I’ve already discussed how the egocentrism of narcissists leads them to construct lives where they target others who can provide them with attention, constant confirmation of their flattering self-image and who can also act as garbage receptacles for all the negative thoughts they have about themselves. Last time, I looked at their insatiable need for re-invention, a by-product of the fact that they feel so empty and keep searching for something to fill themselves. Narcissists are essentially empty; they are in the never-ending process of divesting themselves of the negativity they heap upon themselves, but often, they can’t keep up, an over-flow situation arises, and they vomit that chaotic mass of self-hatred all over those closest to them. I refer to this outpouring or vomiting of self-hatred as the rage dump. There is no warning that this will occur, although if you are exposed enough to a narcissistic individual, you may begin to recognize some of their triggers.
Their triggers are things that may seem to have no logic attached to them, although there is usually some sort of connection to their own self-image. For instance, if the narcissist has or has had a weight problem, he or she can explode if encountering others who, in the opinion of the narcissist, has the same problem, although the individuals in question may not really have a problem at all. When the corresponding rage emerges, the narcissist does not care where he or she is, or who might hear. The narcissist I was married to had, years before I met him, overcome an extreme weight problem through gastric-bypass surgery. The self-hatred he carried around for having developed the problem in the first place was never in any way addressed through counselling, and he constantly flew into rages over what he considered to be the gluttonous weaknesses of others, including me. This rage could be anything from a series of rather loud, sarcastic comments delivered in restaurants and intended for total strangers to hear, all the way through to shouting, spitting, boiling condemnations delivered in the most vitriolic and foul language and in any venue, either public or private. It was, in fact, a public explosion of this type that was the catalyst for our final parting of the ways.
He also had a serious issue with people who wear sandals. He frequently trumpeted his opinion that no one wants to see dirty, filthy, calloused feet with thick yellowing toenails. I eventually realized that what he really despised were his own feet, and because he felt that he shouldn’t display them, no one else should display their feet, either. Remember, it’s not possible for someone else to be better than they are.
Their rage can manifest in other ways, as well. Any perceived challenges to their intelligence can spark angry tantrums that are off the chart. I once had the temerity to follow up with further information on some investment advice that my former husband wanted me to follow, and he ripped into me with the ferocity of a hurricane. This rage occurred over the phone, so I was accorded some measure of safety; however, his reaction and the words he used to describe my “behaviour” were extreme. I had “betrayed” him. I had “abandoned” him. I was “disloyal and treacherous”. Before hanging up, he shouted, “F***k you! F***k you and the horse you rode in on! And f***k Carrie [the person who gave the financial information]! I was left shocked and reeling.
It’s not uncommon for narcissists to feel that they have had the “best” education, that no one has worked harder to succeed than they have, that no one has overcome more obstacles than they have, that because of their great intelligence, they were able to conquer the serious disadvantages of their upbringing that would have stymied a lesser person. They will often convince themselves that this is true and will spend a lot of energy on trying to convince others of it as well, even if there is much evidence to suggest that they are no smarter or have not had to overcome anything more than most of us. Much of this problem derives from the fact that they cannot accept themselves as ordinary, and as part of their constant re-invention, they are compelled to manufacture a past that makes them feel special, noticed and different. They also believe that these qualities entitle them to weigh in with authority on any topic, whether they know what they are talking about or not. In the case of my former husband, I would have sooner taken financial advice from a chipmunk. At least they know about winter storage. The sad fact is that the complete totality of his knowledge about money is an adolescent ability to spend it, particularly on himself.
The unpredictable nature of these rage dumps can leave the recipients feeling dazed, exhausted, and vulnerable, but it also gets worse. Because most of us look for rational explanations for things, we will be left confused: there is no apparent logical reasoning for the behaviour that we have just witnessed unless we start to take it upon ourselves, a dangerous situation that together with the narcissist’s talent for projection, can lead to a vicious circle of mental abuse. So, what is the reason for these rages? The reason is that they are compensating. They want recognition and respect for being smart, intelligent, an authority, but they are insecure about it. If someone questions something they say, they fear that the questioner might be right, and therefore, the only way to re-establish a sense of superiority is to stomp on and intimidate the source of this discord. As a result of this reaction, the very things they desire – respect and recognition for their abilities – is completely lost to them and the loop begins again. The rage they feel at themselves must be eliminated, directed outward, and at the people who are the most likely to take it and the least likely to deserve it: those who are unfortunate enough to, for the time being, love them.