The True Narcissus

16 08 2017

I’d like to argue that vanity of egoistic self admiration is a false rendering of the truth of Narcissus. Freud popularised the term “narcissism” and people now always think of selfie-taking girls or politicians that refer to themselves constantly. These are not the true narcissists, and the truth of Narcissus and Echo may well be far more romantic and beautiful than the modern interpretation would have us believe.

I’d like people who are genuinely interested in Narcissus and the asteroid 37117, which has been ascribed to Narcissus, to read the literature that can be found in extensive detail here:

I believe that the current definition of “narcissism” is an injustice done to the tragic hero of the ancient Greek myth. I don’t think it is vanity, or egoistic self admiration. After having spent some a good amount of time thinking about the myth and analysing the asteroid 37117, it has come to my mind that Narcissus has been a victim of a false tales.

In the original text Narcissus is believe it or not a total introvert. So the idea of vanity does not fit at all. Nor does egoism, as both of these depend on being admired by others. When he glares in the pool is it self admiration, or is he looking for something or someone he’s lost? Please read the original story of Narcissus, I kid you not, Narcissus does not seek attention from anyone. He is a 12th house tragic lonely figure, dying alone without a soul in sight in the forest by a pool of water. The lost voice of Echo, his would be lover echoes in the distance. She is his counterpart.

So the story goes that Narcissus looked into a pool of water and “fell in love” with his image. He rejected others who wanted to love him, but he was cursed. I’d like to argue that this has nothing to do with vanity as it depends on others. Women who are obsessed with their appearance in order to get attention or men who brag endlessly about their achievements are not the true narcissists. The story of Narcissus is about rejection and then seeking to find what was lost.

The true Narcissus couldn’t care less what others think about him. He’s rejected others’ love and company. He may be shy, or scared. When he looks into the water what is he seeing? I’d like to argue, he is not seeing his image, he’s not “in love” with his image. He’s searching, he’s staring into another world. Water is the symbol for a doorway into another world, a different element, and one where noise and sound is not heard. Echo is Narcissus’ heroine. It is a wonder that psychology ignored Echo in creating the modern definition of narcissism. It’s a love story about two people who are cursed.

The Greeks knew what they were doing. The ancients knew what they were doing.

The story does not describe two people who are nasty or horrid in any way. The ancient Greeks had a very tight symbolic understanding. Narcissus was cursed by an inability to lift his eyes away from the water, he became fixated with a different realm. Narcissus is more a “head in the clouds” figure in this sense. And Echo, was cursed with a communication breakdown, she could not get her true feelings out.

This is a love story. Ultimately, like Romeo and Juliet. They are two lovers who could have made it together but the mediums of elements of water and air decided to cause separation. Separation is the key. In the myth Narcissus is unable to communicate, due to his distraction, all communication is cut off. Echo can’t say how she feels. And the travesty of the 20th century legacy of the term is that their true meaning in mainstream language is completely inverted and warped to mean something utterly different from the original story.

It is unlikely to be possible to change the current dictionary definition of “narcissism”, though it would be appropriate in light of the original story. Here is a possible more appropriate signification of what Narcissus really means.

  • Introversion.
  • Rejection of the lime light.
  • Rejection of all social interaction.
  • Rejection of egoistic attention seeking
  • Escapism
  • Rejection, both being rejected and rejecting

As you can see from this list, there is no mention of ego, in fact it is the opposite, it searching for a self which is missing, or another, as I will suggest.

A second story of Narcissus exists where he had a twin sister who died. He would go to the pond to see his reflection in order to try to see her. There is more than meets the eye to this story and it serves us well to go back to original texts. This second story is a good support to the idea that it is not self-love, but rather searching for love in something that could be illusory or even in another realm. To the onlooker he may be perceived as seeing his own image. The alternative story of Narcissus which circulated in the ancient world was that he had a twin sister that he loved and lost, and tried to reach again following her death. This should not be ignored or brushed aside. Narcissus was looking for something in the pond, in the water. It is important to note that water is highly symbolic. It was not a mirror, it was water. It is another realm, the realm of the sirens, the realm of magic. It’s not self. It’s other. There is a different interpretation to be made, because all the facts of the text are there, the symbolism is there and there is a different story to be told.

There is more to this. The ancient Greeks were clever. What is the nature of love? When you fall in love with someone there is an element in you that is completed or complemented. You are searching for something that is missing and yet is also you. Again “psychology”, it completely sullies and dirties the myth of Oedipus. The story is about the nature of love, not about the tendency or desire for incest.

The mother comforts and loves the son. Son’s want that eventually in love. They don’t want incest, they want comfort and familiarity. The stories are there to tell us the nature of love, and that it is a seeking of something different but yet familiar. Oedipus and Narcissus are tragic because they are unable to find what they are looking for. The nature of their miseries are due to being cursed by the gods, who have power of the elements which help or hinder communication.

If you call out, will your true love hear you? If the gods favour you, your true love will hear you and will speak back, and the elements, water and air will carry the sound of her voice. And who is the true love? Well, it is someone who is close. It has been proven that couples are attracted to people who have similar looks and genetics. Zeus and Hera were brother and sister. There is a racial element to it, a tribal element. Love seems to search out the familiar, after all you need someone who can understand you. Communication is the key.

From my own observations of Narcissus asteroid and its aspects I conclude that the position has nothing to do with pride, vanity or ego. It will describe the possibility of falling in love, but being unable to communicate. You could stare into the picture of someone you are in love with and she will never be able to tell you her real feelings, only echo your last words.

How to overcome the problems associated with Narcissus and Echo. There is a search for meaning. It is a warning that dying alone is a real possibility if you get too absorbed in some kind of other world or if you are unable to say your own feelings, like Echo, who can’t say what she wants. A modern Narcissus might be a guy who sits at his computer playing games or reading books in search for some truth about his life, which could be seen as self-absorption. And a modern Echo is the girl who would like to say how she feels directly but can’t do it out of cowardice but is only able to reflect the light of the one she loves, a bit like the Moon reflecting the Sun. The story is about a weakness in the lines of communication.

As a conclusion, modern term narcissism has nothing to do with the original story. It has untapped symbolism, which the ancients understood. Like so much of the modern world, there is so much that has been lost.