Narcissist's Objects and Possessions

Uploaded 10/7/2010, approx. 6 minute read

I am Sam Vaknin, and I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.

Narcissists have a complex relationship with objects in general and with their possessions in particular.

First, there is the accumulator. This kind of narcissist jealously guards his possessions, his collections, his furniture, his cars, his children, his women, his money, his credit cards.

Objects comfort the accumulating narcissist. They remind him of his status. They are linked to gratifying events and thus constitute in themselves secondary sources of narcissistic supply.

These objects attest to the narcissist's wealth, his connections, his achievements, his friendships, his conquests, and his glorious past. They are kind of trophies.

No wonder that the accumulator narcissist is so attached to his objects. Objects connected with failures or embarrassments have no place in his abode. They get cast out.

Moreover, owning the right objects often guarantees the uninterrupted flow of narcissistic supply. A fleshy car or an ostentatious house help the somatic narcissist attract sexual apartments.

Owning a high-powered computer and a broadband connection or a sizable and expensive library facilitate the intellectual pursuits of the cerebral narcissist.

Sporting a glamorous wife and politically correct kids, he is indispensable in the careers of the narcissistic politician or show business or diplomat.

The narcissist parades these 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, when they fail to provoke admiration, attublation, marvel, awe, the narcissist feels wounded, humiliated, deprived, discriminated against, the victim of a conspiracy, in general, unloved.

Objects often make the accumulated narcissist what he is. They are an inseparable part of his pathology.

This type of narcissist is possessive. He obsesses about his belongings and collects them compulsively. He counts his money incessantly. He brands his objects as his own. He infuses them with his spirit and with his personality. He attributes to his objects his own traits.

He projects onto them his thwarted emotions, his fears, his hopes.

Objects and possessions are an integral part of the accumulated narcissist, inseparable. They provide him with emotional decor.

Such a narcissist, an accumulator, is likely to say, my car is daring and unstoppable or how clever is my computer or my dog is coming or my wife craves attention. All these are of course his own properties, qualities and traits.

The narcissist often compares people to the inanimate. Himself he sees as a computer or a sex machine. His wife he regards as some kind of luxury good.

The narcissist loves objects. He relates to them. Things he fails to do with humans, he does with objects. This is why he objectifies people. It makes it easier for him to interact with them.

Objects are predictable, they are reliable, always there, they are obedient, easy to control and manipulate, universally desired and they never talk back.

A long time ago I was asked if objects or pets could serve as sources of narcissistic supply.

Well the answer is of course yes. And especially so with a second type of narcissist, the discarder. Anything can serve as a source of narcissistic supply providing that it has the potential to attract people's attention and be the subject of their admiration.

This is why narcissists are in a morgue of status symbols. In other words, objects which comprehensively encapsulate, concisely convey a host of data regarding their owners. These data generate a reaction in people. They make them look at a narcissist, admire him, envy him, dream about his possession, compare him to others or aspire to beings to be him.

In short, these objects elicit narcissistic supply.

But generally, discarder narcissists do not like souvenirs and the memories they bring. They are afraid to get emotionally attached to these objects and then get hurt if the objects are lost or stolen or expropriated or taken by creditors.

Narcissists are sad people. Almost anything can depress them.

A tune, photograph, a work of art, a book, a mental image or a voice. Narcissists are people who divorced their emotions because their emotions are mostly negative and painful, followed by their basic trauma, by the early abuses that they have suffered.

So objects, situations, voices, sights, colors, they all can and do provoke and evoke unwanted memories in the narcissist.

The narcissist tries to avoid these pains and hurts and memories.

The discarded narcissist callously discards or gives away hard-won objects, memorabilia, gifts and property.

This behavior sustains his sense of control and lack of vulnerability.

He says, I'm not attached to anything. I'm in control. I can always give up.

It also proves to him that he is unique, not like other people who are attached to their material belongings. He is above all this. He is not as base and primitive as others.

Still, not all narcissists are accumulators or discardants. Accumulator narcissists take to objects and memorabilia, to voices and tunes, to sights and works of art as reminders of their past glory and of their potential future grandeur.

Many narcissists collect proofs and trophies of their sexual prowess, of their dramatic talent, of their past wealth, or of their intellectual achievements. They file these objects away almost compulsively. They have huge archives, huge shrines to themselves.

These are narcissistic handles. Narcissistic handle, the object that reminds the narcissist of his past, operates through the mechanism of narcissistic branding.

An example, objects which belong to former lovers are stunned by them and become their full-fledged representations. They are fetishized.

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. This is magical thinking.

The part represents the whole and the whole represents the positive gratifying experience of narcissistic supply.

Some clairvoyants claim to be able to extract all the information regarding the present, past, and future states of the owner of an object by holding it.

It is as though the object, the memory, or the sound carry the narcissist back to where and when narcissistic supply was abundant.

This powerful combination of branding and evidencing is what gives rise to what I call narcissistic contagion.

This is the ability of the narcissist to objectify people and to anthropomorphize objects. He treats people as objects and objects as he should have treated people.

This whole process of objectifying people and humanizing objects is simply a way of optimizing or actually maximizing narcissistic supply.

The narcissist is kind of pathogen. He transforms his human and non-human environment alike.

On the one hand, he invests as much affection and emotions in an inanimate object as healthier people invest in other human beings.

On the other hand, he transforms people around him to functions or objects.

In their effort to satisfy the needs of the narcissist, his nearest or dearest very often neglect their own needs, wishes, preferences, and priorities.

They feel that something is seeking wrong in their lives, but they are so entrapped, so much part of the narcissist's personal mythology that they cannot cut loose.

Manipulated through guilt, leveraged through fear, they are but a shadow of their former selves. They have contracted the disease. They have been infected and poisoned. They have been branded. They have become the objects of the narcissist.

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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.

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.

Inanimate Objects as Sources of Narcissistic Supply

Narcissists can find inanimate objects as sources of narcissistic supply, as long as they have the potential to attract attention and admiration. Narcissists often use objects as status symbols, which can elicit admiration, envy, and aspiration from others. However, narcissists can also become attached to objects and memorabilia, which can provide emotional support and remind them of their past glories and potential future grandeur. Narcissists can objectify people and anthropomorphize objects to derive maximum narcissistic supply from both, leading to a shared psychosis and cult-like behavior among those closest to them.

Narcissistic Boss or Employer: Coping and Survival Tactics

Narcissistic bosses or employers view their staff as sources of narcissistic supply and nothing else. They expect their employees to serve as an audience, adulate, and affirm their grandiose self-image. Any hint of equality, disagreement, or criticism threatens the narcissist profoundly. Narcissists feel suffocated by intimacy or routine and forever shift the blame, pass the buck, and engage in cognitive dissonance. Manipulating the narcissist is the only way an employee can survive in such a workplace.

Communal, Prosocial Narcissist as Compulsive Giver

Compulsive givers are a type of narcissist who feel superior to those they give to, and feel exploited when they have to pay for the needs of others. They are people pleasers and co-dependents who force themselves on others and have unrealistic expectations of gratitude. They have alloplastic defenses with an external locus of control, meaning they rely on others to regulate their self-worth and blame the world for their failures. They keep a mental ledger of what they give and receive and use false asceticism and fake modesty to prove their nearest and dearest are ingrates.

Narcissist Hedges His Bets

Narcissists engage in what could be described as narcissistic hedges, infusing selected subjects, topics, areas, and people with narcissistic investments. They prepare these fields, areas, topics, and people as auxiliary sources of narcissistic supply and as backup options in case of a systems failure. However, the correlation between the various selections the narcissist makes may not be very strong, which is why they can be used as hedges. Once a crisis erupts, the violently reduced narcissist, a faltering shadow of his former false self, is too depleted to make use of the narcissistic hedges that he has created in the first place for exactly such a situation of emergency.

Narcissist Hates His Fans, Followers, and Admirers

Narcissists depend on their followers for narcissistic supply but resent their addictive dependence and hold their followers in contempt. They see themselves as beyond human comprehension and refuse to grant anyone special privileges. The narcissist demands complete obedience from their followers and punishes those who stray. Cult leaders are often narcissists who failed to become famous and impress the world with their uniqueness, and they resent their followers for witnessing their fraudulence and failure.

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.

Recluse Narcissist

Narcissists do not have friends in the usual sense of the word, as they are only interested in securing the provision of narcissistic supply from others. They overvalue people when they are judged to be potential sources of supply, but discard them nonchalantly when they are no longer able or willing to supply them. The narcissist's behavior, choices, acts, attitudes, beliefs, interests, and life are curtailed by their sensitivity to outside opinion, and they avoid situations where they are likely to encounter opposition, criticism, or competition. The fear of flying is at the heart of narcissism.

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.

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