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The Concept of Narcissistic Supply

Chapter 6

Women possess things that the heterosexual narcissist needs.

They have the biologically compatible equipment for sex. They provide emotional comfort through their friendship and love. This kind of emotional support and companionship is not available from any other source.

But, as we said, in the narcissist's world, to need is to be inferior. To admit to the existence of a universal need, means to compromise one's uniqueness. To be in need of a woman is equated with being inferior and with being a commoner.

The narcissist - aware of this negating power reified and possessed by women - envies them for being emotionally more adept. He is also mad at them for creating in him this conflict between needs and the price he has to pay to satisfy them (feelings of inferiority, loss of uniqueness, etc.).

Moreover, to satisfy his need of women, the narcissist has to convince them to be with him. In other words, he has to promote himself and to win them over. This casts women as judges. They are granted the power to compare, evaluate, rate, adjudicate, accept, reject, or abandon. They possess the capacity to hurt the narcissist by rejecting him or by abandoning him - and he feels that they flaunt their power. This realisation cannot coexist with the narcissist's conviction that he is omnipotent.

To restore the proper balance of power, the narcissist must frustrate women. He must re-acquire his superior position of being judge, jury, and sole decision-maker. Women are anti-narcissistic agents. They are perceived by the narcissist to possess unnatural powers of mental penetration and insight, the kind that might reach the narcissist's TRUE Self. This is a real threat. These ostensible and ominous "supernatural" capacities evoke strong emotional reactions in the narcissist.

These reactions may appear to be focused on certain features of the feminine anatomy (vagina, feet, breasts) in the form of fetishes. Many narcissists are fetishists and even (more rarely) cross-dressers. But usually they more diffusely target women as an abstract category.

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We already said that the narcissist feels inferior in the presence of women, that his conviction of omnipotence is effected, that he is envious of women's emotional skills, and that he feels that his uniqueness is at risk. The narcissist also becomes very angry. Enraged, to be precise. All this is accompanied by the eternal "background emotion": the fear of being exposed as an impostor, a fake.

This rage, deeply explored, leads to the very heart of that darkness, the narcissist's soul.

All of us search for positive cues from people around us. These cues reinforce in us certain behaviour patterns. There is nothing special in the fact that the narcissist does the same. However there are two major differences between the narcissistic and the normal personality.

The first distinction is quantitative. The normal person is likely to consume a moderate amount of social approval - verbal and non-verbal - in the form of affirmation, attention, or admiration. The narcissist is the mental equivalent of an alcoholic. He asks for more and yet more. He directs his whole behaviour, in fact his life, to obtain these pleasurable titbits of human attention. He embeds them in a coherent, completely biased, picture of himself. He uses them to regulate his labile sense of self-worth and self-esteem.

He projects to others a confabulated, fictitious version of himself, known as the False Self. The False Self is everything the narcissist is not: omniscient, omnipotent, charming, intelligent, rich, or well-connected.

The narcissist then proceeds to harvest reactions to this projected image from family members, friends, co-workers, neighbours, business partners and social milieu, or 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, an appearance in the media, a sexual encounter are all transformed into the same currency in the narcissist's mind.

This currency is what I call Narcissistic Supply (NS).

It is important to distinguish between the various components of the process of narcissistic supply:

  1. The trigger of supply is the person or object that provokes the source into yielding narcissistic supply by confronting the source with information about the narcissist's False Self.
  2. The source of narcissistic supply is the person that provides the narcissistic supply
  3. Narcissistic supply is the reaction of the source to the trigger.

Publicity (celebrity or notoriety, being famous or being infamous) is a trigger of narcissistic supply because it provokes people to pay attention to the narcissist (in other words, it moves sources to provide the narcissist with narcissistic supply). Publicity can be obtained by exposing oneself, by creating something, or by provoking attention. The narcissist resorts to all three repeatedly (as drug addicts do to secure their daily dose). A mate or a companion is one such source of narcissistic supply.