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Raging Narcissist: Merely Pissed-off?

Uploaded 1/17/2014, approx. 11 minute read

My name is Sam Vaknin, and I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.


In 1939, American psychologist John Donald and four of his colleagues put forth their famous FrustrationAggression Hypothesis. With minor modifications, it fits well with the phenomenon of narcissistic rage.

First, the narcissist is frustrated in his pursuit of narcissistic supply. For instance, he is ignored, ridiculed, doubted or, God forbid, criticized.

Second, frustration causes narcissistic injury.

Third phase, the narcissist projects a bad object onto the source of his frustration. He devalues her or it, or attributes to her or it, malice and other negative traits and behaviors. If she dare to criticize him, ignore him, ridicule him or disagree with him, she is bad.

And then there is the fourth phase.

This causes the narcissist to rage against a perceived evil entity that had so injured and frustrated him.

But narcissistic rage should not be confused with anger, normal garden-variety anger, though they have many things in common, but they are not the same.

Narcissistic rage has two forms.

First kind is explosive. The narcissist flares up, attacks everyone in his immediate vicinity, causes damage to objects or people and is verbally and psychologically abusive.

And there is another type of narcissistic rage, the pernicious or passive-aggressive type. The narcissist sulks, is petulant, gives the silent treatment and is plotting how to punish the transgressor and put her in her proper place.

These narcissists are vindictive and often become stalkers. They harass and haunt the objects of their frustration. They stalk, they sabotage and damage the work and possessions of people whom they regard to be the sources of their mounting wrath.

Narcissists are not an exception.

Most personality-disordered people are prone to be angry. The anger of people with personality disorders is always sudden, always raging, frightening and without an apparent provocation by an outside agent.

It would seem that people suffering from personality disorders are in a constant state of anger, which is effectively suppressed most of the time. It manifests itself only when the person's defenses are down, incapacitated or adversely affected by circumstances, inner or external.


We have pointed at the psychodynamic source of this permanent bottled-up anger in other videos.

In a nutshell, such patients are usually unable to express anger and direct it at forbidden targets in their early formative years.

For instance, they are angry at their parents, but they cannot express this anger.

The anger, however, was a justified reaction to abuse and mistreatment. The patient, as a child, was therefore left to nurture a sense of profound injustice and frustrated rage.

Healthy people experience rage and anger, but as a transitory state. This is what sets the personality-disordered people apart from healthy people.

The anger of patients with personality disorder is always acute, permanently present, often suppressed and repressed.

Healthy anger has an external-inducing agent, but the reason it is directed at this agent, what we call coherence, but the logical anger, on the other hand, is neither coherent nor externally induced. It comes from the inside, it emanates from the inside, it is diffuse, it is directed at the world, at injustice in general.

The patient does identify the immediate cause of the anger. Still, upon closer scrutiny, the cause is likely to be found lacking, and the anger excessive, disproportionate and incoherent.


Let me elaborate the point.

It might be more accurate to say that people with personality disorders are expressing and experiencing two layers of anger, simultaneously and always.

The first layer, call it superficial anger, is indeed directed at an identified target, the alleged cause of the eruption.

But there is a second layer, and that second layer is anger directed at the patient himself. The patient is angry at himself for being unable to vent off, normally.

The patient feels like a miscreant, a freak, he hates himself.

This second layer of anger also comprises strong and easily identifiable elements of frustration, irritation and annoyance.

While normal anger is connected to some action regarding the source of the anger, or at least to contemplate in such an action, the logical anger is mostly directed at oneself, or even lacks direction altogether.

People with personality disorders are afraid to show that they are angry, to meaningful others because they are afraid to lose them.

Take someone with borderline personality disorder. She is terrified of being abandoned.

Take the narcissist. He needs his narcissistic supply sources, the paranoid. He is dependent on his persecutors and afraid of the persecution.

So, the borderline, the narcissist, the paranoid cannot express their anger because they are afraid of the consequences.

These people prefer to direct their anger at people who are meaningless to them, people whose withdrawal and abandonment will not constitute a threat to their precariously balanced personalities.

So, instead of shouting or erupting at mother, they yell at the waitress. Instead of standing up to the boss, they berate a taxi driver or explode at an underling.

Alternatively, they sulk. They feel unhedonic, unable to enjoy it, feel pleasure. They are pathologically bored. They drink, they do drugs, engage in reckless behaviors. All these are forms of self-directed anger, self-directed aggression.

From time to time, they are no longer able to pretend and suppress what is going on in psychodynamics. These people have it out with the resource of their anger. They rage and generally behave like lunatics. They shout incoherently, make absurd accusations, distort the facts, pronounce allegations and suspicions, and are altogether a sight to behold.

These episodes are followed by periods of saccharine sentimentality and excessive flattering and submissiveness towards the victim of the latest rage attack.

Driven by the mortal fear of being abandoned or ignored, people with personality disorders debase and demean themselves to the point of provoking repulsion in the beholder.

And these pendulum-like emotional swings make life with such patients very difficult and, of course, unpredictable.

Again, consider the narcissist. Narcissists can be imperturbable, resilient to stress and, generally, stand for. Cold-blooded.

Narcissistic rage is not a reaction to stress. It is a reaction to a perceived slight, insult, criticism or disagreement.

In other words, a narcissistic injury. It is intense and disproportionate to the offense, as we said.

Raging narcissists usually perceive their reaction to have been triggered by an intentional provocation with a hostile purpose. Their targets, on the other hand, invariably regard the raging narcissist as incoherent and just and arbitrary, not to say and not kiss.

It is not clear whether action diminishes anger or anger is used up in action.

But anger in healthy persons is diminished through action and through its expression.

Anger is an aversive, unpleasant emotion. People try to avoid it. It is intended to generate action in order to reduce frustration.

Anger is coupled with physiological arousal precisely because of this.

But the narcissist rage and anger seems to be a bottomless pit. No matter how long and how often the narcissist rages, there is more where it came from.


Another enigme is, do we become angry because we say that we are angry, thus identifying the anger and capturing it, so to speak? Or do we say that we are angry because we are angry to begin with?

Anger is provoked by adverse treatment, deliberately or unintentionally inflicted.

Such treatment must violate either prevailing conventions regarding social interactions or some otherwise deeply ingrained sense of what is fair, what is just.

The judgment of fairness or justice is a cognitive function.

The narcissist is impaired this way.

Anger is induced by numerous factors. It is almost a universal reaction.

Any threat to one's welfare, physical, emotional, social, financial or mental, is met with anger. Threats to one's affiliates, nearest, dearest, nation, favorite, football club, pet, whatever, such threats are met with anger.

The territory of anger includes not only the angry person himself, but also his real and perceived environment and social milieu.

Threats are not the only situations, of course, to incite and elicit anger. Anger is also a reaction to injustice, perceived or real, to disagreement sometimes and to inconvenience discomfort caused by dysfunction.

Still, all men or all angry people, narcissistic or not, suffer from a cognitive deficit and they are worried and anxious while they are angry.

They are unable to conceptualize, to design effective strategies and to execute. They dedicate all their attention to the here and now and they ignore the future consequences of their actions.

Anger is like this.

Recent events are judged by angry people as more relevant and is weighted more heavily than earlier ones.

Anger, to summarize, impairs cognition, including the proper perception of time and space. It's an overpowering emotion.

In all people, narcissists and more, anger is associated with the suspension of empathy. Irritated people cannot empathize.

Actually, counter-empathy develops in a state of aggravated anger, this empathy, if you wish.

The faculties of judgment and risk evaluation are also altered by anger.

Later, provocative acts are judged to be more serious than earlier ones, just by virtue of their chronological position, which is, of course, irrational.

Yethere's the distinction.

Normal anger results in taking some action regarding the source of a frustration, or whoever made your anger.

Pathologic rage is, as I said, mostly directed at oneself or displaced at someone who had very little to do with the anger, or lacks a target altogether, is diffuse.

Narcissists often vent their anger at insignificant people.

I mentioned the unfortunate waitress, taxi driver, or underlink, employee. I mentioned that narcissists suck, give you the silent treatment, feel anhedonic, autolimbic, and so on.

And so this narcissistic behavior indicates to us that we are not dealing with anger, but with an entirely different phenomena whose outward appearance resembles anger, but whose psychodynamic inner landscape is completely different.

Most narcissists are prone to be angry.

Like I said before, their anger is always sudden, raging, frightening, and without an apparent provocation. They're in a constant state of rage, and they effectively control it some of the time.

But when the narcissist has deficient narcissistic supply, it doesn't get enough of it. When he's incapacitated, sick, when he's in a life crisis, or adversely affected, there's bad circumstances, bad events, and so on and so forth, the rage he runs. It is the rage that controls the narcissist, not the other way around.


To sum up, pathological anger is neither coherent nor externally induced. It emanates from the inside. It's diffuse, directed at the world, and injustice in general.

The narcissist is capable of identifying the immediate cause for his fury.

But upon closer scrutiny, the cause is likely to be found strange, lacking, excessive, and the anger excessive, disproportionate, incoherent, or irrelevant. It might be more accurate to say that the narcissist is expressing these two layers of anger that I mentioned, simultaneously and always.

The first layer, superficial ire, is indeed directed at an identified target, the alleged cause of the narcissist's volcanic displays.

The second layer incorporates the narcissist's biggest enemy, and his wrath, and the narcissist's enemy is himself.

There's been this famous sentence, and I've seen the enemy, and it is I. And this should be every narcissist's mortal.

His rage, his self-rage, his hatred, his self-hatred, and his denial of his self-aggression is what makes him such a menace to others. He has to displace these self-destructive, very dangerous emotions.

And by torturing others, he avoids torturing himself.

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Narcissistic Rage and Narcissistic Injury

Narcissistic injury is any threat to the narcissist's grandiose self-perception, and the narcissist actively solicits narcissistic supply to regulate and sustain their ego. The narcissist is caught between their habit and frustration, leading to disproportionate reactions to perceived insults. Narcissistic rage has two forms: explosive and passive-aggressive. The narcissist's aggression is directed outside and inside themselves, and they often become vindictive and harass those they perceive as sources of their frustration.


Old-age Narcissist

Narcissists age without grace, unable to accept their fallibility and mortality. They suffer from mental progeria, aging prematurely and finding themselves in a time warp. The longer they live, the more average they become, and the wider the gulf between their pretensions and accomplishments. Few narcissists save for rainy days, and those who succeed in their vocation end up bitterly alone, having squandered the love of family, offspring, and mates.


Narcissist's Constant Midlife Crisis

The midlife crisis is a much-discussed but little understood phenomenon. There is no link between physiological and hormonal developments and the mythical midlife crisis. The narcissist is best equipped to tackle this problem as they suffer from mental progeria and are in a constant mid-life crisis. The narcissist's personality is rigid, but their life is not. It is changeable, mutable, and tumultuous. The narcissist does not go through a midlife crisis because they are forever the child, forever dreaming and fantasizing, forever enamored with themselves.


Narcissist's Cycles of Ups and Downs

Narcissists go through cycles of mania and depression, which are caused by external events or circumstances known as triggers. The cycles are different from manic depressive cycles in bipolar disorder, which are endogenous. The narcissist is addicted to narcissistic supply and seeks admiration, adoration, approval, attention, and so on. The narcissist goes through ups and downs, including a depressive phase, a hibernation phase, and a manic phase, which are all part of the process of obtaining and securing narcissistic supply.


Narcissist’s 3 Depressions

Narcissists experience three types of depression: loss-induced dysphoria, deficiency-induced dysphoria, and self-worth dysregulation dysphoria. Loss-induced dysphoria occurs when sources of narcissistic supply gradually fade away, while deficiency-induced dysphoria is an acute response to abrupt loss of supply. Self-worth dysregulation dysphoria is a reaction to a sudden drop in self-esteem and self-worth due to criticism or humiliation. Narcissists are not happy-go-lucky individuals; they are heavily wounded, traumatized, and grieving people who try to compensate for their sadness with a facade of happiness and grandiosity.


Depressive Narcissist

Pathological narcissism is often considered a form of depressive illness, with the life of a typical narcissist punctuated with recurrent bouts of dysphoria, sadness, hopelessness, anhedonia, loss of the ability to feel pleasure, and clinical forms of depression. Narcissists react with depression not only to life crises but to fluctuations in narcissistic supply and to the internal dynamics that these fluctuations generate. There are several types of dysphoria and depression in pathological narcissism, including loss-induced dysphoria, deficiency-induced dysphoria, self-worth dysregulation dysphoria, grandiosity gap dysphoria, and self-punishing dysphoria. Many narcissists end up delusional, schizoid, or paranoid to avoid agonizing and knowing depression.


Narcissist's Pathological Space: His Kingdom

The pathological narcissistic space is a geographical area, group of people, or an abstract field of knowledge in which the narcissistic pathology reaches its full expression and effectiveness. It is a territorially expanded false self that is achieved via sources of narcissistic supply. The existence of the pathological narcissistic space is independent of the existence of sources of narcissistic supply. The pathological narcissistic space constantly consumes and drains narcissistic supply, and it generates negative narcissistic accumulation.


Anxiety, Depression, and Narcissism

Depression is a form of aggression that is directed at the depressed person rather than at their environment. This regime of repressed and mutated aggression is a characteristic of both narcissism and depression. Narcissism is sometimes described as a form of low-intensity depression. Depression is how this kind of patient experiences their overflowing reservoir of aggression.


Narcissists Hate Therapists

Narcissists regard therapy as a competitive sport and often try to prove themselves equal to the psychotherapist in knowledge, experience, or social status. They use professional psychological lingo and terms to level the playing field and create a shared psychosis between themselves and the therapist. Narcissists have a dilapidated and dysfunctional true self overtaken and suppressed by a false self, and therapy aims to create the conditions for the true self to resume its growth. Change is brought about only through incredible powers of torsion and wreckage, and it takes nothing less than a real crisis.


Narcissist’s Collapse, Narcissistic Supply The Nuances

Narcissistic collapse occurs when the narcissist cannot secure narcissistic supply. There are two types of collapse: total collapse when there is no narcissistic supply and partial or transitory collapse when the narcissist secures supply but is not happy with it. The collapse is triggered by disruptions in the process of eliciting narcissistic supply, and the narcissist needs both primary and secondary supply to avoid collapse. The collapse is a bridge and dynamic element in the narcissist's personality.

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