Why People Collect Things

I’m surprised it took me so long to into the semester to finally wonder about this, but I wanted to know if the process of collecting things comes from anywhere. Is it just out of pure love for the objects in question, or is it something more? I did a little research and found out that generally, it’s the latter. In his article “The Psychology of Collecting,” Mark B. McKinley turns the act of collecting into a diagnosis. He does acknowledge the relatively normal motivations behind it, such as potential investment, pure enjoyment, an attempt to expand one’s social life by attending meetings with similar collectors and trading, and of course, as a means of preserving the past. He then delves further into the psyche of the collector, noting that some people may be in it for the “quest,” knowing it is one that will never actually be complete. Some collectors may be in it for the “psychological security, filling a void in a sense of self. Or it could be to claim a means to distinction, much as uniforms make the ‘man.'” For others, their satisfaction lies in their ability to organize a part of the world, which allows them to have a sense of control, and one that replaces or eases that which is not in their control (fears, insecurities). McKinley offers Sigmund Freud’s explanation for why people collect, and it was pretty amusing, and nothing short of Freudian. He attributed the act of collecting things to one’s toilet training as a child, suggesting “that the loss of control and what went down the toilet was a traumatic occurrence and that, therefore, the collector is trying to gain back not only control but ‘possessions’ that were lost so many years ago.” Well, the outrageousness of this statement is self-explanatory. After Freud, McKinley then goes on to discuss the “dark side” of collecting – hoarding. Basically, hoarding is a result of the same type of insecurities or void-filling mentioned earlier, but extremely amplified, and those who suffer from this habit are typically majorly depressed, have OCD, and have “cognitive…deficits in decision-making [and] emotional attachment to objects.” The most recurring explanation McKinley offers is that collecting, in both its normal and abnormal forms, stems from a desire to feel like one is in control of something. I found that really interesting because until now, I really did believe that it was just like any other hobby. 


The psychology of collecting


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