Both these primary and secondary Narcissistic Supply and their triggers and sources are incorporated in a Narcissistic Pathological Space.
The narcissist internalises a "bad" object (typically, his mother) in his childhood. He harbors socially forbidden emotions towards this object: hatred, envy, and other forms of aggression. These feelings reinforce the narcissist's self-image as bad and corrupt. Gradually he develops a dysfunctional sense of self-worth. His self-confidence and self-image become unrealistically low and distorted.
In an effort to repress these "bad" feelings, the narcissist also suppresses all emotions. His aggression is channelled to fantasies or to socially legitimate outlets (dangerous sports, gambling, reckless driving, compulsive shopping). The narcissist views the world as a hostile, unstable, unrewarding, unjust, and unpredictable place.
He defends himself by loving a completely controllable object (himself), by projecting to the world an omnipotent and omniscient False Self, and by turning others to functions or to objects so that they pose no emotional risk. This reactive pattern is what we call pathological narcissism.
To counter his demons the narcissist needs the world: its admiration, its adulation, its attention, its applause, even its penalties. The lack of a functioning personality on the inside is balanced by importing Ego functions and boundaries from the outside.
The Primary Narcissistic Supply reaffirms the narcissist's grandiose fantasies, buttresses his False Self and, thus allows him to regulate his fluctuating sense of self-worth. The Narcissistic Supply contains information which pertains to the way the False Self is perceived by others and allows the narcissist to "calibrate" and "fine tune" it. The Narcissistic Supply also serves to define the boundaries of the False Self, to regulate its contents and to substitute for some of the functions normally reserved for a True, functioning, Self.
While it is easy to understand the function of the Primary Supply, Secondary Supply is a more complicated affair.
Interacting with the opposite sex and "doing business" are the two main Triggers of Secondary Narcissistic Supply (SNS). The narcissist mistakenly interprets his narcissistic needs as emotions. To him, the pursuit of a woman (a Source of Secondary Narcissistic Supply - SSNS), for instance, is what others call "love" or "passion".
Narcissistic Supply, both primary and secondary, is perishable goods. The narcissist consumes it and has to replenish it. As is the case with other drug addictions, to produce the same effect, he is forced to increase the dosage as he goes.
While the narcissist uses up his supply, his partner serves as a silent (and admiring) witness to the narcissist's "great moments" and "achievements". Thus, the narcissist's female friend "accumulates" the narcissist's "grand and "illustrious past". When Primary Narcissistic Supply is low, she "releases" the supply she had accumulated. This she does by reminding the narcissist of those moments of glory that she had witnessed. She helps the narcissist to regulate his sense of self-worth.
This function - of Narcissistic Supply accumulation and release - is performed by all SSNS, male or female, inanimate or institutional. The narcissist's co-workers, bosses, colleagues, neighbours, partners, and friends are all potential SSNS. They all witness the narcissist's past accomplishments and can remind him of them when new supply runs dry.
Narcissists are forever in pursuit of Narcissistic Supply. They are oblivious to the passage of time and are not constrained by any behavioural consistency, "rules" of conduct, or moral considerations. Signal to the narcissist that you are a willing source, and he is bound to try to extract Narcissistic Supply from you by any and all means.
This is a reflex. The narcissist would have reacted absolutely the same way to any other source because, to him, all sources are interchangeable.
Some Sources of Supply are ideal (from the narcissist's point of view): sufficiently intelligent, sufficiently gullible, submissive, reasonably (but not overly) inferior to the narcissist, in possession of a good memory (with which to regulate the flow of Narcissistic Supply), available but not imposing, not explicitly or overtly manipulative, undemanding, attractive (if the narcissist is somatic). In short: a Galathea-Pygmallion type.
But then, often abruptly and inexplicably, it is all over. The narcissist is cold, uninterested and remote.