Before we dive into what happens when you confront a narcissist, let’s take a moment to get a comprehensive grasp on the significance of this situation. A narcissistic lie is not the same as a lie you’d expect from a non-narcissistic person. It’s often backed with months, years, even decades of narcissistic abuse that’s designed to destroy your confidence and erode your emotional stability.
When you confront a narcissist it means that on some level you’ve been able to acknowledge that what you’re experiencing is abuse, which is undeniably one of the biggest milestones you can reach on your healing journey.
Whether you’re ready to leave the narcissist in your life or living with them because leaving isn’t an option at the moment, acknowledging that what you’re experiencing is abuse requires you to let go of the wish for things to be different, and that is not an easy task.
It is very likely that at one point you were exhausting yourself trying to find a solution for the problems in your relationship. You may have truly wanted them to be the partner you could’ve built a future with, the friend whom you share an unbreakable bond with, the beloved family member or healthy co-worker.
As significant as a moment it is, confronting the narcissist in your life is rarely a good response to their behavior for three different reasons.
As a general rule, you can expect narcissistic rage, gaslighting and projection when you confront the narcissist in your life because by confronting them, you contradict their identity and expose all of the negative thoughts, feelings, and emotions that they’ve worked so hard to hide.
A Further Look Into the Three Things You Can Expect When Confronting a Narcissist
In the previous article of this series on lying in the narcissistic realm, How Can You Tell When a Narcissist Is Lying, I briefly mentioned that narcissists desperately need their lies to be true. We are going to dive a bit deeper into my statement so you have a really good understanding of why narcissistic rage, gaslighting, and projection are all things you should expect when confronting a narcissist.
There are many different theories behind the origins of those with narcissistic personalities that you can find at How Are Narcissists Made, but for this article we are going to focus on the emotional immaturity narcissists develop from growing up in an unhealthy/abusive environment.
Growing up with primary caregivers who are unavailable, inconsistent, neglectful, and unresponsive is very damaging for a child’s cognitive development. Obviously, not every child who grows up in an unhealthy/abusive environment goes on to be a narcissist. But for those who do, it causes a tremendous amount of emotional inadequacy.
Again, a lot of people have these struggles, but it doesn’t mean they go on to be narcissists so, what makes narcissists so different?
Their need to be accepted, validated, admired, and reassured by society. There isn’t a lot of validation, admiration, acceptance, or reassurance when you grow up in an unhealthy/abusive environment.
As those with narcissistic personalities get older, their attention shifts from their unavailable, inconsistent, neglectful, and unresponsive primary caregivers to society.
Because of their emotional immaturity, they’re very impressionable, which is quite problematic in their pursuit for society’s acceptance, validation, admiration, and reassurance. This is the exact reason why they tend to gravitate towards social media, money, appearances, sex, and positions of power/control.
It is what we value most as a society!
Obviously this is a very generalized description of society’s values, but there is no denying that social media, money, control, power, sex, and appearances play a huge role in every day decision making throughout most societies worldwide.
What does all of this mean?
Here we have a narcissist relentlessly trying to swap their insecure, vulnerable, self-loathing and emotionally inadequate identity out with an identity that they believe will be accepted by society.
Meaning that all of the things they accumulate to “impress” society becomes their identity. By confronting a narcissist you are contradicting their falsified identity and subsequently reminding them of their insecurities, vulnerabilities, fears, and inadequacies.
The level of shame that comes from having their identity contradicted is crippling. In an immature attempt to regulate their suppressed negative emotions, narcissists rely on narcissistic behavior patterns like narcissistic rage, gaslighting, and projection.
Just to make sure we are on the same page, narcissistic rage is not the same thing as rage or anger.
Anger is a normal emotion that everyone has. We can say and do hurtful things when we are angry, but at the end of the day, non-narcissistic people can apologize, acknowledge that they were in the wrong, and make amends.
The only time rage is a justifiable response is when something happens along the lines of your life, or the life of those you love being threatened.
Narcissistic rage is terrifying, explosive, unpredictable, and unjustifiable. What differentiates narcissistic rage from rage and anger is the fact that it is triggered by a narcissist’s fragile ego.
Because confronting a narcissist is contradicting their identity, they experience a narcissistic injury (ego injury). In a vengeful rage, they often throw themselves into a narcissistic rage to make whomever caused the narcissistic injury feel as bad as they did when their identity was contradicted.
With that being said, narcissistic rage isn’t always explosive. It can actually manifest in a very passive aggressive manner called the silent treatment. The silent treatment is self-explanatory. It is when a narcissist will simply stop speaking to you.
Narcissistic rage is a manifestation of their inability to regulate their own emotions. When faced with something that contradicts their identity, they either throw themselves into a terrifying rage, or completely shut down by refusing to communicate.
The versatility of gaslighting is precisely what makes it the most devastating manipulative behavior pattern in the narcissistic realm. The purpose of gaslighting is to force you into abandoning your version of reality and accepting the narcissist’s version of reality.
To do this a narcissist will doubt and/or deny your ability, identity, and reality so frequently that you begin to do the same. There are just so many different ways gaslighting can manifest that when it is combined with the other aspects of narcissistic abuse, it is detrimental to your well-being.
The other tricky part about gaslighting is that on top of all the different manipulative behaviors that it can manifest in, there are six different types of it. You can learn all about them in How to Deal With Gaslighting, but the point is that narcissists are more than capable of manipulating the confrontation into their favor.
If you want to have a comprehensive grasp of narcissistic abuse, understanding projection is a great place to start, so be sure to go check out Why Do Narcissists Projection when you have time. Projection occurs when you unconsciously take the parts of your identity that you despise, and place them onto someone else.
Projection is a defense mechanism that everyone uses at some point in their lives. It is completely normal. However, the reason it is associated with narcissism is because narcissists over rely on it.
It is really important to remember that projection is an unconscious defense mechanism that narcissists use. In other words, trying to defend yourself from the accusations that come with projection is absolutely useless.
On the bright side, projection gives you a unique opportunity to stay one step ahead of the narcissist in your life.
Projection allows a narcissist to expel all of their vulnerabilities and insecurities from their psyche. While projection plays a huge role in a narcissist’s maintenance of their falsified identity, it also allows you to see what they’re up to.
Keep in mind that there are rarely absolutes when it comes to the narcissistic realm, but instead of getting defensive when a narcissist uses projection on you, take a step back and hear what they are saying.
There’s a very good chance that they are actually telling what they’re up to, guilty about, ashamed about, or scared of.
What Should You Take Away From This Article?
For many, the concept of being able to call a narcissist out on their abusive behavior is very therapeutic. After months, years, and even decades of being oppressed by narcissistic abuse, seeking justice is a very normal desire.
However, don’t lose yourself in the pursuit of justice.
While there are a handful of self-proclaimed narcissists out there who’ve acknowledged that their behavior is wrong, the chances of the narcissist in your life apologizing for whatever you’ve confronted them with is beyond rare.
It would require them to contradict their own identity, something that their entire existence circulates around.
Instead of exhausting yourself looking for the “why”, you should take this time to practice setting boundaries and the gray rock method. The best way to stick it to a narcissist is to take away their narcissistic supply.
Narcissistic supply is the validation, admiration, reassurance, acceptance, chaos, and emotional stability that narcissists receive from others through their behavior patterns. Driving yourself insane looking for the “why” or an apology does nothing but supply the narcissist in your life with more supply.
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