A Universal Reaction to Feeling Unseen or Misunderstood
Narcissistic rage is a universal reaction to feeling unseen or misunderstood. When the mirroring self-object fails to provide the desired admiration and empathy, the student not only feels hurt, but also angry and indignant. We will discuss three points in relation to this narcissistic reaction: what occasions its arising, its functions, and its specific characteristics. Narcissistic rage might be a chronic feature of the self. For severely disturbed individuals, it is a typical mode of experiencing and expressing themselves. This hard rage is one of the main ways such individuals relate to the world; they easily feel slighted and unjustly treated, and are thus chronically angry and indignant, as if something to which they feel entitled has been taken from them. They are angry most of the time, and are quick to explode at the slightest signs of incomplete empathy or mirroring. The normal individual will react in this manner only occasionally, in response to a gross lack of attunement. But when the student’s narcissistic structure is vulnerable due to lessening identification with the personality structure (what we call “thinning away of the shell”), or due to the mirror transference, then the narcissistic sensitivity is close to the surface, and this rage reaction happens more readily and more frequently.
The Point of Existence, pg. 323
Intensity of Reactive Anger
So we can see it as a normal reaction to hurt. However, it has special characteristics because the narcissistic hurt is different from other types of emotional pain. The fact that this hurt is very vulnerable, and opens up to an emptiness signifying the dissolution of identity, imbues the reactive anger with an intensity and hardness rarely seen in other kinds of anger.
The Point of Existence, pg. 324
Provocation of Narcissistic Rage
The narcissistic individual, or the normal individual at this phase of development, is prone to intense anger, an irrational rage, which may take the form of acute explosions or be chronic and vengeful. This narcissistic rage is provoked by the slightest—real or imagined—narcissistic insult, such as not being seen, understood, or appreciated, in the way one feels he deserves. Narcissistic envy may arise; one hates anyone who has (or seems to have), a rich inner life or external acclaim and feels pain about not having what the other has.
The Point of Existence, pg. 327
What are the Characteristics of Narcissistic Rage?
In narcissistic rage, a person reacts to the perceived failure of the response of another person (a self-object) with uncontrolled and irrational anger, defensiveness, negativity, devaluation, and meanness. The reaction is more accurately termed rage than anger, because of its uncontrolled and irrational features. It has several characteristics that differentiate it from other kinds of anger and rage: It feels and appears irrational, for it is greatly out of proportion to the situations that provoke it ..... This gives the rage the quality of being uncontrollable or not easy to control ..... This rage tends also to be acted out because, in addition to righteousness and indignation, there is a sense of entitlement ..... The irrationality and uncontrolled quality make the person closed to others’ responses or reasoning ..... She is very sensitive to narcissistic insults, but the rage makes her unaware of this sensitivity ..... This defense and denial of her unusual sensitivity to failures of the object leads to an attitude of blame ..... This blaming and defensive character of narcissistic rage gives it an isolating quality. It makes her insensitive to and unaware of the condition of the other ..... This schizoid quality is reflected in the actual energetic state of narcissistic rage. She feels, and is perceived by others as, hard and impenetrable, almost inhuman ..... There is a meanness in this reaction, a desire to inflict pain, to get back, to avenge oneself for being slighted and humiliated ..... Narcissistic rage is also characterized by a tendency to devalue the self-object, an intense need to demean and insult him or her ..... Upon investigation, we discover an underlying motive of dissolving her wound by causing a similar wound in the self-object who failed her. It is as if she is trying to displace her wound onto the self-object, through an aggressive, indignant and punishing attitude.