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Negative, Fake, Low-grade Narcissistic Supply

Uploaded 9/5/2011, approx. 6 minute read

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


Normal people are likely to welcome a moderate amount of attention, both verbal and nonverbal, in the form of affirmation, approval or even admiration.

But too much attention is perceived as onerous and to be avoided. Destructive and negative criticism is avoided altogether.

The narcissist, in contrast, is the mental equivalent of an alcoholic. He is insatiable. He directs his whole being, his whole behavior, in fact his life, to obtaining these pleasurable tidbits of attention. He embeds these into a coherent, completely biased picture of himself. He uses them to regulate his lab, sense self-worth, self-esteem.

To elicit this constant interest, this flood of attention, the narcissist projects onto others a confabulated, fictitious version of himself known as the false self.

The false self is simply everything that the narcissist is not and would have liked to be. The false self is omniscient, knows everything. It's omnipotent, it's all powerful, it's charming, it's intelligent, it's brilliant, it's rich, it's well connected and so on.

Having constructed the false self, having projected it, the narcissist then proceeds to harvest reactions to this projected image from family members, friends, co-workers, neighbors, business partners, colleagues, and even passers-by.

If these reactions, the adulation, admiration, attention, fear, respect, applause, affirmation, if these are not forthcoming, the narcissist demands them or extorts them from others.

Money, compliments, a favorable critique, an appearance in the media, sexual conquest are all converted into the same currency in the narcissist mind and it is this currency that I call narcissistic supply.

But what happens if the supply is negative? What happens if the outcome of the projection of a false self gathers negative narcissistic supply, attention but negative? What happens if the narcissist is, instead of being loved, being feared? What happens if he is criticized? What happens if he is belittled, demeaned, bashed, chastised?

All these negative inputs.

Well, under normal circumstances, the narcissist will rage and will eliminate or deny these inputs from his mind. He will negate, obviate, or depreciate the sources of such negative supply.

But when positive supply is scarce or nowhere to be found, even negative supply can become narcissistic supply.

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

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

Of course, a narcissist prefers positive input. It prefers positive narcissistic supply.

But worse comes to worse, negative supply would do.

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 their life hell, to make them do something or refrain from doing something. All these count as forms of narcissistic supply and this is hence the phenomenon of serial litigators.

But negative supply should be distinguished from low grade supply and faith supply.

Low grade narcissistic supply comes from sources which the narcissist cannot idealize, sources that cannot be idealized, no matter how hard the narcissist tries and to what extent he blocks out and denies reality and countervailing input.

No matter what he does, no matter how hard he works, he cannot idealize certain sources.

The type of narcissistic supply determines whether its source can be idealized or not.

For instance, if the narcissist receives compliments on his intellectual achievements, but the source of these compliments is an intellectually challenged, not to say retarded person, this kind of supply would not pass master and would never qualify as narcissistic supply. A retarded or intellectually challenged person cannot compliment the narcissist on his intellectual achievements because the narcissist regards him as not qualified, regards this source as not qualified to do so. It's a low grade source with a low grade supply.

Fake narcissistic supply is tinged with ulterior motives and hidden agendas.

Sources of fake supply compliment the narcissist in order to manipulate him to do something or to manipulate some other third person or in order to accomplish some goal.

Endowed with cold empathy, the narcissist picks up on these true motivations and he feels injured and slighted and humiliated.

Many narcissists test their sources of supply repeatedly. They engineer situations intended to expose the sincerity or lack thereof of the supply source and the consistency and authenticity of the source's conduct.

All in all, would we say that the narcissist wants to be liked? Not really. It's not about liking. It's about attention.

Would you wish to be liked by your television set or refrigerator?

To the narcissist, people are mere tools akin to television sets and refrigerators. They are objects, sources of supply.

If in order to secure this supply, the narcissist must be liked by them, he acts likable, empathetic, helpful, collegial, friendly.

If the only way to garner narcissistic supply is to be feared, the narcissist makes sure that they fear him.

He does not really care either way as long as he is being attended to.

Attention, whether in the form of fame or infamy, is what it's all about.

Narcissist world revolves around this constant mirroring, this constant craving, I am seen, therefore I exist, he thinks to himself.

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

Being penalized, reprimanded, incarcerated, abandoned, serve to vindicate and validate the internal damning voices of the narcissist's sadistic, ideal and immature super-ego.

These voices were actually the voices of his parents, caregivers, and peers, or role models. These voices judged him and found him wanting.

And then the narcissist, at an early age, internalized, introjected these voices and became part of him.

So being punished confirms the narcissist's view of himself as worthless.

Don't misunderstand me. Consciously, the narcissist firmly believes in his superiority, invincibility, brilliance, power.

But unconsciously, deep down there, he was stalled and he came to believe that he is worthless.

Punishment relieves him from the inner conflict that he endures when he is successful. The conflict between the knowing feelings of guilt, anxiety, and shame, and the need to relentlessly secure narcissistic supply.

Not easy, nor is it fun to be a narcissist. It would seem.

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.


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.


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 Humiliation and Injury

Narcissists react to humiliation in the same way as normal people, only more so. They are regularly and strongly humiliated by things that normally do not constitute a humiliation. The emotional life of the narcissist is tinted by ubiquitous and recurrent insults, humiliations, and slights. The narcissist is constantly on the defensive, constantly being targeted, and is a kind of paranoid.


Narcissist Hedges His Bets

Narcissists engage in what could be described as narcissistic hedges, infusing selected subjects, topics, areas, and people with narcissistic investments. They prepare these fields, areas, topics, and people as auxiliary sources of narcissistic supply and as backup options in case of a systems failure. However, the correlation between the various selections the narcissist makes may not be very strong, which is why they can be used as hedges. Once a crisis erupts, the violently reduced narcissist, a faltering shadow of his former false self, is too depleted to make use of the narcissistic hedges that he has created in the first place for exactly such a situation of emergency.


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.


Narcissist Never Sorry

Narcissists sometimes feel bad and experience depressive episodes and dysphoric moods, but they have a diminished capacity to empathize and rarely feel sorry for what they have done or for their victims. They often project their own emotions and actions onto others and attribute to others what they hate in themselves. When confronted with major crises, the narcissist experiences real excruciating pain, but this is only a fleeting moment, and they recover their former self and embark on a new hunt for narcissistic supply. They are hunters, predators, and their victims are prey.


Narcissistic Supply - How Does It FEEL?

Narcissistic supply is essential for the narcissist's self-regulation and maintaining a sense of grandiosity and perfection. It is a form of external regulation that stabilizes the narcissist's self-worth, moods, and emotions. The narcissist's dependence on narcissistic supply is akin to an addiction, providing a rush and sense of omnipotence. The pursuit of narcissistic supply involves idealizing sources of supply and is a crucial element in the narcissistic pathology.


Narcissist Reacts to Criticism, Disagreement, Disapproval

Narcissists are hypervigilant and perceive every disagreement as criticism and every critical comment as complete and humiliating rejection. They react defensively, becoming indignant, aggressive, and cold. The narcissist minimizes the impact of the disagreement and criticism on himself by holding the critic in contempt, by diminishing the stature of the discordant conversant. When the disagreement or criticism or disapproval or approbation become public, the narcissist tends to regard them as narcissistic supply.


Witnessing the Narcissist's Glory: Secondary Narcissistic Supply

Narcissists exist by reflection, living through the memories of others. The essence of secondary narcissistic supply is witnessing the narcissist's glory days, and the narcissist needs to be actively reminded of his achievements and moments of glory. Memories of past grandeur substitute for narcissistic supply, and the main function of people in the narcissist's life is to tell the narcissist how great he is because of how great he was. The disappearance of witnesses causes the narcissist to fade, and the narcissist is incapable of ever knowing himself except via and through other people.

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