The last analytic concept that I am posting about is also a difficult one (in that there are different ways of looking at it), but it is one that can further help us understand ourselves and bring light into spirituality. This is narcissism and narcissistic wounds.
In the myth Narcissus is not interested in other people – he was the product of the violent rape of a nymph by a river-god and it was predicted that if the boy was ever to know himself, he would die. In order to stay alive Narcissus has to struggle against his desire to see and to know himself. When Narcissus meets Echo, a beautiful nymph she finds him very attractive but she can no longer use her voice except to repeat what someone else has said. The arrogant Narcissus shows no response to Echo who spends the rest of her life pining for him until thinner and thinner she vanishes leaving only an echo behind. Narcissus is often pictured peering into water fascinated by his origins, gazing into the water so that he might see his original parents copulating. Gazing into the water he identifies with this fantasy and dies by plunging a dagger into himself – his blood spilling onto the earth becomes a beautiful narcotic flower: the narcissus.
We all experience what is called healthy narcissism in early life, and later there are times when we are fully occupied with ourself and our reflection in the waters of life – it’s possible to move in and out of narcissism depending on what is happening. People who have a narcissistic personality disorder are fairly impossible to reach, and connect with and have a low interest in the wellbeing of anyone apart from themselves. Narcissism is on a continuum with a huge difference between the mild and severe. It can be found in groups and in institutions. It has been suggested that at the core of the very narcissistic person there is a feeling of deadness – there has been some serious damage done early in life where needs have not been met and parents have not been able to provide enough good.
And we all know about narcissistic wounds which are special kinds of hurts- where as the expression goes, we are ‘cut to the quick’ and that may even threaten our identity or self-image, our ego-ideal or our self-esteem – then feelings of hurt, shame or age can be very powerful.
Different variables on narcissism include the traumatizing narcissist and the empowered narcissist – the former inflicting their ruthless will to the detriment of others, and the empowered or phallic narcissist frequently leads and organises others – they may be very charismatic, a significant number gravitate to religious leadership, but they act from a grandiose sense of self-importance or exhibitionism.
It has been pointed out that none of us is free from narcissism where one of the fundamental aspects of the condition is that like poor Narcissus it blinds us from self-knowledge.