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Narcissists, Narcissistic Supply And Sources of Supply

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Question:

What is Narcissistic Supply?

Answer:

We all 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 is quantitative. The normal person is likely to welcome a moderate amount of attention - verbal and non-verbal - in the form of affirmation, approval, or admiration. Too much attention, though, is perceived as onerous and is avoided. Destructive and negative criticism is avoided altogether.

The narcissist, in contrast, is the mental equivalent of an alcoholic. He is insatiable. He directs his whole behaviour, in fact his life, to obtain these pleasurable titbits of attention. He embeds them in a coherent, completely biased, picture of himself. He uses them to regulates his labile sense of self-worth and self-esteem.

To elicit constant interest, 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 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 conquest are all converted into the same currency in the narcissist's mind.

This currency is what I call Narcissistic Supply.

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.

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.