Why Won’t He Tell Me What Is Wrong?


Something is wrong.

The fact that something is wrong has many manifestations in the narcissistic dynamic. You may experience a sudden eruption of temper, the instigation of a silent treatment as you follow us around the house trying to draw from us what on earth is the matter. It might be that you plead with us to explain as all we do is fix you with a malevolent glare and say nothing. It may escalate into you being accused of various transgressions which make no sense and certainly cannot be what is truly wrong since the allegations have no bearing in fact. You are faithful yet accused of having repeated affairs. It makes no sense. You are told you never listen, but that is all you ever seem to do. The subject matter of the vitriolic accusations is clearly not what is really wrong.

We may vanish, subject you to a bewildering word salad, drag you into a circular conversation, triangulate you with the angelic other person but still you are none the wiser as to what is actually wrong.

Repeatedly you exhort us to explain, to elaborate, to detail what is causing this behaviour, just to talk and help you understand. Surely it is a reasonable and sensible request? Whether it is silent treatments, triangulation, verbally abusive accusations, a beating and so many other manifestations they will all have a common thread; we will not tell you what is wrong.

Why is this so troubling? Leaving aside the unpleasantness of being hit, called names and all the other effects of the various manipulations which are used against you, the simple fact is that people do not like not knowing things. Being in the dark is perplexing and causes anxiety. Not knowing something unsettles people, has them uncertain and bewildered. Just like not knowing whether you have secured a promotion, got the grades from your exam results, where your youngest child is when you are in a supermarket or what the outcome of a life-changing decision will be, the sensation of not knowing is one which causes anxiety for most people.

This becomes especially problematic for empathic individuals. Not being told what is wrong by a significant other, a family member or a friend, is even worse for an empathic individual because this offends many empathic traits.

  1. You want to help. When you see that somebody is troubled by something it is an instinctive reaction on your part to want to help them and you cannot but help but try to assist. If you are not told what it is, you cannot help and the increases your frustration.
  2. Your propensity for self-examination. If you are not told what the issue is, you will then spend a considerable amount of time trying to work it out as you replay conversations, analyse recent events as you seek a third party influence which has caused our behaviour and then ultimately you will examine whether you have caused the problem and if so how.
  3. You capacity for self blame. Without being furnished with the details of what is causing our behaviour, you indulge in the behaviour at two above and eventually all roads lead to a moment of mea culpa as you self-flagellate and decide you must have done something wrong. After all, nobody becomes upset for no reason do they?
  4. You are a truth seeker. Accordingly, you need to know the truth of what is making us furious or causing us to sulk.
  5. You are a love devotee. The person you love is upset, angry or tormented and this pains you. You suffer the emotional contagion arising from this and feel our pain as your own and with any pain you want to make it stop.
  6. You expect honesty in all dealings and especially from those close to you. You expect us to be honest and tell you what is annoying us.
  7. You are a problem solver and you need to fix the problem which is so apparent in its appearance.
  8. You are a good listener. You want to listen and if only we would explain what it is that is upsetting us so much, you will readily sit and listen, but please, please just tell you what it is.

All of these factors means that our failure to tell you what is wrong offends so much of what is important to you with the result that you become concerned, confused, hurt, anxious and even angry. This naturally leads to one place; fuel.

From your perspective, you know that if you talk about a problem you feel better. A problem shared and all that. You also know that you have the skill set and the tools to make everything okay. You have that selfless willingness to attend to the needs of others and remedy the ill. You want to collaborate, resolve the problem and that way we will feel better and in turn so will you. You cannot walk away from not knowing what it is. You have to know.

This near inescapable desire to know what it is that is wrong results in people falling into traps in terms of finding a reason why we are not talking about it to you. This is because the victim does not know what they are dealing with. He or she does not understand that they are dealing with one of our kind so instead, they will become ensnared in one of the many misleading traps. These are propounded by popular and incorrect reasons as to why some people will not talk about a problem and arise from ignorance about our kind. In such an instance you will hear comments such as

“He is the strong, silent type.”

“She has trouble trusting people, that is why she says nothing.”

“He feels silly admitting to having a problem.”

“He wants to sort things out for himself.”

“She won’t rely on other people. It is pride.”

“He has always learned to deal with things on his own.”

“Stiff upper lip I guess.”

“He doesn’t do feelings.”

Whilst there may be a kernel of truth in the applicability of these comments to the situation they are not the whole and sole reason for the failure to communicate the problem to you. The reason that someone who is of our kind will not tell you what is wrong goes beyond these comments.

The Lesser

If you are entangled with a Lesser Narcissist he will not tell you what is wrong because he does not know what is wrong. His less well-developed ability to control his environment means that the slightest disruption threatens his control as a whole. You are not doing what he wants but he does not know what he wants. All he realises is that something is wrong, but he cannot identify it. He cannot articulate what it is and this manifests as his increased irritation and annoyance. Indeed, the restlessness he experiences from the sensation of feeling like he is losing control is what is behind his need to lash out at you.

Your desire to help only serves to annoy him all the more. As you keep asking what is the matter, you are actually reinforcing the shortcoming and repeatedly reminding him of the problem that he cannot identify. Accordingly, his skewed logic will readily conclude that you are the problem. You are the problem and your repeated reminders of this shortcoming constitutes as criticism. The fury is thus ignited and it will erupt as heated fury. You still try to ascertain what is wrong but all you are then doing is pouring fuel (in both senses) on the fire that rages inside of the Lesser.

The Mid-Ranger

The Mid-Ranger reaches the same conclusion as the Lesser, namely you are the problem. He does so far quicker as a consequence of his increased cognitive ability. He cannot put his finger on what it is that you are doing that is causing his sense of dread, that feeling of instability and vulnerability, but he recognises that it is something to do with you. It has to be you. He will not say however that it is you because the attention which is generated by you keep asking him is making him feel better, because of course it is fuel. He senses that you are the problem therefore it make sense to keep you guessing as to what his problem might be. After all, you should be able to work out what is wrong without him needing to tell you if you truly love us. You should be able to ascertain the problem and remedy it because we expect this level of telepathy and second-guessing.

The Mid-Ranger cannot tell you what is wrong, because just like the Lesser, he does not know, but he knows straight away that it is something to do with you. Therefore he wants you to work it out and resolve the problem and he will not provide you with any input, why should he? He may talk in vague terms in order to keep the guessing game going so you are lead down dead ends and blind alleys and all the while fuel is obtained.

The Greater

As you would expect, the Greater knows full well what is wrong. He knows you are at fault (because of course everything has to be your fault) and this is because you are failing in your role. If you were performing as an effective appliance he would not feel this way. You are clearly not functioning and therefore you need to be punished until you eventually start to function again. Note this does not mean that you actually identify a problem and solve it, but rather that you start to provide fuel, comply with the Greater’s demands and submit to his or her control.

The Greater is never going to tell you what the problem is. To do so would be furnishing the enemy with secret information and that cannot happen. To tell you that you are not functioning and you are eroding his sense of control would be tantamount to ceding further control to you. Our sense of wariness will prohibit us from disseminating such information. Instead, as part of regaining control, the Greater knows that having you flow with fuel and pleading for him to talk to you is all part of the game which must be played. He is superior and not in the business of giving you any insight into his dark mind. You are  there to have your strings pulled and he will delight in doing the same keeping you in the dark, upset and begging for him to talk to you. He may embark on lengthy but ultimately meaningless monologues, grandstanding and pontificating but all this is done purely to tie you up in further knots.

What do you do?

Recognise it is happening and now understand why that is.

Ask once what is wrong. Don’t expect to receive an answer or if you do, do not expect it to be meaningful or helpful. You have however discharged your obligation by asking us what the problem is.

Understand that repeatedly asking us what is the matter is only providing us with fuel and allowing us to regain control. If you keep asking, we will just keep going with the game of not telling you. Once we see fuel flowing we want it to keep flowing.

Instead, ask and if you receive no answer or a meaningless answer just state

“Okay, I am sure you will tell me when you are ready.”

Then walk away.

You are not giving fuel, so we have not scented ‘blood’ and thus there is no feeding frenzy. Your comment is not a criticism however because you have allowed power to vest in us by leaving the decision with us. You can then get on with what you want to do. Yes, you will be accused of not caring, but do not respond. Yes, you are likely to face further pressure to draw fuel from you, but move away from us or if you cannot engage in a different task and if you feel the need to say something, just state in a neutral fashion.

“I have asked and I understand you will tell me when you decide you want to. That is fine.”

By asking once, leaving the decision with us, re-stating that position (if need be) not encouraging a fuel-frenzy and not wounding us, the particular manipulation that is being allied with not telling you what is wrong will fizzle out. You will then have saved yourself worry, energy concern and anxiety.

25 thoughts on “Why Won’t He Tell Me What Is Wrong?

  1. Overthinker says:

    Interested in your view … In a comment Matilda stated “Most narcs are Lessers and Mid-Rangers with limited awareness at best” What would you say the breakdown is of Lessers, Mid Range and Greaters is ?

    My opinion would be Lessers 40% Mid Range 50% Greater 10% or even less wondering if a Greater is literally a 1 percenter… x x

    1. HG Tudor says:

      Interesting question Overthinker. Of course there is no empirical evidence in support of this and from an entirely anecdotal perspective I would agree with you re Lessers, Mid-Range 58% and Greater 2%.

  2. Overthinker says:

    Needed to read this as I have a tension headache … Because of who I am empathic … I was doing so well not being sucked in .. Now that I am fully aware of who / what he is … Now a curve ball in his life … Trying to be there for him, but not get played… Silent treatment and brush off this morning didn’t give fuel so back this evening in a subtle controlling way … So I have the headache, analysing …empathy and anger … Shite combination .. x x

  3. Snow White says:

    i couldn’t stand it when I didn’t know what was wrong. I would ask over and over the usual questions. No wonder she played this card all the time.
    I followed her, begged her to tell me what wrong, cried, comforted her. Who knew that I was just giving her what she wanted.
    It is very hard for me to just let anything go and I have learned to bite my tongue in my life now with my husband. I can tell when he throws the bait out there and I am learning not to get sucked into that anymore.
    I like giving the one line and walking away. I was there for people all the time anytime and I am making changes bit by bit.

  4. Matilda says:

    The more we read and learn the better we know what is wrong with them. The aim is to spot and repel them early, or to shred them when there is no other way.

    Most narcs are Lessers and Mid-Rangers with limited awareness at best. What if you told them exactly what is wrong, something they could not pinpoint themselves? You would have to scan recent interactions in your mind for potential, perceived slights, and bring it up in an unemotional, matter-of-fact kind of way.

    “Why are you sulking now? Is it because I did not laugh loud enough at your joke? Or because you did not get served first at dinner?” etc. This approach would certainly stun him, and probably end the sulk. You have to turn off your empathy and be brutal with a narc. They regard your kindness as a sign of inferiority.

  5. Annes383 says:

    HG, I have just read ‘Chained.’
    Thank you. It is brilliant. Truly brilliant! What amazing insight – it is me!!! x

    1. HG Tudor says:

      Glad you enjoyed it Annes383, thank you for reading.

  6. indiglowsky says:

    I just read this and love love love the instructions for what to do. This is exactly what a behavioral psychologist would tell you to do. Ask once, then stop feeding the behavior any attention. Nice Job, doc!

  7. Brandie says:

    Reblogged this on Speak Out 4 Others.

  8. Lou says:

    I remember walking around the house, as a teenager, behind my older sister asking her to tell me what was wrong, if I had done anything to upset her. She would not reply or just say “it is nothing” and continue acting clearly as something was wrong. Later, I understood her game and did not pay attention anymore. But then she learned to abuse me by proxy. She loves doing that.

  9. E. B. says:

    Excellent advice. Thank you. Number 1 to 8 describes exactly how I think and feel. Being convinced that almost all problems between two people can be solved, it used to be unthinkable for me that there were people who had absolutely no interest in solving problems at all. I used to think they were masochistic and preferred to feel hurt and wounded instead.

    1. HG Tudor says:

      Thank you.

  10. MLA - Clarece says:

    I love when you give instructional dialogue in Narcspeak. It is so helpful. This article is golden.

    1. HG Tudor says:

      Thank you Clarece.

  11. kitmarlow21 says:

    Indeed. There is something wrong with this post. Check the title. 😉

    1. HG Tudor says:

      Not any more!

  12. normagordon27 says:

    Waited for a year for an answer to what is wrong. Finally I realized what was wrong was my waiting. I’m done.

  13. Mona says:

    Belongs to Feb,22 AT 9:31 PM
    This is the first time, HG, that we both have the same opinion about a topic. Wow, I never thought, that this would happen. Your suggestion how to react is my suggestion too. And I am not a Narcissist !!!!!

    1. HG Tudor says:

      I knew you would eventually come round and see the light.

      1. Mona says:

        HG, the ghostlights in the moor water?

  14. Mona says:

    HG, that is normal behaviour for me. I have very good friends, who need time for themselves to solve a problem. They are not Narcissists. I know I have to wait for one or two weeks until they tell me what happened. I myself do not like people who ask too much when my mood is swinging. Then I need one or two hours to get my feelings under control. A good friend accepts that. I tell them that they should not worry, I will tell them some day about my problem or I don`t tell them what bothered me. The difference: I do not put the blame on them. They are not to be blamed! On the other hand there are people who do not respect my withdrawal and that ! I think is a narcissistic trait too. It is not polite, it is totally selfish. If they do not stop to ask me I lash out like you do too. They do not respect any boundary. Real empathetic people ask only once and offer the other one an ear to listen when he wants to tell. They do not insist. This insisting is false empathetic behaviour. These people need it for their self-confidence, it is totally narcissistic behaviour of so called empathetic people. We call it helper syndrome. It makes things worse.

  15. Clair Chetwood says:

    I would love to ask you some questions about this. Can I contact you please HG?

    1. HG Tudor says:

      Yes, you can find the details for consultations in the menu bar of the blog Clair.

  16. Well I just learned what my ex is… the Greater. I had no idea but thank you for clearing this up for me.

    1. HG Tudor says:

      You are welcome.

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