In psychoanalysis, what is narcissistic rage?

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Narcissism is an exaggerated sense of self. The term comes from the name of a character in a Greek myth, Narcissus, who fell in love with his own image (reflection) in the water. Obviously this kind of self-adoration creates many problems for those who suffer from this mental illness. This condition was codified by Sigmund Freud and is a much more significant problem than simple self-centeredness or excessive pride.

For a narcissist, other people are only of use in as much as they can feed his narcissistic behaviors. Narcissists are generally haughty and act as if they are perfect, even if they do not really think they are. They rarely have successful long-term relationships, of course, because they are their primary focus in every way. They despise those who refuse to recognize their superiority and flatter those who do in order to keep the attention coming.

Narcissistic rage is a direct response to narcissistic injury. A narcissistic injury, according to Freud, is anything that presents 

a perceived threat to a narcissist's self-esteem or self-worth....

These threats or injuries can take many forms, and in Freud's estimation those can begin as early as infancy, when a child (who is the epitome of egocentric and self-absorbed) does not get what it needs or wants.

Narcissistic rage is different than more mature aggression. Because the narcissist has not developed emotionally beyond the self, because the 

very structure of the self itself is enfeebled in the narcissist, their rage cannot flower into real assertiveness, and they are left instead prone to oversensitivity to perceived or imagined narcissistic injuries resulting in narcissistic rage.

One cause of this type of rage is shame due to some kind of failure in the narcissist's life, something that can happen often because this personality type is committed to perfectionism. It is a pseudo-perfectionism, however, since the narcissist continually sets himself up for a manipulated or artificial success.

Narcissistic rage is directed at those who he feels have slighted or somehow injured him; the object of the rage sees the outburst as "incoherent and unjust." In the midst of this kind of rage, the narcissist shouts and proclaims distorted facts or makes all kinds of invalid accusations. Sometimes a narcissist will be so full of hurt and shame that he creates these kinds of opportunnities to give vent to those emotions.

The best cure for a narcissist who experiences these episodic rages is to undergo psychoanalysis where he can get to the root of the narcissistic injury. Once he does, he can relive it and, ideally, achieve a different, more satisfying outcome.

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