If you’ve ever been involved with a narcissist in any way, you’ve likely experienced their characteristic narcissistic rage. It’s a sudden eruption of rage that often takes victims by surprise. It’s designed to distract you from the topic at hand, and the narcissist uses it to make you more responsive to manipulation and control. Victims often report feeling like they had to walk on eggshells to prevent another outburst. One strategy for dealing with narcissistic rage is to simply ignore it, but what happens if you do that?
Narcissists hate being ignored, perhaps more than anything else. When you ignore their rage, they may respond in a number of different ways. They may begin trying to suck you back in with hoovering or love-bombing, they may become physically violent, or they may use other manipulation tactics.
My narcissistic mother was frequently rageful. It often seemed as if the slightest thing would set her off. It was very upsetting and unpredictable. As a child, I was horrified when she erupted, but as a teenager, I pushed back. As a result of my own changing strategies, I witnessed several different reactions on her part.
I found that ignoring her rage was a particularly effective strategy. It seemed to hurt her egoic construction that she was all-powerful. Her tactic wasn’t working, and that made her very fearful. It’s valuable to understand the dynamics behind why narcissists use such rageful eruptions, why they hate being ignored, and how they might respond to that tactic. So let’s get started!
How Do Narcissists Use Narcissistic Rage to Manipulate You?
Narcissists use their rage as a distraction technique. Their rage is triggered when they become fearful that their true self is in danger of exposure. This happens when you threaten the false self-image they’ve constructed to hide what they believe to be their flawed true self.
Their true self may become threatened in a number of circumstances, including the following:
- They aren’t getting their way which means they don’t have control
- They’re not the center of attention, which threatens their narcissistic supply
- They are losing control, which threatens their grandiose ideas of superiority and being all-powerful
- They’ve been caught doing something wrong, which shows them to be flawed
- They are being criticized, which indicates they are flawed and not all-powerful
In each of these circumstances, something about their false self-image is threatened. If they don’t have control over people and situations, someone may expose them. You can watch this video to learn more about what happens if a narcissist loses everything.
But their self-image can also feel threatened if they don’t get the attention they need or they aren’t getting the supply of admiration they need to feel good about themselves.
If they are exposed as flawed, it threatens their grandiose ideas of being perfect. While these triggers might not appear directly threatening to a healthy individual, to the narcissist, they represent a grave danger to their fragile identity.
Their first response when that happens is to erupt in rage, and that is designed to distract and control the threat. When you’re busy dealing with their shocking rage, you don’t have time to think about the situation at hand, and you’re going to be wary of ever bringing it up again.
This manipulation is the goal of the narcissist’s rage, but how does being ignored affect the situation? The answer lies in why the narcissist hates being ignored.
Why Do Narcissists Hate Being Ignored?
Ignoring a narcissist is probably more harmful than almost anything else you can do to them. Narcissists crave the spotlight so they can get their needs met.
The narcissist’s damaged identity is not able to support the grandiose ideas they infuse into their false self-image. They live in almost constant fear of being exposed as flawed or even just ordinary.
“When I look at narcissism through the vulnerability lens, I see the shame-based fear of being ordinary. I see the fear of never feeling extraordinary enough to be noticed, to be lovable, to belong, or to cultivate a sense of purpose.”
— Brené Brown, Ph.D., author, and inspirational speaker
That fear of being ordinary, of not being recognized as extraordinary is why ignoring a narcissist is worse than tearing them down. What’s more, the narcissist needs other people to prop up their grandiose false self-image.
They need the people around them to provide them with external validation on a constant basis. Without it, they risk a narcissistic collapse, an emotional breakdown that would render them exposed and vulnerable.
If you ignore them, they aren’t getting the external validation they need to function. That external validation is known as narcissistic supply.
What Does the Narcissist Do When You Ignore Their Rage?
When you ignore a narcissist, they feel extremely threatened. They feel as though they are losing all control, and there are a number of possible ways they might react. It’s important to be aware of what might happen so you can be prepared if you employ this very effective strategy.
Narcissists are using their rage to try and control you, so when you ignore them, you can break free of that abusive cycle. But the narcissist will respond. By knowing about the different ways they might respond, you can formulate a strategy for dealing with those as well. Let’s take a look at the different tactics they might use to get you back under their thumb.
The Narcissist Becomes More Enraged
One possible response to ignoring their rage is that a narcissist might become even more enraged. There are several things they might do as a result. Here are a few things you might see:
- They yell louder
- They might throw things
- They might punch inanimate objects, like the wall
- They might start name-calling
- They might use profanity
While these are disturbing behaviors, it’s important to stand your ground. That might mean simply leaving so that they can have some time to cool off.
You should also make sure you stay safe, and if it seems they might become physically violent, you should consider calling the authorities. Narcissistic rage differs from normal anger in that rather than a build-up of tension, the narcissist goes straight from feeling stress to a rageful response.
When that rage becomes even more intense, it can become difficult for the narcissist to control their actions. Their behavior can become increasingly irrational and may become dangerous.
Above all else, the narcissist wants to win. If you’re able to ignore their narcissistic rage, you are winning, and they have difficulty accepting that fact.
The Love-Bombing Begins
Another strategy the narcissist will employ when you ignore their rage is to turn on the charm. They often begin love-bombing you.
According to Oxford Languages, love-bombing is defined as “the action or practice of lavishing someone with attention or affection, especially in order to influence or manipulate them.”
You can learn more about what love-bombing looks like in this video.
Manipulation is exactly what the narcissist is hoping to do when they turn on the charm. You’ve probably already witnessed this charm when you first met the narcissist.
It’s typically part of the idealization stage of a relationship with a narcissist. They turn on the charm to get you hooked on them, and when they think they’ve got you just where they want you, they turn it off.
Many a victim of a narcissist will say that they initially thought they had met their soulmate. They soon discovered, however, that all that charm was little more than a facade. By the time they discovered that they already felt like they were in love with the narcissist.
As the victim tries to make sense of what has happened, the narcissist continues to abuse them. When they finally break away, they have suffered significant emotional abuse.
They Start Gaslighting You
Gaslighting is another tactic narcissists use when you ignore their rage. They try to make you believe that what you know happened didn’t.
They may insist that they never became enraged or that you are at fault because you’re too sensitive. Their goal is to make you doubt your perception of reality and your intuition.
|Examples of Gaslighting Phrases|
The whole idea of gaslighting is to get you to doubt yourself. They use this tactic often to cover up when they know they’ve done something wrong.
They Ignore You Back
Another thing the narcissist may do is ignore you right back. They refuse to talk to you or even acknowledge your presence.
Often while they’re ignoring you, they’ll look for a new source of narcissistic supply. They’re not getting it from you, so they will quickly look for someone new.
They won’t stay away for too long, however. Even after years apart, they may come back to recycle an old source of narcissistic supply.
Still, their unpredictability can erode your sense of security, and that can cause you to become more dependent upon them. That’s what they’re ultimately hoping will happen.
Ignoring you is simply one more manipulation tactic they are using to control your behavior. If you give in and stop ignoring them, they will know the tactic works.
The Narcissist Starts a Smear Campaign
The next thing that might happen if you ignore narcissistic rage is that the narcissist digs in and starts a smear campaign against you. They want to undermine your credibility so that if you do expose their flaws, they can claim you’re lying or unreliable.
It’s important to understand that behind this behavior is the fact that a narcissist lacks object constancy. Object constancy, which is derived from object relations theory, is defined by the American Psychological Association (APA) as the ability of an individual to maintain an attachment that is relatively free of gratification or frustration.
That means that someone with object constancy can continue to think about loved ones in a positive manner even if they are angry at them. They also can maintain that positive attachment even if the individual is not currently satisfying a need.
The APA defines Object Relations Theory as any psychoanalytically based theory that views the need to relate to objects as more central to personality organization and motivation than the vicissitudes of instincts.
The narcissist does not have object constancy, and therefore, when you do something they don’t like, they cannot continue to hold a positive thought about you. Healthy people can be angry at someone and still know they are a good person or still love them.
That’s not possible for the narcissist. When you become their enemy, they have no compunction about starting a smear campaign to ruin you. They want everyone to see just how flawed you are so that no one will see how flawed they are.
There’s a Sudden Emergency
Another common strategy a narcissist will use when you ignore them following a rageful event is to manufacture an emergency. This will get your attention back onto them and distract you from the rage episode.
They will complain about physical ailments, suddenly have an accident that requires medical attention, or come up with some other type of emergency. The goal is to get your attention back on them.
It’s a convenient way to put the rageful event behind them without having to address their behavior. People often overlook bad behavior in the midst of a crisis, and that’s what the narcissist is hoping you will do.
The emergency might be physical or psychological in nature, or it could even be a work emergency. Whatever the case, this is little more than a manipulation tactic designed to refocus your attention.
The Narcissist Becomes Physically Violent
When you ignore their rage, there is a possibility they will become physically violent. Narcissists are reluctant to give up, and as they become increasingly frustrated, they may become physically aggressive.
A 2021 study by psychologists at Ohio State University found that aggressive behaviors, including physical abuse, were linked to narcissism. The study also found that the link was stronger when the narcissist was provoked, as happens in cases of narcissistic rage.
If you suspect the narcissist in your life might become physically violent, don’t hesitate to call for help and get yourself to someplace safe. Be aware that there are shelters for domestic abuse victims that will help keep you safe while you get back on your feet.
While this is a possibility, it’s important to remember that rageful episodes are also abusive. Don’t remain in an abusive relationship simply because you fear the abuse will escalate if you try to get out of it.
You can make a plan to escape the abuse and get someplace safe. You don’t deserve any kind of abuse.
They Become a Stalker
Another tactic narcissists regularly employ is that of stalking their victims. They can’t admit they have failed to persuade you to see things their way.
They can’t accept the fact that you’re able to ignore them, so they begin to engage in stalking behaviors. This might mean they stalk you online – cyber-stalking – or they might physically stalk you.
They might come to your work because they know you can’t get away easily. They could show up at your school or even the grocery store where you normally shop.
They might also employ so-called flying monkeys. These are people who assist the narcissist in their agenda. They are named after the flying monkeys in the movie The Wizard of Oz.
The term ‘flying monkeys’ is defined as ‘abuse by proxy,’ or using someone else to do the narcissist’s dirty work.
These people are looking to get information for the narcissist, or they may be employed to do other things like spread lies about you.
They Beg for Your Forgiveness
One tactic you might not expect is for the narcissist to beg for your forgiveness. This happens when the narcissist knows they have gone too far and are on the verge of losing you forever.
They will beg for forgiveness even though they don’t really believe they have done anything wrong. While they initially apologize, they often later qualify their apology by giving something you did as a reason for why they were justified in erupting.
Though they beg for forgiveness, they don’t make any real changes. They are just trying to resolve the present situation.
If you forgive them, you are likely to find yourself right back in the same situation in a short span of time. Narcissists need extensive, intensive therapy to make any real changes in their narcissistic tendencies.
Since they only admit wrongdoing when it benefits them, such as in the case that they want you back, they rarely seek or are willing to commit to the kind of therapy they need to make meaningful changes.
They Promise Anything
Narcissists will often promise you the moon to get you to forgive them and come back. After a rageful event, they may promise to get therapy, but that’s unlikely to happen.
They will usually promise that it will never happen again, but that’s also unlikely. Without intensive therapy, a narcissist has difficulty changing, and without change, it’s certain their rage will resurface at some point.
Their behavior is part of what experts on domestic abuse call the hearts and flowers cycle of abuse. The following are the stages domestic abusers go through:
- Tension builds
- Verbal abuse ensues
- Hearts and flowers, where the abuser expresses remorse and gives the abused hearts and flowers
- Tension builds again
- More severe verbal abuse or physical abuse ensues
- Can lead to homicide, suicide, or both
The purpose of the hearts and flowers stage in the cycle is to invalidate the memory or perception of the violence. That is, it’s a form of gaslighting. The abuser then portrays themselves again as the same person the victim initially fell in love with, i.e., they love-bomb the victim.
That can cause the victim to doubt their own perceptions or to blame themselves for what happened. The victim then accepts the responsibility for what occurred and tries to alter their behavior to stop the abuse from happening again.
Eventually, the hearts and flowers stage disappears altogether. Both the victim and the abuser blame the victim without the abuser feeling a need to apologize or change.
Abuse is never your fault, and you don’t deserve to be treated like that for any reason, even if you did do something wrong.
The Narcissist Resorts to Emotional Blackmail
One other tactic that narcissists love to employ is that of emotional blackmail. If you’re able to ignore their rageful response, they may resort to threatening you in some way that triggers an emotional response.
They might threaten to hurt themselves or punish you by giving you the silent treatment. They might tell you all the consequences that could befall them if you don’t do what they want.
If you give into this type of blackmail, the narcissist will use it frequently. They will know you can be manipulated with this kind of behavior.
|Examples of Emotional Blackmail|
Narcissists use their rage as a manipulative tool. They want to distract you and cause you to focus on something else. They also want to make sure you are wary of challenging them in the future. Their rage can intensify and even result in physical abuse. They don’t care about the emotional damage this does to you. Their rage can often create emotional wounds that can trigger you in the future. In a sense, they create yet another tool for manipulation.
You can prevent them from using emotional triggers against you, however. I have created a 5-Step Roadmap to Heal Emotional Triggers. This handy guide will help you heal that kind of trauma by first recognizing your triggers and then defusing and healing them. You can break the cycle of abuse by healing those old emotional wounds, and it can stop a narcissist in their tracks. The guide is free, and I will deliver it directly to your inbox if you click on the link here.
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