Narcissistic vs. Sadistic Supply

Uploaded 4/20/2023, approx. 11 minute read

I coined the phrase "sadistic supply" to describe a form of empowerment that caters to a highly specific type of grandiosity.

Sadistic personality disorder has been removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Edition 4 to the great chagrin and resentment of the likes of Theodore Millon and to a much lesser extent myself.

Yes, I think there is such a thing as sadistic personality disorder.

And there are sadists.

Sadists are people who derive pleasure from the pain, discomfort and humiliation of others.

And when sadism is coupled with narcissism, for example, in dark tetrad personalities, this pain, discomfort, humiliation, shame of other people serves as narcissistic gratification. It serves a narcissistic purpose.

But introducing the concept of sadistic supply created a bit of a confusion.

Exactly like narcissistic supply, sadistic supply upholds a self-image.

Grandiose, inflated fantastic self-perception.

The sadistic, the sadist, perceives himself as godlike with power over others.

Sometimes sadists are moralizing.

And so they say, "I'm not being a sadist. I justly punish the wayward. I am on a crusade. I'm on a campaign.

Many social activists and many people in victimhood movements are actually sadists. They like to inflict pain and discomfort and humiliation and shame on their opponents under the guise of attaining the high moral ground, promoting some social cause or writing some wrong.

We should distinguish, however, between sadistic supply and narcissistic supply.

And this is the topic of today's mini lecture.

My name is Sam Vaknin. I'm the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited, and I'm a former visiting professor of psychology.

So let's delve right in.

There are two forms of supply, narcissistic and sadistic. They both serve to buttress, uphold, support, affirm and confirm grandiosity.

Grandiosity is a cognitive distortion. And any attention that comes from the outside, from external sources, regulates the sense of self-worth so that it conforms to the fantastic grandiose self-image of the narcissist.

So sadistic supply and narcissistic supply are two types of supply consumed by narcissists in order to regulate their internal environment.

And in this sense, supply is a form of external regulation.

In any given set of circumstances, in any given environment, with any given set of people, the narcissist feeds off either narcissistic supply or sadistic supply.

But, and this is a very important point, never both, never both.

If the narcissist is addicted to narcissistic supply, he will rarely, if ever, resort to sadistic supply.

And if the narcissist is also a sadist and he feeds off sadistic supply, he's going to shun, he's likely to shun narcissistic supply.

When you see a narcissist who is overt in your face, grandiose or self-aggrandizing, dragging boastful, delusional, initiator of shared fantasies and so on and so forth, this is a narcissist who is addicted to narcissistic supply.

It's not a sadistic narcissist and he does not feed off sadistic supply.

When the locus of grandiosity is narcissistic, when the locus of grandiosity is histrionic, narcissistic supply is actually perceived as negative and results very often in narcissistic injury.

I'm going to explain this because it's very counterintuitive.

Imagine a narcissist who says, "I'm the best father ever. I'm an amazing husband. I'm a great boss. I manage people well. I make them loyal to me. I make them love me."

These are of course grandiose statements and these statements require doses and influx of narcissistic supply in order to be sustained in the face of countervailing contradictory reality, the grandiosity gap.

This kind of narcissist who considers himself to be the best ever, the best ever anything, especially morally, I'm the most honest person I know.

Justice means everything to me. I never commit crimes. I am pro-social and communal, not anti-social.

These kinds of narcissists, they would never resort to sadistic supply because sadistic supply would create dissonance in them, unable to deny what the reactions of their victims, unable to ignore the pushback and sometimes the reactive abuse emanating from their victims.

This would create dissonance and anxiety.

If I say, if the overt grandiose narcissist says, "I'm the best husband ever," and then he egregiously, sadistically, horribly abuses his wife, she's likely to push back, she's likely to resist, argue, criticize, attack him, abuse him reactively.

So this would constitute a conflicting message.

Internally, the narcissist's self-message is, "I'm the best husband ever," but all the information coming from the environment, from his wife, says otherwise and this creates internal dissonance, which is a very uncomfortable situation and generates anxiety.

So grandiose narcissists would never be sadistic. They would never torture, humiliate, shame, attack, abuse, coerce.

They would never do this because they would be terrified of being exposed to signals and messages from their victims, which would undermine their own grandiose self-perception and self-image.

In short, with the grandiose overt narcissist, sadistic supply expands the grandiose gap. And the grandiose gap creates dissonance, inner conflict and anxiety, which the overt grandiose narcissist, the classic narcissist, wants to avoid.

These narcissists are likely to be fake, pretending, unctuous. They are likely to play act.

They're likely to have thespian skills. They're likely to manage everything. There's a theater play or a movie within which they are the virtuous, sanctimonious protagonist and they're likely to abstain from overt, in your face, hurtful abuse because this would generate information.

This would generate reactions from their victims, which would undermine the entire edifice of their grandiosity.

Similarly, histrionics. Histrionics are after attention.

These are people who are addicted to attention, men and women.

Histrionics would never engage in sadism.

They would never seek sadistic supply because both the overt grandiose narcissist and the histrionic have an image of themselves, a perception of themselves, as essentially good people.

This is a compensatory perception.

Similarly, they have a bad object.

Internally they feel inferior. They feel unworthy, bad, stupid, ugly, failures, losers, etc.

And they compensate for this by generating, creating a false self, which is the exact opposite.

Perfect. Perfectly good as well.

Like behavior and the ensuing sadistic supply.

However uplifting because sadistic supply to the sadist is uplifting.

But with a classic overt narcissist, the narcissist who is after narcissistic supply, sadistic supply is precluded.

That is not to say, of course, that narcissist don't abuse.

The highly abusive.

I was the first to say this in 1995. I coined the phrase narcissistic abuse, but their abuse is not sadistic.

The narcissist abuse is instrumental. It is intended to accomplish certain goals.

For example, to separate from the partner, to test the partner, etc, etc.

The narcissist abuse, the overt grandiose narcissist abuse has nothing to do with inflicting pain or hurt on his victims. It has everything to do with regulating the narcissist's internal environment.

He uses abuse. He mistreats his insignificant others, everyone around him, friends, intimate partners, you name it. He mistreats people.

Not because he wants them to be uncomfortable or humiliated or ashamed or disgraced. That has nothing to do with it.

The narcissist misbehaves this way because he needs to obtain certain signals and messages from the environment which will allow him to keep his house in order internally to maintain the precarious balance of his chaotic personality.

In short, the narcissist abuse, however egregious, is a regulatory function. It's a form of external regulation.

The sadist abuse is a form of gratification. That is a giant difference between these two types.

One should not conflate or confuse them as all or most self-styled experts do. They attribute to the narcissist malevolence. They mistake the narcissist for a sadist when actually he's not in the remotest.

Of course there are some narcissists who are sadists and they are sadists who are narcissists.

But the vast majority of narcissists hurt people because this is the way for them to regulate themselves.

Both the lines do the same in effect. We'll come to it in a minute.

The vast majority of sadists or all sadists hurt people because it's bloody fun.

Okay, psychopaths are also damaged people, hurt people, harm people. They do it with premeditation and intention, they're goal-oriented.

Some psychopaths are sadistic.

Psychopaths are also sadistic. And sadists, people with a now discarded diagnosis of sadistic personality, so these two types, the sadistic psychopath and the sadist, they seek only sadistic supply. They are not interested in narcissistic supply. They actually want to fly under the radar. They want to remain hidden.

These people derive sustenance for their own grandiosity from the very fact that they have the power to hurt other people, that they are in the position to cause other people to disintegrate, to make them ashamed, make them feel ashamed or to humiliate them, especially in public.

But this is not a narcissistic thing. That's where the confusion online is enormous and you are being misled. This is not a narcissistic thing. This is a psychopathic, a sadistic, psychopathic thing or a sadistic thing.

Narcissists generally are interested only in one thing and that is narcissistic supply. They couldn't care less if when obtaining narcissistic supply, while obtaining narcissistic supply, they're hurting other people. Treating other people is a byproduct. It's a side effect with narcissists. It's not a goal. It's not an aim. It's not what the narcissist strives for.

The narcissist doesn't derive any gratification and is not invested emotionally. It's not affected in sadism, in hurting people, in damaging people, in ruining people.

Narcissists don't care about any of this because they don't care about people.

The sadistic psychopaths in sadists regard people as raw material. They play with people. The way children disassemble toys, dismantle them. They want to see the inner workings of people. It's a pastime. It's a hobby. It's an avocation for the sadistic psychopath in the sadists.

The narcissist would have none of this.

If you see someone in pursuit of fame and glory and recognition and so on and so forth, that's a narcissist. That's a narcissist who is very unlikely to engage in sadistic behaviors. He is likely because he's a narcissist to hurt people, but that's an afterthought. It's done absentmindedly and offhandedly.

And finally, borderlines alternate between these two types of supply, narcissistic and sadistic. They are capable of both and they pursue both types of supply depending on the self-state.

When the borderline is in a secondary psychopathic self-state, she is usually, or he is usually, very cruel to the point of sadism. And borderline enjoys inflicting pain because she regards it as retribution, redressing, evil, restoring justice. That is how she mislabels her sadism.

You remember in the previous video I explained to you that the borderline is goal-oriented, but she dresses up her goals with emotions. She mislabels her goals. She mistakes her goals for emotional states. That is a form of resolving cognitive dissonance.

The borderline feels uncomfortable with what she's doing. So by relabeling it or mislabeling it, she restores her inner balance and her anxiety level is reduced.

The borderline is capable of great sadism.

Any partner of borderline would tell you that.

As many borderlines are vindictive and aggressive to the point of violence, that is in the secondary psychopathic self-state, in their normal state, in the classic borderline state.

Borderlines seek supply, which is narcissistic, but from a particular source, usually an intimate partner.

Like narcissists, borderlines are fantasy pro.

They are grandiose. They seek narcissistic supply.

But unlike narcissists, they are capable of switching to another sub-state where they could become exceedingly, exceedingly sadistic and dangero

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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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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.

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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.

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Narcissists age without grace, unable to accept their fallibility and mortality. They suffer from mental progeria, aging prematurely and finding themselves in a time warp. The longer they live, the more average they become, and the wider the gulf between their pretensions and accomplishments. Few narcissists save for rainy days, and those who succeed in their vocation end up bitterly alone, having squandered the love of family, offspring, and mates.

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Issues in Narcissistic Supply

Narcissists devalue their sources of supply for the very qualities that make them sources of supply in the first place. The narcissist resents his dependency on narcissistic supply and perceives intimacy and sex as a threat to his uniqueness. Narcissistic supply includes all forms of attention, both positive and negative, fame, notoriety, adulation, fear, applause, approval. Narcissists frantically try to recycle their old and wasted sources when they have absolutely no other sources of supply at their disposal.

Transcripts Copyright © Sam Vaknin 2010-2024, under license to William DeGraaf
Website Copyright © William DeGraaf 2022-2024
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