Narcissistic Supply: How to Stop a Narcissist From Feeding Off Your Reactions
Here's how to know if you've been used for narcissistic supply. You've heard things like...
“I just wanted to see how you’d react.”
“It’s no fun if you don’t fight back.”
“There’s the explosion!”
You probably remember a kid from school that people would bully just to watch him get mad.
His reactions were animated enough to enjoy but harmless enough to not be intimidating. Everyone took pleasure in dumping on him because of the show he’d put on. Except for him, of course. He probably felt like a cornered animal.
Not everyone who takes part in this kind of bullying is a narcissist. It’s mostly kids who are afraid of being targeted themselves, so they do their best to put the heat on someone else.
But when a narcissist finds a person like this, they strike gold.
Narcissistic Supply is Narcissistic Gasoline
A narcissist is a person who inflates their self-importance to compensate for buried self-hatred. They lack empathy, can’t take responsibility for their actions, and are blinded by the stories they tell themselves.
But their delusions require fuel. This fuel is called “Narcissistic Supply.” According to Professor Preston Ni:
Narcissistic supply is a form of psychological addiction and dependency, where the narcissist requires (demands) constant importance, “special treatment,” validation, and/or appeasement in order to feel good about him or herself.
Your passionate attention is their fuel source. It’s what they live for.
A simple way to create a well of narcissistic supply is to find someone they can always make angry. If they can make you angry, they have successfully pushed your buttons enough to generate a reaction. And that’s an incredible power trip.
Being crass, cruel, and demeaning gives the narcissist a sense of significance. Professor Ni writes:
Here, the narcissist supply is the perceived power that comes from being dreaded and disliked. From the narcissist’s toxic and distorted point of view, it is better to be a thorn in the side of others than to be a nobody.
Your rage gives them the acknowledgment they crave, and if you give it consistently, they fall in love with you. They may become deeply involved in your life. They might even move in next door, all because you’re willing to give them attention.
I was taught to stand up to bullies. In my innocent head, I thought that “standing up to bullies” meant raging at them. But this is the weakest thing you can do, especially when dealing with a narcissist. If they can make you mad, they can control you.
Solutions and Strategies
The number one solution for dealing with a narcissist will always be to cut off all contact and move on with your life. But unfortunately, that’s not always possible. So what are some things you can do in the meantime if you’re being antagonized?
Rocks are pretty damn boring, so what better way to cut off a narcissist’s supply than transforming into a rock. The Gray Rock strategy is to become dull, disconnected, and unreactive whenever you’re around a narcissist.
Focus on using one-word answers, not reacting to provocations, and responding to comments in the most mundane way possible. Make little eye contact. This can feel cowardly, but it’s not. It’s strategic.
Know the Game
Once you understand that you’re the narcissist’s source of energy, you realize you’re the one with the power. They need you to react, so deny them their food source, and they’ll wither away.
When you can see through what they’re doing, it loses its venom. React in a way that best favors you, not what they’re trying to orchestrate in you (anger, fear, confusion.) You win the game by not playing.
Strong Self Worth
If you’ve lived around a narcissist for long, you know what it feels like to have a parasite feed on your self-worth. You need to remember that you’re worthy and that you decide how your life is going to go. Set boundaries.
There is a difference between setting a strong boundary and losing your composure. The former comes from a place of power, and the latter a place of desperation.
When Others Get Involved
A narcissist might try to make you angry in front of other people. When this happens, it’s best to be absolutely unimpressed. Be unimpressed at how pathetic a narcissist is, and how they have to stoop to these lows just to feel like they’re worth something. You almost feel bad for them. Almost.
Get Your Power Back
Reacting with anger to a narcissist justifies their delusional sense of significance. Losing your head means losing control.
Everyone needs to stand up for themselves, but the rules change when the person you’re standing up to knows how to set you off.
In Back to the Future, Marty McFly gave his power away whenever he reacted to anyone calling him chicken, and he always did.
In The Godfather, Sonny Corleone gave his power away when he went after his brother-in-law for beating his sister. His enemies knew he’d fly into a rage, so they ambushed him at a causeway and killed him.
Narcissist or not, you can’t let other control people how you react. That was the critical error of the kid who would always explode. He thought he was standing his ground, but he was only falling into a trap.