Narcissistic Rage

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Narcissistic Rage is a reaction to narcissistic injury, which is a perceived threat to a narcissist's self-esteem or self-worth. Narcissistic injury (or narcissistic scar) is a phrase used by Sigmund Freud in the 1920s; narcissistic wound and narcissistic blow are further, almost interchangeable terms. Not unlike a wounded animal being the most vicious (because they think the next wound would kill them), narcissistic rage occurs when narcissists believe the next insult/assault to their grandiose based stability would shatter them. In essence the reason narcissists are so self-centered is that their grandiosity based center needs to be constantly reinforced to remain stable. [1] Narcissistic injury occurs when a narcissist feels that their hidden, 'true self' has been revealed. This may be the case when the narcissist experiences a "fall from grace", such as when their hidden behaviors or motivations are revealed, or when their importance is brought into question. Narcissistic Wound is a cause of distress and can lead to dysregulation of behaviors as in narcissistic rage.


Characteristic traits of such narcissists include:

  • Control freaks
  • Irritability
  • Short fuses
  • Low frustration tolerance
  • Argumentative
  • Need to have the last word
  • Unable to lose
  • Won’t take “No” for an answer
  • Quick to anger if you don’t accommodate them
  • Quick to being aggressively defensive if you call them on any deficiency, fault or responsibility
  • Can’t apologize or if do, can’t do it sincerely
  • Rarely say, “Thank you” or “Congratulations”
  • Don’t feel or demonstrate remorse
  • Feel entitled to enthusiastic and appreciative approval, adoration, agreement and obedience
  • Gloat in victory, sullen in defeat
  • Quick to rage if you humiliate them[2]

Causes of Narcissistic Rage

  • Challenge to their Confidence: People with narcissism often place unrealistic demands on their partner or children. These demands are frequently challenged by the person in the relationship. When challenged, the narcissists’ brittle egos are unable to accept the idea that they were wrong or seen as imperfect. They turn this into a personal attack and respond with rage toward that person to regain their sense of superiority.
  • Injury to Self-Esteem: When a narcissist’s shortcomings are pointed out by someone, they feel an overwhelming sense of shame. The narcissist then lashes out toward the person who pointed out the shortcomings. The rage is executed to seek revenge upon the accuser. The need for revenge results in explosive rage and does not die down until the narcissist feels the person was dealt appropriate punishment.
  • False Sense of Self: The narcissist has a false sense of self. Underlying this false sense of self are feelings that he is not loveable for who he is or what he offers in relationships. When a lover or partner begins to feel doubts about the narcissist, that is when the narcissistic rage surfaces.

Types of Narcissistic Rage

  • Explosive: Narcissistic individuals have a violent outburst which can be both verbal and physical in nature. [Self-harm: Some narcissists like to manifest their rage by inflicting injury to themselves by cutting, burning, stabbing, etc.]
  • Passive-aggressive: The other way of expressing rage is passive-aggressive behavior where the narcissists do not harm the victim physically or mentally, but punish him passively (sulking, silent treatment, pretending they are invisible).

Narcissistic Rage Cycle: The 7 Stages of Anger

Rage is a primitive, immature child-like expression of thwarted needs and/or (actual or perceived) invalidation. For most people, anger goes through several levels of emotion, each level requiring a certain level of self-control. According to psychiatrist Adam Blatner, there are seven levels of anger:

  • Stress. Feeling angry subconsciously but not demonstrating it.
  • Anxiety. Anger shown through subtle clues.
  • Agitation. Displeasure is shown without blame.
  • Irritation. A little more displeasure to elicit a response.
  • Frustration. Anger with a scowl or harsh words.
  • Anger. Anger with loudness of speech and expression.
  • Rage. Losing temper and getting into a rage; aggression.

It appears that narcissists do not go through the 7 stages like other people do. The smallest infraction will send them right to level 7-rage. Why is that? Their rage seems to be caused by any threat to their ego, and the ensuing rage acts to erase that threat and maintain their self image and feelings of superiority. To narcissists, rage is a perfectly appropriate response when they experience any threat to their view of self.

After being the victim of a narcissistic rage, you will probably find yourself going over and over the events that happened in order to try to pin down what caused the outburst-and you probably just don’t get it. However, if you choose to stay in a relationship with a narcissist, for your safety, you need to fully understand what triggers this behavior and why it happens. That way you may be able to avoid triggering the narcissistic rage and create a safer environment for yourself. Remember, too, that you are not responsible for these rages; what you are witnessing is the narcissist’s reaction to feelings of shame.[3]


See Also

Narcissistic Wound



Confirmation Bias