Narcissists have a very transactional approach to the relationships they form. Their grandiose sense of self-importance, specialness, and uniqueness allow them to wholeheartedly believe that they are entitled to using other people to fulfill their own selfish needs.
Narcissists use you for narcissistic supply and as a repository for their suppressed painful emotions. They don’t care about your well-being, they only care about getting their own selfish needs met. The moment a narcissist feels like maintaining a relationship with you isn’t beneficial for them, they will discard you.
This article is a complete guide to the different things that narcissists use you for. To give you as much helpful information as possible, we’ve also created a short video (see below) that summarizes our article 34 Signs of Financial Abuse because it is very common for narcissists to use you for your money! If you want more information about financial abuse in narcissistic relationships, our Financial Abuse Content Hub is a great place to start.
A Short Video With 34 Signs of Financial Abuse
Narcissists Use You For Narcissistic Supply
Narcissistic supply is the validation, admiration, and reassurance that narcissists get from their external environment. The people that narcissists form relationships with are their biggest sources of narcissistic supply.
Narcissists have many different narcissistic behavior patterns (e.g. love bombing, mirroring, future faking, gaslighting, narcissistic rage) that are designed to get as much narcissistic supply out of you as possible.
With that being said, narcissistic supply plays a massive role in the emotional stability of a narcissist and the reason for this is believed to be their childhood upbringing.
There are many different theories pertaining to the specifics of this upbringing that we unpack in our article How Are Narcissists Made, but generally speaking, the childhood upbringing that narcissists had was very unhealthy/abusive and consisted of primary caregivers who were emotionally unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent.
This emotional neglect is believed to be the reason that narcissists have an insecure need for narcissistic supply because the emotional neglect prevented the narcissist from having their thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs mirrored by their primary caregivers.
This means that the narcissist never got the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they needed to develop a realistic sense of self and have a healthy cognitive development. The neglect that narcissists experienced from their primary caregivers left them with many painful emotions about themselves, and made them feel like they weren’t worthy of being validated, admired, or reassured.
To get the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they needed to develop a sense of self, narcissists designed a falsified identity to get the validation, admiration, and reassurance from their external environment (e.g. a narcissistic teenager constructing their sense of self out of the narcissistic supply they get from their external environment for being really popular amongst his/her peers).
This allowed them to construct a false self-perception that they could feel comfortable with. This newly constructed self-perception is known as their public persona. Generally speaking, a narcissist’s public persona is charming, successful, innocent, honest, desirable, goodhearted, charismatic, and virtuous.
Narcissists need a consistent flow of narcissistic supply to maintain their public persona and they use you to do so.
7 Examples of Narcissistic Supply
- Praise – This occurs when you express warm approval or admiration of something that the narcissist in your life did (e.g. “Thank you so much for fixing the sink, how did I get so lucky to marry a man like you!” or “Hey boss! Your presentation was amazing today! I feel inspired.”)
- Sex – Narcissists often pursue sex and sexual relationships because it benefits them. It gives them a chance to feel dominant, physically capable, wanted, loved, and powerful.
- Having Power/Control Over Others – Narcissists love power and control. Having it allows them to soothe their internalized instability. The most common approach they have to gaining power and control over others is by dominating the relationships that they’re in.
- Being Feared – Narcissists, especially those with sadistic traits, get a significant amount of narcissistic supply out when they see that other people fear them. They feel powerful and in control because the fear that others have for them validates their sense of superiority.
- Fitting Into Society/Community – One of the core personality traits of narcissistic personality disorder is a belief that he or she is special and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people or institutions. It is common for narcissists to validate this belief by seeking out relationships with those they believe can boost their social status and help them fit in.
- Having a “Happy” Relationship – For narcissists, appearances are everything. It is common for them to try extremely hard to convince others of the “success” of their relationship, even though they abuse you behind closed doors.
- Having Children That Accomplish Goals That the Narcissist Values – Narcissists are notorious for living vicariously through their children. At a quick glance, it will look like the narcissist has an amazing relationship with their kids. But the truth is that they do not care about their children’s thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs, they only care about their accomplishments
Narcissists Use You as a Repository for Their Painful Emotions
The emotional neglect that narcissists experienced during their childhood gave them a ton of negative emotions about themselves. They developed a deeply rooted hatred for their true identity because their unhealthy/abusive primary caregivers led them to believe that they were unlovable, inadequate, unwanted, worthless, and weak.
These painful emotions would be extremely difficult for anyone to manage, but it is ten times worse for a narcissist because the emotional neglect caused them to have an unhealthy cognitive development so they don’t have the emotional skills needed to handle the painful emotions that they have.
To protect their emotional stability from their painful emotions, narcissists use the false self-perception that they constructed out of the validation, admiration, and reassurance they got from their external environment to suppress the painful emotions they have and replace them with the charming, successful, innocent, honest, desirable, goodhearted, charismatic, and virtuous public persona they created.
This is an emotionally stunted and immature approach to emotional regulation that almost never works because of how fragile a narcissist’s self-perception is. It is so fragile that it can be contradicted by just about anything and when that happens, it triggers all of their painful emotions and compromises their emotional stability.
10 Things That Can Contradict a Narcissist’s Self-Perception
- Being held accountable for their abusive behavior.
- Being told no.
- Someone setting a healthy boundary with them.
- Being fired from a job.
- Being overlooked for a job opening.
- Being rejected by a date.
- Being ignored.
- Being yelled at.
- Seeing someone who is doing “better” than they are.
- (e.g. someone more rich, attractive, stronger, etc.)
- Not getting enough narcissistic supply.
When a narcissist experiences a contradiction to their self-perception, they are left without a viable form of emotional regulation to protect their emotional stability so they use projection.
Projection is a defense mechanism that occurs when someone takes part of their identity that they find unacceptable and places it onto someone else. A very common example of this in the narcissistic realm is cheating.
When a narcissist cheats on their partner, they feel ashamed because they know cheating contradicts their charming, successful, innocent, honest, desirable, goodhearted, charismatic, and virtuous public persona. Not because they’ve done something wrong and hurt someone that loves them.
To prevent their actions from triggering their negative emotions, they simply accuse their partner of cheating instead. This accusation is something that they believe wholeheartedly and it is for this reason that they are able to continue to cheat without triggering their suppressed painful emotions.
With that being said, narcissists also use projection to project their painful emotions/emotional instability onto others when their self-perception gets contradicted.
To do this a narcissist will subject their victim to an overwhelming amount of invalidation, devaluation, dehumanization, humiliation, minimization, and degradation to destroy their emotional stability.
Once they do this, they can figuratively point their finger at their victim and think to themselves, “I’m not the weak, unlovable, unwanted, inadequate, and worthless one, they are.” They take all of the painful emotions that they have from a neglectful childhood upbringing and project them onto their victim through unfathomable levels of abuse.
Two narcissistic behavior patterns that are abusive enough to allow a narcissist to project their painful emotions/emotional instability onto their victims are narcissistic rage and scapegoating.
Narcissistic rage is an unjustified, unpredictable, and explosive response that narcissists often have when their self-perception is contradicted and it allows them to destroy the emotional stability of their victim and project their painful emotions/emotional instability onto them.
The need for revenge, for righting a wrong, for undoing a hurt by whatever means, and a deeply anchored, unrelenting compulsion in the pursuit of all these aims which gives no rest to those who have suffered a narcissistic injury – these other features which are characteristics for the phenomenon of narcissistic rage in all its forms and which sets it apart from other kinds of aggression – Heinz Kohut
In a short video (see below) we’ve summarized an important survey we conducted amongst 100 survivors of narcissistic abuse in our article What Happens During Narcissistic Rage? (Survey With 100 Survivors) that we highly recommend you watch because it provides a very clear understanding of the different ways that narcissistic rage can manifest.
A scapegoat is someone who is punished for the shortcomings of a narcissist. They get the worst of the narcissist in comparison to the other people that the narcissist abuses. In our article How Do Narcissists Choose Their Scapegoat we explored this aspect of narcissistic abuse thoroughly but scapegoats are chosen because parts of their identity remind the narcissist of the painful emotions that they’ve suppressed.
A simple example of this would be a narcissist targeting his son for scapegoating because he views his son as weak. His son’s “weakness” reminds the narcissist of how weak his own father made him feel so by attacking his son for being “weak” he is really attacking parts of his own identity that he finds unacceptable.
Scapegoating is a very malicious form of projection that occurs in every single narcissistic environment on the planet! If you are wondering whether or not you are a narcissist’s scapegoat, our article What Are the Characteristics of a Scapegoat has a lot of information that could help you figure out the truth but you should definitely check out our Scapegoating Content Hub for all of our articles about scapegoating.
What Should You Take Away From This Article?
Narcissists do not care about your thoughts, feeling, emotions, and needs. All they care about is how much narcissistic supply you can give them and how many of their painful emotions you can take. They use you as a form of emotional regulation for as long as they see fit. It goes without mentioning but you are so much more than that!
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This information is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for clinical care. Please consult a healthcare provider for guidance specific to your case. This article discusses narcissism in general.
Vaknin, S. “Self-awareness and introspection in Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).” Ann Psychiatry Treatm 5.1 (2021): 019-022.