How the Narcissist Feasts on You and What You Can Do to Avoid It

Narcissism and Scapegoating

Honeymoons don’t last. With a narcissist you think the honeymoon is what you’re longing for, especially when things sour.

But with narcissists, there was never a honeymoon.

Let that sink in.

This is often the case in an “intimate” (or, rather, sexual) relationship with a narcissist. But it’s also the case in families and “friendships” and in the workplace.

If you are not a narcissist, this is hard to conceive. But it’s important that you do.

In the beginning, particularly when there is a strong physical attraction, we tend to see the terrific parts of the other person’s personality, too. This “seeing the best in the other” is actually us projecting our finer qualities onto the other person. I call this reverse projection.

With a narcissist, you are not seeing the real person or any authentic traits. You are not seeing them because the narcissist is unformed and uninterested in shaping an authentic self.

What you are seeing is a reflection of you—some aspect of you—back to you. Basically, the narcissist person is feeding off of your genuine traits. A feast, so to speak.

Narcissists are always hungry

At some point in a healthy relationship, both parties will acknowledge their own assets and liabilities (we hope), and move forward as two individuals coming together in a union with each remembering or being willing to discover the individual that they are. The alternative is one feeding off the other, which is what’s happening when you are involved with a narcissist. This is where the term “narcissistic supply” comes from.

You’ll notice signs of trouble when you take back your own assets. This means you have stopped “seeing” and projecting them onto the other person (so, ceasing the reverse projection).

The narcissistic person will sabotage or pout or be rude of cold or mean when they detect a lack of supply. Conversely, they might also become obsequious or try to make nice before they come down hard. Narcissists need the reverse projection; it makes them look better both in their self-view and, yes, out there in the world. Until the facade begins to crack. One reason the facade visibly cracks is the withdrawal of supply (from you).

They feed and feed but never get full

That won’t stop the narcissistic person from continuing to “wear” your assets (the one you unwittingly projected—it’s sooo common…trust me!) as his or her own mask, and will experience your assets as his or her own! Then, when you attempt to own them again–say you write that paper or make that piece of art or compose that song or cook the meal or hike the peak or meet the person you’d wanted to meet…or, whatever it is) he or she might (will likely) say that you are copying them, stealing from them, trying to be like them and secretly wish you were them.

Once this happens, you can become the object of the narcissist’s rage (which can be very loud or icily quiet) and soon find yourself apologizing, because this rage (again, loud or quiet) can be frightening and intolerable. You may feel shamed and ashamed of yourself.

What you can do

Learning how narcissists feed off you is key. Everything from getting knowledgeable about the patterns of behaviors over time and dissecting how you were affected matters. The more you decode, the less you will feel like you are losing your mind. The more perspective you get, the better.

Photo by Drew Beamer on Unsplash

About the author 

Meredith Resnick

A licensed clinical social worker, Meredith is a member of the International Association for Journal Writing, the C.J. Jung Club of Orange County, California, and an associate member of the Trauma Research Foundation. She has a special interest in healing through the expressive arts.

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