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.