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.