Caretaking: A Covert Form of Narcissism

An older woman and her mother leaning against each other

I used to think that caretaking was the opposite of narcissism. I thought that narcissists were people who demanded that others give themselves up to care-take the narcissist. I thought that caretakers were people who were programmed to take care of others instead of themselves. I thought that caretakers needed some healthy narcissism and that takers/narcissists needed more compassion for others.

Now I know that there is a bit more to it. Caretakers do give themselves up to take care of others, but underneath their caretaking, they have the same agenda as the narcissist – to be taken care of by the other person.

The kind of narcissism I’m talking about here is about making another person responsible for your feelings and needs.

We all have this kind of narcissism in our ego wounded selves. The wounded self believes that our good feelings come from getting love, rather than from being loving with ourselves and others.

For many years, caretaking was my primary addiction. I righteously believed that I was being loving when I was sacrificing myself to meet others’ needs. I firmly believed that, since I was sacrificing myself for them – for my parents, husband, and children – they ‘should’ sacrifice themselves for me. When they didn’t, I was hurt and angry.

It was easy for me to see them as narcissistic and entitled, since their demanding was fairly overt. But it was extremely difficult for me to see myself as narcissistic, since my demands were so covert.

Now I know that anytime I expect someone else to take responsibility for my feelings and needs, I’m coming from my narcissistic wounded self. Now I know that ‘nice’ is not the same as loving, and that anytime I’m giving to get something back, I’m coming from my narcissistic wounded self. I have found this awareness to be very helpful.

The way that it will be helpful to you is if you do not judge your narcissism. Unfortunately, this word is often linked with ‘wrong’ or ‘bad.’ I don’t see it as wrong or bad – just as misguided and wounded. It doesn’t help me bring love and joy into my heart or peace into my soul. It doesn’t help to create loving relationships.

“I Can’t Do It”

Often, when I ask my caretaking clients why they keep on trying to get someone else to love them with their caretaking, rather than love themselves, what they say to me is, “I can’t do it. I don’t know how.”

I know that if they were to decide to treat themselves the way they attempt to treat others, they would know exactly how. Caretaking people need to be as kind to themselves as they appear to be to others!

The wounded self in both takers and caretakers believes we can’t take loving care of ourselves. And it’s true – the child or adolescent wounded self can’t. It’s not the responsibility of your wounded self to take care of your feelings and needs. It’s the job of your loving Adult.

As a loving Adult, you are connected with your powerful and wise higher self. This aspect of you IS capable of taking care of your feelings and needs, and of reaching out to others when you need help.

Asking for help to take care of your feelings and needs is NOT at all the same thing as making another responsible for you. We all need help at times, and needing help does not make us needy. Neediness occurs when we abdicate responsibility for our feelings and needs and either demand that another do it for us (narcissistic taker), or covertly expect it through our caretaking (narcissistic caretaker).

We are not islands unto ourselves. We all need help, love and caring from others. But it’s one thing to ask for help to take care of ourselves, and quite another to try to get someone else to do it for us. When this is the case, this means that the narcissistic wounded self is in charge.

Margaret Paul, Ph.D. is a best-selling author of 8 books, relationship expert, and co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding® process – featured on Oprah. Are you are ready to heal your pain and discover your joy? Click here for a FREE Inner Bonding Course, and visit our website at for more articles and help. Phone Sessions Available. Join the thousands we have already helped and visit us now!

Margaret Paul, Ph.D. is a best-selling author of 8 books and co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding healing process. Dr. Margaret Paul is the author/co-author of numerous best-selling books, including: Do I Have To Give Up Me to Be Loved By You? Do I Have To Give Up Me to Be Loved By You?…The Workbook Healing Your Aloneness The Healing Your Aloneness Workbook Inner Bonding Do I Have To Give Up Me to Be Loved By My Kids? Do I Have To Give Up Me To Be Loved By God? Margaret holds a Ph.D. in psychology and is a relationship expert, public speaker, seminar leader, consultant, facilitator, and artist. She has appeared on many radio and TV shows, including the Oprah show. She has successfully worked with thousands of individuals, couples and business relationships and taught classes and seminars for over 42 years. Dr. Paul’s books have been distributed around the world and have been translated into many languages. After practicing traditional psychotherapy for 17 years, Margaret was discouraged by the results – both for her clients and herself. She had spent years trying to heal from her own dysfunctional and abusive background, but found herself still suffering with anxiety and relationship problems. She started to seek a process that works fast, deep, creates permanent change, loving relationships, inner peace, and joy. In 1984, she met and became friends with Dr. Erika Chopich, who had half the Inner Bonding® process, and Margaret had the other half! They have been evolving this incredibly powerful healing process for the last 26 years. Margaret works with individuals and couples throughout the world – on the phone, in workshops and 5-Day Intensives, and with members of Inner Bonding Village at She is able to access spiritual Guidance during her sessions, which enables her to work with people wherever they are in the world. Dr. Margaret has just completed a 12 year project call SelfQuest®, which is a transformational self-healing/conflict resolution software program. SelfQuest® is being donated to prisons and schools and sold to individuals, families, and businesses. You can read about SelfQuest® and see a short video of it at In her spare time, Margaret loves to paint, make pottery, take photos, watch birds, read, ride and play with her horses, and spend time with her children and grandchildren.

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