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Christine’s Chat Corner

A place where real questions get answered.

Christine Louis de Canonville is a psychotherapist who worked for many years with victims of narcissistic abuse. The questions discussed in her “Chat Corner” are real questions, they have come from the many victims that write to her on her blog daily.

Question:  “I am so confused by the way my partner blows hot and cold in the relationship, not just now and then, but from one moment to the next… it me?”


This behaviour you mention is very common of all narcissists, both male or female, towards their victims, sometimes referred to as “The Dizzy Cycle of Being Idealised and Ignored”, but not necessarily in that order. There is logic to this madness, that is, of course, if you are a pathological narcissist. I am sure there are several reasons why they do this, but I shall attempt to give you some explanation…… and “No Anna, it is not you”.

You must realise that when a narcissist picks you as an intimate source of supply (victim), they do so truly believing that you will be the perfect partner for serving their needs. In a kind of way, this is a back-handed compliment.
For some reason, they see you as the solution to their problem, which is having a dependable source of constant affirming attention for them to feel powerful. Without this affirming source of attention, which is the equivalent of oxygen to them, they cannot function well. This extra oxygen or “Proximate Energy” is a necessary active ingredient in their physiological processes.

In the first rush of the relationship the narcissist puts out powerful hooks to attract their victim to them. These hooks act like a powerful magnet that draw you to them, and very quickly you stick like glue. For the victim, this first rush (seduction, manipulation, love bombing, etc.) is very exciting, putting them into a dizzy spin of delightful attention to the other.
For the narcissist, this is also exciting. Not only does it provide them with the proximate energy they require, but it confirms that they were right in choosing you (how clever of them). You are a delight to them because you are also confirming their concept of what a true partner should be (in their fantasy).

All this causes them to booster their idealisation of you, turning the seduction on full volume, and for a while you receive their undivided attention, and it feels like a match made in Heaven.

For a while the narcissist will see you as being special, and they may even see you as superior, therefore worthy of their attention. Unfortunately, all narcissists have short attention spans, they become bored very quickly.
They are addicted to “narcissistic supply” the way a drug addict is to heroin, that is because they love the highs, but cannot stand the lows in their relationships.

Narcissistic supply is anything that helps keep their ego intact and affirms their feelings of specialness, superiority, grandiosity, entitlement, and power.
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. However, as the relationship settles into a natural low, they become bored, so they go in search of a temporary “fix” to amuse them, and make them the centre of attention once again (a new high).

Unfortunately, as they shift away from you, they also start to ignore you, and their attention becomes fixated elsewhere. All of a sudden you feel the bitter cold chill setting in, and naturally, you react badly to that. In return, the narcissist takes your reaction as a rejection and abandonment of them, and they lash out at you. This is when you begin to experience the painful devaluing behaviours of the narcissist’s convoluted dance.

But why do they do this?

Because it is part of the narcissist’s addiction. Their addiction to their own self is so high, that it is impossible for them to ever get enough attention from just one person. Their insatiable lust for attention is so unreasonable, demanding, and draining that they need more than one supply person (victim) on the go always. This is the reason why they must have a supply on demand from both their primary and secondary sources. So, in effect, they are forced to go elsewhere, because you alone cannot supply enough oxygen for them.

This is not even personal against you, it is just in their nature, because they need more “Proximate Energy” than you alone can give. In this scenario, they are now getting positive oxygen through getting new attention elsewhere; and they are also getting negative oxygen from you through your painful reactions, plus an extra helping through their devaluing manipulation towards you.

As far as these two sources of supply are concerned (positive and negative), one is as good as the other to the narcissist. However, if you are patient enough to wait, they will eventually come back from being cold towards you, and once again they turn on their hot charm as you once again enter the idealisation phase anew.

Why don’t they just end the relationship and be done?

They are loathe to do that, because you are their primary source of supply. They rely on you to take the most care of them, therefore, they really do not want to lose you. Remember, they can always find a secondary source when they want, in other friends, acquaintances, workplace, even inanimate objects, etc., and when these relationships don’t turn out the way they want them to be, they discard them, and go on to recruit other sources. Of course, witnessing this happening to others is always a reminder that if you don’t toe the line, then it will happen to you too. The truth is, if you fail to live up to the narcissists expectation of you, they will read this as disloyalty. They will also experience this as a reduction in oxygen, and you will be devalued for that by their abusive behaviour (i.e. verbally abusive, physical violence, silence, infidelity, etc.). All their devaluing behaviours are their means for getting negative attention whenever they cannot get positive attention from you. This behaviour is likely to continue while they find a replacement before they finally discard you. I hope this explains the continuous “Dizzy Cycle of Being Idealised and Ignored”.

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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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