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Issues in Narcissistic Supply

Uploaded 1/25/2011, approx. 7 minute read

My name is Sam Vaknin, I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.

Why do narcissists habitually devalue their sources of narcissistic supply upon whom they so depend?

Narcissists are forever in pursuit of narcissistic supply. They are oblivious to the passage of time, and they are not constrained by any behavioral consistency, by any rules of conduct or moral considerations. The narcissist makes his own law as he goes along.

Signal to the narcissist that you are a willing source, and he is bound to try to extract narcissistic supply from you, by any and all means.

The extraction of narcissistic supply is akin to a reflex.

The narcissist would have reacted absolutely the same way to any other source of supply, because to him all sources are the same and consequently all sources are interchangeable.

Some sources of supply are better than others from the narcissist's point of view. They are intelligent, gullible, submissive, reasonably but not overly inferior to the narcissist, in possession of a good memory with which to regulate the flow of narcissistic supply. They are available, but they are not imposing. They are not explicitly or overtly manipulative. They are undemanding. They are attractive if the narcissist is somatic.

In short, the best type of narcissistic supply source is a Galathea Pygmalion type.

But then, often abruptly and sometimes inexplicably, it is all over. The narcissist is cold, uninterested, remote. He detaches from his source of narcissistic supply.

Why is that?

One of the reasons is, as Groucho Marx put it, that the narcissist doesn't like to belong to those clubs which would accept him as a member.

The narcissist devalues his sources of supply for the very qualities that make them sources of supply in the first place. Their gullibility, their submissiveness, their intellectual or physical inferiority are the prerequisites for making them sources of supply on the one hand, and the reasons the narcissist holds them in contempt and disdain on the other hand.

But there are many other reasons.

For instance, the narcissist resents his dependency on narcissistic supply. He realizes that he is hopelessly and helplessly addicted to this drug, narcissistic supply, and he is in hock to the sources of narcissistic supply.

By devaluing the sources of said supply, his spouse, his employer, his colleagues, his friends, the narcissist ameliorates the dissonance.

He says, yes, I am dependent and addicted to narcissistic supply, but it is I who chooses who supplies it.

This way, by exerting mastery and control, the narcissist reasserts himself, feels better about himself.

The narcissist also perceives intimacy and sex as a threat to his uniqueness. Everyone needs sex and intimacy. It is a great equalizer, but the narcissist resents this averageness, this pedestrian commonness. He rebels by striking out to the perceived founts, the perceived sources of his frustration, and his enslavement.

These people, his spouse, his children, his colleagues, his friends, his employers, they are the ones who reduce him to a rut and routine.

Again, by devaluing them, he reasserts himself. He is above them. He is superior.

Sex and intimacy are also usually connected with unresolved past conflicts with important primary objects, parents and caregivers in the narcissist's past.

By constantly invoking these conflicts, the narcissist encourages transference and provokes the onset of approach-avoidance repetition cycles.

The narcissist blows hot and cold on his relationships in order to try to recreate these primary or primal conflicts and this time resolve them.

Of course, it miserably fails time and again.

Additionally, narcissists simply get tired of their sources. They get bored. There is no mathematical formula which governs this. It depends on numerous variables.

Usually the relationship lasts until the narcissist gets used to the source and takes it for granted and until the stimulating effects of the source wear off or until a better source of supply presents itself.

Can negative input serve as a narcissistic supply?

Well, of course, yes, absolutely. Narcissistic supply includes all forms of attention, both positive and negative, fame, notoriety, adulation, fear, applause, approval. Whenever the narcissist gets attention, positive or negative, whenever he is in the limelight, it constitutes narcissistic supply.

If he can manipulate people or influence them positively or negatively, it qualifies as narcissistic supply.

Even quarreling with people and confronting them constitutes narcissistic supply.

Perhaps not the conflict itself, but the narcissist's ability to influence other people, to make them feel the way he wants, to manipulate them, to make them do something or refrain from doing it. All these count as forms of narcissistic supply, hence the phenomenon of serial litigators.

And does the narcissist want to be liked?

Well, it's a strange question as far as the narcissist is concerned. Would you wish to be liked by your television set?

To the narcissist, people are mere tools, sources of supply, instruments. If in order to secure the supply, he must be liked by them, then he acts likable, careful, collegial, friendly.

If the only way is to be feared, he makes sure they fear him.

The narcissist does not really care either way, as long as he's been attended to.

Attention, whether in the form of fame or infamy, is what it's all about. The narcissist's world revolves around this constant mirroring.

I am seen, therefore I exist, the narcissist says.

But the classic narcissist also craves punishment. His actions are aimed to elicit and solicit social opprobrium and sanctions. His life is a Kafkaesque, ongoing trial and the never-ending proceedings are in themselves the punishment.

Being penalized, reprimanded, incarcerated, abandoned, serves to vindicate and validate the internal damning voices of the narcissist's sadistic, ideal and immature superego.

These are the voices that used to belong to his parents and caregivers and were internalized or introjected by the narcissist.

Such punishment confirms his own worthlessness. It relieves him from the inner conflict he endures and the anxiety that attends to it when he is successful.

There are conflicts between knowing feelings of guilt, anxiety and shame on the one hand and the need to secure a narcissistic supply on the other.

And how does a narcissist treat his former sources of supply? Does he regard them as enemies?

Well, yes and no. Narcissists have no enemies. They are only sources of narcissistic supply.

An enemy means attention, means supply. One holds sway over one's enemy.

If the narcissist has the power to provoke emotions in you, even negative ones, then you are still a source of supply to the narcissist, regardless of which emotions are provoked.

The narcissist actually seeks out his old sources of narcissistic supply when he has absolutely no other sources of supply at his disposal.

Narcissists frantically try to recycle their old and wasted sources in such a situation.

But the narcissist would not do even that had he not felt that he could still successfully extract a modicum of narcissistic supply from the old source.

Even to attack the narcissist is to recognize his existence and importance in your life and to attend to him.

So it also is a form of narcissistic supply.

If you make clear to the narcissist unequivocally and unambiguously that he is not likely to get attention from you, negative or positive, he will leave you alone.

If you are an old source of narcissistic supply, first get over the excitement of seeing him again.

It may be flattering, perhaps sexually arousing.

Try to overcome these feelings.

Then simply ignore him. Don't bother to respond in any way to his offer to get together. If he talks to you, keep quiet. Don't answer. If he calls you, listen politely, then say goodbye and hang up. Return his gifts unopened.

Indifference is what the narcissist cannot stand. It indicates a lack of attention and interest that constitutes the kernel of negative narcissistic supply and is to be avoided by the narcissist at all costs.

If you enjoyed this article, you might like the following:

Why Narcissist Devalues YOU (Hint: Wants YOU "Dead")

Narcissists devalue their partners as a form of self-defense and control. There are two types of devaluation: preemptive and reactive. Preemptive devaluation occurs when a narcissist is in a transitional state between overt and covert narcissism, and they devalue potential sources of supply to prevent the overt side from using them against the covert side. Reactive devaluation is a response to a perceived threat to the narcissist's grandiosity or control. Both types of devaluation are harmful to the victim and serve to maintain the narcissist's sense of power and control.


Narcissist Re-idealizes Discarded Sources of Narcissistic Supply

Narcissists keep discarded sources of supply in reserve and seek them out when they have no other supply source. They frantically try to recycle their old sources and re-idealize them without admitting to having been mistaken in the first place. To preserve their grandiosity, they come up with a narrative that accommodates both the devaluing content and the re-idealized image of the source. If you are an old source of narcissistic supply, simply ignore the narcissist as indifference is what they cannot stand.


Narcissist Grooms Sources of Narcissistic Supply: Exploits Tragedy, Crisis, and Misfortune

Narcissists are callous and ruthless enough to exploit the tragedy of others. They are obsessed with the maintenance of their delicate inner balance through the ever-increasing consumption of narcissistic supply. The narcissist regards and treats his sources of narcissistic supply as full-fledged human beings, but only as long as they can provide him with what he needs. The narcissist always evaluates the victims of tragedies to see if they can become sources of supply or can be used as props in the theater of his life.


When the Narcissist's Parents Die

The death of a narcissist's parents can be a complicated experience. The narcissist has a mixed reaction to their passing, feeling both elation and grief. The parents are often the source of the narcissist's trauma and continue to haunt them long after they die. The death of the parents also represents a loss of a reliable source of narcissistic supply, which can lead to severe depression. Additionally, the narcissist's unfinished business with their parents can lead to unresolved conflicts and pressure that deforms their personality.


Negative, Fake, Low-grade Narcissistic Supply

Narcissists crave attention, both positive and negative, and use it to regulate their sense of self-worth. They construct a false self and project it onto others to elicit admiration, adulation, and fear. Negative supply can become narcissistic supply when positive supply is scarce. Narcissists also crave punishment, which confirms their view of themselves as worthless and relieves them of the inner conflict they endure when they are successful.


Narcissist Has No Friends

Narcissists treat their friends like Watson and Hastings, who are obsequious and unthreatening, and provide them with an adulating gallery. Narcissists cannot empathize or love, and therefore have no real friends. They are interested in securing narcissistic supply from narcissistic supply sources. The narcissist overvalues people when they are judged to be potential sources of supply, and devalues them when no longer able to supply him, ultimately leading to the alienation and distancing of people.


Narcissist's Certain Losses

Narcissists are obsessed with securing sources of supply, but once they have them, they lose interest and take them for granted. Many sources of supply eventually break free from the narcissist's grip, causing the narcissist to feel abandoned and lose control. However, when the loss is tangible, the narcissist regains his former zeal and embarks on a charm offensive to reacquire what was lost. Once the targets are reacquired, the narcissist reverts to his abusive and indifferent behavior until another round of losses and reanimation.


Narcissistic Supply: Narcissist's Drug

Narcissistic supply is the attention, admiration, and adulation that a narcissist seeks from others to regulate their sense of self-worth and self-esteem. The narcissist projects a false self, which is everything they are not, to elicit constant interest and reactions from others. There are two types of narcissistic supply: primary, which is attention, and secondary, which includes leading a normal life. The sources of supply are those who provide the narcissist with narcissistic supply on a casual or regular basis. Narcissistic supply is the fuel that runs the narcissist's machine and is the drug to which they are addicted.


Sadistic Narcissist

Narcissists are sadistic in their pursuit of narcissistic supply, and they enjoy inflicting pain on others who they perceive as intentionally frustrating and withholding. They are not full-fledged sadists in the psychosexual sense, but they are adept at finding the vulnerabilities and frailties of their victims. The narcissist's sadistic acts are often disguised as an enlightened interest in the welfare of their victim, and they are so subtle and poisonous that they might be regarded as the most dangerous of all variants of sadism. However, the narcissist's attention span is short, and they usually let their victims go before they suffer irreversible damage.


Narcissist: Irresistible Charmer

Narcissists use charm to manipulate and control others, seeking attention and admiration. They use their charisma to exert power over people and view those they charm as objects for their gratification. Pathological charm can involve sadism and is used to maintain object constancy and fend off abandonment. Narcissists react with rage and aggression when their charm fails to elicit narcissistic supply, revealing their true predatory nature.

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