Inanimate Objects as Sources of Narcissistic Supply

Uploaded 5/25/2013, approx. 5 minute read

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.

An example.

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.

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Narcissist's Objects and Possessions

Narcissists have a complex relationship with objects and possessions, with some being accumulators who jealously guard their belongings and others being discarders who give away their possessions to sustain their sense of control. Objects provide emotional decor and elicit narcissistic supply, and the narcissist often compares people to the inanimate. Narcissists collect proofs and trophies of their sexual prowess, dramatic talent, past wealth, or intellectual achievements, and these objects operate through the mechanism of narcissistic branding. The narcissist is a pathogen who transforms his human and non-human environment alike, objectifying people and anthropomorphizing objects to optimize or maximize narcissistic supply.

Narcissist Re-idealizes Discarded Sources of Narcissistic Supply

Narcissists keep discarded sources of supply in reserve and seek them out when they have no other supply source. They frantically try to recycle their old sources and re-idealize them without admitting to having been mistaken in the first place. To preserve their grandiosity, they come up with a narrative that accommodates both the devaluing content and the re-idealized image of the source. If you are an old source of narcissistic supply, simply ignore the narcissist as indifference is what they cannot stand.

When the Narcissist's Parents Die

The death of a narcissist's parents can be a complicated experience. The narcissist has a mixed reaction to their passing, feeling both elation and grief. The parents are often the source of the narcissist's trauma and continue to haunt them long after they die. The death of the parents also represents a loss of a reliable source of narcissistic supply, which can lead to severe depression. Additionally, the narcissist's unfinished business with their parents can lead to unresolved conflicts and pressure that deforms their personality.

Narcissist Has No Friends

Narcissists treat their friends like Watson and Hastings, who are obsequious and unthreatening, and provide them with an adulating gallery. Narcissists cannot empathize or love, and therefore have no real friends. They are interested in securing narcissistic supply from narcissistic supply sources. The narcissist overvalues people when they are judged to be potential sources of supply, and devalues them when no longer able to supply him, ultimately leading to the alienation and distancing of people.

Negative, Fake, Low-grade Narcissistic Supply

Narcissists crave attention, both positive and negative, and use it to regulate their sense of self-worth. They construct a false self and project it onto others to elicit admiration, adulation, and fear. Negative supply can become narcissistic supply when positive supply is scarce. Narcissists also crave punishment, which confirms their view of themselves as worthless and relieves them of the inner conflict they endure when they are successful.

Why Narcissist Devalues YOU (Hint: Wants YOU "Dead")

Narcissists devalue their partners as a form of self-defense and control. There are two types of devaluation: preemptive and reactive. Preemptive devaluation occurs when a narcissist is in a transitional state between overt and covert narcissism, and they devalue potential sources of supply to prevent the overt side from using them against the covert side. Reactive devaluation is a response to a perceived threat to the narcissist's grandiosity or control. Both types of devaluation are harmful to the victim and serve to maintain the narcissist's sense of power and control.

Witnessing the Narcissist's Glory: Secondary Narcissistic Supply

Narcissists exist by reflection, living through the memories of others. The essence of secondary narcissistic supply is witnessing the narcissist's glory days, and the narcissist needs to be actively reminded of his achievements and moments of glory. Memories of past grandeur substitute for narcissistic supply, and the main function of people in the narcissist's life is to tell the narcissist how great he is because of how great he was. The disappearance of witnesses causes the narcissist to fade, and the narcissist is incapable of ever knowing himself except via and through other people.

Narcissistic Supply: Narcissist's Drug

Narcissistic supply is the attention, admiration, and adulation that a narcissist seeks from others to regulate their sense of self-worth and self-esteem. The narcissist projects a false self, which is everything they are not, to elicit constant interest and reactions from others. There are two types of narcissistic supply: primary, which is attention, and secondary, which includes leading a normal life. The sources of supply are those who provide the narcissist with narcissistic supply on a casual or regular basis. Narcissistic supply is the fuel that runs the narcissist's machine and is the drug to which they are addicted.

Remain Friends with the Narcissist?

Narcissists are only friendly when they need something from you, such as narcissistic supply, help, support, votes, money, or sex. They also become friendly when they feel threatened and want to smother the threat with pleasantries. Narcissists are also over-friendly when they have just been infused with an overdose of narcissistic supply. Some people prefer to live with narcissists because they have been conditioned to treat narcissistic abuse as background noise and are compensated for the abuse by the thrills provided by living with a narcissist. However, inverted narcissists are typically unhappy and in need of help, which suggests that they are victims who experience the Stockholm Syndrome.

People-pleasers and Pathological Charmers

People pleasers are often dishonest and manipulative, seeking to foster dependence in their beneficiaries. They use a range of coping strategies, including infantilization and self-sacrifice. People pleasers are a subset of pathological charmers, who are mostly narcissists. Pathological charmers use their charm to manipulate others and exert control, and feel threatened when their charm fails to elicit narcissistic supply.

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