I often find that relying on perceiving whether someone is using projection, is not a fail safe to prevent involvement or being conned by a Covert Narcissist. I also see that there are many of us, given certain contexts, who will angrily or matter-of-factly discuss our separation from “toxic” people, or a Narcissist. So, I think it can be difficult to ascertain what is truly going on, based on viewing projection alone.
I would say if despite evidence they have shared or you have uncovered in your own relationship with them, about things they do that make you and others feel “crazy”, or drive you/others to desperate behaviors, and when you confront them about this, they STILL insist you are the problem, and that all their exes or friends and family are toxic and unreasonable, than that is an indication of Narcissism.
But, even then I have found that the more skilled Covert Narcissists will feign taking responsibility for their “issues”, in the reuniting stage of the abusive cycle, and may even talk a very good talk about healing their issues and taking responsibility for the past dysfunctions in their lives. But, of course, they do this when it serves them. If they are inconsistent with this narrative, and basically take it back and throw the blame all onto you once again, then this is a sign of Covert Narcissism. They may have times of insight, healing and opening, but it is only a matter of time before their False Self and deep shame get activated, and they revert back to playing victim again.
I am grateful for the chance to engage in discussion about this. I am still in an ongoing process of understanding the nuances of Narcissism, and to put into words what I am discovering is highly valuable for me.
I really appreciate your response to this article. I am really glad that it moved you to respond!