Narcissus and Echo

It’s Narcissist Friday!

Many generations ago, in the nearly forgotten times, there were two young people bound by their own needs.  One was the nymph named Echo.  Echo loved to talk.  She longed for lasting relationship with someone who valued her.  She extended every conversation by adding one more comment, thus pulling the person more and more into relationship with her.  One day Echo entered into a conversation with a beautiful woman.  Frustrated by the girl’s need to have the last word, the beautiful woman (who was really the goddess Juno) placed a curse on Echo.  She would have the last word of every conversation, but never the first; and her last words would always be the last words of the person with whom she was talking.

Soon Echo was driven to the woods and hills to escape relationships.  She despaired of love and acceptance.  But then she found the young man named Narcissus.  Narcissus moved with the grace and assurance of a young god.  He was beautiful to look at and all people loved him.  They had showered him with praises from the time of his birth.  Echo fell in love with Narcissus.

But Narcissus loved no one.  When Echo reached out to him, she was able only to speak his own last few words back to him.  A conversation ensued and Echo believed there was hope for a relationship.  But Narcissus did not enjoy the sound of his own words.  Their stark honesty made him bitter against Echo and he pushed her away.  With a broken heart, Echo retreated to the caves and hills again.  No one has seen her since.

But Narcissus continued his life, never opening his heart to another, rejecting all who came to love him, until the day his own curse came to its fruit.  He stopped at a pool where the water was perfectly still and he looked at his own reflection.  Suddenly, Narcissus was in love.  No one had been so beautiful, so full of promise, so wonderful in potential.  For the first and only time in his life, Narcissus found a relationship he would enjoy.

No matter how others urged him, Narcissus would not leave the pool.  From time to time he reached out to embrace his image, but the water stirred and the image was lost.  Forever just out of reach, the image called to him and captured his heart.  Finally, one day people noticed that Narcissus no longer leaned over the little pool.  He was gone.  In his place stood a beautiful white flower which has forever borne his name.

So, there you have it—the story of Narcissus and Echo.  Those ancient storytellers understood human nature in ways we are just beginning to reclaim.  The classic narcissist and his classic victim captured in a tale told to children for millennia.  The story has different versions and is told with different emphases, but the message continues to explain what so many see today.

6 Comments

Filed under Narcissism, Relationship

6 responses to “Narcissus and Echo

  1. Everything that happens in their life is either a good or bad reflection on them. People who disagree with them: BAD. People who love them and praise them without question: GOOD. They can’t step away from their own egos long enough to realize that not everything is about them and shouldn’t be about them, especially if relationships are expected to blossom and grow and continuously be reborn. I pray for the narcissist who is no longer in my life. I pray that he will look away from himself long enough to truly find and cherish the beauty of another, so his life of failed relationships can end. I wish happiness will find him.

    • Paula, I have truly appreciated your comments. You have a good understanding of what a narcissist is about, but I am sorry that the knowledge has come through so much personal pain. No one matters to the narcissist except as a mirror and, as you point out, when the reflection is negative he can be very unhappy. It is all about him simply because he cannot see someone else. When that someone else is you, it hurts.

      I also appreciate what you have said here at the end of the comment. I once read that the most common response for a victim of a narcissist, when she/he finally figures out what has happened, is rage. I know you know what I mean. That rage actually feels good for a while, then it begins to poison us. The most effective thing the victim can do is turn away from the narcissist. Don’t ignore what has happened or the things you have learned, but think of him as a broken person who is dangerous for others because of that brokenness. Then wish him well and walk forever away. Be free!

      • I just don’t want to see others suffer what I have suffered because of him. I have expanded my blog to include a page dedicated to resources on Abuse. One of the categories is Emotional Abuse, which I have already started populating with sites and information you have shared on narcissistic personality disorder. One of the great consequences of this research and information gathering is that I am becoming more and more aware of how many other people have experienced similar nightmares. It’s comforting, in a way, to know I am not alone and can talk to others about what I have been through and have them “get me” and me get them.

      • Cecilia K

        I actually felt rage periodically throughout the relationship – i.e., when I felt abused, confused, manipulated, etc. – which my ex-boyfriend jumped on and warned me about my anger problem, and it was only when I learned what had been going (i.e., finding your blog, Pastor Dave) that I felt my rage melt away. Once I had a name to identify what I was dealing with and had a better understanding of his behavior, and, like you comment on later, below, once I knew that I was not the one with the problem (not that I was completely fault-free, of course), I found it much easier to let go and relax. It lifted the burden off of me.

      • Cecilia K

        Actually, just to clarify, that’s not to say that I never still feel some anger toward my ex, but rage is not where I live anymore, thanks to the Lord using you, Pastor Dave, and the many other victims/survivors of narcissistic abuse who share their stories here.

  2. Personally, I found it comforting/affirming to know that the narcissist was the one with the problem rather than me. They are so good at projecting their problems onto others that their victims actually begin to believe the message. They are also quite purposeful in isolating their victims. When we learn that others understand, it truly is a relief and a hint that health and freedom are possible.

    Let me know how I can help as you write and provide resources. I have tried to stay within a Christian context because many Christians find this very hard to understand and the Christian community has ways to excuse and even bless narcissism. But there are many resources out there that are very helpful and the more we get this info out, the less power the narcissists will have.

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