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.

Zombie Narcissist: Deficient Narcissistic Supply

Narcissists are constantly seeking praise, adoration, admiration, approval, applause, attention, and other forms of narcissistic supply. When they fail to obtain sufficient supply, they react much like a drug addict would. They become dysphoric, depressed, and may resort to alternative addictions. In extreme cases of deprivation, they may even entertain suicidal thoughts. Narcissists also have a sense of magical thinking, believing that they will always prevail and that good things will always happen to them, rendering them fearless and cloaked in divine and cosmic immunity.

Narcissist: Destructive Envy and Romantic Jealousy

Envy is a compounded emotion brought on by the realization of some lack or deficiency in oneself. Narcissists cope with their pathological envy by either subsuming the object of envy via imitation or destroying it. The most dangerous species of narcissists are those who derive contentment from their own humiliation and end up driving the objects of their own devotion and accumulation to destruction and decrepititude. Romantic jealousy is a narcissistic defense that reflects the narcissistic traits and behaviors of possessiveness, objectification, and treating the spouse as an extension of oneself.

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 as Adrenaline Junkie

Narcissistic supply is the drug of choice for narcissists, and they become addicted to the gratifying effects of it. When they are unable to secure normal narcissistic supply, they resort to abnormal narcissistic supply, such as behaving recklessly or succumbing to substance abuse. Narcissists faced with a chronic state of deficient narcissistic supply become criminals or race car drivers or gamblers or soldiers or investigative journalists or police officers. The prognosis for this particular behavior in narcissism, reckless behavior, adrenaline seeking, thrill seeking, is pretty good since the brain is plastic, and these processes are reversible.

Narcissists: Their Professions, Jobs, and Vocations

Narcissists are over-represented in certain professions, including teaching, the clergy, show business, corporate management, medicine, the military, law enforcement, politics, and sports. They gravitate towards these professions to construct self-enclosed spaces where they are divine, god-like figures with a coterie of fans, admirers, followers, and devotees. Narcissists are dangerous in these professions as they lack empathy and ethical standards, and are prone to immorally, cynically, callously, and consistently abuse and misuse their position. Their socialization process is often disturbed, perturbed, and this results in social dysfunctioning.

Narcissist: Loser and Failure

Narcissists have three traits that make them fail and become losers: a sense of entitlement, arrogance, and aversion to routine. Their sense of entitlement makes them lazy and believe that they should be spoon-fed. They are under-qualified and lack skills because they believe they are above mundane chores. Their arrogance and belief that they are superior to others hampers their ability to function in society. They become outcasts and are shunned by colleagues, employers, and family members.

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) Misdiagnosed as Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)

Narcissists are anxious for social approval and seek narcissistic supply compulsively, which creates attendant anxiety. They require external feedback to regulate their sense of self-worth, self-confidence, and self-esteem, making them irritable. Narcissists are terrified of being embarrassed or criticized in public, and they fail to function well in various settings. It is easy to mistake the presenting symptoms of certain anxiety disorders with pathological narcissism, but the narcissist is egosyntonic, while the anxious patient is distressed and looking for help.

Narcissistic Defences and Personality

Narcissistic personalities are prone to depression, anxiety, shame, self-destructiveness, or rage when their habitual gratifications are threatened. Narcissism is an evolved version of the psychological defense mechanism known as splitting, where the narcissist either idealizes or devalues objects. The narcissist is obsessed with securing a reliable and continuous source of admiration, adulation, affirmation, and attention, and will become an evil person if they cannot secure positive supply. Narcissistic personalities slide the meanings of events to place themselves in a better light and maintain logical consistency while minimizing evil or weakness and exaggerating innocence or control.

Narcissist's Accomplices

Narcissism is prevalent in Western society and is encouraged by individualism, materialism, and capitalism. Narcissists are aided by four types of people and institutions: adulators, blissfully ignorant, self-deceivers, and those deceived by the narcissist. The narcissist rarely pays the price for their offenses, and their victims pick up the tab. The abused often believe they can rescue, heal, cure, or change the narcissist with their love and empathy, but this is a grandiose fantasy.

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