Narcissistic supply

Narcissistic supply is a concept introduced into psychoanalytic theory by Otto Fenichel in 1938, to describe a type of admiration, interpersonal support or sustenance drawn by an individual from his or her environment and essential to their self-esteem.[1]

The term is typically used in a negative sense, describing a pathological or excessive need for attention or admiration from codependents, or such a need in the orally fixated, that does not take into account the feelings, opinions or preferences of other people.

History

Building on Freud's concept of narcissistic satisfaction[2] and on the work of his colleague the psychoanalyst Karl Abraham,[3] Fenichel highlighted the narcissistic need in early development for supplies to enable young children to maintain a sense of mental equilibrium.[4] He identified two main strategies for obtaining such narcissistic supplies—aggression and ingratiation—contrasting styles of approach which could later develop into the sadistic and the submissive respectively.[5]

A childhood loss of essential supplies was for Fenichel key to a depressive disposition, as well as to a tendency to seek compensatory narcissistic supplies thereafter.[6] Impulse neuroses, addictions including love addiction and gambling were all seen by him as products of the struggle for supplies in later life.[7] Psychoanalyst Ernst Simmel (1920) had earlier considered neurotic gambling as an attempt to regain primitive love and attention in an adult context.[8]

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