By Joanie Bentz, B.S., M.Ed., CCBP, BC
I always say that all narcissists are dangerous and have the potential to escalate to pathological rage —seriously harming their targets or anyone who gets in their way. For example, let’s look at the case of Jodi Arias.
In 2008, Jodi Arias was convicted of the gruesome murder of her boyfriend, Travis Alexander. I remember catching various glimpses of Jodi Arias in news articles online and on TV. I vividly remember her face.
Arias and Alexander shared an on-again, off-again relationship described as tumultuous. On their last day together, Arias, 24, stabbed the 30-year-old Alexander 29 times, slit his throat, and then fired a bullet into the back of his head. A coroner later stated that Alexander may have already been dead by the time he was shot.
She is now serving a sentence of life in prison, but still manages to manipulate the media and those involved in the case, even suing her former defense attorney. He stated in a book he wrote about the case that Arias abused him over the years.
Narcissists and pathological rage
It does not surprise me that Jodi Arias continues to harass and torment anyone who challenges her, even from a prison cell. Such behavior is typical for a Dark Triad narcissist. (Please see my article, How people of the dark triad implode — the link is self-sabotage.)
Malignant narcissists like Jodi Arias operate with one goal in mind: to secure what they want at all costs. At first, they appear to be solely focused on their prize, like Travis was to Jodi, and this focus makes the target feel like the only person in the world: significant, valued and loved!
Jodi Arias wanted Travis all to herself, according to reports from those who knew both of them. When Travis wanted to move on without her, Jodi took this as a narcissistic injury and began a stalking campaign that concerned everyone, including Travis. The pathological rage she had kept hidden was beginning to surface.
Let’s take a look at other examples of how the rage surfaces when a narcissist is injured to the core. Here are three familiar “cases”.
Relationship turns to stalking
Richard meets Nicole on a social media site where they share a common interest. Richard is naturally trusting, but his boundaries have been continually violated over the years by his former wife who was emotionally abusive.
Nicole is funny and kind, and messages Richard every day, which makes him feel special and hopeful about starting over. Nicole makes sure she establishes a relationship with Richard as friends before talking on the phone. Once the phone calls start, Richard is already hooked.
Nicole realizes that Richard has been emotionally abused, and she capitalizes on his need for validation and love. Nicole continues the love bombing, writing love letters and future faking (promises of a fairy tale life together).
After the two meet, Richard is even more enthralled but notices that when he cannot see her or talk to her, Nicole panics and messages him incessantly. She also begins to call and leave voicemails at least 5 times a day. When he returns the calls and messages, he cannot keep up with her demands for constant contact. He has a job and family.
Nicole decides she needs to move closer to Richard because she is not happy about the distance. Richard begins to fear Nicole, because she seems obsessed with him. Richard cuts off the relationship but Nicole is not having any of it.
Nicole is calling and texting even more so than before. Richard tries to block her, but she calls from different numbers and creates fake email accounts. She states that if she does not answer him, she will visit him unannounced to “talk” to him. At the prompting of a concerned friend, Richard calls the police and Nicole is arrested on charges of harassment.
Steve has a brother who is a few years older than he. His mother his going to turn 70 soon and his brother wants to throw a party. Steve is just getting on his feet with a new job and new life. He does not have a lot of money, but his brother does not seem to take this into consideration when he informs Steve that they will have to share the costs. His brother begins planning the event, but does not include Steve.
Steve figures his brother wants to do it all by himself and does not make a big deal of it. Steve’s brother informs him of the guest list. Steve notices that there are people invited that only his brother knows. Steve is beginning to think this event is being planned just for his brother’s interests.
Steve confronts his brother and tells him that he does not approve of the plans being made, and that he was not asked to help or contribute his ideas. The brother ignores him and the party takes place. Steve is late because of work and his brother gives him the cold shoulder the entire time.
Steve receives an email the next day with the bill for the party, and a scolding for being late. Steve is expected to pay half. Steve ignores the email, but the brother will not be ignored. He sends multiple emails. When Steve does not respond, the brother then sends it in the mail. Steve continues to ignore the invoice and his brother sends it a few more times in the mail.
Steve is holding his ground, and the brother then decides to call. When he picks up the phone, the brother is screaming at Steve. Steve is unnerved by his brother’s behavior. His brother is calling him names and insulting him. Steve hangs up abruptly, and a few days later Steve sees his brother at his dad’s house, but his brother acts as if nothing happened.
Christian married Maria but was not in love with her. He cared for her, but was hurt by another woman before meeting Maria. Christian felt sorry for Maria because she had a tough life and sometimes, she was reclusive and unaffected.
They had 2 children together, one boy and one girl. Christian really bonded with his son, but only as far as Maria allowed it. Maria had to be the center of attention. Maria made certain that the daughter relied on Maria alone. Maria would criticize Christian in front of the daughter at a very early age. Maria would also ridicule him and say cruel things about his personality and interests.
What Christian did not know is that Maria was plotting to divorce him even before the children were born. Maria figured she could have children and when divorced, she could collect child support and be comfortable financially.
As the daughter grew up, at around age 12, the mother completed the grooming of her daughter to hate her father. Christian caught on to Maria’s scheme of alienating the daughter and revealed the truth to a judge. When he did so, Maria’s pathological rage surfaced, and using the daughter as an extension of herself, she had the daughter make false claims of abuse to ruin the father’s reputation and standing in the community.
Pathological rage is always simmering
In these three examples, we see a buildup of narcissistic rage and the refusal of not being acknowledged on the narcissist’s terms. That rage is always simmering, ready to go into full destructive mode if the narcissist’s needs are not met.
Malignant narcissists are clever had hiding their rage, but at some point, they are not going to get what they want and they become unhinged. Sometimes, we see little signs, like the narcissist treating a server in a restaurant with contempt or yelling at a cashier about not taking coupons. This type of behavior would be expected from a narcissist operating low on the spectrum. However, “low on the spectrum” does not mean that the narcissistic is always guaranteed to operate there. They can escalate behaviors to the extreme depending on the situation. That is the risk you and I take when remaining in their midst.
Pathological rage in the extreme
What Jodi did to Travis was a result of disorder high on the spectrum. Jodi may have felt she was justified, as all narcissists do, and that her acts of rage were necessary due to Travis’ rejection of her.
I always wondered, when did Jodi Arias reach the point of no return? When did she reach that place where no healing can take place and her obsession with revenge transformed into a rage-filled nightmare of epic proportions?
Jodi Arias is an example of ongoing lack of boundaries and self-control. Her need for validation was greater than her respect for life. Her self-deification demonstrates a lack of respect and empathy, which is typical for all narcissists.
What is the lesson here? Ask yourself is it really worth giving any narcissist a chance, regardless if he or she is family, boyfriend, girlfriend, or co-worker? Rage, whether overt or covert, is a sign of a disordered and dangerous mind. The best we can do to save ourselves from these individuals is steer clear as soon as the subtle signs begin to surface through total avoidance or the low key “grey rock” method.