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Zombie Narcissist: Deficient Narcissistic Supply

Uploaded 8/28/2012, approx. 6 minute read

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

What happens when a narcissist fails to secure or to obtain sufficient narcissistic supply?

Well, the narcissist then reacts very much as a drug addict would react to the absence of his or her particular drug of choice.

You see, the narcissist is constantly consumed, so one could say, praise upon, adoration, admiration, approval, applause, attention, and other forms of narcissistic supply.

When lacking or deficient, the narcissistic's deficiency dysphoria sets in, kind of depression.

The narcissist then appears to be down, depressed, his movements slow down, his sleep patterns are disordered, he either sleeps too much or becomes insomnia. His eating patterns change, he begins to gorge on food or avoid it altogether.

When narcissistic supply is insufficient or deficient, the narcissist is constantly dysphoric, he is said, he is unhedonically, finds no pleasure in any, including these former pursuits of his and interests.

He is subjected to violent mood swings, mainly rage attacks, and all his visible and painful efforts at self control discernibly fail.

The narcissist may compulsively or ritually resort to an alternative addiction, alcohol, drugs, reckless driving, pathological gambling, or show populism. These are all substitutes for love, hand substitutes for narcissistic supply.

And this gradual disintegration is the narcissist's futile effort both to escape his predicament, the lack of narcissistic supply, and to sublimate his aggressive urges.

His whole behavior seems constrained, artificial, and effortful. The narcissist gradually turns more and more mechanical, robotic, detached, and unreal.

He can constantly wander or become obsessive and repetitive. His speech may falter or become slurred. He appears to be far away, in a world of his own making, of his narcissistic fantasies, where narcissistic supply is aplenty.

When he cannot secure supply in the real world, the narcissist retreats into a fantasy world. He withdraws from his painful existence, where others fail to appreciate his greatness, his special skills, his talents, his potential, his achievements.

The narcissist thus ceases to bestow himself upon a cruel universe, punishing the universe for its shortcomings, its inability to realize how unique the narcissist is.

When narcissism thus fades as a defense mechanism, the narcissist develops paranoid persecutory delusions, self-directed confabulations which place him at the centers of other people's allegedly malign attention.

The narcissist becomes his own audience, self-sufficient as his own, sometimes exclusive source of narcissistic supply.

And so, the narcissist withdraws from the world, becomes a hermit, goes into a schizoid mode. He isolates himself, a monk in the kingdom of his own pain, agony, and hurt. He minimizes his social interactions and uses messengers and couriers to communicate with the outside.

To avoid of energy, the narcissist can no longer pretend to succumb to social conventions. His former compliance gives way to open withdrawal, a rebellion of sorts, although no defiance.

Smiles are transformed to frowns, courtesy becomes rudeness, emphasized etiquette is used as a weapon, an outlet of aggression, an act for violence.

The narcissist, blinded by pain, seeks to restore his balance, to take another sip of the narcissistic nectar that is narcissistic supply.

And in this quest, the narcissist turns both to and upon those nearest to him. His real attitude emerges.

For him, his nearest and dearest are nothing but instruments, tools, one-dimensional, venues of gratification, sources of supply, pimps of such supply, catering to his narcissistic lust.

Having faith to procure for him his drug, narcissistic supply, the narcissist regards friends, colleagues, and even family members as dysfunctional, frustrating objects.

In his wrath and rage, he tries to mend them by forcing them to perform again, to function, to obtain for him narcissistic supply.

It rarely works, because this is coupled with merciless self-flagellation, a deservedly self-inflicted punishment.

Also, at least, the narcissist fails. In extreme cases of deprivation, when the narcissist has absolutely no access to any form of narcissistic supply, the narcissist entertains suicidal thoughts and ideation, and this is how deeply he loathes his self and his dependence on narcissistic supply.

Throughout this extremely agonizing anguish process, the narcissist is beset by a pervading sense of malignant nostalgia, harking back to a past which never existed, of course, except in the narcissist's thwarted, fantastic grandiosity.

But he harks back to a past where narcissistic supply was everywhere.

The longer the lack of narcissistic supply, the more the narcissist glorifies, rewrites, misses, and mourns this absolutely imaginary past.

This nostalgia serves to enhance other negative feelings amounting to clinical depression.

The narcissist proceeds to develop paranoia. He concocts a prosecuting and persecuting world, incorporating in it his life's events and his social milieu.

And this gives meaning, this paranoia, this conspiracy theory, gives meaning to what is erroneously perceived by the narcissist to be a sudden shift from oversupply to no supply.

These theories of conspiracy, or conspiracies, account for the decrease in narcissistic supply.

The narcissist says, I'm not getting supply because people are against me.

The narcissist is then frightened, in pain, in despair, embarks upon an orgy of self-destruction, intended to generate alternative supply sources, attention with any cost, the cost of being feared, the cost of becoming infamous, notorious, the cost of ruining himself.

The narcissist is poised to commit the ultimate narcissistic act, self-destruction, in the service of self-aggrandizement.

When deprived of narcissistic supply, both primary and secondary, the narcissist feels a nod, hollowed out, mentally disemboweled, disintegrating like a cloud of molecules.

And this is an overpowering sense of self-evaporation. These atoms of terrified anguish, helplessly, inexorably melting into the big room, becoming invisible.

Without narcissistic supply, the narcissist crumbles like the zombies of the vampires one sees in horror movies.

It is a terrifying sight to behold, and the narcissist will do anything to avoid it.

Think about the narcissist as a drug addict. His withdrawal symptoms are identical. Delusions, physiological effects, irritability, emotional lability.

In the absence of regular narcissistic supply, narcissists often experience brief, decompensatory psychotic episodes. It's that bad.

This also happens while in therapy or following a life crisis accompanied by a major narcissistic injury.

These psychotic episodes may be closely allied to another feature of narcissism, magical thinking.

Narcissists are like children in this sense.

Many, for instance, fully believe in two things, that whatever happens, they will prevail, and that good things will always happen to them.

It's kind of magical cloak immunity. It is more than mere belief in the case of the narcissist.

Narcissists just know it to be true, the same way one knows about gravity, directly, immediately, assuredly.

The narcissist believes that no matter what he does, he will always be forgiven, always prevail and triumph, always come on top.

The narcissist is therefore fearless in a manner perceived by others to be both admirable and callously insane.

He attributes to himself divine and cosmic immunity. He cloaks himself in it, renders him invisible to his enemies and to the powers of evil.

Of course, it's a childish, phantasmagory, but to the narcissist it's very real.

The narcissist knows with religious certainty that good things will always happen to him.

With equal certitude, the more self-aware narcissist knows that he will squander his good fortune time and again, and that's a painful experience best avoided.

So, no matter what serendipity or fortuity, what lucky circumstance, what blessing the narcissist receives, he always strives with blind fury to deflect them, to deform them and to ruin his own chances.

The narcissist is his own biggest enemy, and that is the cosmic joke, the irony of it all, while looking outside in feet of paranoia, the real danger lurks inside.

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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.


The Signs of the Narcissist

Narcissists are difficult to spot, but there are subtle signs that can be picked up on, such as entitlement markers, idealization and devaluation, and a lack of empathy. Narcissists are often perceived as anti-social and are unable to secure the sympathy of others. They are also prone to projecting a false self and using primitive defense mechanisms such as splitting, projection, projective identification, and intellectualization.


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.


Narcissistic Defences and Personality

Narcissistic personalities are prone to depression, anxiety, shame, self-destructiveness, or rage when their habitual gratifications are threatened. Narcissism is an evolved version of the psychological defense mechanism known as splitting, where the narcissist either idealizes or devalues objects. The narcissist is obsessed with securing a reliable and continuous source of admiration, adulation, affirmation, and attention, and will become an evil person if they cannot secure positive supply. Narcissistic personalities slide the meanings of events to place themselves in a better light and maintain logical consistency while minimizing evil or weakness and exaggerating innocence or control.


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.


Narcissist's Cycles of Ups and Downs

Narcissists go through cycles of mania and depression, which are caused by external events or circumstances known as triggers. The cycles are different from manic depressive cycles in bipolar disorder, which are endogenous. The narcissist is addicted to narcissistic supply and seeks admiration, adoration, approval, attention, and so on. The narcissist goes through ups and downs, including a depressive phase, a hibernation phase, and a manic phase, which are all part of the process of obtaining and securing narcissistic supply.


Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) Misdiagnosed as Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)

Narcissists are anxious for social approval and seek narcissistic supply compulsively, which creates attendant anxiety. They require external feedback to regulate their sense of self-worth, self-confidence, and self-esteem, making them irritable. Narcissists are terrified of being embarrassed or criticized in public, and they fail to function well in various settings. It is easy to mistake the presenting symptoms of certain anxiety disorders with pathological narcissism, but the narcissist is egosyntonic, while the anxious patient is distressed and looking for help.


Narcissist: Stable Life or Roller Coaster?

Narcissists are dependent on and addicted to fluctuating narcissistic supply, leading to volatility in their lives and moods. Classic narcissists maintain an island of stability in their lives, while the other dimensions of their existence wallow in chaos and unpredictability. Borderline narcissists react to instability in one area of their life by introducing chaos into all other dimensions of their existence. Narcissists of all kinds hate routine and avoid it as part of their emotional involvement prevention mechanisms, which prevent them from getting emotionally involved, bonding, attaching, and subsequently being hurt.


Predator Narcissist: YOU are the Prey!

Narcissists have the ability to see through other people's emotional shields and know when they are deviating from the truth. They can intuitively grasp other people's self-interested goals and accurately predict their strategies and tactics. Narcissists can't stand self-important, self-inflated, pompous, vigorous, self-righteous, sanctimonious, and hypocritical people because they recognize themselves in them. They expose people's vulnerabilities and force them to confront their true selves, their dead-end careers, their mundane lives, the death of their hopes and dreams and wishes, their shattered illusions.


Narcissist's Addiction to Fame and Celebrity

Narcissists are addicted to being famous as it provides them with power, constant narcissistic supply, and fulfills important ego functions. The narcissist's only bad emotional stretches are during periods of lack of attention, publicity, or exposure. The more the narcissist fails to secure the attention of the target group, the more daring, eccentric, and outlandish the narcissist becomes. The narcissist is not really interested in publicity per se, but with the reactions to his fame and celebrity.

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