Beware the PAN!, by D.D. in Virginia

A PAN can be a co-worker, a friend, a family member, or someone you just met. They are not distinguishable by age, gender, race, or religion. In our current reality, interactions with a PAN can be mildly frustrating, or at worst, extremely annoying. However, during a SHTF situation, a PAN could be the prime threat to you and the lives of everyone in your survival group.

Passive-Aggressive Narcissists

What is a PAN? Experts in the field of psychology have named them “passive-aggressive narcissists” (PANs). We, the regular folks, use nomenclature that is more recognizable. We call them “know-it-alls”.

Seemingly No Subject Can Confound Them

We are all familiar with this person. Politics, religion, marriage, automobiles, economics, geopolitical affairs, firearms, horticulture, nutrition, and higher education are just a small sample of the topics that fall within their self-professed wheelhouse. From astrophysics to zebra mating habits, there is seemingly no subject that can confound them, or so they would have you believe.

Attempts To Avoid Them Prove Futile

You try to avoid them at work, at school, or at the range, but those attempts usually prove futile. They appear like a black hole in Aisle 9 of the hardware store or near the buffet table at a church picnic, waiting to suck you over the edge of their event horizon.

What was supposed to be a quick trip for a paintbrush or a dash for more potato salad has just gone terribly wrong. Your polite nature has left you exposed. Three hours later, with drool dripping from your chin and a twitch developing under your right eye, you now know the entire history of the wood screw, the migration patterns of the red-breasted warbler, and how #2 pencils are made.

Of course, those are tongue-in-cheek examples meant to depict encounters with your average, low-level know-it-all. In the relative calm of our current existence, people such as this are merely an annoyance while trying to accomplish something of personal significance.

However, another type exists within their ranks–the president, CEO, and chairman of the board of the “Know-It-All Club”– the alpha PAN.

The Alpha PAN

The alpha PAN demands the attention, time, and admiration of everyone around them, at any cost. They interrupt conversations to interject their “wisdom” upon the unwary for as long as humanly possible. They belittle your efforts and your ideas in an attempt to affirm their own delusional views.

Potentially Dangerous in a Crisis

What makes the alpha PAN so reviled today and potentially dangerous in a crisis tomorrow? It’s a colossal ego. That ego fuels an insatiable need to feel superior, and the desire to be “right” consumes every fiber of their being.

Will Undermine Morale and Lay Waste to Best-Laid Plans to Stoke Their Sense of Brilliance

While some of these individuals may possess knowledge on a wide variety of topics, it has been my experience that the benefits of that knowledge are vastly overshadowed by the demoralizing, patronizing, and contemptuous attitudes they bring with them. The alpha PAN can destroy much needed cohesion within a group and incite mutiny if ignored. If you find yourself in their company during a crisis, they will undermine morale and lay waste to the best-laid plans for no other reason than to stoke their delusional sense of brilliance.

Purpose of This Essay

Before we proceed, please allow me to clarify a crucial point and purpose of this essay. For full disclosure, I am not, nor do I claim to be, a psychiatrist, psychologist, or any other type of medical doctor. I draw solely upon anecdotal experience from 30+ years in a business that has brought me face-to-face with countless examples of what I believe to be the most toxic personality trait of them all.

Furthermore, I felt the need to write this article as a warning after a recent experience with this type of individual. Unfortunately, I was forced to face the harsh reality that this person, by default of a familial relationship, may one day be a member of my survival clan. I will also provide a few ideas for dealing with this type of individual.

Signs and Symptoms of the PAN

First, let us look at some of the telltale signs and symptoms of the PAN. According to Psychology Today, the following symptoms typically define most cases of NPD (narcissistic personality disorder)i.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder Symptoms

Narcissistic personality disorder is indicated by five or more of the following symptoms:

  • Exaggerates own importance.
  • Is preoccupied with fantasies of success, power, beauty, intelligence, or ideal romance.
  • Believes he or she is special and can only be understood by other special people or institutions.
  • Requires constant attention and admiration from others.
  • Has unreasonable expectations of favorable treatment.
  • Takes advantage of others to reach his or her own goals.
  • Disregards the feelings of others, lacks empathy.
  • Is often envious of others or believes other people are envious of him or her.
  • Shows arrogant behaviors and attitudes.

Most People Attracted To This Type of Personality

Surprisingly, most of us are attracted to this type of personality.

To quote Christina Gregory, PhDii:

Oftentimes, individuals are initially attracted toward people with narcissistic personality disorder. You may find yourself attracted to the confidence, assertiveness, and excitement that surrounds a person with narcissistic personality disorder. However, getting to know the person in depth, you may start to despise the very same traits that initially attracted you to the person. This, of course, after realizing their unemotional response to relationships, the unattractiveness of their lack of empathy for others, and the grandiose belief they are greatly important and you should treat them as such.

Signs of Passive-Aggressive

Next, add to the mix the signs of the passive-aggressive. From PsychCentraliii:

Here are the common red flag signs of passive-aggressive behavior:

  • Procrastination: Nothing is ever begun immediately or finished on time.
  • Sulking.
  • The Silent Treatment: They simply stop talking to you.
  • Doing tasks or completing requests poorly. Jobs are half done, and if you comment there is always an excuse.
  • Shutting down conversations; sometimes with “Fine” or “Whatever”, or other times with “Okay, you’re right” (but then not changing any behavior or complying with the request).
  • Lots of excuses and nothing is ever their fault.
  • Perpetual lateness.

Understandably, when you combine the traits of the narcissist with those of the passive-aggressive, you are dealing with someone who is essentially a borderline sociopath. This is the Alpha PAN.

The Most Disturbing PAN Trait– Pathological Lying

The alpha PAN also exhibits what is perhaps the most disturbing trait of all– that of a pathological liar. When pressed on an issue or when all else fails to impress a gathered crowd, the PAN will simply embellish a known truth or create their own version of the truth.

For fans of ***The Walking Dead*** television series, think of the character “Eugene”, who is the most prolific PAN in modern television. Eugene, although clearly intelligent, fabricates an entire story that grossly overstates his importance and abilities. As a result, people close to him pay with their lives.

Additional Symptoms

Here are a six additional signs that I have noticed throughout the years:

  1. One-upsmanship. No matter what the subject, the alpha PAN knows some way or someone that has done it better, longer, or faster. The PAN will say, “Bob killed a 10-point buck with his bow”, or “Bill killed an 18-point buck with a throwing hatchet.” (It’s an extreme example, but you get the picture.)
  2. Must have the last word. “The sky is blue” is usually answered by the PAN with, “Well, it is actually violet, but our eyes perceive the blue more readily.” While this is technically correct, “The sky is blue” is a generally accepted truth and for most purposes requires no further debate. Be forewarned, it will not stop there. Every statement will be cause for deliberation. The PAN must have the last word.
  3. The discovery of flaws in everything and everyone around them. This goes far beyond normal pessimism, which is a mere spectator sport by comparison. When they believe they know everything, they actively search for what they perceive to be wrong with everything and everyone around them.
  4. Relies solely on the Internet for information. As beneficial as this plethora of information may seem on the surface, many PANs use these resources only to affirm preexisting beliefs or notions. Most do not seek to be educated or proven wrong; they simply want to pull up a chair in the echo chamber of their choice.
  5. Has no practical hands-on abilities. I could read enough books on brain surgery to speak on it. However, I assure you, you would not want to be the first patient under my scalpel. The PAN can talk for hours about the finer points of digging a footing, but chances are, a shovel has never been in their hands.
  6. Their life is often is disarray. Despite their claims of being versed in topics such as marriage, parenting, and home repairs, quite often the opposite is true. Their relationships are in chaos, and their children are disrespectful heathens. Furthermore, their homes are falling apart from lack of maintenance.

Dealing with the Alpha PAN

Now that we have identified the most common signs of the passive-aggressive narcissist, what can we do when it comes to dealing with those in our lives who are an alpha Pan? There are plenty of sources available for deftly quieting the alpha PAN in the workplace or social settings. I will address a more relevant scenario for readers here.

Tips For Dealing With Alpha Pan In Post-Collapse Scenario

I will concentrate on tips for dealing with the alpha PAN in a post-collapse scenario.

  1. The most obvious tip is to avoid these individuals completely. Nothing good can come from having someone around that constantly works to undermine the cohesion and morale of your group. Remember, most people with this disorder only know enough to be dangerous to themselves and those around them.
  2. If you discover a PAN in your group, work swiftly to establish your dominance if you are the leader. Make it perfectly and abundantly clear that their subordination will not be tolerated under any circumstances.
  3. Give them time consuming and menial tasks to perform while overstating the importance of those tasks. Tell the PAN that restacking the firewood or digging another latrine pit is of vital importance to the group and you are sure that they are the person for the job. Praise them upon completion to keep their ego well fed.
  4. Do not allow them to consort with other members of the team for an extended period. Weaker-willed members may eventually succumb to the manipulative rhetoric from the PAN about how under-appreciated “they” are. Mutiny will soon follow.
  5. Prevent the PAN from discovering where stashes of food, weapons, or ammo are stored. If you are forced to expel this person from your group, they will certainly use that information against you. If they are privy to that information and are later expelled, your first priority should be to re-position those materials.

Who You Choose to Surround Yourself With May Have Life-Altering Consequences

Life is ultimately about decisions. Some of those decisions have life-altering consequences. One such decision is whom we choose to associate with in our daily lives. From early-childhood until our final days of existence, the people you choose to surround yourself with, your inner-circle of friends and cohorts can determine success or failure, life or death.

It is my belief that in order to achieve a happy and fulfilling life, one should always seek the righteous, honest, hardworking, and loyal as your closest confidants. Discard anyone that tries to bring you down. Beware the PAN!

SurvivalBlog Writing Contest

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Round 79 ends on November 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.


  1. Your post describes my sister-in-law to a tee. I’m sure my wife would want to include her in our house during a disaster situation, but after a few crazy, out of control rants, even my wife agreed that her presence would cripple any team atmosphere we would be trying to build. I feel sorry for her 5th husband, as he would be an excellent addition to our group. I wonder if……. Anyway, I guess we all have relatives that we question in our groups. I pray for guidance and constantly work towards teamwork.

    1. This essay described my entire ex wife’s family(also her as well!). Fortunately, I only had to tolerate 14+ years of the foolishness, until I was done with it and we divorced. Good thing that I didn’t have to survive some sort of TEOTWAWKI situation.

  2. Being a “Know-it-all” is not the same as PAN. Someone who has spent their time investing in knowledge in a broad area of subjects doesn’t automatically become a narcissist, nor are they even likely to. Passive aggressive personalities may not even be the know-it-all type. I know a couple. They keep their aggressive tendencies for their inner circle (wife and kids) and are charming and good company when around friends and acquaintances.
    In this isolated world I’m guessing some of the people you are coming across are feeling isolated and lonely and just looking for a way to reach out and connect. Don’t assume that someone who talks your ear off, without the other tendencies of PAN, is a danger.

  3. You describe a guy at my firehouse to a tee. He quickly earned the name “Top-it”, if your sled would do 100 his would do 110. His fires were always hotter. He was annoying as all heck. Most fellas quickly learned to head the other way when they saw him coming.

  4. I have some of those traits, probably most do. Dear Reader, did you consider yourself while reading? I guess my only reprieve would be that I really don’t actually know all that much and therefore keep my mouth shut where I’m ignorant. Your essay could be summed up into one simple phrase: two ears, one mouth, figure it out.

  5. A good leader utilizes all of his subordinates skills and knowledge to complete the task at hand. One who is challenged by someone elses intelligence can not imho be a good leader. If a subordinate works to undermine that is different, they should be shown the door. Give assignments to those with the best skill sets or is a SME to complete them. Team building is crucial, excluding someone because you feel threatened speaks to inferior leadership imo. Also know the difference between team building, training and micromanaging.

  6. The Power of Christ is perfected in human weakness=

    There are many examples of people in times of crises “shining as the Cross”! Many times have people been surprised by someone “Gee, I never thought that they had that in them”!

  7. Every mental health issue has a large spectrum of behaviors. It may not be easy to identify these individuals until their problems are your problems. One way to avoids the nuts and useless experts is to look for people with a broad range of skills.

    I would take a Jack Of All Trades over any expert that ever lived.

    I know this guy with a vast knowledge of tactics and weapons, all thanks to video games. 300 pounds of awesome, pale, never shot anything in his life warrior!

    It really is this simple. Can they Talk the Talk and Walk the Walk?

  8. Hmm, after reading the above article, I ‘ve seen many of the traits in myself ( and yes I like to talk about any and everything ), but hopefully and I like to think at age 72 that I’ve learned a few things though life and have learned to listen to other people and work with them ( and yes I’ve learned a few things in life the hard way more than once ).

    1. Thanks for the laugh Duane. It really does seem that those of us who truly know it all don’t get the proper respect. Oh well, we’ll carry on!…..Hope everyone is having a Blessed Thanksgiving

  9. They say there is a fine line between rational, and irrational, insanity if you will. I’ve noticed that a lot of very intelligent folks, lack certain social skills…… gonna be a one on one case study done over and over throughout this great nation if the shtf.

  10. The worst trait in these people is called the “Kruger-Denning effect”,which translates to they are unable to realize how stupid they are. They just assume they know everything and and charge over the cliff leading everyone off with them..When they fail they assume their plans failed due to sabotage or incompetence of others never theirs.

    1. Perhaps as a case in point, this is specifically a cognitive bias that is near universal in humans. We overestimate our competence in areas in which we are unskilled and underestimate our abilities in the areas in which we are most competent. It is actually called the “Dunning-Kruger effect” or, increasingly, the “DJT Effect”.

  11. A person I know is like this. Call him Big Pockets. Always trumps whst anyone does or has done.
    Most of his life he was a manager. Never did the work always had pawns to do it . Cons everyone to do everything for him.

  12. For anyone who wants to dive deeper into this subject, I highly recommend the book “Emotional Vampires”. It’s available on Amazon, I got the Kindle version. It’s really helped me to deal with a particular person in my life.

  13. It’s the “ME Monster”!

    For a humorous description of this type of person, go to 56:43 of the following video of Brian Regan (actually, the link should take you to that point in the video):

    BTW, after you watch the bit, go back to the beginning and watch the whole thing for lots of other laughs. The “ME Monster” is just the closing bit of the performance.

  14. As i have grown older and wiser i love to read articles like this. as a mere mortal and flawed human i recognize that i share tendencies with most of the personality types that are negative, we all do to an extent. what these articles do is allow a honest person to evaluate themselves for negative habits and attempt to avoid those behaviors. i always try and attempt to understand why I don’t like someone I then self evaluate my own attitudes and behaviors to avoid behaving like the person i dislike. i have found that most of the people I dislike tend to behave in ways i that i dislike about my younger less responsible self.

  15. DD in Virginia,
    Your article is a bit confusing. You pretty much laid out an ironclad case of why the PAN would be intolerable to have in a small, intensely personal, close-quarters-confined Survival Group. You caused me to imagine how destructive and dangerous he is. And then you concluded with something like ‘But if you can’t avoid having him in your group, then give him menial jobs that you call important, and don’t let him spend much time talking to the other group members.’ Bro’ I do not doubt that you understand the PAN quite well, but it seems you don’t understand the nature of a Survival Group. In a TEOTWAWKI — SHTF breakdown, your survival group must be firing WELL on all 8 cylinders. The group will likely be closely confined together in small quarters, with INTENSE personal interactions that cannot be avoided. There is NO room to have ANY toxic person in that group. The PAN must never be allowed to set foot on the Survival Group Property in the first place. He will destroy your group from within. It does not matter if he is your dearest sister’s husband. He must NOT become part of your Survival Group under any circumstance. His folly will kill you all.

    1. Goat Rancher,
      I agree 100%. Ideally, all measures should be taken well beforehand to prevent these types of individuals from joining your group in the first place . That is why my #1 recommendation was to “avoid them completely”.

      With that being said, there are two exceptions that come to mind. The first is where the individual simply cannot be excluded due to a relationship with a spouse. Father-in-law, mother-in-law, step children are just a few examples.

      The other exception is the trickiest. Most of these individuals are aware, to some degree, of their off-putting nature. In most cases, they keep this part of themselves well hidden, only showing glimpses of their disorder when self-restraint is tested beyond its limits: they MUST say something or their heads will explode syndrome. You may not even know this is the case until it is too late. In my particular case, the individual has gotten worse over the course of YEARS. What was once a tolerable annoyance, has developed to the point of being insufferable. That is reason I included a few “if they infiltrate” tips.
      Again, I agree. Avoid these people like the plague. Thank you for your input.

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