Narcissism FAQ: The Narcissist and Negative Input

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Question:

Could negative input be Narcissistic Supply (NS)?

Answer:

Yes, it can. NS includes all forms of attention – both positive and negative: fame, notoriety, adulation, fear, applause, approval. Whenever the narcissist gets attention, positive or negative, whenever he is in the “limelight”, it constitutes NS. If he can manipulate people or influence them – positively or negatively – it qualifies as NS.

Even quarrelling with people and confronting them constitute NS. Perhaps not the conflict itself, but the narcissist’s ability to influence other people, to make them feel the way he wants, to manipulate them, to make them do something or refrain from doing it – all count as forms of narcissistic supply. Hence the phenomenon of “serial litigators”.

Negative supply should be distinguished from low-grade or fake supply (collectively known as spurious narcissistic supply).

Low-grade narcissistic supply comes from sources which cannot be idealized, no matter how hard the narcissist tries and to what extent he blocks out and denies reality. The type of narcissistic supply determines whether its source can be idealized or not. For instance: compliments on his intellectual achievements doled out to a cerebral narcissist by an intellectually-challenged person would never pass muster and would never qualify as narcissistic supply.

Fake narcissistic supply is tinged with ulterior motives and hidden agendas. Sources of fake supply compliment the narcissist in order to manipulate him or some third person or in order to accomplish a goal. Endowed with cold empathy, the narcissist picks up on these true motivations and feels injured and slighted. Many narcissists test their sources of supply repeatedly: they engineer situations intended to expose the sincerity or lack thereof of the supply and the consistency and authenticity of the source’s conduct.

In turn, all the above should not be confused with static narcissistic supply.

Narcissistic supply is either static or dynamic. Dynamic supply upholds, enhances, buttresses, and abets the narcissist’s grandiose and fantastic False Self. The contents of dynamic narcissistic supply and the identity of its sources conform to the narcissist’s image of himself, his “destiny”, the evolution of his life, and his place in the Cosmos. Static supply fails to do so despite the fact that it is largely positive, reliably recurrent, and abundant. Static supply is akin to “hospital rations” or “junk food”: it maintains the narcissist for a while, but, as an exclusive diet, it results in malnutrition (deficient narcissistic supply). Static supply is repetitive, “boring” because it is predictable, and pedestrian. It does not propel the narcissist into new “highs”, nor does it reinflate him when he is down.

Sam Vaknin is the author of Malignant Self Love, and runs the website Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited.Sam has served as the author of the Personality Disorders topic, Narcissistic Personality Disorder topic, the Verbal and Emotional Abuse topic, and the Spousal Abuse and Domestic Violence topic, Suite101.

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