The Insidious Nature of Narcissistic Abuse and How To Stop Being Their Supply

Have you ever noticed that your partner is really only happy when you’re sad, and then when you’re happy, they’re mad?

Toxic people love when you are miserable, especially if they’ve made it so. They feed on your attention, even when it’s negative.

Their ability to control your emotions wields an enormous amount of power. This is why after a breakup, they will do whatever they can to continue to keep residency in your head.

But why, if the relationship is already over, do they continue to badger you?

Getting into THEIR heads is so important, not because we can make them stop the love-bombing, hoovering, and manipulation, but instead, with understanding, we can then change our own responses. And experts who interact directly with personality-disordered people can be so helpful in this process.

Texas author, coach, and therapist Matt Phifer previously worked as a liaison between family court, Child Protective Services, and foster care, and part of his job required that he give therapy to narcissists.

When I asked him how effective counseling could be, he replied that he considered it a privilege to work with them, because he learned so much. Here are some perspectives Matt shared during our live interview:


There’s no question that they don’t want to change. I want to be very clear that they didn’t willingly come to see me. What happened is that most of them, the ones that were diagnosed as narcissists, were court-mandated to, not because of the narcissism, but because of their substance use, whether that be through a DWI that they had, heroin use, or whatever the case was.

Sometimes I wanted to get them to talk or open up, but one thing I found was that they lied a lot.

Sometimes you could see it, sometimes you could tell, and sometimes you couldn’t. But one of the things that came up, and it didn’t matter if it was a narcissistic male or a female, that was consistently said was, “I love pissing them off because then I know they still love me.”

It’s a very twisted way of thinking.

One of the things that I teach people is that when you are at your worst, that is when they are at their best.

They love that.

I don’t think that people really know how insidious narcissistic supply actually is. For them to really push your buttons, when you start to escalate, when you’re really angry, when you’re in a rage, that’s when you start to see a smile on their face.

You start to see oftentimes that they then begin to calm down.

I’ll never say, “Well, maybe you can work it out…” It won’t work because they want that engagement out of you. And it only gets more insidious.

It turns out that more gaslighting turns into more feigned ignorance, and then makes you feel like it’s your fault; like you’re the problem in the relationship.

And oftentimes because people are struggling with codependency and people-pleasing, they fall for it.

And this whole dynamic impacts you long term, your body, your physical health, fibromyalgia, autoimmune issues, hair loss, weight gain, weight loss… There are a lot of different aspects that come with that – when you’re in that situation as well.

During the divorce or separation process, they bait you and you want to react. And your reaction, those knee-jerk responses, are giving them exactly what they want. It’s very hard to learn to restrain yourself but that is something that we have control over.

It’s very difficult. One of the things I tell people is that it’s like a big game that’s being played like Monopoly. We imagine if you’re playing a game like that, and the other person doesn’t take their turn, it’s going to drive you up a wall, but eventually, if that person doesn’t take their turn, you quit altogether.

That’s what it’s like with a narcissist: they’re always trying to get you to engage in this larger game that they’re playing.

And we all want to “get” them, everyone wants to have that witty response, that “a-ha!” moment. But it’s not going to happen.

All you did was just take your turn. And you didn’t “get” them. They “got” you.

They thrive in that chaos, and they thrive in anger. And all they’re going to do is flip, and turn themselves into a victim.

Then you’re going to feel bad…and you’re right back into that game.

And so when I tell people, don’t take your turn, that’s how you can actually get your freedom.

The goal is not to get back at the narcissist. The goal is to stay firm with who you are and to respond appropriately if you really need to respond at all.

And that’s how you can then take your life back and move forward.


It’s very hard to not respond when someone is baiting you, especially when that person knows exactly how to get under your skin.

Chris and I, in our business as educators, use a lot of props and tools, especially when we teach “strategic communication” to our own clients. We’ve found it necessary to put many of them on what we call the “permission slip” plan, which means they are not allowed to respond to anything from their ex without having one of us check it first.

Having a knowledgeable third party intervene in communication in the midst of challenging times, such as during a high-conflict divorce or custody battle, can relieve a lot of the burden of your having to figure out what to say, and if at all.

The end goal is for all of us to learn how to emotionally detach and stop participating in the game…

(Note: This excerpt is from our longer live interview, “The Significant Impact of Trauma Bonding in High-Conflict Divorce, and How To Protect Yourself” with Matthew Phifer of Matt Phifer Coaching. For part I of this blog series, “Trauma Bonding is as Powerful as Heroin Addiction: Why It’s So Hard to Escape Toxic Relationships,” click here).