Last year (2018) I wrote an impassioned piece in support of a friend who wanted to know a little more about Narcissistic personality types. I wanted to re-touch the blog a little and help make some of the concepts discussed a little more accessible. Maybe. Just a little.
Working with service users that have spent time on probation or in prison, a few have reminded me with traits of the below story. With transparency a number of people I have met and know display some of the traits explored below. It could be that in some way we all have narcissistic traits.
You may have met people who may have narcissistic traits or display an inability to empathise with another, or view an experience from another perspective other than their own. My aim with this blog, is to offer insight to the history of Narcissus and provide an understanding of what can be done to reduce the harmful effects of coming in to contact with personality types that have narcissistic traits. I use the name Narcissus throughout this piece of writing to aid personalising narcissistic personality types.
The Greek Myth Of Narcissus
According to Conon, Aminias, a young man fell in love with Narcissus, who had already spurned his male suitors. Aminias was also spurned by Narcissus. Narcissus gave the unfortunate young man a sword. Aminias killed himself at Narcissus’ doorstep praying to the Gods to give Narcissus a lesson for all the pain he had provoked.
Narcissus was once walking by a lake or river and decided to drink some water; he saw his reflection in the water and was surprised by the beauty he saw; he became entranced by the reflection of himself. He could not obtain the object of his desire though, and he died at the banks of the river or lake from his sorrow. According to the myth Narcissus is still admiring himself in the Underworld, looking at the waters of the Styx.
The story above presents a number of uncomfortable ideas.
1 Narcissus refuses love and adoration from suitors.
2. The best that Narcissus can offer is a sword with which Aminais can do what he likes with.
3. Aminais chooses death and the wrath of the Greek gods to punish Narcissus for his intolerant self worth opinion of himself.
4. Narcissus falls into complete adoration of himself and dies alone and happy?
The aspect that I find interesting about the story of Narcissus and narcissists is that their self-image is the one that they protect and adore above all others. The mirrored self is not real. The unreal self is only a reflection. The unreal self is a mirrored image of perfection that is ultimately flawed as it cannot be attained nor possessed. Thus the mirrored unreal and perfect self is as such, wanted all the more by Narcissus.
I hold a degree of pity towards Narcissus. Ideas about missed opportunities flit behind my consciousness and understanding of a narcissistic personality type. The idea of what they could be or come into contact with is an interesting twist of fate. Observing my compassion about working with someone who may have a distorted view of their reality, helps to maintain my connection with personality types.
By their holding so tightly to their view of reality – Narcissus.Imagine this if you will: arms, legs, teeth clamped over the reality they desperately hope to maintain. And with their eyes firmly unequivocally shut – holding themselves from new information that their view is misguided. The world as a whole by Narcissus is considered wrong, bleak, threatening, offering little that can shift perspective.
The strangle hold Narcissus may have on what they feel is rightfully theirs we hope would/could change. Providing logical, referenced, evidence as to why their way may not be working any longer is useful for us. Speaking with others about what difficulties we are experiencing can be useful to hear another perspective and context check that our thought processes are fully operational.