Narcissists live a life driven by subconscious fears that motivate all their destructive behaviors. Whether you want to know how to control a narcissist or how to avoid their trigger points, here are nine things that frighten narcissists deeply.
Leverage a Narcissist’s Fear of Rejection
The root of narcissistic manipulation, self-centeredness, and power-trips stems from their need to avoid rejection. They use these traits to find ways to avoid being held liable for their mistakes and to project their failures on to other people.
Narcissists have universally failed to develop a healthy sense of self-worth and rely on the approval of others instead. This makes them incredibly vulnerable to external rejection because they lack psychological means of establishing what makes them good or resisting the feeling of inadequacy.
In my article, “Why Some People are Narcissists | How One Gets a Narcissistic Personality”, I discuss in more detail where narcissists come from. And why they are the way they are.
Even better than scaring a narcissist is supporting good behavior with positive feedback. While we discuss what makes a narcissist afraid in this article, feelings of fear or freight rarely result in positive change on the part of the narcissists in our lives. Instead, by collaborating with them to develop a heroic vision for them to live up to, we motivate them to be their best in a way they are inclined to respond to. I discuss this idea more in-depth in, “How to Checkmate a Narcissist and Stop Them in Their Tracks”.
Know When They Feel They Aren’t “Good Enough”
All narcissists have a lurking fear that they just aren’t good enough. For many narcissists, this fear was instilled during childhood and is so deeply ingrained that they are consciously aware of its presence.
You can sense a narcissist is feeling inadequate when they —
- Go out of their way to proclaim their superiority
- Consider inconsequential statements to be assaults or attacks on them personally
- Experience violent mood swings
- Go looking for excitement or a change of pace with no previous indication of boredom
When you see this behavior, making their internal fears an apparent reality will send them over the edge. They will be so frightened that they will do “something” to get over the shock. Although, what they do is probably not going to be good for anybody, much less the narcissist.
Scare Narcissist with Fear of Failure
Fear of failure is particularly effective on narcissists because they think about it all the time. Previously, we talked about fear of rejection and feelings of inadequacy on the part of the narcissist. Failure is the crystallized manifestation of these worries.
Primarily, a narcissist fears failure because it proves their own worst fears about themselves, and diminishes their image in the eye of other people. Being central to how they manage their self-esteem, a narcissist will have many tactics they use to distance themselves from mistakes and justify why they don’t always meet their own — extremely overinflated — expectations.
For more information on what you might expect from a narcissist, see “Recognizing Narcissistic Behavior | Unexpected Signs of a Narcissist”.
Public Shame and Humiliation are Narcissists Worst Nightmare
While a narcissist doesn’t like failing even in private, they are freighted by public humiliation more than anything else.
Because of their fear of public exposure, a narcissist will go to great lengths to protect themselves from this eventuality. A narcissist will construct their whole lives to minimize this risk.
Typical grandiose narcissists, the most commonly identified type of narcissist, will find ways to keep up a spotless public image. When confronted with the potential for humiliation, a grandiose narcissist might —
- Frame or otherwise place the blame on others
- Spread false rumors to divert attention
- Commit unethical or criminal behavior to avoid being caught
- Find ways to cause other people around them to fail as well
For those of you who have narcissists at work, you might want to check out: “9 Ways Your Narcissist Coworker is Sabotaging You”.
Introverted or covert narcissists are probably just as common. But, are less commonly identified as a narcissist because they keep a low profile. Their way of handling fear of humiliation is by taking roles where they don’t have to take any responsibility for what they do, and avoid the possibility of humiliation altogether.
Threaten a Narcissists’ Cool by Taking Control
Narcissists become agitated and apprehensive when they feel like they are losing control. They have a compulsive need to manage, manipulate, and dominate everyone around them. In particular close relatives, loved ones, and coworkers they feel superior to.
When you demonstrate to a narcissist that their tactics don’t work on you, they feel a twinge of loss and fear. We only need to control ourselves to frighten a narcissist into submission, although they won’t give up your mind without a fight.
Ignore Them or Give Them the Cold Shoulder
Narcissists are mortified when they are not the center of attention. They crave constant feedback from everyone else around them, letting them know just how good they are. Without it, narcissists grow restless and afraid.
One of the most powerful tools we have that strikes fear in the heart of a narcissist is just cutting them out entirely. I recommend using this tactic against narcissistic bosses and supervisors in “How to Overcome a Narcissistic Boss”, because it can be highly effective in professional environments when used correctly.
Remind Narcissists About What Scares Them when They Look in the Mirror
Most narcissists tie their self worth to their appearance, attractiveness, or sexual appeal. This leaves them open to fears of getting older and losing that edge.
They are not likely to admit it out loud, but when you point out aging, imperfections, or deterioration, it deeply cuts a narcissist. Reminding them of the fragility of their looks and their eventual death — even subtly — is often enough to knock a narcissist into a spiral of fear and depression.
Second Best, Show Narcissists that You Don’t Fall for Their Stories
As a core manipulation strategy, narcissists constantly weave tales that make them out to be the hero or the victim. They thrive on this narrative and will do anything to make their fantasy a reality.
Every time that you catch a narcissist in a lie. Every time that you refuse to swallow — or even better laugh — at their BS. Every time that you see through their deception. Those times are when a narcissist feels like things are beginning to fall apart.
Ultimately, Frighten Narcissist by Firmly Grasping the Truth
The best way to scare a narcissist is to stick doggedly to the truth. Narcissism is a demon of falsehood that seeks to separate narcissists and victims of narcissist from the kernel of reality.
The best way to frighten a narcissist, and ultimately recover from narcissism, is radical truth. Truth is not wielded as a weapon but administered with love as a curative for all ills.
What are narcissists afraid of?
Narcissists are afraid of any form of public humiliation or proof of their failure. This derives from an apprehension that deep down, they “aren’t good enough.” To protect themselves, they put up a front and employ manipulation tactics, and are constantly scared of losing control of the situation.
What drives a narcissist insane?
Narcissists go insane when they no longer feel in control of other people’s perceptions. When their abuse begins to be noticed, or they get caught out in a major lie, they will go to almost any length to restore the previous order. Leading them to act crazy by the standards of a well-adjusted person.