A narcissistic stare is so intense and penetrating that it seems to consume all the attention and energy in its path. It draws you into the Narcissist’s world, leaving you floundering in a mire of self-obsession and manipulation.
Behind those penetrative eyes is an insatiable need for dominance, control, and admiration.
A narcissist uses eye contact to seduce and create a sense of intimacy, intimidate, or assert their control if that stare is devoid of all emotion.
Narcissists also gaze into the eyes of their victims when searching for clues or signs of their submission and admiration.
Whatever the intent behind the Narcissist’s stare, it has an unsettling psychological effect on the recipient.
Here, I want to unravel the enigma of the narcissistic gaze and share some knowledge and insights to help you identify and navigate encounters with narcissistic individuals.
What is the Narcissist Stare?
The Narcissist’s stare appears blank and lacking in any emotion or warmth. Rather than seeing into your soul, a narcissist’s gaze seems to penetrate straight through you as though you don’t exist.
This is closer to the truth than you might initially imagine. To the Narcissist, a victim is only helpful to the extent to which they can fuel the Narcissist’s need for admiration, control, and power.
So, when a narcissist gazes into your eyes, it’s not because they’re so infatuated with you that they can’t drag their gaze away, but because they’re searching for insecurities and weaknesses that they can exploit and use to gain control over you.
A penetrating stare is always unsettling but never more so than when dark, dead eyes accompany it. When we experience certain emotions, like anger or grief, our pupils dilate, making our eyes appear much darker than usual.
This is something you commonly see in the narcissist stare and are sometimes referred to as narcissistic rage eyes.
Narcissistic Rage Eyes
Narcissists can’t control their emotions like most people. If they feel their ego is threatened, they’re liable to fly off the handle, demonstrating an uncontrollable rage that’s both frightening and potentially dangerous.
Searching for Vulnerability
In many instances, you’ll see the Narcissist’s eyes darken long before the rage becomes evident. You may notice them staring at you even more intensely than usual, as though they’re searching for something you’ve hidden deep within yourself.
This is the first stage of narcissistic rage eyes and, although intended to make you feel uncomfortable and unsettled, is only the start of the process.
The Darkening Gaze
As the rage builds, so the Narcissist’s eyes darken even more. As the pupil size increases, the stare becomes increasingly blank and lifeless. This can be very frightening and intimidating. Such dull, dead eyes are often associated with evil.
At this stage, the Narcissist will appear to stare right through you, seeing nothing and registering no emotion.
This look intensifies as the rage builds even further, and the Narcissist’s eyes will go from lifeless to completely dead. Their stare becomes cold and hard, delivering a clear message: “You are nothing to me.”
This stage of the narcissist stare is very similar to a sociopathic stare, both of which are “intimidating, manipulative, and used to communicate an implicit threat.”
Concealing Shame and Weakness
Narcissists also use this blank expression to mask parts of their personality that they perceive as shameful or might indicate failure or weakness.
They might feel that they’re losing control over you or afraid you’ll expose their inner truth, fraught with feelings of emptiness, loneliness, and unworthiness.
When the Narcissist’s rage finally gets the better of them, you’ll be at the receiving end of the worst narcissist stare.
Danger and Potential Violence
As their rage intensifies, their heart rate and blood pressure increase, and their breathing becomes more rapid.
The anger triggers a flight or fight situation, which causes the pupils to dilate and the adrenal gland to flood the body with adrenaline and cortisol.
The Malignant Narcissist Stare
As the pupils dilate, the eye appears darker, giving the Narcissist an almost evil appearance, and once the rage has developed to this stage, you are in potential danger. Black eyes suggest a surge of adrenalin that could turn into aggression or violence.
This type of malignant narcissist stare shows that a narcissistic injury has occurred, triggering the narc’s underlying sense of unworthiness.
The Narcissist is now experiencing painful emotions that they’re unable to control or manage, causing them to lash out and seek revenge against whoever they blame for the injury.
You may only catch a fleeting glimpse of a narcissist’s predatory stare, but you’ll never forget how uncomfortable it makes you.
Somehow, the eyes of a narcissist go completely cold and blank, with none of the warmth or intimacy you usually get from prolonged eye contact.
You’ll find the Narcissist gazing at you as if they were about to attack – much like a shark’s eyes turning black just before it attacks its prey.
If someone looks at you with a predatory stare, they will often replace it with a warm smile the moment they realize you’re looking.
This makes the lifeless gaze even more disturbing, and you may wonder if you saw it or if it was a figment of your imagination.
Narcissists generally act as though that predatory stare never happened, suggesting that you were never supposed to see their dangerous intent.
Now you have seen it – take it as a sign that it’s time to start distancing yourself from this person before the situation becomes any more intimidating or dangerous.
Intimidation and Manipulation
It might be hard to believe that something as simple and common as eye contact can effectively manipulate somebody, but narcissists have made it an art form.
That menacingly cold stare is highly unnerving, leaving the recipient uncomfortable and unsettled.
Narcissists use eye contact to intimidate and manipulate, starting with a long visual examination that makes its victim feel as though their very souls are being probed.
A narcissist uses this type of stare to build up their stocks. They learn everything they can about you, mirroring your behavior, and copying your style of communication, so they can use them to lure you in.
Narcissists will also deliver a long, cold stare when they want your attention. They will make sure you can feel their eyes on you and will maintain eye contact until they get the attention and validation they need to compensate for their low self-esteem.
It is only when they want to intimidate you that narcissists employ the predatory stare in which their eyes darken, sending a shiver of fear down your spine.
Why Do Narcissists Stare?
Narcissists use every means available to them to create a perfect picture of themselves and mask their manipulative ways, including eye contact.
At the beginning of a relationship, a narcissist will stare at you to create a sense of intimacy and sexual arousal.
Studies show that “prolonged eye contact spurs the nervous system to release oxytocin and phenylethylamine.” The Narcissist also knows that those chemicals are associated with long-term bonding and feelings of attraction.
By eliciting prolonged eye contact, the Narcissist creates a false sense of intimacy and security while presenting themselves as the perfect partner with whom to share such feelings. It is the beginning of the manipulation.
Once the Narcissist has lured you in, they’ll employ a different type of stare or squint to make you feel on edge. They want you to only have eyes for them, and to stare at them devotedly, so they’ll try and instigate this reaction by staring at you.
If they manage to secure your attention this way, they’ll continue to use eye contact to analyze your feelings to use them against you.
During several sessions with one Narcissist, I noticed they started holding my gaze for increasing lengths of time. Initially, there was a hint of a smile on their face while they stared, but this soon evolved into a smirk and then disappeared into lifelessness.
This is the natural process of the narcissistic stare. It starts as an attempt at intimacy and then becomes a study of the other person’s weaknesses. Once the Narcissist has analyzed those weaknesses, the stare becomes both penetrating and predatory.
How the Eyes of the Narcissist Manipulate You
As I mentioned, prolonged eye contact evokes intimacy and sparks a sense of attraction. The Narcissist uses this ploy to draw you into their narrative, creating a false sense of closeness and security that encourages you to let your guard down.
Once they’ve won you over, they can continue using their narcissistic stare to unsettle you so that you turn to them, seeking the sense of security they previously promised. At this point, they withdraw, leaving you gazing into blank, vacant eyes that chill you to the bone.
This type of narcissistic stare means they’re looking for signs. They want to find something, anything they can criticize in you. They search for suspicious changes they can potentially grill you about, obliterating the previous sense of intimacy, leaving you feeling rejected, and desperately searching for a way to get back into their good books.
This is the kind of micromanipulation narcissists rely on to control you and ensure you’re providing the narcissistic supply they need to combat their feelings of inadequacy.
How do you recognize the Narcissist Stare?
A narcissist stare can take various forms, from love bombing to cold and calculating, so how do you know you’re looking into the eyes of a narcissist? The first thing to look for is duration.
Most people can only maintain eye contact for around three seconds, but narcissists have such an inflated sense of self-importance that they think nothing of holding your gaze for five seconds or even longer.
There’s a reason they do this – they know how unsettling it is. Narcissists are expert manipulators and use prolonged eye contact to make you feel uncomfortable and vulnerable. They need you to be powerless so they can control you and boost their sense of superiority.
Any stare that leaves you feeling scared or intimidated is either a sociopathic, psychopathic, or narcissistic look.
Even if you can’t distinguish the exact type or motivation behind the gaze, you should still trust your instinct; if your instinct is to be scared, there’s probably a good reason for that.
How do you Respond to the Narcissist Staring at you?
Some people initially feel flattered when a narcissist stares at them, thinking it indicates intimacy or devotion. It’s only when the Narcissist’s stare becomes cold and dark that they start having doubts.
At this stage, calling the Narcissist out will only irritate them and make the situation even more dangerous. If you want to confront them, try cushioning the blow with the “compliment sandwich approach”.
Narcissists find criticism excruciatingly painful and will lash out if you directly confront them about their behavior. The compliment sandwich approach involves framing the problem between two compliments so the Narcissist finds it easier to digest.
Say something like, “I love how you gaze into my eyes, but I sometimes find it a bit unsettling. I wish my gaze were as intense as yours.”
This may not have the desired effect, but hopefully, it will make the Narcissist aware that you’ve noticed the narcissist’s stare and know they’re using it to make you uncomfortable.
If you’ve already got to the point where the narcissist stare is cold and calculating, chances are, they’ve already got their sights set on a new victim or narcissistic supply. If that’s the case, it’s time to get out before they destroy your self-esteem.
You may be too scared and intimidated by the narcissist stare to do anything about it, in which case you should seek professional help.
Why do Narcissists Stare into your Eyes?
Narcissists stare deep into your eyes to manipulate and intimidate you. Sometimes, that stare can seem loving and at others, threatening, but you constantly feel uncomfortable.
The whole purpose of a narcissist stare is to knock you off balance, destroy your confidence, and make you easier to control.
Can you tell they are a Narcissist by Looking in their Eyes?
Some narcissists are better at hiding their narcissistic traits than others, and you can’t always tell someone’s a narcissist just by looking at them.
One telltale trait is the narcissist stare, which involves piercing and prolonged eye contact. Research also indicates that “people can accurately assess others’ narcissism based on their physical appearance alone.”