Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a persistent pattern of grandiosity, requiring admiration, and a lack of empathy that marks it as a mental health concern. The desire to hold sway and assert superiority often drives the narcissistic individual to exert control over those in their orbit. But, when they encounter resistance and cannot control a person, it can unleash an array of intense reactions, including frustration, anger, manipulation, and even abusive behavior.
What is NPD
Narcissistic personality disorder is a type of personality disorder that affects approximately 1% of the general population. People with NPD have an excessive sense of self-importance and an intense need for admiration and attention. They may also have a lack of empathy for others and a tendency to exploit others for their own gain. In addition, they may have a fragile sense of self-esteem and be extremely sensitive to criticism or rejection.
Symptoms of NPD
The symptoms of NPD include:
- An inflated sense of self-importance
- A deep need for admiration and attention
- A lack of empathy for others
- A tendency to exploit others for personal gain
- A fragile sense of self-esteem
- Extreme sensitivity to criticism or rejection
Examples where a narcissist will try to control you
Narcissists often try to control others in order to maintain their sense of superiority and power. This can occur in many different scenarios, including:
- In romantic relationships, a narcissistic partner may try to control every aspect of their partner’s life, from their appearance and behavior to their thoughts and opinions.
- In the workplace, a narcissistic boss may try to control their employees by micromanaging their work and criticizing their every move.
- In social situations, a narcissistic individual may try to control the conversation and dominate the attention of others.
How does a narcissist react when they can’t control you
When a narcissist can’t control someone, it can trigger intense reactions that can range from anger and frustration to manipulation and abuse. The exact reaction will depend on the individual narcissist and the situation, but some common responses include:
- Attempts to manipulate the person into submission through flattery, guilt-tripping, or other tactics
- Blames the person for the lack of control and accuses them of being difficult or stubborn
- Becomes angry or hostile, and may engage in verbal or physical abuse
- Withdraws from the person, either emotionally or physically
Attempts to manipulate
A narcissist who can’t control someone may try to manipulate them into submission through flattery, guilt-tripping, or other tactics. For example, they may say things like:
“I just don’t know what to do without you. You’re the only one who understands me.”
“I thought we had something special. I guess I was wrong.”
These statements are designed to make the person feel guilty or responsible for the narcissist’s happiness and to give in to their demands for control.
Blames the person
A narcissist who can’t control someone may blame the person for the lack of control and accuse them of being difficult or stubborn. For example, they may say things like:
“You’re just being unrealistic. I can’t make you happy no matter what I do.”
“Why can’t you just do what I say? You’re making this so much harder than it needs to be.”
These statements are designed to shift the blame from the narcissist onto the person and to make them feel like they are at fault for the lack of control.
Becomes angry or hostile
A narcissist who can’t control someone may become angry or hostile and may engage in verbal or physical abuse. For example, they may yell, insult, or attack the person in order to assert their dominance and control.
Withdraws from the person
A narcissist who can’t control someone may withdraw from the person, either emotionally or physically. For example, they may stop talking to the person, avoid them, or break off the relationship altogether. This can be a way for the narcissist to avoid the discomfort of not being in control and to avoid the risk of being criticized or rejected.
How to defend yourself
Defending yourself against a narcissistic individual can be challenging, but it is possible. Here are some tips for how to do so:
- Set clear boundaries and stick to them
- Avoid engaging in arguments or conflicts with the narcissist
- Don’t take the narcissist’s behavior personally
- Seek support from friends, family, or a therapist
- Consider ending the relationship if the abuse becomes severe or dangerous
Treatment and Recovery
Recovery from narcissistic abuse requires a significant amount of time and effort to heal and move forward. Narcissistic abuse can leave individuals feeling traumatized, confused, and hopeless, making it difficult to break free from the cycle of abuse.
The Cycle of Abuse
Victims of narcissistic abuse often find themselves in a cycle of abuse, where they are constantly being manipulated, degraded, and invalidated by the narcissistic individual. This cycle can be difficult to break, as the victim may feel trapped and unable to escape the abuse. Understanding the cycle of narcissistic abuse can help individuals recognize when they are in an abusive relationship and take the necessary steps to break free.
The Idealization Phase
The first stage in the cycle of narcissistic abuse is the idealization phase. During this phase, the narcissistic individual presents themselves as the perfect partner and showers the victim with attention, affection, and flattery. The victim may feel like they have finally found their soulmate and believe that they have found true love. However, this phase is temporary and is only meant to lure the victim into a false sense of security.
The Devaluation Phase
The next stage in the cycle is the devaluation phase, where the narcissistic individual suddenly begins to change their behavior towards the victim. The attention and affection are withdrawn, and the victim is subjected to criticism, degradation, and manipulation. The victim may feel confused and unsure of what they did to cause the sudden change in behavior.
The Discard Phase
The final stage in the cycle of narcissistic abuse is the discard phase, where the narcissistic individual suddenly ends the relationship and moves on to their next victim. The victim is left feeling worthless, damaged, and unsure of what just happened. However, it is important to remember that this is not a reflection of their worth as a person, but rather a tactic used by the narcissistic individual to exert control and manipulation.
Side-Effects of Narcissistic Abuse
The side-effects of narcissistic abuse can be physical, emotional, and psychological in nature. Some common symptoms include:
- Low self-esteem and self-worth
- Anxiety and depression
- Chronic pain and physical symptoms without a medical cause
- Difficulty trusting others and forming healthy relationships
- Difficulty with decision-making and boundaries
- Complex Post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) symptoms
Treatment and Support
Recovering from narcissistic abuse involves a combination of self-care, therapy, and education. Some recommended steps to healing include:
- Finding a safe and supportive environment
- Working with a therapist who specializes in narcissistic abuse
- Learning about healthy relationships and boundaries
- Setting boundaries and advocating for yourself
- Working on self-care and self-compassion
- Joining support groups and connecting with others who have gone through similar experiences
- Consider obtaining a restraining order if the abuse becomes severe or dangerous.
It is important to seek help and support in order to heal from the effects of narcissistic abuse. Recovery is a journey, but with the right resources and support, individuals can regain their sense of self and learn to have healthy relationships in the future.
“At any given moment you have the power to say this is not how the story is going to end.” ― Christine Mason Miller
Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental health condition characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance, a deep need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others. When a narcissist can’t control someone, it can trigger intense reactions that can range from anger to blame-shifting to withdrawing from the person. To defend yourself against a narcissist, it is important to set clear boundaries, avoid engaging in conflicts, seek support, and consider ending the relationship if necessary. Recovery from narcissistic abuse requires self-care, therapy, and education on healthy relationships. It is important to seek help and support to heal from the effects of narcissistic abuse.
Understanding the ways that a narcissist reacts when they can’t control someone can help you prepare and protect yourself. By knowing the warning signs and taking steps to defend yourself, you can find the strength and support you need to heal and move forward.
Psychological Abuse = Physical Abuse. (n.d.). WebMD. Retrieved February 8, 2023, from https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/news/20021024/psychological-abuse-physical-abuse
Elise, S. (2018). Experiences of narcissistic abuse: an exploration of the effects on women who have had a long term, intimate, relationship with a suspected narcissistic male partner
Narcissism and Abuse. (n.d.). The Hotline. Retrieved February 8, 2023, from https://www.thehotline.org/resources/narcissism-and-abuse/show less