Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What does the story of Narcissus tell us?

Christine Marietta, a self-described progressive Christian feminist therapist refers to Thomas Moore's book Care of the Soul in yesterday's blog post, "Narcissism".
"In the first chapter—or maybe the second, I can’t remember (definitely not the third)—Moore writes about the myth of Narcissus.  More accurately, he interprets the myth, in a way that is so different from tradition, reading through it was like watching a familiar movie play upside-down.  The traditional interpretation goes, Narcissus fell in love with his own reflection, and his self-absorption led to his ultimate demise.  Eventually his lack of intimacy with others shriveled his psyche so much that he was no longer even human, and the flower-form of narcissus (aka, the daffodil) exists to remind us of the dangers of self-love.

The problem, though, is that narcissists don’t love themselves. Healthy people do. Secure people walk around with a heavy, solid ego (sense of self), whereas narcissists are empty and weightless. They make up for their lack of density by increasing their size. They brag, they philosophize, they grow loud and pompous in proportion to how threatened they feel.
Thomas Moore asserts that for the mythical figure of Narcissus, self-love was the cure, not the problem. Narcissus was a hardened narcissist before, not after, he glimpsed himself in the water. And he was healed of his narcissism through falling in love with his own reflection."
Marietta writes, "For most of us, the clear, still lake of the Narcissus myth is another human being. We cannot truly see ourselves by ourselves. And yet, most of the time, we’re scared to ask others, “Show me the parts of myself that I can’t see.”  She invites readers to answer, "Who has reflected you?  What aspects of yourself  have you found surprisingly lovable?"