Red flag of a Narcissist #14 is “Flashes of Inappropriate Emotion.”
Like the other red flags, this one can present itself on a wide spectrum. Some people can experience this red flag behavior in their Narcissist in more minor ways (laughing or crying at strange times, or not at all).
Example: Sobbing, and having a hard time getting composure after they find out that an acquaintance they didn’t even like died, or not crying when they suffer a real loss of some sort. Or laughing at inappropriate times, such as during a horror movie, or at a funeral.
It’s as though they have this emotional detachment to events and experiences that the rest of us are emotionally invested in–where we would experience sadness, they might experience curiosity instead.
In addition, the Narcissist may have seemingly unprovoked brief “flashes” of intense anger that seems disproportionate to the event.
On the more severe side of the spectrum, a Narcissist’s erratic outbursts of intense anger are known as “Narcissistic Rage.” This rage most commonly comes out if a Narcissist experiences what is know as a “Narcissistic injury.”
There are four ways that injury to a Narcissist’s ego can occur:
1. Real. A “real” Narcissistic injury could occur if the victim and the Narcissist were in a fight, and the victim made a comment that criticized or insulted the Narcissist. (For example, telling a Narcissist that their behavior was selfish, and that they are stupid for not understanding how their behavior affects other people.) The Narcissist will most likely get very upset, because in large part they don’t feel that their behavior is the problem (according to them, everyone else’s behavior is the problem). Of course, because they think of themselves as superior to everyone else, they don’t take kindly to being called stupid, or any other reference to them being somehow less than a superior person.
2. Perceived. The Narcissist doesn’t need to have their ego attacked directly–they just need to perceive that they were attacked. These type of injuries often result in behavior that seems erratic and unprovoked (because it generally is). The Narcissist’s rage comes out only if they are perceiving that event as threatening to the ego at that time, whereas a similar event might not cause a reaction from them at all. This is in large part why many victims start walking on eggshells, hoping that by going to great efforts to change what they say and how they act, that they can somehow create a more predictable partner. (But this rarely works.)
An example of a perceived Narcissistic injury would be something like asking a Narcissist if he remembered to get the oil changed on the car. Depending on his mood at the moment (which I bet is probably tied to how much “Narcissistic Supply” he’s getting), the Narcissist might take this to mean that you think they are stupid or forgetful, and then lash out. Or perhaps the next time you don’t ask about him getting the oil changed and he lashes out accusing you of setting him up to fail because you think you are better than him, and you like to see him suffer (turning himself into the victim).
3. Trying to get their way. Narcissists use three main techniques to get their way: charm, intimidation, and violence. Their rage often surfaces if they are trying to intimidate their victim into giving them some source of Narcissistic Supply.
4. Don’t get their way. If a Narcissist is unable to get their way, they really don’t take it well. You will likely see a bunch of extreme and odd behavior all at once, as they scramble to regain control of the situation. In this type of situation, their rage can quickly turn from a verbal assault to a physical one. This is why victims are at the greatest risk when they are trying to leave the relationship–the Narcissist is losing control over the situation and over their victim. Their physical violence can be so severe that it leads to the victim’s death.
Understanding Narcissistic Rage
There are several theories on Narcissistic rage–the main ones being that their rage is caused by the Narcissist’s hatred of themselves that the project onto the victim, or that their emotional “skin” is too thin to handle any criticism whatsoever.
Frankly, I find very little value in attempting to psychoanalyze Narcissists to that level for three reasons: 1. Because it either makes the victim more sympathetic to the Narcissist’s behavior, and, 2. Because while the different theories are interesting, they aren’t that useful, and, 3. There is no cure for Narcissism, so there is no forward momentum for either the Narcissist or the victim in learning the latest theory that drives a Narcissist’s behavior that won’t change anyhow.
A common misperception is that their rage is caused by stress or anger–it’s not. Narcissists tend to experience a very small range of emotions. They go from happy, to sad, to emotional outburst at the drop of a hat. (More advanced emotions such as empathy, remorse, compassion, altruism, don’t exist with Narcissists.)
Because their rage isn’t triggered by normal events, this is why their rage seems to come out at such strange, and often unprovoked times.
Simply put, Narcissists have a “thin emotional skin,” and don’t like it when they are either questioned, challenged, or flat-out denied what they want. Narcissists are also highly reactive, and highly manipulative. They like to believe that they are the center of the universe, and have complete power and control over everything, and when something happens to where they don’t get their way, they go from 0 to 10 on the anger scale, which on the mild end of the spectrum can seem like the adult version of a small child’s temper tantrum.
The intense emotions that accompany these temper tantrums is the only way they know how to release all of this anger, frustration, and hostility, with the ultimate goal restore their power and control and getting their way.
And again, much like a child’s temper tantrum, there are two main ways that their rage manifests: exploding and imploding.
Both forms of rage manifestations often include a wide variety of types of “Narc Speak,” which is some form of gas lighting (making events up, “spinning” stories to where they are the victim of you, etc.), combined with them projecting their behavior onto you (accusing you of cheating, for example).
The exploding way can include any form of rage to where they lash out verbally or physically, saying or doing all kinds of hateful and hurtful things to their victim, including slapping, kicking, biting, hitting, beating, raping, and sometimes even murdering their victim. (Think Scott Peterson or Jodi Arias.)
The imploding way that they can handle their rage is by more passive-aggressive methods such as draining their partner’s bank account, giving the silent treatment, or otherwise trying to “settle the score” in ways that their partner either doesn’t immediately see, or necessarily registers as abusive.
It’s also not uncommon for victims to not see a full-blown Narcissistic rage storm until after they have co-mingled their lives with the Narcissist in someway, such as buying a vehicle together, getting married, having a child, etc. My guess is that the Narcissist becomes more comfortable with their bad behavior once they know they have the victim somewhat trapped in the relationship with them.
Questions? Comments? Concerns? Frustrations? Need support? Let me know!
(Here is a link to all of the “Red Flags of a Narcissist” series articles and videos in a list. I will be putting this link at the bottom of all the articles and videos so you can refer back to them in an easier-to-find way.)
My goal is to educate, empower, and inspire other abuse victims in understanding more about what happened to them (and how to prevent it from happening again), as well as how to go on and rebuild an amazing life.
Even though I have had a lot of "in the trenches" experience with highly manipulative people of all kinds, I consider myself to be a student of Narcissism, mindset, motivation, healing, and life in general, and am by no means an expert on any of these topics.
It's for these reasons, that when you are reading my information that I encourage you to hold to what helps, and let the rest go.
Latest posts by Dana (see all)
- Episode 28: Gratitude Can Help Keep You Grounded - March 21, 2017
- Episode 27: Learning How to Tune Into Your Emotions - March 19, 2017
- Episode 26: Live Stream from March 8, 2017 - March 14, 2017