why do you collect?
“Why do you collect?”
“Because it’s fun.”
But there’s always something behind what we find fun.
Freud open the door on the psychology of collecting, linking object fixation to the anal-retentive phase in childhood. Muensterberger, in his psychological perspective on the “Unruly Passion,” draws connections from preliterate fetish culture to Don Juan’s sexual exploits and concludes that collecting is a need-driven compensatory behavior where “every new object effectively gives the notion of fantasized omnipotence.” John Fowles dramatized the obsessional dark side in his haunting novel of control, “The Collector.”
He believed that we go through psychosexual stages in our development and that if we don’t progress healthfully through them, later psychological repercussions will ensue. In Freudian terms, perhaps the urge to collect, to acquire and hold, is sometimes anal-compulsive in nature and the urge to complete, to fill holes, is sometimes phallic because of incomplete development.
There’s unquestionably a psychological component to collecting. In his 1968 paper titled “The Psychoanalysis of the Numismatist,” M. Jean Hazard wrote that collectors can get into trouble if they let themselves sink into egoism and isolation. He also provided balance by talking about how collectors become numismatists when “the joy of learning overtakes the [joy] of acquiring and possessing.”
The difference between being a passionate collector and a fixated eccentric depends in part on whether other, more important aspects of life are neglected. Does collecting enrich your life without impoverishing other aspects of it or the lives of those around you? Much also depends on how much control you have. Can you pass up a buy, or have you reached the point where you can’t stop yourself? There was a time I remember I had a few pounds to eat, and I couldn’t resist buying some match boxes from the Camden market. Btw, 1 matchbox costs at least 2.50 pounds. Well, I ended up eating nothing for the rest of the week. But I wouldn’t change the feeling of satisfaction and hedonism the moment I was searching between the matches to find the right ones.