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Narcissistic rage is a term coined by Heinz Kohut in 1972.[1] This article on rage pertains to Kohut's use of the concept in Kohut's Self Psychology, a school of thought within the psychodynamic/psychoanalytic theory. Narcissistic rage is a reaction to narcissistic injury (when the narcissist feels degraded by another person).

When the narcissist's grandiose sense of self-worth is perceivably being attacked by another person (typically in the form of criticism), the narcissist's natural reaction is to rage and pull down the self-worth of others (to make the narcissist feel superior to them). It is an attempt by the narcissist to soothe their internal pain and hostility, while at the same time rebuilding their own self-worth. Narcissistic rage should not be confused with anger (although the two are similar), and is not necessarily caused by a situation that would typically provoke anger in an individual.[2] Narcissistic rage also occurs when the narcissist is perceivably being prevented from accomplishing their grandiose fantasies.[3]Narcissistic rage is frequently short-term, and passes when the narcissist rationalizes the shame that they felt.



Heinz Kohut was the first to coin the idea of narcissistic rage. His book “The Analysis of the Self[4] in 1972 introduced the psychoanalytic concept as pertaining to narcissistic rage. His explanation of narcissistic rage and depression stated, “depressions are interrupted by rages because things are not going their way, because responses are not forthcoming in the way they expected and needed”. He went further to say that narcissists may even search for conflict to find a way to alleviate pain or suffering.[4]


According to Kohut,[1] rages are a result of the shame at being faced with failure. Narcissistic rage is the uncontrollable and unexpected anger that results from a narcissistic injury. Narcissistic injury is a threat to a narcissist’s self-esteem or worth. Rage comes in many forms, but all pertain to the same important thing, revenge.

Narcissistic rages are based on fear and will endure even after the threat is gone.[5] To the narcissist, the rage is directed towards the person that they feel has slighted them; to other people, the rage is incoherent and unjust. This rage impairs their cognition, therefore impairing their judgment. During the rage they are prone to shouting, fact distortion and making groundless accusations. It is believed that narcissists have two layers of rage. The first layer of rage can be thought of as a constant anger (towards someone else), and the second layer being a self-aimed wrath. Two specific identified forms of narcissistic rage are explosive and passive-aggressive.

The explosive form being an obvious anger, for example, damaging property (or people) and being verbally abusive. The passive-aggressive sort might be sulking or giving their target the silent treatment. They can become enraged to the point of being homicidal especially if he/she has the need to seek revenge.[6] Narcissistic rage is usually short-term, but can provoke problems with those towards whom the anger is targeted.



Narcissism can be a considered a self-perceived form of perfectionism. Narcissists often are pseudo-perfectionists and require being the center of attention and create situations where they will receive attention.[6] This attempt at being perfect is cohesive with the grandiose self-image that the narcissist has of him-/herself. If a perceived state of perfection isn’t reached it can lead to guilt, shame, anger or anxiety because he/she believes that he/she will lose the imagined love and admiration from other people if he/she isn’t perfect.[7]

See also


  1. ^ a b Kohut, Heinz (1972). Thoughts on narcissism and narcissistic rage. In The search for the self. International Universities Press. pp. (Vol.2, pp. 615-658).  
  2. ^ Narcissists, Disagreement and Criticism
  3. ^ BBC NEWS | UK | England | Merseyside | Son gets life for killing parents
  4. ^ a b Kohut, Heinz (1971). The analysis of the self: A systematic approach to the psychoanalytic treatment of narcissistic personality disorders.. Perspectives.  
  5. ^ Golomb, Elan (1992). Trapped in the Mirror: Adult Children of Narcissists in their Struggle for Self.. Canada: Harper Collins.  
  6. ^ a b Stephens, Laura (June 2005). "Narcissistic Personality Disorder". Dr. Benzion Sorotzkin.  
  7. ^ Sorotzkin, Benzion (18 Apr 2006). "The Quest for Perfection: Avoiding Guilt or avoiding shame?". Psychology Today.  


  • Golomb, Elan.(1992) Trapped in the Mirror: Adult Children of Narcissists in their Struggle for Self. Canada:Harper Collins.
  • Kohut, Heinz. (1971) The analysis of the self: A systematic approach to the psychoanalytic treatment of narcissistic personality disorders. New York: International Universities Press.
  • Kohut, Heinz. (1972). Thoughts on narcissism and narcissistic rage. In The search for the self (Vol.2, pp. 615-658). New York: International Universities Press.
  • Stephens, Laura. (2006) Narcissistic Personality Disorder (Retrieved November 23, 2007)
  • Sorotzkin, Benzion. (2005) The Quest for Perfection: Avoiding Guilt or avoiding shame? (Retrieved November 24, 2007)
  • Wolf, Ernest. (2001) Group Helplessness and Rage (Retrieved November 24, 2007)


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