Most of us are attached to our possessions to some degree. Many of them make our lives easier or more fun. Some may be symbols of affluence or success, while others are tools with useful functions. They all serve us in some way, either socially or personally, for work or for entertainment.
There can also be a deeper dimension to some of the things that we own: emotion. Perhaps our possessions remind us fondly of friends and family members or comfort us when we’re feeling down. It’s not uncommon for most people to have a few items like this, but some take these sorts of connections to broader or deeper extremes.
To investigate this behavior, we asked our community to agree or disagree with the statement, “You are emotionally attached to your possessions.” A modest majority agreed (65%), and there were some noteworthy correlations to certain personality traits.
Which personality types are most likely to feel possessed by their possessions? Let’s examine the results below.
Diplomats (73% agreeing)
Diplomats, defined by their core Intuitive and Feeling personality traits, agreed more than any other Role that they are emotionally attached to their possessions. Overall, Intuitive types were 11% more likely than Observant types to agree (71% vs. 60%, respectively).
Intuitive personality types are highly imaginative, often creating multidimensional internal scenarios surrounding common things. They’re also always trying to find meaning. These tendencies can connect them deeply to inanimate objects, including their possessions, as they ascribe meaning to them. This is only heightened in Diplomats by their Feeing trait, which adds an emotional layer to everything that they experience. Diplomats can easily become sentimental.
Analysts are also Intuitive personalities, so, as with Diplomats, material items may take on symbolic importance for them, and they can begin to have feelings about them. Analysts, however, are less emotionally charged than Diplomats, owing to their Thinking trait. They’re better able to take a logical step back and regard their possessions rationally and objectively.
Still, it’s interesting to note that the Nature personality aspect didn’t have as strong an influence on this survey as we might have expected. Thinking types (63%) were just 5% less likely than Feeling types (68%) to agree that they feel emotionally tied to their belongings. In fact, as we’ll see when we discuss the Strategies below, an Analyst personality type was actually at the top of the results.
Explorers and Sentinels (61% and 60%)
Explorers and Sentinels share the Observant trait and tend to focus on concrete, factual information, instead of creating their own subjective narratives in their heads. Observant personalities are likely to take a literal, rather than symbolic, view of their possessions as replaceable objects that serve a specific function.
Despite this pragmatic perspective, a modest majority of Explorers and Sentinels still admitted that they can become emotionally attached to their belongings. But they probably reserve these feelings only for items that have served a truly important, meaningful role in their lives.
Social Engagement and Constant Improvement (77% and 76% agreeing)
The Identity personality aspect proved to be by far the most significant factor in this survey. Individuals with Turbulent Identities were 24% more likely than those with Assertive Identities to agree that they are emotionally attached to their possessions (77% vs. 53%, respectively). Thus, members of the Social Engagement and Constant Improvement Strategies agreed at the highest (and almost identical) rates.
Turbulent personality types are prone to emotional volatility, including responses like sentimentality, regret, and nostalgia. A positive memory or association sparked by a seemingly ordinary object can be as valuable as any functional tool for a person with somewhat chaotic emotions. Something like a favorite piece of clothing or furniture, a photo album, or a game system can easily become a soothing, meaningful part of their comfort habits.
It’s also possible that, since Turbulent personalities tend to struggle with self-esteem, their possessions can become emotionally wrapped up with their sense of self and how others view them.
For Social Engagers, this likely involves some concern with social standing. Certain possessions may represent a degree of success, affluence, or social status that they wish to convey to others. Constant Improvers may want their possessions to represent some ideal of personal perfection, whether it’s impeccably coordinated decor or an expertly curated collection of music or books. Either way of approaching the things that we own can become exhausting for anyone, especially Turbulent personalities.
Of all the personality types, Turbulent Advocates (INFJ-T) and Turbulent Commanders (ENTJ-T) tied as the most likely to agree with our statement, at 81% each. On the surface, both of these results might seem surprising.
Advocates are known for being idealistic, altruistic, and even mystical – not the types to be tied down by worldly concerns like possessions. But it may be because they are so tirelessly devoted to others that their personal belongings – the special things reserved just for them – take on that much more significance. Turbulent Advocates in particular may look to these items as a refuge of calmness or comfort that they can rely on at the end of a long day.
Commanders are visionary leaders who have a reputation for being emotionally insensitive and even ruthless in the pursuit of their goals. It’s difficult to picture a hyperrational Commander harboring sentimental feelings for their belongings. But even this strong-willed personality type is subject to moments of angst and self-doubt, especially when they have a Turbulent Identity. Because Commanders take the most satisfaction from their achievements, any emotional attachment to their possessions likely relates to reminders of their strengths and successes, tangible symbols of their victories, and items that inspire pride.
People Mastery and Confident Individualism (54% and 52%)
Only a slight majority of People Masters and Confident Individualists – the two Assertive Strategies – agreed that they feel connected to their possessions. Assertive personalities have a sort of internal source of comfort and stability that may preclude the need to look to their possessions for these things.
In addition, Assertive types usually don’t spend much time reflecting on the past, so their belongings are not likely to evoke strong feelings of nostalgia. People Masters and Confident Individualists can certainly still find emotional connections to objects for specific reasons, but they’re much less likely than Turbulent personalities to be broadly bonded to their possessions in general.
Assertive Logisticians (ISTJ-A) were the least likely personality type to agree that they are emotionally attached to their belongings, at just 42%. These no-nonsense personalities generally don’t get too emotional about anything, and indeed tend to view emotional dependence as a weakness. Traditions, rules, standards, and personal responsibilities at work and at home usually take precedence for Logisticians – not the things that they own.
It’s worth pointing out, though, that Turbulent Logisticians (73%) agreed at a rate 31% higher than their Assertive counterparts – the largest gap between the Assertive and Turbulent variants of any personality type, and another reminder that even the most rational of personalities can get emotional about personal items that hold special significance.
This survey helps us understand how certain personality types imbue inanimate objects with meaning, and the degree to which they allow that meaning to grow and evolve into emotional attachments. Personalities with Turbulent Identities are the most apt to feel intimately connected with their possessions, but Intuitive types, with their vivid imagination, and Feeling types, with their empathetic sensitivity, are also likely to do so.
This is a perfectly normal impulse, but can it be unhealthy? If not put into perspective, too much attachment to too many objects could lead to habits like greediness or hoarding, or it could hold us back from trying new things or moving forward with our lives.
More often, though, feeling attached to items that hold personal significance can serve as a source of happy memories, positive reinforcement about ourselves, and emotional comfort, stability, and support.
What about you? Are you emotionally attached to your possessions? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.