Narcissistic Rage

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.


Filed under Narcissism

48 responses to “Narcissistic Rage

  1. Reblogged this on Crossing Over – Matkalla muutokseen and commented:
    An article regarding to narcissist´s anger written by David Orrison. Useful to read. – David Orrisonin narsistin vihaa käsittelevä artikkeli (englanniksi). Hyödyllinen luettavaksi.

  2. Jeff Crippen

    Excellent stuff, and very helpful. Thank you. The last time one of these kind went off on me I held up my hand (palm open and toward them as if to say “stop”), and said “I reject everything you are saying.” Of course that freaked them out even more because they knew their tactic wasn’t working. (I should say that I did this only after YEARS of being in the fog about what N’s do and what they are, so it’s not as if I am saying, “Oh yeah, I figured this out right away.” I didn’t. Took me probably 30 years).

  3. My problem with anger is my own anger. I find that anger is all I’m left with through these relationships, and it is indeed “just under the surface, almost waiting to erupt.” I find myself going off on them when I’m alone in my house, sometimes at the mirror. Or in the car. All I am left with is this sense of continued injustice and bona fide rage. I was not like this before. And the “N’s in my life” could not care less about the hurt. But in turn, I have become so focused on the hurt that it has become my own narcissistic obsession. It is very hard to temper when these feelings are triggered, and I am ashamed of it and further isolated by it. This cycle is hard to escape or stop. If we identify narcissists as products of their own pain, then I am no different. I am still finding it difficult to forgive. I look at how victims of unspeakable violence and injustice forgive their perpetrators, and I can’t forgive a friend for altering the social dynamics in my life, or my own brother?? What’s that, then?

    • Penny

      I hear you, Kate, and have been there myself. Righteous anger desires justice, and it is a process….a looooong process. Perhaps this will help:

      • Thanks for sharing that site, Kate. I’ve added it to my favorites, right along with this one. There is a bunch of good stuff there!

      • Sorry, Penny, I meant to address my reply to you about the site you shared.

      • Lene

        I agree maryleemorgan. Anger isn’t the problem; it’s the reaction that anger causes. I have held my reactions in check. I have taken the higher road. BUT, the anger isn’t productive for me. And I am really ready to think of me, not him, for a change. It’s hard to get his voice out of my head when I have this anger. I find myself thinking, “What would he say about this?” I have to get past the anger so I don’t think about him at all anymore.

    • Kate, I have struggled with these same kinds of questions. With our own introspection (something the narcissists do not do) we can choose the path to letting Christ comfort us, heal us, and guide us to the peace and joy of walking the way he wants us to. For me, the giddy truth finally dawned that the N in my life could not prevent me from making that choice! Also, to let myself off the perfection hook about these things: God himself does not expect me to be perfect, just to stay on the path leading to Him. One day at a time, one hour at a time, in his strength, we can do that.

      The narcissist will make their own choices, and there is nothing we can do about that. We do ourselves a great disservice if we start to think, as was said in this post, that the narcissists are responding to us–they are not, since they are all about manipulation and control. I think this was one of the hardest things for me to learn.

      When it comes to forgiveness, I have learned that forgiveness is for me. It’s been said that forgiveness is setting a captive free, only to learn that I was that captive. Forgiveness lets us move on without being further abused by our own resentments, in turn causing our own pain.

      Forgiveness is not letting go of anger, but letting go of bitterness.

      Forgiveness does not mean that I forget what was done and once again trust the person I have forgiven. Trust must be restored by the person who broke the trust. We can’t do that for them.

      Forgiveness does not restore relationships. It opens the door to restoring the relationships, but the restoration is something in which both people must participate. Narcissists don’t participate in restoration, they try to manipulate and control. I had to eventually see that all that had ever happened when I thought I was participating in restoration was that we chase our tails and never moved forward. I am finally refusing to participate in that kind of thing.

      Some of us have had to deal with narcissism in more than one relationship in our lives–a parent, a sibling, a spouse. It’s sad and sometimes beyond difficult when we have close relationships that don’t work. But we cannot make the relationship work with a manipulator. It isn’t possible. For me, this is an area where I have to keep a safe distance, emotionally and/or physically. As I learn to let God’s grace be sufficient to fill the needs in my life that those sad and broken relationships were meant to fill, they lose their power to either define or limit me.

    • Lene

      I completely understand this, Kate. I am feeling the same thing, and having to deal with my ex regularly since we share custody does not help the anger to go away. I have tried giving up anger for Lent the last few years, but I have failed miserably. All I can do is hope that once my son is 18, I will have far less contact and I can let it go. I know that I should forgive, but my pastor once told me, “Forgiveness is great, but you have to go through the anger before you can do that. You have a right to be angry. You’ll forgive when you’re ready to.” While that isn’t the answer I was hoping for, I think he was speaking from wisdom and experience, and he’s probably right.

      • I agree with you, Lene. We have to know exactly what we are forgiving before we can truly forgive, and that can take awhile. Having to maintain contact because of the kids is the hardest thing I can imagine. I didn’t leave until after the kids were grown.

      • Michelle

        I don’t know guys, (Lene, Kate andMaryleemorgan) consider this. Anger is an emotion. It’s not good or bad. You are not responsible for a “feeling.” What you are responsible for is your behavior. So, behave properly. One thing that should be considered is to never, never, never seek revenge. Once you have decided (and it is a decision, a way of life) to never seek revenge, it’s easier to behave properly in the face of N abuse. So, get rid of the guilt for the “feeling” and guard your behavior.

      • Yes, Michelle, I agree. The Bible tells us in our anger not to sin, so it’s not the anger itself. So why do we feel so guilty? I think that after a long time, the anger just sucks the joy out of life and takes the place of other things we were meant to feel that give meaning to our lives. I eventually came to know that I could no longer survive an environment that gave me that much reason for anger.

      • Thank you everyone. It is good to remember that anger is part of the process, part of grief, part of forgiveness — and it has to be felt and gone through to get to the other side. I am also reminded that forgiveness is itself an active practice — and it’s taking me a lot of practice! Your comments have calmed my anxiety over the anger part. Thanks.

    • LM

      As I read the first line, I instantly thought of the feelings and thoughts I was having/fighting the minutes before coming to the site. And then your comment … spot on on so many of my feelings too. For me, I think I can forgive, but as soon as I feel that, and there is a calm and I think I have accepted all this and can treat it as just a fact, BAM! The next wave hits or something triggers the emotions and that triggers the over thinking that triggers the upset stomach. Too bad identifying a problem can’t just fix the problem, end the cycle. The cycle is wearing me …

      • Wallace

        This week like in other weeks…………… your article and comments have been very, very helpful as we all try to find healing, grow and move forward from our resentments, hurt, and rage. Yes it was my own bitterness that kills me spiritually that then spreads to those I am suppose to protect from such a basic sin and evil, my own children. Complete trust and faith in the Lord is the only way out of the cycle / living nightmare / hell but of course easier said then done. Prayers to you all. We are all indeed Brothers and Sisters, our chance for a new family, those
        who follow Jesus’s example.

    • Lene, I also concluded that my anger was not productive. That is a different issue than forgiveness, isn’t it?

  4. Reblogged this on Ladywithatruck's Blog and commented:
    I wanted to pass along this excellent post from Grace For My Heart about narcissistic rage.
    The whole post is the truth, and something I am sure you have all experienced. The narcissist pushes you until you react and then blames you or shames you for YOUR outburst and losing control or worse yet, laughs at you.
    James would bait me and then walk away and not let me defend myself. The last time I went back I made a vow to myself that I would not take the bait no matter what he said or did and I was sure I could foresee what would anger him and avoid most of what we fought about. Impossible!!!
    When the narcissist wants to let loose with his rage he will not stop until he gets the reaction he wants. He will badger relentlessly until you have to react and then he is happy and blaming you because you are always angry.
    The narcissist feeds off of your emotions and any reaction from you proves to him how powerful he is.

  5. After my N/P confessed his OW to me a friend of mine confronted her in the street. Told her to remember I was the victim and N should make it a priority to see that I would be okay. He drove to our home in a rage. How dare I spread rumours about him? How dare I tell lies to friends?
    ‘What lies?’ I said copying his way of answering a question with another question and then carried on speaking ignoring his attempts to vent. I kept my voice calm and quiet. Gave him no reaction. “I can’t be held responsible for what other people say. Nothing to do with me. People love gossip.’
    His rage mounted further. I knew we were in the final stages of breaking up but didn’t know about D&D at that time. I had angered him by telling the truth and getting there first before he’d had chance to spin his web. He had lost his public face. I got up and walked away from him. For the first time EVER in our 10 years together, he followed me into the house. Usually he was the one to stonewall and walk away. He began again, threatening what he was going to do. How difficult he was going to make things for me. How I’d regret this and that. I turned my back on him and said,’Oh, go away. You’re ridiculous.’
    The full Discard followed shortly afterwards.

  6. Mark

    I had an awakening this week. It seems the #1 tool in the hands of our abusers is our concept of self-worth. If an abusive person or abusive organization can make us think that our self worth is somehow dependent on their approval, then they have control over us. I think that is why they can identify us so easily – we have low self esteem and we’re looking for others to approve us. We’re co-dependents by nature.

    I looked around at my work, my church and my family and I realized that the manipulative power they all have over me is because I don’t think I’m worth anything unless someone else tells me that. Then they hold all the power.

    For my work, if my manager can get me to set aside my family and other commitments by creating an environment where only workaholics are praised and promoted, then the company has won.

    For the church, it’s the approval of God. If my leader can shift my focus from the Biblical concept of my worth into what HE defines as my worth (i.e. doing the right things and obeying him), then he has that control over me.

    For my family, if my parents or siblings can get at me by showing their disapproval at my choices or attacking what I say, and I value what they say above my beliefs, they’ve won.

  7. Still Reforming

    Angry outbursts never really triggered me. There were so few of them and they were unexpected about really nothing – so they really were just startling and confusing. They tended to leave me quiet and pensive – sometimes withdrawn. I remember for three days I wouldn’t engage him because I was still mulling over what had happened. He tried over those days to bait me, but I wouldn’t because I was thinking over what he was doing. So I think that was ineffectual for him.

    Eventually I think he found out that lying to and about me was far more useful to him, especially lying to our child about me. She and I have a good enough relationship though – and I was able to correct the few lies I heard – that even those didn’t really “work” as he expected. So he’s trying a new tactic, which is baiting me from afar, now that he’s left, and still using our child to do so.

    I occasionally take the bait without realizing it, but am learning with each step. This post is really great because it reminds us all of how to avoid the traps, once we’re aware that that’s what they are.

    Thanks, Pastor Dave, for your ministry to God’s people here.

  8. Gretchen

    This was a very much needed reminder today!

    N-h asks me to do something just as I am juggling a heavy load of wood. He keeps pressing me for an answer, a.k.a. provoking, as he has no real need of my help (and of course offers me no assistance). Here was my reply: …crickets.

    He was looking for a fight, a conversation to twist, a chink in my armor to thrust another blow to my heart.

    I will re-read your words again now, because shortly he will try again.

  9. marie

    I get the rages and stonewalling on a regular basis. The Rages are so intense that he would hyperventilate from his outburst. Then it is followed by Silent Treatment that could go on for months..the longest so far was 7 months. Many times when he rages (though I know now that it is useless to reason out with him) I am very much tempted to Reason out with him to make him just angrier hoping he will have chest pains or an attack of something from his intense anger.

  10. Reblogged this on Lucky Otter's Museum of Narcissism and commented:
    One surprising thing about narcissistic rage is that anger in general is narcissistic, even from non-narcissists. I don’t agree with this writer that ALL anger is narcissistic (for example, righteous anger can even be altruistic, if we are angry on behalf of someone else), but most anger probably is.

    The other surprising thing about narcissistic rage is that it doesn’t always look like anger. It can appear in many forms in a narcissist, who often plan out their attack before they act. Read on to find out how you can protect yourself and avoid reacting with rage yourself.

  11. Carol

    Article was good except for the blanket statement “anger itself is narcissistic”. I have to strongly disagree with that, so since God also got angry in the Bible, is He narcissistic too? Hardly. This sounds like the projection narcs try to do to their victims. Anger is just an emotion and is appropriate and natural to have when abused. Now its something else to feel guilty over? Granted anger can be out of control, used for manipulation, and all kinds of inappropriate ways imaginable, but so can other emotions like even love can be twisted to be wrong like jealous obsession. The goal should be to appropriately cope with, act on, and resolve your anger, not now labeling ourselves also narcissistic for a normal emotion. By the way, “rage” is by definition inappropriate anger.

    • Carol, I’ll give you this one. 🙂 Of course, I am referring to selfish anger. My point is that anger tends to isolate, moves us to push others away. Anger is not only an emotion, but a defensive mechanism. No, not something to feel guilty for (and I hope you have read enough here to know that is not my perspective).

      However, I would caution you or anyone else that we should not extrapolate from our emotions to understand God’s emotions. His ways are not our ways. His love is greater than and different from ours. His grief is certainly different from ours. His anger is as well.

      But I do not want to lay the “anger is bad” burden on anyone. Anger is natural, even normal. And to those who have expressed the reality of their own anger with the N, we all understand. Your anger is normal and very different from narcissistic rage.

  12. unofficialnarcissist

    Another excellent post. I think the anger ties into their sense of entitlement as well. When they are blaming and having their tantrum and making their demands, it is always done in complete ignorance of the prior damage they caused, or damage they are currently causing. The entitlement to become angry at YOU and everyone else fuels their rages. I am so glad you pointed out the definition of rage. I grow tired of the body of information on narcissism that is based on extremes. Rage does not always cause bodily or material injury. With a narcissist, it is a violence to the self-esteem and autonomy of another. I have also been struggling with my own anger toward the narcissists in my life. I have even overstepped good boundaries and told anyone who would listen in our church-like community his offenses toward me. I have said too much out of a mixture of anger, pain, hurt, confusion, and need for validation. It has come back to bite me though, because of the “split” in personality: doing bad in some areas while choosing to abuse in other areas. It makes no sense to me, but others don’t really care. I feel for those who work or go to church with the narcissist in their lives. It is so difficult to know what to do with the information you have about their “real” character and the fact that they are so good at coloring within the lines with their abuses.

    • Amour

      Hello Unofficial! I like your comment, especially the part about the N being entitled to be angry and rageful. Their rage does feed on itself andI think they get a certain kick out of this, it’s a power trip.
      I had a look at your blog and like your posts; thanks for the very helpful insights. Praying for you and yours and all who read and comment here.

    • Pamela

      Hello Unofficial N-
      I totally agree! The N in my life is REALLY good at faking his ‘good’ personna, and had me convinced that everybody in our local church would be against me and for him. It almost worked, also, however, by God’s grace, his mask slipped and others saw. This is a very intense and crazy making situation to live with. Everything was always my fault- and he never apologized. I am just glad that I have finally seen this and taken steps to get out of this relationship. Life is too short.

  13. Rachel

    Lovely post Dave, thankyou. I find it quite difficult to think or speak about the rage issue as my N certainly looked frankly possessed when he was raging. It was always very frightening to see and experience and not infrequently there was violence. My children saw and experienced is too, which is so awful for gem and for me to try and pick up the pieces.
    I am pondering the various ideas being voiced about anger being a narcissistic thing per se. Not at all sure what I think about this at present. I am at the stage of allowing myself to feel just anger about the behaviour of my N and yet exercising the freedom of not acting on this anger in a destructive way. I think this kind of anger is the righteous type, isn’t it? The indignant ire at an unjust action?
    I would very much value more comments and ideas about this one.
    Prayers for you and your family

  14. Bella

    Hello amour!!! Believe me u are right to feel angry. Angry 4 making u & your kids go through such unjust & a soul destroying process. In time u’l learn 2 pity such N as they hv no self value & need 2 control others who hv self value 4 their N supply.

    • Rachel

      Thankyou Bella for your thoughts. I appreciate the affirmation of my anger. My children have suffered very seriously and even after many months away from the source of pain they are healing slowly, there is so much to unravel in their hearts and minds, not to mention their souls. I worry that their lives will be indelibly marked by this experience and whereas as I had some choice about my adult life, they have been imposed upon and I feel some guilt and remorse about that.

  15. Bella

    Im so sorry amour. it was a mistake. That reply was meant as a reply to rachel

  16. Pamela

    Hello- I never cease to be amazed at the timing of God! I received the latest newsletter as I was in the midst of my (soon to be ex) mates rage. He started the morning by hiding my coffee pot- intent on getting me to blow up- then stole my devotional books. Both are part of my morning routine, which he knew, and used. They are very clever, and I am sorry to say, he is evil. This has helped me so much. Thank you.

  17. Even though we’ve been used, abused and betrayed; had our hearts broken; and had our empathy and kindness used against us, we are “more than conquerors” in our faith in the one who loved us first; the one who loves us best (from the inside out!); and the one who will love us for eternity! Anger is a natural reaction to narcissistic abuse, but taking the bait and speaking hateful things is not only ineffective in changing the abuser’s mindset, it is falling into evil’s trap, because in so doing, we sin, and separate ourselves from our source of power, protection, and love! Check out “The Evil Tongue,” on from May 5.
    What a wonderful site this is! It’s truly “grace for my heart!”

  18. Pingback: Narsistinen raivo – Narsistic Race – Sivuston otsikko

  19. Hephzibah

    I totally agree with Dave when he says, “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.”
    For years my N performed a full-blown “rages” fairly infrequently, but a few years back, he began doing it more often. By that time, I had become aware that he was a covert N, and I had read up on N tactics. So one time as he began to unleash a rage, I just said, “That isn’t going to work on me. I know what you’re doing. It’s called a Narcissistic Rage and I’m not impressed by that anymore.” And he hasn’t raged again in the several years since then. Just like magic!
    A very similar tactic worked years ago (long before I had ever heard of narcissism) to stop him physically abusing me, which he didn’t do often but it was becoming more frequent at the time. As he came at me, raging, I looked right up at his face and said, “Go ahead and hit me, you coward! I’m only half your size! Go ahead! Hit me! ” And he never hit me again or left fingermark bruises from grabbing my arm, or…. Of course such tactics could dangerously backfire, but in my case, by the grace of God, they were helpful. N’s seem to have little self-control in many areas, but when it comes to their tactics for manipulation, they seem very focused and disciplined.

  20. Carol Smith

    I hope persons reading this who have a narcissistic other in their lives hear your advice and follow through. I’m married to one for 53 years. But after 40, we separated. I knew I was losing my mind, doing or not doing what you suggest. I have training as an ordained minister and counselor I didn’t fight. Often I tried to help him understand by saying what had hurt me. But those are empty words too. “The perfect couple” we were to known to be. But others weren’t behind our doors. Our kids heard and watched enough, even being victims occasionally. But I was the target. From the time we met, he saw me as a “goddess.” I thought it was immaturity. Yes,
    I was the campus actor and singer etc. but I never perceived myself as superior. It was just who I was. But, even then I now think he was attracted because he thought he’d be elevated by going with me. Back then, even the psychological community knew nothing about narcissism. I just thought he’d grow up. He didn’t. And his worship of me became jealousy and hatred which he admitted in a psychotic tantrum. At the 40 year mark, 42 together,
    I had already developed CPTSD. It was too late.
    Such beautiful kids, what a perfect life it should have been. When you ache from you your are often treated, when those times come several times a day
    Between great times and expressions of love, wake up! No one should be treated this way unless you do deserve it, but that’s a different subject.
    Dying alone is better than being crucified
    Usually daily. If you’re living with a Dr.Jekyll and Mr Hyde, it’s not normal and you are wasting what could have been a consistently good relationship.
    You might as well be physically abused. The internal pain is the same. And sometimes, there may be physical components. Bless all of you in this kind of relationship, whether marriage, being a child victim or
    Parent. You may have waited most of your life to
    Leave that person. But your mental health depends on it. I’m almost 76 and still ache as I type this. You are in God’s hands if you’ll follow hi/ her lead.

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