How A Narcissist Reacts When They’re Feeling Threatened By You

How A Narcissist Reacts When They’re Feeling Threatened By You

Dealing with a narcissist can be a minefield. Their fragile ego makes any hint of a threat trigger intense reactions. Get ready to protect yourself – here’s your guide on identifying common manipulative tactics narcissists use to regain a sense of control when they feel their superiority is challenged.

1. They deflect to divert the attention away from themselves.

This is all about blaming you for their actions by focusing on your “flaws” instead. This way, the conversation becomes about you, not the narcissist. Once you’re distracted by the issues they’re raising about your so-called shortcomings, they can more easily control the narrative. They’re also able to maintain an image, one that guarantees they are never — or certainly don’t feel — held accountable.

2. They gaslight you to try to make you doubt your own reality.


Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation intended to make you question your perception of events. They might flatly deny that they ever said something, even if you have proof. The goal is to make you feel that there is no option but to defer to them for a “reality check.” After a while, your self-confidence and trust in your own judgment all but disappear.

3. They launch a smear campaign to damage your reputation.

If they feel threatened, they may attempt to kill our reputation among mutual acquaintances. This might include spreading false rumors, gossip, or outright lies about you. They want to isolate you and make it harder for you to find support against them. This can be really damaging in both social and professional circles, especially if people believe the narcissist’s lies.

4. They give you the silent treatment to make you feel insignificant.

This is a type of emotional punishment where they shut you out and completely ignore you. By giving you the silent treatment, they aim to make you feel insignificant and worthless, thereby making themselves feel like they’re the ones in control. This can generate feelings of extreme loneliness and desperation for their affection. Don’t let this happen to you!

5. They project and accuse you of their own negative traits/behaviors.

This involves accusing you of behaviors or attitudes that they exhibit themselves. For example, if they are being selfish, they may accuse you of being selfish. The goal is to keep the focus off their own behavior and make you feel defensive. This can cause confusion and self-doubt, which then further enables their control.

6. They’re grandiose in order to assert their superiority.

When they feel threatened, they may start to exaggerate their own accomplishments, skills, or qualities. This can involve bragging or other forms of self-aggrandizement. The aim is to reassert their dominance and their self-declared superiority over anyone and everyone else. Not only is this intimidating at times, it can also create an imbalance in the relationship.

7. They use manipulation to keep you under their control.

Narcissists are often good at controlling and manipulating their victims. This can involve guilt-tripping, emotional blackmail, or other forms of manipulation. They do this in order to keep you under their influence and control, and it can either be subtle and insidious, which makes it extra difficult to recognize and resist.

8. They lack empathy and either dismiss or invalidate your feelings.

Narcissists often struggle with empathy, which means your feelings definitely don’t matter to them. They might belittle your emotions or act indifferent to your pain so that you feel alone and unsupported. This way, they get to have more power over you. It’s one of the most messed up and damaging parts of dealing with such a cruel person.

9. They use triangulation to create drama or competition.

In order to stay in control, narcissists love to involve a third person (or multiple other people) in your relationship and turn them against you so that you’re the odd one out. They might spread lies about you or claim that you did something terrible in order to get the other people on their side so that they can all gang up on you.

10. They verbally abuse you to undermine your self-esteem.

When they feel threatened, narcissists immediately go to insults, criticism, or belittling comments to tear you down. The aim is to undermine your self-esteem and make you feel inferior so they can take what they believe is their rightful place above you. This can have a devastating impact on your self-esteem and mental health.

11. They don’t take responsibility — they make excuses and blame everyone else.

Narcissists never own up when they do something wrong — they shirk the blame at all costs. This can involve deflecting blame onto other people, making excuses, or shifting responsibility. They’ll do whatever it takes to avoid the consequences of their actions and maintain their image. Needless to say, this is incredibly frustrating, not to mention toxic.

12. They use hoovering to draw you back in when you start to pull away.

Hoovering is a tactic used to draw you back into their web of control after a period of separation. This can involve flattery, promises, or false charm — whatever it takes to regain the power they once held over you and desperately want back. This can create a cycle of abuse and reconciliation that’s incredibly difficult to break free from.

13. They use love bombing to manipulate and control you.

This is an intense and excessive display of affection and attention used to manipulate and control. They may shower you with compliments, gifts, and affection in an attempt to keep you hooked and dependent on their approval. It creates a false sense of security and makes it difficult to recognize the manipulation for what it is.

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Phoebe Mertens is a writer, speaker, and strategist who has helped dozens of female-founded and led companies reach success in areas such a finance, tech, science, and fashion. Her keen eye for detail and her innovative approach to modern womanhood makes her one of the most sought-out in her industry, and there's nothing she loves more than to see these companies shine.

With an MBA from NYU's Stern School of Business and features in Forbes and Fast Company she Phoebe has proven she knows her stuff. While she doesn't use social media, she does have a private Instagram just to look at pictures of cats.