In the case of the manipulator, particularly those with narcissistic tendencies, they often have a primary source of value. This source is highly valued and aggressively defended should anyone venture to close to its location. In a certain way, this source is not only their greatest strength, but also one of their primary weaknesses. The source of value is often something highly meaningful to the manipulator, possibly a skill or ability, something they are known for or have developed a reputation for. Even if the belief in their reputation or ability is in fact false, as long as they themselves believe it to be true, the value remains. The manner in which they express themselves and the motivation behind that expression is different and to some degree separate from their source of value. Rather than a motivation such as control, the source of value is what grounds their underpinning belief, that they are in fact important. This desire stems from a need for acknowledgement, recognition and admiration. The manipulator or more specifically the narcissist, wants to be admired in general, but ‘needs’ to be admired for their specific source of value. This source is part of their identity and meaning and must be protected, nurtured and reinforced constantly, to ensure it always remains in tact.
Imagine someone, who’s source of value is intelligence, more accurately ‘the idea that they are in fact someone of high intelligence’. They must work to maintain the external perception of this belief, meaning, those around them must view and continue to view them as highly intelligent people. They diligently work to improve and reinforce this belief and perception, not only for the people around them, but also for themselves. The scale of this maintenance depends on where they are currently situated as far as external awareness is concerned. For instance, if they are a lecturer, the perception shaping behavior may only take place within the institution, if they are a worker within the work place and if a member of a family, within the confines of that family structure. Large scale perception shaping is difficult because there are too many possibilities to slip up, to be revealed and exposed, so many whom exhibit narcissistic characteristics choose to shape the perception of their apparent value in a more controlled environment. It often resembles the big fish, small pond scenario. This person has managed to shape the perception that they are an intelligent person, whether they are or not is to some extent irrelevant, what is relevant is the belief that they are in fact a person of intelligence. They may actually be quite intelligent, but this can and often is undermined by insecurity and doubt. This insecurity and doubt, coupled with a vulnerable mind, compel the individual to take action with the purpose of protecting and maintaining their identity, character, belief and meaning. This is where the normal seemingly balanced individual crosses over into the world of the dark self. Every time the fear, doubt, anxiety and feeling of vulnerability emerge, the narcissistic character must take action. This action may come in a number of forms. On the more passive side they will self congratulate, reinforce their reputation through altered truths and lies or draw favorable comparisons and connections; on the more toxic side, they will assassinate the character of those around them, tarnish reputations, bully and negatively influence the perception of their victim and the people within the associated environment. The victim of this toxic action is generally someone who intimidates the narcissist and calls their source of value into question. They may also attack anyone else who they can demean and sabotage, with the purpose of amplifying their own source of value through unfavorable comparison. Veiled insults, passive aggression, gaslighting and perception shaping behavior are all components of a narcissistic attack.
To the so-called ‘intelligent’ narcissist, the shine of anyone else with recognized intelligence must be diminished. This is achieved subtly, but in a calculated manner, designed to erode the belief in the intelligence of their chosen victim. The narcissist works to emerge as the person of intelligence and therefore greater importance. This is of course a strategy to gain inner meaning, relevance, acceptance and admiration; they yearn to be revered and worshipped as ‘the person’ in relation to the source of value.
Whether it is intelligence, a reputation, ability or skill; once insecurity and self-doubt enter the mind of the vulnerable individual, the toxic nature of narcissism emerges. The source of value is the heart of the narcissist and manipulator; every perceived attack on this source is an attack in the individual himself or herself and therefore must be met with an equal or greater force. When this occurs the so-called attacker is now considered an enemy of sorts and cannot be allowed to continue inflicting pain on the reputation of the manipulator. The manipulator now seeks revenge and until their source of value is appeased to the subjective standard, they will consider this external force and individual as an enemy. Once this so called enemy ceases their attack, the narcissist will to some extent be appeased and withdraw to a more passive form of sabotage.
If you are aware of a person who externalizes this form of narcissistic abuse, you must take measures to protect yourself. Unless you appease the sensibilities and expectations of the narcissist, you will almost certainly be viewed as an enemy of sorts and therefore will suffer the wrath of the narcissists attack. This attack will be relative to the level of threat you pose to the narcissists source of value. It is quite impossible to appease a narcissist who derives their value from this defined source, as their actions and demands are often so absurd, that you would have to disregard many of your own values and morals to stay within the expected boundaries.
If you think there is a narcissist in your environment try to identify their source of value. As previously mentioned, it will likely be a skill, ability, something they are known for or want to be known for. It will connect directly to their reputation and how they wish to be perceived. You may notice odd behaviors, like excessive self-congratulation and overt narcissistic definition of self. In the case of the narcissist who’s source of value is intelligence, they will openly state that they are in fact intelligent and draw attention to any evidence that may supports this belief. The narcissist will attempt to dodge criticism, especially if it is in any way related to their source of value, as they cannot afford to have this value diminished. If the source of value is intelligence, you can expect the narcissist to actively sabotage the external perception of your own intelligence and anyone else’s in the associated environment. They may do this passively right to your face or instead sabotage your reputation behind the scenes. If you choose to take this behavior lightly, it will be at your own peril.
I couldn’t say if all narcissists function in this manner or whether manipulative people have a tendency or inclination towards the protection of an inner source of value, however this concept has been established through experience and reflection and hopefully serves as a provocative source of thought and reflection for anyone suffering at the hands of an narcissist bent on maintaining their source of value.