It’s Narcissist Friday!
The anger is always there. It lies just under the surface, almost waiting to erupt. When it is finally released, it will be dedicated to burning and destruction. Sometimes there are warning signs. Other times the rage explodes in an unexpected instant. But even with the warning signs, there is little you can do to stop it.
Narcissistic rage has been discussed in the psychological community for many years. Freud wrote about it. The reference to narcissism is not a reference to the person, but to the type of anger. It is an exclusive anger, designed to hurt or push others away. And it may not look like rage. It may be very subtle, under-handed, or even childish.
A man I know was getting a ride from another man. As he waited for the other to unlock his door, he put his briefcase on the roof of the car. The other man freaked out. He ranted and raved and pouted and complained from that point on. He referred to the incident a long time afterward. There was no scratch and no damage to the car, but something triggered that rage. The memory of that rage endured for a long time for both men.
Sadly, I don’t have to tell most of you about narcissistic rage. You have experienced it first-hand. And it doesn’t seem to matter what kind of narcissistic relationship you are in. As long as there is a narcissist, there will be narcissistic rage.
Now, I said that this doesn’t have to be a narcissist and it doesn’t have to look like rage. The truth is that anger itself is narcissistic. It causes us to look inward and strike out against anyone and anything in our way. It is a protective mechanism. It moves us to do things that hurt others, things we wouldn’t normally do. One of the reasons anger is so dangerous, so destructive in relationships, is this rejection of others. Anger builds walls.
If anger is naturally narcissistic and narcissists live with a constant source of anger, then we shouldn’t be surprised when they erupt. And they certainly do. One of the things commonly written about when people experience narcissistic rage is the regret they suffer afterward. They know they have hurt people and they feel bad about what they did. But the narcissist won’t feel bad. Some might know they should, if they were normal, and some might try to fake the feelings so they don’t lose their narcissistic supply; but few narcissists even bother to apologize. They don’t see others as real people. Why would you apologize to a tool or a toy?
I think the other thing about narcissists and their rage is that they learn. They watch our reactions and they adjust their tactics. While others might involuntarily explode with anger, narcissists may not be quite so involuntary about it. The things they say and do will be chosen far more carefully than you might expect. They know where to punch and how to hurt, and their attacks will be calculated to manipulate you on into the future. In other words, when most narcissists go off the deep end, it will be because they wanted to go off.
So what are you supposed to do? Number one, most important, protect yourself. The general consensus is that narcissists are not usually violent or physical, but physical abusers are very often narcissists. You may have to leave, hide, or compromise to be safe. You may also have to do these things to protect those under your care. The crazy rage of some narcissists is so unpredictable that you have every right to do what it takes to protect yourself.
Second, don’t fight. I have heard several times of narcissists who provoked their spouses and then recorded their spouses’ angry responses. Do your best to keep calm and not let them trick you into a fight. You won’t win anyway. You are not as cruel and ruthless as they are. You do care about what others hear and think. They do not. They can twist almost any situation to make you look bad. Try not to give them ammunition.
Third, remember that this is about manipulation and control, not about an offense you caused. You are not to blame. Don’t feel bad. Step back and think of the narcissist as a naughty and demanding child who uses angry outbursts to get his/her way. If you believe you did something, apologize and be done. The narcissist will try to use anger to shame you, humble you, and control you. Step back from your emotions and watch the tactics.
Finally, don’t be surprised if you blow it. Few of us were ever trained in handling the wild and irrational anger the narcissist can produce. When the accusations come like boxer’s blows and almost always hit below the belt, you may find yourself responding even when you didn’t want to. That’s something you may not be able to avoid. You don’t need to feel guilty afterward. One of the best tactics of the narcissist is to get crazy angry, provoke you to action, then accuse you of hurting him/her. Your reaction to his action is normal. It may not be what you want, but it is still normal. Don’t blame yourself.
Anger is probably the easiest and most powerful tool in the narcissist’s tool box.