Archive for September, 2013

narcissus-and-echo-500x280Narcissism was on the verge of being abolished this year. In the mental health community ego-centric behavior was almost deemed no longer relevant, and for good reason. Narcissism is often associated with regarding someone who is self centered with a strong ego. Narcissism was founded in two ancient myths, one is Greek and the other is Greco-Roman. The difference between the two is the Greco-Roman myth is a little longer than the Greek but both end pretty much the same. Below is the historical and ancient myth explanation of Narcissus.

The Greek Version of the myth of Narcissus

NARKISSOS (or Narcissus) was a young man from the town of Thespiai in Boiotia, a son of the river-god Kephisos and the fountain-nymph Liriope. He was celebrated for his beauty, and attracted many admirers but, in his arrogance, spurned them all. The suffering of two, however, brought down upon him a deadly curse. First there was the nymphe Ekho–a girl cursed by Hera to repeat only the last words of what was said before. When she was rejected by the boy, Ekho faded away in her despair leaving nothing behind but the haunting voice of her echo.


The other admirer was the youth Ameinias who became distraught when Narkissos cruelly spurned him and slew himself before his door, calling on the goddess Nemesis to avenge him. His prayer was quickly answered, when Narkissos fell in love with his own image reflected in a pool. Gazing endlessly at the reflection, he slowly pined away and was transformed by the nymphs into a narcissus flower. Others, however, say he was filled with despair and remorse and killed himself beside the pool. From his dying life’s blood the flower was born. Narkissos was the ancient Greek word for the narcissus flower or daffodil.

So what does this have to do with modern psychology?

The father of modern psychology, Sigmund Freud, described Narcissism as a person who “denotes an excessive degree of self-esteem or self-involvement, a condition that is usually a form of emotional immaturity. “  The American Psychological Association came out with a new and updated diagnostic and statistical manual (DSM) this year. This manual is used by mental health clinicians to diagnose their clients. Historically Narcissistic Personality Disorder was listed in the older versions and the new version, DSM-V, was originally going to eliminate Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Why?

The Greeks had a very interesting way of pointing out something in someone that was amiss. They told a story. Through that story people could identify others or themselves something that was going on and the destructive results that occur as exhibited through the story. So why after thousands of years of recognizing Narcissism would a professional psychiatric organization want to remove Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

Many circles blame social media because it gives the Narcissist the reflection of themselves they are looking for.

There are two rule outs in the DSM; cultural norms and within the context of religious practices. Guess what? Narcissism was considered as becoming a cultural norm and therefore was originally going to be left out of the new DSM.

It is interesting that an entire Greek culture turned a condition into a myth as an example of something unusual has transformed into a norm in modern society.

There are some behavioral red flags that a person can look for when dealing with someone who is Narcissistic.

  • Just like Narcissus, they reject others when others no longer serve them a purpose. This is common with Narcissists and codependents (not all codependents, they just make good candidates). For example, when a codependent discovers the Narcissistic behavior and draws a boundary the Narcissist will usually toss them aside and find a new person. Professionals call the people that the Narcissists surround themselves with Narcissistic Feed. They need this feed to feel grandiose or special.  (all about me)
  • Artificially and overly charming. They buddy up to people they want something from and when they get it they tend to disappear. That is until they want something else. This is the nice Narcissist and often make great business owners, entertainers and politicians as they can be very resourceful. Just be on the lookout if using the word “no” with them.
  • Using “no” brings wrath. The thinking here, and this is the ego defense mechanisms kicking in, is “how dare you.” This is the not so nice version of a Narcissist. They often become so wrapped up in themselves that when someone does not want to do what the Narcissist wants, the Narcissist gets defensive, angry and sometimes hostile towards others. Remember emotional immaturity? In the show Everyone Loves Raymond, Raymond’s mother Marie is an example of a female Narcissist.

So What to Do?

A person suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder can be treated with Psychotherapy or “talk therapy.” It can and often takes years of frequent counseling sessions for a Narcissist to work through. That is if the person who has it is willing to work through it. This condition is typically rooted with issues that occurred in their formative years and therapy involves reworking everything that they have come to know and identify with themselves. It is a core identity issue and most will run from therapy not realizing it is the condition that is causing them to want to run.

The timing in therapy to expose this is delicate. Timing even off by a little breaches their inner wound too soon and therapy is added to the list of threats to the core identity. Most people who are involved with a Narcissist in their lives catch on after a while that something is wrong or off. Sometimes they shut down and let the Narcissist run everything (codependency) or draw a boundary and move on.  Narcissism can be debilitating and often the person who suffers from it in the long run begins to ask questions when they find themselves very alone staring at their reflection just like Narcissus did in the Greek myth.

“A mirror is like my own personal reality TV show—where I’m both the star and only viewer. I’ve got to get my ratings up.
Jarod Kintz,





Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: