It’s Narcissist Friday!
Others have written more and better on the subject of narcissistic supply, but I wanted to provide an overview here so this important part of the discussion stays in focus. Narcissistic Supply is simply whatever a narcissist gets out of a relationship. It can be positive or negative, overt or covert, public or private. In fact, it may be quite puzzling for outsiders to watch a narcissist and determine just what he or she is getting from a particular relationship.
Narcissists are addicted to what people think of them. They must control the subjective assessments of others. This is, as I have said before, their “super-power.” They are amazingly able to manipulate the people around them to get what they want.
But what do they want? Because narcissists see people according to a ladder of position, they want different things from different people. There are people above them, people relatively equal to them, and people below them. From the people above them, the narcissists might want acceptance, affirmation, or camaraderie. They want to know the secrets of the rich and famous, how they can act so others think that’s what they are. They want to know how to become one of the upper caste. And, ultimately, they want the position those above them hold on the ladder.
From the ones below them, narcissists generally want admiration, honor, respect, longing, desire, etc. They want to know that others covet what the narcissist has. The narcissist will enjoy holding a good parking space just because he knows others want it. Some narcissists display their wives or promote their jobs so that others become jealous. They want those under them to think that the narcissist holds the answers.
I have also come to believe that narcissists often have people in their lives they see as equals—just so they can feel normal. Remember that the narcissist knows he is broken and vulnerable. People who don’t play the game of comparisons and advantages hold a strange attraction for the narcissist. He cannot understand what motivates them. Most of them he simply dismisses and doesn’t see, but sometimes one or more are allowed in his life because he suspects that this is normal. And he wants to be normal.
Consider this: When the narcissist walks into a room, he instantly knows where he (and the others) stands on this ladder. He is under immediate pressure to perform according to his needs. His “normal” friend, however, walks into the same room with no such pressure. This pressure is a constant drain of energy for the narcissist. If things don’t go his way, he becomes irritable and depressed. His friend doesn’t seem to have this problem. So the narcissist keeps this friend in his life as a refuge, a place where normal is possible. He will still put himself above the friend, still put the friend down sometimes, but he needs this friend.
Now, this “supply” can be obtained negatively as well. The narcissist sometimes looks to those above him with a victimized approach. He wants them to lift him up, to value him, and say nice things about him. She may accept their charity simply for the sake of remaining connected to them. Narcissists understand that those who give establish a stronger connection than those who receive. They allow those above them to give so they will feel this stronger connection. Let’s say it this way: Giving requires something from the giver. Receiving requires nothing from the receiver. The narcissist knows intuitively that those who give have shared something of themselves. That’s supply.
From those under them, narcissists may want to see fear or submission or servitude. The more the person serves, the more the narcissist takes and the less the narcissist returns in thankfulness or kindness. Service given in the midst of painful treatment is the best supply. It shows dominance and superiority.
Often those who are in or are observing narcissistic relationships wonder what the narcissist is getting out of the connection. Why is this happening? The answer lies in this strange drug of narcissistic supply.