If you have a relationship with a narcissist, whether they’re your significant other, friend, family member, boss, or co-worker, being connected to that person can be draining.
While narcissists try hard to give off every implication of success and confidence to others, they still struggle with significant inner fears. When you understand what makes narcissists tick and what they fear, you can reclaim your power.
So the question is, how do you make a narcissist fear you?
According to experts, here’s what you can do:
Founder and Creator, The Enjoyment Method
Narcissists can be extremely dangerous and volatile personalities to deal with. Typically they will stop at nothing to manipulate their source or supply. A narcissist normalizes playing games with their source’s mind and emotions, and in turn, they have zero empathy for the heartbreak and demoralizing they cause.
Make no mistake about it, narcissists or people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder are dangerous mental and emotional abusers, and some, in fact, turn to extreme physical abuse and even death.
Narcissists are the real-life wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Although the DSM-5 categorizes Narcissistic Personality Disorder as one homogenous syndrome, there are copious amounts of research that suggest many different variations of narcissists.
Each of these types uses different paths to end up in the same place: mental and emotional control without empathy. If you suspect there may be a narcissist in your life, there are a few things you can do in order to protect yourself and possibly even make them fear you.
Learn all the many tactics a narcissist uses to trauma-bond their victims
The first step I took in my own personal healing journey from being emotionally abused by a narcissistic mother was educating myself. Once a person has more knowledge, it makes maneuvering with confidence much easier.
The saying “when you know better, you do better” rings extremely true in this instance.
Narcissists come in all forms:
- Significant others
So it is incredibly important to learn all the many tactics a narcissist uses to trauma-bond their victims.
According to Danish Bashir, a noted narcissistic abuse coach, gaslighting, stonewalling, word salad, breadcrumbing, predator listening, and gift bombing are all common tactics used by a narcissist to manipulate their victims.
As victims, when we can verify the abuse through these tactics, it becomes easier to start building boundaries.
Set boundaries and learn to detach from the narcissist
Setting boundaries and learning to detach from the narcissist is the next recommendation I would give to start gaining control back.
Once a person recognizes they are a victim, limiting contact and never engaging in an argument with the narcissist is an important self-preservation and protection method.
This tactic for the survivor is referred to as going “grey rock.”
The idea is to have as little contact with the narcissist as possible, and whenever a victim does have contact, make the situation as boring as watching paint dry. This slowly but surely cuts off the supply for the predator narcissist with the intention to minimize further destruction for the abused.
Remember, narcissists are threatening, and manipulative individuals, and sometimes a person must act in ways that feel counterintuitive to them to escape.
For instance, if a person is in a marriage with a malignant narcissist or psychopath, they may have to play along with the games of the narcissist while developing an exit strategy.
The important part here is to remember you are a victim of serious mental and emotional abuse, and when you are doing what it takes to survive, that is perfectly okay. Keep moving toward an escape to ensure your own safety and ultimate healing.
All of the above steps are simple recommendations to lay the groundwork for the final maneuver, which will, in fact, leave a narcissist fearing you.
The only way to begin to heal yourself and cut the bond of the trauma that a narcissist has been inflicting is to go without contact indefinitely. When a person severs their relationship, communication, and all ties with a narcissist and does it calmly and effectively, it truly does leave a narcissist sitting in fear and worry.
Narcissists are only concerned about their personal image, and when a victim can leave them without the big fiery explosion, they realize they have been found out. Usually, the narcissist will try every angle to gain connection and control back over their victim.
However, when a narcissistic abuse survivor remains steadfast in their conviction to not engage with the narcissist again, the narcissist will be left with only their own thoughts and worry about what the victim will say to the outside world about exactly who and what they are.
While finding ways to make a narcissist fear you can preserve your sanity and even safety, as you move forward, grieving the person that you wish the narcissist would have been and showing yourself the unconditional love that you hoped they would have shown you is vital to your own recovery and journey towards finding peace and joy.
Mary Joye, LMHC
Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Winter Haven Counseling
Detach from them
Narcissists are terrified of being alone, and their greatest fear is abandonment. Setting clear boundaries or not reacting to their chaotic manipulation will cause them to become afraid of losing you even though they may never admit it.
They need people for fuel, so if you reduce the supply, they will fear you have power over them.
Break the trauma bond
Narcissists use intermittent reinforcement by being wonderful for a while and then horrible out of nowhere. This creates a physiological hook for the narcissist.
You can break the trauma bond best by going no contact.
If that isn’t possible, you can become very aloof in your conversations with them. When you show them little emotion, whether they are being wonderful or horrible, it will show them that you are no longer bound or controlled by them.
Confront them with statements of facts
A narcissist has a fear of being discovered for who they really are, which is an image they may only project to their targets, but you can get out of their bullseye by using less emotion and more facts.
Use extreme caution when doing this, as if you get too emotional or defensive, this will cause them to have power over you again. However, if you show very little emotion, state facts about why you are distancing yourself from them, and don’t raise your voice doing it or get upset, they will fear being found out for what they really are and leave you alone.
They despise being criticized and do expect this tactic to end the relationship. You can only do this when you are ready to get them out of your life and are sure you are not going to suffer any retaliation.
Related: How to Get Over a Narcissist
Their fears of abandonment, having no control over others, and being found out for what they are will stop them in their tracks and get you back on track to a happier life, narcissist-free!
Annemarie Lafferty, CECP
Neuro Emotional Therapy Specialist | Owner, Healing Within Wellness
Narcissistic personality can have epigenetic origins meaning someone’s self-centered grandfather or ancestor can influence younger generations by witnessing the behavior or passing it down through the lineages.
Narcissism can also be a learned pattern from a society where someone saw or heard how another manipulated, gaslighted, or treated another to get what they wanted and sometimes at the expense of the other person.
Narcissists feel seen and heard when their ego is fed, validated, and feel powerful over others.
Narcissists turn outside of themselves to seek the attention and grandeur that they feel is missing; in other words, their souls can be starved of love and attention that was never met at some point in time.
Making narcissists fear you is quite simple once you recognize these patterns and adjust your response while in their presence. If you can observe the behavior instead of reacting and asking yourself afterward, “why is he such a jerk” or “why is everything always all about her?” you will elevate your communication game.
Some people operate this at a subconscious level, meaning they don’t really know why they act this way, but they know it gives them power or satisfaction on some level. If they can feel superior, then their needs are met.
Narcissists fear you when you stay in your own power or opinion
Some things that will make narcissists fear you are when you stay in your own power or opinion. They will expect you to agree with them, but you nicely remind them of why you feel a certain way, and they should back down; if not, it’s ok to agree to disagree.
This action does not feed their ego in having to be right or to push their opinions on you.
The second layer is having to control situations and people; the narcissist is comfortable when in control. Remove their control by collaborating on a work project together or following their opinion with one of yours so people can see it’s safe to express themselves.
When you are confident and make bold statements in their presence, they actually will respect you.
Knowing when to walk away from a narcissist is valuable before you give away parts of yourself or ideas to someone who may not respect you. To not feel respected, heard, or seen can set up patterns in other areas in your life where boundaries need to be set.
There is a saying we are all mirrors of ourselves, so being around a narcissist can also open our eyes to where we need to improve on ourselves. When we are emotionally strong, equipped in our power, and confident, we will encounter less challenging interactions.
Bina Patel, PhD
Conflict Resolution and Organizational Health Specialist, Transformational Paradigms
Call them out on their behavior in front of everyone
Narcissists are often misunderstood. A narcissist actually has feelings as opposed to their counterparts, sociopaths, and psychopaths. They can feel emotions and react to them in a big way.
Most narcissists are all about themselves because they actually are insecure and have fears of what others think of them. The best way to confront a narcissist is to call them out on their behavior in front of everyone.
While this may sound cold, or it may not be in our DNA to humiliate anyone in public, narcissists are individuals who seek acceptance from others, specifically those who they hold to higher regard (usually someone of a high position or rank).
In effect, narcissists are quick to prey on kind, quiet, empathetic, or just nice individuals. In fact, they seek out these individuals and project their own insecurities upon them by attacking the strengths of others.
This is because they enjoy having power over you. They like to make nice people feel insidious. As such, the best way to hold a narcissist accountable is not only to confront them in public but use the formal channels in your organization to hold them accountable.
More often than not, a corrective action that sits in their file will be a grim reminder that they should be civil to others while ensuring they never have power over you.
Dr. Brenda Wade
Clinical Psychologist | Relationship Advisor, Online for Love
Wearing a bright sunshine yellow suit that gleamed like a beam of sunshine, the Narcissist Buster enters the room. She quickly closes on the Narcissist holding a weapon in her hand and states, “I am going to expose you for who you really are, Narcissist!”
The truth is: You are so self-absorbed, no one really matters to you; you are there only to gratify your needs and to shine glory and shower glitter on yourself.
You are so arrogant; the feelings of others have never registered for you either. You believe your own twisted truths and hurtful manipulation of other people is just fine. Worst of all, you are addicted to having the light shine on you because you don’t want anyone to notice the little twerp behind the curtain.
You aren’t powerful; you are pathetic. You aren’t admirable; your treatment of others is abominable! You are blinded by what you think is your own brilliance and light.
In reality, you are an impaired person who cannot be a positive functional part of society, and the people closest to you suffer the most.
The Narcissist Buster holds up her weapon, the mirror of truth, and states, “You are hereby busted! You will be rejected, humiliated, and embarrassed by the exposure of all your failures. I will not allow you to be the center of attention any longer, but rather you will sit in the back and watch others take charge in a way that benefits all people, while they hold you responsible for the harm you have created by always putting yourself first. You are no longer admired, but rather loathed for creating drama, suffering, and hurt”.
Even if we can’t actually hire a Narcissist Buster, we have the ability to put an end to allowing narcissists to damage our lives. By taking control over your own life back, you are able to create fear and doubt in a Narcissist.
The story above contains the prescription for striking fear in a narcissist by holding up the shining mirror of truth.
Here are some of the things a narcissist is afraid of:
- Losing control
- Humiliation and embarrassment
- Being exposed
- Not being admired
- Feeling remorse
- Not being the center of attention
In reverse form, the Narcissist is merely like anyone else. But given power, the Narcissist will continue to cause damage and hurt wherever they go.
Dr. Debanjan Banerjee
Geriatric Psychiatrist, Doctor Spring
Ground them with reality and don’t succumb to their self-entitlement
While dealing with a narcissist can be infuriating, provoking them to instill fear only reinforces their narcissistic narratives. The way for a narcissist to truly fear you is to ground them with reality and to not succumb to their self-entitlement.
They are typically self-conceited and too focused on conceiving a creative fantasy that highlights them to the point of monopolizing interactions with faux or overexaggerated tales, so the trick is to counter their words with facts.
This pulls them back to the earthly plane, and knowing that they can’t stop fabricating stories to capture other people’s focus and maintain on them, this will afford you a reputation of someone they must stay away from to avoid embarrassment.
Narcissists revel in external praise to block off their inner feelings of self-loathing—they will spend every minute of their lives fishing for compliments just to achieve flattery if they have to.
To deal with this, your job is to ensure that you are not conveying feelings of amusement towards their bravado. You must be firm at not giving out the attention or validation they require, as this allows them to be unsatisfied in their interactions with you, driving them to be interested in you.
Holding out attention and validation triggers panic in them as they are unable to comprehend why someone wouldn’t like them.
Keischa Pruden, LCMHCS, LCAS, CCS
Owner and Therapist, Pruden Counseling Concepts
Setting firm boundaries with a narcissist will result in them leaving you alone
Many times, it is not so much about having a narcissist fear you as it is about having them respect your boundaries.
Narcissists hate boundaries. They depend on other people having loose/nonexistent boundaries so they can get their needs met through manipulation.
Setting firm boundaries with a narcissist will result in them either leaving you alone or respecting your rules of engagement (especially if you have something they want). If they stop engaging with you, be prepared to be portrayed as a villain – a tool narcissists use to gain allies in their dislike of you and your boundaries.
From the day my grandmother learned my mother was carrying me, my life was under threat by a narc. My grandmother gave my mother a solution that was supposed to abort me. When it didn’t work, she stole me from my mother immediately after I was born.
I didn’t escape the clutches of narcissists, though. My adopted family was full of them. My father was covert, my mother was high-level grandiose, my sister the dark triad, and my brother was a combination of them all until he grew up to be a flying monkey.
Hold onto your grip to reality
I learned first to hold onto my grip to reality. I am a writer, so I write down exchanges I have, especially with narcs, so that I tether myself into the real world of what really happened, what was really said, and who initiated the conflict-always a conflict they would claim I started.
Make sure you have people around you who aren’t afraid to tell the truth
I also make sure I either have people around me who aren’t afraid to tell the truth or make a habit of speaking up when things sound off, so the arse backward world of the narc doesn’t cause me to question whether my expectations are reasonable or not.
A narc will make the simplest human kindness: communication, empathy, fairness, seem like the impossible, the most inconvenient or most trivial demand one can make upon them, and having people who can corroborate the utter cow manure they pass off as “truth” is helpful to maintaining clarity in your own mind.
One of the most painful experiences you can have after dealing with a narc is being gaslighted. Making sure you have the support of normal, healthy, non-gaslighty people makes all the difference in the world to maintain your sanity.
You must take a mental health break from these people
Finally, if you can’t go “no contact,” you must take a mental health break from these people. Encourage them to go enjoy their time away or make room in your life for frequent and lengthy time away from them.
It’s true that hurt people, hurt people, but that doesn’t mean you have to be their punching bag.
Take legal action against them if you have a reason to
Finally, if you have a reason to take legal action against them for some violation of your boundaries, do it.
My children’s father was not sure of my fidelity in our 10-year relationship, so he often put recording devices in my car. His spying never proved what he was so desperate to find, but it broke our relationship. Still, we live together, co-parent our children, and sometimes take family vacations.
When I learned that he was still recording me, I recorded him admitting that he was continuing to record me, then I pressed charges against him. We were able to establish that he would never violate my privacy again in exchange for me dropping the charges. I can now have conversations in peace.
My grandiose narc mother, who had been the unofficial guardian for my grandson since he was a toddler, was supposed to become his official guardian when my daughter passed away in 2019. For whatever reason, she refused to do it. When I found out, almost 2 years later, I stole my grandson (stealing for the right cause) and was awarded permanent guardianship of him in June of this year.
Narcs are vulnerable where their egos live. If your narc wants to be known as the best parent, use that dynamic to your advantage. If they love wielding power, especially over those they perceive to be weaker, play into their hands until they play themselves.
Everyone has vulnerabilities, insecurities, and quirks. They specialize in exploiting ours; it’s time for us to return the lesson.
Avoid getting yourself tangled up in their control tactics and ignore them
By the very nature of their disorder, there is no action one can take other than blatantly threatening to blackmail them that will scare a narcissist because they will always deflect and accuse you of being the problem. So you go after what they fear.
Since they have to be number one, high on their fear list is rejection.
Avoid getting yourself tangled up in their web of control tactics and simply ignore them. The drawback to this is that they will become obsessed with you. No problem–block them from your phone, email, and all social media.
This worked with my stepdaughter, so I also speak from experience.
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