On Narcissistic Rage and Narcissistic Injury

Written by Angela Atkinson

If you’ve ever been involved with a narcissist, you may be aware that when they don’t get what they want, they tend to display blatant narcissistic rage, and if that doesn’t work, they will jump right into narcissistic injury (or, vice versa).

What Causes Narcissistic Injury?

Any threat (real or imagined) to the narcissist’s grandiose self-perception – or the false self –  as perfect, all-powerful, all-knowing, and entitled to special treatment and recognition, regardless of their actual accomplishments (or lack thereof).

In other words, the narcissist is always seeking attention, compliments, admiration and power over others in order to fill their endless need for narcissistic supply and boost their tiny little ego. This means that they could always be rejected, ignored or feel criticized.

So, in a way, it causes the narcissist to be surprisingly dependent on the compliance of the people in their life in order to feel “normal,” and without this kind of narcissistic supply, they feel like they might implode.

And while the narcissist hates to admit any sort of dependence on others, they equally hate themselves for having it – and in fact, desperately fear the possibility of losing their supply – to which they’re addicted like a drug.

This is a weird conundrum for the narcissist: they need people to love, admire and respect them, but they also tend to dump their emotional garbage on these same people – usually, those closest to them.

This could explain why the narcissist has a rage problem and why they seem to be secretly consumed by overwhelming envy of some people, and why they tend to attack and devalue the people they claim to care about.

Why Does the Narcissist Take Everything So Personally?

Because the narcissist is always watching for anything that could be perceived as an insult or slight, any type of criticism (even constructive) can be seen as a personal attack. The narcissist will feel humiliated and rejected, which leads to a strange kind of all-consuming paranoia. In the worst cases, this can even cause them to create made-up rules and crazy ideas, which they expect their “circle of narcissistic supply,” or the people closest to them, to follow and agree with – without question.

Their defensive reactions and extreme emotions cause the people close to them a great deal of emotional pain. The narcissist isn’t concerned with this and in fact, is oddly detached – perhaps to avoid narcissistic injury.

The first line of defense, of course, is to emotionally beat down (or devalue) anyone who has the nerve to criticize (or who the narcissist perceives might criticize them). This could also apply to someone who makes a joke or comment that the narcissist thinks is somehow “against them.”

The narcissist will look down their nose at anyone who dares to make them feel less than amazing – anyone who dares to peek behind the mask of the false self. With blatant contempt and a rising feeling of superiority, the narcissist feels better about themselves and minimizes the feeling of inferiority. This leads to cognitive dissonance and literally causes the narcissist to lie to themselves.

What is Narcissistic Rage?

While narcissists might seem to be the most put-together people we know, calm, poised and good at managing their stress levels, anyone they feel comfortable around knows that it’s all an act.

Though it would seem like narcissistic rage is always a reaction to narcissistic injury, the truth is that narcissists see it as something that is inevitable, something that was “done to them” by the person who disagreed with or was critical of (or joking about) them. This leads us to logically assume they are as illogical, unfair and outright mean – especially during the rages.

Normal anger is different than narcissistic rage. Everybody gets angry. It’s normal and human. But healthier people will either work through it and use it to propel them forward into positive change, while narcissists will stew in it and let it infect anyone who has the nerve to get close enough.

Feeling threatened is just one way the narcissist will get angry. They’ll also react with rage to real or perceived injustice against them, to feeling uncomfortable or being inconvenienced and to any sort of disagreement. To be fair, when we are angry, it can be hard for anyone to think and act logically, and this doesn’t exclude the narcissist or their rage.

This certainly inflates the lack of empathy that is a hallmark for a toxic narcissist. Some psychologists will tell you that narcissistic rage is just something that happens and that the narcissist is actually angry at themselves, but anyone who has ever been the subject of this rage will know better.

How Does Narcissistic Rage Manifest?

The narcissist may express rage through blatant, explosive verbal or even physical attacks, using psychological abuse to minimize and invalidate anyone in their path. Or, they may go passive aggressive – using sneaky, pervasive techniques like the silent treatment to control their circle of supply. To those in its path, narcissistic rage is scary and angst-causing. It feels like nothing you can say, do, think or feel could possibly be right in the moment, and even though some narcissists will issue a weak apology later, it’s clearly perfunctory and means nothing – because they’ll ALWAYS do it again when it suits them.

When the preferred emotional dumpster (aka closest source of narcissistic supply) is unavailable, the narcissist will rage against random people they consider unimportant – customer service representatives on the phone, waitresses, the check-out lady at Walmart.

Are you in a toxic relationship? If this sounds familiar to you, that could be the case. Take our free toxic relationship test now. 

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