Narcissism FAQ: The Inanimate as a Source of Narcissistic Supply

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Question:

Can inanimate objects serve as sources of Narcissistic supply (Narcissistic Branding and Contagion)?

Answer:

ANYTHING can serve as a source of Narcissistic supply, providing that it has the potential to attract the attention of people within the Pathologic Narcissistic Space and be admired by them. This is why Narcissists are enamoured of status symbols. The latter are 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, admire, envy, dream, compare, or aspire. In short: they elicit Narcissistic supply for the benefit of the owner-Narcissist. But, generally, Narcissists do not like souvenirs and the memories attached to them. Narcissists are sad people. Almost anything can depress them: a tune, a 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, coloured by their basic trauma, by the early abuses that they suffered. Objects, situations, voices, sights, colours – all can provoke and evoke unwanted memories. The Narcissist tries to avoid them. As part of the Emotional Involvement Prevention Measures, the Narcissist callously discards or gives away hard-won objects, memorabilia, gifts and property. This behaviour sustains his sense of control and his lack of vulnerability. It also proves to him that he is unique, not like “other people” who are attached to their material belongings. He is above this.

Elsewhere, we mentioned the Narcissist’s ability to “delete” people, events and places from his consciousness. He does it with ease and, apparently, without any traces. He just “switches off”. To the on-looker this is terrifying. The Narcissist moves from one pole (of care, love, intense interest, involvement, commitment, protection and over-valuation) – to another (of total disregard, neglect and lack of any interest or emotional involvement, even onto negative emotions, like repulsion). The transition is not the result of cumulative events and information. Mostly, it is the tip of an inner iceberg of endogenic psychological dynamics.

Still, not all narcissists are like this. Some narcissists can take to objects and memorabilia, to voices and tunes, to sights and to works of art – as reminders of their past glory and of their potential future grandeur. Many Narcissists collect proofs of their sexual prowess, dramatic talent, past wealth, or intellectual achievements. They file them away almost compulsively. These are the “Narcissistic Handles”.

The Narcissistic Handle operates through the mechanism of Narcissistic branding. A PNSS or SNSS (Primary or Secondary Sources of Narcissistic Supply) “brands” the corresponding Narcissistic Handles. An example: objects, which belonged to former lovers, are “stamped” by them and become a full-fledged representation of them. They are fetishized. By interacting with these objects, the Narcissist recreates the Narcissistic-supply-rich situation, within which they were introduced into his life in the first place. This is magical thinking. Some clairvoyants claim to be able to extract all the information regarding the present, past and future states of the owner of an object they hold. It is as though the object, the memory, or the sound carry the Narcissist back to where and when Narcissistic Supply was abundant.

The second function is to prove to the Narcissist that he is not hallucinating and that what he is telling others regarding himself, his grandiose fantasies, his achievements, brilliance, ideal love, fabulous wealth and regarding his past is true. Contrary to common sense, the Narcissist is not out to prove anything to the outside world. It is he who is in doubt. The False Self is false and divorced from the True Self. It is a mechanism built at an early age to effectively and perfectly shield the Narcissist from the outside world. This is exactly why the Narcissist constantly demands input from the outside. He can never be certain whether “he” (=his false self) exists (in the “right” manner) – because he has no contact with the false self. The two selves are incommunicado. It is through other people that the Narcissist communicates with his selves. He is made self-aware by watching others’ reactions, by listening to their words, by studying them. Narcissistic Handles are strong and reliable proofs that the Narcissist’s False Self did successfully exist in the past. There is no difference, in principle, between Narcissistic Handles and SNSS. Narcissistic Handles are as efficaciously functional as a spouse, for instance. Both accumulate past Narcissistic supply and, thus, enable the Narcissist to regulate the regime of his Narcissistic supply, and to draw on the reserve of accumulated supply in times of short supply.

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 anthropomorphesize objects in order to derive the maximum Narcissistic supply from them. The Narcissist is a pathogen. He transforms his human and non-human environments alike. On the one hand, he would invest as much affection and emotions in an inanimate object as healthier people would in a human being – if this object were a Narcissistic Handle. On the other hand, people around him are transformed by him and become timid or rebellious, paranoid or phobic, depressed or manic. They are reduced not only in the eyes of the Narcissist – but in reality and in their own eyes – to functions, to objects. In their effort to satisfy the need of the Narcissist to exist – they very often neglect their own existence. 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 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 of Narcissism. They have been infected and poisoned. They have been branded.

Sam Vaknin is the author of Malignant Self Love, and runs the website Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited.Sam has served as the author of the Personality Disorders topic, Narcissistic Personality Disorder topic, the Verbal and Emotional Abuse topic, and the Spousal Abuse and Domestic Violence topic, Suite101.

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