How Does A Narcissist React When They Can’t Control You: Top 5 Signs

When narcissists feel like they are losing control, they will go to great lengths to regain it. Discover and understand how does a narcissist react when they can’t control you anymore. This article will explore the most common behaviors seen in narcissists when the person or people they have been manipulating has finally caught on and decided to stop tolerating their behavior.

Understanding Narcissism and Narcissistic Manipulation

Narcissistic abuse is all too common. It is important to note that you could potentially have a narcissistic mother, narcissistic parent, a narcissistic ex, narcissistic friend etc. It can happen in families, romantic relationships, and even friendships. It can cause a lot of mental and emotional struggles in its victims, many of whom are intimate partners or children. 

Narcissistic people can be emotionally abusive to their intimate partners in such subtle and manipulative ways that it can take months or even years for the partner to realize. Narcissistic parents are the primary concept of authority and understanding for young children, so when there is narcissistic abuse in the home, children grow up with a distorted sense of the world and how they should relate to others.

Countless people have visited therapists and counselors seeking help to overcome the consequences of narcissistic abuse at the hands of someone they deeply trusted. As hard as it is to realize that one has been the victim of such abuse, the good news is that recovery is possible. No matter what you learned and believed about yourself under the narcissists, those things can be deconstructed and replaced with more grounded, authentic, and positive thoughts and beliefs

Throughout this article, we will explore how some narcissists react when they realize that you are not under their control anymore. First, let us better understand the narcissist and why they need so much power and control. 

What Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder

A narcissist is a term used to describe people who live with a narcissistic personality disorder. It can also be used to refer to someone who shows narcissistic tendencies. In Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), one experiences:

  • Grandiose sense of self
  • Perceived superiority over others
  • Sense of entitlement
  • Need to impress others
  • Self-admiration
  • Frustration when they do not get the attention they seek

There are varying degrees of narcissism, making it hard to pin down as a personality trait. There are pathological and malignant narcissists—people who have a narcissistic personality disorder and people who exhibit narcissistic tendencies from time to time.

how does a narcissist react when they can't control you

Some narcissists are what we call overt. These are the ones that excessively engage themselves at parties and shamelessly one-up other people to impress everybody. It is not hard to spot these people, which, in a way, makes them the least dangerous type. They do not hide who they are, and even though their personality and behavior can be obnoxious and frustrating, you already know what you are getting yourself into when you meet them.

Another narcissist is the covert type. Covert narcissists, as their name suggests, are much harder to spot. They can be more dangerous and toxic than an overt narcissist because they understand how people generally react to narcissism, so they hide it. They know that if people discover their narcissistic personality, they might not get the admiration and respect they want to get. As such, they put on an empathic mask to do their narcissistic, controlling games in the shadows. People may find themselves in long-term friendships or romantic relationships with a covert narcissist for years without realizing the extent of how much they have been manipulated and controlled.

Why Do Narcissists Need Control

Narcissists love control and are master manipulators. They want control when they do not have it and want even more when they do have it. They claim to be strong-minded, successful, even kind, and go to great lengths to preserve that self-image for themselves and constantly prove it to others. More often than not, the narcissist wants to control others’ opinions of them because they struggle with low self-esteem.

Having people that give them attention and respect helps them feel better about themselves. Even NPD’s grandiose sense of self-characteristics is a way of coping with low self-esteem. The image they portray is grandiose but can be obnoxious at times. Do not be fooled by a quiet narcissist either. Some narcissists are obnoxious, but others are covert, hiding their true selves in the shadows.

One of the reasons narcissists love the sense of control is because they feel like they do not have any deep down within themselves, which makes them incredibly uncomfortable, frightened, and confused. They often have a deep-rooted fear of abandonment and act the way they do because they do not want to be abandoned again.

Allowing others to make their own decisions and choices is too risky because one might leave the narcissist behind, which would be too painful to cope with. Perceived abandonment is often the first narcissistic injury that leads to full-blown NPD. The problem with that discomfort is that it can damage the narcissist’s sense of self when they do not have it and lash out at others. Coercion and manipulation of others become a way for the narcissists to regain control, and they chase it blindly without considering the mental and emotional wellbeing of their subjects.

One study suggests that narcissism has a tendency to control all aspects of one’s life, including the dynamic of their relationships with others, which is a means of achieving self-regulation. The narcissist feels dysregulated and knows that dysregulation can elicit desperately. At times, aggressive and health-destructive responses occur in those who experience it.

Realize that narcissists have an addiction disorder. They are strongly addicted to feeling significant. Like any addict, they will do whatever it takes to get this feeling often. That is why they are manipulative and future fakers. They promise change, but can’t deliver if it interferes with their addiction. That is why they secure back up supply.

Shannon L. Alder

How Does A Narcissist React When They Can’t Control You

Below we have outlined some of the most common behaviors narcissists exhibit when they perceive a loss of control over a situation or a person. Remember that narcissists can be overt (obvious) or covert (subtle).

Covert narcissists can be harder to spot, but their struggle to hide their fear and desperation will make them more apparent when they can no longer control a person or situation. Before we get into what they do, let us first explore what makes narcissists feel like they have lost control.

Narcissists trying to control you in a toxic relationships

Narcissistic people feel like they have lost control when the victim of their narcissistic abuse figures them out. It can take a long time to figure out a narcissist because they are skilled at deception and manipulation. Still, once you recognize their behavior, it is almost impossible to ignore it afterward. This can elicit a sense of panic in the narcissist because the source of their superior, grandiose self-image is now in jeopardy. Once the narcissist knows that you have figured them out, they will go to great lengths to regain control over you. Here are the five possible manifestations you might see from them.

1. Tantrums

Once the narcissists sense that they are losing you, they will become even more manipulative. They want to regain control so deeply that they may even fly into a narcissistic rage: screaming, yelling, and trying to frighten you into psychological submission. They make such a big deal and act so childish because dealing with such behavior is exhausting, so they want to tire you out and reduce the power you have gained by recognizing and deciding not to go against their behavior.

2. Insults and Guilt Tripping

Narcissists want to knock your confidence. If they can make you doubt yourself, they tip the scales in their favor, making them more likely to get the upper hand in an unhealthy power dynamic. Narcissists might react to their perceived loss of control over you by bringing up times that you failed, insulting your intelligence, looks, or lifestyle, and trying to make you believe that you are not good enough, not lovable, or doomed to fail. They do not believe these things. They believe the opposite to the point that deep down, they feel intimated and may even see you as a threat to their self-image.

3. Lies Often Including a Smear Campaign

Narcissists are likely to tell lies about you to others to regain control. They want to undermine you because if you bring what you now know to another person, the narcissist might lose control over that person too. They want to damage your reputation by spreading lies and rumors about you so that others will be less likely to believe you if you try to protect them from this person’s manipulative behavior.

“When a toxic person can no longer control you, they will try to control how others see you. The misinformation will feel unfair, but you stay above it, trusting that other people will eventually see the truth just like you did.”

Jill Blakeway

4. Passive-Aggression

Passive-aggressive is a form of manipulation, a skill every narcissist has honed. If they perceive that you have done something wrong, which may simply be doing some things without them, or without them knowing, they will feel hurt and betrayed. Yet their rational mind knows that they only feel hurt because, for them, living your own life without them is not fair. However, they do not want to confront the issue because they worry about what you might think about them.

Still, they feel angry, so they want to get that feeling out somehow. Instead of confronting you, they will engage in some passive-aggressive behavior. They might give you the silent treatment, intentionally give you bad advice, or offer you backhanded compliments. They want you to feel guilty for hurting them but do not want to lose face by explaining how they feel hurt.

5. Aggression and violence

In some cases, narcissists can be aggressive when they realize you cannot be manipulated by them anymore. All of their psychological tactics have failed, and now, amid a sense of panic faced due to a perceived loss of control, the only thing they have left is their physical strength. They might hit you or throw things around the room to intimidate you.

If you find yourself in this situation, the most important thing to do is remain as calm as possible and do what you need to do to ease the situation. After that, try to create physical distance between you and the narcissist and seek help. In the aftermath of an aggressive outburst, a narcissist is likely to apologize and blame their emotions and excessively apologize for not controlling themselves. Do not tolerate this behavior even if they apologize. Always ensure that your own emotional and physical health and safety come first.

How to Deal With Narcissistic Abuse When a Narcissist Loses Control

Narcissists can be hard to spot, but their true colors show when you call them out for their behavior. They also stand out when you set boundaries. When you limit your interactions with narcissists, their narcissistic supply of attention and admiration depletes, and they will not know what to do. The whole world can seem to crumble for some of them when someone cuts them off. They cannot imagine what life would be like without the positive regard of another person.

Naturally, we all want to be seen positively by those closest to us. However, those people who are not narcissistic understand that we will not always be seen as such, and sometimes, people do not want to be around us as much. Narcissists cannot handle that fact. Here are three things you can do to deal with narcissistic abuse.

how does a narcissist respond when they can't control you, narcissistic partner, lose control

1. Set boundaries

If you have got a narcissist in your life, the best thing you can do is to set boundaries. In some cases, it limits the time you spend with them or lets them know that you see their behavior as too manipulative and controlling, so you choose to walk away. In other cases, it might look like no contact at all.

2. Stand your ground

Since narcissists are skilled manipulators, they will try everything they can to change your mind about them. They will use psychological tricks and tactics to make you doubt yourself or give them another chance. If you are in a relationship with a narcissist, a long-term friend, or a parent, you know that they rarely change, no matter how many chances you give the narcissist.

As such, if you recognize narcissistic behaviors and you want to call them out for it, stand your ground. If they perceive you as wavering or easily manipulated, then they will not stop. However, if they know they cannot control you, they may back down long enough for you to make some crucial changes in your own life.

3. Seek support

Narcissists do not play fair. When they realize they can no longer control you, narcissists resort to lies, insults, tantrums, and passive-aggressive behavior. In some cases, they may even resort to physical violence and aggression. Hence, it is important to place as much distance between you and that person as possible in such cases.

You do not need to tolerate even one instance of physical aggression or physical abuse towards yourself, no matter who the perpetrator is. This behavior is a clear trait of a toxic relationship. Some situations can be complicated to leave, such as when children are involved, but figure out what you can and call in all the support you need to help you find a safer space.

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