Sam Vaknin, a self-confessed narcissist and author; publisher of Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited 2001, explains Narcissistic Supply:
The narcissist…proceeds to harvest reactions…from family members, friends, co-workers, neighbours, business partners and from colleagues. If these – the adulation, admiration, attention, fear, respect, applause, affirmation – are not forthcoming, the narcissist demands them, or extorts them. Money, compliments, a favourable critique…a sexual conquest are all converted into the same currency in the narcissist’s mind.
NS includes all forms of attention – both positive and negative: fame, notoriety, adulation, fear, applause, approval. Whenever the narcissist gets attention, positive or negative, whenever he is in the “limelight”, it constitutes NS. If he can manipulate people or influence them – positively or negatively – it qualifies as NS.
Narcissists have no enemies. They have only Sources of Narcissistic Supply. An enemy means attention means supply. One holds sway over one’s enemy. If the narcissist has the power to provoke emotions in you, then you are still a Source of Supply to him, regardless of which emotions are provoked.
Narcissistic Supply, both primary and secondary, is perishable goods. The narcissist consumes it and has to replenish it. As is the case with other drug addictions, to produce the same effect, he is forced to increase the dosage as he goes.
When I learned all about Narcissistic Supply, I stopped all forms of communication with my narc-ex.
I also finally realized the reason for my narc-ex’s panicky reaction when he thinks he’s losing his connection with me was not because he loved me or was authentically worried about my welfare – it was because I was his fix.
He was pursuing me because he was afraid to lose his stockpile. To him, I was his stash.
I was not a person to him. He never saw me as a person with human concerns. He only saw me as a provider and giver of his wants. He only saw me as someone he could mine.
I was there to make him feel NOT like a bottomless empty pit and he kept coming back for what I can give him, not for who I am.
I was not a person to him. In his mind, I was a thing to be used, expended, abused and which he could extract any and all supply from.
A relationship dynamic with a narcissist involves the tried and tested patterns of idealization, devaluation and discard.
The below explanation by Sam Vaknin reveals why a narcissist’s “pursuit of a woman” should not be equated to “love:”
Interacting with the opposite sex and “doing business” are the two main Triggers of Secondary Narcissistic Supply (SNS). The narcissist mistakenly interprets his narcissistic needs as emotions. To him, the pursuit of a woman (a Source of Secondary Narcissistic Supply – SSNS), for instance, is what others call “love” or “passion”.
While the narcissist uses up his supply, his partner serves as a silent (and admiring) witness to the narcissist’s “great moments” and “achievements”. Thus, the narcissist’s female friend “accumulates” the narcissist’s “grand and “illustrious past”. When Primary Narcissistic Supply is low, she “releases” the supply she had accumulated. This she does by reminding the narcissist of those moments of glory that she had witnessed. She helps the narcissist to regulate his sense of self-worth.
This function – of Narcissistic Supply accumulation and release – is performed by all SSNS, male or female, inanimate or institutional. The narcissist’s co-workers, bosses, colleagues, neighbours, partners, and friends are all potential SSNS. They all witness the narcissist’s past accomplishments and can remind him of them when new supply runs dry.
Narcissists are forever in pursuit of Narcissistic Supply. They are oblivious to the passage of time and are not constrained by any behavioural consistency, “rules” of conduct, or moral considerations. Signal to the narcissist that you are a willing source, and he is bound to try to extract Narcissistic Supply from you by any and all means.
Some Sources of Supply are ideal (from the narcissist’s point of view): sufficiently intelligent, sufficiently gullible, submissive, reasonably (but not overly) inferior to the narcissist, in possession of a good memory (with which to regulate the flow of Narcissistic Supply), available but not imposing, not explicitly or overtly manipulative, undemanding, attractive (if the narcissist is somatic). In short: a Galathea-Pygmallion type.
Additionally, narcissists simply get tired of their sources. They get bored. There is no mathematical formula which governs this. It depends on numerous variables. Usually, the relationship lasts until the narcissist “gets used” to the source and its stimulating effects wear off or until a better Source of Supply presents itself.
“Even quarrelling with people and confronting them constitute NS. Perhaps not the conflict itself, but the narcissist’s ability to influence other people, to make them feel the way he wants, to manipulate them, to make them do something or refrain from doing it – all count as forms of narcissistic supply.”
Are you being treated like a supply?
Are you reading this now because you feel something’s off with your relationship and you could relate to the above descriptions? Maybe the below checklist could help you know.
You are allowing yourself to be his Narcissistic Supply if:
You pay more attention to his needs than your own.
You feel you are your partner’s friend, best friend, lover, psychiatrist, mother, financial source, guide, guardian and everything else.
You feel the responsibility to constantly make your partner feel better.
You feel easily affected / swayed / persuaded by what your partner says / does.
You feel reluctant to criticize, even constructively, your partner for fear of his anger, rage or negative reaction towards you; or for fear that he will blame you as the cause of his negative feelings.
You always think of him – even if you’re not with him and specially when you’re with him – and how you can make him happy; how you can satisfy him; how you can make him not feel sad / not feel angry; how he can like you more; how he can dislike you less; how you can give him more of what he wants.
You go out of your way to give / provide him with anything he needs but he doesn’t do the same for you – and it is okay with you. It is also okay if you don’t do the same for yourself.
You adjust to his moods, tantrums and do your best to keep the peace sans your real feelings.
If you say “Yes” to one or more of these statements, you are allowing yourself to be his Narcissistic Supply.
Remember, being someone’s significant other does not equate to you being his narcissistic supply. You do not deserve to be anyone’s narcissistic supply. You are a person who deserves love, respect.
You are not someone’s milking cow.
You are not helping the person you’re giving supply to by being an narcissistic supplier yourself. You are merely enabling him to further devolve and you are taking yourself along with him.
Do yourself a favor and attend to your own needs first for your betterment. Doing so makes him aware of your self-worth and how he should treat you – with dignity and empathy. It also makes you aware of your self-worth. You also give your Self the Love and Respect you deserve.
You are not helping him by staying in the relationship. You are merely enabling him to continue being his worst self; you are not helping him evolve; you are allowing him to continue on the path to entropy.
Being with him / staying with him won’t save him. Only he can save himself.
The least he could do is admit and acknowledge his abuse, his narcissism. You have no responsibility for his healing. He first needs to admit he needs healing and allow him to take the necessary steps to do this.
If he doesn’t want to, you therefore have the responsibility to set Your Self free, to care for your Self and go through your own process of healing.
Remember, he can only treat you in a way you allow him to – this statement puts the power on YOU and not on him or anyone else.
He only has power over you if you let him.
“Special love note to anyone beating yourself up for being ‘snared’ by an illusion under these transits. Please, please forgive yourself!
Some people are absolute MASTERS at creating and drawing others in their webs, whether intentionally or not. Some are simply acting from their unconconscious insecurities or need for attention…or devotion. And they served a profound purpose to show you what you REALLY deserve. Saturn is always a blessing.
So here’s what matters. Forgive yourself, love yourself, absorb the lesson of your own shimmering beauty and value, kiss your bruises, and …say goodbye.”