The Narcissists Addiction to Narcissistic Supply:

Lamb to the Slaughter

Narcissists are addicted to a drug known as “Narcissistic Supply“, and it does not matter whether the supply is good or bad, what matters is that the supply brings adulation, fame, and celebrity that is constant, reliable, and predictable.

Narcissistic Supply really refers to those people who provide a constant source of attention, approval, adoration, admiration, etc., for the narcissist.  The attention they receive from the “Supply Source” is vital for the survival of the narcissist, without it they would die (either physically or metaphorically), because their weak ego depends on it in order to regulate their unstable self-worth and self-esteem.  The narcissist perceives themselves as being very independent.  They could not deal with the fact that they need anybody, because needing someone would imply some boundary to their power or imply that they are incomplete.  Furthermore, they cannot tolerate any sign of independence and autonomy from their “supply”, this only serves to enrage them. The narcissistic supply is there to serve them, so they try to cement their source of supply into the role they have made for them, and there they remain under the narcissist’s control.  Any deviation from this position on the part of their supply will end in punishment for the transgressor. So, like the Queen Bee, the narcissist is surrounded with a hive of worker bees, all in service to their needs, which ironically make them totally co-dependent on others for their survival.

The narcissist’s pattern of behaviour is driven purely by their addiction for admiration and respect from others, it fills their thoughts, actions and deeds, and the source of that supply is not particularly important.  As with all addictions, there are good and bad sources of supply, and to the narcissist, any source is better than none.  However, given a choice, their first choice would be to pursue the finest sources possible. The best source would depend on how they view the Supply in the first place. If they can get the admiration from a source that they find superior themselves, then that would be even better.  So if they admire someone, for whatever reason, for example, their intellect, their knowledge, their wealth, their position, etc., then these people would be really welcome trophies to have notched up on their belt.  Of course, they would only respect those people who they would acknowledge as being on a higher social status than themselves anyway.

If they manage to gain admiration from a high ranking, high status person, they will ingratiate themselves to that individual with a clear intention to extract any “greatness” they perceive that person to have.  This may be by way of getting information, skills, knowledge etc., which they will then go on to model, as all of these attributes are a further source of power to the narcissist.    If they can gleam that which they admire in the other, then they in effect become just like the object of their desire, they are elevated (in their own eyes) to a higher social status themselves.  In the meantime, they will continue to extract as much admiration for themselves from the relationship as possible; this bolsters their confidence while they model their new status to the world.  However, the narcissist knows that this honeymoon period will be short lived, because once they have exhausted the relationship, and they get all that they wanted they will become bored.  Once bored they will be unable to keep up the pretense of being a mutual caring cohort, the false integrated self they presented begins to breakdown, along with their patience to keep up their act of being an ally. Then, quite abruptly and inexplicably, they decide it is time that it is all over, and a quick as the changing wind, the narcissist becomes cold, uninterested and devious.

The narcissist then starts his vicious attack whereby he sets about devaluing his dismissed Supply. The very things that had once attracted them to the Supply in the first place (their innocence, amenableness, humbleness, wisdom, warm-heartedness, knowledge, energy etc) they now despise, and so they use these same qualities against the individual with a hardness and razor-sharpness befitting a warrior’s Samurai sword…. instantly killing them dead without any remorse.

Part of the reason for wanting to kill off the individual is because in order to con them into giving them what they wanted, the narcissist it required to reveal some things about himself.  This brings a sense of intimacy which is very unsettling because it makes them feel vulnerable, therefore fearful.  After having, what felt like an intimate relationship, naturally the source of supply (the victim) is utterly confused by the sudden change in behaviour toward them.  Being treated in this fashion is a very personal thing to the victim, however, to the narcissist is not that personal at all, for they would have reacted absolutely the same way to any other source because, to him, all sources are transposable.

Now that it has been decided that this particular narcissistic source of supply has reached its end, the narcissist behaviour becomes angry, the exchanges become bizarre, lies and punishing behaviour ensues.  Because the narcissist is unable to be truly intimate or have empathy, it would not be long before the other person realizes that something is seriously very wrong with how the relationship is going.  And as in any healthy relationship, the Supply person, believing that they are both good friends, begins to fight for the relationship and so challenge the narcissist as to what is actually happening between them.  When this begins to happen, the narcissist feels rebuffed, and unable to handle the rejection and conflict, they become even angrier.  Because they have been through this process many times before, and recognize that the other person is no longer their source of supply for admiration, they want to quit.  Also, rather than risk being rejected further, the narcissist wants to move on, so rejects before being rejected.  Leaving the other unsuspecting person totally confused.  The more hurt and confused the Supply person becomes, the more the narcissist’s sadistic tendencies are rewarded.

Once again the narcissist goes looking for a new narcissistic source, and if necessary they will resort to a lower social network of victim in order to feed the addiction for admiration.  They will not be happy that they were rebuffed by their once superior supply; they will feel that having to resort to a lower status supply an insult to their inflated ego, therefore they rationalize that their treatment for the victim was justified.  Sometimes the feeling of hitting “rock bottom” makes the narcissist put a stop on their narcissistic pattern, but it is only likely to be a temporarily stay of humility until they recover.  Then once someone walks into their sights that interest them, the cycle is likely to begin again.

Like all addicts, the narcissist has to continually replenish his supply.  For that reason he has two sources of Narcissistic Supply to draw from; one is known as Primary Narcissistic Supply (PNS), the other as Secondary Narcissistic Supply (SNS) (Vaknin).  Primary Supply is all about anyone or anything that wins him “Attention”.  This attention may come by public means, such as fame or infamy, or by private means, such as admiration or hate.  The supply comes on a casual and random basis, and it does not necessarily matter whether the attention is positive or negative; positive would make them happier, but in the long run, one is as good as the other to the narcissist.  The source of Secondary Narcissistic Supply comes from those people and things that provide that supply on a regular basis; spouse, family, friends, colleagues, partners, business etc., all of which give them a feeling of security and pride, and the appearance of leading a well-adjusted life. This form of supply needs to be positive if it is to survive, any show of negativity would end in a killing off of the individual, regardless of whom they may be.  It is this form of supply that is also the source of reserve for when the primary supply runs short.  However, both are used in much the same way by the narcissist.

Narcissists go through two cycles where they are either euphoric, which creates a feeling of exaggerated elation and well-being; or dysphonic, which generally creates feelings of sadness, anxiety, irritability, and restlessness.  These states are related to the absence or to the presence of Narcissistic Supply. With the loss of either the Primary or Secondary Sources of Supplies, the narcissist will experience a cycle of dysphoria that will be overwhelming and inescapable for them.  When the dysphoria sets in, the narcissist will display mood swings, especially rage, and he will feel (and look) out of control.  He is then likely to turn to one of his other classical addictions, for example, excessive shopping, food, drugs, etc., and he becomes even more detached into a world of fantasy and refuses to deal with anybody, instead uses messengers to do his communication for him.  At its height his feelings of isolation and self -loathing, he turns inward, and this may well lead to feelings of suicide, he then turns in desperation to his family (his secondary source of supply). Now in a rage, he punishes anyone who he thinks is adding to his pain.  At this point he is anti-social, and dangerous, and in some cases, possibly even psychopathic. He will then withdraw into life, what Vaknin calls, narcissistic hibernation (this is the depressive part of the cycle).  After some time in this space, the narcissist begins to feel a change, a change that will promote self-healing, and once again the narcissist feels in control and looks to the next achievement.  Like a high-energy firework, the whole tiresome business of finding a new source of narcissistic supply begins all over again, and he is energized until the next paranoid disaster comes around.  According to Vaknin, this reactive pattern, which he calls the Reactive Repertoire, is the physical dimension of the narcissist’s constant evasion of life and reality.

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Christine is a Psychotherapist, Educator, Author and Supervisor of mental health professionals for over 28 years. She was part of a team in the Trauma Unit of St. Brendan’s Psychiatric Hospital, Dublin, and has worked specifically with victims of pathological narcissistic abuse in her private practice for many years.
Her books, “The Three Faces of Evil: Unmasking the Full Spectrum of Narcissistic Abuse” and “When Shame Begets Shame: How Narcissists hurt and shame their victims” set out to to help those who have been affected by a narcissist and also to address the shortfalls in a therapist’s education, so that they become better equipped to work with survivors of narcissistic abuse.Much of her knowledge has come from her post-grad studies in Criminology and Forensic Psychology, and it is through these disciplines that she has gained her understanding of “The Dark Triad”, (Narcissism, Machiavellianism and Psychopathy).
These three faces of evil are vital information for understanding the full spectrum of narcissistic abuse and the dire effects on the victims.It is her vision that narcissistic abuse becomes part of the curriculum of all Mental Health clinicians.
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