My name is Sam Vaknin, I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.
So, how do narcissists react to humiliation? Exactly as normal people do, only more so.
A narcissist is regularly and strongly humiliated by things which normally do not constitute a humiliation. It would be safe to say that the emotional life of the narcissist is tinted by ubiquitous and recurrent insults, humiliations and slights. Any event, any action, inaction, utterance or thought which negate or can be construed to negate the uniqueness or the grandiose superiority of the narcissist's humiliating.
Living in a big city, belonging to a group of peers, any sign of disapproval, disagreement, criticism or remonstrance, all these reduce the narcissist to a state of insulted, sulking agitation.
The narcissist is constantly on the defensive, constantly being targeted. He is a kind of paranoid. Other people fish for compliments, the narcissist fishes for insults. The narcissist interprets everything as addressed to him, to his person, ad hominem. He doesn't make a distinction between criticism of his actions and criticism of his self.
The list of things, real or imagined, by which a narcissist might be slighted is dizzying indeed. When contradicted, when deprived of special treatment, when subjected to an attitude or comment which he judges to contravene his grandiose superior self-image or his sense of entitlement, the narcissist is beside himself with indignant rage.
It is as though the narcissist has a need to be humbled, to be reduced, minimized and otherwise trampled upon. It is kind of a masochistic streak. It is the eternal search for punishment that is satisfied in this way.
The narcissist is on a never-ending trial, which in itself constitutes his punishment.
The initial reaction of the narcissist to a perceived slight or humiliation is a conscious rejection of the humiliating input.
The narcissist tries to ignore this input, talk it out of existence, or belittle its importance or its source.
If this crude mechanism of denial and cognitive dissonance fails, the narcissist resorts to a repression of the humiliating material. He forgets all about it. He gets it out of his mind and when reminded of it, he denies that it ever existed.
But these are usually merely stopgap measures.
The disturbing data, the humiliating input, the disagreement, the criticism, the commentary is bound to impinge on the narcissist's tormented consciousness.
Once aware of its re-emergence in his mind, the narcissist uses fantasy to counteract and count to balance it.
So first there's cognitive dissonance.
The humiliation comes from a low-level source. It's not important. Anyhow, I don't mind it and so on.
And then when this doesn't work, there's denial, it never happened. And when then this doesn't work, there is fantasy.
The narcissist imagines all the horrible things that he would have done or will do to the sources of his frustration.
That is one form of fantasy. It is through fantasy that the narcissist seeks to redeem his pride and dignity and to re-establish his damaged sense of uniqueness and grandiosity.
Paradoxically, the narcissist does not mind being humiliated if this humiliation were to make him more unique or more famous or draw more attention to his personal or to his actions.
So there's a trade-off. He doesn't mind being humiliated if it brings narcissistic supply.
For instance, if the injustice involved in the process of humiliation is unprecedented or if the humiliating acts or words place the narcissist in a unique position or if they transform him into a public figure, the narcissist tries to encourage such behaviors and to elicit them from others.
In this case, the narcissist fantasizes how he defamed and debased his opponents by forcing them to behave even more barbarously than before so that their unjust conduct is universally recognized as such and condemned.
The narcissist is publicly vindicated and his self-respect is restored. He wishes to attain the high moral ground. In short, martyrdom is as good a method of obtaining narcissistic supply as any.
Fantasy, though, again has its limits. And once these limits are reached, the narcissist is likely to experience waves of self-hatred and self-loathing, the outcomes of helplessness and of realizing the texts of his dependence on narcissistic supply.
The narcissist hates to be dependent on other people. These feelings culminate in severe, self-directed aggression, clinical depression, destructive, self-defeating behaviors, or even in extreme cases, suicidal ideation. These self-negating reactions inevitably and naturally terrify the narcissist.
He tries to project them onto his environment. He may decompensate by developing obsessive-compulsive traits or by going through a psychotic micro-episode, losing completely touch with reality and abnegating the reality test.
At this stage, the narcissist is suddenly besieged by disturbing uncontrollable violent faults and urges. He develops ritualistic reactions to them, a sequence of motions, actions, or obsessive counter-falls. Or he might visualize his aggression or experience auditory hallucinations.
Humiliation affects the narcissist very deeply. Luckily, the process is entirely reversible once narcissistic supply is resumed. Almost immediately, the narcissist swings from one pole to another, from being humiliated to being elated, from being put down to being reinstated, from being at the bottom of his own imagined pit to occupying the top of his own imagined hill.
This metamorphosis is very typical. The narcissist has only an inner world. He does not accept nor does he recognize reality. To him, reality is but a shadow cast by the fire which burns inside him.
Reality either conforms to how he perceives himself or it does not exist. He is consumed by this fire, by the wish to be loved, to be recognized, to control, to avoid hurt, to garner attention. By succumbing to this internal conflagration, the narcissist all but cements his inability to attain even the modest goals that are achieved by others at a minimal cost and almost effortlessly.