Understanding Narcissistic Rage & How to Deal with It
Have you ever witnessed your partner, family member, or coworker flying into a rage with the slightest or no apparent reason at all? Does their short fuse keep you on high alert all the time? Does it feel like walking on eggshells when you are around this person?
If you answered yes to these few questions, you might be dealing with narcissistic rage. Understanding narcissistic rage and how to deal with it can help you manage a relationship with the toxic person and learn how to protect yourself.
What is Narcissistic Rage?
The term narcissistic rage first appeared in 1972, when psychoanalyst Heinz Kohut used it to describe a sudden and powerful outburst from narcissists. They lose control and explode at the slightest provocation. Sometimes, individuals with NPD may react with anger, aggression, and violence with no apparent reason whatsoever.
Most commonly, a narcissist’s rage boils over when they feel hurt. For example, narcissistic rage will occur when you confront them with words or behavior that oppose their self-perception of their own importance. Or when you don’t treat them with the attention, they feel they deserve.
Any kind of boundary, judgment, or criticism can set off narcissistic rage, even if the complaint is constructive or delivered kindly. Such negative feedback causes a narcissistic injury, resulting in anger and hostility. Narcissistic rage also occurs when a narcissist is confronted with the fact that they hurt or did wrong to someone. Instead of feeling remorse or empathy, a narcissist will receive an injury and respond with rage.
Narcissistic rage can manifest in two different ways:
- Explosive rage: yelling, screaming, angry or volatile outbursts, verbal and physical aggression
- Passive rage: passive aggression and silent treatment, hidden resentment, avoiding behavior, neglecting to do things.
Behaviors Associated with Narcissistic Rage
Narcissistic rage can include behaviors that range from irritation to physical violence. Depending on the severity of the narcissistic injury, a narcissist can become verbally abusive, gaslight you, collapse, or become physically aggressive and violent. Some narcissists can react with silence and passive-aggressive avoidance.
Here are some of the most common behaviors associated with narcissistic rage.
Narcissistic rage most commonly occurs through outbursts of anger disproportionate to the trigger. For example, your narcissistic partner may verbally abuse you for hours because they feel that you embarrassed them in front of friends at dinner.
They may demolish the office for not getting a promotion they expected. They may hit you for trying to defend yourself from their abuse. Or because you didn’t clean the house to their standard.
Being at the receiving end of the narcissist’s disproportionate anger can cause you to feel anxious, afraid, or overwhelmed by terror.
Quick to Anger/Quick to Get Over It
Sometimes, a narcissist may react with a sudden bout of anger that quickly ends, never to be discussed again. You may experience their intense rage over a minor provocation that dissolves as quickly as it started. The narcissist may act as if nothing has happened after such an episode, while you may feel shaken for hours afterward.
Grandiose narcissists might threaten to hurt themselves to get attention and play the victim. Their anger may also result in self-harm. So, narcissists may impulsively hurt themselves while lashing out or use self-harm to manipulate their victims.
Gets Angry When Questioned
A narcissist will typically get angry when you criticize them (even if your criticism is well-intended and constructive). They may react with rage when you catch them in a lie or when their boss evaluates their work.
What Causes Narcissistic Rage?
Narcissists struggle with an unstable sense of self-esteem, so they need to control everyone to feed their egos. So, any situation that causes a narcissist to feel a lack of control can trigger narcissistic rage. However, here are some of the most common scenarios that cause a narcissist to fly into a frenzy.
They Don’t Get Their Way
Your partner may have unreasonable expectations, such as inviting a large number of people over and requesting you to prepare the food, clean the house, and get everything ready for the party at the last minute. If you refuse their unreasonable demand, your partner may lash out, punching the hole in the wall or breaking all of the plates in the kitchen.
Need for Attention
A narcissist may get upset if they don’t get the attention they believe they deserve. So, if you complain at the office about some problem and colleagues gather around you expressing their concern and compassion, a toxic coworker might become jealous and furious, storm out of the office or go to pieces over something totally irrelevant.
Inability to Take Responsibility
A narcissist never accepts accountability for their words and actions. Instead, people with NPD will blame their victims for their own mistakes and failures, lashing out with rage because of their inability to take responsibility for their own life.
Being “Called Out” on Their Behavior
When they get criticized or caught doing something wrong, most narcissists will act aggressively to protect themselves. Unfortunately, they are great at playing the victim. So, when you catch your toxic partner in a lie or cheating, they might react with gaslighting, anger, or aggression, causing you to doubt yourself.
How to Deal with Narcissistic Rage?
Here are a few things you can do to deal with narcissistic rage and protect yourself from it.
Learn about narcissistic personality disorder. Learning about NPD will help you understand its causes and symptoms and the most common triggers to anger outbursts.
Set boundaries and stick to them. Let the narcissist know what kind of behavior is acceptable and what is not.
Avoid fueling the narcissist’s rage. Don’t try to reason with an injured narcissist. Avoid criticizing the narcissist or engaging in conflicts with them.
Seek professional help. If you are engaged with a narcissist, therapy or coaching may help you learn about NPD, develop healthy strategies to manage your relationships, and learn how to protect yourself.
Don’t give in to manipulations. Instead, learn to recognize gaslighting techniques and other abuse methods a narcissist may use to manipulate you and gain control over you.
Protect yourself. If a narcissist threatens you or attacks you physically, seek immediate help from the emergency services.