If you have even the slightest desire of healing, escaping, or avoiding falling into a narcissistic relationship, you have to have a comprehensive understanding of narcissistic supply.
If you attempt to manage the trauma that accompanies narcissistic abuse without a clear understanding of narcissistic supply, you’ll likely find yourself right back in harm’s way.
Narcissistic supply is the validation, acknowledgement, admiration, gratitude, and reassurance that narcissists extract from others. Narcissistic supply is what fuels narcissistic behavior patterns. It is the very thing that protects a narcissist from their insecurities, vulnerabilities, and fears.
Imagine that you’re having an asthma attack. Your chest is getting tight, you’re coughing and wheezing, you can barely breathe and the moment you think you’re about to pass out, you take one or two puffs of your inhaler and the symptoms begin to fade away.
The dependence someone who is having an asthma attack has on their inhaler is the same dependence a narcissist has on narcissistic supply. It’s the reason that for narcissists, the relationships they form are purely transactional.
You could be giving them attention, soothing their loneliness, having sex with them, making them look good through your own accomplishments and/or appearances, validating their accomplishments and/or appearances and so on.
It’s a harsh reality to come to terms with when you’ve exhausted yourself trying to make the relationship work, but the truth is that to the narcissist in your life, you’re nothing more than a tool they use to regulate their suppressed negative emotions.
How Do You Know if You Are Narcissistic Supply?
Coming to the realization that you are a narcissist’s supply is a very challenging task. The reason being that narcissists are masterful at a manipulative behavior pattern called mirroring.
Mirroring is a behavior that everyone takes part in at one point or another. It is when we mimic/reflect what others say or do. In any type of healthy relationship, mirroring strengthens the relationship. It allows the other person in your life to see you accurately, and vice versa.
When it comes to narcissistic relationships, mirroring isn’t about deepening a bond between two people, it is about data gathering. A narcissist will work incredibly hard to appear to be someone you can trust, someone who shares the same core values as you do, and someone who sees you, for you.
When their ability to learn the ins and outs of your identity is combined with other manipulative behavior patterns commonly seen in the narcissistic realm, it makes you feel as if you’ve met someone who understands you better than anyone else.
This feeling is actually to blame for the continuation of many narcissistic relationships, especially those that start with a love bombing phase.
A narcissist’s ability to learn the ins and outs of your identity, mirror your core values, and appear as your Mr. or Mrs. Perfect, makes it incredibly hard for those suffering narcissistic abuse to be cynical enough to identify narcissistic behavior patterns, especially when it comes to knowing whether or not they are a narcissist’s supply.
As a general rule, if you’re in any type of relationship with a narcissist, you’re a source of narcissistic supply. If you’re expected to be a constant source of validation, admiration and neglect your own needs to fulfill your partner’s needs, you’re most likely a source of narcissistic supply.
4 Common Examples of Narcissistic Supply
Being that narcissistic supply is something that narcissists get from others, there are many different ways it can manifest. It is important to be aware of all of these different ways if you want to heal, escape, or avoid falling into a narcissistic relationship.
One of the most peculiar aspects of narcissism is the oscillation between a narcissist’s fear of intimacy and their need to have meaningful relationships to be accepted by society.
What do I mean?
When I use the word intimacy, I am referring to one’s ability to be vulnerable enough with another human being to maintain healthy relationships. This is something that a narcissist is terrified of.
The concept of allowing others to accurately see their identity is unacceptable for those with narcissistic personalities. However, they are well aware that we live in a society where things like marriage, best friends, family life, and other meaningful relationships are all things that society values.
This is the reason that narcissists can be quite social, it’s the reason they get married, have children that they have no interest in parenting, and seek out other meaningful relationships.
It is also the reason that they use manipulative behaviors designed to drag you back into the relationship like hoovering, flying monkeys, and intermittent reinforcement.
They don’t want to ruin their public image!
Appearances are a very important aspect of narcissistic supply. While they do accumulate materialistic things that could be classified under appearances, they are also actively working to assure that their public image aligns with societal norms.
For those of you who don’t know, narcissists are created by an unhealthy/abusive childhood. When a child is forced to grow up with unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent primary caregivers, the likelihood of the child having a healthy cognitive development is quite low.
When it comes to those with narcissistic personalities, their upbringing results in emotional immaturity, and inability to regulate their own emotions, and an inability to build their own self-esteem.
So what do they do instead?
The combination of those three inadequacies causes the narcissist to blindly follow societal norms to build their self-esteem. So, they have an unhealthy attraction to things like money, cars, sex, social events, social media and so on.
In fact, there have been a numerous number of studies that have revealed that people with narcissistic personalities become extremely irritated when they don’t get the validation and admiration they were looking for on social media.
You should check out my article Why Do Narcissists Like Social Media if you want to learn more about this aspect of narcissism.
Conflict & Arguments
One of the lesser known aspects of a narcissist’s falsified identity is that one of the ways they maintain it is by making you look and feel crazy through their lies and antagonistic personalities.
Yes, they gaslight and lie to you to make you question your sanity, but they also use these tactics to project their own emotional instability onto you.
For example, imagine that you are trying to set boundaries and use the gray rock method with the narcissist in your life. These techniques are designed to limit the amount of narcissistic supply you give to the narcissist, so they aren’t going to like that.
You can expect them to either go into a rage (passive aggressive or aggressive) or you can expect them to use baiting to drag you into a confrontation or argument.
They’ll use all of the information they gathered about you while they mirrored you and weaponize your vulnerabilities and insecurities against you.
This can be very hurtful and for those who aren’t aware of this tactic known as baiting, they’ll jump into an argument or confrontation with the narcissist in their lives because they want to defend, explain, or protect themselves.
But there’s a catch…
The moment you jump into the argument or confrontation, the narcissist will use your response to portray you as the crazy, irresponsible, petty, arrogant, lazy and or abusive one, instead of themselves.
Being able to project their own emotional instability onto you is an incredibly soothing feeling for a narcissist.
What Happens When a Narcissist Can’t Find a New Supply?
A narcissist’s ability to move on so quickly is very destabilizing.
When it comes to your emotional well-being, it’s pretty important to understand how narcissists are able to jump from partner to partner so be sure to check out our article How Can a Narcissist Move On So Quickly to get a better understanding of this dynamic.
But for this section, let’s tackle what happens if a narcissist can’t find a new source of supply.
When a narcissist can’t find a new source of supply they panic. Their falsified identity begins to disintegrate. They feel really disoriented, annulled, weak and inadequate. They’ll likely try to hoover their old supply back into their lives.
You couldn’t find a better manifestation of a narcissist’s sense of specialness than their willingness to effortlessly jump from partner to partner in the pursuit of narcissistic supply.
Narcissists have an unfillable emptiness embedded within their psyche which causes them to constantly search for the “perfect” relationship.
Unfortunately, their definition of a “perfect” relationship consists of someone neglecting all of their emotions, needs, goals, thoughts, and feelings to ensure that the narcissist has their undivided attention.
Even if they were to find someone who loved them enough to do that forever, their self-centeredness, arrogance, entitlement, and novelty seeking tendencies would stop that type of relationship from actually happening.
This type of behavior really fuels their tendency to fantasize about the “perfect” life. It makes them incapable of settling down with someone because they’re always searching for the next best thing.
Why Is the Narcissist So Happy With the New Supply?
If you haven’t been able to grasp a comprehensive understanding of narcissistic abuse, it can cause a tremendous amount of self-doubt and self-blame when you have to witness someone be so “happy” with someone else after months, years, or even decades of an abusive cycle.
A question that many survivors of narcissistic abuse wonder is why the narcissist in their life seems so happy with their new supply. How is it possible for someone to be so awful every waking moment of their life but be rejuvenated the moment the relationship ends and they move on with someone else?
To answer the question, narcissists are so “happy” with the new supply because they’re in the beginning stages of the narcissistic abuse cycle. They are using love bombing and/or idealization to lower the guard of the new supply so they can abuse them just as they did you.
A really common desire you may have after learning someone else is about to fall into the same cycle you worked so hard to escape is to warn them about the narcissist in their life!
It sounds horrible, but don’t!
In Should You Warn the Narcissist’s New Supply we dive deeper into this topic, but in short, it’s very likely that the narcissist has already manipulated the new supply to the point where if you were to approach them, he/she wouldn’t believe you at all.
Of course, whether or not you decide to warn the new supply is your choice. But if we are thinking logically, it is very likely that the narcissist in your life has had a relationship with this new supply long before you broke up or divorced.
Narcissist’s are well known for not leaving a relationship until they have a new source of supply lined up because of how essential narcissistic supply is for them.
Under these circumstances, it is very unlikely that you’ll be able to convince someone that the person in their life is bad, especially when all they’ve been exposed to is the same falsified identity you and everyone else fell for at one point or another.
What Should You Take Away From This Article?
Narcissistic supply enables a narcissist’s falsified identity to remain intact.
While their main source of supply are the relationships they form, they also can get a sufficient amount of supply from their appearance, materialistic things, conflicts, and arguments.
Narcissistic supply is also a narcissist’s worst enemy. There are many different techniques you can use to learn how to significantly reduce the amount of narcissistic supply you provide to the narcissist in your life.
In fact, our article Living With a Narcissist When Leaving Isn’t an Option is a very detailed guide we created that teaches all of the techniques you could use and much more!
Narcissistic supply is the foundation on which narcissistic abuse and personalities are built. Learning how to dismantle the narcissistic supply in your relationship could get you out of harm’s way.
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