21 Ways A Narcissist React When They Lose Control

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A narcissist who loses control may react with anger, manipulation, and denial, struggling to regain the power they feel slipping away.

These reactions are rooted in their core personality traits and an overwhelming need to control situations and people. Narcissism is not just about vanity or self-absorption; it is a complex personality disorder characterized by grandiosity, a lack of empathy for others, and a desperate need for admiration.

Control is a crucial element of the narcissist's world. It's their tool for maintaining their inflated self-image and masking their deep-seated insecurities. When they feel in control, narcissists are in their comfort zone, they can manipulate situations to feed their ego and maintain the illusion of their superiority.

They Have Fear Of Losing Control

The psychology of narcissists is complex, marked by a constant craving for control and a profound fear of losing it. This need for dominance isn't just about having things their way; it's a survival mechanism to protect their fragile self-esteem. Any threat to this control can trigger intense anxiety and fear, leading to aggressive or manipulative behaviors to regain their perceived power.

The fear of losing control is deeply ingrained in the narcissist's psyche. They view the world as binary: winners and losers, powerful and weak, adored or despised.

For them, relinquishing control equates to forfeiting their sense of superiority and plunging into the uncomfortable territory of being 'ordinary' or 'insignificant'—something they desperately seek to avoid.

Their Initial Reaction Is Usually Shock

When a narcissist's control is threatened, their initial reaction is often shock, followed by a surge of anger and denial. They may lash out, blame others, or attempt to manipulate the situation to restore the status quo. For example, if a narcissist's spouse stands up to their abusive behavior, the narcissist may react with outrage, accuse the spouse of being ungrateful or selfish, and deny any wrongdoing.

Real-life examples of these reactions abound. Take, for instance, a narcissistic boss who is confronted about his unfair treatment of employees.

He might deny the allegations, shift the blame onto the employees for being overly sensitive, and even threaten job security, all in a bid to regain control.

Their Strategies To Regain Control

When narcissists feel their control slipping away, they resort to various coping mechanisms to regain it. One common method is gaslighting, a form of psychological manipulation in which they cause individuals to question their sanity. By sowing seeds of doubt, they can regain dominance and control. A good example - Emily is made to question her reality because her partner questions the experience of events that occurred.

Another coping mechanism is devaluation and discard. When their control is threatened, narcissists often demean the person challenging them, belittling their opinions, and undermining their self-esteem.

Once the person is sufficiently devalued and their self-confidence shattered, the narcissist may discard them (either emotionally or physically) to assert control.

Long-Term Effects Of Being Second

If a narcissist is continuously denied control, they can undergo a process called narcissistic injury, where their self-esteem and self-worth are significantly damaged. This can lead to narcissistic rage, an intense anger directed at the person they perceive as causing their injury.

Over time, this constant struggle for control can lead to self-destruction. The narcissist may isolate themselves from others, fall into depression, or engage in risk-taking behaviors. For example, a narcissist denied a promotion may quit their job in anger, thus losing their source of income and damaging their career.

Dealing With A Narcissist

Interacting with a narcissist who feels out of control can be emotionally draining. It's crucial to maintain your emotional health and set boundaries. You might need to emotionally distance yourself from the narcissist, permitting yourself to disengage when they become aggressive or manipulative. It's important to remember that you can't control their behavior, but you can control your reactions to it.

Setting boundaries with a narcissist can be challenging but necessary. Determine what behaviors you won't tolerate and follow through with consequences when boundaries are violated. For instance, if a narcissistic friend consistently belittles your achievements, you could choose to limit your interactions or, in extreme cases, end the relationship.

21 Ways A Narcissist Will React Being Out Of Control

Narcissistic personalities thrive on control and dominance. When this control is slipping away, their reactions can range from subtle manipulation to outright rage. Here are 21 ways a narcissist may act when they aren't in control:

  1. Display Outbursts of Anger: They might become disproportionately angry when their control is threatened.
  2. Engage in Gaslighting: They might manipulate you into doubting your perceptions to regain control.
  3. Use Emotional Blackmail: They could use guilt or fear to manipulate the situation.
  4. Deny Responsibility: They may refuse to accept their part in any problems or conflicts.
  5. Criticize Others: They might belittle others to reassert their dominance.
  6. Withhold Affection or Attention: They may withhold love or attention as punishment.
  7. Display Jealousy: They might show jealousy or resentment when others receive attention.
  8. Spread Rumors: They could spread false information or gossip to discredit others.
  9. Engage in Stalking Behavior: They may try to control others through intrusive behaviors.
  10. Display Passive-Aggressive Behavior: They might use indirect ways to express their anger or discontent.
  11. Intimidate Others: They could use threats or aggressive behavior to regain control.
  12. Show Superiority: They might constantly assert their superiority or belittle others' achievements.
  13. Lie or Exaggerate: They may lie about their own achievements or exaggerate situations to regain control.
  14. Isolate Others: They might isolate their 'targets' from friends or family to maintain control.
  15. Use Silent Treatment: They could use silence as a form of punishment when they feel out of control.
  16. Play the Victim: They might portray themselves as the victim to gain sympathy and control.
  17. Demand Constant Attention: They could demand to be the center of attention to reaffirm their importance.
  18. Manipulate Emotions: They may manipulate others' emotions to get what they want.
  19. Show Impatience or Restlessness: They might exhibit signs of anxiety or restlessness when they can't control a situation.
  20. Engage in Projecting: They could project their negative behaviors onto others.
  21. Show Inflexibility: They might refuse to compromise or consider others' points of view.

Examples of Narcissistic Manipulation

Consider John, a high-ranking executive at a reputable company. When his proposal was rejected in a board meeting in favor of a co-worker, he lost his temper. Unable to accept that his ideas were not deemed the best, he stormed out of the meeting, shouting about the incompetence of the rest of the team. Later, he berated each team member individually, criticizing their ideas and undermining their confidence.

Lisa, a mother with narcissistic tendencies, had always dominated her children's lives. When her adult daughter decided to move out, Lisa reacted by guilt-tripping her, saying things like, "After all I've done for you, this is how you repay me?" She portrayed herself as the victim of her daughter's "selfish" decision, making her daughter feel guilty for wanting independence.

Richard was a charming boyfriend but very possessive. When his girlfriend, Sarah, confronted him about his overbearing behavior, he turned the tables on her. He accused her of being paranoid and overly sensitive, causing Sarah to question her perceptions. He also fabricated stories about how his past partners appreciated his "protectiveness," causing further doubt in Sarah's mind.

Emily was a narcissistic individual who controlled her friends by manipulating their desire for her approval. When one of her friends, Laura, started to hang out with a different group, Emily felt her control slipping away. She responded by ignoring Laura, excluding her from group activities, and withholding her usual warmth and friendliness. The silent treatment continued until Laura apologized and promised to spend more time with Emily's group.

Tom was a narcissist who thrived on being the best in his social circle. Tom felt threatened when his friend, Ben, bought a new, expensive car. Instead of being happy for Ben, he belittled Ben's choice, stating that only shallow people flaunted wealth. He then bragged about his own financial investments, emphasizing their superiority over materialistic purchases.

Michelle, an individual with narcissistic traits, felt threatened when her boyfriend, Alex, started a new job. Fearful of losing control, she began showing up at his workplace under the guise of surprise lunches. She also demanded constant updates throughout the day, insisting that Alex was neglecting her by not keeping her in the loop.

Rachel, a narcissist, felt out of control when her colleague, Susan, was praised by their boss. To regain control, Rachel started spreading rumors about Susan, accusing her of cozying up to the boss. Ironically, Rachel often used flattery and charm to manipulate others. By projecting her tactics onto Susan, Rachel shifted attention away from herself and undermined Susan's reputation.

Reference this article:

Practical Psychology. (2023, March). 21 Ways A Narcissist React When They Lose Control. Retrieved from https://practicalpie.com/how-narcissists-react-when-they-arent-in-control/.

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