Narcissists have anger management issues. Their defining traits include being self-impressed, non-empathetic, controlling, clamoring for superiority, manipulative, defensive, and covering insecurity with a False Self. These traits become the foundation for poorly managed anger. Lacking insight and self-restraint, narcissists habitually berate those who differ or who choose not to act consistently with their agenda. They are strongly opinionated, unable to engage in constructive dialogue, and they instinctively believe they have the right to belittle.

This manner of living plays out on many fronts. It could be a supervisor at work who acts this way. Maybe it is a mother or father, a sister or brother, or any of the members of the extended family. It could be a marital partner or significant other who berates. Commonly, politicians act this way, as do religious zealots, and a whole host of others.

Narcissists (consciously or subconsciously) have the goal of elevating oneself by diminishing others. They lack a fundamental respect for your distinctives. They are not conscientious, nor do they consider you as equal. And even when they have moments of pleasantness or cooperation, it cannot be fully trusted since it is only a matter of time for the narcissistic pattern to take over. They can’t stop themselves.

First berate, then. . .

It is difficult enough for you to maneuver through a relationship impacted by such dysfunction, but there is one further problem that accompanies a narcissist’s maladaptive treatment of you. That is, after berating you and treating you as inferior, they have the audacity to presume that you should maintain loyalty toward them. In a narcissist’s way of thinking, you owe them fealty because they are the Keepers Of Standards.

When you protest their ill treatment toward you, they seem surprised, as evidenced by their tendency to defend and double down on their anger. Rarely will a narcissist pause to consider how their condescension creates unnecessary duress. Instead, they predictably persist in their efforts to gain your acquiescence.

This pattern of berating then requiring loyalty is completely nonsensical, to the point of absurdity, yet it is very common.

When you are on the receiving end of such treatment, your challenge is to extricate yourself from the crazy-making pattern you are invited into, choosing instead to chart a different, healthier course. To do so, it requires you to incorporate insights into the narcissist’s mannerisms, and to act in ways that are self-protecting.

Let’s look first at some insightful information that can explain what is going on in the mind of a berating narcissist:

  • Adult narcissistic behaviors are built upon a foundation of childish insecurities. They are stunted in their psychosocial development.
  • They have little to no inner confidence or peace to draw upon. A narcissist’s “confidence” is always found at the expense of someone else.
  • They may imply a desire for your loyalty, but what they really want is conformity. Narcissists have a history of presuming that the ones who can impose The Agenda are the winners.
  • They have a hidden self-loathing. Narcissists berate you because they have no conception of human dignity, beginning with themselves.
  • With their inability to empathize, narcissists do not develop relationships. Instead, they develop assets. Once you are no longer useful, they move on to other targets.

I am reminded of a little ditty that describes what is at play when a narcissist feels the need to berate: “You have to be little to belittle.” Even as narcissists swell with an oversized ego in their mistreatment toward you, they are acting as a befuddled little boy or girl who has no conception of how to manage life’s frustrations.

Understanding all this, you can make adjustments in your responses to the berating narcissist for the purpose of minimizing the damage they inflict. You are not engaging with a logical person, so your efforts to plead your case with them will fall flat. Instead, pour your energies into maintaining relationship boundaries. Participate in exchanges with the narcissist only on a functional level, and when you can avoid those exchanges entirely, do that. And when the narcissist protests, remind yourself that you can practice self-care with or without their endorsement.

In the meantime, let’s be mindful of what true loyalty is built upon:

  • Mutual regard and respect
  • Honoring each other when disagreements arise
  • Offering sincere encouragement to each other
  • Being committed to a moral and ethical approach to relationships
  • Non-judgmental responses when mistakes are made.

So, when the narcissist persists with anger, expecting you to remain loyal in the aftermath, you can hold onto the thought: “You may expect me to be loyal even as you berate me, but I have too much self-respect to play that game.”

~Les Carter, Ph.D.

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