The angry outburst of a narcissist is like a two-year-old temper tantrum. It appears out of nowhere, creates an unnecessary scene, and shocks others into inaction. It is the ultimate in selfish behavior as everything immediately becomes about them and what they want. Just like a child, a narcissist cannot tell the difference between what they need and what they want. The two things are exactly the same and as such an angry rant is sparked by both.
There are five main reasons for a narcissistic temper tantrum:
- Shattering their fantasy – Two-year-olds think imaginary, not logically. Narcissists also have a distorted perception of reality where they are all powerful, beautiful, knowing, authoritative, and right. Any shattering of that fantasy is met with immediate anger.
- Revealing their insecurity – At the heart of every narcissist, is deep-rooted insecurity that causes shame or doubt such as abuse. Most of the displayed grandiosity is an effort to cover up that insecurity. But the second it is revealed, the narcissist becomes angry in order to deflect the shameful image.
- Challenging their superiority – All narcissists view themselves as being superior to others in appearance, intelligence, and/or influence. Any challenge to that image is met with swift retaliation and competitive reactions. They must win at all costs even if the damage is a lost relationship.
- Seeking attention – Just like a two-year-old, some narcissists have learned that if they can’t get positive attention, negative will do just fine. Narcissists crave daily doses of attention, affirmation, affection, and admiration. When they don’t get it, they react aggressively.
- Embarrassing moments – Narcissists take pleasure in embarrassing and humiliating others. They are famous for saying, “I was only joking,” and expecting others to be OK with the derogatory comments. But when others do the same thing back, the response is a severe backlash.
There are four ways a narcissist expresses anger:
- Aggressive – This can be instantaneously in the form of verbal lashings, throwing objects, threats of harm, yelling, being argumentative, unyielding in opinions, repetitive speech, twisting the truth, and intimidation.
- Suppressive – This type of anger is expressed as giving the silent treatment, ignoring problems or people, playing the victim, complaining about physical aches, being resentful without ever saying it, alienation of family members, and hiding money. Sometimes this anger later expressed in an explosive manner.
- Passive-aggressive – This is a more sneaky from of expression though sulking, gossiping, sarcasm, back-stabbing, agreeing to a person’s face but then refusing later, charming those they hate, setting others up for failure, procrastinating, gaslighting, and guilt-tripping.
- Violent – When other forms of anger fail to get the point across, some narcissists will escalate to carrying out threats of violence on self or others or being intentionally abusive.
Instead of becoming defensive or attacking back at a narcissist during the next temper tantrum, try using the opportunity to study their methods. Narcissists like to do the same thing over and over especially when it has already proven to be effective. Being able to anticipate a blow-up is the first step in learning how to counteract the attack.