Nobody likes being treated unfairly. Most of us react mildly and back off. But narcissists lose control and explode.
You may not predict the onset of narcissistic rage, but you always know of its consequences. If you find out what causes a narcissist to erupt into a volcano of rage, then you may have solved the problem.
Narcissists, especially those you’re in love with, can suddenly feel that you are grossly mistreating or devaluing them, even if it seems like a minor issue to most of us.
What Is Narcissistic Rage?
Narcissistic rage is an intense emotional reaction to a perceived threat to a narcissist’s self-esteem, whether real or imagined. It is typically a sudden and powerful outburst of anger, out of proportion to the cause of the rage, and is expressed with righteous indignation and a sense of entitlement. Narcissists often lose self-control in fits of rage.
Heinz Kohut, an American psychoanalyst of Austrian descent, coined the term “narcissistic rage” in his book “The Analysis of the Self.”
Kohut used the term to describe the extreme rage that persons with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) and other mental disorders experience as a result of narcissistic injury.
The severity of narcissistic rage varies from narcissist to narcissist, and a lot depends on their mental health both in the past and present.
A narcissist raised by narcissistic parents will differ in their rage levels from another narcissist who’s coping with recent unemployment.
What Causes Narcissistic Rage?
The common causes of narcissistic rage include feeling neglected or unappreciated, not receiving special treatment, being criticized or humiliated, perceiving they are not the center of attention, getting caught breaking rules or violating social norms, being held accountable, exposed as a liar or manipulator, not being in control of the people around them, or failing at something.
The root cause of narcissistic rage is their fear of losing their grandiose sense of self-identity.
Narcissists become hostile when their inflated, imaginary sense of self-worth is threatened, because:
- First off, they never had high self-esteem, and what little they did have is extremely fragile.
- Second, they know that the grand fantasy they built to boost their self-esteem is actually a lie.
When you expose a narcissist as a narcissist, they see it as a survival threat since it trashes the only good thing in their life: their grandiose self-image.
Their carefully built larger-than-life self-image collapses, leaving them feeling inadequate, ashamed, and vulnerable.
It erodes their sense of grandeur, entitlement, and superiority.
When this happens, narcissists usually exhibit a wide range of emotions and behaviors, with one of the most repulsive ones being narcissistic rage.
Some narcissists experience intense rage when they feel unappreciated or ignored, while others get it when they are openly insulted or humiliated, and still feel it when they think they are being made fools.
When mistreated, a narcissist behaves like a child in a grown-up body.
Imagine a child’s wayward will in an adult body. They can have dangerously frightening meltdowns that can push the victim to comply with their demands.
They don’t care if the victim is terrified and has been broken down by their actions, the cruel narcissist will have their way.
Narcissistic rage is “righteous indignation,” but it is nothing to be proud of because it includes the word righteous.
Righteous indignation means an angry response to a “perceived” injustice or insult. What a narcissist may perceive as righteous may only be so in their minds.
Dealing With Narcissistic Rage: 7 Ways To Protect Yourself
A narcissist in narcissistic rage can be too dangerous to ignore.
Narcissistic rage is often triggered by a narcissistic injury, which is any threat to the narcissist’s ego and is based on vengeance.
Some strategies on how you can protect yourself from narcissistic rage:
1. Don’t Take The Bait
A narcissist is a master manipulator. They just know how to fire you up. They will snare you in an argument and then escalate it to the point of branding you “crazy.”
When you know beforehand they can do it to you, you can prevent yourself from getting baited into their cooked-up fights where you can never win.
Distance yourself from them. If you can’t, then take a deep breath and tell yourself, “Cindy, you are not biting into that.”
If it happens too often, consider breaking up the relationship.
2. Don’t Let Yourself Be Guilty of Their Faults
They will unload their accountability on you, for any mistake they made and you get to know of it. They are good at shifting their blame onto others.
Don’t accept the blames they heap on you. Don’t let yourself be burdened by the weight of their sins.
They are always in fear that their true selves will be outed, so they will project their wrong deed on you.
Do not let them get into panic mode so they can control you. If you cannot understand if you really are the one responsible, walk away from the scene to deliberate on the issue with a friend.
3. Respond With Empathy And Compassion
A narcissist is deprived of compassion most of the time. Somehow, people understand they are not persons to show compassion and kindness.
When a narcissist is in a rage and trying to incite you into an outburst so that they can retaliate, let the occasion go to kindness.
Get your thoughts on the harsh upbringing they went through to become the narcissist they are today. Think of the daily humiliation and abuse they had to face when their friends were having happy times with their parents.
Understanding, where they are coming from, will help you be kind to them, and even forgive them, without condoning their behavior.
You can disarm them with your genuine compassion.
4. Build Psychological And Physical Boundaries
Narcissists will frequently break into your personal space, rummage through your personal things, and inquire about your intimate past.
They do this to collect your weaknesses which they will use at an appropriate time to exercise control, which is often in narcissistic rage.
The best way to tackle this is to create boundaries and enforce them. Every relationship should have these six boundaries.
Let them know about your boundaries with them and constantly remind them to never infringe on them whatever the situation, emergency or not.
Prevent them from breaking into your personal space by calling them out publicly, if you feel personal warnings are not effective. They will not cross over because they have a public image to save.
5. Don’t Trigger Them
It is highly possible that you have a tendency to say it as it is. This brutal honesty may seriously backfire on a narcissist.
Don’t provoke them with statements like, “You are so lazy, so dirty, so useless, so dependent, so praise-hungry.” It will incite their narcissistic rage, even if you have told them so in a jovial way.
An insult to their self-image is violent behavior, even if it is wrapped in a soft bouquet. They will react as soon as they can, and you can sense their aloofness coming over.
Do not provoke them.
6. Take Time To Self-Care
Narcissists are good at making you give your all to them in return for occasional morsels of love.
They will not let you sleep properly, and wake you up at unholy hours to tell you their thoughts about some incident or person. And keep you awake until you answer them to their satisfaction.
Narcissists are always pointing out what your flaws are. Elevate your self-esteem by going to places where you are welcomed and entertained for who you are.
Protect your self-love with self-care. Learn how to meditate, be mindful, and stay calm at times of stress.
Do not engage with them in their tone when they are in a fit of rage. Better still, keep a watch for the red flags when they are about to get triggered.
7. Protect Yourself Rightfully
First, your best fights are those that you don’t have to fight. It is futile to get into a fight or an argument with a narcissist because they become blind to logic in their narcissistic rage.
So, don’t step into the ring however much they instigate you. Walk away, because it’s their game all the way.
But if you have entered their arena, then protect yourself tooth and nail.
They will make you defensive by blaming and gaslighting. But your stance should be one of calling out their narcissistic traits and behaviors.
Start to record the entire argument. Use your phone camera or phone voice mike to record things. Evidence collected against them will go a long way since many of them will involve you in lawsuits to bring you down.
Anger Vs Narcissistic Rage: Differences
Narcissistic rage is not the same as anger.
Anger is a response to feeling wronged or threatened. Narcissistic rage, on the other hand, is a response to feeling humiliated, ignored, and minimized.
It’s important to note that while narcissistic rage can be directed at anyone, it’s most commonly directed at those who are closest in proximity or those with whom they have a relationship with (e.g., partners, family members).
Anger is a feeling that is linked to a sense of injustice. It can be triggered by many things, such as the feeling of being wronged, mistreated, or ignored. Narcissistic rage, on the other hand, is an overreaction to an event that feels personal.
The difference between anger and narcissistic rage can be explained in three ways:
- Anger is a reaction to injustice while narcissistic rage is an overreaction to something that feels personal.
- Anger can be triggered by many things while narcissistic rage only occurs when someone feels like they have been wronged.
- Anger can occur at any time but narcissistic rage only happens when someone has been wronged and it’s not about anything else.
What angers a narcissist the most?
A narcissist is most angered by a perceived attack on their self-esteem. They regard it as a life-threatening situation since it can irreparably damage their self-image and public image. Some covert narcissists may become enraged over a perceived insult to their partner.
How long does narcissistic rage last?
The most common answer to it is that narcissistic rage never subsides completely because a narcissist will never forget an insult to their self-esteem. Another reasonable response is “it depends.” According to an informal poll of 400 survivors of narcissistic abuse, the average duration of narcissistic anger is 3 hours.
Final Words: What Happens After Narcissistic Rage
After a narcissist gets into a fit of narcissistic rage, you cannot reason with them.
There is a brain region called the amygdala that gets hijacked at such times. The amygdala functions like a reptilian brain, and jerks the narcissist into a flight-or-fight mode.
When the amygdala engages, it does not allow the signals to reach the higher brain (frontal lobes). This amygdala hijack makes them resistant to reason.
In fact, trying to reason with them while they are raging can be dangerous and fatal to the point that no amount of regret can fix the harm.
Don’t engage them at such times.
Talk to them at a later time when they are calm and perhaps embarrassed by their outburst.
But even at such calmer times, do not attack them. Because however sorry they feel, they will take seconds to get into another fit of rage.
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Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy — medical doctor, psychology writer, and happiness researcher. Founder and Chief Editor of The Happiness Blog. Writes on mental health, happiness, mindfulness, positive psychology, and philosophy (especially Stoicism).
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