There comes a time in many narcissistic relationships where the narcissist begins to lose control over their victim. There are a ton of different reasons that this could be happening, all of which infuriate the narcissist, so it is really important for those pulling away from the narcissist in their lives to be aware of how narcissists react when they’re losing control over their victim. 

When a narcissist begins to lose control over you they will experience a lot of negative emotions because their lack of control triggers their suppressed shame, sense of inadequacy, and fear of abandonment. They will panic and use a variety of manipulative techniques in a frantic attempt to regain control over you.

This article is going to guide you through all of the different manipulative techniques that you can expect to experience when the narcissist in your life begins to lose control over you. We’ve also created a short video below that summarizes our article Why Do Narcissists Get Mad When They Can’t Control You so that you can learn as much about a narcissist’s need for control as possible.

A Short Video About the Reason That Narcissists Get Mad When They Can’t Control You

Accusations

We come at this topic from all different perspectives in our article How Are Narcissists Made but it is widely believed that narcissism originates from an unhealthy/abusive upbringing with primary caregivers who are unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent. 

This means that the primary caregivers don’t give their child the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they need to develop a realistic sense of self and have a healthy cognitive development. 

Again, we created a complete guide to this in our article How Are Narcissists Made but the key takeaway here is that this type of upbringing causes the child to develop a deeply rooted hatred for themselves because their primary caregivers’ neglect teaches them that they aren’t good enough to be acknowledged and loved.

This causes the child to develop a tremendous amount of emotional inadequacies that make them incapable of developing healthy trauma responses and techniques to manage all of the deeply rooted negative emotions that they have about themselves so instead they build a falsified identity out of the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they accumulate from their external environment that is designed to suppress all of their negative emotions. 

A simple example of this would be a person building their sense of self out of the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they get from being a really good athlete because they can’t get the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they need to develop a realistic sense of self from their neglectful primary caregivers.

It is a really immature and inadequate form of emotional regulation that leaves the narcissist extremely fragile. This fragility and other emotional inadequacies are often tamed by their ability to get in positions of power and control. So, when they begin to lose power and control over you it will trigger all of their vulnerabilities, insecurities, and other negative emotions.

When this happens it is very common to see a narcissist act out all of their vulnerabilities, insecurities, and other negative emotions in the form of accusations. A simple example of this in a romantic narcissistic relationship would be a narcissist accusing their partner of cheating or not loving them anymore because their lack of control triggers their fear of abandonment.

a narcissist getting mad because he is losing control over his victim

Gaslighting

We spoke about this a lot in our article Why Do Narcissists Gaslight but one of the biggest reasons that a narcissist will gaslight their victim is to remain in power and control of the relationship. Remember, gaslighting in a narcissistic relationship is when the narcissist doubts or denies reality. 

They are often able to do it in such a convincing manner that victims of narcissistic abuse begin to question their own sanity and ability to conceptualize an accurate version of reality, which ultimately leads to them becoming heavily depended on the narcissist to develop a sense of self and conceptualize their own version of reality.

When a narcissist begins to lose control of their victim it is very common for them to try to use gaslighting that is designed to manipulate the victim into doubting or blaming themselves to regain the control that they lost.

Five Examples of a Narcissist Gaslighting Because They’re Losing Control Over You

  • I can’t believe that you’re going to leave me after all the time that I invested into you. 
  • You’re just running away from your problems because you’re a coward and afraid of commitment. You never really cared about me.
  • I have dedicated my entire life to raising you and your sister, the least that you could do is stick around to help me out.
  • It’s not that I don’t want you to leave, it is that I don’t think you’ll succeed in the real world. It is harsh out there and I think you’d be much better working for the family business. 
  • Nobody is ever going to love you as much as I do.  

Baiting

When a narcissist uses your vulnerabilities and insecurities to invalidate, devalue, degrade, dehumanize, and/or humiliate you in an attempt to get you to get into a confrontation with them, it is called baiting. This is a very common form of manipulation that narcissists use when they’re losing power and control over you. Baiting is a really difficult form of manipulation to defend yourself against because narcissists are really good at learning all of your vulnerabilities and insecurities through a manipulative technique called mirroring.

We cover this thoroughly in our article How Do Narcissists Use Mirroring but in a narcissistic relationship mirroring is when the narcissist absorbs an extraordinary amount of information about the victim’s identity and uses that information to create a falsified identity that is designed to fill a void in the victim’s life.

Mirroring is all about the narcissist presenting themselves as the “perfect” person for the victim to manipulate them into a false sense of security so that the victim will reveal all of their vulnerabilities and insecurities. In the moment, it can manipulate the victim into believing that they are in a happy, healthy, and secure relationship. But as time goes on the narcissist will just use the information they gathered to remain in power and control of the relationship.

When a narcissist senses that they’re losing control over you, they will use baiting to get you upset and destabilized so that they can invalidate, devalue, ridicule, degrade, and mock your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and feelings through gaslighting.

a narcissist trying to bait their victim into an argument to regain power and control

Intermittent Reinforcement

Intermittent reinforcement is the delivery of a reward at irregular intervals and it is one of the most dangerous forms of manipulation in the narcissistic realm. Narcissistic relationships are so emotionally starved that the “rewards” that the narcissist gives their victim during intermittent reinforcement are the slightest amount of empathy and compassion. 

The reason that this is so dangerous is because the “rewards” actually trigger the reward center in the victim’s brain. We covered this in detail in our article Why Do Trauma Bonds Feel like an Addiction but when the “reward” triggers the reward center in the victim’s brain, it actually floods their body with dopamine. 

Keep in mind that dopamine is the exact same neurotransmitter that is released when someone abuses a substance like opiates, alcohol, nicotine, amphetamines, or cocaine. What this does to the victim of abuse is it turns the “reward” that their abuser gives them during intermittent reinforcement into their only known source of happiness.  

It is very common for narcissists to use intermittent reinforcement when they sense that they’re losing control of their victim because if done correctly the victim will remain in the relationship indefinitely simply because they’ve developed an addiction to the “reward” that the narcissist gives them.

Intermittent reinforcement runs off the victim’s wish for things to be different. Once they let go of the wish for things to be different, intermittent reinforcement, and many other manipulative techniques that narcissists use, will lose all of their power and control over the victim.

To give you a very clear image of what intermittent reinforcement looks like in a narcissistic relationship, we’ve created a short video below with three different examples of intermittent reinforcement for you.

A Short Video With Three Examples of Intermittent Reinforcement

Rage

One of the biggest mistakes that people often make when learning about narcissistic rage is assuming that it is the same as anger or rage but just from a narcissist. The problem with this is that anger is an emotion that all humans experience from time to time. It is very normal, manageable, and accepted by society. 

Outside of life threatening situations, rage is rarely an acceptable response. It isn’t commonly seen within those who have a decent amount of healthy forms of emotional regulation, but nevertheless, it happens sometimes. 

Narcissistic rage is an entirely different animal and it often occurs on a daily basis. We mentioned this in the beginning of the article but narcissists have a ton of negative emotions suppressed within their psyche that they are too emotionally inadequate and immature to handle in a healthy way.

Instead, they create a falsified identity that is designed to suppress all of their suppressed negative emotions while simultaneously accumulating as much validation, admiration, and reassurance from their external environment as humanly possible so that the narcissist can develop a realistic sense of self.

We wrote about this a lot in our article Why Do Narcissists Go Into a Rage but when this falsified identity gets contradicted it triggers all of their suppressed negative emotions and narcissists are too emotionally inadequate and immature to use a healthy form of emotional regulation to handle them. 

In a desperate attempt to avoid having their emotional stability destroyed, a narcissist will project all of their negative emotions onto someone else through rage. Projection is a defense mechanism that occurs when we take aspects of our sense of self that we find unacceptable and place them onto someone else.

A simple example of this that we can all relate to is someone being really angry and feeling out of control in an argument with a sibling, not liking the instability that they’re feeling, and projecting it onto their sibling by claiming they are the one who is angry and acting crazy.

When it comes to someone with a narcissistic personality who is going through narcissistic rage, it is far more vengeful. When a narcissist realizes that they are losing control over you, it contradicts their falsified identity and triggers all of their negative emotions. In an emotionally immature and inadequate response, a narcissist will use rage to project all of their negative emotions onto you but also to make you feel as bad as they feel.

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 – Austrian psychoanalyst Heinz Kohut

Discarding

We spoke about this much more thoroughly in our article Why Do Narcissists Discard You but generally speaking narcissists will discard their victim to punish them for setting a boundary, to reassure their fragile sense of self that they are still in power and control of the relationship, or because they’ve found a new source of supply.

When a narcissist senses that they are losing control over you they could discard you for any one of those reasons. If they were losing control over you because you’ve started to set and maintain boundaries, the narcissist could discard you for setting a boundary with them.

If the narcissist were to start losing control over you because you weren’t engaging with them in the same way, they could discard you to reassure their fragile sense of self that they are still in power and control of the relationship. 

A simple example of this would be if you were to begin to use the grey rock method or started feeling helpless/hopeless in the relationship so you stopped trying to defend yourself, explain your side of the story in an argument, get upset when they hurt your feelings, or whatever else it may be, the narcissist would notice this and begin to get panicky because it triggers their sense of inadequacy and fear of abandonment. 

It is very common for them to use discarding to remind themselves that they are in power and control of the situation. Another possibility is that if they were to realize that they were losing power and control over you but also had another source of narcissistic supply, they could simply discard you because you’re not fulfilling their needs.

The important thing to remember about a narcissistic discard that we highlight in Why Do Narcissists Discard So Easily and What Do Narcissists Feel After the Discard is that just because the narcissist is out of your life does not mean it is permanent. Narcissists often feel entitled to remaining in power and control of you even after the relationship has ended so make sure you continue practicing setting and maintaining firm boundaries even after they are out of your life.

A victim of narcissistic abuse learning how to set boundaries

Smear Campaign

Appearances are everything for narcissists. They spend their entire lives maintaining a falsified identity that portrays them as charming, charismatic, successful, and admirable to the public so they can get as much validation, admiration, and reassurance as possible.

What this means is that victims of narcissistic abuse are often in very unique positions because they are some of the only people in the narcissist’s life that know that the narcissist is living a lie. 

Everyone sees them exactly how the narcissist wants them to see them but the victim knows that they are nothing more than an insecure, fragile, and vulnerable bully. Narcissists know that their victim has all the information that they need to expose them to others which is why they will often start a smear campaign of the victim when they sense that they are losing control over them.

A smear campaign in the narcissistic realm is when a narcissist will publicly invalidate, devalue, and degrade their victim by spreading lies and gossip about them. There are many different reasons that narcissists need to start a smear campaign of their victim that we guide you through in our article Why Do Narcissists Need Flying Monkeys but the biggest reason is to make the victim appear unbelievable. 

When a narcissist realizes that they are losing control over their victim, they realize that they are losing control over the narrative as well. This is terrifying for them so they start a smear campaign of the victim just in case the victim gets the notion to expose the narcissist to others.

If you are experiencing a smear campaign, we highly recommend that you familiarize yourself with our article How to Explain Narcissism to Others to learn how to navigate through all of the lies and confusion and we recommend that you comb through our Flying Monkeys Content Hub to learn about all of the different people you’re likely to come across during a smear campaign.

Hoovering

When a narcissist senses that they are losing control of you, it is very common for them to use hoovering to manipulate your “wish for things to be different”. Hoovering is when a narcissist says or does exactly what the victim needs to hear or see to give them another chance. 

What we mean by “wish for things to be different” is that many victims of narcissistic abuse wish that the narcissist could be someone that truly cared about them and treated them with respect. Narcissists will often exploit this wish when they sense that they are losing power and control over you through hoovering. 

They will do or say something to manipulate you into thinking that they’ve changed. It is a really dangerous form of abuse because it is a form of intermittent reinforcement, in the sense that the actual hoover can trigger your brain’s reward center and flood your body with dopamine if you believe what they are saying and let them back into your life.

The reason for this is that hoovering is essentially a variation of love bombing so it feels really good for a little while but once the narcissist realizes that they have you back under their control they will simply begin the invalidation, devaluation, dehumanization, and chaos again. We highly recommend that you read our article How to Deal With a Narcissist Who Is Hoovering to stay safe during the hoovering phase!

Self-Victimization

When a narcissist senses that they are losing control over you, it triggers all of their suppressed negative emotions. If you were to continue to maintain firm boundaries with them, meaning that you weren’t giving them any validation, admiration, and reassurance, it could be so destabilizing for them that they fall into a very vulnerable and victimized state, like a covert narcissist. 

In fact, there’s a very interesting study about this that we’ve summarized in a short video below. The study focuses on the correlation between covert narcissism and grandiose narcissism because there are many professionals who believe that covert narcissism and grandiose narcissism often exist side-by-side in the same person.

A Short Video About Covert Narcissism and Grandiose Narcissism Co-existing In the Same Person

With that being said, there are four different types of narcissistic personalities, covert, communal, malignant, and grandiose, so this study isn’t necessarily true for all narcissists but narcissism is on a continuum, a continuous sequence in which adjacent elements are not perceptibly different from each other, but the extremes are quite distinct. 

This means that narcissists who are on the extreme end of covert narcissism are clearly different from narcissists who are on the extreme end of malignant, communal, and grandiose narcissism and vice versa. However, there tends to be a lot of overlap among narcissists who display milder traits of the different narcissistic personalities.

So, it would not be unreasonable to expect the narcissist in your life to be very sullen, victimized, depressed, sad, lonely, and desperate when they realize that they’re losing control over you and they aren’t getting it back. 

It is important to remember that narcissistic abuse is ruthless so you have to be just as ruthless when it comes to protecting your emotional stability. You should not feel bad for someone who is only “sad” because they can’t control and abuse you anymore.


This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policies.

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