But the picture is more complicated. There are two categories of Narcissistic Supply and their Sources (NSS):
The Primary Narcissistic Supply is attention, in both its public forms (fame, notoriety, infamy, celebrity) and its private, interpersonal, forms (adoration, adulation, applause, fear, repulsion). It is important to understand that attention of any kind - positive or negative - constitutes Primary Narcissistic Supply. Infamy is as sought after as fame, being notorious is as good as being renowned.
To the narcissist his "achievements" can be imaginary, fictitious, or only apparent, as long as others believe in them. Appearances count more than substance, what matters is not the truth but its perception.
Triggers of Primary Narcissistic Supply include, apart from being famous (celebrity, notoriety, fame, infamy) - having an air of mystique (when the narcissist is considered to be mysterious), having sex and deriving from it a sense of masculinity/virility/femininity, and being close or connected to political, financial, military, or spiritual power or authority or yielding them.
Sources of Primary Narcissistic Supply are all those who provide the narcissist with narcissistic supply on a casual, random basis.
Secondary Narcissistic Supply includes: leading a normal life (a source of great pride for the narcissist), having a secure existence (economic safety, social acceptability, upward mobility), and obtaining companionship.
Thus, having a mate, possessing conspicuous wealth, being creative, running a business (transformed into a Pathological Narcissistic Space), possessing a sense of anarchic freedom, being a member of a group or collective, having a professional or other reputation, being successful, owning property and flaunting one's status symbols - all constitute secondary narcissistic supply as well.
Sources of Secondary Narcissistic Supply are all those who provide the narcissist with narcissistic supply on a regular basis: spouse, friends, colleague, business partners, teachers, neighbours, and so on.
Both these primary and secondary Narcissistic Supply and their triggers and sources are incorporated in a Narcissistic Pathological Space.
When the narcissist loses one or more of these sources he reacts with dysphoria. Dysphoria is an element within a larger emotional reactive pattern. This emotional barrage provokes self-healing through avoidance and escapism. I call this reactive pattern the Reactive Repertoire.
The Reactive Repertoire is fairly rigid and linear. It develops gradually. It comprises a change of framework, of location (geographical change), job, marriage partner, profession, vocation or avocation. The Reactive Repertoire is a change in the substantial parameters in the narcissist's life.
Such change is accompanied by the inner feeling that normalcy is restored. This is a false sensation. Change alone does not normalcy make, nor are the deep-seated problems of the narcissist thus resolved. But the very alternation makes the narcissist feel that he is breathing "fresh air" again, that his life is on a mend, and that he is in control.
The last element in the Reactive Repertoire is false or faux accomplishments. The narcissist convinces himself - by first persuading others - that he is in the process of making great progress towards one or more significant achievements.
It is easy to mistake the Reactive Repertoire for an NSS-reconstruction mechanism. It is not. Its main purpose is neither to regain NSS for the narcissist, nor to find any NSS substitutes. True, apparent achievements and apparent normalcy are sources of comfort to the always self-deluded narcissist. But comfort does not amount to Narcissistic Supply.
The aim of the Reactive Repertoire is to take some time off the highly taxing and energy wasting narcissistic game. This breather is obtained by changing places or contexts, by evading the scene of a failure, by hitting upon an alibi to justify the continual absence of NSS.
The Reactive Repertoire is the physical dimension of the narcissist's constant evasion of life and reality. Granted, the creation of a false pretence of normalcy and the faking of achievements do elicit admiration, appreciation, or celebrity. But this is a form of escapism. The narcissist represses the knowledge that it is all feigned.
Understandably, all these measures are temporary. They do not deal with the heart of the problem: with the narcissist's neediness, with his Narcissistic Personality Disorder. This is why the narcissist is doomed to repeat the same tiresome, familiar cycles of absence and escape.
The dilapidation, or disappearance of NSS creates a conflict within the narcissist which manifests itself through anxiety and, ultimately, through dysphoria-depression. The Reactive Repertoire "resolves" this conflict and eases the ensuing tension and anxiety. Yet, it does not tackle the underlying reasons.
In other words, the Reactive Repertoire is an analgesic. It negates the narcissist's dysphoria-depression for a limited period of time. But because it does nothing to create alternative NSS it is, usually, not long before it loses its utility. The dysphoria-depression is back with a vengeance. This time the narcissist is forced to create new Sources of Narcissistic Supply. These, in turn, are again lost to him and provoke a new crisis, which brings about another Reactive Repertoire.
- Created: 06 November 2008
- Last Updated: 10 August 2014