narcissist in.
In this post we’ll explore narcissistic behavior, which Enneagram types are likely to attract a narcissist, and how to get help.
What is Narcissism?
Narcissism is a mental condition in which a person has a lack of empathy for others, an inflated sense of their own importance, and a covert or overt need for attention and admiration. The path to a narcissist is often strewn with troubled relationships, entitlement, an inability to manage disappointment, and chronic validation seeking. There are many types of narcissism ranging from grandiose to covert, from malignant to neglectful, but the common thread is that these defenses are all to shield a deep insecurity.
If all this sounds unattractive, it is. But most narcissistic relationships follow a common pattern, and the first phase is confusingly positive. “Love-bombing” is where the narcissist puts their new partner on a pedestal, creates amazing experiences with them, and “future fakes” by discussing a shared future that is meant to excite their partner but that will never materialize. All of this is done to cement the relationship.
The love-bombing phase has all the makings of a fairytale love story which is why all the chapters that follow become confusing. After love-bombing comes devaluation where the same person who was revered is now despised, put down, shamed, and devalued. There is a lot written about narcissistic abuse, but the obvious question is why would someone stay in such a toxic relationship? The question is simple but the answer is complicated. Using the lens of the Enneagram, let’s review which Enneagram types might attract narcissists and why it is hard to get untangled once these relationships start.
Which Enneagram Types Attract Narcissists?
It’s important to note that no Enneagram type is immune to attracting narcissists. From Type 1 Perfectionists to Type 9 Peacemakers, all Enneagram types may inadvertently offer good narcissistic “supply” by boosting the narcissist’s fragile ego and tolerating unacceptable behavior.
Narcissistic supply is what feeds a narcissist’s ego, and it comes in many forms: praise, admiration, achievement, sex, arrogance, entitlement, or a narcissist establishing superiority and devaluation of another person. The narcissist’s need for narcissistic supply is ongoing and results in manipulative behavior. This can quickly make a relationship with a narcissist thorny and complicated. Once entrapped, anyone, regardless of their Enneagram type may struggle to leave a narcissistic relationship.
Whether consciously or subconsciously, narcissists know exactly who to target for optimal narcissistic supply, and this is where the Enneagram can provide some useful clues. They seek and target people:
With high empathy
Who are likely to tolerate their emotionally abusive behavior, and/ or
Who will make them look good
While all types may become narcissistic targets, the heart center types, Type 2, Type 3 and Type 4, are at particularly high risk.
Type 2 Givers
Type 2s, with their high empathy and genuine concern for the pain of others, will often enable narcissists by excusing what is actually unacceptable behavior. They turn the other cheek, look away, and find ways to explain their partner’s temper tantrums, silent treatment, and constant devaluation. Type 2s are classic enablers and because self-love and self-care is their personal growth journey, they are prime targets for narcissistic abuse.
A Type 2 may try to excuse their partner saying, “he didn’t mean it!” “He was having a bad day.” “He’s got a lot of stress from work…” Rather than reject the emotionally abusive treatment they and those around them are experiencing, they will try to help and support the narcissist even more.
High empathy and enabling behavior are what make Type 2s targets for narcissists. Fear of being alone and a desire to “save” the narcissist can be what makes it hard for Type 2s to untangle themselves from these unhealthy dynamics.
Type 3 Achievers
Type 3s tend to be well put together, externally successful, and polished. The narcissist looks good beside their Type 3, and this strokes their fragile ego. They feel proud that they were able to attract such a high caliber partner. Narcissists tend to be freeloaders so they also may be attracted to the material success of a Type 3.
When a narcissist starts devaluing their partner it creates a lot of confusion for Type 3s. They themselves often have a fragile ego and may have a hard time pushing back against the gaslighting, the criticism, and all the other classic narcissistic devaluation techniques. The successful and polished image of Type 3s is what makes them desirable in the eyes of a narcissist and fear of failure along with low self esteem is what makes a Type 3 stay in these toxic relationships.
Type 4 Individualists
It can be a surprise to many that Individualist Type 4s can be targets for a narcissist. With their high emotional intelligence and almost sixth sense for the unspoken undercurrents of a situation, it would be tempting to think they could see immediately through the narcissist veil and understand the toxic thought patterns. Narcissists, however, are good at their game and for the same reason Type 2s get entangled, Type 4s can as well.
Type 4s often offer high empathy and work hard to understand the pain of their narcissist. And because they can struggle with low self esteem themselves, they may resonate with the devaluation strategies. They may actually agree with some of the put-downs, criticisms, and complaints coming from their narcissistic partner. Empathy and the deep desire to understand and explain the pain of others are what makes Type 4s narcissists targets, and their own chronic devaluation of themselves can be what makes it hard for them to get untangled from these damaging relationships.
These are three types who are likely to be targeted by narcissists, but any person can become a victim. Type 7s can be too positive and ignore all the warning signs. Type 9s accommodate bad behavior far longer than is reasonable. The list goes on, and you can easily see how each Enneagram type could fall prey to this toxic personality style.
What Makes Someone Unattractive to a Narcissistic?
Narcissists don’t thrive in the face of strong personal boundaries and high self esteem. When unacceptable behavior is called out immediately and real consequences are dished up in a clear, forceful, and meaningful way, the narcissist will usually realize the game is up and try to find better narcissistic supply. Because of their fragile ego, they may be in a hurry to discard you first. While this can be painful, if you’ve been discarded by a narcissist, you actually dodged a bullet.
Regardless of your Enneagram type, solid self esteem and strong personal boundaries are your best defenses against narcissistic abuse. Narcissistic abuse is real and like all forms of emotional abuse, it can be extremely damaging and leave lasting scars. If you or someone you know is suffering from narcissistic abuse, get help. Educating yourself is a key part of the healing process, and YouTube offers several helpful resources including Doctor Ramani and Surviving Narcissism with Laura Charanza and Dr. Les Carter. You can also search for a therapist in your area who understands narcissistic abuse.