Narcissistic rage revisited

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2015 May;108(5):784-801. doi: 10.1037/pspp0000013. Epub 2014 Dec 29.


Narcissists are thought to exhibit "narcissistic rage," an explosive mix of anger and hostility arising from threats to narcissists' fractured sense of self. Building on clinical views of narcissism, we present empirical evidence on the nature and sources of narcissistic rage. Findings from 4 studies reveal narcissistic vulnerability (but not grandiosity) as a powerful driver of rage, hostility, and aggressive behavior, fueled by suspiciousness, dejection, and angry rumination. Consistent with theorizing about narcissistic rage, Study 1 showed that vulnerable (but not grandiose) narcissism predicted more anger internalization and externalization, as well as poorer anger control. Study 2 revealed vulnerable narcissism as a stronger indicator of shame and aggressiveness, especially hostility and anger. Study 3 identified distrust of others and angry rumination as key factors accounting for vulnerable narcissists' reactive and displaced aggression. Study 4 provided behavioral evidence that vulnerable (but not grandiose) narcissism amplifies reactive and displaced aggression in the face of provocation. Taken together, the findings not only establish narcissistic vulnerability as a key source of narcissistic rage but also reveal an important pathway to narcissistic aggression that does not involve competitiveness or exploitativeness. In addition, the results support clinical views of narcissistic aggression and implicate deficient self-esteem as an important driver of aggressive behavior.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aggression / psychology
  • Anger
  • Defense Mechanisms
  • Female
  • Hostility
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Narcissism*
  • Rage*
  • Self Concept
  • Shame
  • Social Behavior
  • Young Adult