When healthy people suffer losses in life, they typically become introspective about what happened and what they could have done differently. They reflect on their own flaws and often change so that they won’t suffer the same fate in the future. Needless to say, someone who is not able to admit they have flaws sees it a bit differently.
When a narcissist loses everything, they externalize any blame for what went wrong. They also try to convince themselves that the negative situation is the result of other people’s envy and malice. They console themselves with defense mechanisms that prevent them from acknowledging any flaws.
Narcissists have an almost impenetrable shell they use to defend against the difficulties of life. They have convinced themselves they are superior to other people, and they hide behind that facade. If you’re dealing with a narcissist who is experiencing severe loss, however, you need to know what to expect. Let me tell you all about what might happen.
How Do Narcissists Deal with Losing Everything?
When a narcissist loses everything, they have to prevent what is known as a narcissistic collapse. They are not capable of introspection in the way that healthy people are, and as a result, they often become detached and cold.
They externalize any blame for mistakes that caused their loss. They have to do this to preserve their sense of superiority and entitlement. They have to quash any emotions that threaten to undermine their cold exterior.
They tell themselves that they are not to blame, and so they never learn from the mistakes they made. They can’t admit to those mistakes, and thus, there is no personal growth. For those around them, any attempt to get them to grow from their loss is met with their characteristic explosive rage.
The narcissist doesn’t look at what they might have done differently. Instead, they console themselves with the idea that no matter what they might have done, things would have turned out the same. This is because the loss is someone else’s fault. In other words, it is beyond their control.
Narcissists become adept at doing this because they have suffered loss before. Their narcissistic behavior has undoubtedly led to the loss of numerous relationships throughout their life. They have always been able to blame the other people, even though they often try to get back into the lives of people they have either discarded or who have discarded them.
When faced with a loss, the narcissist is extremely adept at adapting to that loss by blaming someone else and moving on to a new victim, job, or even an entirely new life. While dysfunctional, it’s a very effective coping mechanism.
How Do Narcissists React to Failure?
The first thing most narcissists do when they fail is deny the failure. Contrary to all evidence that may be presented, they often simply continue to deny the failure. They have no compunction about lying, and so, they will simply deny and lie.
They will also use distraction to get your attention off of the failure. They may fly into a rage or bring up some failure of yours as a way of doing this. They may also simply use gaslighting to try and convince you that what you think happened didn’t.
After all that, they may also attack those who contradict him in an aggressive and vicious way. Anyone over whom they have power may be fired, bullied, or blamed. These are all typical reactions by a narcissist to a loss.
Of course, they will also present themselves in glowing terms, take credit for things that others did, and attempt to rewrite history. They do all of this to support their distorted view of reality.
Narcissists have no problem creating new lies to both prevent the erosion of support for them and to bolster their viewpoint. It doesn’t matter how audacious or unbelievable the lies are since the narcissist is facing public humiliation.
Narcissists also aren’t above imperiling other people if it means supporting their lies and preventing their loss. To admit defeat is to admit the narcissist is flawed, and they will do virtually anything they have to prevent that admission of fault.
If they have to admit their identity is flawed, they are facing the ultimate mental breakdown known as a narcissistic collapse. As Dr. Natalie Frank points out, “ If they are going down, they are determined to take everyone else with them making sure others suffer as much as possible.”
What is a Narcissistic Collapse?
A narcissistic collapse is the extreme emotional reaction that a narcissist has when they can’t deny their failure. At the heart of a narcissistic collapse is their rage, and when they suffer a collapse like this, they can become very vindictive.
They might also become very depressed and withdraw altogether. They can’t bring themselves to face the world until they can reconstruct their false self-image. Again, this is evident with the former president Donald Trump.
After he left office, he spent time out of the public view. Once he re-emerged, he struck out at anyone he felt was an opponent and began reiterating the lie that the election had been stolen from him. He had recreated himself as the victim of a terrible fraud.
Reactions of individual narcissists may vary, however, since everyone is an individual. But all narcissists feel a high level of stress and pain when they don’t get that constant external validation they need to prop up their self-esteem.
Can a Narcissist Become Dangerous When They Lose Everything?
In fact, this is the time when a narcissist is probably most dangerous. They are inclined toward vindictive behavior and may feel they are entitled to exact their revenge. While most narcissists aren’t physically violent, it is possible that they could resort to that to strike back.
Even if they don’t resort to physical violence, narcissists may go to extremes to ruin anyone they perceive as an enemy. They engage in smear campaigns and may use other manipulative tactics to lash out at anyone who opposes them.
Narcissists also may do something like sue people they think wronged them, fight for custody of children even if they really don’t want them, and even engage in smearing their victims with their own family, friends, and work colleagues. There are really no limits to what a narcissist suffering a collapse might do.
Because narcissists have a fragile false self-image that is built upon a house of cards, failure is not something they can accept. They have projected an image of superiority and entitlement. If that is challenged in a meaningful way, they risk losing more than their relationships and possessions; they risk losing their very identity, such as it is. They will strike out at anyone they believe is their enemy to prevent that.
Narcissists often use the emotional triggers of the people around them to manipulate and control them. They are adept at spotting what you fear most. That’s why I created this 5 Step Roadmap to Heal Emotional Triggers. It can help you get your own emotions under control so you can avoid narcissistic abuse. Click on this link, and I will send a free copy directly to your inbox.
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