Shelf Life


There are many different types of secondary sources. There are the Non Intimate Secondary Sources – family, friends, neighbours or colleagues. There are the Intimate Partner Secondary Sources, which includes The Dirty Little Secret and The Candidate. There are virtual varieties also.

What do all of these secondary sources have in common?

The shelf.

Every secondary source belongs on the shelf.

A friend is on the shelf. The narcissist makes an arrangement to spend the evening in the pub with the friend, thus this Friend NISS is taken off the shelf, engaged with at the pub for three hours and is then placed back on the shelf. Throughout this, the Friend NISS is painted white and remains white when her she goes back on to the shelf.

A Dirty Little Secret is on the shelf. The narcissist makes an arrangement to meet the DLS at a hotel on the far side of town at 1pm. The DLS is taken off the shelf, taken to bed for sex for a couple of hours, has an hours conversation and then the narcissist leaves and places the DLS on the shelf. Throughout this, the DLS is painted white and remains white when he or she goes back on to the shelf.

The brother of the narcissist is telephoned by the narcissist. The narcissist and the brother (a family NISS) speak for an hour. The Family NISS is taken off the shelf for the duration of the conversation. The conversation ends and the Family NISS goes back on the shelf. Throughout this, the Family NISS is painted white and remains white when he or she goes back on to the shelf.

The IPSS is on the shelf. The narcissist is dating the IPSS and picks her up to take her away for a weekend break in the mountains. The IPSS is taken off the shelf for the duration of the weekend trip. When it ends, the IPSS goes back on the shelf. Throughout the weekend the IPSS is painted white and remains white when she goes back on the shelf.

The Candidate IPSS is on the shelf. The narcissist calls round to spend the evening with the Candidate watching television at his house. The Candidate IPSS is taken off the shelf for the four hours or so they watch television. The narcissist leaves at 11pm and the Candidate goes back on the shelf. Throughout their television watching the Candidate IPSS is painted white and remains white when he goes back on the shelf.

Each one of the appliances above is treated to the shelf dynamic. The narcissist performs a hoover which results in the appliance coming off the shelf. They are off the shelf for the duration of sex, the watching of television, the weekend away and so forth and when the relevant act or occasion ends, the appliance goes back on the shelf. The time off the shelf and/or the periods being on the shelf will vary dependent on the type of shelf appliance involved, the constitution of the narcissists fuel matrix and naturally whether there are Hoover Triggers and if so, whether the Hoover Execution Criteria are met. These factors come together to govern the frequency, nature and duration of the shelf interaction with the relevant appliance and the narcissist.

A common error is to regard being placed on the shelf as an act of devaluation.

It is not.

When you are placed on the shelf by a narcissist it means that the narcissist has no need of you at the present time. The act of putting you on the shelf, is, in itself, a neutral one. Of course, since we always view appliances as either black or white, you will either be placed on the shelf as white (which is more common) or placed on the shelf as black (less common).

You, however, as a consequence of your emotional thinking, are led to believe that you have done something wrong when you have been placed on the shelf. Your emotional thinking of course wants to con you into thinking this because if you believe you have done something wrong you will then continue to engage with the narcissist (and thus feed your addiction) by doing such things as

  • Trying to spend time with the narcissist by calling round where the narcissist lives, works or socialises,
  • Texting the narcissist
  • Telephoning the narcissist
  • Emailing the narcissist
  • Posting about the narcissist on social media
  • Talking about the narcissist with other people
  • Thinking about the narcissist and your situation with the narcissist

All of these things (and other examples besides) feed your addiction and increase your emotional thinking. Your emotional thinking wants you to believe you have done something wrong by being placed on the shelf so that you will then do any or all of the above.

Consider this – when you meet up with a friend (who is not a narcissist) and you have an evening at the cinema, you then part ways afterwards and perhaps do not communicate with one another for a couple of weeks, perhaps longer. Does this trouble you? No. Why not? Because you know this is the nature of your friendship? Yes. Because you know you have not done anything wrong? Yes. Because you know you will meet up again at some point? Yes. Why are you able to think in such terms and not be concerned? It is because all of those three points are logic. You are able to access your logic because there is an absence of emotional thinking because you are not engaging with a narcissist. Logic prevails.

Your friendship with the non-narcissist operates in a fashion similar to the shelf dynamic, but it does not have you worried, concerned, snooping, fretting and spying. This is because you are able to apply logic.

You may state that when the narcissist drives off after spending the evening with you, you do not have any undue concerns at that point. Perhaps, but many of you will be thinking such thoughts as

  • When will I see him/her again
  • Is he going to see someone else now? Who is it?
  • I wish she would stay longer
  • He is going back to his wife, I wish I was her
  • He left half an hour before he said he was going to leave, have I upset him?

You have been placed on the shelf and painted white, there is no evidence to suggest there is any problem at all, but you find yourself concerned.

Do you find yourself thinking such thoughts about non-narcissists? No. Why is that? Logic prevails owing to the absence of emotional thinking. Where you are left wondering thoughts similar to the above, it is because your emotional thinking is hijacking your truth seeking trait, your trait of honest, your trait of decency, your love devotee trait and others in order to have you engaging further (in some fashion) with the narcissist and thus feed that addiction.

Of course there are instances where there is actual evidence that causes concern. For instance, the narcissist kept talking about his wife and how he should not have been spending time with you. That is triangulation and you are painted black when you are on the receiving end of such comments by way of a Corrective Devaluation. You will have done or said something (or failed to say or do something) amounting to either Challenge Fuel or Wounding and thus you are faced with this Corrective Devaluation which is all about asserting control over you.

When you are placed on the shelf by our kind, you are faced with three issues :-

  • When you are placed on the shelf and you are painted white, you are of course enjoying a golden period of treatment by the narcissist. You want more of that golden period because your emotional thinking (wanting you to feed your addiction) causes you to want to engage further with the narcissist, as opposed to waiting (as you would do with a non-narcissist) ;
  • When you are placed on the shelf and you are painted white, you still suffer from a sense of uncertainty and unease, because you are ensnared by a narcissist and this is what we instinctively cause. Your emotional thinking (already heightened by your ongoing engagements with the narcissist) interferes with logic so even when there is no actual evidence of a problem, you find yourself in a position of concern, wondering when you will see the narcissist, wondering what the narcissist is doing, is the narcissist seeing someone else etc ; and
  • When you are placed on the shelf and you are painted black, you recognise that something is wrong. The narcissist may have argued with you, accused you of doing something you have not done, sat and sulked, talked about someone else, expressed doubts about the relationship, criticised something you have done. Driven by your emotional thinking you fail to recognise that this is a manipulation and shrug it off with “Well he is a narcissist, so he is being what he is” instead you are left worried by what has happened, concerned that the relationship is foundering or is even over and therefore you are driven to seek further engagement with the narcissist, which naturally is all about feeding your addiction.

These three issues are always present at one time or another when you are a shelf appliance with a narcissist. These three issues are absent when you are involved in some form of a relationship with a non-narcissist. You do not have that same level of excitement, that same level of unease, that same level of pining, that same level of feeling on edge as you do when you are in the shelf situation with a narcissist. That is because where the involvement is with a non-narcissist, your emotional thinking is not at work conning you.

If you are friends with a non-narcissist, you look forward to seeing them the next time, but you are not left ruminating on the interaction, feeling a strange sense of unease and wondering if everything is okay and when you might see one another again. No, you get on with your life and you contact the non-narcissist friend days or weeks later and make arrangements to see one another again, or vice versa.

If you are in the early days of a romantic relationship with a non-narcissist, you are pleased and indeed keen to see one another, but you get on with your lives in between dates and the relationship evolves at a steady pace. Many of you reading this will never have experienced this time of evolution in a romantic relationship because you have only ever experienced the heady ecstasy of the intense love-bombing from a narcissist. Those strong, exciting sensations that have you repeatedly thinking about the other person, waiting for the ping of a text message from that person, daydreaming about what they are doing, reflecting on your last meeting and inadvertently allowing us to permeate every aspect of your waking (and sometimes sleeping) life all arise because you are being seduced by a narcissist.

Accordingly, when you are experiencing life on the shelf with a narcissist, your emotional thinking is repeatedly obscuring logic and driving you to experience feelings in order to make you engage in some further way with the narcissist. Think back, even when you were on the shelf and experiencing what you came to realise was the golden period, did you truly feel secure and comfortable. If you are honest, you will realise you did not – you were always wanting more, wondering, contemplating and ultimately being controlled. The consequence of the emotional thinking invariably causes you to maintain contact with the narcissist by calling by, telephoning and sending messages. These are Hoover Triggers as you enter the narcissists sphere of influence and if you receive a response it is a hoover, because the Hoover Execution Criteria is met.

Ordinarily you would not contact a non-narcissist friend, family member, colleague or romantic interest in the same way because there is no addiction to feed. Where you are on the shelf with the narcissist, you keep making this contact and this results in a variety of outcomes :-

  1. The narcissist takes you off the shelf again as you are painted white, the HEC are met and thus you get a two hour conversation on the telephone or an evening at dinner or an afternoon in the countryside or a quick bunk-up in the back of the car around the back of Target – you are then returned to the shelf , or
  2. The narcissist throws you Comfort Crumbs. You are painted white but the narcissist does not need to hoover you and therefore does not. You are not painted black (although victims usually mistake comfort crumbs as meaning you are in devaluation) but instead the narcissist does not want to “play” with you (because he or she is playing with others in the fuel matrix) and thus you remain on the shelf. Keep “pestering” the narcissist to in effect hoover you and you will then become painted black and ignored, namely you get a silent treatment or you may be told off with a terse telephone call, email or text – both of these are Corrective Devaluations. These are temporary “slaps on the wrist” designed to make you go quiet and allow the narcissist to engage with others in the fuel matrix. If you comply, your being painted black will presently fade back to white (as it is a temporary state of affairs). However, if you reject this assertion of control, you remain painted black and you will continue to be ignored (or start to be ignored). Persist further and you may cause disengagement , or
  3. The narcissist has painted you black as you are placed on the shelf and you will receive a further Corrective Devaluation by way of a malign hoover as a consequence of your hoover trigger. The narcissist painted you black, put you on the shelf, but you keep “pestering” the narcissist, so you get further Corrective Devaluations. If you comply, then you will remain on the shelf and over time your black status will fade to white once more. Continue to reject this assertion of control and you will receive further Corrective Devaluations which may then culminate in disengagement.

This is life on the shelf. The sensation of unease ever present and always subject to our control.


19 thoughts on “Shelf Life

  1. Cloudy says:


    The worse feeling is being falsely loved & taken advantage of.

    Talk about how immature & naive somebody can be.

    Cant get over it.

  2. WokeAF says:

    The Addiction is so peculiar. I’ve looked at it from many angles. The MMR FELT like the IT guy- to be in his company was THE place to be. Even in NC , looking back, he still has the IT factor to me. I’ve seen it might be due to his chameleon ability to be whatever I or anyone else desires- in effect giving off a sense of being complete in his company.
    Yet even now, knowing he’s empty and it’s an illusion, the thought of him still has the IT factor sensation.

  3. Violetta says:

    I still don’t entirely understand the difference between emotions and emotional thinking. Some articles tell us to trust our instincts–if we feel uneasy about someone, there may be a good reason.

    How do we know when our emotions are useful or even legit?

    1. AnneB says:

      Violetta, I think it is that emotions are “hijacked” by emotional thinking so as to serve an addiction to the N. That is the abstract. I often have difficulty applying my intellectual understanding to various situations between me and N (or suspected N) in real life.

      I anticipate fuller understanding post consultations with H.G. in the new year.

      Happy Christmas!

    2. Whitney says:

      Dear Violetta,
      Emotional Thinking is when you think incorrectly, because of your emotional involvement in a situation.

      Emotional Thinking is: Emotion leading to—> Incorrect Thinking

      You know how outsiders have a clearer perspective on situations. Or how with time and space, you begin to think more clearly about a situation. Because when you’re involved, and emotional, you don’t always think objectively.
      (Except if you’re psychopathic you can always think clearly and logically 🙌)

      Emotions themselves are not right or wrong. It is just our conclusions and ideas that can be wrong, because of Emotion. These incorrect conclusions are called: Emotional Thinking

    3. Mercy says:

      Violetta, our instincts are not always reliable but I think of them as my first line of defense. If my instincts tell me something is off, that’s my clue to pay attention to my emotional thinking. Being aware and paying attention to our thinking will eventually help us distinguish between emotions and emotional thinking. I’m pretty sure it was you that replied to one of my comments saying emotions and emotional thinking are not one in the same. I’m sure I heard it a hundred times before but when you said it I was ready to make the connection. I’ve haven’t tested this new awareness in highly emotional situations yet but I hope I’m prepared in case a situation arises.

  4. Chihuahuamum says:

    The shelf is used to control too. Physically ive not been placed on the shelf but intimately many times over and i know as a fact its been not only bc of someone or others in the matrix but also as an ego boost that he feels he can do this. The only reason he can is bc ive allowed it.
    The reason a shelved secondary is at unease is bc with a romantic relationship you expect more from that person vs a friend or family. When you dont feel its recipricated at all times you get insecure.
    The ironic thing is being a secondary has its perks in that you stay in the white books moreso than a primary. Relationships work better intermittently with people with personality disorders. Theyre not cut out for a constant one person relationship. They are better staying single and spending time with many intermittently.

  5. Dolores Haze says:

    Love this post, HG!

    Ex-Narc can hoover my shelf as much as he wants now, I won’t even know about it. The shelf is now empty. This appliance escaped.

    Thank you for helping me, HG.

    1. HG Tudor says:

      You are welcome.

  6. BL says:

    This is the article that was my a-ha moment. My favorite of yours – it cleared up so much for me. 💗

  7. Notme! says:

    Thank you HG, what you wrote about control ‘NOW’ rather than ‘LATER’ and lack of accountability makes sense to me.
    I read the article, as the victim gets stressed at essentially ‘normal behaviout’ because of the ET inherent in the narcissistic entanglement.
    While I acknowledge my ET, I’m rejecting the idea that I somehow over reacted, pestered etc. because I didn’t as a rule.
    I appreciate your response, it smoothed me feathers

    1. HG Tudor says:

      You’re welcome

  8. Notme! says:

    A rare occasion that I don’t agree with you. I don’t think my anxiety had anything to do with ET. I was anxious and uncertain because of what the Narcissist said, it was nothing like a friendship or early dating with a non narcissist in which I know the nature of the relationship. He said this and that and convinced me that we were ‘together’ that ‘this is important’ blah blah blah. It was not by accident, it wasn’t magical thinking or addictive behaviour. It was a normal reaction to how the relationship was described and ‘sold’. I agree that the perverse nature of his interactions (manipulations) were tolerated because of ET, red flags ignored etc. But I don’t see that the ‘shelf’ dynamic is either instinctive and unplanned/uncalculated by the Narcissist. The idea that the Narcissist behaves (shelving) in the same way as non narcissists (not talking for a couple of days) doesn’t stack up. From my point of view, while the narcissist may act instinctively to exert control, telling someone one thing and doing another is a conscious act. For instance ‘I’ll call you at 18.30 as you said you wanted to talk’ and not showing up til 20.00 because ‘I fell asleep’ – this is bullshit and I believe purposeful.

    1. HG Tudor says:

      You are wrong. You are imposing your worldview on the circumstances and thus incorrectly conclude it was done deliberately. When the narcissist tells you at 1000 he will call at 1830 he is using the future to control THAT moment. By the time 1830 arrives, he may still have control over you, probably occupied with something else (and exerting contort over that appliance) and because of the sense of entitlement, lack of emotional empathy, no accountability and absence of obligation, you do not receive the call at 1830. The narcissist does not think “Oh it is 1830, I said I will call, but I will not.” It does not work like that. You erroneously think that it does work that way, because that is how you think, but it is not the way a narcissist thinks. Thus, you get drawn in by your emotional thinking in trying to get the narcissist to accept he told a lie, when from his perspective, he is not lying. He maintains he fell asleep because your challenge fuel of “why did you not call at 1830” threatens his control, so his narcissism has to assert control. It does so by deflecting and blameshfting – “I was alseep” therefore it is not my fault, therefore you cannot make me accountable and therefore you are not controlling me, therefore I am in control. This is what is happening unconsciously.

      1. RY says:

        Hi HG
        What if the N was silent when I asked him why he didn’t call at 18:30? Does that silence denote ‘I can do whatever I please whenever I please’?

        1. HG Tudor says:

          That is a Present Silent Treatment and is a form of manipulation to deflect from being accountable to you. It is done to assert control over you as your question amounts to Challenge Fuel.

          1. RY says:

            Thanks HG. Merry Christmas to you if you do celebrate.

      2. WokeAF says:

        Confusing. In your ebook “Devil’s Toolkit” (I think it was that one) you state the use of the tools is deliberate (?)

        1. HG Tudor says:

          Deliberate by the narcissism WokeAF which means when a Greater, calculated, other narcissists, instinctive, but in all types it is a deliberate act by the narcissism on behalf of the narcissist.

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