Perhaps, it’s the writer in me, but words fascinate me; more specifically, the history and evolution of words.
During the stint of recent research, I was introduced to the Greek myth of Narcissus and Echo, whose story is the basis of our current word Narcissist.
I read many versions of the story, some differing slightly, some including large details like a twin sister, but the one I will write about comes from Bulfinch’s Mythology by Thomas Bulfinch.
Narcissus was a hunter from Thespiae in Boeotia. Known for his beauty, many fell in love with Narcissus, but all were rejected. Narcissus believed that no one was worthy of his beauty and was often cruel to his suitors. He did not engage in games as he seemed indifferent to his peers.
While walking in the woods, Narcissus was spotted by Echo, a pretty mountain nymph. Echo, having crossed Juno previously, was only able to speak the last words spoken to her, never being able to initialize a conversation. However, seeing the beauty of Narcissus, she immediately fell deeply in love with him and so, she followed him into the woods.Sensing someone following him, Narcissus called out “Who’s here?”
“Here” Echo replied but remained hidden.
Seeing no one, Narcissus called out “Come.”
Echo replied “Come”
As no one came, Narcissus called out again, “Why do you shun me?”
Echo replied with the same question.
Trying a different tactic, Narcissus called out “Let us join one another,”
Echo answered again, “Let us join one another,” and darted from her hiding place, ready to embrace Narcissus.
Upon seeing Echo, Narcissus jumped back. “Hands off! I would rather die than you should have me!”
“Have me?” said Echo, but it was no use.
He left her there in the woods, where she hid her embarrassment, spending the rest of her days living in caves and among the mountain cliffs. Her body faded from grief, till at last, all her flesh shrank away. Her bones changed into rocks. All that was left of her was her voice, still ready to reply to anyone who calls her.
Narcissus’ cruelty to Echo, was not his only act. He shunned the rest of the nymphs as well. One day, a maiden who had in vain attempted to attract him and receiving the same fate said a prayer that he might feel what it was to love and not have it returned. An avenging goddess heard this prayer and granted it true.
After a day of hunting, Narcissus came to a clear fountain and stooped to drink. Looking down into the clear water, he saw what he believed to be a beautiful water spirit, but was in fact merely his own reflection. He stopped to gaze at the beautiful creature in the water and swiftly fell in love with himself.
Bringing his lips close to the water to take a kiss, but upon plunging his arms into the water to hug this water spirit, the surface of the water rippled, making it seem that the water spirt had swum away.
He called out to the water spirit to return. Once the pool of water calmed once again, so did Narcissus’ reflection and the illusion of the water spirit continued. Narcissus stayed at the water edge, entranced by his found fascination. He could not tear himself away and spent the rest of his days watching his own reflection. Having lost interest in food, sleep or living. He pined away and died.
The story struck strangely fitting to the cause and the effect of a narcissist. Being a victim of a narcissist leaves them invisible, with little to say for fear of engaging the narcissists’ rage. They are left unable to identify themselves out of embarrassment and damaged self-esteem, often just repeating to themselves the messages the narcissist filled their head with, much like our Dear Echo.
While I dive deeper into my research of the world of a narcissist, I feel the fate of any narcissist and empath interaction meets much the same fate as Narcissus and Echo. Both, fade away eventually because of the narcissist’s actions. The narcissist will never find a love greater than themselves. They are incapable of presenting to the world their true selves, and therefore can never find a love worthy to reciprocate. They themselves are a mere shell that fades away on its own merit in time.
Ah, the analogy of this story is very satisfying.