(Prefer to hear instead of read? Click here to view on YouTube.) When I went no contact with my mother, my decision was made in a moment of extreme distress. It was immediately after I learned that she had done something that was a huge and unexpected betrayal – and I won’t go into that right now, but you can read the whole story here, if you’re interested. Anyway…I remember feeling completely blindsided and devastated in the moment.
Immediately, I picked up the phone and called her to confront her. In hindsight, I probably wouldn’t have given her the satisfaction – but I didn’t fully understand what I had been dealing with at the time. Anyway, when I told my mother that I knew what she had done, she began to scream and yell and rage. I pretty quickly told her never to call me again, and I hung up the phone.
At the time, I didn’t understand the concept of “going no contact with a narcissist,” but I would later learn that I had somehow instinctively made the right decision in that moment.
Over the next couple of weeks, I learned through the grapevine that the extended family was talking about me in some pretty interesting ways. It seemed that they believed I’d be back – and that at the very least, they’d see me for the holidays. They reportedly said I was just being dramatic and begging for attention.
In reality, I was done. And I still am. But at the time, they were apparently in denial, or so I thought. Later, I’d learn that my mother was playing the victim. She acted like she had absolutely no idea why I’d stopped talking to her, and she told people she was afraid I’d come and physically hurt her, despite the fact that I’d never even raised a hand to her or even been verbally aggressive. She of course omitted the fact that she had been very physically aggressive to me until I was 18.
A few weeks passed by and I learned that my mother had planned to send my brother to my home without notice, as a sort of “sneak attack,” to apparently “straighten me out” or confront me for having gone no contact. When I learned this, I sent a quick email explaining that he wasn’t welcome and that the police would be called if he showed up.
A couple of months after that, someone told me that my mother had been using my name in a newsletter that was sent out to around 300 people by mail – saying that I had “mental health issues” and that people should pray for me. That was taken care of with another quick email and a brief reminder that I happened to have had a much bigger audience than she did, some of which included her people. It turned out that the threat of exposure was enough to stop the smearing in this case.
So, why did this narcissist behave this way? What was she thinking and what was the one thing that she just couldn’t accept? It seemed that I had somehow managed to do the number one thing that narcissists just can’t accept. What was it? What exactly was the thing I did that made her act like that?
Well, that’s exactly what we’re talking about today – the one thing narcissists can’t accept, and what to expect when it happens (see video on YouTube).
If you have been profoundly impacted by one or more narcissists in your life, whether it was a parent, an ex, or a friend, or even a co-worker, you might already know what to expect from them. And you are well aware that there are many things that a narcissist will not and cannot accept. You know they will not accept being confronted or criticized, they will not accept you living your own life on your terms, and you know that they won’t tolerate you speaking up for yourself.
They most definitely cannot stand being humiliated or embarrassed. And they can’t imagine what would happen if they were to be exposed for what they truly are – the idea of it is so painful for them that they literally lie to themselves about who and what they are.
But none of those things are as big of an issue for a narcissist as the one we’re discussing today.
So, what is the number one thing that narcissists can’t accept?
It’s simple: a narcissist will never accept rejection. They just can’t. That’s right. Rejection is the one thing that narcissists cannot accept.
What does rejection mean to a narcissist?
Fearing and disliking the feeling of being rejected isn’t just a narcissistic thing – nearly everyone has this fear. But for narcissists, feeling rejected can happen in any number of situations. Obviously, if they are turned down when they ask you to be with them, they’ll feel rejected. Or if a friend or family member refuses to speak to or see them due to a decision to go no contact, they will feel rejected. If they don’t get the job they wanted, they’ll feel rejected. And I think all of those things are fairly normal. We can all relate to that.
However, a narcissist might also feel rejected if they simply don’t get what they want, or if a situation doesn’t go their way. They’ll feel rejected if they call you and you don’t have time to talk, or if they want to see you and you’re at work and can’t leave. They’ll feel rejected if you’re spending time with your kid and you make that a priority over them. They might feel rejected if they see you in public but you don’t see them. Or if you decide to go out with your friends one night and ask them to stay home and take care of the kids.
They might feel rejected if you win an award, because they didn’t win one too. Even if the award is for something they’re not involved with – like your job or a particular talent you have that they don’t. They’ll even feel rejected if they don’t know the answer to a question and someone else does. Or if they misspell a word and are called out on it. Or if they fail at literally anything at all.
Of course, the biggest rejection for a narcissist is the moment you decide you’re done with their abuse and you go no contact. You refuse to see or speak to them. You block them on social media. You actively avoid them. This makes them feel like they’ve absolutely lost control of you – and they have. But you’ve also taken away their source of narcissistic supply, maybe for good.
What Happens If You Reject A Narcissist?
The first thing you need to know here is that rejecting a narcissist, if you ask the narcissist, is practically the kiss of death. It just isn’t acceptable in their world, because their ego cannot handle the emotions associated with it. Plus, if you ask them, they’re the ones who get to do the rejecting – NOT you or anyone else.
If you reject a narcissist, you’re essentially cutting off a source of narcissistic supply. And my friend, you can expect to deal with a very unpleasant reaction from the narcissist. For all the bravado and grandiosity, you would think that narcissists are practically indestructible. But the truth is that a narcissist will feel like their word is ending at even the tiniest “slight” that an average person would just let roll right off their back.
Let’s discuss the primary reactions you can expect from the narcissist after you make it clear that you want nothing to do with them again.
1. Narcissistic Injury
No matter what actually happened that caused you to reject them, the narcissist will quickly change the narrative of the situation to cast themselves as the victim. They will also talk about you mercilessly during this time, focusing on spreading lies to everyone they know about how you victimized them in some way. This is what we call a smear campaign, and it’s how the narcissist sort of “advertises” their “victim status” – and at the same time, how they try to get their narcissistic supply needs met. This is very difficult to imagine for your average person – we don’t see things the same way as a narcissist. Maybe this will help you see it a little more clearly. Think about how you feel if you unexpectedly stub your toe in the dark. It throbs with pain! You might find yourself cursing and screaming about it. Well, the narcissist will react the same way to being rejected – it almost feels like a literal injury to them.
2. Narcissistic Rage
If the narcissistic injury doesn’t work, the narcissist will inevitably become enraged. They are feeling a mixture of anxiety, shame, and depression as they turn the rejection inward. And when that happens, they will direct their narcissistic rage towards you or anyone who rejects them. They will scream, yell, hurl insults, and more. They’ll call you names. They’ll tear you down as a person. They’ll dig at you on every single sensitive topic they can think of – whether it’s how you are in bed, what kind of parent you are, how you keep the house or how bad (or good) you are with money. Or, if they’re more covert, they’ll go passive-aggressive on you. They may behave vindictively by sabotaging you in ways that can really mess up your life. For example, let’s say you have an interview for your dream job. The narcissist might send screenshots of the photos your friend posted on Facebook that one time you got drunk 5 years ago, hurting your chances of getting the job.
3. Hoover and Reject
This one might be the most painful way a narcissist could react to being rejected, but it’s not uncommon. See, in this case, the narcissist will hoover you – as in, do anything they can to get you back on board with the relationship, whether it’s a romantic one, a family connection, or a friendship. In the story I told at the beginning, it didn’t work. But I’ve experienced it in other relationships and have heard it from many clients. Essentially, in order to get you back, the narcissist will say all the things you’ve always wanted them to say. And they’ll bend over backward to convince you that THIS TIME IS DIFFERENT! This time, they’re REALLY serious and they’re TOTALLY going to follow through with all of the promises they’ve made you. You’ll doubt them at first, but eventually, you might give in – either out of exhaustion or hope. In either case, hold on to your hat, because once they’re sure you’re 100 percent committed to them again, they’ll do something you won’t be expecting: they’ll reject YOU. And then you’ll be back to square one, wondering what is wrong with you and posting in your narcissistic abuse recovery support groups about how you can’t believe you fell for it yet again. You’ll doubt your own intelligence and you’ll feel humiliated and embarrassed. They, however, will – at least temporarily – feel vindicated because they “got you back” for rejecting them in the first place.
Any of that sound familiar to you? If so, know that you aren’t alone, and know that you can take back your life and find happiness.
Question of the Day: Have you ever committed the one act that narcissists cannot accept? If so, how did you manage the fallout? If not, are you considering it? Share your thoughts, share you experiences, share your ideas in the comments section below this video and let’s talk about it.
Angela Atkinson is a Certified Life Coach 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 relationships since 2006, Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed coaching and has certifications in 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. In her life coaching practice, Atkinson’s clients enjoy her personalized approach that allows and encourages them to become the best possible versions of themselves and to succeed in doing what they love most. She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online and NarcissismSupportCoach.com.