Why Rage?

It’s Narcissist Friday!   


Sometimes a term becomes popular simply because it makes so much sense. “Narcissistic rage” just makes sense. Most of us have seen it, experienced it. It reveals itself when the narcissist feels threatened, they say. Sudden, intense, pointed, ruthless, cruel, hate-filled, vengeful, and oddly uncontrolled.

I remember a friend telling me how he put something of his on the top of the narcissist’s car as he was getting into the passenger seat. It was something any of us might have done, and it did no damage. But the narcissist went ballistic! He ranted and raved and shouted, then he referred to the act several times throughout the trip. And, get this, it wasn’t even his car. The car belonged to the company.

So what was that? Was the narcissist so afraid that the car would be scratched? Not really. He might scratch it himself later without concern. Was he feeling disrespected or attacked by what my friend did? The answer may not be easy to determine. Narcissists exhibit rage sometimes without much reason.

But why rage? Why is this sudden, explosive anger so common among narcissists? And why do some narcissists rarely show it?

First, it comes naturally. The narcissist is an angry person. He feels that he has been neglected, disrespected, abused throughout his life. Everything that has happened to him is someone else’s fault. People cannot be trusted and, except for certain uses that serve the narcissist, have no value. The narcissist lives with this victimized anger constantly.

Rage acts as a release valve for the narcissist’s anger. The pressure builds until she cannot, or does not want to, control it. Then it erupts as something ugly and loud until the pressure goes away. Many have reported that the narcissist seems to feel better after the rage, with little or no concern about what it has done to others.

Sometimes, perhaps with more covert or more subdued narcissists, the rage is not explosive. The fire burns underground. Instead of being loud, the rage shows itself with acts of quiet vengeance or pernicious fantasies. Not all narcissists are able to get by with overt rage. But they can hate, and they can still find ways to destroy.

When the rage is explosive, the narcissist might be controlled by it. He/she might do things honestly regretted later. Punching a hole through the wall or throwing a lamp across the room—these things have consequences. So does saying those cruel things to the boss. In these times, when the rage seems uncontrolled, victims wonder if physical abuse is next. After all, who knows what someone with that kind of rage will do? Not even the narcissist really knows. Rage that is uncontrolled may be very dangerous and victims have the right to remove themselves. In other words, get out before you get hurt.

But I suspect that most narcissistic rage is actually under the narcissist’s control. Remember that control is everything for the narcissist. Losing control is weakness and exposure. So the chances are that the narcissist knows just how far he can go and when to stop. He stops just short of physical abuse or evidence that could be used against him. He goes far enough to terrify his victim, but not far enough to get in trouble.

Rage became one of the most useful tools in the narcissist’s toolbox when he/she was young. The people around didn’t know quite how to handle this apparently violent youngster. They were afraid, and they did whatever they could to make sure it didn’t happen again. Maybe they gave in to the demands. Maybe they showed their fear. But the narcissist learned that rage worked. In fact, it worked very well.

The suddenness and intensity of rage does frighten us. It should. We never know what it could bring. The narcissist knows this about us and—surprise!—uses rage to manipulate. We want to make it go away, so we do what the narcissist wants. It works.

But the rage may not be the thing for us to fear. In fact, watch it closely to see what happens afterward. Often the narcissist seems to forget that it ever happened. He/she seems to think you should forget it also. It either revealed the underlying anger of the narcissist in an uncomfortable way, or it was just a tool for manipulation. In either case, you don’t need to be afraid.

The anger we should be more concerned about is the cold anger, often seen in the covert narcissist, but also felt by the overt. The cold anger calculates and plans, schemes and plots. By the time you see that cold anger, you have probably already lost your job or your place as a spouse. Narcissistic anger moves toward a goal, usually with stealth and patience.

Narcissistic rage, on the other hand, may simply be the blustering noise of someone who doesn’t care about what they say or who they hurt, the barking of a dog safe behind the neighbor’s fence. As a friend of mine used to say, “All blow and no go!” That isn’t to say there is no reason for concern, just that you may not need to be afraid.

(Now, I cannot leave this subject without repeating a strong caution. Most narcissists do not physically abuse, but most abusers are narcissists. If you are afraid, or if there is evidence in your mind that your narcissist might hurt you or someone else, do something! Get out of there. Remove yourself from the anger, or take your child away from it. Doing so might send a message to the narcissist who uses rage as a means of control. It might also save your life from the one who will go too far.)


Filed under Narcissism

16 responses to “Why Rage?

  1. Excellent post!
    Thank you.
    As you have perceptively stated in earlier posts as well as this one, narcissism is a learned flesh pattern reinforced by the world (yes, and Satan). Narcissists abound because their manipulations work! Expressed anger, being sin (Eph. 4:26), is the “grand manipulator”! This, of course is also why terror works. The victims attempt to appease. They “go-along-to-get-along”. What does their appeasement accomplish? More terror/expressed anger.

    Again, well done.

  2. Loy

    I really needed this one today. Thank you so much, you confirm what I already knew to be true, but was to afraid to think it.
    God bless,

  3. Mark

    I’m realizing more and more that it’s hard to separate the true narcissists from those who have been mistreated by the church and family. I was brought up in a first-generation Christian family. My parents bought all of the authoritarian hype in the church – that somehow if they beat all of the rebellion out of us we’d be able to obey God better. Rebellion meant any time we said “no” to an adult, especially parents or church leaders. Rebellion meant any displays of anger, with no differentiation between righteous and unrighteous anger. Remember the “God first, others second, me third” cliche? That was the way we worked as a family.

    Each of my siblings handled that toxic environment differently. For me, it meant being “nice” on the outside and shoving my real emotions in a box. It has been real struggle to let myself feel valid in expressing those emotions.

    But, I think there is a larger lesson. We all need to be safe and protected from those who display narcissistic tendencies, but I think there are those who are, in a sense, redeemable. I remember a lot of conversations with my wife before we were married. I was very concerned that our marriage would end up like my parents – my mom was constantly humiliated in front of us – so I told my now wife that I needed someone who would stand up for herself.

    That is something that I’ve found in the church. Those who have been convinced about authoritarianism seem just as narcissistic and damaging as the wolves, but I’m not convinced they are wolves. I have some hope that they can be brought back, but only from a safe distance!

    • Carrie

      Amen to that! My father was a minister. I always had trouble with the disconnect between what was projected in public and what happened in our home behind closed doors. I guess when I married a narcissist, it all just seemed natural.
      I have come to the conclusion that the god I knew growing up is nothing like the real one I have come to know since leaving my husband. There is now way I could have even gotten out unless he made the way for me financially and I didn’t even recognize it until 5 years later. Thank you, God! That window was still open.

      • Mark

        Yes, even though I didn’t understand at the time, God put some very strong things on my heart that have made huge impacts in my life. First of all, I knew I had to escape my family, and I moved away within months of graduation. Then, as I said, I married a strong women who stood up for herself. I think those things, along with persistent, but mild emotional and spiritual abuse from my church (I’ve now gone NC). I think all of those kept me from repeating the cycle.

    • Anon

      Just curious as to why you told her that “you needed someone who would stand up for herself” vs. vowing to be someone who would never humiliate her in the first place where she might need to stand up for herself? I mean no disrespect. This just triggers me as my diagnosed narc/sociopath ex always said that his behavior was not the problem but that my “victim” or “playing victim” response was the problem. I assure you I was not “playing”…I was traumatized to the point of severe PTSD , vomitting, and teeth chattering uncontrollably.

      • Mark

        Hi Anon, I knew very little about human nature or marriage at that point. I recognized the biggest thing I didn’t like about my parents’ relationship and tried to figure out how to prevent that. My opinion (at that time) of my parents’ marriage was that each brought their own sin to the relationship and that they essentially fell into a somewhat dysfunctional marriage.

        I don’t believe I’ve dealt with true narcissists like you have, and I’m certain that if I were a true narcissist, no vow I made could prevent me from destroying my marriage. That said, I have never really trusted my ability to withstand temptation, so I have always wanted that extra accountability.

        What I’ve been dealing with is narcissists in my life who are not, by nature, narcissists, but people who have been taught a unique flavor of authoritarianism and legalism by the church. I believe my parents were trying to model what they were taught a godly marriage looked like. The view of the church at that time, and today, seems to be that husbands treat their wives like children. In the same way parents thought they were helping me to obey God unquestioningly by forcing me to obey them unquestioningly. Instead what I internalized was that it was shameful to ever put my needs higher than the desires of others. It was codependency training.

  4. You have hit the proverbial nail on the head again. I never knew what form the rage would take, either from my narc mother or my narc husband. Suffice it to say; the only thing I COULD be sure about is that there WOULD be rage, and I was always on the receiving end of that rage.

  5. Reblogged this on A Blog About Healing From PTSD and commented:
    I am grateful for this, especially the caution at the end. As Pastor Dave warned: “Most narcissists do not physically abuse, but most abusers are narcissists.”

    I know this is true from firsthand experience. I also know, from personal experience, that the most malignant narcissists can be murderers. My mother, the worst narc I have ever known, tried to gas me and my four younger brothers and sisters to death when I was twelve years old. And the malignant narcissist I married when I was twenty-one — following the grooming/brain washing of my childhood — tried with all his enraged strength to break my neck when I came home half an hour late from work one day. He believed I was late because I was having an affair. I was not, but as I later discovered, he was having an affair. Today, forty years later, and with him long gone from my life, I still have daily pain from the damage that man did to my neck. He ruptured all but the top two discs in my neck. I thought he bad broken my neck, that’s how painful it was.

    So, yes, a raging narcissist can be very dangerous, even deadly. The horror story I just saw this morning in a news headline about a mother stabbing her three children to death… oh dear God. I don’t care what trauma and troubles may have been going on in that woman’s life. It doesn’t get more narcissistic, more EVIL, than that.

    Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, Amen.

    • Rachel

      Hello Linda, you’ve made some really important points here thanks. We get used to being in a position of risk all the time and so lose the perception we need to make good decisions, decisions regarding our safety. So sorry about your neck, I have a good friend who suffered a similar injury and it has always been a source of great physical pain for her, just as for you. Even now, we can pray for God to heal you through His grace.
      I thought it was lovely that you posted the Lord’s Prayer, so good to pray “together” through the Internet!
      Blessings x

      • Thank you, Rachel.

        Pastor Dave is such a blessing. His blog is a light shining in the darkness. He has inspired me to share my story to help others who may be in a similar situation, instead of hiding my story in shame, the way I have done most of my life.

        And thank you so much for your prayer! I absolutely believe that faith filled prayers in the name of our Lord Jesus can move mountains. Even if, as Christ said, our faith is no larger than a tiny seed, as mine often seems to be. 🙂

  6. Angela Lina


    I have recently became acquainted with a male who has shown many of the traits discussed here on Friday. I just wonder and maybe someone can answer can these people ever see themselves for who they really are? Should we ever try to show them their narcissistic tendencies?
    This particular person claims to be a follower of Jesus, as in good works for ultimate salvation, I say this only to explain his mindset, yet he is so self deceived as to his real behavior and underlying anger. He has a litany of horrible life experiences, everyone has done him wrong.
    I just continue to wonder if there is any way to get through to him, I have spent hours taking to him about the gospel of grace and new life in Jesus and he became very angry that I was calling him a false teacher. I found it very interesting how he personalized what I was explaining biblically to him to my accusing him of being a false teacher (part of being a narcissist I guess).
    Perhaps it hopeless, I am so tempted to lay it all out to him based on what I have read and learned from this website, however given his propensity to anger it may only serve to inflame his self-rightousness and send me to eternal damnation for daring to bring this up to a man of God.
    Narcissism seems like bondage to oneself …so sad really.
    Angela Lina

    • Mark

      What was really eye-opening for me was realizing that trying to force people to change through my behavior was both making me feel guilty when they didn’t change as well as not leave room for the Holy Spirit to work. The guilt I felt has a name: codependency. I was trying to take responsibility upon myself for the sin of others, and when they didn’t change, I was somehow to blame.

      I’ve come to realize that I need to be safe, and create a space for the Holy Spirit to work. Pray for God’s leading in your relationship. I struggle with this daily with a lot of people. I want to believe there is hope for them, but I have enough maturity to realize that beating them over the head with the Bible isn’t going to change anything. Only God can change people’s hearts.

      I feel like I’m on the fence between using the past for blame and self-pity like your friend, and using it to become stronger. Some days are good and some days not so much. I think there is a difference between experiencing anger as a healing and grieving mechanism – I have found healing in laying my anger out before God (something my old church would think unforgivable!). But, I also recognize that I get angry with people for stepping on my new-found boundaries.

      On the other hand, someone who has been victimized may be very sensitive to what you are saying. Healing is a long and hard process and when I’ve reached out to Christian leaders in my old church, I’ve gotten a mixture of “you’re bitter, get over it”. “you need to forgive and forget” “what you experienced wasn’t THAT bad.” “you probably deserved it” and so on.

  7. Rachel

    Terrible comments to you Mark, so insensitive and merciless!
    I think the one which really raises my hackles is “forgive and forget” which seems to translate as ” stop carping on about what N did to you and carry on now as if it didn’t happen” . Where is the justice in this. A very well known person recently said ” where there is no justice, there is no peace. ”
    I am finding your observations very helpful and insightful, keep commenting! And blessings to you on your journey.

  8. LoyaltoJesus

    Wow, did this ring true! Thank you for this post. I live with someone steeped in self-pity and victim mentality fuelled by rage. I won’t call it marriage because this is not what marriage was supposed to be. After many many years doing battle drawing boundaries I do feel safe and Importantly I do feel my children are safe but it has cost me deeply to get here – I need every drop of faith I posses to believe my life has any hope of future contentment. I know with all my heart that God is good and he loves me, WHY this is something I have to surrender to faith and that is seriously hard.

  9. Catharine Ratliff

    Thank you for your articles. For years I was so hurt and very confused as to what I had done to cause my brother to hate me and rage. Eventually I came to realize, my sister-in-law was behind this. I and others would ask questions as to what had I done. The questions, to this day have have gone unanswered. Slowly over the years, three other siblings will not speak to me either. He and his wife control the family. I have one brother left, and he and his family are wonderful. He has seen the problems, as has his family. When I did a little research on narcism, at the urging of a friend, I was shocked to have all my questions answered. There it was, right in front of me. Unfortunately, so many others have been hurt. I don’t believe he or his wife ever thought of all the fall out. I have always loved my family and worked hard at bring us all together. I will miss, never spending another Christmas, or Thanksgiving and so many other family events to come. However, I refuse to be a victim, and now know I am truly blessed to have an amazing husband, family and friends. Thank you, again!

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