Fear and Narcissism: Are You Mad?

I spend a lot of energy fretting over this question.

Are you mad? 

One of the most difficult, most anxiety inducing fears for me is that I’ve made someone angry.

The reason is not hard to figure out.

As a child living with a narcissistic father, I learned anger was lurking, arbitrary and ferocious.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder can manifest in different ways.

There are people who have a parent with NPD who might rarely display anger. They are more quiet and manipulative. I shudder to think what that must be like to live with. My dad certainly tried to be manipulative, but he sucked at it. I could see through him and knew he was full of shit by the time I got out of grade school. He made up for it by being loud, volatile, and cruel.

The thing with my dad, I never knew what would provoke his anger.

Something that made him laugh one minute might make his face turn purple and spittle fly from his lips the next. The only thing for sure, I knew the anger would fearhappen so I spent most of my childhood anticipating the next outburst. It was like living with an angry, bitter, life-sized jack-in-the-box.

Decades have passed since I was a child. Decades have passed since a heart episode left my father mildly brain-damaged and not-at-all intimidating.

Yet I find myself, at 54 years old, terrified all the time, of other people’s anger.

I can be triggered by the smallest thing. A glance. A sigh. A curt answer.

My brain receives that sort of signal and fucking runs with it. I become a child who is scared, miserable, and lonely.

Deep voices are difficult for me and yelling turns me into a basket case.

Not when it’s happening. On the outside, I hold it together fine. In fact, I’ve been complimented on how cool headed and rational I am in the face of anger and how well I am able to diffuse an angry situation. On the inside, however, I am a shattered mess and it can take days or longer to recover.

You know that saying “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger”?

Well, when in the fuck does that kick in? When? Because obviously, no one’s anger has ever killed me. Unless I’m dead and there is blogging in the afterlife. If we just assume I am in touch with reality and not dead, then when do I get strength from these events? Because, while they don’t happen often, I don’t see any improvement in my reaction. I don’t feel stronger at all.

I know fear is important.

Without fear, we’d be stepping of cliffs and petting rabid honey badgers, but I’ve got extra.

Maybe, I could sell it on Craigslist or something. You know, people who do crazy ass extreme sports or handle poisonous snakes could probably use an extra dose of fear. I have an abundance of fear and I could stand to make a little extra money.

I haven’t worked out how to transfer the fear, though. I don’t think the Craigslist idea is going to work out. How much would I charge? I mean, it is high quality, robust fear, but still, I’m not sure about the going rate for a unit of fear. Also, what would we call a unit of fear?  Terrorbit? Tremormeter?

I resent fear as a near constant companion. I hate how fear and anxiety twist up together and make it hard to swallow or take a deep breath.

What helps? Sooner or later, after I’ve cried or ranted or rocked for a while (rock as in rock back and forth, not rock to music. Repetitive motion can be soothing), I remember to tell myself how brave I am. I found myself in a situation which my brain insists is dangerous and I faced it. No matter how afraid I was, I still dealt with my fear.

Remembering I am brave doesn’t take away any of the fear. Some brave people might be fearless, but I can attest that there are brave people among us who are terrified.

People who are scared and still face what they must face in life are motherfucking bad asses.

I’m telling you this in case you’re afraid sometimes.

You might be scared, but every time you get through a situation that your brain is screaming you must run from, remember how brave you are.

You are a motherfucking bad ass.

Just don’t get mad at me for saying so.


Photo courtesy of Pixabay.



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  • Most of your posts resonate with me, but this one has me vibrating like a tuning fork. Since I’m considerably older than you, I can say from personal experience, it’s unlikely that the fear will ever entirely go away. Sucks, doesn’t it?

    With my father, one of the scariest things was… not knowing. Not knowing if he was going to come through that door drunk and bellowing with anger, or if he’d act like a “normal” person. Then again, if he came IN “normal,” there was no telling what idiotic thing would set him off in an irrational rage. Just hearing him come in the door was enough to make me throw up and my poor little dog hide under the bed.

    Trying to please someone who cannot be pleased was frustrating, to say the least, but to this day, I still bend over backwards to make everyone else happy, and I cannot BEAR for anyone to be upset with me. Yelling or cursing at me will make me draw into myself like a tortoise that’s been super-glued into its shell.

    Still? In spite of it all, I’m a pathological optimist. Either that, or I’m fooling myself as much as I’m fooling the world.

    • I adore you. I know exactly what you are talking about. EXACTLY. Keep being an optimist. I try to be optimist as well…in my own crabby way. We might as well. XO

  • Oh lawd girl! This wasn’t my father but my ex! I feel your pain and your fear. I have to agree, no matter how my we may twinge, we are badass and can survive!

  • Your posts are always interesting, and my favorite are the ones that make me laugh. Sometimes, though, they are helpful, like today’s.
    THANK YOU!!!

    • I am so glad you liked it. I am always worried about triggering people..but I think it’s important for people who suffer from whatever mental health issue they suffer to not feel alone. Loneliness is terrible.

  • *sings*
    “We made it through the rain…”
    *stops singing and frowns*
    … to wade forever in brain high muck.
    The ‘residue’ of our well learned survival skills is like the red mud of New Mexico… impossible to scrape off your shoes, but if you don’t, it just gets thicker and more taller, so that when it clumps off you about break your ankle.
    I think the guys that came up with the, “…but it didn’t kill you…” theory were still drunk.

  • Neither of my parents have NPD, but my older brother was physically abusive and my mother has a slew of other mental health issues which resulted, at times, at her going off over small things. I’m talking screaming at me because I asked her a stupid question when she was having difficulty with something. I developed a response early to that to be just as combative back–I was young when this started and didn’t really have any techniques for diffusing the situation (they usually failed when I tried later anyway). Obviously, with both of us screaming, the situation just escalated. She would say the most horrible things to me (one time, she told me that I didn’t deserve my boyfriend because I’m such a horrible person), then later swear that she never said or would never say anything like that and I was just making it up. I don’t know if it was intentional gaslighting or if she really did get that blackout angry that she couldn’t remember the awful things she said.

    It’s a trait she got from her father, so I’m kind of terrified to have kids because I don’t want to continue that cycle.

    But, between my brother kicking the crap out of me physically and my mother ripping me apart mentally, I can definitely relate to that feeling of always expecting anger, or expecting anger to escalate irrationally. It sucks, but you’re right; we face it and that makes us badasses.

  • “Trying to please someone who cannot be pleased was frustrating, to say the least, but to this day, I still bend over backwards to make everyone else happy, and I cannot BEAR for anyone to be upset with me.” Susan Swiderski

    My parents were never loud, or overtly mean or physical, but this sums up my life completely. Nothing I have ever done has been enough to make them proud of me or pleased with me in any way. I’ve always been one to say if you have something to say about me, please don’t say it to my face because I’ll cry.

    • I am right there with you. I have a hard time with tears as well. This made me want to hug you and I don’t like to hug people. I am sending you a big, squishy virtual hug.

  • I asked myself the same question. I took a new job recently and learned my boss was a functioning alcoholic who would never be pleased with any work I did. Never mind I was making substantial sales on my shift and doing everything she asked me to. I even did some work at home (for free). Still, I asked myself “Am I channeling past pain and over reacting to her remarks, body language and basic displeasure?” The answer came to me not soon enough…NO. She is exactly what I vowed to stay away from forever. It’s not me, it’s her dysfunction. It’s not you, it’s other people’s issues projecting onto you…remember that. From someone who’s been there: Let go of other’s people’s shit. You’ve put up with it long enough.

    • OMG I wish so bad that I could. I haven’t been able to do that yet. And if the person is male with a deep voice? I am a wreck. I physically react and it is painful.

  • My mom was almost crazy angry and unpredictable. The unpredictability adds to the anxiety of the anger; you never knew what was going to set her off and when. I am more at ease with others anger than I used to be but it is still difficult.
    The adage “what doesn’t kill you…” is a bunch of crap imo. Abuse damages our souls.
    Sorry you had to go through that hell. It’s awful.

  • My father didn’t have NPD but I think my mother did. My father did have PTSD from the war and yes I can relate to anger coming swiftly and for no reason that I could fathom. I, like you, fear others’ anger so so much, and confrontation in my personal life is very very hard.
    However, I have been for trauma counselling and I am better in my sixties then I was at any other time in my life.

    We are all survivors.
    And your bravery to write about this stuff helps me and I am certain many many others in understanding our past and our traumas. Thank you.

    • It’s not hard for me to write about this stuff. Usually. I have a pretty strong leaning toward disassociation and that helps. I’ll take my silver linings where I can get them.


    I so needed this today – RIGHT NOW.

    I’m on holiday in another country, staying with an old friend and her husband who I’d not met before. He took a near instant dislike to me (honestly, it usually takes MUCH longer for most folks to realize I’m not their cuppa) and I was shown the bloody door! I flew halfway around the world and, the morning of my second day, I’m booted? DAY-um.

    I coulda just bussed to the airport and begged to have my flight switched to NOW but decided, fuck that shit, I’m on vaca and I’ll have me some fun. It’s a whole different kind of fun than I would’ve had with my chum but a good time nonethless. It’s an adventure.

    And yes, I checked to make sure my friend will be safe and getting help before I left.

  • I lived through a few years with a crazy narcissistic step-father. He was my third step-father and INSANE. Writing about this fucking s.o.b. has been the most difficult part of finishing my memoir. It all comes back in living color and the knots in the stomach and the pounding headaches persist as they did decades ago. My mother is also a narcissist, so you can only imagine the fun in that household!
    Like you, Michelle, I feel it helps to write about it but, it takes a toll.

    • man, that makes me sad for you. I am so sorry. I can mostly sift through it without too much pain, the old hurts, not the fresh ones, but it’s still sometimes hard. And there are things I probably won’t ever write about because it’s still too raw.

  • I have an excess as well. If there were a stock exchange-type institution we can call the Fear & Guilt Exchange, maybe, I’d be cornering the market. Sell, sell, sell.

  • First off, I’ve had it easy where parents are concerned, so perhaps I don’t really know what I’m talking about, but a few things occur to me about this:
    First, there is no bravery without fear. That’s sort of the definition of bravery: Performing effectively despite fear. Or trying to, anyway. You’re no less brave if the tiger eats you than if you escape.
    Second, and I’ve been saying this for years:
    “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger”
    Sure. Polio, for instance.
    I do believe that a certain amount of adversity is helpful to have lived through, but after a certain amount, it just tears you down. It’s probably a curve for each individual, the up slope is the benefit one gains from testing themselves against the world, and the down slope is the parts of your life you never get to, physically and mentally, because of the hard-ass shit you had to try and overcome.
    Most of my favorite people have been tried in the fire, so to speak, but I seriously don’t advocate my path through this world to anyone else who may have any other options than the ones I availed myself of.
    And some of the scariest sounding stuff really wasn’t. Like going blind. That sounds like it should scare the shit out of you, right? I just found it to be a massive pain in the ass. Looking for a place to live? That scared me so bad that I would sit there and shake after scouring Craigslist for a place, day after day.
    So far, I have made it through. And so have you. You are deserving of credit for that. I admire your bravery, and the way you have turned your past into the person you are.

  • Terrorbit 🙂 What a sense of humor you have. You go girl. You are quite high functioning considering the NPD parent. I’m proud of you, and when I grow up I wanna be just like you. I’m 60 LOL

  • O picture a halloween type scare house where you have to live with my pparennts playing the psrt of the child for a weekend. No actual rape will be allowed but everything else. The thi h is you wont know exactly which day it will end. This should end your interest in extreme sports

  • Neither my father (banker) of my mother (professor of music) had NPD, but my mother was a supreme manipulator (manipulatrix?) who practiced her art on my father until the day she died. She was also an adept but over-the-top social poser. I hated that. Having moved from the UK to Texas some years back, I’ve met a good number of women here who attempt both the manipulation and posing arts. Bless their hearts! Only my wife’s late godmother, who would enter a room like a battleship in full sail, came anywhere close. So to this day, I am totally resistant to manipulation. Or, at least, I think I am. My wife is from New Orleans!

  • Not sure how I am only discovering your brilliance now, but I am so glad today is that day. (Thank you, Jenny Lawson!) There are so many things in this post that I can relate to, and I very much appreciate your humour and honesty. I am looking forward to reading more!

  • You’ve somehow managed to survive Every Single Day that has led to today. That makes you a BadAss. Me, too. I survived completely different shit than you survived, but we’ve both made it to TODAY. Happy Dance Break! 😀

  • This is an emotional land mine. My mother was and remains the narcissist in my life. I have spent a good deal of time balancing self preservation and compassion because she is mentally ill (we have the paper work). I don’t experience fear on a consistent basis but I excel at taking ordinary situations to fucked up end of world scenarios (in my mind). For example, I can come home and see my husband’s car is missing and just assume he has another family and that he died on his way back to tell me he’s leaving us for the “other” family. Now, I don’t typically verbalize the crazy shit that goes on in my brain because I do recognize it as not rational. That takes a fuck ton (that’s like 110X’s a shit ton if you’re curious about the math) of discipline and is something I have taught myself over decades of introspection and recovery. The gift that keeps on giving.

    • It IS the gift that keeps on giving and if it helps, I do the same thing. Not the same dark little fantasies, but still dark. If I hear sirens and my people aren’t home, I freak the fuck out. On the inside. And I agree with your unit of measure

By Michelle


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