My name is Sam Vaknin, and I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.
We know that people can serve as sources of narcissistic supply. They can give attention, they can admire the narcissist, adulate him, or fear him, so they serve as sources of supply.
But can inanimate objects serve as sources of narcissistic supply? Well, the answer is that anything can serve as sources of supply, providing that it has the potential to attract people's attention and be the subject of their admiration.
This is why narcissists are a source of status symbols, in other words, objects, which comprehensively encapsulate and concisely convey a host of data regarding their owners. These data generate a reaction in people. They make them look on, admire, envy, dream, compare, or aspire.
In short, they elicit from onlookers narcissistic supply, a flashy car, a mansion, a great apartment, a well-situated office, a sexy secretary.
But generally, discard their narcissists into the trash and the memories they foster. They are afraid to get emotionally attached to them and then get hurt if the objects are lost or stolen or taken.
Narcissists are actually sad people. Almost anything can depress them. A photograph, a work of art, a book, a mental image, or a voice. Narcissists are people who have divorced their emotions because their emotions are mostly negative and painful, colored by their basic trauma and by the early abuses that they had suffered. Objects, situations, voices, sights, colors provoke and evoke unwanted memories in narcissists. Narcissists try to avoid these. They discard their narcissists, callously discard or give away hard-won objects, memorabilia, gifts, and property.
This behavior sustains his sense of omnipotent control and lack of underability. I never get attached to anything, he says. Nothing is a hold of me.
This kind of behavior also proves to the narcissist that he is unique, not like other people who get attached to their material belongings. He is above it all. He is superior.
But then we have also the accumulator narcissist. This kind of narcissist generously guards his possessions, his collections, his furniture, his cards, his children, his women, his money, his credit cards, and so on.
Objects comfort this type of narcissist. They remind him of his status. They are linked to gratifying events and thus constitute secondary sources of supply. They attest to the narcissist's wealth, his connections, his position in society, his achievements, his friendships, his coquets, and his glorious past.
No wonder the narcissist is so attached to them. Objects connected with failures or endorsements have no place in his abode. They get cast out.
Moreover, for the accumulator narcissist, owning the right objects often guarantees the uninterrupted flow of narcissistic supply. A flashy car or an ostentatious house helps the somatic narcissist attract sexual partners. Owning a high-powered computer and a brought-down connection or a sizable and expensive library facilitate the intellectual pursuits of the cerebral narcissist. Sporting a glamorous wife with politically correct kids is indispensable in the careers of narcissistic politicians or diplomats.
The narcissist parades his objects, flaunts them, consumes them conspicuously, praises them vocally, draws attention to them compulsively, brags about them incessantly.
When they fail to elicit narcissistic supply of irritation, adoration, marvel, the narcissist feels wanted, humiliated, deprived, and discriminated against, infected with a conspiracy, and generally unloved. Objects make the accumulator narcissist. What is?
They are an integral part of his pathology. This type of narcissist is possessive. He obsesses about his belongings and collects them compulsively. He brands them as his own. He infuses them with his spirit and his personality. He attributes to them his traits. He projects onto them his faulted emotions, his fears, his hopes.
They are an integral part of him, inseparable, providing emotional support.
Such an accumulated narcissist says, my car is daring and unstoppable, or how clever is my computer, or my dog is coming, or my wife craves attention.
He often compares people to the inanimate. Himself he regards, literally, not only figuratively or metaphorically, as a computer or sex machine. His wife he uses some kind of a luxury good or a trophy.
The narcissist loves objects and relates to them, which he fails to do with humans. This is why he objectifies people. It makes it easier for him to interact with people. Objects are predictable, reliable, or with their obedient, easy to control and manipulate, universally desired, and great attention attractives.
Still, not all narcissists are like this.
Accumulated narcissists take to objects and memorabilia, to voices and tunes, to signs and to works of art, as reminders of their past glories and of their potential future grandeur.
Many narcissists collect proofs and trophies of their sexual prowess, traumatic talent, past wealth or intellectual achievements. They file them away, almost compulsively.
And these are the narcissistic handles.
The narcissistic handle operates through the mechanism of narcissistic branding.
As far as the narcissist is concerned, objects, which belong to former lovers, are stamped by them and become their full-fledged representations. They become fetishes. By interacting with these objects, the narcissist recreates a narcissistic supply-rich situation within which the objects were introduced into his life in the first place.
And this is a form of magical thinking.
Some clairvoyants claim to be able to extract from an object all the information regarding the present, past and future of each successive owner. It is as though the object, the memory or the sound, carried the narcissist back to where and when narcissistic supply was aplenty.
This powerful combination of branding and evidencing is what gives rise to the narcissistic contagion.
This is the ability of the narcissist to objectify people and to anthropomorphize objects in order to derive the maximum narcissistic supply from both.
On the one hand, the narcissist invests as much affection and emotions in inanimate objects as healthier people do in human beings. On the other hand, he transforms people around him into functions, or mere objects.
In their effort to cater to the needs of the narcissist, his closest, nearest and dearest, very often neglect their own needs. They feel that something is sick and wrong in their lives, but they are so entrapped, so much part of the narcissist's personal mythology and shared psychosis, that they cannot cut loose, manipulate it through guilt, leverage through fear.
They become a shadow of their former selves, members of an all-consuming cult. They have contracted the disease of narcissism. They have been infected and poisoned. They have been branded, and they have become his objects.