What is a narcissist

What IS a “Narcissist”??

~ by Ven Baxter

What is a narcissist?  First, here’s my own definition:

Narcissist (n.) a person who deceives others in order to take, deplete, and consume their life energy (“soul”) because the Narcissist lacks it.

Next, let’s break this down and look at the Narcissist a bit more closely.

1.  The Narcissist lacks life energy.

It’s well-known in the Narcissistic Abuse Recovery community that a Narcissist requires continual “Narcissistic supply” from other people.  This energy comes in visible forms such as time, attention, effort, and sex.

(Money is a tangible thing that we usually acquire by exchanging our energy for it.  It serves several roles in Narcissistic abuse and merits its own discussion elsewhere.)

In other words, a Narcissist is dependent on other people for a form of energy that they have (and can give) but the Narcissist lacks.  Thus, the Narcissist needs one or more human targets as sources of supply.

Without this energetic “supply,” the Narcissist experiences such emotions as boredom, irritability, panic, and/or rage.  These resemble withdrawal symptoms, so it seems that Narcissism can be compared to an addiction–a dependency on energy received from other people.

What is this energy?

It isn’t electricity.  It isn’t food or nutrition.  It isn’t sunlight or microwaves or gravitation.  “Narcissistic supply” is another form of energy, one which can be exchanged between people and used in the process of human living.  It can also be used up, hence the Narcissist’s continual demands for it.

I call it “life energy”.

2.  Life energy is “soul”.

Non-Narcissists don’t require this energy from others because we produce it within ourselves and use it for ourselves, sort of like having rechargeable batteries.  We use this “life energy” to live and thrive as human beings.  We also use the excess of it, beyond what we need for ourselves, as a sort of fuel to sustain our relationships.

If we run low on life energy, we have to replenish it by resting or “recharging” in some way.  This is called “taking care of you.”  We all need life energy just as we need food, and–also like food–we don’t have an unlimited supply of it.  (Just ask anyone who has raised children.)

If we don’t have enough of this energy to give, our relationships suffer.  When we continually give life energy to a Narcissist (or anyone else) who continually demands it, the giving of it drains us.  Our supply becomes the Narcissist’s supply.  Eventually, our relationships and even our health can fail because our life energy, our vitality, is drained.

This is how Narcissistic abuse weakens the target, invisibly, from the inside out.

What is this “life energy” that is not electricity or food; can take the form of time, attention, effort, or sex; can be depleted in the process of sustaining human life, health, and relationships; and can be shared or exchanged with others?

Basically, it’s emotional energy.

Emotion or feeling is a function of the heart–not the physical muscle, but the non-physical inner “feeling part” of a human being’s psyche.  The heart, on a deeper level, is connected to the soul.  (Another subject that merits its own discussion elsewhere.)

Many people who have been targets of Narcissistic abuse describe the experience as “soul-crushing” or “soul-destroying.”  Some have said that the Narcissist “has no soul.”  This is because of the Narcissist’s continual demands for emotional energy from others, depleting their life energy, their vitality, their “soul”…as if the Narcissist lacks his or her own “soul.”

On the other hand, recharging our life energy–our emotions, our heart, our vitality–makes us FEEL good and strong on the inside; it’s “good for the soul.”

Narcissistic abuse is an assault on the heart and soul of a target.  Ultimately, it’s an inner struggle between the target and the Narcissist, which is why other people do not recognize or understand it.

3.  A Narcissist takes, depletes, and consumes other people’s life energy (“soul”).

Let’s look at Narcissistic abuse from the other side, from the point of view of the Narcissist’s target of abuse (his or her source of supply).

In “normal” or healthy human relationships, people give of themselves to each other with some form of mutual understanding or reciprocity.  What we give can be in the form of time, attention, effort, or sex–and we tend to receive these forms of energy from others in return.

In other words, “normal” or psychologically healthy people respect each other and reciprocate.

When we freely give other people our energy and expect no gift in return, we call this “love”.  Love is how we share our life energy with our children.  It’s also how a (grownup) Narcissist expects and demands to receive it from others.

A Narcissist wants to receive other people’s life energy freely, without having to give anything in return.  But the never-ending Narcissistic demand for supply is not love.  It’s the opposite of love.

Love gives freely.  Narcissism demands…for free.  However, unbeknownst to the target who is willing to give freely to the Narcissist, there will be no end to the giving, nor to the demands for it.

Children will eventually grow out of their normal “narcissistic” developmental stage and stop demanding supply, becoming adults who can produce their own supply.  Adult Narcissists will not, because they are apparently stuck in the “narcissistic” stage of childhood growth forever.

A Narcissist does not (and cannot) respect his or her target–because the Narcissist is not psychologically healthy.  For whatever reason, the Narcissist doesn’t have enough life energy to give to others, or the ability to produce or even sustain it.  But the Narcissist can be quite good at faking it.

Indeed, pretending may be the Narcissist’s only strategy for survival.

4.  The Narcissist deceives others.

Ideally, a person has enough life energy to fulfill his or her own needs and share some with others in respectful, loving relationships.  I like to think of this as like a cup being filled to overflowing and spilling over to others.

A Narcissist, lacking this life energy in his or her own cup, seeks it from others–but, having none to give in return, the Narcissist (like a child) can only take it.  But the Narcissist’s “cup” never seems to stay filled and always demands more, more, endlessly MORE.

No amount of giving to a Narcissist ever seems to be enough.

A human being’s life energy is not unlimited.  Most people do not wish to endlessly pour their own life energy into another person’s “cup” on demand and deplete their own until (and beyond) the point of self-harm.  Psychologically healthy people may be willing to sacrifice their soul for love, but they don’t wish to sacrifice it for nothing.

However, since this is exactly what a Narcissist requires, he or she must, therefore, deceive other people into giving their life energy freely to the Narcissist.

Deception is the Narcissist’s primary (and also the easiest) way to get his or her “fix” of supply.  The ways in which this plays out in a close relationship is all-too-familiar to the target of Narcissistic abuse.

The Narcissist lies.  The Narcissist cheats.  The Narcissist makes “future” promises.  The Narcissist swears to God, on the children’s lives, on his or her own life.  The Narcissist betrays.  The Narcissist leaves…and then comes back.

No one likes to be lied to.  When the target has had (given) enough, and the “fix” of supply is threatened, the Narcissist lashes out at the target.  The Narcissist belittles.  The Narcissist blames.  The Narcissist threatens.  The Narcissist attacks, goes for the throat, desecrates the soul.

The Narcissist abuses.  Why?

It’s simple.  The target of abuse is the source of supply.  Abuse is how the Narcissist keeps supply flowing.

This doesn’t make sense, though.  How does it work?

For a young child who demands attention (“supply” or emotional energy) from the parent, even negative attention is better than none at all.  Likewise, a Narcissist thrives on other people’s emotional responses to the Narcissist, whether positive or negative.

Sometimes this requires that the Narcissist provoke a negative emotional response.  If this is successful (the Narcissist gets supply), and the target stays in the relationship (the Narcissist gets supply), the Narcissist has“won” (the Narcissist gets supply)–and is assured that the supply will continue (the Narcissist gets supply).

And so deception leads to quite the powerful source of supply…if the Narcissist has chosen well…and the target proves his or her willingness to stay with the Narcissist…by enduring the Narcissist’s disrespect, lies, and abuse…which transfer the target’s vitality to the Narcissist…as merely a temporary “fix” of supply…and ruins the target’s relationships and health…and perhaps even damages his or her soul…all so that the Narcissist can continueto be a Narcissist.

5.  The Narcissist is a person.

Maybe a Narcissist is a broken person.  Maybe a Narcissist is a hurt child, forever trapped in an adult’s body.  Maybe a Narcissist is an extremely spoiled and abusive grownup.  Maybe a Narcissist is an unfortunate soul, possessed by a demon.  Maybe a Narcissist is a human being who has no soul.  Maybe a Narcissist is a real-life vampire who feeds on other people’s life energy instead of blood.  Or a human robot, or an alien pretending to be human in a “snatched” human body.

I don’t know.  What I do know is that, for the purpose of dealing with a Narcissist, it doesn’t matter who or what the Narcissist is–or how he or she got that way.

Whatever we may think and feel about the Narcissist(s) in our lives, under every law of human society Narcissists are people and we must treat and regard them as people.  This attitude towards them is absolutely necessary, for the protection of both ourselves and our children.

However, it does not mean that we have to pretend to ourselves that the Narcissist is (or behaves or thinks) like the rest of us.

After enduring the torture of Narcissistic abuse, it can be easy to see the Narcissist as a non-person: an evil, self-serving, all-consuming, slippery, sneaky, lying, sadistic shell of a creature that only looks like a human being…but has no real person inside.

This perception may be true.

Nevertheless, we must remember that Narcissists have the same rights under the law that we do, as human beings, as adults, and as parents.  We may be all-too-familiar with his or her ability to make up lies–and believe them wholeheartedly, with a convincing emotional display–but in a court of law, the Narcissist’s word is as good as ours.

Therefore, we must remember (and be able) to back up our words with facts.  We must be able and prepared to have documentation and even witnesses whenever we know we’re dealing with a Narcissist, especially when we have children with one.

We may not like it, and may not even know it, but to a Narcissist, we are the enemy.

Not only the enemy, but also food.  A potential source of energetic supply.  A Narcissist is a predator, like a lion or a crocodile–not someone to “heal”, or help, or be more patient with, or give the benefit of a doubt “this time” or (yet) “another chance” (to consume you).

6.  What does this mean for the rest of us?

Never forget that for all practical purposes, and in the eyes of everyone else, you are dealing with a person as decent and rational as yourself (and often, based on appearances, even more so) when you are dealing with a Narcissist.

Therefore, your best bet is to just stop dealing with the Narcissist as much as you possibly can, right now.  You cannot win a battle for your soul when the battle itself destroys your soul.  So fight as little as possible, get as far away as you can, and stay there.

This is the only way to win.

Once you are away from the Narcissist, your life energy can begin to recharge, your vitality can start to return, your cup can start to fill again, and your soul can begin to heal.  Only then can you be any good to anyone else, because only then will you have enough energy to take care of yourself AND share with those who both need and deserve it.

Fighting with a Narcissist will only empower the Narcissist and weaken you–and people you care about, too.  If you continue to fight with a Narcissist, you will not be able to help others, or even yourself.

Author Bio – Ven Baxter lives in Florida, where he works as a canoe outfitter, teaches, writes, and enjoys being father to his three children.  You can find this article on his blog, Ven Baxter – Go deep into the nooks and crannies of life and the human experience…

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  1. What a brilliant article and so true! My toxic ex actually said, not long before I kicked him out, that he ”had no soul”. I thought he was being daft and his ‘minion’ then carried the conversation away from the topic, but thinking about it now having been away from ‘them’ for 3.5 years, what he said was true, he has no soul (I initially thought it was corrupt). I remember times when he came home and sitting outside, he literally sucked the air out of me; I was breathless. A very good friend of mine (and my hairdresser) said to me, ”Your light is being dimmed.” I didn’t understand initially but I burst into tears when she said that.

    Thank you Ven for writing this accurate and informative article. I hope many people get to read it in order to understand how insidious these disordered ‘people’ are.

    All the best!

  2. Melanie

    This is the most outstanding, comprehensive and accurate article I’ve read on narcissists. It describes everything about them perfectly and is a brilliant resource for anyone wanting to learn about narcissistic abuse. Thank you!

    1. Kim Saeed

      Thank you, Melanie! I love Ven’s writing, too. He’s very talented 🙂

  3. Colleen

    Both my parents are Narcissistic. My mother is a 10 on the scale of 1-10. I am the scapegoat. I see it running through the whole family. She gaslights and twists the truth of my growing up. She was always gone even when she was there. I was nothing but a drain on her money. All she talks about is her credit cards and money and her gravesite. Like living death. She kicked me out with nothing at 18 years old, while she lived in her nice house. I was treated like a piece of trash by both parents. They were divorced before I was born. It is a struggle to go on still to this day. One parent has passed on. I barely think of my Dad, it was overt trauma many times. She is still here to tell her lies. She was the ignoring kind. Dear God when does it end?

    1. Kim Saeed

      Hi Colleen,

      I know it’s a terrible situation to be in…some people have found that going No Contact with their parents is necessary in order to save their emotional sanity. Wishing you all the best.

      Kim XoXo

  4. Pingback: How to Deal with Adult Narcissistic Children - Let Me Reach with Kim Saeed

  5. Linda

    My only child.a 29 yr old daughter has been one since 3 or 4. Im crushed.

  6. Pingback: 8 Ways Narcissists Can Alter Your Perception of Reality - Let Me Reach with Kim Saeed

  7. Anonymous

    This brought tears to my eyes, I was married for 32 yrs to a Narcissist at the end I was sleeping alot I had no energy left. . I didn’t even know what was going on til I was out of it. I didn’t know how to tell people what I went through but this says it so well. Thank You.

  8. Janice Yakielashek

    Hi Kim – I have been trying to subscribe to your ‘healing toolbox’ but I don’t think the button is working as I never seem to receive any notice of confirmation in my inbox – is there some way I can still get this – your website has been a lifeline and I know that this resource will be invaluable as I continue to rebuild – thank you so much ?

  9. Amber

    This is the best explanation of what a narcissist is and does that I’ve come across. Thanks!

  10. Gwen

    I wrote this in 2007 when I left him…. I had no awareness of narcissism until a month ago, now I understand. 9 years later I’m still battling to heal from the trauma.


    Brazilian agate slice reflected
    glistening aquamarine up
    out from under the base of my glass
    and I knew then that my waters have forever in them

    still you wished to nourish yourself
    still you sought the moisture of me
    you adored my juice
    drop by drop you drank me up

    you sucked away at my rivers’ blood
    took all of the deep sea of me, left me thin
    oh you sad sun
    still un-full

    I gulp the water
    the liquid light
    sparkle and shine reflect life in me as me
    seasons’ source will plump bank and fill

    good sweet I am invisible now
    a textured threadbare weave of nothing
    mended with pen thread
    long lasting

  11. Dear

    I remember that “energy “. I used to be full of it! 1 year into relationship with a Narc, and I’m a shell of my former self. Trapped by lies, betrayal, self doubt and fear. Hoping to gain the strength to get back to me one day.

    1. ether

      It takes time, lots of inner work and self care but it is possible to get the life energy back.

  12. GayeLynn

    “Your cup can start to fill again” and I’m looking forward to having my cup runneth over!!
    Thank you for all the valuable information you provide.
    Wish it could be under different circumstances but nice to meet you!

    1. GayeLynn

      I also want to add, as I don’t come across this matter often, if at all, they suck EVERYthing out of a person and that includes physically, not just emotionally!
      I am 5’4″ and weigh in at about 100-105.
      Within 5 weeks of his last run, I went down to 90.
      I had a few health issues I wanted to go to the Dr. to have checked out but I was too embarrassed.
      Thankfully,I finally came to my AHA! moment that there really IS a GOD!
      Had he not ran, I would have been STUCK with him as I would have never been able to throw a homeless man out.
      I have since put on couple pounds.

  13. Hi Kim,

    Very informative and helpful article! The “energy” that you spoke of can also come in the form of “goods & services.” Narcissists look for ways to get tangible things from their victims. They expect you to throw parties for them (or their children); they expect you to DROP all your plans (no matter when they call) to cater to their schedule/their plans. YET, if asked for return favors, they always make excuses, NO MATTER how lame they sound! In their mind(s), they are more important; more beautiful; more worthy than others (YOU)! If you are a good listener, you will hear their put-downs; criticisms; mocking words, about others. They are equal-opportunity offenders!!!

    I heard something recently about criticism. When people criticize others, they are really making a statement about their own superiority! Now, healthy criticism is necessary. I am not writing about that. I am describing narcissist abuse (using critical words) to DEMEAN or Shame someone who said “NO” to the narcissist. Or someone who disappointed their narcissist, because their offering/outcome didn’t MEASURE UP to their lofty expectations/demands!

    Keep up the good work Kim!!! You truly are a lifesaver to victims who are drowning in Narcissistic quick sand!!!!

  14. Renee

    Amazing timing! I have been inundated with info on the definitions of a narcissist that I’ve lost sight of the definitions of normal healthy people. I’m dating again and the fear of letting in another N is real. I am struggling with finding the truth in my new guy, because we all have some of these traits that make up a narc. This article has helped me wade thru the deception from my past and the embrace my new truth. Thank you.

    1. Kim Saeed

      So glad to know Ven’s article resonated with you, Renee! I hope he sees your comment 🙂

  15. Wow! Words to the wise, without a doubt. Best to handle problems today, cuz the tomorrows with a narcissist really do turn out just as described above. Ending my 8 year relationship was the hardest, most painful and sad time of my life, but today I can attest being free from those who continually cause you pain is a huge relief in life—-one that’s worth fighting for. YOU are worth fighting for!

    1. Kim Saeed

      Thank you for sharing your story of healing and moving forward, Sandy! Wishing you continued success and happiness in your healing journey 🙂


      1. Awww—thank YOU, Kim. You’ve taught me everything I needed to know to break free and begin to heal, you surely have. Thank you so much!

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