The Narcissistic Cycle

At first you are put on a pedestal- the queen of his world, a goddess- no one could be more perfect- he can’t get enough of you. A short time passes and then all of a sudden you are being criticized, called worthless and the cause of all his trouble- and he dumps you. Only to return sometime later to beguile and charm you and win you back, telling you that you are perfect, etc. The cycle continues. Repeated over and over, for as long as you are willing to take it. The narcissistic cycle consists of the narcissist “over-valuing” his partner, unfailingly followed by a period of “de-valuing” his partner. One day you are the greatest person on earth to them, but when you don’t do or say something they wanted you to, or you ask something of them that they don’t want to do- they demean you and ignore you. You are no longer important to them.

Why do they DO this?

It’s all about “Narcissistic Supply”.  Narcissistic Supply, as defined by Wikipedia, “is a type of admiration, interpersonal support or sustenance drawn by an individual from his or her environment. The term is typically used in a negative sense, describing a pathological or excessive need for attention or admiration that does not take into account the feelings, opinions or preferences of other people.” Narcissists are akin to addicts and they require their “fix” of Narcissistic Supply and will engage in both positive and negative behaviors with their “sources” to obtain it. The quality and reliability of Narcissistic Supply are of paramount importance. The more the narcissist convinces himself that his sources are perfect, grand, comprehensive, authoritative, omniscient, omnipotent, beautiful, powerful, rich and so on – the better he feels. The narcissist has to idealize his Supply sources in order to value the Supply that he derives from them. This leads to over-valuation and results in the formation of an unrealistic picture of others. He puts his idealized sources on a metaphorical pedestal.

The fall is inevitable. Disillusionment and disappointment ensue. The slightest criticism, disagreement, differences of opinion – are interpreted by the narcissist as an all out assault against his very existence. The previous appraisal is sharply reversed. For example: the same people are judged stupid who were previously deemed to possess genius.

This is the devaluation part of the cycle – and it is very painful both to the narcissist and to the devalued individual. The narcissist mourns the loss of a promising source of Narcissistic Supply and the person who has been devalued mourns the loss of the narcissist.

But what is the mechanism BEHIND this cycle? What drives the narcissist to such extremes? The answer is that the over-valuation/devaluation mechanism is the most efficient mechanism available. To understand why, one needs to take stock of the narcissist’s energy, or, rather the lack of it.

The narcissist’s personality is a precariously balanced affair and it requires inordinate amounts of energy to maintain and to sustain it. So dependent on the environment for mental sustenance, the narcissist must maximize the use of the scarce resources at his disposal.

Not one iota of effort, time and emotion must be wasted lest the narcissist finds his emotional balance severely upset. The narcissist focuses his attention on the constant pursuit of the highest available emotional yields (“best” source of Narcissistic Supply). The source with the highest rating is, naturally, selected. It represents “the best value for the money”, the most cost/reward efficient proposition.

The narcissist immediately over-values and idealizes this source. It is the narcissistic equivalent of getting emotionally involved. The narcissist “bonds” with the new source. The narcissist feels attracted, interested, curious, reawakened. Healthier people recognize this phenomenon: it is called infatuation. He lavishes all his energies, capabilities, talents, charms and emotions on the newly selected source of Supply. This has a great effect on the intended source and on the narcissist. This also serves to maximize the narcissist’s returns in the short run.

Once the source of Supply is captured, preyed upon and depleted, the reverse process (of devaluation) sets in. The narcissist instantaneously (and abruptly) loses all interest in his former (and now useless or judged to be so) source of Narcissistic Supply. He dumps and discards it with no remorse or guilt.

He becomes bored, lazy, slow, devoid of energy, absolutely uninterested. He conserves his energies in preparation for the attack on, and the siege of, the next selected source of Supply.

Why Do They Return to the Old Source?

As stated, a narcissist will simply discard people when he becomes convinced
that they can no longer provide him with sufficient Narcissistic Supply. Suddenly
because of boredom, a disagreement, an act or a failure to act, the narcissist
swings from total idealization to complete devaluation.

He then disconnects from you (the source)immediately. He needs to preserve all of
his energy in order to obtain and secure new sources of Narcissistic Supply
and sees no need to spend any of his precious time on you, whom he
now considers useless. However, if he does not find a new significant source of Supply or he is not getting enough daily Supply in his environment, he will return to you as an already trained source and a secondary source of supply. He may repeat the cycle by using the same charm or other façade that he used to win you over the first time; he again idealizes you and you become a precious source of Supply. Until once more you are depleted as a source. If his charm does not work with you, he will engage in manipulative and cruel behavior in order to elicit negative attention from you. Remember- any attention works to fulfill his need for attention.

If you can truly get him out of your life-with no contact- he will eventually find a more willing victim. He will repeat this same cycle with his new source of Narcissistic Supply. It is inevitable. As difficult as it might be, be grateful this toxic man is out of your life.


About Alexander Burgemeester

5 Responses to “The Narcissistic Cycle”

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  1. Kim says:

    Thank you so much for enlightening on this topic. My husband goes through this cycle almost exactly word for word how you explained it. It’s nice to know where it comes from and how to cope with it.

  2. freedomlove87 says:

    Thank you I just finished my relationship with my boyfriend because of this, the information is a weapon in these cases, it is not easy to accept nothing was real, we were 2 years and a half in a relationship and the last 7 months we had 2 cycles but I decided to leave now rejecting even his over charming phase, I readed complete books about Narcissism during his silent treatment and it was enough to know it was exactly him.

    Is there any way to test it to be sure? I feel sometimes insecure sometimes I think maybe he was just deressed, but I dont think so because he was going out all the time with his friends.

    And is there any connection with the memory? or is just that they lie? Because mine he could not remember his passwords, my birthday, songs that he dedicated me :'( and I find it interesting.

    I am studying neurosciences how can you work with persoality disorders?

    Thank you for your time and help 🙂

  3. KERanes says:

    I have had the D&D experience 5 or 6 times with my husband of 40 yrs. Just horrible to experience. Til 6 years ago he and my family had me convinced I was a bad person deserving this treatment. I know better now.
    You feel worthless because you were groomed to accept this treatment. The N can do no wrong. He is perfection. He tolerates you and your issues, punishing to get his fix.
    The punishing rips you apart. Because its from your cherished partner who kicks you to the curb and you are too brainwashed to see it when it happens.

  4. Justin says:

    I’ve read your artilcles on NPD (I’m positive my partner is one) and whilst I can confirm that your description fits her to a tee so much that it’s as if you were writing from my personal experiences – something bother me.

    The issue is it makes them out to be premeditated, cold-blooded parasities; knowingly manipulating you, using you and looking for other supply sources if you pull back. How they operate with stealth and deception, “preying” on “victims” etc. It makes them sound sociopathic, even sociopathic but as troubled as my partner is I’m positive they’re not doing any of this intentionally – that they’re not aware of their actions. Am I wrong? Am I just not wanting to see them for who they are – inhumane, incapable of feeling and insidious – or are they genuinely trying their best to live an honest life and unaware of themselves?

  5. John says:

    @ Justin,

    Narcissism is a spectrum. All NPDs try to mask their own insecurity both to others and themselves and they do so by projecting their failures and faults on to others. But to what degree varies. Some are mostly selfish and unconcerned with your welfare. Thus sounds like your wife.

    But some (but not al)l NPDs have actual malice because their need to dissemble is so severe that they need a hate object to distract themselves from their own misery. Some of these are actually sadistic not just selfishly indifferent. Many of those with maluce are sadly NPD parents or stepparents who systematically hurt (whether physically or psychically) often over decades, a “scapegoat” child.

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