“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, narcissistic rage is triggered usually by some perceived insult, criticism, or disagreement that results in a 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.
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 defense mechanisms to cope with their repressed emotions: projective identification, splitting, projection, intellectualization, rationalization.”
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 them know that you hear their concerns and avoid raising your voice or introducing any emotion into the conversation. This might also be a good time to employ the gray rock method.
Grey rock method (also known as the Gray Rock method), is a coping technique used by narcissistic abuse survivors to deal with their abusers in the most effective way possible. The method was named and first published by a writer called Skylar, who advises that you act boring and don’t react to the narcissist’s attempts to engage you in drama. The tactic is highly effective but also infuriating for narcissists to experience. Be aware that you will need to use this method with caution if you are dealing with any physical abuse as the narcissist may not react well.
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. The narcissist has specific patterns of abuse – and you need to familiarize yourself with them if you’re going to diffuse the narcissistic rage.
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 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.
Psychological projection is a defense mechanism in which the human ego defends itself against unconscious impulses or qualities (both positive and negative) by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others.
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.
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.”
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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Angela Atkinson is a certified trauma counselor and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery, and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic personality disorder and narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships since 2006, she has a popular narcissistic abuse recovery YouTube channel. Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed narcissistic abuse recovery coaching and has certifications in trauma counseling, life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation, and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves.
Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded QueenBeeing.com Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy.
She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse here at QueenBeeing.com and at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online.