Narcisstic Rage

I grew up in an angry family. Any disagreement between parents and children seemed to escalate into epic battles, ending only in violent punishments. Not surprisingly, I have always been afraid of anger, my own included. In my experience, anger is a destructive force that quickly becomes unfocused and wreaks havoc on the innocent and guilty alike, so I learned early in life not to do anything to anger anyone, and to keep my own anger reined in.

This fear of anger is one of the holds my dysfunctional alcoholic brother has on me. He is such an angry person, it’s as if he’s caught in a whirlwind of powerful energies and furies he cannot control. His anger bombards me with such force sometimes it feels as if I am soaking up his anger. Some of his anger is understandable, given his upbringing in such an angry family, but some of the anger is alien, especially when it is centered on me. Have I really done so much to offend him? Am I really the evil bitch he thinks I am? It’s possible, I suppose — our ability to deceive ourselves seems boundless at times — and yet, I am not quite as isolated as he seems to think, and since other people don’t see me as evil, I have some sense of the truth.

His mental issues are undiagnosed, but I’ve been doing online research in an effort to find a way to diminish his demands on me. (I realize finding a name for his illness won’t change anything, but it might help me figure out a way to deal with his relentless demands for attention.) He exhibits many symptoms of bipolarism, alternating between depression and anger. (One thing that is characteristic of bipolar anger is spitting, and the sound of his spitting tells me when he’s ready to go into rage mode. When I asked him why he spits, he told me it was to get rid of the poison in his system.) He also exhibits many symptoms of narcissistic anger. When someone with narcissistic personality disorder feels even a tinge of slight, they go into rage overdrive, as does my brother.

This list of narcissistic personality disorder symptoms exactly describes my brother:

•Turns every conversation to himself.
•Ignores the impact of his negative comments.
•Constantly criticizes or berates me; thinks he knows what is best for me.
•Focus on blaming me and others rather than taking responsibility for his own behavior.
•Expect me to jump at his every need.
•Is overly involved with his own addictions, ignoring everyone else’s needs.
•Has high need for attention.
•Is closed minded about his own mistakes. Can’t handle criticism and gets angry to shut it off.
•Becomes enraged and has tantrums when his needs are not met or if he thinks he’s been slighted.
•Has an attitude of “Anything you can do, I can do better” — he hates that I am a published author, and is constantly telling me (screaming at me) that he is an artist who has written 400 songs, that he knows how to write and I don’t, (though he hasn’t read a single word I have ever written).
•Forgets what I have done for him yet keeps reminding me what I “owe” him today — he says he wants to leave here and that I’m not helping, but won’t tell me what I can do to help.
•Has a vast sense of entitlement.
•Sees himself above the law.
•Does not expect to be penalized for bad behavior.
•He cannot see the impact his selfish behavior, and if he could see, he wouldn’t care.
•Projects himself onto me, telling me I need help, that I am out of control, selfish, devious, manipulative.

mirrorWith as many self-centered people there are in the world, you’d think there’d be a high rate of people with narcissistic personality disorder, but oddly, it affects less than 1% of the population. (Bipolarism is much more widespread.) There is treatment for such a disorder, but the person has to want to undergo psychotherapy, medication, self-help, and even inpatient care, but narcissists seldom see any need for treatment since in their world view, everyone else is at fault.

From what I have read, narcissistic rages don’t last for several days as my brother’s seem to, so who knows the truth of him. The result of all this research is . . . very little, actually, just the realization that nothing I say or don’t say, do or don’t do will change him. He will always see slights where none were intended, will always feel entitled, will always be enraged when he doesn’t get what he believes he deserves.

I can change me, however. This association with my brother is teaching me to deal with my fear of anger, both mine and other people’s. It’s teaching me to reach for what I want and not expect anyone else to give it to me. It’s teaching me that I am my own person, both connected to the world and separate. I might be my brother’s keeper, at least temporarily, but I am not him and I do not have a stake in his wants or needs.

And most especially, it’s teaching me that I can never be free of the past, but that I can learn to deal with it gracefully and carry the burden lightly, and that is no small thing.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

15 Responses to “Narcisstic Rage”

  1. lvgaudet Says:

    It was commented on your other post on your brother, and I agree that keeping a journal through this would be a good thing. Documenting the things he does, both abusive towards you and destructive towards your property, could help you down the road if it does come to having to seek legal help. Unfortunately it seems as though too many people have to seriously injure or kill someone before they can be committed. But also to pour out your thoughts and feelings while surviving through this, just as you did from the start with your journey through your grief, can help you to get through this. And who knows, as was said before, you could turn it into a book. Maybe it will help others going through similarly difficult times with a family member suffering with mental illness the same way your book on grief did.

    He projects himself onto you so that he can face himself. He may not see it, but it’s really himself he is yelling and swearing at, calling names. It is himself he is filled with such anger and hatred for. You are just a stand in.

    You are a stronger person than I am to put up with it this long. I wouldn’t call his path through life his choices. Mental illness isn’t a choice. But you have the choice to be true to yourself and realize that no matter how much he tries to make you a reflection of his own self hatred, you are simply the person holdin gup his mirror. You are the person everyone else but him sees you to be. Kind, caring, and strong.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      You can only commit another person for 72 hours. A judge, of course, can commit a person. Or they can commit themselves, at least in theory. I have a hunch if someone called and said they needed to be committed, they would be refused. Our system of “care” is not set up for those who really need it. It’s more to warehouse the people who would injure themselves or others. And that’s what the jails are doing. The warden of the LA county jail brags that he runs the states biggest mental institution.

      I try not to say derogatory things to him, knowing that despite his grandiosity and narcissism, he really has identity issues, but in the middle of the night, trying to deal with exhaustion, his anger, and a broken window, I give vent to my feelings. One good thing about the window episode, I think I screamed out a lifetime’s worth of rage. A friend who knows the situation was surprised to see how good I looked today. Perhaps, joy really is my destination.

  2. Paula Kaye Says:

    Besides the mental illness issues, if he has alcoholism he has truly damaged what good brain cells he may have had. I have lived with alcoholism my entire life. Thank God those of my brothers who have suffered with it are not dealing with the mental rages that your brother has. You have to find a way to deal with it that will keep you safe and happy. I know that cannot be easy! When you first described your brother I immediately thought he was bipolar. But like you said, if he doesn’t want help, it won’t do any good to label him. God Bless you Pat.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Oddly, I am happier than I have been in a long time. I think I screamed out my own childhood rage, so in a bizarre sort of way, I’m grateful to him. For me, this is all about freeing myself from him, my father, and our shared past, not becoming further entwined in their drama.

  3. Phyllis Edgerly Ring Says:

    Immensely helpful to read this today. Your research can benefit many of us as we attempt to do the one thing we can, shift our perspective and make our decisions accordingly. Big thanks for this, and very best of luck on your own road.

  4. Juliet Waldron Says:

    The more I read of your family, Pat, the more I am reminded of my own. (Alcoholism is a real plague.) And narcissistic personalities are everywhere, no matter what the stats–take a look at most politicians. I send you white light, my friend, and pray for your continued safety as you continue along your personal via dolorosa, still strong, and still able to see beauty and flashes of joy in the harsh world which surrounds you.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      It’s that beauty and those flashes of joy that keep me going. If all I had were the push/pull of my brother and father, I’d have a hard time dealing with any of it.

      Thank you for the white light and the prayers. Sending the same back to you.

  5. Mike Simpson Says:

    I’m so sorry you are having to deal with a brother who expresses all those awful characteristics. The worst of his symptoms in my view is that he has no appreciation for someone who has cared for him unfailingly despite his attitude of enraged entitlement. And how ironic, you are the one who deserves to receive goodness.

  6. Maybe I’m Not as Sane as I Think I Am | Bertram's Blog Says:

    […] since it doesn’t seem to be all that common except in certain cases of bipolar disorder and narcissistic rage (and wow, does he have rage!), but recently I’ve found instances where some paranoid […]

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