Narcissistic injury is the term given to the genuine trauma a narcissist experiences whenever she is challenged in any way.
The events which will cause narcissistic injury are things like criticism (even the mildest criticism), or someone setting boundaries that stop the narcissist doing exactly what they want to do, or not getting enough narcissistic supply.
To understand narcissists, you must know this: they are extremely fragile, and have zero resilience. Therefore they spend huge amounts of energy creating their own world to their own needs, and making people around them behave the way they (the narcissists) need them to behave.
This is the way it has to be, so that the narcissist can protect herself from seeing the reality of herself or her place in the world. And by ‘place in the world’ I mean that she thinks of herself as the centre of the world, rather than a small fairly unimportant part of it as the rest of us know we are.
Likewise, she needs to think of herself as perfect, and any suggestion that she is less than perfect feels like a direct attack on that belief. (Well, in fairness, it is a direct attack on that belief, no matter how justified.)
And if she is forced to see the reality of herself as an ordinary, not-special, flawed human being, this is beyond terrifying for her. It’s like her whole Self is cracked, and the whole carefully-constructed fantasy is in danger. This must not be! Her whole sense of Self depends on avoiding this!
Given this, you can no doubt see how badly it hurts whenever she is challenged. Hence a word as strong as ‘injury’, as it truly is an injury to their psyche, or their Self.
The narcissist has a range of tactics to avoid this narcissistic injury.
The first is of course gaslighting, in which they absolutely refuse to believe that things are the way you say they are. Using gaslighting they get to absolutely refuse to acknowledge any wrong-doing, or having done anything for you to complain about.
The second is narcissistic rage, in which they explode in your face, going from 0-60 instantly. This is designed to cow you and scare you so much that you back down immediately. And of course it works, because (in our examples) this is our mother we’re talking about, and as children we are fully dependent on her and so her rage is terrifying and we’ll do anything we can to avoid it. And by the time you’re old enough to be reading this, then you are well-trained into this fear.
The third is playing victim, bursting into tears maybe, sobbing about how mean you are to her. This has the effect of turning the conversation be about her upset, rather than your legitimate issue. Deflection tactics at their best!
In this way the narcissist creates a world in which the prime directive is: keep her happy at all costs.
And of course, we daughters of narcissistic mothers, and other victims of narcissists, are the ones paying the ‘all costs’. Our freedom, our well-being, our autonomy etc. Doesn’t matter. Keep her happy lest she suffer narcissistic injury. This is the dynamic the narcissist skillfully creates, and that we are caught in by virtue of growing up in it.
Your freedom lies in letting her be unhappy, in letting her suffer consequences. Which is far easier to say than to do, I know. This is why I created EFT videos to help you come to a place where you can do that.
But even without these EFT videos, the more you can tell yourself, and come to believe, that you don’t have to keep her happy or make sure she avoids narcissistic injury, the more freedom you will have.