The Narcissistic Rage Cycle

Hell hath no fury or contempt as a narcissist you dare to disagree with, tell they’re wrong, or embarrass.





Rage is a destructive action. It is intended to hurt, actually break someone or something. It is also blind and the attack is often against an innocent helpless person or child. We speak of a person being ‘in a blind rage,’ or being ‘blind with rage.’  Rage is also explosive, which means that it cannot be easily steered once it blows. Rage develops when a person feels that his power is thwarted or frustrated. In rage, memory is laid down differently. For all these reasons, rage is often called dissociative rage.

Rage works by short-circuiting the experience of shame that is, the feeling of being inferior or not enough, or not good enough. Rage can be contrasted to a healing and universal experience and emotion: anger. Rage can be thought of as a kernel of anger distorted by internalized shame.

While any rage is very damaging in relationships, unless rage is truly rare, it tends to develop into a pattern or cycle. This has been called the “cycle of violence” the “cycle of abuse,” or the “rage cycle” The most visible part of the rage cycle is the outburst, which may include verbal violence, physical violence, addictive behavior, or dramatic exits. An outburst can occur several times a day, or every few months. The outburst is followed by a period when the primary aggressor’s arousal is low and they may act kindly or remorseful. This is sometimes called the honeymoon period. The desire for control remains however.

A tell-tale sign that rage is serving the purpose of power and control is that the primary aggressor is unwilling to discuss the outburst later in any meaningful or honest way. Apologies don’t count. Fairly soon, the raging person’s expectations are not met and the tension phase starts. Tension further distorts perception, and routine events or small frustrations are seen as large offenses by the raging person and an outburst results

In an episode of rage, the flight or fight system is strongly activated. This makes everyone around the raging person to be perceived and then treated as a threat or an enemy. In this distorted perception, it makes no sense to be fair or accountable to ‘enemies.’ That means that even if irresponsibility does not fit with the primary aggressor’s own self-image, a frequently raging person will by definition be irresponsible. Others will stop asking anything that ‘sets off’ the primary aggressor. This becomes an additional reinforcement, and frequently, any request to be accountable sets off an episode.

Survivors that are in relationship with a raging person feel the effects of the rage all the time because they are walking on eggshells trying to prevent an outburst. The primary aggressor, on the other hand, after an episode both tends to feel better, and to quickly develop ‘amnesia’ about what happened.

Other characteristic traits of such narcissists** (and this also applies to the female variety) include:

  • Control freaks
  • Irritability
  • Short fuses
  • Low frustration tolerance
  • Argumentative
  • Need to have the last word
  • Unable to lose
  • Won’t take “No” for an answer
  • Quick to anger if you don’t accommodate them
  • Quick to being aggressively defensive if you call them on any deficiency, fault or responsibility
  • Can’t apologize or if do, can’t do it sincerely
  • Rarely say, “Thank you” or “Congratulations”
  • Don’t feel or demonstrate remorse
  • Feel entitled to enthusiastic and appreciative approval, adoration, agreement and obedience
  • Gloat in victory, sullen in defeat
  • Quick to rage if you humiliate them


What is the connection between narcissism and rage?

There is a saying that when you’re a hammer the world looks like a nail.  When you’re a narcissist, the world looks like it should approve, adore, agree and obey you. Anything less than that feels like an assault and because of that a narcissist feels justified in raging back at it.

What is at the core of narcissists is not what is often referred to as low self esteem.  I don’t think that is accurate, but something that the people around them say to themselves to mollify their own rage at the narcissist, i.e. “Oh, they only act that way, because they lack self-esteem.”

What is really at the core of narcissists is an instability in their ability to feel and sustain feeling bigger, larger, smarter and more successful than everyone else which they need to feel stable.  And just as Hamlet’s mother said, “the lady doth protest too much,” “the narcissist doth brag, scorn, talk down, primp and belittle too much” in order to continually prove to the world and themselves that they are larger than life.  This is not to increase their self-esteem as much as it is to continually spackle the holes in their core that lead to a feeling of instability—and that, if not spackled, will lead to brittleness followed by fragmentation.

Narcissistic rage occurs when that core instability is threatened and furthermore threatened to destabilize them even further.  Not unlike a wounded animal being the most vicious (because they think the next wound would kill them), narcissistic rage occurs when narcissists believe the next insult/assault to their grandiose based stability would shatter them.

In essence the reason narcissists are so self-centered is that their grandiosity based center needs to be constantly reinforced to remain stable.


Posted on April 7, 2014, in Narcissism. Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. Jana Barrington

    I have somehow managed to live with one for over 30 years. He has completely and utterly destroyed my soul causing me to pray for death so tube torment will stop. Nothing works

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Anonymous and wounded.

    This behavioral pattern is from what I’ve read is mostly men. I am here to witness that is simply not the case. Women are affected as well and I have a ton of stories that I’ve been through to share. It’s horrible and all my fault.


  3. I have been married 17 years. I have went through alot. His mother died in 2014, three months later, I woke up with broke nose,three months later went to ER with fractured breast plate, Six months later I get my nose broke again. When his mom died he snapped and he never got along with her, EVER Been walking on eggshells since. Won’t let me work. Never gives me more than $10 to spend. Alienated ALL my family nine years ago. I can’t have friends. He has the cops thinking I’m the abusive one. After each incident he has beaten his self up(cigg burns, cuts his chest cuts his forehead so it will bleed, tells everyone I attacked him. He has told people I was dead,etc. I have a bad reputation without leaving our home. I’m sneaking now to research on cell phone, then deleting history..Contact numbers in phone have been edited. I might as well be in jail or dead. Actually I am dead because he has my mind so meat up that I need long term help.cant get any worse,WRONG he’s eating kaladapins, and shooting Cocaine and eating Subutex. I’m only writing this to get it off my chest .I don’t have anyone or any place to go. I feel sure I will be dead before or 20th anniversary. I only wish I could see my son again. I haven’t seen him in nine years. My son was nine the last time I saw him I don’t know my on son, and I have no hope too. I’m a good person with no way out!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The naccissist rage; seeing a rage in full action was like seeing a alien come out
    of a body. So frightening left me having
    Flashbacks for days. I was blamed for the rage of course: usual projection tactic. This was the 3rd rage I had seen which led me to flea 250 miles away for my sanity. Filed for a divorce soon to be my ex. I ran as I knew the physical violence would start.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I have been in this position my husband was exactly this and now that he left and does come around I am so much better because I’m am being healed


  6. I’m married to a narcissist who is also diagnosed with Bipolar mood disorder. it is challenging because I don’t know what I’m dealing with half of the time. I married him knowing about the mental challenges but it is so draining dealing with the narc stuff. I feel more like his caregiver, babysitter or mother more than his wife. Because we are married with a daughter, it presents other issues. I’ve become very withdrawn. Things are to the point where I am seriously considering divorce.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Is there a way to print these articles?


  8. What surprises me is the few narcissists I know are the ones who try to lay the blame of the narcissist on someone else!!! Seriously, sometimes they need to look in the mirror and see that it is them! I am a female in a relationship with a man who has been the victim of a narcissist. He is a strong confident man but I see him WILT when she starts her Narcissistic behavior. Gaslighting! Hoovering! Belittleing, Laying blame for her own actions. She is not only the Narcissist but also the one that cheated in their marriage! And she tries to convince not only him but the world that he is at fault. She is on a mission to make him out to be this MONSTER! Sometimes I feel like the one with RAGE issues because it infuriates me that he still lets her get in his head. I thought at some point my voice would ring more loudly than hers. But I’m not sure that will ever happen.


  9. I was married to one for 6 yrs and it drove me insane. Trying to please him all the time and hoping that love and care would help him change from that bitter negative person that he is to a normal person> i tried and tried. I failed and it got worse. I can’t even put to words what I have gone through. I was isolated, abused physically, mentally and emotionally. It got to such a point that I either had to leave or get killed or go insane. It’s been 3 weeks now. I am in NO contact and in hiding. He’s tried everything to get in touch and write emails. I have blocked my emails now as he writes about how he is suffering and in pain because of what I did to the point of dramatic (says my friends who read the emails). There is no concern for me or regret for what he has done. I am scared but I am also enjoying the peace.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Every narcissistic rage should be followed by a “worldstar!’ and a category rating. A cat fiver gets the narc a three course meal in Chinatown and an uploading to YouTube.

    They’ll probably like it.


  11. rich mancini

    I’ve never been around this b4 and I met this amazing woman but she’s been through so much she doesn’t realise how amazing she is I feel helpless with her road to recovery and there are times when it can be very challenging for me because at times a feel I’m judge for the others actions I’m not going to give up but I would love some help to learn more to be there for her to get through this


  12. I have a nineteen year old granddaughter whom I love, with all my heart. However due to her narcisstic behavior toward me I am unable to continue a positive relationship with her. This is truly heartbreaking thing for me to deal with. Have to keep telling myself that it’s not her fault, it’s a mental condition that exists unfortunately, one that I cannot change. Now I know I have to practice tough love, when dealing with her. Now I know what I’m dealing with.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’m wondering if there is some reverse cycology that can be used and or medication to help the Narcissist to balance ones self out? I’m married to one and it is driving (ME) insane!


    • No to everything – the answer is to clear off and leave them to it. Mind you, it will all be your fault, you will be the worst person in the world and they the victim. BUT you will be free and hopefully still have a shred of self-confidence and self worth left.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with Hazel. I got out and still cared while he dug himself a pit of self pity and despair. Now I have to remove him from the lives of my children completely. Make a clean break. Maybe someday, someone can help him, but getting out soon is highly suggested. Look up Patricia Evans. I called her directly. She helped me immensely!


  14. Thanks for this! I’ve just ended a friendship with somebody who was a narcissist. It took me a couple of years to truly realise it and then I questioned myself. But it never felt right and quite frankly I was tired of listening to them put down everyone who they worked with and all of their other friends as I felt drained after what became a friendship of listening only to them. It’s interesting how it increases over time. They can be very generous financially but don’t let them be as they will make you feel like the worst person in the world later for accepting their gifts.

    The friendship could not just ‘fade out’ as I had hoped, but I had to openly say that I am choosing to focus on friendships that feel right for me and that are more balanced and that I felt grateful for the friendship we had in the past etc. Following this, I experienced a tirade of abusive texts, a total character assassination. But the strange thing is, it was all just angry projection as everything they said was a characteristic that they have. Funny that!

    We have the right at all times to move on from toxic relationships. People who love and accept themselves will love and accept you and listen to what you have to say and see the best in you, celebrate your success with you. My advice with narcissists, once recognised, is to move on as quickly as possible, apply the no contact rule and don’t look back!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Good article, thanks! Interesting about the low self esteem thing – I can clearly see what you mean – very interesting and insightful! Thanks.


  1. Pingback: The Narcissistic Rage Cycle by ANA – Signs of a Gay Husband by Debra Sutton

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