In my article titled How Narcissists Play the Victim and Twist the Story, someone in the comment section asked me about a narcissistic persons reaction to such an article. Heres part of the comment:
Thank you for this article Darius. Spot-on does not describe the article well enough. So, what happens, and Im afraid I know the answer, when a covert, malignant narcissist reads an article like yours? Do they just split it, in their mind, back to the victim?
So in this article I will share some of the observations I have made over the years while thoroughly studying people with narcissistic tendencies and their behavior in various environments and situations. And while the commenter asked specifically about covert, malignant narcissists, Ill give a more general overview and talk about various types of reactions to information on narcissism. We will explore the narcissistic persons psychological, emotional, and behavioral reactions to the situation.
Indifference. Some narcissistic people live in their bubble where they are all-knowing and experts at everything, even though they have never really studied human behavior nor, in many cases, have the capacity to accurately understand it (false superiority, Dunning-Kruger effect). So they see no point in learning about it. They choose to spend their time doing something else instead of trying to understand their life better.
Denial. One of the hallmark traits of highly narcissistic people is that they have little to no self-awareness. As a result, they dont see themselves as having these traits and acting wrongly. Or if they do see it to some degree, they invent various justifications to feel righteous in their how they feel and act. As a result, they are in denial about it or normalize it.
Delusion. Delusional thinking is closely related to denial and ones defense mechanisms. People with strong narcissistic tendencies tend to create all sorts of stories, observations, connections, and insights. To anybody who is familiar with the actual situation or who has more knowledge and experience in narcissism and dark personality traits, it is quickly evident that these narratives are not based in reality and are only made up to justify their bizarre tendencies.
Many narcissists dont see themselves as actual narcissists, even though they clearly are, but rather as a misunderstood, underappreciated, special person, which is a part of their grandiose delusion.
Projection. Narcissistic people project incredibly often (narcissistic projection). They may read an article or watch a video on narcissism and think that its about everyone else in their life and not them. Meanwhile in reality, its more likely than not that the information describes them and not others in their life, unless they surround themselves with other narcissistic people, too. (More on projection later.)
Malignant curiosity. Ive mentioned it before in a different article, but its worth noting that there is a subset of people with strong narcissistic tendencies who like learning about psychology and human behavior. Not because they want to get better or genuinely help others but for two main reasons. One, for status, where they hope to be perceived as smart. And two, in order to use this information to get more efficient at being narcissistic, manipulative, cunning, and get away with it.
Narcissistic people are incredibly fragile and sensitive, even though they like posturing as if they are without weaknesses, strong, and definitely stronger than you. This is a mask they wear to compensate for all the fear, insecurity, self-doubt, and self-loathing they feel deep down.
So when they encounter a piece of information about narcissism they immediately might feel exposed, ashamed, betrayed, or attacked. Moreover, they often take things very personally and think that everything is about them. So they might feel that the author is talking about them personally or calling them out. Especially if its by someone they know. In other words, here, they perceive it as a personal attack.
Feelings of deep shame are often followed by strong anger or rage. In psychology, it is sometimes referred to as narcissistic rage because of a narcissistic injury, which is a perceived threat to a narcissistic persons self-esteem that now they need to regulate.
Here, they also sometimes project by claiming that people talking about narcissism are just triggered, overly sensitive, complainy, and reactionary, or that they are the real narcissists. Meanwhile, they themselves are incredibly easily triggered and automatically act out to manage those overwhelming emotions, and are trying to justify and normalize it while shifting attention elsewhere.
There are two primary categories of behavioral narcissistic reactions: aggressive and non-aggressive. Sometimes theres an overlap between their subsets, too.
Aggressive reactions involve antisocial behaviors and can be directed towards the author, the audience, or even someone else who has nothing to do with the information at hand (significant other, coworker, child, animal, inanimate objects).
Sometimes aggressive reactions are one-time occurrences, like a nasty comment, hatemail, or threat. Some use anonymous or fake accounts, numbers, and addresses, while others aim for a direct confrontation and intimidation.
Other times aggressive reactions are continuous, where the narcissistic person continues attacking and stalking their target. It becomes their perceived personal vendetta. It can include other people that the narcissist has turned against you, which in pop psychology is referred to as flying monkeys. Sometimes all of it escalates so much that the legal authorities have to be notified and the perpetrator is forced to stop.
Non-aggressive reactions usually result in the narcissist falling into a depressive state and validation-seeking behavior, where they try to get false validation and narcissistic supply from those around them in order to feel better about themselves and manage their feelings of shame, self-loathing, and inferiority.
You can read more about this in my previous article titled How Narcissists Act When Feeling Upset or Threatened.
Whatever the highly narcissistic persons reactions to information about narcissism are, they are very rarely healthy. Usually they are destructive, chaotic, dramatic, delusional, and antisocial. Sadly, most highly narcissistic people dont really change. Actually in many cases they only get worse as they become older and others become more aware and less tolerant of their unhealthy tendencies.
Photo: Angry Face by RLHyde
Separate the Behavior from the Person
For instance, instead of stating “you're a narcissist,” say “you're acting like a narcissist,” or “this [specify the behavior] is narcissistic.” “You're a narcissist” implies that this is just how a person is, and that there's no way to change.
A narcissist may react aggressively to criticism in an effort to avoid re-experiencing the loneliness they suffered in the past. In response to criticism, a narcissist may also take great pains to devalue or invalidate the person criticizing them.Do narcissists learn about narcissism? ›
More times than not, narcissists do not know they are narcissists and will receive being told they are narcissists very poorly. What is this? Narcissists have no insight and self-awareness, so their ability to recognize that they are a problem will not happen.Should you confront a narcissist about their narcissism? ›
Manly finds it's best not to confront a narcissist directly. As difficult as it may be to constantly tiptoe around them, it can be better to manage their need to feel in charge. Don't try to direct them. Narcissists like to have control and often fear losing it.What words not to say to a narcissist? ›
- Don't say, "It's not about you." ...
- Don't say, "You're not listening." ...
- Don't say, "Ina Garten did not get her lasagna recipe from you." ...
- Don't say, "Do you think it might be your fault?" ...
- Don't say, "You're being a bully." ...
- Don't say, "Stop playing the victim."
Narcissistic personality disorder involves a pattern of self-centered, arrogant thinking and behavior, a lack of empathy and consideration for other people, and an excessive need for admiration. Others often describe people with NPD as cocky, manipulative, selfish, patronizing, and demanding.How do narcissists react in arguments? ›
Narcissistic rage ranges from direct confrontation with name-calling and hurtful slurs, to calculated, closed down reactions like giving their partner the silent treatment for hours at a time. "They give you the cold shoulder, or they walk out and they find another woman," Greenberg said.How does a narcissist handle an argument? ›
Such methods include provoking, bullying, and intimidating, where the narcissist picks on you, calls you names, yells, acts overly emotional, deliberately tries to hurt you, blatantly lies, threatens, or even physically aggresses against you.What happens if you challenge a narcissist? ›
How does a narcissist act when challenged? They react defensively and become indignant, aggressive and emotionally detached. They “devalue” the person who criticized, disagreed or dared to confront them about their behavior. By devaluing that person, narcissists minimize the impact of the threat to their self worth.What happens when a narcissist reads about narcissism? ›
So when they encounter a piece of information about narcissism they immediately might feel exposed, ashamed, betrayed, or attacked. Moreover, they often take things very personally and think that everything is about them. So they might feel that the author is talking about them personally or calling them out.
“What makes you so different from anyone else?” It was referring to how infallible and superior narcissists see themselves. They cannot answer why they are so wonderful and perfect; they are special, and that's all you need to know about them.What is the one question to identify a narcissist? ›
And that single question is this: “To what extent do you agree with this statement: I am a narcissist. (Note: The word 'narcissist' means egotistical, self-focused and vain.)”What does a narcissist not want you to know? ›
He doesn't want you to know you are lovable and have power in the relationship. Your narcissist wants you to feel small, unlovable, powerless, and without value. This is how he controls you.What happens when a narcissist knows you figured them out? ›
When a narcissist is exposed or when the narcissist knows you have figured him out, they will never admit the truth even if it is staring them in the face. A narcissist will lay several false accusations and try to make him right. They will say things you didn't utter and misinterpret all your intentions.Will a narcissist care about you? ›
Narcissists are motivated by feeling superior and expanding their power, and so the only things that matter when helping others are receiving adulation, fame, influence, opportunities, notoriety, and other resources. They dont actually care about others because to them other people are just things to use.What turns a narcissist off? ›
When you don't depend on anyone to make money and you use your abundance to take care of yourself and not predators, you will always have the ability to control your own future. This is power, and pathologically envious narcissists are often turned off by it because it means they cannot easily control a victim.What are common phrases narcissists use? ›
'You're a bad person.' 'Nobody else will ever love you.' 'I'm the best you'll ever have.' 'Have fun being alone for the rest of your life.'What are the 5 main habits of a narcissist? ›
- Inflated Ego.
- Lack of Empathy.
- Need for Attention.
- Repressed Insecurities.
- Few Boundaries.
A narcissist communicator allows little or no space for others. They dominate and hoard conversation time by focusing primarily on what they want to talk about (holding court), while paying little or no interest to other people's thoughts, feelings, and priorities.How does a narcissist apologize? ›
In narcissists' efforts to avoid blame, they often combine several fake apologies at once, such as, “I am sorry if I said anything to offend you, but I have strong opinions. Maybe you're too sensitive,” or, “I guess I should tell you I am sorry. But you know I would never deliberately hurt you.
What can you expect when you do confront a narcissist? Generally, they will resort to narcissistic rage (explosive or passive-aggressive) or denial. He or she may become enraged, deny everything, call you a liar, twist reality, blame you and then play the victim.What does an argument with a narcissist look like? ›
Narcissistic rage ranges from direct confrontation with name-calling and hurtful slurs, to calculated, closed down reactions like giving their partner the silent treatment for hours at a time. "They give you the cold shoulder, or they walk out and they find another woman," Greenberg said.How do you beat a narcissist at their own games? ›
- Recognize and Acknowledge the Abuse. A relationship with a narcissist often has a façade of normality. ...
- Don't Stoop to Their Level. Narcissists thrive on drama. ...
- Don't React to Their Abusive Tactics. Your reaction is exactly what they want. ...
- Remain Mindful of Your Needs and Emotions.
Narcopath, also known as a narcissist sociopath, is a person suffering from a mental health condition wherein they reflect sadistic, evil, and manipulative tendencies.How do you end an argument with one word? ›
Say: “Ouch. That one hurt. I don't know if you were meaning to hurt me; I don't know if that's what you were going for; but that's what you did,” Runkel tells Business Insider Australia. That simple word will make your partner—and you—pause before doling out more mean words.What angers a narcissist the most? ›
8 Triggers of a Narcissist's Rage
They feel that they've been criticized, even if the critique is constructive or said kindly. They're not the center of attention. They're caught breaking rules or not respecting boundaries. They're held accountable for their actions.
They may lash out at you, go on a smear campaign, or purposefully ignore you. They may also lovebomb you to reel you back in. Their main goal is to get your attention, provoke a response, and regain power.What infuriates a narcissist? ›
Simply put, anything that jeopardizes their basic needs for superiority can quickly irritate them. If you want to know how to infuriate a narcissist, you can look no further than giving them nothing. But you can also stand up for yourself, set boundaries, and refuse their gaslighting strategies.Do narcissists think others are narcissists? ›
Due to their tendency to project, it is common for an abuser with strong narcissistic traits to ascribe the label of “narcissist” to their target, even claiming that the target is doing the very things that the person with NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) is doing to them.How does a narcissist react when you unmask them? ›
Their complete inability to cope with the truth of who they are. It is the rage sparked by being unmasked as weak, out of control, and false. Their glimpse of what lies beneath their denial and their momentary understanding of being flawed to the point of being disordered.
Calling out the narcissist really has no benefit. They won't start to acknowledge their wrongs and make efforts to change. By calling them out, you just open yourself up to more abuse from the narcissist. This might be hard to hear because this means you are left with no way to be heard for how you are being treated.How do you challenge a narcissist? ›
- Educate yourself about NPD. ...
- Build your self-esteem. ...
- Speak up for yourself. ...
- Set clear boundaries. ...
- Practice skills to keep calm. ...
- Find a support system. ...
- Insist on immediate action, not promises. ...
- Understand that a narcissistic person may need professional help.
Another reason narcissists don't give answers to questions is because they lack empathy. They are incapable of building connection with people due to their lack of empathy. Non-narcissists ask questions as a way to connect, understand, and question someone else.Why is it impossible to have a conversation with a narcissist? ›
Narcissists tend to communicate differently than other people. Their words are often used as tools or weapons. Their language often disguises their true intent. This can make listening to narcissists more difficult and less straightforward than communicating with most other people.What is the best question to ask a narcissist? ›
3 Interview Questions That Tactfully Weed Out Narcissists
What's a personal opinion you've had and changed in the past year? What's the best (or worst) piece of advice you've gotten? Tell me a story about how luck played a role in your life.
The most official of the narcissism tests, the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI), is commonly used to determine if someone displays narcissistic behaviors.What is the best narcissist test? ›
The present test, the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI), is one of the most classical and widely used tests in psychology. The test is designed to measure subclinical narcissism in the general population.What exactly does a narcissist want from you? ›
Narcissists require loyalty. That being said, the loyalty is only one way. Many narcissists demand loyalty from their partners, while hypocritically betraying the relationship themselves; sometimes by even cheating on their partners, with no remorse.What goes through a narcissist mind when you ignore them? ›
Simply put, narcissists hate being ignored. They probably want to make you feel ashamed, regretful, and rattled. They want to be in control and will go to any length to keep feeling empowered.What happens when an empath leaves a narcissist? ›
Eventually a narcissist will start to move on from their relationship with an empath. They will likely find someone else to spend their time with or boss around and let their previous partner go. This can be a good thing for the empath, since they won't have to be concerned about this mate any longer.
Manly finds it's best not to confront a narcissist directly. As difficult as it may be to constantly tiptoe around them, it can be better to manage their need to feel in charge. Don't try to direct them. Narcissists like to have control and often fear losing it.Can a narcissist be aware of their narcissism? ›
Narcissists are fully aware that they are narcissistic and have a reputation as such. Narcissists would rather be admired than liked. Narcissists are masters at making first impressions, leading them to do better with short-term relationships.What happens when you tell a narcissist the truth? ›
What happens when you tell a narcissist the truth? Generally, they will resort to narcissistic rage (explosive or passive-aggressive) or denial. He or she may become enraged, deny everything, call you a liar, twist reality, blame you and then play the victim.Can a narcissist care about your feelings? ›
Can a narcissist ever *really* care about you? “As narcissists do not have empathy, they are not able to genuinely care or love you,” explains Davey. Instead, narcissists will only have people in their lives that benefit them; they are very selfish people.Who does a narcissist fall in love with? ›
The unfortunate truth is that narcissists do not really fall in love with people. They fall in love with their projections of whomever they currently idealize as the perfect mate. They can sound convincingly in love, but that is because they temporarily believe in the fantasy version of you created in their mind.How do you tell if a narcissist loves you? ›
The best way to know if a narcissist loves you is by looking at their behavior over time rather than just relying on words or expressions of affection. If they are consistently putting your needs first, even when it doesn't directly benefit them, then it may be possible that they truly care for you.Is there a way to explain narcissism? ›
Overview. Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental health condition in which people have an unreasonably high sense of their own importance. They need and seek too much attention and want people to admire them. People with this disorder may lack the ability to understand or care about the feelings of others.Should you explain to a narcissist? ›
Engaging in any type of explanation of your decisions or actions is not effective with the narcissist. He or she is not capable of trying to see any other perspective than the one they hold to be true. They are incapable of seeing their own bad behaviors, and it is simply easier to blame you.How do you shut down a narcissist? ›
- 1. “ ...
- “I Can't Control How You Feel About Me” ...
- “I Hear What You're Saying” ...
- “I'm Sorry You Feel That Way” ...
- “Everything Is Okay” ...
- “We Both Have a Right to Our Own Opinions” ...
- “I Can Accept How You Feel” ...
- “I Don't Like How You're Speaking to Me so I Will not Engage”
Generally, they will resort to narcissistic rage (explosive or passive-aggressive) or denial. He or she may become enraged, deny everything, call you a liar, twist reality, blame you and then play the victim. You may be the recipient of rage and aggression or the victim of The Silent Treatment.Should you tell a narcissist the truth? ›
Reassure them that it's safe to tell the truth.
Tell them that you also won't think less of them if they're anxious, insecure, or worried about their actions or performance. If a narcissist doesn't think that you or others will abandon or shame them, they'll admit what they did a lot more quickly.
- Stay calm and respectful. ...
- Use 'I' statements. ...
- Advocate for yourself. ...
- Enforce boundaries. ...
- Avoid certain phrases. ...
- Remember you're not at fault. ...
- Know that you can't change them. ...
- Rely on a support system.
- “I don't agree with you, but you have a right to have your opinion. ...
- “You are certainly entitled to your opinion. ...
- “We can agree to disagree.”
- “We will work on this together.”
- “Let me ask your advice on this. ...
- “I hear what you're saying.”
- “I'm sorry you feel that way.”
- Be calm. ...
- Don't feed their ego. ...
- Don't take responsibility for their actions. ...
- Don't give them attention. ...
- Don't give negative attention. ...
- Control your emotions. ...
- Know the words to disarm a narcissist. ...
- Don't give an ultimatum.
Narcissistic collapse is an intense emotional reaction experienced by a narcissistic person when they sense a setback. It can lead to withdrawal or vindictive behaviors. The signs of narcissistic collapse may vary from person to person.How do you protect your energy from a narcissist? ›
- Don't take the bait and fight with them. ...
- Understand their criticism for what it is: It is not about you. ...
- When you communicate, set clear boundaries, and use clear communication. ...
- If you have to make a decision to stay away, make it clearly and boldly, and follow through.