A question that many people who are experiencing narcissistic abuse have is, “What happens when you hurt a narcissist’s ego?”
When you hurt a narcissist’s ego it causes a narcissistic injury. When a narcissist experiences a narcissistic injury, they typically respond with manipulation tactics such as narcissistic rage, projection, the silent treatment, gaslighting, or triangulation.
This article is a thorough exploration of all of the different responses that narcissists typically have when someone hurts their ego.
They Go Into a Narcissistic Rage
The first thing that could happen when you hurt a narcissist’s ego is that they go into a narcissistic rage.
Unfortunately, narcissistic rage is a very common response that narcissists have to narcissistic injuries.
If you didn’t know already, the term “narcissistic rage” is often used to describe an aggressive and destructive response that manifests in the form of physical abuse, psychological abuse, and sometimes even sexual abuse.
Suggested Reading: Why Do Narcissists Go Into a Rage?
Now, it is very important to note that narcissistic rage is not anger.
Anger is a normal and healthy emotional response to perceived threats or injustices.
It is typically directed at a specific situation or person, and can be expressed in a variety of ways, from mild irritation to intense frustration.
Narcissistic rage is an exaggerated and pathological response that is rooted in the narcissist’s grandiose sense of self-importance and need for control.
Here’s an example of narcissistic rage being triggered by a hurt ego:
Jane is a narcissistic woman who has a strong sense of entitlement.
Over the years she has become accustomed to getting attention and admiration from the people around her, and is highly sensitive to any perceived threats to her ego.
One day, Jane invites a group of her friends to a dinner party.
During the party her friend named Mike innocently makes a joke about one of her prized possessions.
Although it was intended as a harmless joke, Jane takes it as a personal insult and as a threat to her ego.
Because of this, Jane explodes at Mike, shouting and berating him in front of the entire dinner party.
She accuses him of trying to belittle her and hurt her feelings, and makes it clear that he is no longer welcome in her home.
This is narcissistic rage.
They Use Projection to Protect Their Ego from Further Harm
The second thing that could happen when you hurt a narcissist’s ego is that they try to protect their ego from further harm with projection.
Projection is a defense mechanism that occurs when someone takes a part of their identity that they find unacceptable and places it onto someone else.
Suggested Reading: 7 Reasons Why Narcissists Use Projection
Here’s an example of a narcissist using projection to protect their ego:
John is a narcissistic man who works for a shipping company.
One day, John’s coworker Sarah calls him out for not meeting a deadline for an important project the two of them were working on.
Although Sarah’s feedback is meant to be constructive, John takes it as a personal attack on his abilities and competence.
In an attempt to protect his ego, John lashes out at Sarah, accusing her of being unprofessional and unreliable.
He projects his own shortcomings onto her by claiming that she is the one who is holding up the project and causing delays.
They Become Emotionally Distant and Give You the Silent Treatment
The third thing that could happen when you hurt a narcissist’s ego is that they could become emotionally distant and give you the silent treatment.
Silent treatment is the refusal to communicate verbally and electronically with someone who is trying to communicate and elicit a response.
Here’s an example of a narcissist giving someone the silent treatment because they hurt their ego:
Julie is a highly narcissistic woman who values her image and reputation above all else.
One day, Julie’s boyfriend, Ben, calls her out for being selfish and inconsiderate.
Now, Ben isn’t trying to attack her.
He is just trying to call her out on her behavior so she can fix it before it destroys their relationship.
But unfortunately, Julie takes it as a direct attack on her character.
Feeling hurt and defensive, Julie responds by giving Ben the silent treatment.
She refuses to communicate with him, ignores his calls and texts and avoids all interactions with him.
While this may seem harmless, the silent treatment is actually a form of emotional abuse and Julie is using it to punish Ben for hurting her ego.
By withdrawing her attention and affection, Julie is exerting control and trying to force Ben to apologize for the comment that he made.
Suggested Reading: How to Respond to a Narcissist’s Silent Treatment (3 Methods)
They Use Blame-Shifting to Gaslight You
The fourth thing that could happen when you hurt a narcissist’s ego is they could gaslight you with blame-shifting.
Gaslighting is a manipulation tactic that narcissists use to get you to question your memories, sanity, and perception of reality.
It occurs when a narcissist says or does something that doubts reality.
When it comes to trying to spot gaslighting, blame-shifting is one of the biggest warning signs of gaslighting that you should be on the lookout for.
Blame-shifting occurs when someone deflects responsibility for their actions or behaviors onto someone else.
This can manifest in the form of denying any wrongdoing, rationalizing or minimizing their actions, or attributing the blame to someone or something else.
Here’s an example of a narcissist using blame-shifting to gaslight you because you hurt their ego:
Tom is a narcissist.
One day his sister calls him out for being narcissistic.
His sister loves him so much and is telling him because she wants him to go to a therapist who can help him change.
Despite her good intentions, Tom takes it as a direct attack on his character.
Tom responds by using blame-shifting to gaslight Sarah.
He begins to blame her for all the problems in their relationship and goes on to claim that she is overreacting and being too emotional.
He ends the conversation by suggesting that she is the one who needs to change her behavior if they are to have a healthy relationship moving forward.
Tom’s use of blame-shifting is a form of gaslighting that is meant to deflect responsibility, avoid feeling embarrassed and/or ashamed, and to protect his ego.
They Try to Discredit You With Triangulation
The fifth thing that could happen when you hurt a narcissist’s ego is the narcissist could try to discredit you with triangulation.
What is triangulation?
It is a manipulation tactic that occurs when someone turns a one-on-one situation into a two-on-one situation by involving a third party.
Suggested Reading: 6 Examples of Triangulation In Narcissistic Relationships
The purpose of triangulation is to create a power imbalance so the person involving a third party can dominate the situation.
Here’s an example of a narcissist using triangulation to discredit someone who hurt their ego:
Samantha is a successful businesswoman and a narcissist.
One day, her assistant, Mark, challenged her in a meeting by pointing out some flaws in her plan.
This hurt Samantha’s ego.
To discredit Mark and protect her ego, Samantha decided to use triangulation by summoning her friend to her office to talk about Mark’s behavior.
She told her friend that Mark didn’t have the company’s best interests in mind and asked her friend to speak to Mark for her.
Later on, Samantha’s friend pulled Mark aside and said, “Hey are you jealous of Samantha or something? I ask because what you said during the meeting was so aggressive and not true. Do you want to make her look bad or something?”
This is triangulation and it made Mark feel like he was wrong for calling out the flaws in Samantha’s plan.
What Should You Take Away from This Article?
If you were to hurt a narcissist’s ego, it would cause them to experience a narcissistic injury. When a narcissist experiences a narcissistic injury, they typically respond with manipulation tactics such as narcissistic rage, projection, the silent treatment, gaslighting, or triangulation.
About the Author
Hey, I’m Elijah.
I experienced narcissistic abuse for three years.
I create these articles to help you understand and validate your experiences.
Thank you for reading, and remember, healing is possible even when it feels impossible.
Green, Ava, and Kathy Charles. “Voicing the Victims of Narcissistic Partners: A Qualitative Analysis of Responses to Narcissistic Injury and Self-Esteem Regulation.” SAGE Open, Apr. 2019
Goldberg, Arnold. “Psychotherapy of narcissistic injuries.” Archives of general psychiatry 28.5 (1973): 722-726.
Miller, Susan B. “Humiliation and shame: Comparing two affect states as indicators of narcissistic stress.” Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic 52.1 (1988): 40.