Does It Sound Weird That Narcissistic Abuse Is Not Personal?

Narcissists don't see you as a person—they only see what you can offer them.

Posted Jan 05, 2021

Photo by Kim Davies on Unsplash
Source: Photo by Kim Davies on Unsplash

Narcissists are focused and determined. They need what is called Narcissistic Supply and they go through great lengths to get this need met. It is like an addiction and they will only feel remotely comfortable if they have got their supply. Unfortunately, they are also insatiable and the supply is never enough.

What is the Narcissistic Supply?

Narcissistic Supply is attention and admiration, offered by other people and is there to compensate for the narcissist’s lack of security. Often, a narcissist hasn’t experienced a healthy attachment with their parent or carer in the early years. This has made them believe that they are unlovable and unworthy. However, rather than showing the world their true colours, they have made it their aim to hide and protect their fragile ego and compensate for it by ensuring a huge dose of attention and admiration.

How does a narcissist operate?

A narcissist is a predator, continuously on the lookout for those who can provide their Narcissistic Supply. They check out people to gauge their suitability as a provider and once you are approved, they get their claws in you and won’t easily let go.

Becoming a prey is a process. The predator will be kind and seems interested in you. They ask questions and allow you to talk about yourself, your experiences, the type of person you are. However, they are not interested in you as a person, they are collecting data to be used at a later stage to control you.

A great example of the first check of the suitability as a provider was the first date. She met her narcissistic partner at his apartment.  They had a drink, chatted away and it all went very easy. They then walked to the restaurant and when the waiter offered the wine list, he was very short and waved him away, saying: ‘No wine for us. Thank you.’ She went along with it, even though she was keen to have a glass. He checked her willingness to go along with his ideas, without challenging and she passed the test.

A client told me about her narcissistic mother in law and said: ‘It’s such a shame she is so unpredictable because when you get on with her she is such great fun’. I had to remind her that the ‘fun’ was functional and only applied to collect more information.

Once you are in, the rollercoaster rides

Once you are in with them, tickled by their claws, there is gradually more aggression coming in. More subtle degrading remarks, more focus on them and having their way, more demands to accommodate their wishes and within no time, you will be knee-deep in it.

  • If you don’t offer enough supply, you will get punished.  Because they always want more.
  • If you want to talk about it, you will bang your head against the wall. Because they won’t understand.
  • If you try to understand, you will get manipulated and your thoughts will be twisted. Because they want you to feel insecure.
  • If you get emotional, they will shut down. Because they don’t understand emotions at all.
  • If you want to leave, they will try to get you back in. Because they can’t stand the rejection.

Cat and mouse

Have you ever seen a cat chasing a mouse? And then observed the cruel games the cat is playing? The little mouse, scared to death and most likely close to death, squeaks. A little tic with the cat’s paw creates more squeaking. The cat enjoys it enormously and it can play this game for hours. Letting the mouse rest for some time, giving it false hope and then hitting it again.

The mouse is never going to win. If he is lucky, he escapes. If he is unlucky, it is the end.

Imagine your narcissist being the cat and you are the mouse.

Don’t take it personally, don’t make it personal

If you are the victim of narcissistic abuse, it is not a personal quest against you. The reason you are ‘chosen’ is that you seem to have all qualities they are looking for to use the relationship for their benefits.

It is like a tick box. If you get the ticks, you are in.

Once you have stopped performing, you will be ultimately dismissed and replaced. But not before they have tried to make you crumble.

There are many examples of romantic relationships where the narcissist found another partner within weeks after the break-up.

In the relationship with a parent, it is a painful process to come to realise that what you are looking for and not getting (such as acknowledgement and love) has nothing to do with you and your qualities. You don’t count. You are played with in order to supply, being the scapegoat, the golden child or invisible. And you are tolerated as long as you deliver.

People who are suffering from narcissism are focused on making themselves feel better and secure at the cost of others. They can’t have healthy relationships as they will never see other people for who they are. Human beings. They will judge others for what they are able to give to them. That’s all.

If you are a victim of narcissistic abuse, don’t take it personally as this will help your recovery.


Best-selling and award-winning self-help book for victims of narcissistic abuse: Dr Mariette Jansen, 'From Victim to Victor' - Narcissism Survival Guide (2020) UK, Indie Publisher. Available in paperback, Kindle and audiobook via Amazon.

Do you have a narcissist in your life? Take this short quiz

Bowlby, J. (1979). The making & breaking of affectional bonds. London: Tavistock Publications.

Wondering if your partner is a narcissist? Here are the signs.