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:

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.

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.

Narcissists Hate Women, Misogynists

Narcissists view women as objects and use them for both primary and secondary narcissistic supply. They fear emotional intimacy and treat women as property, similar to the mindset of European males in the 18th century. Narcissists frustrate women by teasing them and then leaving them, and they hold women in contempt, choosing submissive partners whom they disdain for being below their intellectual level. The narcissist projects his own behavior and traits onto women.

Narcissist's Objects and Possessions

Narcissists have a complex relationship with objects and possessions, with some being accumulators who jealously guard their belongings and others being discarders who give away their possessions to sustain their sense of control. Objects provide emotional decor and elicit narcissistic supply, and the narcissist often compares people to the inanimate. Narcissists collect proofs and trophies of their sexual prowess, dramatic talent, past wealth, or intellectual achievements, and these objects operate through the mechanism of narcissistic branding. The narcissist is a pathogen who transforms his human and non-human environment alike, objectifying people and anthropomorphizing objects to optimize or maximize narcissistic supply.

Recluse Narcissist

Narcissists do not have friends in the usual sense of the word, as they are only interested in securing the provision of narcissistic supply from others. They overvalue people when they are judged to be potential sources of supply, but discard them nonchalantly when they are no longer able or willing to supply them. The narcissist's behavior, choices, acts, attitudes, beliefs, interests, and life are curtailed by their sensitivity to outside opinion, and they avoid situations where they are likely to encounter opposition, criticism, or competition. The fear of flying is at the heart of narcissism.

Self-destruction as Narcissistic Supply: Narcissist's Self-denial and Self-defeat

Narcissists frustrate others to satisfy their masochistic tendencies and sadistic urges. By withholding love, sex, and intimacy, they torment those around them while obstructing their own gratification. Self-denial, self-destruction, and self-defeat buttress the narcissist's sense of superiority and uniqueness, as they prove to themselves that they are the strongest and can overcome powerful desires and emotions. These behaviors and choices engender narcissistic supply, as they demonstrate the narcissist's independence from society, nature, and even themselves.

Can Narcissist Truly Love?

Narcissists are incapable of true love, but they do experience some emotion which they insist is love. Narcissists love their significant others as long as they continue to provide them with attention, or narcissistic supply. There are two types of narcissistic love: one type loves others as one would get attached to objects, while the other type abhors monotony and constancy, seeking instability, chaos, upheaval, drama, and change. In the narcissist's world, mature love is nowhere to be seen, and their so-called love is fear of losing control and hatred of the very people on whom their personality depends.

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.

Narcissistic Boss or Employer: Coping and Survival Tactics

Narcissistic bosses or employers view their staff as sources of narcissistic supply and nothing else. They expect their employees to serve as an audience, adulate, and affirm their grandiose self-image. Any hint of equality, disagreement, or criticism threatens the narcissist profoundly. Narcissists feel suffocated by intimacy or routine and forever shift the blame, pass the buck, and engage in cognitive dissonance. Manipulating the narcissist is the only way an employee can survive in such a workplace.

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