It’s Narcissist Friday!
The narcissism literature talks a lot about narcissistic supply. “Supply” is sustenance, that which the narcissist needs and wants to get from you. For the narcissist, supply is just as practical as you getting “supplies” from the grocery or hardware store. He/she will pay whatever it takes to get what is needed.
But just what is the supply of the narcissist? We usually speak in terms of adoration, loyalty, service, attention, etc. Yet, under all of these is a common factor. The narcissist needs life.
An idol has no life. I believe the primary reason God hates idols and idol worship is because the idol, or false god, draws its life from its worshipers. It gives them nothing, but takes everything. The more they serve it, the more the idol draws from them. A piece of wood or stone or precious metal cannot provide life. It has none to give. So its servants must give it life from themselves.
Let me explain this. How do the worshipers of an idol know what the idol wants? They look into themselves and pull out ideas of what true worship would be. If cutting themselves would make it appear that they are fervent in their faith, then they would cut themselves. If making a great sacrifice would be true worship, in their own eyes, then the worshipers would make great sacrifices. And what kind of blessings would the idol give? None, except what the worshipers would either do for themselves or manipulate from others or twist from the normal series of life events. Their creativity and effort provide what the idol gets credit for.
Now, here’s the point: the image the narcissist has created has no life either. It is a phony, just like an idol. The only problem is that the only worshiper it has is the narcissist. The image needs more. It needs you.
It isn’t quite enough that the image provides a distraction from the broken and frightened child hiding in the corner (which is the real narcissist). The narcissist needs to make the image real. He/she must reject the reality they see and substitute the image. The narcissist is not content for you to believe the lie; you must give life to the image.
Worship is the process of investing our lives into that which we worship. What the Bible teaches us is that we come to the Lord and receive life from Him in order to worship Him and receive more life from Him. I know that sounds complicated, but we understand that we were all the broken child hiding in the corner. When we found Jesus and His love for us, we received His life. He filled us with Himself. He lives in us and is our life. The only way we can worship Him is if we take from His life to connect our hearts to His. This is why Jesus said that those who worship God “must worship Him in spirit and in truth.”
The narcissist draws life from his victims for the worship of the image. “Did you see what a great job I did?” You are supposed to give life to the lie and say, “Oh yes, how wonderful you are!” You know it wasn’t the narcissist who did the great thing or that the thing wasn’t really all that great, but you are supposed to worship anyway. And, every time you do, you take a little more from yourself to give to the image.
This is why victims of narcissists are so drained. It’s why they feel so confused, so negative about themselves, and so compromised. It’s why many of them feel depressed and suicidal. It’s also why victims of narcissists often become narcissistic. In order to replace the life they have given, they try to get something back from others. The cycle runs through families and in organizations as each tries to get what was taken by others.
It is difficult to stop this process in a narcissistic relationship. Yet, the important thing is to understand what is happening and to find ways to prevent the loss of identity that comes with this giving of life. Find sources of life and energy apart from the narcissist. Find ways to be healthy and alive. And don’t give yourself away as your narcissist pushes you to worship the image. Hold onto who you are.
Of course, the ultimate answer is to find your life source in Jesus. He will fill you with love and affirmation and purpose. He will lead you in dealing with your narcissist. I believe with all my heart that Jesus is the only real source of life and that He loves each of us.
Life. It’s pretty much the bottom line, isn’t it? And the narcissist wants it. He/she needs it. It is the basic supply that answers all the longings, the one drug that hints at satisfying. But they have to get it from you.