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Narcissistic Injury: Why They Rage, Blame, and Bully

Updated: Apr 6

The raging face of narcissistic injury

Narcissistic Injury

Why They Rage, Blame, and Bully

Written by Randi Fine, Narcissistic Abuse Expert

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 her accountable for the impossible behavior being directed at you, 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 dramagood or bad, negative or positive. When there isn’t enough drama in their lives they create it.

Narcissists cannot tolerate any suggestion that they are less than perfect. Their "False Selves" perceive criticism as a threat; one that may expose their deeply wounded "True Selves", the self-loathing part of them that they vehemently deny.

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 aggressively scream, spew horrible insults, belittle their targets, and dredge up sensitive or confidential information and throw it back in the person’s face. The narcissist’s face during an explosive rage is among the most frightening you will ever see in your life. It is like coming face-to-face with the most terrifying monster you could ever imagine.

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. When that happens, the narcissist's craving for supply is fulfilled--at least in that moment--and the silent treatment ends.

The narcissist’s terrorization campaign is all about power and control. Narcissists zero in on their target's emotional hot buttons, 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 condition victims to fear them so they can get what they want.

Narcissists have the ability to get into others’ heads and learn what makes them tick. They scrutinize people to figure out how they will react to things. Once narcissists can predict their victim’s reactions, they know exactly how to hurt them.

They keep mental records of everything their victims do and say, and all the things that deeply trigger their pain. To solicit an outburst, they bully, harass, and provoke victims to the point of exasperation. When victims get upset they are accused of being overly sensitive or thin skinned. When pushed beyond their limit, when they can hold back no longer and finally erupt, narcissists contend, “Look at how crazy you’re acting. I’m not the one with the problem, you are.”

Narcissists can never be held accountable for anything they do. To avoid being pinned down they use a tactic known as “projection”-- assigning the liability of their feelings or actions to others. When they lie they accuse the other person of being a liar. When they hurt someone they accuse that person of hurting them. When they cheat they accuse the other person of being a cheater. If they make an accusation, they will later deny ever saying it. They accuse others 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 the part they play.

Narcissists pretend to 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 and win.

Narcissists lack emotional self-control, are impulsive, and are prone to wild, violent mood swings. Criticism or disobedience is guaranteed to set them off. They can act happy and agreeable as long as everything is going their way, they have what they want, and no one is challenging them. But people around them never know what to expect. One minute they are pleasant, the next minute furious. They switch from high to low 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.

Narcissists continually walk a fine line between fantasy and reality. They confuse imagination with true memories, or they form false memories and then distort things to make them fit into their fabricated, recreated world. They represent themselves as victims in every scenario.

Able to justify everything they do, they never believe they are wrong. They do not regret or feel sorry for anything they do, therefore never give genuine apologies. You may hear a narcissist utter something that resembles an apology, but it is never authentic. The narcissist is only imitating what he or she has seen others do in similar situations. If you listen carefully to the way narcissists phrase their words you will realize that they are not sorry at all.

Since narcissists perceive every “assault” as a denigration of their soul, they rarely accept apologies from others. Considering themselves superior, they adamantly believe that no one has the right to treat them as anything but omnipotent. 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.

This is copyrighted material. May only be shared with permission and proper attribution.

Randi Fine is an internationally renowned narcissistic abuse expert and coach, and the author of the groundbreaking book Close Encounters of the Worst Kind: The Narcissistic Abuse Survivor’s Guide to Healing and Recovery Second Edition, 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 the official companion workbook Close Encounters of the Worst Kind: A Comprehensive Workbook for Survivors of Narcissistic Abuse. Randi Fine is 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.


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