There’s a fine line between a narcissist’s biggest fears and what they hate the most, that gets crossed frequently. A narcissist’s manipulative nature circulates around their astronomical fear of inadequacy, which is why their fears, aspirations, and things they despise overlap, but what do narcissists hate the most?

The thing that narcissists hate the most is when their fears of inadequacy are triggered by narcissistic injuries, disappointment, rejection, or even feedback and/or criticism. However, this article is going to focus on what’s probably the most universal triggers of inadequacy in the narcissistic realm, setting boundariesgray rock method, and the no contact method.

All three of the tactics I listed above are designed for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse to preserve their mental health and/or escape the narcissistic abuse cycle. They’ve been chosen for this article because each of them trigger a different aspect of a narcissist’s fear of inadequacy.

Setting Boundaries

The fundamentals of preserving one’s mental health in a narcissistic relationship is setting boundaries; it’s a person acknowledging and respecting their own limitations. Setting boundaries could manifest in a person refusing to have their reality denied by holding others accountable for their actions, or it could manifest in someone refusing to participate in sexual activities with their partner that make them uncomfortable.

Image of someone setting a boundary with a narcissist

With that being said, setting boundaries in a narcissistic relationship is very difficult because it contradicts a narcissist’s sense of specialness. When you set a boundary with a narcissist, you’re essentially drawing a psychological line in the sand, that the narcissist is prohibited from crossing.

For whatever reason it may be, entitlement, arrogance, or their manipulative nature, boundaries are a foreign concept to a narcissist. For narcissists, the concept of another person creating limitations for their behavior challenges their sense of specialness, which is deeply unsettling for them. 

How Does Setting Boundaries Trigger a Narcissist’s Fears of Inadequacy?

The fragility of a narcissist’s ego is astonishing. There are different theories about how narcissists are made, but there is no denying that they are emotionally stunted. Their emotional inadequacy causes them to prioritize the accumulation of materialistic things, over emotional stability when formulating their self-esteem.  

Because of this inadequacy, narcissists create their public image and reality based on societal norms. For example, in today’s society, a need for a social media presence, wealth, materialistic things, power, and the acceptance of stepping on others to achieve our aspirations are societal norms, some may be more commonly seen than others, but nevertheless they still exist. 

A narcissist’s self-esteem consists of these societal norms because they have an insecure need to be accepted by society. Where this becomes problematic is when they cross-paths with those who are non-narcissistic. 

Even though all of us desire to excel in one or more of the societal norms I listed above, non-narcissistic individuals don’t build their self-esteem off of societal norms to the extent that narcissists do. 

What ends up happening is that narcissists develop a very immature perception of the world, and subsequently, self-esteem. This makes them very vulnerable to everyday comments and concerns non-narcissistic people make or have. 

The reason narcissists hate other people setting boundaries is because their egos are so fragile that something as simple as having boundaries challenges their sense of specialness and triggers their fear of inadequacy.

Gray Rock Method

When a victim or survivor of narcissistic abuse refuses to share important information about themselves with a narcissist, refuses to argue, defend, or explain themselves to a narcissist, and resist baiting tactics, they are using the gray rock method.

The gray rock method is when a victim or survivor of narcissistic abuse maintains a superficial relationship with a narcissist by refusing to engage in significant conversations. 

The purpose of this tactic is to drastically reduce the amount of narcissistic supply which subconsciously encourages the narcissist to move onto another source.

Narcissistic supply is the validation, admiration, and emotional stability narcissists siphon off of other people. By using the gray rock method, victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse prohibit their abuser from using their vulnerabilities and insecurities against them, minimizing their thoughts and feelings, and even gaslighting them. 

image of someone using the gray rock method

How Does the Gray Rock Method Trigger a Narcissist’s Fear of Inadequacy? 

The gray rock method targets the very thing that helps a narcissist maintain a functional level of emotional stability, which is narcissistic supply. As I mentioned before, narcissistic supply is the validation, admiration, and emotional stability they siphon off of other people, without it, they’d be forced to address their emotional inadequacy. 

When a victim or survivor of narcissistic abuse uses the gray rock method, their narcissistic abuser will become very rageful. 

Why? 

When a narcissist isn’t able to regulate their emotions through their victim because of a significant lack of narcissistic supply, they are forced to address their emotional inadequacy, which triggers shame. 

Narcissists have an immense amount of shame suppressed within their psyche because of their upbringing, so when it’s triggered, their volatile response is unstoppable and uncontrollable. 

Because of their emotional inadequacy, they can’t regulate the intensity shame has on one’s emotional stability, so they compensate for this deficiency by throwing themselves into a rage. 

The only problem is that because rage is anger out of control, their rageful response is rarely accepted by those who witness it, which contradicts their sense of specialness and throws them back into a state of shame. 

This is known as the shame-rage spiral, as soon as the narcissist rages, they experience shame because of their response, which throws them back into a rage because of their inability to regulate their emotions in a healthy manner.  

shame-rage spiral

The No Contact Method

The no contact method is self-explanatory, it’s when a victim or survivor of narcissistic abuse cuts off all forms of communication with their abuser, annihilating a narcissist’s much needed narcissistic supply.  

As simple as it may sound, this is no easy task. Narcissistic relationships, whether it be intimate, in a family setting, at work, or a friendship, are plagued with guilt and shame from both ends.  

We already know narcissist’s have an immense amount of shame suppressed within their psyche, but we also need to understand that they also project their shame and guilt onto their victim. 

They are constantly using the victim as a scapegoat to regulate their emotions. Combine this with the pervasive environment of manipulation and isolation, and you create a victim of narcissistic abuse with low levels of self-esteem and a tendency to blame themselves for their abuser’s shortcomings.

So, when victims of narcissistic abuse acknowledge that what they are experiencing is abuse and summon the courage to leave the relationship, it’s very common for them to be extremely conflicted, even though they know that their abuser is abusive. 

“I was extremely defensive of him even though I knew some of the things he was doing were wrong.” Brie Robertson

How Does the No Contact Method Trigger a Narcissist’s Fear of Inadequacy? 

One of the most peculiar aspects of narcissism is their fear of abandonment. Many researchers believe that the origin of Narcissistic Personality Disorder can be traced back to the Attachment Theory, which suggests that people with narcissistic personalities have either anxious, dismissive avoidant, or fearful avoidant attachment styles. 

attachment styles

It sounds so strange that a narcissist, someone who avoids intimacy, has an underlying fear of abandonment, but they do. In fact, it was so strange that we decided to conduct our own study to test the Attachment Theory in a previous article, How Do Narcissists Feel When You Move On?, and this is what we found. 

Fear of Abandonment Study:

For this study, we asked 36 survivors of narcissistic abuse the following:

Some researchers believe that narcissists have an underlying fear of abandonment, caused by attachment styles along with other psychological issues. 

This belief suggests that your abuser would become extremely agitated when you’re separated and angry/distant when you’d reunite. Did you experience these behavioral patterns? If you’re unsure, read the quote below to get a better sense of what the patterns would look like. 

“The days before I’d go visit my friends without my husband, he would get so angry over the smallest things. We fought a lot but whenever we were about to be separated, it was ten times worse. 

When I came back home, he would ignore me, be passive aggressive, and start senseless arguments. I would try to fix everything by showing a ton of affection, but he would just push me away” – Cassandra 

study

The correlation between the Attachment Theory and a narcissist’s underlying fear of abandonment is undeniable. It’s for this reason that the no contact method is most certainly one of the things narcissists hate the most. 

What Should You Takeaway From This Article? 

Having to endure narcissistic abuse can be one of the most detrimental forms of abuse one can experience, if you don’t have the guidance and/or knowledge required to heal efficiently. 

Learning about the narcissistic realm is the most proactive action one could take if they wish to protect themselves from narcissists.

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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:

ATTACHMENT THEORY AND RESEARCH APPLIED TO THE CONCEPTUALIZATION AND TREATMENT OF PATHOLOGICAL NARCISSISM C. Susanne Bennett, Ph.D.1

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