Narcissists dedicate an extraordinary amount of time to isolating their victim by maintaining a falsified identity that portrays them as charming, admirable, and virtuous to society. Narcissists are so good at this that the abuse their victims experience often goes unnoticed by those on the outside of the abusive relationship. Sadly, this often means that victims of narcissistic abuse have to learn how to expose the narcissist in their lives by themselves.

In a survey among three-hundred survivors of narcissistic abuse who exposed the narcissist in their lives, we found the four most common responses that narcissists have to being exposed to others are self-victimization, gaslighting, narcissistic rage, and discarding.

When it comes to narcissistic abuse, knowledge is always going to be your greatest defense. This article is going to guide you through the different reactions a narcissist will have to being exposed to others so that you can protect yourself from further abuse.

A Narcissist Will Victimize Themselves When They’re Exposed to Others

It’s common for a narcissist to create a self-victimizing narrative where they’ve suffered a terrible loss, were oppressed by someone or something, or falsely persecuted, in an attempt to justify, rationalize, and normalize their abusive behavior. 

The purpose of self-victimization is to garner the sympathy, attention, and pity of others and is usually used by covert, also known as vulnerable, narcissists. Covert narcissists are insecure, resentful, possess a lot of shame, and are hypersensitive to criticism. They are so sullen, antisocial, and lonely that they often come off as depressed.

A narcissist’s desire to victimize themselves stems from their inability to accumulate the validation, admiration, and reassurance of others which is also known as narcissistic supply. You see, narcissists determine their own self-worth out of their ability to accumulate narcissistic supply which often manifests in the form of status, power, wealth, appearances, and so on.

When they’re in a position where they can’t accumulate narcissistic supply it is very common for them to shift the goalposts in an attempt to use self-victimization to get the validation, admiration, and reassurance of others.

A Narcissist Will Try to Invalidate the Person Who Exposed Them Through Gaslighting

Gaslighting in a narcissistic relationship is when a narcissist will deny reality so frequently that their victim begins to question their own sanity and feels incapable of conceptualizing their own version of reality accurately. 

In our article 6 Powerful Examples of Gaslighting in Narcissistic Relationships we cover this much more thoroughly but gaslighting can manifest in nearly every single narcissistic behavior patterns imaginable and there are six different types of gaslighting that victims of narcissistic abuse are likely to experience as well. 

The complexity of a narcissist’s tendency to gaslight in the face of exposure is actually quite interesting. Their approach can’t be the traditional forms of gaslighting which is simply just denial with statements like “I didn’t do that, you never saw me do anything!”

The reason being that when they’re exposed it means that the victim has been able to convince others that they are telling the truth. Under these circumstances the narcissist has two options. First, they can project the blame onto others by somewhat victimizing themselves. Second, they can appear to take responsibility for their actions to contradict the narrative that the victim has given others to expose them. 

A simple example of a narcissist victimizing themselves to project the blame onto others would be a narcissist justifying cheating on their partner by claiming that they did it because their partner wasn’t there for them. A simple example of narcissist taking responsibility for their actions to contradict the narrative that the victim has given others to expose them can actually be found in the free book of registered psychotherapist and trauma recovery specialist Heather Kent:

Mike showed up unannounced to my parents’ house with a thoughtful gift that he made chronicling our time together. He put on an amazing display in front of my entire family. This was the performance of his life. He talked about how he had gone to therapy for his mistakes. He detailed how he had worked hard to change his habits, and he told us that he could not imagine a life without me, and on and on. There were tears, and his grand gestures succeeded in winning me over. Perhaps of even more importance to him, he succeeded in winning my family over as well.” Heather Kent, Registered Psychotherapist & Trauma Recovery Specialist In Her Book Heal from Your Narcissist Ex: The Ultimate Guide to Finding Safety and Sanity

Taking responsibility for one’s actions is a very sophisticated form of manipulation that contradicts what we as a society know about narcissists but nevertheless it is a very common technique we saw used when reading the answers of the three-hundred victims of narcissistic abuse who participated in this survey.

A Narcissist Will Go Into a Narcissistic Rage When They’re Exposed to Others

We spoke about this much more thoroughly in our article How Are Narcissists Made but narcissists are incredibly emotionally inadequate. It’s believed that narcissists are created by an unhealthy/abusive childhood with unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent primary caregivers. 

Because they had neglectful primary caregivers, narcissists weren’t able to have their thoughts, feelings, needs, and emotions mirrored by their primary caregivers as a child, which means that they couldn’t develop a realistic sense of self. 

Simply put, parental mirroring is when a primary caregiver will reflect or “mirror” their child’s emotions which gives them the validation, admiration, and reassurance they need to develop a realistic sense of self. Unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent primary caregivers do not do this.

Their neglect leaves the narcissist with a ton of negative emotions, like shame and hate, about themselves and an inability to regulate them. What ends up happening is the narcissist develops a falsified identity that is designed to suppress and hide all of their negative emotions from both themselves and others while simultaneously accumulating the validation, admiration, and reassurance from their external world that their primary caregivers couldn’t give them.

This level of emotional neglect, mal-adaptive behaviors, and emotional inadequacy leaves the narcissist’s falsified identity incredibly fragile. When a narcissist experiences something that contradicts their falsified identity that often portrays them as admirable, charming, and virtuous, they often go into a narcissistic rage. 

The reason being that contradictions to their falsified identity trigger their suppressed negative emotions which causes a lot of psychological tension that they attempt to regulate by projecting the negative emotions onto others through narcissistic rage. So, it is very common for narcissists to go into a public narcissistic rage or a rage behind closed doors when you expose them to others!

A Narcissist Will Discard The Person Who Exposed Them to Others 

Discarding is a very common form of abuse to see in narcissistic relationships and it is pretty self explanatory. It is simply when a narcissist will discard, break up with, divorce, or abandon their victim. As straightforward as it may seem there’s actually a lot that goes into discarding from a narcissistic perspective. We spoke about this in our article Why Do Narcissists Discard You much more thoroughly  but there are a few different reasons that a narcissist will discard their victim.

First, a narcissist will discard their victim to punish them for setting a boundary. Second, they will discard their victim to reassure their fragile sense of self by proving that they’re still in power and control of the relationship. Third, a narcissist will discard their victim because they’ve found a new source of narcissistic supply.

With that being said, it is very common for narcissists to discard their victim when they’ve been exposed to others but the reason why remains relatively unclear. If you were to expose a narcissist to others, you’d technically be setting a very firm boundary because you’re making it clear that their behavior isn’t acceptable. 

Exposing a narcissist to others would definitely damage their fragile sense of self which would push them to discard you because they want to regain power and control in the relationship. Last, but certainly not least, narcissists are well known for having other sources of supply regardless if they are “committed” to a relationship or not. 

If you were to expose a narcissist to others this could cause them to discard you simply because you’re not a viable source of narcissistic supply which is validation, admiration, and reassurance.

What Should You Take Away From This Article?

Exposure contradicts a narcissist’s falsified identity and triggers all of their suppressed negative emotions.

Narcissists are so emotionally inadequate that they’re incapable of regulating all of their suppressed negative emotions so they attempt to project them onto others through narcissistic rage, discarding, gaslighting, self-victimization, and many other narcissistic behavior patterns. Being aware of the different ways that a narcissist projects the blame onto others is a fantastic way to help protect yourself from narcissistic abuse.

We’re Here to Help You Heal from Narcissistic Abuse

Join Our Free Community

“This community has saved my life. I don’t feel alone or crazy anymore. I feel supported and understood.”Meredith H.

  • Supportive Online Community: Connect with others who understand what you’re going through.
  • Insights on Narcissism & Narcissistic Abuse: Learn more about what you’ve experienced with our easy-to-follow guides.
  • Therapist-Led Healing Courses: Join courses led by therapists who know how to help you heal.
  • Reflective Journaling Prompts: Use our guided prompts to process your thoughts and feelings at your own pace.
  • Therapist-Led Live Q&A Sessions: Get your questions answered by therapists who care.

This community has helped me heal. It sheds light on the truth of what goes on in narcissistic relationships.” – Elizabeth S.


This information is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for clinical care. Please consult a healthcare provider for guidance specific to your case. This article discusses narcissism in general.