narcissistic rage

Why You Shouldn’t Take Narcissistic Rage Personally

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Do you know that familiar whirlwind of the narcissist’s anger and impulsive behavior? Do you feel like you’re constantly pausing or second-guessing yourself because you’re afraid of their response? Does it seem like you’re being punished- even if you aren’t sure what you did wrong?

Let’s be honest. Dealing with a narcissist can be exhausting.

Narcissistic rage happens when the narcissist’s facade cracks. Because the narcissist has such a fragile ego, nearly anything can disrupt it. But most of the time, they reserve their rage to the people who love them the most- spouses, children, and close friends. 

Understanding Narcissistic Rage

Narcissistic rage emerges when the narcissist doesn’t get what they want. But their rage isn’t the same as garden-variety anger. Everyone gets angry, but the narcissist’s reaction to this emotion is far more insidious. 

Their rage happens in response to a narcissistic injury. A narcissistic injury occurs when the narcissist feels exposed. Because the exposure triggers such intense vulnerability, the narcissist only knows how to react one way: with anger and spite. 

They need to feel powerful and in control, and they will do what they can to restore their equilibrium when it feels imbalanced. 

The goal of the rage isn’t to simply displace emotion. It’s to hurt you- the narcissist is seeking revenge and wants you to feel guilty, upset, or confused for slighting them. 

What Triggers Narcissistic Rage?

Sometimes, the narcissist’s trigger is apparent. For example, you might recognize how they feel threatened in an argument or when they don’t land an important promotion.

Other times, narcissistic rage seemingly comes out of nowhere. Something happened, but the narcissist may withhold their feelings to make you feel hurt or confused.

Let’s look at some common narcissistic rage triggers.

Real or Perceived Criticism 

Any negative feedback can cause the narcissist to spiral quickly. Criticism is synonymous with rejection, and rejection causes a massive blow to the narcissist’s ego.

Even if someone’s trying to be helpful or constructive, the narcissist won’t see it that way. They will often perceive the behavior as a vicious attack against their character.

Someone Else Receiving Attention

As you know, narcissists love being in the center of attention. They want the spotlight on them at all times.

When someone (or something else) has the stage, they feel envious, angry, and insecure. They will often react by trying to sabotage the other person, demean them, or act egregiously to warrant attention onto themselves. 

Needing To Conform 

Narcissists want to do things their way. They have a perceived sense of entitlement over others, assuming that basic laws don’t apply to them. 

In cases where they must comply with certain policies, they often grumble, complain, insult, or throw other forms of tantrums. They may also still try to weasel their way into getting special treatment. 

Being Confronted or Held Accountable

Nothing enrages the narcissist more than being told how their actions affect others. At a minimum, they expect validation. But most of the time, they also expect adoration and excess praise. 

If confronted, the narcissist often overreacts- denial, violence, rationalization- they’ll grab whatever defense mechanisms are most readily available. 

Being Told No

Boundaries are a surefire way to trigger narcissistic rage. A ‘no’ feels like a straight rejection, and that often feels inconceivable for a narcissist. 

If someone doesn’t enable their behavior, it sets off a chain reaction of feeling betrayed and disrespected. To compensate for these emotions, the narcissist feels the need to attack.

Feeling Inferior 

Ever wonder why most narcissists don’t usually like to try new things? It’s because they want to be masters- they want guaranteed outcomes of a successful performance. 

You can tell a narcissist’s rage by how they react to failure or losing. Often, they will blame something or someone else for their misfortune. Or, they will deny caring about their performance in the first place. 

Who Does It Most Impact?

Ever wonder how the narcissist gets away with such awful behavior? There’s a good chance other people don’t have a clue about their true self! 

Unfortunately, when it comes to narcissistic rage, loved ones take the greatest beating. 

Skilled narcissists know how to conceal their obnoxious behavior to manipulate others. They withhold, restrain, and put on a false front when they need. It’s a part of their survival strategy. It’s why many narcissists are so likable and attractive. 

After all, if they were cruel all the time, they wouldn’t form any relationships. Therefore, they tend to act on their best behavior to lure people in.

This explains why narcissists can seem so kind and charming to the outside world- while also being so vicious to you. They know you’re sticking around- they know you have seemingly accepted their behavior

In severe cases, narcissistic rage is so apparent that everyone notices it. But this is more of an exception rather than a fixed rule. Again, skilled narcissists know how to craft a desirable personality and maintain good standing within their communities. 

What Does Narcissistic Rage Look Like? 

Narcissistic rage can come in a few different flavors. Some narcissists react with the same rage after every injury. Others change it up because they want to keep you guessing and alert. They might use different tactics depending on the person or situation. 

Explosiveness 

In the most severe case, the narcissist becomes explosive and volatile. They may emotionally or physically attack someone else. The goal here is obvious: they want to inflict pain to transfer it away from themselves.

This type of narcissist is always dangerous. They can be capable of serious harm, and because their mood can be so temperamental, you never know if you’re going to be in their way. 

Passive-Aggression

What are you talking about? I’m not angry.

It’s whatever- I don’t care what you do.

No. Nothing’s wrong.

In more covert cases, the rage manifests in a more subtle, aloof way. For instance, the narcissist may respond to you with one-word, passive-aggressive responses. If you ask if they’re okay, they’ll defensively insist that they’re fine. 

Sometimes, they will stonewall you with silence and completely shut down. This is one of the most manipulative tactics a person can do. The narcissist knows this response will trigger your anxiety- they’re banking on you becoming more and more uncomfortable and reaching out to them.

As a result, you feel like you’re walking on eggshells. No matter what you say or do, it seems like the wrong thing.

Gaslighting 

I’m not even angry right now. It seems like you’re the one getting upset!

I had to do it that way because I love you!

I wasn’t doing anything wrong- you’re just so suspicious.

Are you sure that actually happened? I can’t imagine I’d even see that. 

Many narcissists engage in gaslighting to make you question your reality. They may deny, rationalize, withhold, or divert information. You are often left feeling like you’re overly sensitive. At times, this can lead you to feel indecisive or hopeless.

The gaslighting can end the moment the narcissist wants it to end. Suddenly, they may start acting “completely” normal. This on-and-off switch only solidifies more confusion. You’re left wondering if you really were overreacting. 

Smearing 

She’s crazy! She’s the one who needs help.

Can you believe he said that to me, after all I’ve done for him!

Did you know she was on drugs this whole time? I should have said something earlier.

If you’ve really hurt the narcissist’s ego, they might try to smear your reputation by criticizing you to others. They want to stack people against you and gain empathy at the same time. 

Smearing is always about punishment and power. Because you hurt them, they need to show you who’s in charge, and they need you to suffer from the consequences. 

How To Deal With Narcissistic Rage

Above anything, you must remove yourself from the situation! Once you see the narcissist is upset, commit to becoming unavailable, both physically and emotionally. 

Remember that this method will trigger even more rage, so be prepared for that response. The narcissist may become even more volatile or passive-aggressive. They might also try to elicit your sympathy. These are typical reactions- you’re exacerbating their injury, and they won’t know how to deal with that pain.

Don’t Take It Personally

This rage isn’t about you. It’s about the narcissist feeling disrespected or diminished. No matter what you do, it probably won’t be enough right now. Try to remove yourself from your emotions and remind yourself that it’s their problem. 

Stay Calm and Neutral 

Avoid giving into their drama. Even negative attention is attention, and the narcissist will thrive from your emotional state. Instead, act bored or unaware of their triggers. Don’t give in to their unquenchable thirst for the narcissistic supply

Stick With Your Boundaries 

Boundaries aren’t about protecting the narcissist. They’re about protecting you and keeping you safe. Your boundaries should be clear, concise, and non-negotiable. Remember- if you give them an inch, they expect ten miles! If you feel absolutely finished with the chaos, you may need to consider a no-contact approach.

Final Thoughts

You deserve more than manipulation and emotional abuse. You deserve the freedom to enjoy life and surround yourself with supportive people.

Recovery involves rewriting everything the narcissist has tried to make you believe. It requires rebuilding your identity – or in many cases building an identity for the first time.

Like someone suffering from substance abuse, you need a narcissistic abuse recovery program that can help you avoid relapse by learning about yourself, habits, and triggers.

The Essential Break Free Bootcamp may be the missing piece of the puzzle. 

I know what you’re going through and I’m here to help. Learn more about the course and see what my students and neuroscience experts have to say about it.

How To Get Started On Healing Your Life After Narcissistic Abuse

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  1. Could the narcissist in your life be different from the others?
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9 comments
Annette Blicher Hansen says July 7, 2021

Thank you, very much, dear Kim Saeed. Behind all you say, I feel your loving heart and a very broad way of understanding the difference facets of peoples’
behavior. You have given me so much in coping with my narcissistic boyfriend.
Love from Annette

Reply
Ge says June 21, 2021

Another situation that can trigger a narcissistic rage (both overt or covert) is when you’re going through a very difficult time.
You’ve become seriously ill, lost your steady job and income, got a serious accident, lost a loved family member or friend to death.

Any critical situation that leaves you very vunerable and in desperate need for support and help for any longer than a few weeks (or shorter).
You could have been ‘lovers’, ‘friends’ or tolerating family members for years until till this point of bad luck that happened to you.
You’ve always been strong, tolerating and supportive to them.

But now suddenly when you are in deep trouble and need them the most, your obvious vunerability and ‘weakness’ sets off a narcissistic rage that complete overwhelmes and suprises you.
It’s asif they waited for this moment all those time to attack you with intended deadly force and bring you completly down.

At times like this true narcissists will show their true face very soon.
I think this topic should be added in your (great) article.

Reply
    Karen says September 3, 2021

    My heart goes out to so many get help I truly mean this. There are kind people who care. It has taken me over a year, a year to see this nasty immature person for what they fully are. They cannot live within a mature society they are childish beyond anything. It is all about their needs if they continue and never change as they get older then they never will. Some ghost some show aggression some both infantile they have no logic. My family try sometimes to over come this but “YOU CAN’T” they are incapable of maturity. They put themselves number one if you want a relationship with them then they expect you to put them first. Our daughter reached out a very mature woman she has had a nine hour open heart surgery met up with the narc no empathy didn’t even ask how she was doing yet so many times we helped her. We bought toys for our grandson who we have been blocked from seeing tried hard our daughter met up for his birthday. We all thought we had a breakthrough our daughter started to build up a relationship with her brother but after said birthday just four weeks later ghosted blocked from social media yet again childish games infantile. The said person constantly does this to people. Our daughter has had organ replacement a large scar right down her chest major heart op five months ago covid uk and this nasty b has stopped her seeing her nephew as soon as she saw his aunt trying for a relationship with her brother. We as parents even sent some lovely presents for his birthday and for her and my son not even a thankyou was given.,

    Reply
Karen says June 11, 2021

Personal thought is insanity doesn’t stick to one individual it is across the board every day damaged personality. So many are antisocial towrd humanity and have no concept of what is expected .

Reply
Mike says May 31, 2021

…sounds like my entire weekend! Perfect description of every detail, this is her, to a T.

Reply
Olivia says May 31, 2021

This explains why my mother is always angry then. One or other of these triggers is always happening to her, generally unwittingly caused by me. She doesn’t live near me anymore though.

Reply
Pasha says May 31, 2021

Brilliant, wise and so, so helpful! Thank so very much 🧡

Reply
Pamela says May 30, 2021

Yep had but all of a few things destroyed and money taken.

Reply
    Judy says June 2, 2021

    Thank you so much for your knowledge/help! Been married to one for 34 years and trying to divorce him has brought out more viciousness an abuse.

    Reply
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