As Puppet Masters, Narcissists Seek Out Three Different Sources of Supply:

The narcissist always needs a constant source of “narcissistic supply” to support their fragile ego.
Narcissistic supply is anything or anybody that allows the narcissist to draw respect, admiration, power, control, and support from their environment (i.e. accommodating people as their victims, a flash car, the clothes they wear, etc.).

Indeed, anything that brings them attention and adoration is narcissistic supply. They need this endless bounty, and that is why they are always searching for new sources of fresh supply in their environment. Generally, it is the human victims that becomes the vessel through which narcissistic supply flows with the greatest abundance.

But not all narcissistic supply is the same or has the same value to the narcissist. Basically, there are three sources of supply, each with a different function, and they are known as: – 1. Primary Narcissistic Supply (PNS), 2. Secondary Narcissistic Supply (SNS), and 3. Narcissistic Tertiary Supply (NTS). Each of these three sources has their own level of potency, depending of course, on how the narcissist uses it.

All their sources of supply are related to anybody or anything that wins them “attention”, and that attention may come with either a negative or positive charge. Attention is vital oxygen for the narcissist because it is used specifically to regulate their fluctuating self-worth, a self-worth that goes up and down frequently and drastically.

The narcissist stabilises their hyper idealised self-image by hearing people reflect how omnipotent they consider them to be, and they are especially happy when that level fits with their own image of their self.

Primary Narcissistic Supply:

The term Primary Narcissistic Supply applies to all those people that are almost always intimate partners, and they provide the narcissist with the attention they crave on a casual and random basis.
These will be the people that the narcissist invests most heavily in at the start of the relationship, of course, eventually they will tire of this source, and then look for a shiny new replacement.

They are especially drawn to Empaths because they are strong, altruistic, problem-solvers, sensitive, kind, dependable, and nurturing. For the narcissist, their primary source is their most important form of supply.
They provide them with the most intimate relationships they experience because they have the greatest emotional charge attached to them. These are the people that they will go to the greatest lengths to hook, using an excessive amount of seduction and manipulation to entice them into their web of deception.

This source of supply provides the narcissist with the greatest emotional reactions to their outrageous behaviour; therefore, they prize them as their highest oxygen providers.

Remember, they only have one “primary source” available to them at any given time, this is partly due to the rush of excitement being enough, but also because they must invest so much time in the seduction and manipulation of this person who is presently the “flavour of the month”.
The nature of the attention they provide can be experienced in either a public form (i.e. such as fame, celebrity, notoriety, or infamy, etc.) or in a private form (i.e. such as admiration, flattery, acclaim, fear, repulsion, etc.) (S. Vaknin, 2015).

Even being notorious equates to being renowned. As you can see, it does not matter whether the attention is positive or negative, one is as good as the other; just as long as the narcissist is centre stage. Their primary source of supply are the people who will suffer most at the hands of the narcissist when things go wrong, the ones they unleash their most extreme rage and devaluation tactics on.

Even after this person has escaped or has been discarded, the narcissist will keep trying to hoover and weasel their victim back into the relationship, where once again they can have a hold over them. Because they invested so much time and energy in their primary source, they feel entitled to keep reeling them in for drawing more oxygen out of them, whether it is now, next month, or ten years from now.

Nothing pleases the narcissist more than knowing that the co-narcissist victim is still grieving for them, most especially after going through their painful discarding process. Even if the co-narcissist was the one to end the relationship by discarding them, they can still derive pleasure in knowing that their “supply” person has not been able to move on without them.

Just when the co-narcissist victim begins to feel that their narcissistic has finally gone, like the proverbial boomerang, they will return again and again at varying intervals and trigger their pain.
The pathological narcissist hopes to either hook the victim again or disturb their peace.
One way or the other, they will keep the co-narcissist victim’s wheels spinning. Whatever the victim’s response, they will use their response to provide them with information on how to carry out the next hoover manoeuvre. Depending on how the land lies, their next approach may come directly from them, or they may control and abuse by proxy (employing one of their flying monkeys to carry out the task on their behalf).

Sometimes there is no reason for them to do the hoovering behaviours. This is likely to be when they have already ongoing contact with the victim, perhaps because of the visiting rights around the children. Or they may be in the exciting rush of getting a new source of supply, so the task of hoovering does not even enter their head because of the thrill of a new conquest. Once again, it will be the pathological narcissist that will control when to employ the hoover manoeuvre tactic (or not), not the co-narcissistic victim.

Secondary Narcissistic Supply:

Secondary Narcissistic Supply pertains to those people that are a constant presence in the narcissists life. They provide the narcissist with regular supply (i.e. spouse, children, subordinates and dependents, friends, family, colleagues, etc.), and are strictly for backup purposes.
They are the first people the narcissist will turn to when they encounter difficulties with the Primary Source of Supply. People often ask the question, “Why do narcissist’s get married when they clearly do not love their spouse?”
The answer is simple, although narcissists prefers the highly charged dynamic of their Primary Narcissistic Supply, however inevitability things go wrong (i.e. they may suddenly become bored, or they may fall-out with the person because they are not getting what they want from them).

Suddenly, they will swing from their Idealization Phase (where the individual can do nothing wrong) to the Devaluation Stage (to where the individual can do nothing right), and the narcissist instantly disconnects.

Whenever their Primary Source of Supply is unavailable they will turn to their Secondary Narcissistic Supply, most especially their significant others (i.e. wife/husband, children, etc.) to be recharged before they go in search of a new source of Primary Supply. This is their constant pattern of behaviour.
They interact frequently with these people, getting their supply of oxygen from them, but not to the extent that they do with their primary sources of supply.

The job of the Primary Source is to accommodate and give the pathological narcissist a secure existence and contribute to making them look like they are leading a very normal and well-adjusted life.

For example, this provides the illusion that they have the companionship of a partner or spouse that fills them with pride, helping them stand out in the outside world. Also, being able to show evidence of a secure existence where they are financially secure and socially acceptable.

The narcissist likes nothing better than to be a prominent member of the community, having a good reputation or profession, and generally being the picture of success. They also like to amass a range of status symbols (property, flash cars, fine clothes, etc.), and display them conspicuously for all and sundry to admire.

They condition and train their secondary supply sources to support them in their charade. It is the personality of the supply person that determines what type of supply they become, so empaths often fulfill these secondary roles as well as being a source of the narcissist’s primary supply.
It is the secondary sources that tend to last the test of time, that is because the narcissist only calls on them intermittently, especially at times when they have just discarded their primary source.

Narcissistic Tertiary Sources of Supply:

The tertiary source of supply appertains to a lower source of supply person for a narcissist, most often they are perfect strangers. According to G.H Tudor (a self-confessed narcissist) says: – They (Tertiary source of supply) are a useful set of individuals that the narcissist can turn to when they need a quick booster of oxygen; i.e. whenever they need an instant supply of positive energy, or as a source of focus for discharging negative energy.

A tertiary source is especially useful when the narcissist suddenly loses their primary source of supply (even temporarily).

For example, a client of mine arranged to meet her narcissistic mother in a local café. The meeting was a bit stressful for them both, as it was the first time they had met in months (following friction between them).
However, the meeting was going as well as hoped by my client, who was consciously working hard to provide her mother with attention and a lovely gift. At one point my client (the mother’s primary source of supply) excused herself to go to the ladies’ room.

When she returned to the table a few minutes later her mother was surrounded by several young waitresses engaged in laughing and talking with her. They were admiring the gift she had just received from her daughter and were telling her what a lovely lady she was. Clearly, in the absence of her primary source of supply the narcissistic mother promptly replaced her daughter with a lesser source to supply (A Tertiary Source of Supply).
A tertiary source of supply applies to strangers or people the narcissist rarely sees.

This short blast of seduction (i.e. the way they smiled at her, the compliments they gave her, their interest they showed in her, etc.) would have provided her with temporary attention for propping up her ego and making her feel superior. This would have helped her to discharge any stress she may have been experiencing from the difficult meeting with her daughter and rebuild her façade of being in control.

The tertiary source also serves another function, it is often carried out as a form of triangulation, where it serves as a ploy to impress the other person of the narcissist’s popularity.

This worked for the narcissistic mother very well with my client, because she remarked on the fact that “wherever her mother goes, people really like her.” If she were to have shown this irritation to her mother, it would have served to provide her with even more fuel, delighting her even further. Left without anybody to help them regulate their fragile ego, or to discharge their rage, or lift their spirits, the narcissist will increase their reliance on any tertiary source of supply.

Unfortunately for them, in the interim, until the narcissist manages to secure their new primary source of supply, they must bear the brunt of the narcissist’s bizarre behaviour.

These may seem like small boosts or discharges of energy, but over time, they amount to quite a bit of attention (positive and negative) for the narcissist.

Should a narcissist recognise a tertiary source as being an empath, they will go out of their way to promote them to be a primary or secondary source of supply, they would, most probably, not be able to pass them over without trying to hook them. Empaths are cream of the crop where narcissists are concerned.

The Gaslighting Syndrome

When Shame Begets Shame

The 3 Faces Of Evil

Follow me
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.
Follow me