Narcissists lie in such a convincing manner that you’ll often find yourself feeling crazy and questioning your own perception of reality. If you were to catch a narcissist in a lie, it can be just as destabilizing as being lied to and may cause you to ruminate about the potential outcomes of confronting the narcissist in your life with the truth. 

When you confront a narcissist with the truth, they will do everything in their power to devalue and invalidate your truth with different forms of abuse (e.g. projection, narcissistic rage, stonewalling, and gaslighting) because they find the truth offensive, threatening, and unacceptable. 

This article is going to walk you through all of the different responses that a narcissist could have when confronted with the truth. In a short video (see below) we’ve summarized our article Why Are Narcissists So Controlling . The information in this video is really important to be aware of as it will help you better understand a narcissist’s reaction to being confronted with the truth.

A Short Video That Explores The Reason That Narcissists Are So Controlling

Projection

When someone unconsciously takes parts of their identity that they find unacceptable and places them onto someone else, it is a defense mechanism known as projection. Narcissists use projection as an emotional safety net to protect their emotional stability from contradictions to their false sense of self. 

It’s believed that the false sense of self that narcissists have is the product of an abusive childhood upbringing with primary caregivers who were emotionally unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent. 

This level of neglect means that the narcissist never got the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they needed to develop a realistic sense of self because their primary caregivers didn’t mirror their thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs.

This causes the narcissist to develop many negative emotions about themselves (e.g. unlovable, inadequate, unwanted, alone, self-loathing, worthless, and weak) but because of the emotional neglect, they don’t have the emotional intelligence that is required to use healthy forms of emotional regulation. 

What ends up happening is that the narcissist is forced to search their external environment for the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they need to construct a sense of self and they use the false sense of self that they construct to suppress all of their negative emotions deep within their psyche. 

You should think of a narcissistic false sense of self as their primary form of emotional regulation. A narcissist will spend every waking moment working on getting validation, admiration, and reassurance from their external environment so that they can maintain their false sense of self. 

However, when their false sense of self gets contradicted, all of their negative emotions get triggered and compromises their emotional stability. Narcissists experience contradictions all the time because of how fragile their false sense of self is. 

Just about any form of authenticity, such as confronting them with the truth, has the potential to trigger their negative emotions and compromise their emotional stability. When confronted with the truth, it is very common for narcissists to try to project their negative emotions onto you by accusing you of lying.

If they are able to invalidate your thoughts, feelings, and emotions before you have a chance to hold them accountable with the truth, they will be able to protect their false sense of self and  keep their negative emotions suppressed. 

a narcissist projection their negative emotions onto someone who confronted them with the truth

How Do Narcissists Use Narcissistic Rage to Project Their Negative Emotions Onto You?

We mentioned this earlier but narcissists are too emotionally stunted and immature to handle these negative emotions on their own. To avoid emotionally imploding on themselves, they use their false sense of self to suppress all of their negative emotions. 

If you were to contradict the false sense of self of the narcissist in your life by confronting them with the truth, it’s very possible that they could use narcissistic rage to try to project the negative emotions that they feel onto you. 

To do this they would invalidate, devalue, humiliate, degrade, and dehumanize you until they felt that they made you feel as badly as their negative emotions make them feel. Seeing you in a fragile and vulnerable state allows them to figuratively point their finger at you and think to themselves, “I’m not the weak, unlovable, inadequate, unwanted, alone, self-loathing, and worthless one, they are!” .

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 

We highly recommend that you read up on narcissistic rage because it plays a major role in the continuation of many narcissistic relationships. Our article What Happens When You Hurt a Narcissist’s Ego is a good source of information about narcissistic rage and other reactions a narcissist will have when their reality is contradicted but we also have another surprise for you!

In our article What Happens During Narcissistic Rage we conducted a study among 100 survivors of narcissistic abuse to learn about the different forms of narcissistic abuse. In a short video (see below) we’ve put together all of that information so that you can better understand the severity of narcissistic rage.

A Short Video About the Different Forms of Narcissistic Rage

Stonewalling

When a narcissist refuses to participate in the communication or connection in a relationship, it is called stonewalling. There are three main forms of stonewalling: the silent treatment, gaslighting with ultimatums, and intimacy anorexia.

As you now know, if you were to confront a narcissist with the truth, it would trigger all of their negative emotions by contradicting their false sense of self. The two most common forms of stonewalling under these circumstances are the silent treatment and gaslighting with ultimatums. 

Suggested Readings: Why Does Gaslighting Work? 119 Gaslighting Phrases, What Does Gaslighting Do to the Victim?

The Silent Treatment

The silent treatment occurs when a narcissist stops communicating with you. This could be verbally or electronically, but they make a conscious decision to stop communicating. The silent treatment allows a narcissist to invalidate and devalue your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs when confronted with the truth.

A simple example of the silent treatment that can apply to many different narcissistic relationships would be if you were to criticize a narcissist for something that they’ve done and they respond by blocking you on all social media platforms, ignoring you calls/texts, cut you out of a social group, cut you out of a collaborative project at work, etc.

Gaslighting

When a narcissist doubts and/or denies reality, it is called gaslighting. Gaslighting with ultimatums is when a narcissist denies your reality by threatening to punish you for expressing your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs (e.g. “If you don’t stop asking me about BLANK I am going to leave!”). Gaslighting with ultimatums help narcissists invalidate and devalue the truth when confronted.

Intimacy Anorexia

With intimacy anorexia things get a little more complex. Intimacy anorexia is a term pioneered by Dr. Doug Weiss, who is an internationally recognized licensed psychologist, therapist, intimacy anorexic and sex addiction expert. 

The term is used to explain why some people “actively withhold emotional, spiritual, and sexual intimacy” from a partner. In the end of this section, we’ve added a short video that outlines a survey we did among 300 survivors of narcissistic abuse to find out how common intimacy anorexia is in narcissistic relationships.

There’s a lot of really important information in that short video that explains the signs of intimacy anorexia and the connection it has with narcissistic abuse, but for now we want you to stay focused on how narcissists use this form of stonewalling in response to being confronted with the truth.

If you were to confront the narcissist in your life with the truth but also tried to coddle their emotions (e.g. “Hey I know you lied to me about who you went out with last night because I have the proof here, but I just want you to know that I still love you and understand if you don’t want to share everything with me”) it is very possible that they initiate intimacy avoidance because emotional closeness is destabilizing for them.

In our articles Are Narcissists Scared of Commitment and Do Narcissists Enjoy Intimacy, we wrote a lot about this but the thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs that come with love and healthy relationships contradict a narcissist’s sense of self and trigger their suppressed negative emotions. 

The mutuality, respect, emotional closeness, honesty, commitment, and vulnerability that is required for healthy relationships remind narcissists that behind all of their theatrics is a scared and neglected child who feels unlovable,  inadequate, weak, and fears abandonment.

If you were to confront a narcissist with the truth in a compassionate way, it is possible that they would try to avoid being intimate with you because if they were to accept that you truly care about them, it would trigger their suppressed negative emotions.

A Short Video About Intimacy Anorexia In Narcissistic Relationships

Self-Victimization

It is very common for narcissists, particularly those with a covert personality, to victimize themselves when they are confronted with the truth. This tactic is designed to make you feel guilty or ashamed for confronting them with the truth.

8 Things That a Narcissist Will Say to Victimize Themselves When Confronted With the Truth

  1. Nobody knows what I’ve been through.
  2. I’m better off on my own because you can’t rely on anyone these days.
  3. If you had believed in me, I could have had a chance.
  4. You haven’t been through as much as I have.
  5. Even though everyone is against me, I’ll show you that I have what it takes.
  6. You never really loved me, nobody ever has.
  7. It’s not my fault, I was just never shown how to love someone. 
  8. I just feel so depressed but don’t worry about me, I don’t want to ruin your mood.

What Should You Take Away From This Article?

You shouldn’t expect a narcissist to have a healthy reaction when confronted with the truth. They are going to work as hard as they can to invalidate and devalue the truth to protect their false sense of self. For narcissists the truth is offensive, threatening, and unacceptable. 

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References:

The Characteristics of Intimacy Anorexia

Keller, Peggy S., et al. “Narcissism in romantic relationships: A dyadic perspective.” Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 33.1 (2014): 25.