If you find yourself dealing with a narcissistic person and are researching the topic to find out more, you will no doubt come across the phrase ‘Narcissistic Supply.’
So, what is narcissistic supply?
Narcissistic supply is the energy that a narcissist garners from the world around them (other people) to feed their empty energetic tank. They do not have access to the divine life force that emotionally healthy people have, so they need to extract it from others. This comes in the form of admiration, attention and arguments, as well as ‘appearing’ successful, wealthy, well-connected and being seen to have the perfect life.
Narcissistic supply is the reaction and emotion that is directed towards the narcissist, which they will then use to feed their False Self or ego.
Interestingly, there are two categories of narcissistic supply, ‘primary’ and ‘secondary.’
In short, primary narcissistic supply comes via attention, while secondary narcissistic supply is extracted through appearances.
Let’s delve deeper into narcissistic primary and secondary supply to further explain how the narc functions.
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Narcissistic Supply Definitions
Here are some of the different terms that have been used throughout this article. Understanding them will help you get the most out of the information.
|Source of Narcissistic Supply
|The person that provides the narcissist with energetic supply.
(Often seen as the narc’s victim)
|Person or object that causes the source to give the narcissist an energetic supply.
(Usually caused by something the narc has said/ done to intentionally set the victim off)
|Reaction or emotion caused by the trigger, which feeds the narcissist with energetic supply.
|Primary Narcissistic Supply
|Where the narcissist receives supply through attention.
|Secondary Narcissistic Supply
|Where the narcissist receives supply through appearances.
What is Narcissistic Supply?
Narcissistic supply is essentially currency in the form of energy, which is the divine life force that runs through all of us.
Emotionally healthy people have direct access to this divine life force from within. Narcissists, however, do not have access to that internal source of energy, meaning that they are always starving for it and seeking it from their outside world.
For narcissists to quell their internal feelings of self-loathing and unworthiness, they must steal the life force from others. Disturbingly, the energy that they suck from others only temporarily abates that feeling inside. It’s like self-medicating with drugs, alcohol, shopping or food. Before they know it, that emptiness inside is back, as it can never be truly eradicated.
Narcissists are like a black hole, which can never be filled. They represent an empty, emotional void.
You are sorely mistaken if you think you can ‘fix’ the narcissist or make them better. Nobody can fix someone who doesn’t have the resources to help themselves. The energy you expend on a narcissist is a complete waste as you will only walk away drained and they will only feel reprieve for a short while.
The lack of emotional energetic life force within themselves generally stems from a traumatic childhood, event or circumstance, where they disconnected from their true essence.
THE STORY OF THE NARCISSIST KILLING OFF THEIR TRUE SELF
The narcissist subconsciously killed off their True Self at a very young age, to the point of no resuscitation. They were then only left with a False Self (ego).
As it’s our True Self which provides us with the unlimited abundance of divine life force and energy, the narcissist cut off their own energetic supply.
Now they are left with an empty void that can only be temporarily filled by stealing the life force from others. Hence why they are like drug addicts that spend their lives searching for their next ‘fix’ (supply).
When the narcissist killed off their True Self, they also cut off their HUMANNESS, which entails compassion, empathy, kindness and authenticity.
That person unconsciously ‘decided’ very early on that if no one was going to give them what they needed, they would simply go out and take it for themselves.
Narcissists are energetic vampires who have learnt that the only way to get what they seek and desire is to take it from others. They do not know any other way and they lack the empathy required to feel remorse or guilt in how their actions affect those around them.
They simply do not care. They see life as a dog-eat-dog world and their only concern is themselves.
How Do Narcissists Gain Narcissistic Supply?
There are hundreds of ways a narcissist can gain supply, but they all come back to one thing – attention.
The narcissist portrays a False Self, which is what we refer to as their mask. This mask is merely a cover, a fake identity that they show the world in order to receive narcissistic supply. The mask shows how they want to be seen, but it does not portray their real selves.
It’s all essentially one big cover-up.
And let me tell you, they are bloody good at holding that mask in place when they need to. After all, they’ve been practising their whole lives.
However, keeping up with the mask is extremely exhausting for the narcissist, therefore it’s never too long before it falls.
When the mask slips, it can be hard for our minds to accept that the person they unwittingly reveal is who they truly are, not the false persona they have been deceiving us with. This is where cognitive dissonance comes into play and why narcissists can get away with as much as they do.
Describes the mental conflict that happens when the mind has two opposing thoughts or beliefs about something at the same time. Within a narcissistic relationship you may be dealing with a loving partner one day, then a cruel and rageful person the next.
This abuse pattern, which is employed by the narcissist, keeps you in a state of confusion and self-doubt, losing the ability to trust your own judgement.
Read on to delve into narcissist primary and secondary supply.
PRIMARY Narcissistic Supply
Primary narcissistic supply is all about ATTENTION. It doesn’t matter to the narcissist if the attention they gain is positive or negative when it comes to primary narcissistic supply.
Any attention = narcissistic supply
Attention can come in the form of validation, flattery, chaos, gossip, drama, arguments and so on.
Primary narcissistic supply usually comes from those who are the closest to the narcissist (partners, kids, best friends etc.)
Here are some examples of primary narcissistic supply in the form of attention.
Admiration & Compliments
One of the most insincere experiences you can have with a narcissist is when they coerce you into praising them. Even if you’re not aware of the dynamics behind narcissism at the time, you will most definitely feel the icky discomfort of a forced compliment.
They are basically backing you into a corner so that you can stroke their ego for them. They need to be admired. They couldn’t care less if it’s false, after all, their whole existence is built on a false self.
You’ll notice at the beginning of a narcissistic relationship, during the love bombing phase, that the narcissist will use flattery on their victim a lot. It’s not that they are offering genuine, heartfelt compliments (although they can be easily confused as that at the time), but simply because they expect flattery back.
As the relationship progresses, if you don’t give them a supply of flattery, they’ll punish you and manipulate you until you give it to them.
You see, a narcissist needs flattery to survive. Their self-worth is so shot that without others constantly buoying them up, they will crumble.
Arguments & Creating Drama
If there’s one thing that a narcissist cannot stand, it’s a calm, peaceful world. Sounds crazy, right?
You see when things are tranquil and there is no distraction from their inner selves, the narcissist will inevitably slip back to a place of self-loathing and despair. The spotlight will shift onto their inner wounds and trauma, which they must continuously disown to psychologically survive in this world. This will cause an explosion from within, as the thought of having to look at and feel all of that is too unbearable!
Enter the chaos and drama, which can quite literally come from nowhere.
To move the focus away from their disordered inner self, they will create drama and chaos to extract energetic supply from those around them in the form of reaction.
They can poke you and prod you (which will trigger you) to extract a reaction out of you. My ex quite literally used to poke me continuously until I snapped, then he’d make out that I was crazy. He’d ever get the kids in on the ‘joke,’ which was incredibly abusive and hurtful.
Narcissists often make devaluing comments or they’ll blame you for something out of the blue. Maybe you sighed or looked at them funny (in their mind), which will give them the ammunition they need to start an argument. They could quite literally be walking along and stub their toe, or someone cuts them off in traffic, which they’ll perceive as a personal slight.
Before you know it, you’re being gaslit and find yourself caught up in their word salad. You’re trying to defend yourself against their false accusations or you just shut down from being attacked or through sheer exhaustion.
|READ: 100+ Gaslighting Phrases →
The whole purpose behind the creation of drama is for the narcissist to feel important and powerful, just by being able to get a rise out of you and push your buttons. They need to feel in control of the world around them since they have no control over their inner world, which they’re constantly running away from.
Now anything that you say, think or feel as a result of the narcissist’s abuse will automatically provide them with narcissistic supply.
If you agree with them, it validates and feeds their ego, which equates to supply for them.
If you disagree with them, they will notch up the arguing and manipulation, which will continue to trigger you. You being triggered and fighting back sends them an energetic supply and they actually really get off on the whole experience.
You may even end up folding and letting them win, just to put an end to the whole damn thing. Either way, you’re providing them with primary narcissistic supply.
Playing the Victim
Covert narcissists in particular love to play the victim card. They are the ones that always seem to have some physical ailment going on or there is always a never-ending stream of incidents, which always leave them as the poor hapless victim.
When a narcissist plays the victim card, it ensures them copious amounts of attention from others who are compassionate and willing to hand that out freely.
This is one of the narcissist’s favourite strategies for sucking in empathetic people, who have trouble holding healthy boundaries. Narcissists will use guilt and shame to keep people-pleasers and those who are natural givers, hooked into handing over attention and energy to them.
Even on a public scale, narcissists can gain supply from the pity and kind words other people send their way.
In addition to attention, playing the victim is how many narcissists manage to evade accountability for their behaviours. Whenever someone pulls them up on something, they’ll instantly flip the storyline, whereby they are now the poor victim. How dare you accuse them of any wrongdoing when they are so hard done by!
Fame & Infamy
Attracting attention for being famous or infamous is a sure-fire way for a narcissist to gain supply. Of course, fame can come in many forms.
Becoming famous will yield much supply if the narcissist is talented enough or lucky enough to be able to create that for themselves.
It doesn’t even matter if what the narcissist is ‘famous’ for is real or completely made up – as long as others believe them. Because it’s not the act that gives them supply, but the energy (in the form of adoration, envy or validation) that flows to them from others as a result of the fame.
Examples of fame for a narcissist:
- Having a huge following on social media
- Being successful and climbing the ranks at work
- Having a business that’s well-known (even if just locally)
- Being the leader of a group or organisation
- Appearing in the media for some kind of success or achievement
- Being well-known in social circles
- Having an important reputation
- Receiving awards or acclaim
- Being a well-known actor, artist, musician, politician, online creator etc.
Interestingly, even being infamous or notorious for something is just as valuable to them, because any attention, is good attention. In this instance, they can create a rebellious ‘bad boy’ or ‘bad girl’ identity, which inflates their ego, since they despise authority.
Being in Control
A narcissist loves to feel powerful and they are extremely controlling. They particularly love to be in control of other people in their lives (partners, children, parents, neighbours, co-workers and friends).
When a narcissist can control someone else, it feeds their ego and validates them as being so important that they can have that kind of domination over them.
Being controlling in a relationship is an easy way for the narcissist to ensure that they’ll have supply on tap whenever they need it. With a submissive partner, the narcissist knows that they can easily manipulate that person for their own selfish gain.
As we discussed above, when things are going nice and smoothly, the narcissist will more than likely lash out for no apparent reason. They need to create drama to feel in control and extract supply.
Ultimately, the narcissist feels completely out of control within themselves, therefore they feel a great need to control the world around them.
Yep, a narcissist will often use sex as a form of supply for themselves. For this to transpire, there are many manipulations at play.
They may be so amazing in bed that it makes you feel even more bonded to this person, wiping away any abuse that has just happened. As you connect with them intimately, your pleasure will flatter the narcissist and stroke their ego.
They may pull you in one day, and then push you away the next, leaving you feeling insecure and confused. Then when they pull you in again, you’re so relieved and happy to be back in their arms, that your adoration towards them creates narcissistic supply.
The narcissist may want to hear you tell them how talented and attentive they are in bed. They will coerce you into saying that they’re the best lover you’ve ever had.
Once you’ve been hooked into their web, they can withhold sex and affection from you as punishment. They may cheat on you or talk about exes to make you feel insecure. All of these tactics cause triggers within you, which will result in you giving supply to the narc.
There’s one thing you can be certain of though, there’s no such thing as ‘making love’ with a narcissist. Although they may have you believe that they’re your soul mate as you’re coming together as one, it’s really just another way for them to extract energy.
Narcissists do not have the capacity to truly love.
SECONDARY Narcissistic Supply
Secondary narcissistic supply comes from the image that the narcissist projects out into the world. This form of supply is all about APPEARANCES.
Positive appearances = narcissistic supply
With secondary narcissistic supply, the narc will only gain supply from positive appearances. They need to create the illusion of being successful, attractive, wealthy, talented and sought-after.
On the flip side, being seen as UNsuccessful, UNattractive, NOT wealthy etc. will not serve the narcissist’s ego and therefore will not feed their emotional black hole.
Secondary narcissistic supply usually comes from those who are not as close to the narcissist (acquaintances, co-workers and extended family members).
Below are some examples of secondary narcissistic supply.
Having the ‘Perfect’ Partner or Family
Throughout history, there has always been a stereotype in our society that if you’re partnered up in a relationship, you’re automatically deemed successful.
Being single has historically been looked down upon, as though you must be a failure if you haven’t found the right person. Thankfully, this stigma has been shifting in recent years as people realise that it’s more damaging to stay in unhealthy or unhappy relationships.
However, the narcissist can be a bit of a Neanderthal when it comes to relationship roles and what they expect and view as normal and successful.
To gain the secondary narcissistic supply that they seek, appearing to have the perfect family or perfect partner can be extremely important to them. Even though there’s nothing ‘normal’ or ‘perfect’ about any narcissistic relationship or family dynamic, that matters not to them.
My ex used to regularly say to me…
Everyone always says how perfect our relationship is.
That comment used to throw me off because I knew it wasn’t perfect, but people only saw what they saw or heard what they heard. By having the outside world confirm to him that his life was ‘perfect,’ those people were unwittingly becoming a source of secondary narcissistic supply.
When it comes to children, narcissistic parents expect their kids to be on their best behaviour at all times, especially out in public. My mum just had to look at us and we were snapped back into line!
To keep up the appearance of the ‘perfect family,’ the narcissist needs everyone to always be looking good, that way they can feed off the positive comments of, “Your kids are always so well behaved,” or “You guys have the perfect marriage.”
However, it’s surprisingly common for narcissists to cheat on their partners, because that feeds them additional supply on the side.
|READ: Narcissists & Affairs →
A super important element of secondary narcissistic supply is for the narc to appear successful. They are extremely focused on their outward world and therefore, how others see them is of the utmost importance.
By other people viewing the narcissist as successful, they will naturally derive compliments and validation on how well they’re doing, which equates to narcissistic supply.
Examples of what a narcissist views as successful:
- Having a secure or important job
- Having a family
- Having a partner (they cannot stand the thought of being alone)
- Appearing to be financially well-off
- Wearing expensive clothing
- Staying up-to-date with current trends (you know… because they have to be the ‘cool kid’)
- Driving a fancy car
- Having an expensive-looking house, or overextending themselves to live in a ‘better neighbourhood’
- Having a portfolio of cars, boats, properties etc.
- Going on elaborate holidays
- Ticking off whatever society deems as normal (e.g. kids, house, marriage, annual holiday etc.)
Narcissists cannot stand the idea of being seen as financially insecure. To them, financial insecurity is a weakness, a failure in the eyes of the community.
Remember, a narcissist lives purely from their ego selves, meaning that the way they look is extremely important, above all else.
It doesn’t even matter if the narcissist does not have actual financial security, it’s all in the image that’s projected out to the world. As long as they appear to be doing well financially and that’s the story that others believe, that’s all that matters.
They need to extricate secondary narcissistic supply from those around them by appearing well-off. The validation of the tribe becomes the energetic source (narcissistic supply).
Examples of appearing financially secure:
- Splashing their cash (offering to shout people drinks, which they’ll later resent)
- Obtaining items that will give the illusion of being ‘rich’ (e.g. cars, property, clothing, jewellery, electronics, furniture etc.)
- Sending the kids to an expensive private school
- Going on frequent holidays (that are always showcased on social media)
- Living in a ‘better’ suburb
Acquiring Material Items
Tying in with the above point, a huge form of secondary narcissistic supply is in the acquisition of material items. Obtaining status symbols will help to make the narcissist feel like they are achieving success in the eyes of their peers.
The need to acquire ‘things’ can be insatiable for narcissists. Many of them do not care if they have to compromise the financial security of the family, as long as they get that shiny new item to prove their worth.
Being in a constant stream of debt or living from paycheck to paycheck is common with narcissists. Money is merely the means to obtain more narcissistic supply, whether that be in the form of control, power or accumulating ‘success’ wrapped up in physical items.
For more information on narcissistic supply, have a look at Doctor Ramani’s video below. Doctor Ramani is a psychologist who has many years of specialising in all things narcissism.
Don’t We All Receive Narcissistic Supply?
All humans inherently receive and enjoy many of the forms of narcissistic supply that we’ve talked about here. But that does not make you a narcissist.
An emotionally healthy person can easily go for long periods without receiving or needing those positive cues (attention, validation etc.). They will continue to function happily and healthily. To be receiving such a constant stream of attention all the time would be too much for a well-adjusted person.
However, a narcissist is like a drug addict, with ‘attention’ and ‘validation’ being the drugs. Their whole existence is built around consuming any pieces of supply that they can get their hands on. If they can’t find it easily, they’ll generate situations that will inevitably create supply for them, so that they can get their fix.
The narcissist needs a constant supply to be able to moderate their self-worth and function in life without falling into disrepair.
How to Stop Giving Narcissistic Supply
It’s important to note that narcissists are masters at extracting narcissistic supply in many forms and from many sources. Sometimes you might not even realise that you’ve been used for primary or secondary narcissistic supply until after the fact. They’re good at their game!
But once you start to see the patterns and educate yourself on their tactics and behaviours, it becomes easier to spot.
Here are a few techniques that will help you put a stop to being the source of narcissistic supply to the narc in your life.
The first way to stop giving a narcissist supply is by completely cutting them out of your life, if possible. Go No Contact, block them online and delete them from your life. If they try to contact you or get to you, do not respond, no matter how tempting their hooks are.
Sometimes going No Contact just isn’t going to be possible. If you’re dealing with a family member, an ex who you’ve got kids with, an acquaintance you can’t completely avoid or a co-worker, then going Low Contact is the next best option.
Low Contact means reducing all contact you have with the narcissist down to the absolute bare minimum. Keep everything strictly business. Don’t give them any details about what’s going on in your life and don’t ask them about theirs.
If you need to go Low Contact, it’s time to get familiar with Grey Rocking. This is where you will be as boring and uninteresting as you possibly can be.
Imagine a plain old grey rock. It’s boring and it’s forgettable. You are now the Grey Rock.
The idea is that the narcissist will get bored of you and move on to someone else.
Be aware that Grey Rocking is essentially setting a new boundary in the relationship that wasn’t there before. You can often expect push-back from the narcissist because they won’t like this new boundary.
Stand your ground and remain boring. Don’t ask questions about their life and don’t offer up any information about your own. They have lost the right to have any privileged insight into your life.
Decide within yourself what your ‘deal breakers’ are with the narcissist. Which types of words and behaviours will you no longer tolerate?
Now it’s time to train the narcissist in your life with these new boundaries. As difficult as it is, every time the narcissist crosses one of your boundaries and doesn’t treat you with respect, you need to exit the communication (hang up the phone or walk out of the room).
Let them know that if they continue to treat you in that way, you will leave.
Setting boundaries with a narcissist is incredibly difficult. After all, the whole relationship was built on them triggering your wounds and stamping right over any boundaries.
Once you begin to heal yourself from the inside and release your inner wounds, setting boundaries in the outside world will become easier.
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