There are so many different manipulation tactics that narcissists use to control the people that they abuse and it often leaves survivors of narcissistic abuse asking themselves, “Why are narcissists so controlling?”

As a general rule, the reason that narcissists are so controlling is because being in control helps them get narcissistic supply, feel emotionally stable, and prevent themselves from experiencing narcissistic injuries.

This article is going to guide you through the three main reasons that narcissists are so controlling so that you can grasp a comprehensive understanding of a narcissist’s insufferable need for control.

Being in Control Helps Them Get Narcissistic Supply

The well-being of a narcissist is entirely dependent on the amount of narcissistic supply that they can get.

Narcissistic supply is the validation, admiration, reassurance, power, and control that narcissists get from their surrounding environment.

Why is narcissistic supply so important to a narcissist?

Well, narcissists use narcissistic supply to construct a positive self-perception so that they can suppress all of their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

You see, deep down narcissists struggle with feelings of being unlovable, unwanted, inadequate, worthless, and weak.

A narcissist with painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

But unfortunately, they are so immature emotionally that they are incapable of managing their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions through healthy forms of regulation such as therapy, self-reflection, journaling, etc.

This is where narcissistic supply comes in.

What narcissists do is they use mirroring to create a falsified identity that will get them the validation, admiration, reassurance, power, and control that they need.

In this context, mirroring refers to a narcissist’s ability to absorb information about the identity of others and use that information to create a falsified identity that gets them narcissistic supply.

A simple example of this could be a narcissistic teenager constructing a falsified identity out of the validation, admiration, reassurance, power, and control he/she gets for being popular in school.

A narcissist getting narcissistic supply.

With this falsified identity, narcissists are able to get the narcissistic supply that they need to construct a positive self-perception and suppress their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

There’s a catch though…

In order for this to work, narcissists need a consistent flow of narcissistic supply at all times.

The biggest and most consistent sources of narcissistic supply that narcissists have access to are the people that they abuse.

In order to ensure that they get enough narcissistic supply, narcissists need to manipulate the people that they abuse into prioritizing the narcissist’s well-being over their own.

A narcissist talking about getting married and the things that he needs.

A narcissist’s dependence on the consistent flow of narcissistic supply is the reason why they often are so controlling.

They don’t want you to focus on your own thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs.

They want you to devote one-hundred percent of your time to ensuring that they get enough narcissistic supply.

Recommended Articles:

Our article How Are Narcissists Made? will help you grasp a better understanding of the origin of a narcissist’s painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

Our article How Do Narcissists Use Mirroring? will give you a better understanding of the way narcissists use mirroring to get narcissistic supply and manipulate others.

Being in Control Helps Them Feel Emotionally Stable

In the previous section of this article, we mentioned that one of the ways narcissists manage their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions is by getting narcissistic supply.

Another way that they do this is through 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.

For example, a cheating wife accusing her husband of cheating instead of taking responsibility for her own actions.

A woman accusing someone of cheating.

As you may have already guessed, the painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions that narcissists have are the parts of their identity that they find unacceptable.

One of the ways that they project these painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions onto others is through abuse and manipulation.

You see, in order for the projection to work, narcissists have to destroy the self-esteem of the people that they abuse first.

Why?

Well, when a narcissist destroys someone’s self-esteem, it allows them to figuratively point their finger at that person and think to themselves, “I’m not the one who is unlovable, unwanted, inadequate, worthless, and weak, they are.”

A narcissist with painful emotions.

This is projection.

The narcissist is taking all of the painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions that they have about themselves and placing it on the people that they’re abusing and manipulating.

Being able to project their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions onto others helps narcissists feel emotionally stable.

You see, narcissists use narcissistic supply as their primary form of emotional regulation.

But unfortunately, the painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions are so powerful that narcissists are never able to get enough narcissistic supply to keep them suppressed.

Projection is one of the ways that narcissists make up for this.

Now, in order for a narcissist to be able to project their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions onto you on a regular basis, they need to have total control over your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs.

This is because they need to manipulate you into believing that you don’t have a right to protect or express your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs.

A woman asking about setting boundaries.

Doing this allows the narcissist to get you to adopt their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions as your own.

When this happens, narcissists are able to maintain a positive self-perception and keep their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions suppressed.

As you can imagine, this is incredibly helpful for their emotional stability and one of the reasons that narcissists are so controlling.

Being in Control Helps Them Protect Themselves from Narcissistic Injuries

The worst experience that a narcissist can go through are narcissistic injuries.

When a narcissist experiences a contradiction to their self-perception, it causes a narcissistic injury.

For example, narcissists have a grandiose sense of self-importance.

What is this?

A grandiose sense of self-importance is an unrealistic sense of specialness and superiority that causes an individual to truly believe that they are unique and better than others.

Now, if you were to say to a narcissist, “Stop acting like you are so special because you are not,” this would contradict their self-perception and cause a narcissistic injury.

A woman contradicting a narcissist's identity.

The reason that narcissistic injuries are so agonizing for a narcissist is because they trigger all of the painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions that they have suppressed within themselves.

When this happens, the positive self-perception that the narcissist created for themselves begins to disintegrate and they are reminded of how unlovable, unwanted, inadequate, worthless, and weak they feel.

This is an absolute nightmare for them because they do not have the emotional skills one would need to manage their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

In order to prevent narcissistic injuries from occurring, narcissists need to be in total control of their surrounding environment and everyone inside of it.

A narcissist explaining why he is so controlling.

Having this amount of control will help the narcissist control the behavior of others, and subsequently, avoid experiencing narcissistic injuries.

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References:

Williamson, Emma. “Living in the world of the domestic violence perpetrator: Negotiating the unreality of coercive control.” Violence against women 16.12 (2010): 1412-1423.

Strauchler, Orin, et al. “Humiliation, manipulation, and control: Evidence of centrality in domestic violence against an adult partner.” Journal of Family Violence 19.6 (2004): 339-346.

Solomon, Robert C.. “emotion”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 9 Nov. 2021, https://www.britannica.com/science/emotion. Accessed 20 June 2022.

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopedia. “feeling”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 3 Jan. 2012, https://www.britannica.com/science/feeling. Accessed 20 June 2022.