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.