Why do narcissists create conflict? 

If you’ve ever interacted with a narcissist, you know that these folks seem to create conflict wherever they go. There is always some sort of chaos or drama whenever they’re involved.

Narcissists are so skilled at creating conflict that they appear to thrive in the face of it. They may even escalate disagreements on purpose to provoke a reaction. This can bewilder the people around the narcissist, leaving them confused and hurt. 

It’s helpful to understand the reasons narcissists create conflict so you’re prepared to interact with them more effectively. There are several reasons narcissists thrive in the midst of discord, and I’ll discuss them below.

10 reasons narcissists create conflict 

If you feel that a narcissist in your life seeks conflict intentionally, you’re probably right. Narcissists have plenty of reasons to create conflict in the lives of others.

#1 For attention

Narcissists have an insatiable appetite for attention and external validation. Even if conflict is negative, it places the narcissist at the center of attention, giving them the validation they need.

Having people pay attention to the narcissist makes them feel special, satisfying their fragile egos. They may create conflict simply to shift the attention back onto them! 

It doesn’t matter how upsetting conflict is to others; creating drama is a guaranteed way to keep all eyes on the narcissist, and that’s what they want. 

#2 Avoiding accountability 

When narcissists are feeling ashamed for some sort of wrongdoing, they have to shift blame onto others. They simply cannot handle taking accountability for their own mistakes. 

So, when they feel insecure about something they’ve done, they might start conflict with others to get a reaction out of them. The narcissist will then blame others for being the source of the problem, which takes the blame away from the narcissist.

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Stirring up conflict also creates chaos and confusion, which takes the focus off of the narcissist’s faults. This ultimately allows them to avoid taking any accountability. 

#3 Power and control

Narcissists crave control; they need to dominate others and remain in control of the environment around them. Creating conflict is a way for them to assert their dominance.

When the narcissist creates conflict, people will react and respond. This shows the narcissist they can control others, which makes them feel quite superior.

Being in control also allows the narcissist to manipulate others. Controlling other people through conflict can distract people and throw them off balance, making them more likely to comply with the narcissist’s demands. 

#4 Feeling superior

Creating conflict can help narcissists to feel superior to others, which is important for the maintenance of their self-esteem. When they create conflict, narcissists are in a position to belittle others, which makes them feel better about themselves.

Narcissists can also play various roles in the midst of conflict, which can make them feel superior. For instance, they might create drama and then take on the “hero” role, helping to solve the conflict.

When others then recognize the narcissist as being a master mediator, they will shower the narcissist with praise and admiration. 

#5 Creating emotional dependence

When narcissists repeatedly create conflict, they keep others emotionally dependent upon them. For instance, if the narcissist picks fights and accuses others of wrongdoing, these people will feel guilty and give in to the narcissist to get back in their good graces.

Over time, this makes people emotionally dependent upon the reactions of the narcissist. They will feel good when the narcissist is happy, and anxious when the narcissist is creating conflict.

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This results in a state of distress for victims, who will constantly be on edge, attempting to satisfy the narcissist’s demands. Conflict teaches people to give the narcissist what they want, in order to avoid the negative emotions that come with disagreements. 

#6 Coping with abandonment fears

In some cases, stirring up conflict is a way for narcissists to cope with their fears of abandonment. They may use conflict as a way to test others’ loyalty and ensure that other people will not run at the first sign of discord.

Pushing people to their limits can help narcissists get a better idea of who will stay, versus who will leave during times of stress. If you stay loyal even in the face of conflict, the narcissist may feel less anxious about potential abandonment. 

#7 Seeking revenge

Narcissists are known to hold grudges, and if they perceive you have wronged them, they have to settle the score. You might not have intended to hurt the narcissist, but rest assured, they will seek revenge to punish you, no matter how slight the infraction was.

Conflict can be a way for the narcissist to punish others as revenge for perceived slights. Stirring up drama creates stress and chaos in your life, which the narcissist believes you deserve as reprimand for your wrongdoings. 

#8 To heal emotional numbness

On the inside, narcissists are emotionally quite numb. They don’t really form deep, meaningful connections with other people, as most of their relationships are transactional and superficial in nature.

This results in a level of emotional numbness and boredom that can be difficult to manage. Narcissists may intentionally create conflict to stimulate themselves and feel more engaged with others.

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Drama can distract narcissists from their feelings of emotional emptiness. It can also provide intense emotional stimulation, filling their void from not having fulfilling relationships with others. 

#9 To discredit others

As you might guess, some people see through the narcissist’s games. These folks know exactly who the narcissist is, and they are wise to the narcissist’s manipulation tactics.

When the narcissist realizes that someone sees their true colors, they must discredit this individual. The narcissist can achieve this by creating conflict, in which they paint others as being irrational or unfair.

Conflict and drama allow the narcissist to manipulate public opinions so their own image remains untarnished. 

#10 For entertainment 

Narcissists find it quite entertaining when people around them are fussed up. Knowing they can create this disturbance makes the situation even more entertaining for the narcissist.

When the narcissist is bored and in need of some excitement, they may stir up drama intentionally just to keep themselves occupied. 

The bottom line: Narcissists love conflict

Ultimately, narcissists enjoy conflict. It serves several important purposes, so they will stir it up intentionally.

Conflict not only provides entertainment and emotional stimulation; it’s also a way for the narcissist to dominate others, discredit their enemies, and boost their self-esteem through attention and validation.

Now that you understand the narcissist’s motives for conflict, you’ll be better prepared to distance yourself from them when they’re creating drama. You don’t have to take the bait and participate. 

Instead, keep your distance and protect your own mental health. There’s no need to take part in the chaos. 

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