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By Angela Atkinson. Author of Take Back Your Life: 103 Highly Effective Strategies to Snuff Out a Narcissist’s Gaslighting and Live the Happy Life You Deserve

“Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm, but the harm [that they cause] does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.” ~ T. S. Eliot

Narcissistic rage and narcissistic injury go hand in hand. While they often claim that their raging behavior is related to stress, the opposite is true. In fact, a narcissistic rage is triggered usually by some perceived insult, criticism or disagreement that results in a narcissistic injury.

Read more: Understanding Narcissistic Rage and Narcissistic Injury

The average raging narcissist thinks that her victim intentionally caused this so-called “injury” and that the victim did so with a hostile motive.

The reaction to this trigger is often intensely disproportionate to the actual “offense” committed by the victim—and invariably, the victim in these situations sees the narcissist as unreasonable, out-of-control, mean or even just plain old crazy.

If you’re the regular target of narcissistic rage, you need to know that it is REALLY not your fault! The rage isn’t about you, and it never was—it’s always been about the narcissist.

Read more: Identifying Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Surviving Narcissistic Rage and Narcissistic Injury: Diffusing a Raging Narcissist

When you find yourself the victim of this kind of rage, you have to respond logically, not emotionally. “This is the catch-22,” writes Sam Vaknin, Ph.D. “To try to communicate emotions to a narcissist is like discussing atheism with a religious fundamentalist. They employ a myriad of defence mechanisms to cope with their repressed emotions: projective identification, splitting, projection, intellectualisation, rationalisation.”

Now, when I say respond logically, I don’t mean that you should try to use logic or reason to help the narcissist calm down—this almost never works. In fact, during a narcissistic rage, there really isn’t room for your opinion or side of the story at all—in fact, offering it will just prolong the confrontation.

Remember: it’s not about you—it’s about the narcissist. Try not to take it personally (even though the narcissist will stop at nothing to hurt your feelings and cause you to react—be prepared).

Diffuse a Raging Narcissist: Stay Calm and Avoid Reacting Emotionally

You’ve got to stay calm and if possible, simply remove yourself from the situation. If you can’t do that, take a deep breath be prepared to bite your tongue. Don’t bother to argue or try to reason with the narcissist. Instead, just let him know that you hear his concerns and avoid raising your voice or introducing any emotion into the conversation.

Read more: How do I deal with people who think they’re better than me?

Diffuse a Raging Narcissist: Know the Patterns

First, understand that not a single thing you say will change the narcissist’s feelings during the rage. It doesn’t matter if she’s arguing that the sky should be red instead of blue—she’s right as far as she’s concerned, and there’s nothing that you or anyone else could say to change her mind. Remember: it’s about controlling the situation and being perceived by you as perfect. Any evidence that she’s losing control or not being perceived as perfect will further incite the rage. In order to end a rage, a narcissist needs to feel safe and in control of the situation—so if you simply want to end the temporary situation, then you may need to say whatever she needs to hear to feel that way again—especially if your safety is at stake, but even if it’s just your emotional well-being you’re trying to protect.

Read more: 10 Things You Need to Know if You’re in a Toxic Relationship

Understanding Narcissism: The Narcissist in Public

An interesting thing about most narcissists—being the charming and outgoing people they are, they project a public image of being “fun” and “laid-back,” but in private, it’s  a whole other story. Behind closed doors, a narcissist feels safe to release his rage. And since he’s so often the life of the party, the nice guy and the charmer that everyone loves to hang out with  (in public, anyway), many people won’t have any idea what kind of person they’re really dealing with. So, unless someone personally witnesses this narcissistic rage, they can’t understand what life is like for the victim/target of the narcissistic rage—especially when it’s a lover, parent or family member.

Understanding Narcissism: The Narcissist and Projection

As the victim of a narcissistic rage, you’ve likely been accused of being selfish or of ignoring the narcissist’s emotional or physical needs, of being dishonest, arrogant, lazy or any number of other insulting descriptives. But what’s really happening most of the time is projection—narcissists project their own inadequacies onto their victims. So as usual, it’s all about the narcissist, not about you.

The Narcissist and Selective Memory

Narcissists are infamous for their selective memories. They may claim they said something that they never really did—and then get angry at you for “not listening.” Or they might even deny saying something that you KNOW they did say, but now regret. And, they’re likely to contradict themselves in the same breath, lashing out at anyone who points it out to them. In either case, you might feel like you’re going a little crazy when this happens—and it’s a sign of gaslighting.

Read more: Toxic Relationships and Narcissism: Stages of Gaslighting

The Narcissist and You

When you love a narcissist, you have to understand your role in her life. A narcissist really doesn’t have any interest in being emotionally or intellectually stimulated by the people in her life. In fact, feedback of any kind can be perceived as a threat. People who love narcissists have really clear roles in their lives: they are the primary source of “narcissistic supply;” that is, they are expected to supply the narcissist with the admiration, respect, love and attention the narcissists believe they deserve. But when these “suppliers” fail in their mission (in the narcissist’s opinion), the rage often turns against them. “A passive witness to the narcissist’s past accomplishments, a dispenser of accumulated Narcissistic Supply, a punching bag for his rages, a co-dependent, a possession (though not prized but taken for granted) and nothing much more,” Vaknin writes. “This is the ungrateful, FULL TIME, draining job of being the narcissist’s significant other.”

Read more: 12 Ways to Know If You’re in Love With a Narcissist

Have you been the victim of narcissistic rage and narcissistic injury? How did you handle it? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section, below.

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4 Responses to Narcissistic Rage and Narcissistic Injury: What You Need to Know

  1. My narcisisitc husband rages consistently. He goes in cycles. He is good for awhile, then it flares. I realize it is not about me, but when his rages turn into viscious name calling, I really cannot stand to hear it. So…I do warn him that if persists, I will take steps to avoid hearing his harsh words until he can speak respectively. So….if I cannot leave the room, I do put on headphones & listen to calming music instead of him. Cuz he can rage well over an hour without me speaking a word. I have tried to speak to him when he is calm, but then it turns into rage again. I have completely given up as I have no where else to go as I am unemployed & still trying to find employment where I can take care of myself. So…now I resort to prayer & thank the Lord for any quite peaceful days that I have. And I do have those! I just wish he would stop his horrible rages, and go on and on about what he does, and how he does things so much better. All I hear is I , I, I, I…..so tired of it. Thanks for listening.

    • I can totally relate to you. The level of exhaustion you must feel is painful. Try to stay strong. Have you considered leaving?

  2. The injury happened 8 weeks ago. I told him I was done. But then I felt bad about the things I said and would text and e-mail him telling him I was sorry. I wasn’t done! Of course, the silent treatment. So one week ago today I went to his house. I didn’t get out of the car, I rolled the window down and he said “I threw all your shit away”. So I asked why he hated me, He put up his hand and said “Leave me alone”. So I have. Well this past weekend I find out he has a new girlfriend. They tell people they started dating two weeks after we broke up. BUT now they are engaged!!! WTF? I just found out about 3 months ago that his last wife (who moved to Florida 4 years ago) is still HIS WIFE. Crazy stuff, I know. I wanted to ask the question why he didn’t do the usual stuff and hoover back. But I guess after typing this I know why. He has a new source! It stings a little, but then I have to remind myself – she will be treated the same way. So sad…

  3. Met him online, listened to the story of his privileged life in Hawai’i, terrible parents who forced him to wear glasses as child & “ruined his eyesight”, capped his teeth which he didn’t maintain and is now toothless but won’t fix his teeth because seeing them every day allows him to continue hating them for doing this to him. His parents disinherited him after he punched his mother in the face & broke her jaw (he was 30). He didn’t date for 31 years, still hates his ex wife passionately enough to say he wants to kill her (they divorced 56 years ago & were married for 4 months). He never came to see me in my country, never gave me as much as a birthday card – I travelled 5x in 3 years to see him. The first time, he screamed abuse at me because I wouldn’t commit to marry him 2 days after meeting him. Police were called twice. I fell off the wagon the next day after 19 years of sobriety & ended up playing his games until I sobered up & took control once again. When I was 3 years sober, he bought me a ticket to his private school class reunion in Honolulu. I was afraid to go but went anyways. Hadn’t seen him in 5 years. One night he started screaming at me until I broke down & cried & screamed in pain. He then sighed, as if he’d just ejaculated (and later didn’t remember the incident or other police incidents). Utterly demeaning & disgusting, demanding I get rid of all things I loved (including my beloved pets, which I did not get rid of). Why I continued to email with him, I don’t know – I live a solitary life & always have & just got used to him – insanity is easy to ignore when you anaesthetize yourself. Thankfully he’s gone now & I’m in therapy, 4.5 years sober & starting a new, peaceful, creative life of hope & happiness & ME first, which means doing things I love & rebuilding my physical & emotional health. He wouldn’t let me be me, just systematically sucked my soul out of me, leaving a shell that would probably would have died soon after. I am a loner by nature and do believe I will never, ever have a relationship with a man again. My sobriety is all that matters now.

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