To truly understand how a narcissist’s mind works, you must understand a term called “Narcissistic Supply.” Here’s a definition provided by the website Deconstructing Jezebel:
The term simply defines the human beings in the narcissist’s life who supply the narcissist what he needs:
- Awe, wonder and praise for his accomplishments and performance
- Unending gratitude for anything he has ever done for you (if you don’t remember, he’ll remind you)
- Empathy and agreement with his self-perception
- Righteous indignation for her suffering, which is far greater than most and always undeserved
- Adoration and compliments for her brain, body, spiritual health and wisdom, etc.
- Tacit agreement that he or she is special, misunderstood by the masses
- Acknowledgement that she should not be subject to normal rules and regulations
- Willingness to overlook the occasional exploitation
- Failure to recognize narcissistic behavior in any way
The book Narcissistic Lovers by Cynthia Zayn and Kevin Dibble also describes the phenomenon [An "N" is a narcissist]:
N’s don’t feel love the way “normal” people do. What passes for love with an N is actually “narcissistic supply.” Narcissistic supply is any feeling that validates the N. He must feel as if he exists. He must feel as if he is so important and that everyone around him is affected by his very presence in some way. If he can cause someone to feel anger, hate, happiness, sadness, or any type of emotion, he experiences feelings of control and gets a rush. That “rush” is the N’s “love.”
An even simpler definition I use for Narcissistic Supply is “anything that boosts the ego and gives validation, no matter how superficial.”
I want to make clear, you don’t have to be a full-blown clinical narcissist to enjoy narcissistic supply. Everyone likes an ego boost of some sort. If I say someone is doing something for narcissistic supply, that doesn’t mean I’m saying the person is definitely a clinical narcissist, any more than pointing out someone is drinking a cocktail means that I’m calling them an alcoholic. All alcoholics like to drink, but everyone who occasionally enjoys a drink is not necessarily an alcoholic. Likewise, all narcissists like to get narcissistic supply, but everyone who occasionally enjoys some narcissistic supply is not necessarily a pathological narcissist. It’s only when they have a compulsive, self-destructive need for the supply that destroys their relationships and they feel they need the supply just to feel “normal” that you can say they have a problem.
We all have a little bit of narcissism in us. That is why we can relate to many of the things a narcissist does, feels, and needs. The difference is the narcissist takes these actions, feelings, and needs to destructive extremes because they’re fueled by childish fantasy, divorced from adult reality, and have a total lack of empathy. Narcissistic injury (a blow to your ego), narcissistic rage (getting angry in response to a blow to your ego), and narcissistic supply (a cheap ego boost) are things we all experience occasionally, just not in the extremely frequent, intense, distorted, and self-absorbed ways the narcissist does.