The Narcissist as Pinball Wizard

Now, if you’re like most people who’ve been steamrollered by a narcissist, you’ve had a discussion or an activity (or a thousand of them) between the two of you completely fall apart and end up tense and miserable, and found the blame for that laid squarely on you. As a Very Nice Person, you’ve been willing to consider that you MIGHT have had something to do with it. But I bet you’ve been so confused about what went down that you’re wondering what you did wrong just because it’s impossible to sort out what happened, and he’s telling you it’s your fault. You sort of know you didn’t cause the breakdown in communication, but you don’t see what happened, and if he says he does, maybe he does.

And that paragraph was MUCH easier to understand than the random meltdown of a narcissist.

Let’s look at what really happened, and then next time he completely screws up a nice time (you ARE still with him, aren’t you? Please? For me?), you can see if this resonates with what seems to be going on.

The reason these freaky fights, struggles and meltdowns can be so hard to figure out is that it wasn’t an event, or words, or deeds that started it. I know it LOOKS like it was something you said or did, or something he “felt” or thought or “misinterpreted”. And I’ll bet the farm that he’s SAYING it’s something you said or did. But what really happened first was a totally unpredictable and irrational explosion of anxiety, rage and/or terror inside his head. THAT is what happened first. It happens a lot, and he can’t control it. Then, feeling that awful anxiety or rage, he looks around for someplace to put it, because he sure as hell can’t just hold it and deal with it. He has to vomit it out. Oh, and look who’s right there.


So, suddenly, on an otherwise splendid day, he’s all uptight, furious, making bizarre assumptions, and generally being an ass and blaming you for what amounts to one thing — making him feel the way he feels. Yet the truth is, it’s his screwed up head that’s making him feel the way he feels. It’s his disorder, his disease. It has nothing to do with you. But you’re a close target, and he sure as hell isn’t going to handle his feelings like a grown-up. He’s gonna act like a deranged ape and get rid of as much toxic emotion as he can.

By spraying it out onto you.

Through tantrums, passive aggression, withholding, or overt abuse, he’s going to pretend you caused it, you did it, you started it. The truth is even scarier, and weirder: What started it was invisible and completely erratic pinballs of hate slamming around and wreaking havoc in his head. Not even he sees the meltdowns coming. The nasty feelings come first, out of nowhere, like a pop-up clown in a pinball machine.

And you sure don’t need me to tell you what comes next.

Friends, please don’t take on the responsibility for bad scenes just because he says you should. And please don’t waste a lot of time struggling to figure out his moods. They’re as random as the banging around of a pinball.



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4 responses to “The Narcissist as Pinball Wizard

  1. Kay

    Thank you so much that was enlightening – you just explained every cross word I ever have with my partner, definately an N and I didn’t even know it until now !!!

  2. It is a pathetic shame when we get into the mode of defending ourselves for doing absolutely NOTHING to provoke them. Your head is spinning, wondering what just happened. The conversation runs the gamut from the immediate trigger (whatever is bugging them at the moment), to some other far fetched theory of how you started the whole thing, or that incident 10 years ago that makes him act the way he does.
    Not only does it leave you reeling, but you end up feeling like you have to watch what you say and don’t say…what you do and don’t do…and even what expressions you make! Cause god forbid he looks at you and your eyebrow is raised he will blame you for creating the problem. Maybe your thinking about that incident 10 years ago, or maybe your nose had a tickle. Don’t move a muscle (just let your nose itch) or your in for one hellacious tongue lashing! OR WORSE!

  3. Megan

    Wow! Thank you so much for that! I have spent 10 years trying to figure out how these outburst just happen, how I end up being blamed for it all, how I can’t reason or clarify anything with him and how he has absolutely no remorse after! If anything, he paints me as a selfish person for not bowing to apologize ! I didn’t eve start them!
    Did my tears and anguish over the years empower him? I remember when I’d be in a room sobbing, he seemed to be most gratified in that he could turn on a comedy show and laugh louder than I have ever heard him do! What a sick man!

  4. Annie

    Thank you so much for this! I’m just figuring out what sort of crazy monster just dumped me out of nowhere, and your website has been a huge help in processing it all. The laughter helps me work through all the pain. Thanks. 🙂

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