It would be a massive understatement to say that narcissistic relationships are chaotic. The cycle of emotional and physical abuse that narcissists go out of their way to subject their victims to is insane. 

The reason that narcissists create chaos is because the thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs that are associated with healthy relationships are deeply destabilizing for them. When they create chaos, they are trying to retreat back to their comfort zone so they can regain a sense of stability, power, and control. 

This article has all of the information that you need to understand the reason that narcissists create chaos. To start things off, we’ve created a short video (see below) the signs that the narcissist in your life is sadistic, meaning that they deriving pleasure from inflicting pain, suffering, or humiliation on others, as it may play a part in the reason that the narcissist in your life creates chaos.

A Short Video About Narcissists With Sadistic Traits

Why Do Narcissists Need to Create Chaos to Regain a Sense of Stability

In our article Do Narcissists Enjoy Intimacy and Are Narcissists Scared of Commitment we created a very detailed guide to this particular aspect of narcissism, but narcissists are terrified of the thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs that come with healthy relationships. 

This fear plays a huge part in a narcissist’s insecure need to create as much chaos as possible and the reason for this can be found in the origin story of a narcissist. It is widely believed that narcissism originates from an abusive childhood upbringing with primary caregivers who were emotionally unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent. 

Primary caregivers who are this neglectful are unable to mirror the narcissist’s thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs. This means that the narcissist never got the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they needed to develop a realistic sense of self and have a healthy cognitive development. 

The emotional neglect that narcissists received from their primary caregivers caused them to develop many powerful deeply rooted negative emotions about themselves such as a sense of inadequacy, worthlessness, shame, being unlovable, and unwanted.

This is a huge issue because their unhealthy cognitive development means that they never developed the emotional skills that are required to manage their emotions with healthy forms of emotional regulation.

To construct a sense of self and regulate their negative emotions, narcissists relied on the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they got from their external environment that their primary caregivers couldn’t and/or wouldn’t give them (e.g. a narcissistic teenager constructing his/her sense of self out of the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they get for being a really good athlete).

With a false sense of self in place, narcissist are able to suppress all of their negative emotions deep within their psyche and maintain a grandiose public persona that allows them to get a consistent flow of validation, admiration, and reassurance from their external environment so they can maintain their grandiose perception of themselves. 

A narcissistic woman taking care of her grandiose self-perception.

The false sense of self that narcissists have is their primary form of emotional regulation. In other words, it is the only thing that is suppressing the negative emotions that they have about themselves. 

Having a false sense of self is a fundamental requirement for the emotional stability of a narcissist. However, there’s a huge problem that narcissists face because of their emotionally stunted and immature approach to constructing a sense of self: it is extremely fragile. 

A narcissist’s false sense of self can be contradicted by just about anything. We highly recommend that you read our article What Makes Narcissists Angry to learn more about the contradictions narcissists face on a daily basis, but in this article we are going to focus on the correlation it has with a narcissist’s need to create chaos.

When a narcissist is in a stable environment where there are healthy boundaries, mutuality, individuality, respect, emotional intimacy, etc., it serves as a constant reminder that they are living a lie. 

They aren’t the charming, successful, innocent, honest, desirable, goodhearted, charismatic, and virtuous person that they spend every second of every day pretending to be. They are an emotionally stunted, immature, insecure, vulnerable, and abusive human being who is terrified that one day the world will label them as unlovable and abandon them. 

As we mentioned before, narcissists do not have the emotional skills required to use healthy forms of emotional regulation to handle their emotions. So, they try to create as much chaos as possible so they can project their negative emotions onto others in order to avoid contradictions to their false sense of self and regain a sense of stability.

In the next section we are going to take you step-by-step through the approach that narcissists have when they create chaos to project their emotions onto others. Projection occurs when someone takes part of their identity that they find unacceptable (e.g. with a narcissist this “part” are their negative emotions) and places them onto others.

Why Do Narcissists Create Chaos to Project Their Negative Emotions Onto Others?

A narcissist’s primary form of emotional regulation is their false sense of self, there’s no doubt about that. When a narcissist experiences something that contradicts their false sense of self (e.g. encountering someone with healthy boundaries, falling short of a goal they set, losing, being told no) it begins to deteriorate and allows all of their negative emotions to roam freely around their psyche. 

In a desperate attempt to prevent their negative emotions from compromising their emotional stability, narcissists will use narcissistic rage and/or baiting to create chaos so they can protect their emotional stability by projecting their negative emotions onto someone else. 

A victim of narcissistic abuse wondering why the narcissist in his life is causing so much chaos.

Narcissistic Rage

Narcissistic rage is an explosive, unpredictable, and unjustified response that narcissists often have when their false sense of self gets contradicted. A common misconception about narcissistic rage is that narcissistic rage is just anger from a narcissist. 

This isn’t true because anger is a normal response that everyone has from time to time. Anger might cause us to say something that we regret later on, yell at someone, refuse to connect or communicate with someone, become aggressive, or even cry. But at the end of the day, we are able to stabilize ourselves, regulate the negative emotions we have, and move on in a healthy manner. 

Narcissistic rage is not anger. It is a manifestation of the emotional stuntedness and immaturity of a narcissist. What is happening is the narcissist experiences something that injures their ego (e.g. a contradiction to their sense of self), they can’t control their emotions, so they just explode into a rage or clam up into a silent treatment. 

In a short video (see below) we’ve summarized our article What Happens During Narcissistic Rage (Survey With 100 Survivors)  so you can grasp a comprehensive understanding of narcissistic rage before moving on in this article but you can also go through our Narcissistic Rage Content Hub for a ton of information about narcissistic rage.

Narcissistic Baiting

Baiting occurs when a narcissist uses your vulnerabilities and insecurities against you to try to manipulate you into engaging in a negative confrontation that allows them to victimize themselves, portray you in a negative light, and/or project their emotional instability onto you. 

8 Things That a Narcissist Will Say to Use Baiting to Create Chaos

  • You’re never going to be special to me.
  • I wish you were never born.
  • You look so fat in that dress.
  • I think that you are too dumb to understand what I am saying.
  • You are worthless.
  • If you do that again, you’re fired.
  • You know that I have to be seen out in public with you right?
  • You are a mess, you need to take care of yourself before I leave you for good. 

Suggested Reading: How to Respond to Narcissistic Baiting

How Does Creating Chaos Help a Narcissist Project Their Negative Emotions Onto Others?

When a narcissist uses narcissistic rage, they are trying to devalue, invalidate, humiliate, degrade, and dehumanize you as much as possible. When they use baiting, they are trying to get you to engage in a negative confrontation (e.g. yelling, fighting, anger, etc.) so they can vilify you in their own mind. 

By creating chaos that is designed to make you appear “crazy” or “unstable”, narcissists are able to project their negative emotions onto you because they have someone that they can point their finger at and say “See, I’m not the vulnerable, unlovable, unwanted, self-loathing, delusional, and insecure one, they are” .

A narcissistic man projecting his emotional instability onto his wife.

Narcissists Create Chaos to Control Your Thoughts, Feeling, Emotions, Needs, Wishes, Goals, and Aspirations

In our articles Why Is It So Hard to Stop Loving a Narcissist and How Do I Stop Loving a Narcissist there’s a ton of information about this but narcissists are masterful at manipulating you into connecting your thoughts, feelings, emotions, needs, wishes, and aspirations with them. This much power and control over you makes it really easy for narcissists to create chaos.

The two most common ways that this is done is through mirroring and future faking. Mirroring occurs when a narcissist absorbs an extraordinary amount of information about your identity so they can create a falsified identity that is designed to fill a void in your life. 

Suggested Reading: How do Narcissists Use Mirroring 

A future fake in a narcissistic relationship is when a narcissist makes a false promise for the future to get what they want in the present. A verbal future fake would be if a narcissist were to promise to pay for your college tuition if you took a gap year to help with the family business but then never paid the tuition. 

A nonverbal future fake is actually the falsified identity that narcissists create to fill a void in your life. When a narcissist does this, they manipulate you into believing in a happier, healthier, and more secure future that is never going to happen. They created the falsified identity so you would drop your guard and allow them into your life. 

The combination of mirroring and future faking is chaotic because it creates an overwhelming amount of positive emotions that cloud your judgment and prevent you from setting healthy boundaries.

There’s a lot more information about this in our article How to Respond to Future Faking but these healthy boundaries could be one of the following: 

  • Having realistic expectations for the relationship.
  • Paying attention to one’s behavior, not their words when making decisions.
  • Being honest/direct about your thoughts, feelings, emotions, needs, wishes, goals, and aspirations.
  • Having a clear understanding of the reason that you are in the relationship.

As we mentioned before, the combination of mirroring and future faking is overwhelming and chaotic. Narcissists use the chaos that they create to prevent you from setting healthy boundaries. Without healthy boundaries in place, narcissists can take control of your thoughts, feelings, emotions, needs, wishes, goals, and aspirations. 

A victim of narcissistic abuse being confused about how quickly the relationship she has with the narcissist has moved.

This is extremely dangerous because with this much power and control over you, narcissists are able to manipulate you into believing that the happier, healthier, and more secure future that you want is only achievable with them by your side.

This is true for all types of narcissistic relationships, not just romantic ones. Narcissists want you to believe that they are the key that you need to become the best version of yourself. 

What Should You Take Away From This Article?

The thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs that come with healthy relationships are deeply destabilizing for a narcissist because they trigger all of their suppressed negative emotions. 

Unfortunately, they are too emotionally inadequate to manage these emotions with healthy forms of emotional regulation so they use a variety of different narcissistic behavior patterns to regulate their emotions through chaos. 

Narcissists have an extremely chaotic internal world so when their external world is chaotic as well, they feel stable, powerful, and in control. 


All of the content that Unfilteredd creates is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for clinical care — please visit here for qualified organizations and here for qualified professionals that you can reach out to for help. This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policies.

References:

Charles A. O’Reilly, Jennifer A. Chatman, Transformational Leader or Narcissist? How Grandiose Narcissists Can Create and Destroy Organizations and Institutions. California Management Review 2020, Vol. 62(3) 5–27.

Julie Longua Peterson & Tracy DeHart (2014), In Defense of Self-Love: An
Observational Study on Narcissists’ Negative Behavior During Romantic Relationship Conflict
, Self and Identity, 13:4, 477-490.