Why They Rage, Blame, and Bully
Written by Randi Fine
Narcissistic Abuse Awareness and Guidance with Randi Fine
Narcissistic Injury is the term used to describe the emotional torment suffered by someone with narcissistic personality disorder when under perceived “attack.” If you have ever questioned a narcissist or tried to hold him or her accountable for the behavior you have certainly experienced the rage of narcissistic injury.
Just below the surface of every narcissist lie repressed aggression, paranoia, suspicion and fear. They are volatile, dramatic, and emotional people who feed off of any kind of drama—good or bad, negative or positive. When there isn’t enough drama in their lives they create it.
The narcissist cannot tolerate any suggestion that he is less than perfect. He perceives criticism as a threat to his self-worth and self-esteem, and that wounds him to the core. By core I mean the fragile underbelly beneath his tough facade that he consciously denies.
When a narcissist’s expectations are not met or he feels criticized, disapproved of or blamed, narcissistic injury triggers erratic responses such as rage, blame, or the cold-shouldered silent treatment.
Negative feedback of any sort, even an innocuous suggestion that a person wishes to be treated better, can trigger the vicious outbursts known as “narcissistic rage.”
There are two types of narcissistic rage: “explosive” and “pernicious/passive-aggressive.”
Explosive rage is akin to a temper tantrum. It is a fury released at even the slightest provocation. Any challenge, insult, lack of respect or defiance whether real, trivial, or imagined can send a narcissist flying into this rage.
When on counter-attack from narcissistic injury, explosively raging narcissists scream, spew horrible insults, belittle their target, dredge up sensitive or confidential information and throw it back in the person’s face, and aggressively act out. The narcissist’s face during an explosive rage is among the most frightening you will ever see in your life.
Pernicious/passive-aggressive rage is a mind game that is vindictive and emotionally torturous. Victims are ostracized and shunned by the narcissist for extended periods of time through sulking, ignoring, or the silent treatment. It may be expressed through body language, facial expressions or tone of voice.
Passive-aggressive rage keeps victims, who in many cases do not know what they have done wrong, in a constant state of anxiety, mental anguish, and physical illness. Since the isolation, rejection and abandonment experienced by victims feels unbearable, they are willing to do anything to end it. That usually means apologizing for something they haven’t done, groveling or coddling.
The narcissist’s terrorization campaign is all about power and control. Narcissists zero in on the weaknesses of their target and then attack when the person’s defenses are down. The punishments are mentally and sometimes physically cruel. It is never a fair fight. The only tool victims have at their disposal is placation. Fully aware of that handicap, narcissists ruthlessly train victims to fear them so they can get what they want.
Narcissists know how to get into others’ heads and learn what makes them tick. They scrutinize people to figure out how they will react to things. Once the narcissist can predict his victim’s reactions he knows exactly how to hurt her. He keeps a mental record of everything his victim does and says, and all the things that pain her. He bullies, harasses and provokes his victims to the point of frustration. When they react he says, “Look at how crazy you’re acting. I’m not the one with the problem, you are.” If his victim gets upset, he accuses her of being overly sensitive or thin skinned.
Narcissists can never be held accountable for anything they do. To avoid being pinned down they use a tactic known as “projection.” They project onto others a reflection of what they are feeling about themselves. When they lie they accuse you of being a liar. When they hurt you they accuse you of hurting them. If they make an accusation, they will later deny ever saying it. They’ll accuse you of being selfish and unloving when it is they who are selfish and unloving. Something or someone else is always to blame. No matter what occurs they will never accept responsibility for their part.
Narcissists have very selective memories. They will say they don’t remember something, deny it happened, or claim that the other person is just making it up. They will obstinately argue that they are right. You can never win a verbal battle with them because they are Teflon. Nothing sticks to them. The harder you try to hold a narcissist accountable, the worse the assault on you will be. They will distort, fabricate, or exaggerate—whatever it takes to make a point.
The narcissist lacks emotional self-control and is prone to wild, violent mood swings triggered by external stimuli. Criticism or disobedience is guaranteed to set him off. He can be happy, loving and fun as long as everything is going his way, he has what he wants, and no one is challenging him. But people around him never know what to expect. One minute he is pleasant, the next minute furious. He switches from euphoria to depression and from passivity to aggression with no warning.
Narcissists have poor senses of humor. They cannot laugh at themselves. The slightest joke at their expense will be met with an angry outburst. They resent others for being able to enjoy humor when they cannot. In their haughty, high and mighty way, they capitalize on every opportunity to dampen people’s spirits. When others are enjoying themselves, they must put an end to it. This is done through humiliation; through the devaluation of others’ senses of humor.
Narcissists do not recognize any of their behaviors as irrational or unacceptable. Blinded by their perfect self-images, they believe all their reactions are justified.
The narcissist continually walks a fine line between fantasy and reality. He confuses imagination with true memories, or he forms false memories and then distorts things to make them fit into his fabricated, recreated world.
Able to justify everything he does, he never believes he is wrong. He does not feel sorry for anything he does, therefore never gives genuine apologies. You may hear a narcissist utter something that resembles an apology, but it is never authentic. He is only imitating what he has seen others do in similar situations. If you listen carefully to the way the narcissist phrases his words you will realize that he is not sorry at all. And since he perceives every “assault” as a denigration of his soul, he rarely accepts apologies from others. Considering himself superior, he adamantly believes no one has the right to treat him as anything but. Lesser treatment is simply unforgivable.
Narcissists are impossible to get along with. You will never be accepted or respected by them for who you are. You don’t matter nor do your opinions, and you will never win a battle with them.
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Randi Fine is the author of the groundbreaking book Close Encounters of the Worst Kind: The Narcissistic Abuse Survivor’s Guide to Healing, the most comprehensive, most well researched, and most up-to-date book on this subject. In addition to helping survivors recognize their abuse and heal from it, this book teaches mental health professionals how to recognize and properly treat the associated abuse syndrome. She is also the author of Cliffedge Road: A Memoir, the first and only book to characterize the life-long progression of complications caused by narcissistic child abuse.