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Narcissistic Supplies

Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Narcissistic Supplies?

This self views narcissistic supplies—the admiration, acknowledgment, recognition, support, love, success, acclaim, applause, and the rest—as a kind of food it needs to assuage the gnawing hunger and to fill its painful emptiness.

— A. H. Almaas

Narcissistic Supplies are the external mirroring the ego self needs--to be recognized by others as special, unique, and important--which often masks painful feelings of insignificance, unworthiness, and inadequacy. Appearing special, more than being special, is what matters, because this is a specific manifestation of the need for mirroring.

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Narcissistic Supplies

Alternating Feelings About Narcissistic Supplies

Specialness and uniqueness: The need for external mirroring feedback typically becomes focused on the need to be recognized as special and unique. This need reflects an exaggerated belief in one’s specialness, which in turn reflects an underlying feeling of being insignificant. So the student feels either an exaggerated sense of specialness, importance, and uniqueness, or painful feelings of insignificance and unworthiness; or the two sets of feelings might alternate, depending on the adequacy or absence of narcissistic supplies. These inner states may or may not manifest in overt attempts to appear special and important. Appearing special, more than being special, is what matters, because this is a specific manifestation of the need for mirroring.

Experiencing the Whole World as Empty, Devoid of Warmth and Nourishment

The student understands at this point that this hungry, empty self is the deepest psychodynamic source of his selfishness, self-centeredness, self-seeking, exploitativeness, cruelty, heartlessness, and compulsive need for narcissistic supplies. This self views these supplies—the admiration, acknowledgment, recognition, support, love, success, acclaim, applause, and the rest—as a kind of food it needs to assuage the gnawing hunger and to fill its painful emptiness. At this point, as the underlying emptiness of the self begins to manifest, the student might experience the usual narcissistic meaninglessness and emptiness of life and existence. He feels empty and meaningless, but also experiences the whole world as empty, devoid of warmth and nourishment. Persisting with exploring these manifestations, he discovers that for this self, meaning is food, or a full stomach. However, this food has a narcissistic quality to it. Before he actually experiences the emptiness, he feels hungry, and observes that he tries to assuage his hunger with narcissistic supplies. He tries to fill himself with acclaim, applause, admiring mirroring, adoring support, and idealizing love, with recognition, appreciation, and approval, but goes about it with the uncontrollable hunger of a famished soul. He can never get enough; his satiation is transitory and his fullness can only be short-lived.

How are the Loss of Narcissistic Supplies Experienced?

The most prevalent—and in most cases the first—reaction to the disruption of the mirror transference is that the student feels not seen, not understood, not approved of, not valued, not paid attention to in a way that he feels he wants and needs. In other words, at first the student feels the loss (real or imagined) of mirroring from the object. More exactly, he feels the loss of the mirroring self object, as the teacher is no longer perceived as such. This happens as he feels that the teacher’s reflection, appreciation or understanding is imperfect. His perception of the loss of narcissistic supplies makes him aware of his narcissistic vulnerability, resulting in various degrees of dissolution of the narcissistic structure of self-identity, and the reactions to the loss and dissolution, along with the defenses against them.

How Do We Keep Narcissistic Supplies Flowing?

In other words, one does not gain value from one’s accomplishments; these accomplishments are, rather, the expression of one’s self-existing value. When one depends on any external manifestations, such as performance, achievement, excellence, or anything, to feel a sense of value or love, then one has not yet personalized the essential aspect of value. To depend upon external manifestations for self-esteem means one has to use one’s mind; one has to remember these accomplishments. But the value of Being is self-existing, is a presence independent of the mind, and of the past. This is not possible on the ego level, where self-esteem is always inferred from one’s manifestations and accomplishments, and always somewhat removed from one’s Beingness. This distance between one’s value and one’s Beingness becomes especially obvious in the case of the narcissistic personality. The narcissistic personality has no sense of value except from external approval, admiration, recognition, acceptance and appreciation. This need for such external mirroring is incessant and bottomless. One must keep performing and achieving in order to keep the narcissistic supplies flowing. So achievements are not expressions of who one is, but are pursued to give oneself significance and identity. One’s life, with all its activities and accomplishments, constitutes a shell that is empty and devoid of any sense of self or Being. In such a character, a momentary failure of or disidentification with one’s external achievements makes one feel that one’s life is empty and insignificant.

Loss of Narcissistic Supplies Leading to a Vague Feeling of Dread

The process of working through narcissism reveals the vulnerability of the student’s identity. As she consciously or unconsciously realizes her vulnerability, she tries to resort to the mirror transference in the attempt to preserve the cohesion and integrity of her familiar sense of self. In this phase, any disturbance of the mirror transference, or any indication of the loss of narcissistic supplies in any part of her life, will disturb the narcissistic equilibrium. The shell will be exposed and its very integrity will be threatened. The awareness that the integrity of her sense of self is threatened may appear first as a vague feeling of dread. She may feel a general inexplicable anxiety. She may find herself preoccupied with catastrophic fantasies of being injured or harmed, even of fatal accidents. There is usually no rationale in her daily life for such feelings and thoughts, so she tends to dismiss them. She may become concerned about falling ill, and her fantasy might carry her to imagine extremes of illness and destruction with no apparent physical cause. She may start having nightmares about injury, illness, and death. Only an in depth inquiry into these manifestations can reveal the underlying reasons for this existential dread. Then she can connect it to her work on narcissism; the loss of narcissistic supplies is threatening her in a much deeper and more fundamental way than she believed possible.

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