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Witnessing the Narcissist's Glory: Secondary Narcissistic Supply

Uploaded 5/26/2015, approx. 4 minute read

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

The narcissist's existence, his life, his vicarious, he lives through others. He inhabits their memories of him. Bits and pieces of the narcissist are strewn across continents among hundreds of casual acquaintances, friends, lovers, teachers, admirers, and despisers. He lives by proxy through the eyes of others.

Narcissists exist by reflection.

And this is the essence of what I call secondary narcissistic supply, witnessing the narcissist's glory days, secure knowledge that the narcissist is replicated in the minds of many.

The narcissist wants to be remembered because without being remembered, he is not. He does not exist without memories of him.

The narcissist needs to be discussed because he has no being except as a topic of conversation.

So passive memory is not enough. It needs to be active. The narcissist needs to be actively reminded of his achievements, of his moments of glory, of past adulations, of applause.

The constancy of these streams of memories smooths the inevitable fluctuations in primary narcissistic supply.

In lean moments, in lean times, when the narcissist is all but forgotten or ignored, or when the narcissist feels humiliated by the gap between his reality and his grandiose self-perception, his fantasies, in these moments, memories of past grandeur related to him by outside observers, these memories lift his spirits, sustain him.

It's like the drip line, like transfusion.

The narcissist needs his memories when he is not getting active, constant, repetitive narcissistic supply. They substitute for narcissistic supply.

This is the main function, actually, of people in the narcissist's life. Their function is to tell the narcissist how great he is because of how great he was.

So narcissists subsist of other people's reiteration of their accomplishments, achievements, breakthroughs, applause, affirmation, confirmation.

In this sense, narcissists are vampiric. They prey on the past. They suck the blood out of the archaeology of their own lives.


Consider the cerebral narcissists.

Cerebral narcissists are usually precocious children, gifted children. They are the wunderkind, the child with the oversized spectacles, the freak, the geek.

Such narcissists, even at an early age, befriend only people many years their senior. At the age of 20, the youngest of their best friends, among which there's a variety of professions and locations and so on, the youngest would be 40.

The age, experience, and social standing of the narcissist's so-called friends make them ideal sources of narcissistic supply.

Such friends feed the narcissist, host them in their bones, bring them books, introduce them to each other, interview them, take them on expensive trips to foreign lands, and in general sustain the narcissist's grandiosity.

The narcissist becomes the darling of these people, the subject of much awe and adulation. As a wunderkind, as a wanderer boy, the narcissist becomes a phenomenon. To some, a circus freak. To others, a genius.

Exactly the source of narcissistic supply for a cerebral.

But decades later, these, his erstwhile sources of supply, are by now old people, and they die off one by one. Their kids are in their 20s, but they are out of the loop. They are not in the know. They don't recall the narcissist hating.

And when his friends die, their memories of him die with them. They take to their grave his secondary narcissistic supply.

They are unable to regulate the narcissist's flow of narcissistic supply, unable to support a stable sense of self-worth based on this supply.

So, with the disappearance of these witnesses, the narcissist slightly fades with every passing of one of them.

They, the dying and the dead, are the only ones who know, the only ones who recall, the only ones who are able to tempt the narcissist to confirm to him that he is real, has been real, and therefore will be real.

His existence is so ephemeral that the narcissist requires this constant input from the outside, just to be sure, just to ascertain his own existence.

We are the witnesses of who the narcissist was back then, and why. They are the narcissist's only chance at ever getting to know himself at all.

When the last of them is in turn, in the ground, the narcissist will be no more. The narcissist will have lost his tab, a proper self-introduction.

It feels so sad that the narcissist is incapable of ever knowing himself except via and through other people.

It feels so lonely, like a child's grave in autumn.

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

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 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.


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's Routines

Narcissists have a series of routines that are developed through rote learning and repetitive patterns of experience. These routines are used to reduce anxiety and transform the world into a manageable and controllable one. The narcissist is a creature of habit and finds change unsettling. The narcissist's routines are often broken down when they are breached or can no longer be defended, leading to a narcissistic injury.


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.


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.


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.


Inanimate Objects as Sources of Narcissistic Supply

Narcissists can find inanimate objects as sources of narcissistic supply, as long as they have the potential to attract attention and admiration. Narcissists often use objects as status symbols, which can elicit admiration, envy, and aspiration from others. However, narcissists can also become attached to objects and memorabilia, which can provide emotional support and remind them of their past glories and potential future grandeur. Narcissists can objectify people and anthropomorphize objects to derive maximum narcissistic supply from both, leading to a shared psychosis and cult-like behavior among those closest to them.


Narcissist: Star of Own Theater of Conspicuous Existence

Narcissists engage in conspicuous existence, a form of conspicuous consumption where the consumed commodity is narcissistic supply. They stage-manage their every movement, tone of voice, posture, inflection, poise, text, subtext, and context to garner the most attention. Narcissists are excess embodied, and their constant invention of self is not limited to outward appearances. They are incessantly engaged in energy draining, gorging of other people and their possible reactions to him, and their exhaustion is all-consuming.

Transcripts Copyright © Sam Vaknin 2010-2023, under license to William DeGraaf
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