Emotionally unhook yourself & starve the narcissist of supply: Here’s how

7 minute read

Those with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), feed their self-beliefs by hoarding the attention and admiration from those who surround them. This is known as narcissistic supply and is arguably a form of addiction. This is what narcs live for. Quite literally, everything they do, is to secure supply.

Ideally, supply for the narcissist is positive, where adoration confirms views on their entitlement, grandiosity, and superiority to all those around them.

This isn’t all that makes them tick though. They are also almost equally happy with negative attention. So long as the spotlight is on them, they are being fed, and you my dear, are the feast.

To the non-narc, this is befuddling, and one of the hardest things to understand. How could anyone get a high from making others miserable? From harming those they apparently ‘love’?

Things start to fall into place when we comprehend that whilst adulation is the narc’s juice, so is their need to wield power and control over others. Hence, it makes sense that in the absence of worship, being able to command negative attention via emotional reactions is similarly fulfilling as a form of supply.

In this way, you are still their focus of attention, and they are proving to themselves that they DO in fact have power over you. After all, you probably wouldn’t bother to engage in negative and harmful situations when the person involved is inconsequential to you, right?

yellingConsider just a slice of narcissistic manipulation: gaslighting, triangulation, isolation, devaluation, denial, projection, smear campaigns, control, invalidation, word salads, generalisations, twisting the truth, refusing to take accountability, threats, moving the goal posts, expecting perfection…the list goes on.

These tactics are all designed to provoke a negative emotional reaction in you (that’s right, not necessarily from you – it is sufficient for you to internalise the negativity only), thereby confirming for the narcissist that they retain power and control over you. Sadly, the more you do react to bait and provide them with supply, the more their hunger grows.

This sounds all very much doom and gloom, BUT, it is raising your awareness of what drives their behaviour, and offers insight as to what you can do to begin reclaiming your power from the narcissist.

Here are some practical steps you can take to begin short-circuiting the cycle of abuse by refusing to continue feeding the narc.

Be kind and gentle with yourself as you begin to apply these, know that you have been programmed to think and behave solely focusing on meeting the needs of the narc in your life.

Unhooking from these patterns will take effort and time, but you CAN take these steps to kick-start your recovery journey even while the narc is still in your life. These actions will bring you closer to where you want to be: narc free and full of joy.

1. Educate yourself

In the first instance, make it your personal mission to become your own expert on NPD and associated manipulation tactics.

bookRead as much as you can – books, articles, blog posts; listen to podcasts; join support groups; check out YouTube. Whatever you can get your hands on, to educate yourself, do it now. Check out the page Recommended Wisdom on the site for recommended literature that is guaranteed to gift you with many eureka moments!

Becoming conversant with the ploys used to undermine you, will make it that much easier for you to identify when it is being applied to you. It also reminds you that IT ISN’T YOU! It is them, and a diagnosable Cluster B personality disorder: NPD. Other than validating the abuse, and that it isn’t you, this information teaches you about the elements of predictability in their behaviour. Arm yourself and get ready for the next step.

2. Observe like a curious scientist

This phase is about beginning to neutralise your naturally highly emotive reactions, and hence shift the bonds of power the abuser has over you. Having started with increasing knowledge that it is not you, you’ve already begun. The second action to complement the internal transformation is to practice adopting the stance of ‘observing like a curious scientist’ the behaviours of your narcissist.

When engaging with them and you begin to notice you are feeling that agitated, anxious, frightened, unsafe inner state, you can be sure that they are applying one of the manipulation tactics you’ve educated yourself on.

So now is the time for you to pause, and begin observing. Ask yourself which of the tactics it might be, and watch them go at it.

Practicing this reinforces that you are copping narcissistic abuse, and it is NOT YOU.

Significantly, your refusal to continue owning and accepting what is being to dealt to you gets under way. This gradually undermines the enmeshment with the narc and your emotional reactivity when under attack.

3. Starve the narc

Remaining under attack is not an option. It is time for you to disentangle, starve the narc, and protect yourself, starting now.

Having prepared yourself with steps 1 & 2, now is the time to stop one behaviour and start a new one.

STOP explaining yourself. Time to shine the light of the curious scientist on yourself. How many times a day do you find yourself justifying every little thing to your abuser? How do you feel when you do this? Is it a programmed reaction where you don’t even think about it being necessary to explain yourself, or does it come from a reflective, mindful place where you think they deserve an explanation?

If you are reading this, automatic justifications are likely to be the primary form of communication from you to your abuser because you have been programmed that this is what is expected from you.

Relating this way whether the narc is your partner, parent, colleague, or friend, leaves you feeling very small and worthless. This is because, when you are in this cycle, you are giving away your power. You are agreeing you owe them whatever it is they are brainwashing you into handing over. It is essentially, A-grade supply for your narc.

START using non-defensive statements. This is similar to stopping the endless explanations, in that your mindset must be in that same place of seeking to unhook and disengage with the games.

Where chronic justifying is a largely pre-emptive strike, just in case the narc may react badly to any given situation (you know, the whole walking on eggshells thing), non-defensive statements are about what to do when actually under attack* and the manipulations are coming thick and fast at you.

Some examples of non-defensive statements are:

  • I’m sorry you don’t approve of ‘xyz’.
  • You are absolutely entitled to your opinions.
  • I accept that your perception is that I am ‘xyz’- this one isn’t about agreeing with them, it is about stating that you are no longer getting into the word salad hell anymore.
  • I’m sorry you are angry/hurt etc.
  • I hear you feel angry/hurt etc.
  • I hear what you are saying.
  • That is interesting.
  • I see.

It’s a good idea to practice these in regular interactions to counter the programming and ease your comfort with using them when needed with your narc.

If you are also codependent, these are also likely to generally be useful in relationships other than with your narc, acknowledging that these patterns of relating may be particularly challenging for you to break.

Whilst tricky, whether codependent or not, YOU CAN DO IT. Focus on your goals: reclaiming your power, freedom, and a life of joy. Hold these in your heart, mind, and soul. Use them as a mantra to empower you as you take these vital steps in unhooking from your narc.


Warning! The narc will NOT like these inner transformations, and supply being withheld from them. The change in you will make them unhappy. Thing is, your life, is not about making them happy. It is about making you happy. To get to that place, you must take steps to protect yourself and move towards freedom.

You are strong. You are courageous. You are so very worthy. YOU CAN DO IT.

Please do leave a comment below with your insights on these steps and any advice to those who are in the process of educating themselves on narcissistic abuse. Sharing and encouraging others is so very necessary to help all of us on our journey of recovery.

*Note – none of these suggestions are advocated for if at any time you feel unsafe whether that be physically, sexually, mentally, emotionally, or psychologically. Your safety must be your primary focus. Please reach out to authorities and support services in your local area for immediate assistance.

With gratitude,

Maggie x



  • Beattie, M. (2006). Codependent no more: How to stop controlling others and start caring for yourself. Minneapolis, US: Hazelden.
  • Forward, S. (2002). Toxic parents: Overcoming their hurtful legacy and reclaiming your life. New York, US: Bantam, USA.
  • Martha Stout. (2005). The sociopath next door. New York, US: Harmony Books.

34 thoughts

    1. Thank you agoodlittlegirl. I’m sorry you have experienced so many narcissists in your life. Unfortunately, this pattern is common when the abuse starts from birth as you say. It sounds like you have now broken free from these cycles – it is so wonderful!

      1. I’ve at least reached a point of being able to say “NO”, and set boundaries, but I have to be careful, as the good little girl within can be a push over. Argh!

      2. Overcoming years of programming is no easy feat! Boundaries are definitely something I need to mindfully practice as well. Hurrah for getting to this point for us both!

  1. Thank you for listing the non defensive responses. I have the hardest time keeping my cool in the middle of the word salad hell, as it is maddening to have to keep defending myself etc. I hope to be able to transition out of this mess as quietly as I can.

    1. It is extremely challenging to keep cool when your buttons are being pushed isn’t it! Being aware of the ploys being used to agitate an emotional response definitely helps. Couple this with desire to transition out and there is no doubt you can do this. Best wishes to you Broken Wings, soon to be Wings Made for Soaring Heights x

  2. I recently broke up and am still in touch with my ex. As i was doing my research over his heartless behaviour i came across NPD. Even though we weren’t together he was using me as a supply but now i feel educated enough to cut him out of my life completely.

    1. Hiya shewroteherheart – go you! I hope you are feeling the freedom and joy come back into your life following your decision. Best wishes to you and may you go from strength to strength – have no doubt you will x

  3. Excellent article! I’ve done an ENORMOUS amount of research on these individuals as I am currently involved with one. At this time I’m not ready for NO CONTACT, therefore I have employed the comments suggested in this article. I do NOT engage him in his negativity and projections. I ALWAYS call him out on every narcissistic trait he shows and I ALWAYS take the gray rock approach. I do not compliment, show admiration, apologies are never forthcoming from me, and I love you never leaves my lips! I have found that the leas I physically (see him) engage him, or verbally engage him is working! I show absolutely NO emotions whatsoever. The problem I’m seeing is he still texts, calls, etc. I see his spewing of fake charm and love for what it is and I steadfastly remain calm, neutral and completely blank of any emotion. Thanks for the great read.

    1. Grace, well done! You must feel really proud of yourself to be taking such steps in protecting yourself from the negativity and sucking you dry. Really great points too on being savvy to the love bombing trying to hoover you back in. You sound super strong and determined to get yourself free, kudos. Thanks for your kind words, and for sharing your insights on what’s working for you with everyone – sharing knowledge is so very helpful for all of us on this same journey. High five to you lovely x

  4. I have been in a 3 year hell with my ex-husband. His behavior is so irrational it has made me feel crazy. I truly thought that the word narcissist was just a politically correct phrase for Asshole. But, I happened across some of your articles and I have been educating myself about NPD and narcissistic abuse and recovery and it has given me great peace to learn that the things I am experiencing are explainable. Some of the articles I’ve read have paralleled my story in a chilling way. The problem is that we share 3 amazing children who adore their Dad. And the more I try no contact the more he drags the kids into everything and tries to contact me through the kids and it is upsetting to my kids. They get upset with me for not communicating with their Dad. I have tried to take every power from him but now he uses the kids to hurt me by denying me my time with them or by using the “Savior” technique when they are in trouble to turn them against me. I am trying to hold my ground but I am tired of everything being a fight. And I mean EVERYTHING! I do not give him an emotional response or any response most days but that just makes him spiral and things get more extreme. I need advice on how to co-parent with my narcissist without being the victim anymore. I’m tired of being his emotional punching bag. And by tired…I mean…MY SOUL IS TIRED!!!

    1. Dearest Anon – you are gorgeous! Love it – ‘narcissist as politically correct term for a*hole’ – not sure you’re off track there ;). I hear you Anon, learning more about the patterns of the disorder as experienced by others and ourselves is chilling because of the almost cookie cut behaviors, yet also reassuring as this is the hallmark of diagnosable disorders. I’m definitely hearing that you have come a powerfully long way in your journey, taking stock of what’s happening and taking charge of your life – kudos to you. That takes HUGE guts. Particularly when sharing children and navigating the interlinked relationships involved – this is so courageous and you are clearly claiming your strength & needs. I also hear you when you talk about soul exhaustion – I’ve used this term and heard others use the very same words many times. This is precisely what narcs do: they need to suck your soul dry in order to survive. I’d love to chat with you to brainstorm strategies together to move away from that emotional punching bag feeling – please email me if you would like to pursue this. You’ve got this Anon – at times it’s a seemingly impossible journey, but you are nevertheless charging down that path x

      1. The thing I struggle the most with is that my ex-husband now uses the kids to hurt me or control me because I have taken every other power away. He knows exactly how to hurt me. I am trying really hard not to give him a reaction and rarely do I give him a response of any kind, because regardless of the topic he will try to put little jabs in to try and escalate things. He has my kids saying to me now, “you need to communicate with Dad.” My go to response is, “I do communicate with Dad, He just doesn’t like my opinion. Agreeing and communicating are two totally different things.”
        I can say that 3 years later this little to no contact or communication has helped the situation. In the beginning he would text me 40-50 times a day until he had me mad and crying for days at a time. Then it was weekly, then bi-weekly, then monthly, now it’s usually around a child’s birthday or holiday. He seems to spiral at any holiday. He has had me in a court battle that won’t end. I’m so done! He owes me thousands of dollars that I’m too tired to fight for. He has now taken me to court for the 5th time in 3 years to drop his child support and make me pay him child support claiming that his income has dropped below mine. I’m in a waiting pattern the Judge has up to 60 days to make her decision. He has the money and has continued to pay a lawyer to fight. I gave up on paying the lawyer a year ago as it was costing more in legal fees to maintain my support than I was actually getting in support. I find myself wishing that time sharing kids will go by faster. Then that makes me sad because I’m wishing away their childhood because I’m struggling to cope. My biggest sadness is feeling like half of my Motherhood was robbed from me, as we share 50/50 custody. When my kids are with their Dad I struggle to cope. I want the pain to stop. I’m so tired. I keep busy, and put a smile on my face but I feel like I’m screaming on the inside.

      2. Dear Anon, I can hear your exhaustion. I am sorry you are facing this extremely difficult situation. You are 100% on the money is saying that he is using your children to control and manipulate you. It’s evident in your description that he very much needs your negative reactions to feel OK. This isn’t OK. I’m glad that reducing contact, and using grey rock techniques have been helpful in navigating his attempts to provoke you. All of the defending and protecting yourself is sucking you dry of your energy hence the exhaustion. Given the court battle, and difficulties in share custody are a reality, it’s important to be implementing strategies that replenish your energy stores. I am planning on introducing online coaching functionality post a pilot phase to supplement and reach a broader audience than I currently do with face to face coaching – would you like to have a session to brainstorm strategies, of course at no cost as it will be assisting me with the testing? If you are interested, please email me at narcwise@gmail.com. Very best, most juicily full of energy wishes to you Anon, Maggie

    2. I have moved all non-emergency contact to be done via email or using the Our Family Wizard app. Luckily I was suggested that early by another friend. It greatly cuts down on the interactions required.

      Of course he always tries to engage. My simple, go-to response: “I need to think about that. Perhaps you can email your position so I can take time to consider it and respond later.” It’s passive aggressive, gray rock at its finest.

      Dealing w kids is much harder. I’ve started this approach, “I wish your dad had not discussed that with you. I understand that’s his perspective and mine is different from his. I am more interested in the relationship between yourself and i than discussing the past.”

      If he’s using the savior, try this: “I’m glad your dad is willing to help you. I am also here for you, but I have confidence you could have figured out a solution on your own. What might you have done?”

      Canned, rehearsed, responses like this are helpful.

      Keep fighting the good fight. Good luck.

      1. Fabulous! Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom and practical tips. I have no doubt these will be really helpful to our community. Rehearsing responses is such a good thing to do, this way we feel (and are) prepared and makes navigating any emotional responses so much easier. All the best CJ and hope to hear from you again soon with more advice 🙂

    1. Hi someone. Such a great question. To be sure a diagnosis by a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist would take place. In reality, because of the nature of the disorder, help (and therefore diagnosis) is rarely sought. Why seek help when an individual believes they are superior to all others and any issues that occur in life are entirely the fault of others? Again, in reality, diagnoses really only happen when things go really wrong and they are caught in some way, for instance in the justice system, or in settings such as couples or family therapy. But if the question is about verifying whether someone you know is a narcissist, the most important questions to ask are – ‘what do you think? and what do you feel in relation to this person?’. Cause if you feel the impacts of abuse, the label doesn’t matter in any way. The only priority, is taking care of you. I’ve built a glossary you can check out as well that includes definitions, these might help as well. All the best to you Someone x

  5. Thank you for your reply – mine left me after I walked out 2 weeks ago – but now I feel so guilty for even thinking this might be the cause of our weird 13 year relationship…thanks again

    1. Well done for looking after you. This is a wonderful stand you’ve taken for yourself, and so full of courage. Kudos. Guilt is really common when leaving the narc in our lives. Unfortunately this is one of the effects of the abuse and how we have been programmed. There’s lots to ‘de-program’ but you can do it, and removing yourself from what wasn’t working for you is the first step to giving yourself the space you need to start healing. Again well done Someone. You will rock this x

  6. Any suggestions on a narcissistic mother-in-law??? EXTREMELY controlling, does not respect boundaries and is constantly talking badly about people. I am to the point of NO CONTACT with her as I am Extremely uncomfortable around her and never know what is going to set her off. The only problem is my kids still want to be around her as she is their grandma, but I dont want them to have to deal with any of the mind games she tries to pull!!! 🙁

    1. Hi Someone, this is tricky. Can you try going Low Contact (LC) with her, and having a discussion where you explicitly state very clear boundaries in relation to your children? I hear you when you say that she doesn’t respect boundaries, so it may be that if she refuses to once you have laid out that these are the conditions for future engagement with your children, you consider going No Contact. When communicating with her whilst LC perhaps going grey rock and limiting information provision is the way to go, and are either telling her flat out you don’t wish to hear negative talk about others or refusing to engage when she does – perhaps leaving the room, or ending the call etc.? Have you already tried these? Maggie x

      1. Thank you so much for the reply, it really means a lot, for awhile I thought I was the one that was crazy, but your information really really puts it in perspective that it is NOT me or it is NOT my husband! I just truly do not understand how someone can act like this, I am having such a hard time with this because I never grew up in a situation like this. As for me I no longer have ANY contact with my mother in law. We have moved 3 hours away from her, which you can imagine what a HUGE heal that was (UGHH), so I would say we are going LC with her. It’s just my husband still has to talk to her, and I have just realized that he grew up doing a mixture of the gray rock method and lying to deal with the emotional abuse from his mother, which sadly has carried into our relationship, it took me 12 years to realize all of this!!! He is finally realizing that how he grew up is NOT ok, but now he doesn’t really know how to interact with his mom the healthy way. Would you just suggest to set VERY clear boundaries and if she cannot respect that than no contact?

      2. Dear Someone – I hear you. Unfortunately, the feeling crazy is all part of their game. Hurrah for claiming that you are not! Yes I also really struggle with the concept that some do behave this way, I often find myself thinking – ‘surely if they just realised what they were doing they would stop!’ – WRONG. And again, sadly thinking this way is also part of the effects of narcissistic abuse. Huge congrats on making it through the move, this is such a great step. I wonder whether things will start to shift a little naturally with the physical separation added to the LC? It sounds like your husband is working through some hard stuff and wading through through it all, which is fantastic. As is, the fact that you guys are also working through things together. Another hurrah! Only you will know when/if no contact is the way to go. My litmus test for this is asking yourself whether interactions are mostly harmful to you/your husband/your children and then deciding what you will do if the answer is yes. If unsure, then very definitely, I agree that strong, clear boundaries must be put in place. If these are violated, then consequences must immediately be carried out so that she understands you are serious. E.g.: ‘Sure you can see the kids, please be here to pick them up by 5pm’ – if no show by then, no hang out time with kiddies. Sounds rough, but it is about communicating that your lines are firm, and can no longer be crossed. Arguments, manipulations etc. will ensue – do not engage, remember grey rock. This is difficult when emotions are triggered – ask yourself what will cost me and my family the least emotionally, mentally, psychologically in response to this right now. Most often the answer will be to state your point in a limited way, and engage no further. Negotiating your point of view needs to be removed from the table. I currently coach face to face and will be integrating an online offering shortly. During the testing phase, I will be looking for people willing to provide me with feedback to make sure it’s all working well technology wise, of course the sessions during testing would be at no cost. If you are interested in participating, send me an email at narcwise@gmail.com 🙂 All the best Someone, Maggie x

  7. This is the most concisely written article I have read on the abusive narc and the idealization phase and the flip to the devaluation phase which is where I am with my narc husband. But the MOST tremendous shift for me is now understanding how I have spent the last ten years attempting to speak rationally to the irrational narc and that reacting with my hurt and defending myself was just feeding the vampire. I will now focus on using the tools of ignoring/responding rather than reacting to move toward recovery and freedom for my spirit and a healthier reality for my teenage sons.

    1. Oh Elizabeth, I am so delighted to hear such positivity! It sounds like you’ve been through a great deal and are taking strong and definite steps to take care of you and your sons. This brings me joy. I have a piece on responding vs. reacting which may be of interest although sounds like you are on a very clear path. Keep in touch, I would love to hear of journey, and I’m sure others would too – hearing of healing and recovery is so very inspiring. Also, thank you so very much for your very kind words, I really appreciate them 🙂 All the best to you and your boys, Maggie x

  8. My husband’s mother is this way and it’s tough but he’s finally starting to break those chains. He finally sees what she’s doing so it’s become easier. She even told me that nothing and no one would ever come between her and him and she put it in a letter to me and her handwriting. She told him he wasn’t allowed to read the letter but I told him he needed to and after he read it and he realized what she was doing. He starting to break those chains and she doesn’t like it she know she’s losing control and it’s killing her. She has to be in control and she has to be the one who tells everybody what to do but she’s not able to do that anymore and she’s losing control, literally. She cries and pouts but nothing works anymore.

    1. Hi Cowgirrl, wow. I feel for you & your husband. It must be really challenging. What absolute nonsense to infer you are coming between her & your husband. The only one coming between her & your husband is her own controlling self! What a testament to the both of you that her threats are just not working, & clearly never will because you both see the manipulations for what they are. Well done, & kudos to you both! Thank you for sharing Cowgirrl :). Please do share any tips you have for the letting go phase, these are so helpful for many on this journey. Very best to you, Maggie x

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