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A Narcissist’s Secret Fears

When a narcissist is afraid, manipulation is a favorite defense mechanism.

While narcissists work very hard to give off every indication of success and self-confidence to others, narcissists harbor two significant secret fears. These fears drive narcissists to expend great effort to avoid the risk of either one occurring in order for them to maintain a sense of egocentric equilibrium. What exactly are a narcissist’s secret fears?

1. Public Humiliation

When a narcissist feels that they are losing face or failing at something in front of an audience, it creates a lot of psychological distress and cognitive dissonance. Narcissists are unable to tolerate failure of any sort and public humiliation is considered the worst type of failure that could happen. A narcissist’s ego is an extremely fragile thing and when they feel they they are are being laughed at or is losing the respect of others, it can be tremendously upsetting. The narcissist’s ego is the only protection they have from the world and when their ego integrity is breached, narcissists often respond in ways that seem markedly out of proportion to the circumstances for average people. Unfortunately, the ego of a narcissist is already so inflated that they never focus on self-growth when in relationships. Their own self-assessment of their worth and value confirm to them that they are already significantly evolved and accomplished. They are unable to fathom why a partner may be disappointed in their behavior or in the relationship. By being so out-of-touch with the realities of relationships, their reaction to the dissatisfaction of their partners is driven by fear.

2. Loss of a Partner's Admiration

Narcissists need to be admired by their partners and every day must be a “praise fest.” When they notice that a partner’s interest in them or enthusiasm for them is flagging, they become desperate to win back their partner’s affection. They may buy expensive gifts, engage in over-the-top romantic “grand gestures,” whatever it takes to have their partner put them back up on the pedestal.

When you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, you’ll realize early that little things can drive a narcissist into a state of anxiety and fear about the relationship is failing. Running late for a date, having to go into work early, hanging out with your friends, or forgetting to wear the outfit that the narcissist wanted you to wear can all be interpreted to be intentional acts of disrespect towards the narcissist.

Narcissists view partners as trophies. They also tend to expect partners to show high levels of deference and adoration to them—long after the early “crush stage” of a relationship should have worn off. Manipulation of a partner is emotional abuse and narcissists resort to some pretty nasty behaviors if they feel that they are losing their hold on a partner. Here are three defense mechanisms that narcissists resort to when they fear their relationships are ending.

  1. Generate Jealousy. When they are fearful of a partner losing interest, they might create situations that generate jealousy in their partners to acquire power and control in the relationship and those narcissists with the most fragile egos also induce jealousy to take revenge on partners, test the relationship, prove relationship security, and build up their own self-esteem.
  2. Instill Guilt. Narcissists will also try and make their partners feel guilty about any behaviors that the narcissist believes are signs of disrespect or lack of adequate gratitude. Narcissists are manipulators who have no qualms about twisting a partner’s words or actions in a way that would make the partner feel guilty or remorseful about things they have no reason to feel bad about.
  3. Threaten to Leave. Narcissists will threaten to end the relationship if a partner begins showing independence or behaves in ways contrary to the narcissist’s expectations.

Set Boundaries and Hold Firm

One of the best ways to cope with the manipulation tactics of a narcissist is to lay down clear and firm boundaries that you do not allow the narcissist to breach. This requires that you have a strong will as well as the willingness to admit that you’re dealing with an individual who places their own needs ahead of your own.

Narcissists have a very difficult time handling things when a partner or former partner has begun to create and enforce boundaries because narcissists cannot conceive that a partner could exist beyond the relationship. Narcissists objectify people and use people to meet their own needs—they simply don’t understand how to maintain normal relationships. They cannot comprehend the reasons that partners or friends need space and autonomy to feel satisfied in a relationship. If you are being used to prop up the ego of a narcissist, if you try to claim some space for yourself, the narcissist may feel that you are trying to strip away part of their own identity. Your devotion to the narcissist’s needs is a measure of the narcissist’s self-worth in their mind. When you back away, narcissists are going to try that much harder to reel you back into their lives. That’s when you will need to have a strong backbone and a strong support system as you move out of the orbit of your narcissistic partner.

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