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Interpreting What’s Behind Narcissist Eyes

Reviewed by Karis A. Williams, MSMHC, LPC,   November 10, 2023

While narcissists generally make an incredibly good first impression, as you get to know them, you find out a lot of strange if not downright creepy things about them.  One of those things is their creepy eyes staring back at you, something you never noticed at first.

How do we interpret narcissist eyes and what is behind them?  In a rage, narcissist eyes will become black, almost demon-possessed, as their pupils widen in evil thoughts.  There are also deep piercing eyes, death stare, the stare of satisfaction in causing your pain, the cold, don’t-mess-with-me stare, the I’m-up-to-something-that-you-have-no-idea stare, the actor-getting-into-character stare, and the cold-hearted stare.

If you have been in any type of relationship with a narcissist, I bet you have experienced most, if not all of these.  Let’s see how many you recognize.

Black Narcissist Eyes

Many people talk about the eyes of a narcissist going black when they get angry.  And then they connect that blackness to being demon possessed.  But it is actually much simpler than that.  When someone gets very angry, their pupils can dilate, sometimes to an extreme measure.  And that is what causes their eyes to appear black, or demonic.

So, does this mean that narcissists are evil or demonic?  Not necessarily.  Some can indeed be at least influenced by Satan and at most a few may actually be demon possessed.  But demon influence and possession are definitely not prerequisites for narcissists.

When a narcissist’s eyes go black in anger or rage, it can be a very scary time for the victim who stands before them.  There seems to be no soul, no humanity, no grace.  Only uncontrollable rage.  And it is usually at this point that the victim first wants to be anywhere but where they are standing at that moment, and second, out from under the influence and control of the narcissist.

It feels that the narcissist has turned into someone they no longer recognize as the person they know or even human.  It is as though their whole body takes on the blackness of their eyes.  And it leave the victim feeling cold and isolated.

Just to be clear, while many people do experience the black eyes of a narcissist, not everyone does see this.  As narcissism appears on a spectrum, so the black raging eyes of a narcissist are a characteristic that occurs with those who seem to be among the highest on the narcissistic scale.  If you have not experienced this with your narcissist, consider yourself fortunate!

A young woman's face encased in a black hood. She has black eyes, representing the title of the article, "Interpreting What's Behind Narcissist Eyes."

Piercing Narcissist Eyes

Have you experienced piercing narcissist eyes?  This is when a narcissist seems to be staring right through you.  It is a deep, studious stare, as though they want to know every single thing about  you, inside and out.  Not because they want to know you completely to love you, but so they can know you completely to use you.

It indicates to you that the narcissist is watching you.  Intently.  And he is making sure you realize that if you even think about making a false move, he will be watching you.  And you will pay for it.

This is an especially difficult position, especially for children and spouses of narcissists.  Realize that it won’t matter if the narcissist is a man or woman.  The effect will be nearly the same.  While in my case the narcissist was first my mother, then my husband, feel free to adjust pronouns to fit your own specific situation.

Also, in addition to this piercing stare that is deeply uncomfortable, the narcissist may not blink for incredibly long and seemingly impossible amounts of time.  When you observe this in your narcissistic friend, coworker, or family member, know that you do not want to end up on their bad side.  At least not in that moment.  It is important for you to respond in ways that keep you safe.

Death-stare Narcissist Eyes

Nearly everything a narcissist does is based on a construct they use to control everything they can.  The death stare is definitely a part of this construct.  They want to make you feel the weight of them watching you, hearing you.  And when you say or do something that they don’t like, they will use that death stare to get you whipped back into shape instantly.

Over the years, the narcissist has learned that the death stare will cause nearly everyone to back down from anything he says.  So he has mastered it to the point that shooting that look to nearly anyone will cause him to automatically win every argument and come out on top in nearly every situation he finds himself in.

But what happens when he shoots his death stare to someone who holds their ground?  What if they just stare back, silently saying that they don’t fear his ominous gaze?  As a general rule, the narcissist backs down pretty quickly when his death stare is challenged in any way.

Yet another step you can take to combat the narcissist death stare is to simply say something in reaction to it that indicates you are not bothered by his opposition to you.  But don’t talk about the death stare itself.  Don’t let on that you know what he is trying to do to you or that it bothers you in any way.  A nonreaction is the best reaction to narcissist eyes.  Because if you don’t react, then they aren’t really controlling you, are they?

My only caveat to this is to not push your narcissist further into anger if you are not in a safe place.  If you are alone with nobody near you, don’t poke the bear, especially if he is shooting threatening looks your way.  Just get out of the situation.  And don’t get caught alone with your narcissist if you can help it.

Pleasure-in-others’-pain Narcissist Eyes

True Eye Experts has a fascinating article on how the eyes show a full range of emotions and that it is virtually impossible to hide what you are feeling through your eyes.  They say, “Your eyes communicate much more than you may realize, in fact they play a huge role in your non-verbal communication. Consciously or not, the way you move your eyes, look at someone, blink or make eye contact can say a lot about what you are thinking and feeling.”

It is the unconscious eye language that betrays what the narcissist tries to hard to hide.  When you combine the emotional immaturity of the narcissist with his lack of control of his emotions, it is virtually impossible for his eyes to not give away what he is thinking behind the scenes.

When a narcissist sees that he  has successfully sabotaged you or put you in a vulnerable position, the smirk and virtual glee in his eyes cannot be hidden.  And the funny thing about this is that he is so into his own pleasure at what has just transpired that he doesn’t even realize he has just totally given himself away.

You will see this expression often in children who succeed in getting other children into trouble.  But to see it in an adult narcissist is downright creepy.  And when you see it, you will likely have a hard time hiding the displeasure and/or anger on your own face!

As a side note, the True Eyes Experts article says that when a person shows happiness in their eyes, their pupils dilate.  In the case of a narcissist being happy about your misfortune, their eyes will often dilate, adding to the evil, black narcissist eyes I referenced above.

A man with dark hair, grinning at the camera with an arrogant smirk, representing the concept of finding pleasure in other's pain that you have caused. This photo symbolizes the title of the article, "Interpreting What's Behind Narcissist Eyes."

Actor-getting-into-character Narcissist Eyes

Narcissists are actors.  Like I said above, everything in their life is a construct in order for you to believe what they want you to believe rather than reality.  In this vein, they have spent their whole life trying to get you to believe an alternate reality (I used to talk to him about his alternate reality as a sort of joke, although we both knew it was true.  He joked along with me on it until he realized I actually knew how his alternate reality related to his constant narcissistic behavior).

I didn’t see this until the last couple years of our 35-year long relationship/marriage.  But once I saw it, I found it totally fascinating and couldn’t stop watching.  I could actually see his eyes, as well as the rest of his body intensely thinking about his next move, then suddenly “moving” into character to begin that move.  It was exactly like watching a professional actor pause, drop their head a bit, concentrate intensely, then change their expression and body language before springing into action as the new character.

Watching his eyes as they changed into the new character’s mood was incredibly fascinating.  But as fascinating as it was, it was also disheartening to know that I was never going to get him to stop putting on an act rather than relating to me in healthy, emotionally mature, honest ways.  And soon after that, we separated and the marriage was over.

Another name this aspect of narcissist eyes is known by is the plotting stare.

Cold-stare Narcissist Eyes

The cold-stare narcissist eyes actually have several other names.  They are called cold dead eyes, blank stares, unflinching eyes, and emotionless stare.  These names are all perfect representations of what the narcissist is feeling inside.

The narcissist has little to no emotion, especially toward his victims, except for maybe contempt, which will also come out clearly in his eyes.  But the cold, dead stare narcissist eyes are the more of the poker, don’t-want-you-to-see-his-hand stare.  He is keeping what he is really feeling for you tucked deep inside, because if you really knew what he felt, you would be out of there in an instant.

Sometimes, what is in the narcissist’s eyes does not match the expression on their face.  For instance, during the love-bombing phase, when they are trying so hard to draw you in, they will have total admiration on their face while their eyes are manifesting an intense stare.  We often feel uncomfortable by this, but attribute to our own unease rather than the unease we should be feeling.  Years later, we will realize.  But by then, it is too late, because the narcissist has successfully drawn us in.

H.G. Tudor is a well-known self-proclaimed narcissist.  He has a website and uses his narcissism to finance his quite affluent life.  While I wouldn’t necessarily directly support him financially, I have learned a lot about narcissism through his sometimes honest and candid words.  He has said the following about cold, dark narcissist eyes:

“…we have no desire to convey to you any advantage in seeking to escape our effects and make it harder for us to obtain fuel from you. We must cloak our minds and make them impervious to your attempts to read them. We must operate through secrecy and covert behaviours so that you never see us coming, so that you never know what will happen next and so that you have no opportunity to evade us. Not only do we shroud our minds in this manner through our rejection of logic and the adoption of behaviours which are outside those considered normal, we also ensure you cannot read us through our eyes.”

While he can “fool” people with his cold stare, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t express a world of red flags in dealing with him.  While he is right that he can effectively prevent you from seeing what he is really thinking with those eyes, it doesn’t mean we can’t realize that he is hiding something and know that there is a problem we need to address or walk away from before we get hurt by unhealthy relationship issues.

A young woman with a cold stare in the foreground of a picture. In the background is a mid-century contemporary seating area. This photo represents the title of the article, "Interpreting What's Behind Narcissist Eyes."


We have often heard the way-overused phrase that the eyes are the windows to the soul.  As cliché as it has become, it has such a ring of truth to it.  And we would be good to heed its advice.

The various narcissist eyes all show red flags in what is going on in their thoughts and feelings.  While we may not know exactly what they are thinking, we can easily deduce that it is not healthy or something that we should allow ourselves to get caught up in.  If you see any of these types of eyes, you would do well to run the other way before you get sucked in.

Do you now realize you are dealing with a narcissist, but you aren’t sure how?  Check out my resources page for just about any issue in which you are struggling with your narcissist.

What has your experience been with narcissist eyes?  Did narcissist behaviors emerge once you were able to recognize narcissist eyes and expressions?  Did you end up getting sucked in by the narcissist or were you able to escape their influence and pull?  I would love to hear your story.  Feel free to comment below.

Hugs and love,

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Hi! I am the founder of Navigating Religious Narcissism after being raised under a narcissistic mother and married to a narcissistic man for 31 years. It is my prayer that I can be as valuable on your journey to healing and peace as were so many who crossed my path of healing.

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