Have you ever wondered how the narcissist in your life will react when they realize they can no longer control you?

If so, you’re part of a big group. We recently held an hour-long workshop about setting boundaries, and one of our members asked:

“But what will happen when he realizes he can’t control me anymore?” 

The therapist leading the workshop gave a fantastic answer that I’ve condensed in this 10-minute read.

According to Licensed Mental Health Counselor Andre O’Donnell, when a narcissist realizes they can’t control you, they will:

  • Get angry or aggressive.
  • Victimize themselves.
  • Launch a smear campaign against you.
  • Do nice things to manipulate you.
  • Gaslight you.
  • Try to bait you into a hostile confrontation.
  • Give you the silent treatment.
  • Discard you.

In this post, I will guide you through these reactions to help you understand what tends to happen when narcissists lose control.

If you have or currently are experiencing narcissistic abuse, visit Unfilteredd’s Institute of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse for help.

1) They Get Angry or Aggressive

When narcissists realize they can’t control you, one common reaction is to get angry or aggressive.1 

It’s like when someone loses a game and starts throwing the pieces or yelling because they’re not winning. 

They might raise their voice, say mean things, or even try to intimidate you physically. 

Their anger and aggression are a tool they use to scare you into backing down and doing what they want. 

They hope that by making you feel threatened or uncomfortable, you’ll give in just to stop the anger. 

This reaction is about trying to regain control through fear by showing you the consequences of not following their lead.

2) They Victimize Themselves

Another way narcissists might react when they can’t control you is by playing the victim.2

This refers to a behavioral pattern where someone pretends to be a victim in certain situations, often to gain sympathy, attention, or advantages.

Think of it like when someone gets caught doing something wrong but then acts like they’re the one who’s been hurt. 

The narcissist might say things like, “You’re being so unfair to me,” or “I can’t believe you would treat me this way,” even though you’re setting healthy boundaries. 

A narcissist victimising herself and crying.

By victimizing themselves, they’re trying to make you feel guilty for standing up to them. 

They hope this guilt will make you back off and let them have their way again. 

This tactic is about flipping the script, making it seem like they’re the ones suffering because you won’t comply with their desires.

3) They Launch a Smear Campaign Against You

When narcissists can’t control you, they might start a smear campaign against you.3 

The term “smear campaign” refers to a planned attempt to harm the reputation of a person or company by telling lies about them.4

So, the narcissist might go to friends, family, or even colleagues, spreading rumors or sharing your personal information to turn others against you. 

By doing this, they’re trying to isolate you, hoping that if you feel alone or misunderstood, you’ll come back under their control just to make the negativity stop. 

This tactic aims to regain control by damaging your relationships and reputation, making it harder for you to stand against them with the support of your social circle.

4) They Do Nice Things to Manipulate You

Another reaction narcissists might have when they can’t control you is suddenly doing nice things for you.5 

It’s like when someone gives you a gift, not because they want to make you happy, but because they want something from you. 

They might be extra sweet, buy you gifts, or do favors they wouldn’t normally do, all to make you lower your guard. 

This sudden niceness can be confusing because it seems like they’re being caring, but it’s really just another way to manipulate you. 

They hope these acts will make you feel indebted to them or question your decision to stand firm. 

By showering you with kindness, they aim to subtly pull you back under their influence, using positive reinforcement to regain control.

If you need help with anything related to narcissistic abuse, visit Unfilteredd’s Institute of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse today.

5) They Gaslight You

When narcissists find they can’t control you, they might resort to gaslighting. 

This means they start messing with your sense of reality, making you doubt your memories, feelings, sanity, and reality.6

For example, they might deny saying things you know they said or twist past events to make you question your judgment. 

A narcissist gaslighting someone because they are losing control.

It’s like if someone moved your keys and then told you you’re always losing things, making you doubt yourself. 

By gaslighting you, narcissists aim to make you feel so uncertain and unstable that you rely on their version of reality. 

This tactic seeks to weaken your confidence and independence, making it easier for them to regain control by presenting themselves as the only reliable source of truth and stability in your life.

Suggested Reading: 100 Gaslighting Phrases Narcissists Use

6) They Try to Bait You into a Hostile Confrontation

Another tactic narcissists use when they can’t control you is trying to bait you into a hostile confrontation.7 

They might provoke you with insults, criticize things you care about, or bring up sensitive topics, hoping to elicit an emotional reaction. 

A narcissist baiting someone into a hostile confrontation because they are losing control.

It’s like poking a bear just to see it roar, then blaming the bear for being aggressive. 

If you react angrily or defensively, they use this as evidence that you’re the problem, twisting the situation to paint themselves as the victim. 

This strategy is designed to make you appear unstable or unreasonable, undermining your credibility and ability to control the situation.

7) They Give You the Silent Treatment

When a narcissist can’t control you, they might give you the silent treatment.8 

This is when they suddenly stop talking to you, refuse to answer your messages and act like you’re invisible. 

A narcissist acting like their partner is invisible to them.

By giving you the silent treatment, the narcissist is trying to punish you for not following their wishes.

They hope that this cold shoulder will make you feel lonely, guilty, or desperate enough to give in and do whatever it takes to get back on their good side. 

This tactic is a form of emotional manipulation aimed at regaining control by making you feel rejected and isolated.

Suggested Reading: How to Respond to a Narcissist’s Silent Treatment

8) They Discard You

If a narcissist realizes they truly can’t control you, they might discard you entirely. 

This means they suddenly drop you from their life, cutting off contact as if you never mattered.9 

It’s like deciding a toy isn’t fun anymore and throwing it away without a second thought. 

The discard can be shocking and painful, leaving you wondering what you did wrong. 

But for the narcissist, discarding you is the ultimate control move; if they can’t have you under their thumb, they’d rather not have you at all. 

This extreme reaction serves to protect their ego from the perceived rejection of your independence. 

By discarding you, they’re trying to regain a sense of superiority and control, often moving on quickly to find a new person they can attempt to dominate.

Suggested Reading: 6 Ways to Respond to a Narcissist’s Discard

If you are ready to be more than a victim of narcissistic abuse, visit Unfilteredd’s Institute of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse today.


Thank you so much for reading; I hope you found this article insightful and empowering.

Now, I’d love to hear from you.

Have you ever encountered any of these tactics from someone in your life after setting boundaries or asserting your independence?

If so, what strategies have you found effective in maintaining your boundaries against someone who refuses to respect them?

Or perhaps you’re navigating a challenging situation and seeking advice on how to handle someone who is attempting to undermine your autonomy.

Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below.

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About the Author

Hey, I’m Elijah.

I experienced narcissistic abuse for three years. 

I create these articles to help you understand and validate your experiences.

Thank you for reading, and remember, healing is possible even when it feels impossible.

Unfilteredd has strict sourcing guidelines and only uses high-quality sources to support the facts within our content. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate, actionable, inclusive, and trustworthy by reading our editorial process.

  1. Anna Drescher. (2024. January, 23). How Does A Narcissist React When They Can’t Control You? Simply Psychology. https://www.simplypsychology.org/when-a-narcissist-loses-control.html#:~:text=The%20outrage%20a%20narcissist%20may,%2Desteem%20or%20self%2Dworth. ↩︎
  2. Practical Psychology. (2023. December, 6). 21 Ways A Narcissist React When They Lose Control. Practical Psychology. https://practicalpie.com/how-narcissists-react-when-they-arent-in-control/ ↩︎
  3. Jay Reid. (2023. September, 19). When a Narcissist Loses Control: What to Expect and How to Get Control Back. wikiHow. https://www.wikihow.com/How-Does-a-Narcissist-React-when-They-Can%27t-Control-You ↩︎
  4. Smear Campaign. In Cambridge Dictionary. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/smear-campaign ↩︎
  5. Anne Duvaux. (2023. December, 12). How Does a Narcissist React When They Can’t Control You Anymore? Marriage.com. https://www.marriage.com/advice/mental-health/when-a-narcissist-cant-control-you/ ↩︎
  6. Jean Kim. (2021. October, 14). Gaslighting: What Is It and Why Do People Do It? Psycom. https://www.psycom.net/gaslighting-what-is-it ↩︎
  7. Shahida Arabi. (2019. October, 29). 5 Terrifying Ways Narcissists and Psychopaths Manufacture Chaos and Provoke You. Psych Central. https://psychcentral.com/blog/recovering-narcissist/2019/10/5-terrifying-ways-narcissists-and-psychopaths-manufacture-chaos-provoke-and-manipulate-you#1 ↩︎
  8. Maggie Holland. (2023. May, 5). Narcissist Silent Treatment: What It Is, Tactics, & How to Deal With It. Choosing Therapy. https://www.choosingtherapy.com/narcissist-silent-treatment/ ↩︎
  9. Jay Reid. (2024. January, 31). Narcissistic Discard: Why It Happens & How to Cope. wikiHow. https://www.wikihow.com/Narcissistic-Discard#:~:text=“Narcissistic%20discard”%20is%20when%20someone,the%20cycle%20of%20narcissistic%20relationships. ↩︎

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