One of the most explosive, unpredictable, and hostile forms of abuse that narcissists subject their victims to is narcissistic rage. Their rage can be quite passive aggressive (e.g. the silent treatment) but it can also be very aggressive. (e.g. hitting, screaming, breaking objects, etc.) To stay as safe as possible during a narcissistic rage episode, you should understand how long it can last and the information that comes with that. 

In a survey we conducted among 400 survivors of narcissistic abuse, we found that the average duration of a single narcissistic rage episode is three hours. We also found that the average duration of narcissistic rage from a narcissist who was experiencing multiple episodes is five-and-a-half days.

Click here for more information about this survey.

This article is going to provide you with all of the information that you need to understand the reason that narcissistic rage can last long periods of time. We’ve also summarized our article What Happens During Narcissistic Rage (Survey With 100 Survivors) in a short video (see below) because it is important for you to be aware of the different types of narcissistic rage when reading this article!

A Short Video About What Happens During Narcissistic Rage

Why Can Narcissistic Rage Last for So Long?

To understand the reason that narcissistic rage can last for so long you must first understand a narcissist’s origin story. It is believed that narcissism originates from an abusive upbringing with primary caregivers who are emotionally unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent.

Suggested Reading: How Are Narcissists Made?

These primary caregivers didn’t mirror the narcissist’s thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs and this led to the narcissist not getting the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they needed to develop a realistic sense of self and have a healthy cognitive development. 

This caused the narcissist to develop many negative emotions about themselves like a sense of being inadequate, worthless, unlovable, and weak. 

Sadly, because their primary caregivers didn’t create an environment that fosters a healthy cognitive development, the narcissist is left without the emotional skills required to manage their own negative emotions with healthy forms of emotional regulation. 

This is incredibly dangerous because of how powerful their negative emotions are. If they don’t find a way to regulate them, they are going to experience an uncontrollable amount of psychological tension. 

To avoid emotional turmoil, narcissists turn to their external environment for validation, admiration, and reassurance to construct a sense of self. (e.g. a narcissistic teenager who has constructed their sense of self out of the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they get for being really popular amongst their peers).

This superficial and emotionally stunted approach to constructing a sense of self causes their false sense of self to lack depth and be extremely fragile. They are really good at portraying themselves as charming, confident, and charismatic. But they are really just a terrified, emotionally stunted and immature person with a ton of suppressed negative emotions and a fragile sense of self. 

a scared narcissist

How Does a Narcissist’s Fragile Sense of Self Cause Narcissistic Rage to Last for So Long?

The trigger for narcissistic rage and the reason that narcissists can be enraged for long periods of time are contradictions to their false sense of self. A narcissist’s false sense of self is so fragile that it can be contradicted by any form of authenticity. 

If you remember from the previous section, their false sense of self lacks depth. So, the smallest things have the potential to punch a crater-sized hole in their false sense of self. Generally speaking, a narcissist’s false sense of self gets contradicted when one or more of the following is contradicted:

  • Their grandiose sense of self-importance.
    • If someone were to ask them to follow the rules just like everyone else, this could contradict their grandiose sense of self-importance.
  • Their preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
    • If a narcissist were to be overlooked for a management position, divorced, criticized for their appearance, etc., this could contradict their preoccupation with their fantasies.
  • Their belief that they are special and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people or institutions.
    • If a narcissist were to be kicked out of a club, restaurant, bar, etc. it could contradict their sense of specialness/uniqueness.
  • Their need for excessive admiration.
    • If a narcissist was expecting to be admired for a project they did at work but only received constructive criticism, this could contradict their need for excessive admiration. 
  • Their sense of entitlement.
    • If a narcissist were told “no” by someone, this could contradict their sense of entitlement to having what they want exactly when they want it.

The reason that these contradictions trigger narcissistic rage is because when a narcissist’s false sense of self is damaged, it triggers all of their suppressed negative emotions at once. 

These negative emotions are too intense to be regulated with the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they construct their false sense of self out of, also known as narcissistic supply, so they rely on narcissistic rage as a form of projection to regulate their negative emotions. 

The need for revenge, for righting a wrong, for undoing a hurt by whatever means, and a deeply anchored, unrelenting compulsion in the pursuit of all these aims which gives no rest to those who have suffered a narcissistic injury – these other features which are characteristics for the phenomenon of narcissistic rage in all its forms and which sets it apart from other kinds of aggression – Heinz Kohut 

Projection is a defense mechanism that occurs when we take parts of our identity that we find unacceptable and place them onto others. To do this with narcissistic rage, a narcissist will invalidate, devalue, humiliate, degrade, and dehumanize their victim until they feel like they have made them feel as badly as their own negative emotions make them feel.

It essentially allows them to point their finger at their victim and think to themselves, “I’m not the inadequate, unloveable, insecure, vulnerable, weak, and fragile one, they are.” This allows them to feel emotionally stable again and repair their false sense of self. For narcissists, the problem that narcissistic rage creates and the reason that it can last so long is something called the Shame-Rage Spiral.1

The Shame Rage Spiral

One of the top priorities of a narcissist is to maintain a public persona that portrays them as admirable, charming, charismatic, desirable, respectable, successful, etc. This public persona is their false sense of self and allows them to effortlessly accumulate validation, admiration, and reassurance from their external environment. 

When a narcissist experiences a contradiction to their false sense of self and goes into a narcissistic rage, they accidentally contradict themselves. Their explosive, hostile, and ruthless response to a contradiction doesn’t portray them as admirable, charming, charismatic, desirable, respectable, successful, etc.

A narcissist getting upset that they contradicted their falsified identity

This triggers their own suppressed negative emotions and causes them to feel shame, guilt, a sense of inadequacy, fear of abandonment, etc., and this is where the Shame-Rage Spiral gets its name. 

The narcissist feels all of these negative emotions for going into a rage but is incapable of managing them so they fly into another narcissistic rage. All this does is trigger their negative emotions again, causing them to fly into another narcissistic rage. This is why narcissistic rage can last for so long. 

The Shame-Rage Spiral causes arguments to last days, sometimes even weeks. It is just nonstop arguing for what feels like an eternity because they are too emotionally stunted and inadequate to manage their own negative emotions. 

It is important to note that narcissists don’t feel bad about going into a narcissistic rage because of the effect it has on you. They feel bad because it contradicts their “perfect” sense of self. They couldn’t care less about how their behavior affects others.

What Should You Take Away From This Article?

Narcissistic rage can last for a long time. As some of the most self-loathing people on the planet, narcissists have a ton of internalized rage so in a sense, narcissistic rage never ends. If you or someone that you love is experiencing narcissistic rage, we strongly encourage you to reach out to a qualified professional to make a well-informed decision on what you can do to keep yourself safe. 

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All of the content that Unfilteredd creates is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for clinical care — please visit here for qualified organizations and here for qualified professionals that you can reach out to for help. This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policies.

References

[1] Krizan, Z., & Johar, O. (2015). Narcissistic rage revisited. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 108(5), 784–801.

Kohut, Heinz. “Thoughts on narcissism and narcissistic rage.” The psychoanalytic study of the child 27.1 (1972): 360-400.

Key For the Study

A Narcissistic Rage Episode is when a narcissist experiences an narcissistic injury (ego injury) and responds with an overwhelming amount of physical, psychological, and/or sexual abuse.

A Single Narcissistic Rage Episode is when a narcissist responds to a narcissistic injury (ego injury) with overwhelming amounts of physical, psychological, and/or sexual abuse and moves on with their day/night like nothing ever happened.

Multiple Rage Episodes is when a narcissist responds to a narcissistic injury (ego injury) with overwhelming amounts of physical, psychological, and/or sexual abuse but instead of moving on with their day like nothing ever happened, they calm down far a short period of time and then suddenly fly into another narcissistic rage episode.