Things turned from bad to worse for my roommate David, back in the 2020s. His problems began with the YouTube videos, then the TikTok and Instagram shorts, and finally, companies began to distribute information on how to ‘spot the narcissist’.
“It’s not fair!” David moaned. “On every new project at work, the architecture team puts me on bathroom and storage design saying, "so my ego doesn’t grow any larger.’”
I tried to look sympathetic. “It’s not their fault. Everyone has been receiving training on how to deal with Cat-7 narcissists.”
“Cat-7,” he grumbled, “and now this.” He held out his driving license. His MBTI profile and Psy-7 category were listed at the bottom. The seven ‘exceptional’ personalities, a.k.a. the problem people, were now shown in bold on ID documents.
“Everyone has received the new IDs. It’s so we better understand each other and avoid misunderstandings.” I parroted the training lectures at work. I wanted to pull out my driver’s license and compare them like schoolchildren. But, he wouldn’t enjoy seeing my ‘Empath’ profile.
And admittedly, I benefited from the new changes. I received more matches from dating apps after the government created the personality registry, than ever before. David, 6-foot tall, handsome, and with a great sense of humor, couldn’t find a date.
Why don’t narcissists just date each other? That was the consensus opinion on Reddit.
David did try to go on dates with ‘his type’. He said most would talk about themselves the entire dinner, disagree with everything he said, and one even gave him a list of his mistakes at the end of the date. Knowing David as I do, they were probably reporting the same things to their friends.
After one exceptionally bad week, David stopped raging and simply gave up. It was as if dark malaise had pulled him under. When he wasn’t at work, he was locked in his room. For months, he barely interacted with anyone else, except for me.
Seeing his downward spiral of despair, I tried to snap him out of it. “It’s normal to be upset. The changes they’ve made. It takes time.” I said, as he gloomily prepared dinner.
“Easy for you to say!” He rushed to his room and slammed the door.
A day later, we were watching TV when a narcissist on screen had a moment of self-reflection. I told David. “See: Everyone can’t be top dog It’s physically impossible,”
“Dude: This week a number 3 turned me down when she saw my personality on the registry. So fuck off.” He stormed off to his room and slammed the door. A week ago, he vowed “never to date anyone below a 5”.
It takes a lot to set me off, but after having the door slammed in my face again, I snapped. “What a joke that the world is filled with assholes like you!”
“Assholes like me?”
“That’s right. There must be assholes like you everywhere out there.”
From behind the door, the sound of his knuckles rapping on the wall echoed. “Bro, you just helped me think of a great idea!”
“But I just called you an asshole.” I was furious and wanted him to recognize how angry I was.
He carried on with his idea. “The other assholes out there—if they are as smart as me—must have ideas how to deal with this insane world. We should help each other.”
And help each other? I don’t think I’ve heard him have that thought before. He usually talked about other as being inanimate stepping stones to get what he wanted.
But narcissists have been banned from internet chat forums since last year, so I left him alone to figure it out.
When David had an idea, he got intense. A week later, he had a business plan: a website URL, marketing budget, financial plan, meeting venue, all for ‘The Society for the Protection of Narcissists’. When they are the center of attention, narcissists do amazing work.
He explained his plan to me, and ended with, “they say outstanding leaders admit the weaknesses in their plans.”
“Is there any weakness in this, David?”
“Yes!” he said, grinning. “A group of people like me are bound to disagree about things–the choice of coffee, who speaks first–and they will take sides. That's why I share an apartment with you. But this group; it could get ugly. And if it falls apart, I wouldn’t be the leader anymore.”
Some things never change.
“From the government personality profiles,” I said, “what you’re saying makes perfect sense.”
“Those profiles are nonsense, bro.” He looked me in the eye. “What we need is someone who can stay in the middle; who can pretend to agree with both sides to help things cool off.”
“One can be agreeable, even if they don’t agree.”
“I don’t get it,” David said. “Now, here’s where you come in.” He took out his laptop and showed me an org chart. Oddly, my name was in the middle of it.
“Me?” I exclaimed. “I’m not a narcissist, I’m an empath.”
“Do me a solid and hear me out.”
He explained the mechanics that I would be a member of his self-help group and glue everyone together by being my agreeable self. Honestly, I didn’t want anything to do with his plan. But he said it’s would only consume an hour a week. Not a big commitment, and who wouldn’t help out a friend?
We did argue over whether I would hold a special position in his club as an Empath, or be undercover; as usual, he got his way.
A week later, I was at a reception desk in brand-new clothes that were too tight for me, introducing myself to people as they arrived at David’s first SPON meeting. Mostly middle age men and women, all fit and fashionably dressed. I confirmed their personality profiles off of their driver's licenses and ID documents. No one but narcissists arrived.
Being undercover, I needed to keep a low profile. In this environment, that meant I would need to be loud, flashy, and talk big. I studied the members.The men, in particular, all had perfect hair. I’d get mine cut before the next meeting.
David was in his best suit and held a microphone. He cleared his throat. “I’ve already met most of you. I can tell you are amazing people. Right now, you are probably feeling singled out, oppressed, persecuted as being labelled a Category 7. ‘One of them’. But remember this: Jesus was persecuted. Hitler was thrown in jail. Napoleon was sent into exile and came back for the battle of Waterloo. They changed the world, and so can you.”
Their faces perked up at being compared with historical figures. David was saying the exact opposite of the usual training sessions–that they were the same as everyone else.
He continued, “When I was 13, I read Ayn Rand’s the Fountain Head and decided my life's mission was to become the world’s most famous architect. Luckily, I got into the architecture program at NYU before the quotas came into effect. I did a summer semester at MIT. It’s good to be in a group where I can say this without being judged. Thank you. Now, I would like to hear how great all of you are..”
After David, each member received exactly five minutes to speak. (Otherwise they would talk for hours, David said.)
“Armed services,” a square chinned man with wavy gray hair declared. “I worked closely with Delta Force and was in Ukraine. I am happy to be alive today after infiltrating into Russia. That was for the CIA. It’s classified, so I can’t tell you much. But what I can tell you is–” He went on to tell an epic adventure story that stretched my imagination. Some parts were deeply distasteful. But everyone listened with keen interest, and appeared in awe to be in the presence of a CIA operative, so I smiled along.
After the military man, the participants’ tales of personal greatness continued one after after other. Many complained about unfair treatment, held back by unfairness from their true potential. Each speaker outdid the previous one with a story of grandiosity; how many boyfriends or girlfriends they had, their connections to famous people, their special genius in their careers.
At the end of the meeting, David stood up. “Thank you everyone. Each one of you was truly amazing. The best speeches I’ve heard in a decade!”
He clapped, then led a group round of applause for themselves.
“Next week, we will talk about lies. What’s the point in getting away with something if no one knows about it? We will be arsonists returning to our fires.”
An uncomfortableness flashed on their faces for a second, then the visceral thrill at the thought of hearing everyone else’s lies overcame it. Amidst them sharing more details of their big stories to each other on the way out, I heard many say they’d be back next week.
Whoever is reading this probably wonders why I choose to tolerate these people. Why not find a different roommate? Honestly, I don’t know. Maybe it’s my middle child syndrome. Being a side character to other people doing the big things felt familiar.
A week later, David opened the second meeting of SPON to a big audience.
“Welcome to all of you incredible people! Today’s theme is lies. You may share any story you wish about deceiving people, covering your tracks, or stepping on unsuspecting victims to get ahead.”
The group bubbled with excitement and anticipation.
David continued, “Back in 2024, things were going great for me. A good job, the best car.. Then I used my success to seduce my best friend’s girlfriend. I said to her, he wasn’t into her. She would be better off with me. And wow! Did I have an awesome three weeks. She had long brown hair, spoke Spanish…” He sighed. “But then, she became clingy, and I had to get rid of her.”
His description sounded exactly like my girlfriend Daniela. We broke up three years before. She never explained why when she left. My face twitched. Thoughts of tackling David on stage and punching him in the face filled my mind. But I needed to think about this more being doing anything rash.
Military guy was the next speaker. It could be a distraction to cool my rage. Would he fess up and tell us last week’s story was a lie?
He began his story. “When I worked for the CIA, on the top secret project I told you about last week, they gave us an expense account. I was to cultivate a source in Amman, but I was actually wooing an Arabian princess. She was part of the Jordanian royal family. We toured the palaces of Egypt on the CIA expense account–”. His Lawrence of Arabia monologue went on and on (It sounded as if he had written it the night before) until the five minutes was up.
A woman dripping with luxury brands introduced herself as Ashley, and started her story. “As you can see, I’m quite good-looking.” She tilted her head and flipped her hair over her shoulder. “Men are always coming after me. Last year, I had four guys who wanted to marry me. Shoes. Handbag. Dress. Diamond earrings.” She pointed out her expensive accessories. “I got rid of them, but I kept these.”
I was enjoying this. A real life Romcom.
“But the worst thing these days is that outside, I need to pretend. Yesterday, I took my daughter to Shake Shack. If I eat a burger using the paper wrapper, I get dirty looks. I needed to hold it with my fingers and get gunk on my hands just to blend in and not hear people mumble ‘Category 7’. I hate it”
The others kept talking, but thoughts of Daniela kept intruding into my mind. What did she say when we broke up? Did David do anything suspicious back then?
The meeting was over, and I was deep in thought when Military guy
pulled me aside. “Hey bud, what did you think about that speech?”
“Ashley. I can’t believe she made me listen to how many boyfriends she had. I’m guessing she bought those things herself. She’s not that good-looking.”
Across the room, Ashley was chatting closely with David. Complaining about someone else too?
After all the grudges were heard, I cornered David. My lips were trembling. The words were hard to get out.
“What you said in your speech in the meeting….”
“What do you mean?” David asked.
“About the girl.”
“Oh, yeah.” His tone signalled this was an inconsequential topic to talk about.
“Was that, by any chance, my girlfriend, Daniela?”
“That’s what you thought?” David said. “I made up that story to get the ball rolling. Get people talking.”
“Yeah bud. Now let’s get out of here and get a few beers downtown and watch the hot women. I’m still allowed to do that.”
I decided I needed to let my suspicions go. It was a long time ago. Going downtown sounded fun and I needed someone to hang out with. I must never let these thoughts into my mind again.
Weeks turned into months, and the meetings grew larger. Narcissists learned how to pat each other on the back, and our meetings birthed other new meetings in different cities,. Soon the SPON spread nationwide.
At our urging, lawyers worked pro-bono (for free, amazing, right?) on court cases to fight for our Cat-7 rights. A media company that hired empaths in preference to narcissists as news anchors lost in a class action lawsuit for the damage they caused to shareholders. A management expert showed that having a team of only empaths resulted in people wasting the majority of their time showering each other with praise instead of working.
As this went on, narcissists gradually gained back influence in society; slid back into a position of taking credit for everything and everyone.
What about me? The empath? A sheep in wolves’ clothing in the wolf den? After a year of watching these blowhards talk about themselves and getting ahead again, I decided I needed to do get ahead myself.
At the time, I was a journalist. Out of habit, I had been taking notes from the beginning of SPON. Being in the center of the new movement, I thought there might be a way to take advantage of it. I covered sports for the Boston Post, but in my free time I began to write about SPON.
A friend knew an editor at a famous New York newspaper and pulled a few strings. One thing led to another, and three months later my story came out, exposing the inside history of The Society of the Protection of Narcissists and all the lies that were told by its members.
As I predicted, David kicked me out of his apartment and stopped talking to me. It was worth it to see my name up there amongst the top journalists, having an impact for good on the world.
I asked the other writers at the Boston Post read my article and encouraged them to write bigger things themselves. I devoted time, outside of the Post, to chasing leads on the next national story.
A few weeks later, I overheard one of the sportswriters whispering to another, “If you spend all your time in a barbershop, someday you are going to get your haircut.” He gestured toward my cubicle.
A week later, the HR department called me in. “Your name has come up for randomized testing. We regularly review employee’s personality profiles.”
She arranged an appointment. I was confident I was an empath. I explained to the psychologist how well I understood narcissists. How I could predict their every move. I answered all his questions empathetically. Two weeks later, I was stunned to receive the message I had been re-categorized as a Category-7.
I was now one of “them”. I explained to people around me how inaccurate the testing system was, but nothing I could do or say changed the way they now looked at me.
Two lonely years followed. Hated by SPON, and now hated by the world. Fortunately, things started to change when the whole system began to fall apart.
Every citizen of the country had been receiving personality awareness education, and they all began to see signs of disorders everywhere: If a colleague was crying, they were Borderline. If they were excited about a new idea, they were Bipolar. If they were good with numbers, Autistic Spectrum.
When the percentage of categorized people neared 50%, the politicians—those not disqualified for testing positive—discovered new reasons to stand up for those with disadvantaged personalities. They said, in some part of their lives, everyone is narcissistic, aren’t they? The politicians had a way of making everything they said so emphatically, four years ago, sound like nonsense.
In 2030, a bill was introduced to ban the categorization of people by personality and passed a joint session of US congress. David and I separately published best-selling books that year retelling the story of the founding days of SPON. As of today, my sales numbers are still crushing his.