Thin Skin Narcissists Operate on Rage and Passive Aggression

thin skin narcissist therapy

Thin skin narcissists are highly sensitive, envious and insecure.

They react instantly to any observation about them that isn’t superlative. They tend to withdraw and treat others as potentially hostile and dangerous, and likely to victimize them. Thin skin types feel enormous shame when they are exposed as being imperfect. Thin skin narcissists cannot tolerate being human – having ulterior motives or acting in self-serving ways. The shame can be lethal,  so thin skin narcissists defend against it – use the survival mechanism of blaming others – they shift the bad feelings to those that triggered the shame, in an effort to return to their previous state of feeling righteous.

Molly a thirty-seven year old Gastroenterologist loved her work, but was tense around colleagues in the staff lounge. She felt that her colleagues and assistants were less conscientious than her, and made her job much harder than it need be. Her assistants kept asking her stupid questions instead of doing the job they were hired for, and not nearly supportive enough when she was backed up or had emergency surgeries to perform. Molly felt slighted when her needs were not anticipated by nurses and administrative staff, as if they were disrespecting her personally.

Thin-skinned narcissists feel entitled to attention and adoration that they do not get

Molly experienced her aides as not taking care of her as they should; not caring about her fatigue; her need for charts to be up to date and for all pre-exams to be done before she consulted with a patient or went in to perform surgery. She was, smoldering, enraged at the way she was being treated – like a nobody! She was envious of their slower pace, breaks and social cohesion.  Molly considered herself a victim of the situation with her hands tied. She had no power to fire them or bring them to heel. Her bosses in the hospital were the employers, and how she could complain about her colleagues not covering for her when she so often did for them?

A thin skin narcissist like Molly fumed under her breath, she was cold and rude to everyone around her, including neighbors who agreed to water her plants when she was away at a conference but drowned  them instead. She felt entitled to have what was her right in every relationship and situation – complete and total focus on her needs being met because it was the ‘right’ and proper thing to do.

Thin skinned narcissists react with Passive Aggression.

Molly ignored text messages, calls and or emails from friends, neighbors, and boyfriends who let her down. She responded with one or two word answers at work as necessary and avoided doing anything that would oil the wheels with neighbors, boyfriend or friends when they unintentionally hurt her. Her wounds were deep and throbbing with constant pain – a reminder that she was not important, sought after or valuable to anyone around her. Rage engulfed her to protect her from the hurt of the wound. The rage made her feel strong and vengeful, willing to punish in a passive aggressive way – appear congenial and compliant, but make no emotional investment in the activities she did with and for them in the line of duty – whether at work or in her personal life. Imagining them squirming with uncertainty about their status in her mind gave her a sense of control. But it was short lived, because what she longed for most of all was to feel treasured and adored for who she was. Her professional skills did little to ease her insecurity when it came to relationships.

thin skin narcissism and it's roots

Thin skinned narcissists – roots 

Emotionally unavailable parents at an early age set up an environment of neglect. Molly wasn’t seen or valued by her busy mother who wanted to get back to work as fast as she could after giving birth. Her father was either busy helping his friends or stuck in a sports game on television. Sometimes he would want Molly’s company and make her feel special, but when he stopped it felt like a desertion – she had to survive in the cold world of her aloof and mechanical mother. Desperate to be wanted and loved Molly excelled at school both academically and as a high jump athlete,  avoided boyfriends until she was in her early twenties, and was conservative with the little allowance she got from her parents. She got a few words of acknowledgement but not what she felt she was entitled to, what she had sacrificed and worked for. Anger was always beneath the surface railing against the fact that she didn’t get what she owed. Molly’s world felt unjustifiably cruel. The two people she felt were responsible for her well-being were out to lunch. Emotionally she felt as if her skin had been peeled off, left alone and unprotected from their negligence.

Molly’s experience was what we call a ‘narcissistic wound.’  It’s the wound that cuts at the core of need to be wanted and cared for by her parents. She was furious that she was not lovable or good enough. She compared herself to others constantly, envying them, wanting to destroy what they had, and get it herself.

Like most thin skinned narcissists Molly brought the distinct features of her narcissistic wound to bear on her day-to-day life:

  • A sense of entitlement because she believes she is the ‘good girl’ sacrificing and doing her duty but not rewarded
  • Identification with victim-hood
  • Envy towards others who get cared for, attended, wanted and treated sensitively
  • Destroying good feelings of those she envies so that she can feel strong, and trade her bad feelings for their good ones.
  • A need for recognition and appreciation from those supposedly in caring roles around her, including boyfriend, work aides and friends.

thin skin narcissists end up alone

Thin Skin Narcissists – costs and consequences

  • The biggest price for her thin skinned narcissism was a lack of trusting secure relationships. Molly had about three short term relationships with men through her adult life, and in each one she found the men disappointing and not worth her time and emotional investment. She was scared they would depend on her while she secretly longed to depend on them – having missed out on that experience as a child.
  • Feeling alone with sadness and rage as her only companions
  • Experiencing her world as increasingly hostile, putting on her armor and threatening others with her passive aggressive rage if they don’t behave in the way she demands.

Establishing a relationship with a therapist where Molly can learn to build trust and feel adored and wanted is the way forward. She needs a good solid reliable template that gives her what was missing in her early life – to heal the wound, and then she will be able to relate to others without envy, rage or entitlement. Individual relationship counseling will serve Molly well.

copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D. 2017

All rights reserved.

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