By Sam Vaknin Author of “Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited” The narcissist’s True Self is introverted and dysfunctional. In healthy people, Ego functions are generated from the inside, from the Ego. In narcissists, the Ego is dormant, comatose. The narcissist needs the input of and feedback from the outside world (from others) in order to perform […]
I have told my own stories about falling in love with a Narcissus like evil cold cruel man who caused me a tremendous amount of suffering. The stories are all variations of disintegration of love into cruelty with his disguised intent to destroy me and take my soul. I have told people I thought he was possessed by a demon. I even refer to him as N in all of my articles as an easy way to categorize him, but also if I am really honest, a way to dehumanize him. I do not know why the N behaves the way he does or what it is really like to be him. I can only explain my own mind and behavior and will admit that I was obsessed with the N. My life became his very similar to the disappearance of Echo’s life. I lost my voice except as a reflection of his.
The phase of the relationship where I began to disappear was when I recognized that he had turned away from me toward the pool of his own reflection. I did not use these terms to describe the experience, but it happened nonetheless. I began to fill in the emptiness with my own stories. I tried to control him, to pin him down, to lasso him, but it didn’t matter. I couldn’t get him to face and see me anymore. I hated my dependency on my need for his approval. I hated that my own pool of need for his love was bottomless. I cannot compete with the N’s image of himself. I didn’t exist to the N.
The Story of Narcissus and Echo ,the mythical couple immortalized in the literature of the Greeks and Romans. I read the story and thought that Narcissus was so self absorbed that he caused his untimely demise. And because he was so self absorbed, he was purposely cruel to poor Echo. He caused her to disappear completely leaving only the sound of her reflective voice. Is Echo really an unwilling victim and Narcissus a calculated victimizer? I mean both were such different beings before they were overcome with their obsessions.
Both characters are the epitome of self absorbed just in different ways. Narcissus is obsessed with himself and Echo is obsessed with Narcissus. Both are completely shut out from the larger world, the bigger picture and in other words access to a bigger self. Their worlds have become small, narrow, self focused, and meaningless. Their pursuit to get and receive love ultimately kills both of them. They do not care for others. They do not give back to the community. They do not have a spiritual practice or time for exercise. They are both addicts strung out on a craving for an ultimate love that does not exist in the form they pursue and yet they give their lives for it. The roots of obsession go deep into the hearts and souls of both characters.
Kristin Dombek states in her essay ‘The Selfishness of Others: An Essay on the Fear of Narcissism: “the future is always trying to feel like the past. When it does, it feels like selfishness, hurt, loss, at the hands of others.” This also sounds a lot like moving through the attachment phases in child development. When we don’t learn how to grieve the past (not only from abuse that can severely disrupt development stages, but the stages of development themselves can also be very challenging and can incur powerful feelings of fear and loss) and let it go, we will forever be destined to repeat the loss. It is deep ungrieved losses that carve the vacancy the obsession is trying to fill with one’s self or another person. For some of us this can cause our utter downfall. As Kristin says “the trick is to let it empty”.
I learned that I had to let go of my past pain. I had to face grief and emptiness and all of the parts of myself that I had buried long ago. Only a Narcissus like man could generate enough pain in me that I was forced to look at my fear of being left and rejected. When I say past pain I am talking about a time in my childhood where I felt rejected and abandoned. In order to cope I adapted myself to the situation by becoming a specific role: a caretaker, sometimes a rebel all the while burying my own needs desperate to return to the time when I felt loved and protected.
If only Echo had faced her fears and switched the focus from Narcissus to herself, she could have begun the process of healing and gotten her voice back. To be continued…