When I was working my way out of a narcissistic business or personal there were times when I needed to throw my abuser off balance. Other times, I needed to know what to avoid to prevent a blowup. Narcissists have clear and decisive triggers, making them easy to control if you know the trick. Here are nine ways to throw a narcissist into a panic that work every time.
Confronting the Narcissist with Brutal Honesty
Narcissists are liars, and they panic when faced with radical honesty. Everyone has things that they gloss over, sugarcoat, or ignore in their lives. These friction points are the ammunition that narcissists use to control us. Without this, they are powerless, and they know it.
To use this method, whenever a narcissist brings up something wrong about you, accept it cheerfully. Say, “I could have done better there, couldn’t I,” smile, and walk away.
Likewise, when they spout their made-up stories about how great they are, react with cold, hard logic. Try to think like Mr. Spock from Star Trek, not responding overtly excited or disappointed about any particular development, instead limit yourself to putting the facts in their rightful place. Don’t try to put down the narcissist. Just hammer on the truth relentlessly.
When you use this method, be aware of what happens when a narcissist starts to panic and loses control. Be sure you can handle the consequences, as they will inevitably try to do something to get you back.
Pushing Back Against the Narcissist’s Manipulation
Narcissists rely on their abuse and manipulation tactics to feel like they are in control and panic when they lose effectiveness.
The first step is to notice when and how they are controlling you. Some examples of the tactics they use are —
- Spreading Rumors
- Playing the Victim
- Comparing you to other people
I’ve written more extensively about particular forms of manipulation here —
- Signs of a Narcissist | 21 Behaviors of the Classical Narcissist
- Triangulation in Narcissistic Families
- Narcissistic Liars & How They Use Lies to Control You
You might also want to look through these narcissistic catchphrases and see which ones your narcissist uses against you. Spotting these phrases in a conversation is a clear indicator of abuse.
Once you spot the manipulation as it happens, you must push back against it. One sure way to make them panic is to call it out. Say, “You are just doing that to control me,” or, “I see what you’re doing there.”
Naturally, they will try to say that you are crazy and deny that they are doing anything at all. But, by pointing it out, they know that you see through their deceptions.
Exposing a Narcissist Publicly
Narcissist fear public humiliation more than anything. The fastest way to send them into a tailspin is to expose their flaws for everyone to see.
Some ways to do this are —
- Record them doing something wrong and show the narcissist
- Threaten divorce or court proceedings
- Write negative reviews, reports, or evaluations
- Cut them out of your social circle, or “demote” them
- Discuss the narcissist’s behavior in private with friends, family, or coworkers who know them
- Fire the narcissist
Usually, just the potential for exposure is enough to get a narcissist to react. Always follow the law and use only legal and ethical means of exposing them, otherwise, you give them more ammunition to use against you.
Be aware that exposing them in this way will likely result in retaliation from the narcissist. Probably some form of character assassination or counter-accusation.
For more info on possible repercussions when you humiliate a narcissist in public, see —
When a Narcissist Loses Control
Narcissists seek to have total control of their environment and can’t stand it when they lose this control. When you take steps to impede their absolute control over you, they feel the pinch almost immediately.
Some things you can take back control include —
- Earning your own money
- Making friends separate from the narcissist
- Putting your name on or taking their name off cars, homes, etc
- Prepare a resume and start looking for other work
- Changing churches, groups, departments, etc. so they are no longer in your leadership
Criticism of the Narcissist
The feeling that they have failed drives a narcissist insane. Because of psychological and development deficiencies, narcissists are not mentally equipped to handle criticism in a productive manner.
Instead, a narcissist will do anything they can to avoid being at fault, either projecting their failures on others or refusing to admit that it was a failure at all.
While you may never be able to get a narcissist to admit that criticism is justified, presenting them with clear evince that they have done wrong is enough to drive them up the wall. Because they are worried about their psychological defenses will break down in the face of incontrovertible evidence of them “not being good enough,” something that they have feared their entire life.
Narcissists Fear Aging
Youth and beauty are weapons of a narcissist that they worry about losing every day. While not all narcissists are vain or use attractiveness as a weapon, there is a link between good looks and narcissism.
Pointing out wrinkles & gray hair, making comments about their age, or discounting their attractiveness is sure to send a vein narcissist into a fear spiral. Of course, they generally won’t admit this to you and will try to cover up their insecurities.
Make a Narcissist Panic by Ignoring Them
Narcissists compulsively seek to be the center of attention. When you strip the limelight away from them, their fear of losing out will drive them to do anything to get it back.
As the victim of a narcissist, they thrive on our attention, both positive and negative. The best thing you can do to scare them is totally withdraw your focus. Ignore them, cut them out, act like you don’t care about them, and don’t think about them at all.
The more convincing your indifference, the more it will drive your narcissist up the wall.
You Being Independent of a Narcissist Scares Them
When a narcissist feels they are losing their grip on you, they start to get scared. Narcissists want to know everything they can about you, so they know what to do to control you.
Instead of playing into their hands, try separating yourself by —
- Make new friends the narcissist doesn’t know
- Become indifferent to the narcissist’s praise or criticism
- Take on new hobbies and activities separate from the narcissist
- Don’t commit to liking or disliking things to the narcissist
- Be as bland and as dull as possible around the narcissist
By doing all this, you make yourself a smaller target. In most cases, this results in the narcissist becoming conspicuously nice, interested in what you are doing, and otherwise “love bombing” you until you fall back under their control. For more info on love bombing see —
Moving On and Shutting the Door on a Narcissist Abuser
Leaving the narcissist will make them afraid more than anything else. By completely cutting off your ties, the narcissist has to confront the fact that their control tactics failed.
While they will probably find some reason to blame you for leaving, making you the bad guy, deep down, they wonder if this could happen again. If they could lose you, won’t everyone else notice just how “bad they are,” which is how they feel deep down, and might leave them too.
What drives a narcissist insane?
Narcissists hate losing control and go insane when they can’t get it back. They will do anything they can to control your perceptions of them, to manipulate you so you have no power, and to find more ammo to use against you to prevent aggravating their narcissistic injury. When this fails, their emotions are left completely unchecked, and they are liable to do almost anything.
What do narcissists fear?
Narcissists fear this nagging feeling that they aren’t “good enough.” They have not developed self-esteem and rely on other people’s opinions to justify their worth. This is a precarious position, leaving them afraid their ugly truth might inadvertently come out.
How does a narcissist react when they can’t control you?
When a narcissist can’t control you, they will either try to convince you that you are making a mistake, spread rumors about you that make them look like the victim, or cut you off completely.
Can you be a narcissist and have anxiety?
Narcissists can have anxiety and often live in an anxious state due to their narcissistic injury, which is usually a lack of childhood development that makes them feel unworthy. Narcissistic traits are coping mechanisms meant to obscure their anxiety with outward confidence. They will never admit to being afraid.