How does a narcissist tolerate ignoring i.e. treating them like they were invisible? Theoretically, a true narcissist can’t tolerate being ignored….by anyone. Usually, they will act out or do anything to focus that person’s attention back to themselves. One of the best ways to get a narcissist to leave you alone (eventually) is to ignore them. A classic narcissist needs attention and praise… but not by everyone per se. There is a difference in how they respond depending on whether you are a random person providing-or not providing- narcissistic supply, or a valued love interest.
Interactions With a Narcissist
For a random person, there are generally three interactions as follows:
1.) The person gives the narcissist attention and praise.
Narcissist’s response: Continue to use that person to provide narcissistic supply.
2.) The person criticizes the narcissist or shows defiance (which may be in the form of ignoring).
Narcissist’s response: He or she will hate you and either holds a grudge or tries valiantly to convert your thoughts about them.
3.) The person ignores the narcissist, not criticizing nor providing attention (positive or negative) – maintaining a neutral position.
Narcissist’s response: He or she realizes that you aren’t worth their time (as you aren’t giving narcissistic supply) and ignores you right back.
However, being ignored by a love interest or from someone they value is a different story altogether. Many narcissists cannot handle the hit to their ego when they are rejected this way; so much so, that narcissists are (paradoxically) prone to suicide with too much exposure to such perceived criticisms.
Those are generalizations about classic narcissists. The truth, though, is that every narcissist will react differently… there is no one standard for how a narcissist will react when ignored. Some will react violently, some will be furious, some will stalk the person, some won’t care at all, and some will never truly have a “love” interest that they put that much value on.
“Love” may not necessarily be impossible for narcissists; they just view love differently than other people. Narcissists see love as a relationship where they are provided with a significant, highly valued source of narcissistic supply. Conquering a highly valued romantic partner is one of the best ways to attain this. Narcissists will fearlessly pursue a seemingly unobtainable love interest. Like fame, money, status, and power, acquiring a highly regarded partner is also a priority for many narcissists.
Rejection of a Narcissist
On the outside, a narcissist appears superior and invincible… but what about how they feel inside? Some might think that a narcissist wouldn’t care about being ignored by one person because of the hefty number of people who seem to worship him or her, but that’s not necessarily true.
Rejection hurts any normal person, but it nearly kills a narcissist! Why is that? It is believed that narcissists became narcissistic as a result of the shame they suffered in early childhood. If a child was abused in childhood or neglected in such a way that made him ashamed of whom he is, then he will try to cope with, or cover, that shame in whatever way is available to him or her. Some individuals will become socially withdrawn while others will choose a different defense mechanism such as narcissism. He or she does their best to hide their alleged defects by projecting an air of superiority.
In order to maintain his feelings of superiority, a narcissist will exaggerate his own importance and will not listen to or accept anyone who tries to point out his or her flaws. That is why ignoring a narcissist hurts so much… because the act of ignoring him is viewed as an attempt to devalue his exaggerated worth and reminds him (or her) of his childhood shame.
How the Narcissist Responds to Being Ignored
The narcissist will devalue and demean those who don’t agree with him or those who point out his flaws. When being ignored, he generally will do one of two things:
1.) Label the person who ignored him as ‘inferior’ and thus give himself a reason to no longer think about the rejection
2.) If the ignoring person is highly valued and cannot be considered inferior, then the narcissist will then do his best to take revenge. It’s very common for a narcissist to treat someone badly just to “prove” to them that they are not important to him.