How does the Narcissist react when not in receipt of sufficient Narcissistic Supply?
Very much as a drug addict would react to the absence of his particular drug. The narcissist constantly consumes (really, preys upon) adoration, admiration, approval, applause, attention and other forms of Narcissistic Supply. When lacking or deficient, a Narcissistic Deficiency Dysphoria will set in. The narcissist looks depressed, his movements slow down, his sleep patterns are disturbed (he either sleeps too much or become insomniac), his eating patterns change (he gorges on food or is unable even to look at it). He is be constantly dysphoric (sad), anhedonic (finds no interest in the world, no pleasure in anything that it has to offer or in any of his former pursuits and interests). He is subjected to violent mood swings (mainly rage attacks) and all his (visible and painful) efforts at self-control fail. He may resort to an alternative addiction: alcohol, drugs, reading – any activity qualifies as long as it is performed compulsively and ritually. This constitutes a futile effort of the narcissist both to escape his predicament – and to sublimate his aggressive urges. His whole behaviour seems constrained, artificial, full of effort and toil. The narcissist gradually turns more and more mechanical, detached, unreal. His thoughts constantly wander or become obsessive and repetitive, his speech may falter, he appears to be far away, in a world of his narcissistic fantasies, where Narcissistic Supply is aplenty. He withdraws from this painful world which knows not how to appreciate his greatness, special skills and talents, potential, or achievements. The narcissist thus ceases to bestow himself upon a cruel universe, punishing it for its shortcomings, its inability to realise how unique the narcissist is. A schizoid mode sets in: the narcissist isolates himself, a hermit in the kingdom of his hurt. He minimises his social interactions and uses “messengers” to communicate with the outside. Devoid of energy, the narcissist can no longer engage in social pretensions or succumb to social conventions. His former compliance gives way to open withdrawal (a rebellion of sorts). His former smiles are transformed to frowns, courtesy becomes rudeness, emphasised etiquette used as a weapon, an outlet of aggression, an act of violence.
The narcissist, blinded by pain, seeks to restore his balance, to take another sip of the narcissistic nectar. In his quest, the narcissist turns to and upon those nearest to him. His real attitude emerges: for him, they are but tools, one-dimensional instruments on the path to gratification, sources of supply or pimps of such supply, catering to his narcissistic lusts. He regards them as shallow, no longer functioning objects. In his wrath, he tries to mend them by forcing them to perform again, to function. This is coupled with horrendous and torrential self-flagellation, a deservedly self-inflicted punishment, or so the narcissist feels deep inside him. In extreme cases of deprivation, the narcissist may entertain suicidal thoughts, this is how deeply he loathes his self and his condition.
Through all this, the narcissist is beset by a pervading sense of nostalgia. It is a malignant variety, harking back to a past, which never existed except in the thwarted grandiosity of the narcissist. The longer the lack of Narcissistic Supply, the more this past is glorified, re-written, missed, mourned. This serves to enhance all the other negative feelings. Put together, it already amounts to what might be clinically described as depression. The narcissist then glides into the shores of paranoia. From his mental closet, he draws a model of a prosecuting world, incorporating in it those around him and events in his recent life. This gives meaning to what is erroneously perceived by the narcissist as a sudden shift from over supply to under or to no supply (such over and under valuations are typical of him). The apparent diminishing of the Narcissistic Supply is best explained by a theory of conspiracy. The narcissist then – in pain, in despair, in fear – embarks upon an orgy of self-destruction intended to generate “alternative Supply Sources” (attention) at any cost. The narcissist is poised to commit the ultimate narcissistic act: self-destruction in the service of self-aggrandisement.
When deprived of narcissistic supply – primary AND secondary – the Narcissist feels annulled. It feels much like being hollowed out, mentally disembowelled or watching oneself die. It is evaporation, disintegration into molecules of terrified anguish, helplessly and inexorably.
Without narcissistic supply – the narcissist crumbles, like the zombies or the vampires one sees in horror movies. It is terrifying and the narcissist will do anything to avoid it. Think about the narcissist as a drug addict. His withdrawal symptoms are identical: delusions, physiological effects, irritability, emotional lability.
Narcissists often experience brief, decompensatory psychotic episodes when they are disassembled – either in therapy or following a life-crisis accompanied by a major narcissistic injury.
These psychotic episodes may be closely allied to another feature of narcissism: magical thinking. Narcissists are like children in this sense. Many, for instance, fully believe in two things: that whatever happens – they will prevail and that good things will always happen to them. It is more than a belief, really. There is no cognitive component at play: Narcissists just KNOW it, the same way one knows gravity – directly, immediately and securely.
The Narcissist believes that, no matter what he does, he will always be forgiven, always prevail and triumph, always come on top. The narcissist is, therefore, fearless in a manner perceived by others to be both admirable and insane. He attributes to himself divine and cosmic immunity – he cloaks myself in it, it renders him invisible to his enemies and to the powers of “evil”. It is a childish phantasmagoria – but to the Narcissist it is very real.
The Narcissist knows with religious certainty that good things will happen to him. With equal certitude, the more self-aware of them know that they will squander their good fortune time and again in a bedevilled effort to defeat themselves.
So, no matter what serendipity, what lucky circumstance, what blessing the Narcissist receives – he always strives with blind fury to deflect them, to deform, to ruin.