All narcissists are seeking attention called “narcissistic supply.” Saying they’re attention-seeking is too simplistic, though. Their search for supply is like a vampire’s search for blood. It’s more than a craving. Their behavior isn’t just about being in the spotlight or the high of getting over on people, although that’s important. Their emotions are profoundly dysregulated and they derive power and control from inducing that state in others. They’re not simply looking for attention when they act out; they’re regulating their targets’ emotions, so they can feed on them to try to fill the void inside them. They aren’t in touch with their own emotions (everything is too shattered and jumbled inside them). They need other people’s feelings the way addicts need their fixes. After you interact with a narcissist over an extended period of time, you begin to feel that something is missing. It’s not the same as being incompatible with someone; it’s realizing there isn’t anything to connect to, because there’s only that shattered personality and the empty gap between it and the masks they present. THEY can’t get past the gap, so no one else stands a chance.
This emotional vampirism is why narcissists are dramamongers. Most targets miss that they feed on positive emotions too — that’s why love bombing and excessive idealization are part of their toolkits. Narcissists need to create an emotional map of their targets — something that lets them know what buttons to push. Indifference is their kryptonite. It completely short circuits things. Without those heightened emotional responses, everything grinds to a halt, and they lose control. Peace and tranquility confound them. That’s why arguments are such a powerful tool for them. They poke and prod and harass and escalate until they get a response. It’s not only their fix, though. They’re also gathering intel to update their map of you and maintaining their ability to get you to capitulate to them. To neutralize a narcissist, you can’t give them access to your true emotions, and you have to stop complying. It requires a very strong will, but it’s the only way to take back control from them.
Originally shared in my series on narcissism on Instagram.