If you’re in a relationship and notice that you have lost your voice, your spirit, feel overlooked, lonely, and that your needs are not important, this classic story might feel painfully familiar.
In the Greek myth, Echo was a vibrant mountain nymph. But now she cannot speak. Her voice has been taken away as a punishment. She is only able to repeat another’s words.
Echo falls in love with Narcissus, but the feeling isn’t reciprocated. Sadly her body withers away as she pines over him. All that is left is her voice.
Meanwhile, Narcissus stops for a drink at a small pond. When Narcissus sees his reflection in the water, he falls hopelessly in love with the image not realising he’s looking at himself. Unwilling to shatter the image so that he can drink the water, Narcissus stays by the pond staring at his reflection until he starves and dies.
The Wounded Soul – The Narcissistic Personality
Narcissus is how we think of the narcissist, self-absorbed to the exclusion of all else. But in fact, everyone has some narcissistic traits.
Narcissistic traits span a spectrum from healthy narcissism to Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) as classified by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).
About 1% of the population has NPD; most are men.
There’s a big difference between the disorder and the traits.
On the other hand, underneath the NPD is the pain of a childhood filled with shame, abandonment and pain. Although they appear to love themselves, beneath their alluring charm, they are angry and anguished people filled with feelings of self-loathing and inadequacy.
Their deep narcissistic wounding prevents them from being intimate because they will do anything to avoid being vulnerable. As a result, they cannot stand your vulnerability and cannot show empathy.
The Dance Between Narcissus and Echo
In a relationship with a narcissist you relinquish your identity and control, it’s so mesmerising you won’t know you are bleeding to death until it is too late. Rokelle Lerner
If you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, it can be crazy making; you feel unstable and not on solid ground, but somehow it feels normal.
People with NPD attract others who have their own narcissistic wounding. The difference is that people who are not so deeply wounded can feel remorse, recognise the impact of their behaviours on others and do what is necessary to say sorry and make amends.
The problem is that people with NPD use these reflective and emphatic qualifies as a kind of psychological hook.
Most of their behaviours are to rid themselves of shame. They transfer their feelings of shame onto close ones. If you are struggling with own self-esteem or belief that you are not good enough, you will be vulnerable to accepting your partner’s ‘gift’. You take their pain.
The Toxic Gift
- When they have to be right, you will question whether your views are valid. What they have gifted you is their inadequacy.
- If your partner’s narcissistic rage is triggered by a reasonable request that you to have a say in parenting your child, you will begin to feel silenced and as if you are treading on eggshells. What they have gifted you is fear.
- When your partner talks endlessly, does not leave a space for you to speak and then criticises you for trying to include yourself, you will begin to take on board that it is you that have nothing to say. Like Echo, you no longer speak for yourself. You take on board their sense of powerlessness as a child.
- When your partner tells you what you think, and what your motivations are you will question whether you do have sinister intentions. What they have gifted you is their shame.
Many narcissists will label others as selfish and narcissistic, demanding respect for what they need and giving no regard for what you might need. You cannot convince a someone with NPD or many narcissistic traits to see their behaviour as hurtful. And yet somehow you stay.
Why You Accept The Gift
This chipping away at your sense of self is damaging, but at the same time, you find yourself doing things to maintain the peace and keep your partner happy.
This keeps the hope alive that your partner will revert to his old charming self; that they will change. And because your sense of self is fragile, any validation or hint of respect from your partner feels like a boost.
That’s the hook; the relief of feeling that after all you are loved.
Your fragile sense of self will have been exacerbated by this relationship, but most likely would have roots elsewhere in childhood wounding.
Is My Partner A Narcissist?
If you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, it can be a complex and challenging road to navigate a peaceful and happy relationship.
Here are 21 clues that your partner may be at the high end of the narcissist spectrum or have NPD:
- Grandiose; they demand to be the centre of attention/special attention
- Public perception is important to them, which means they are mindful of what is said and how they look.
- Angry; Narcissistic Rage
- Lack Empathy
- Deny, blame and shame
- Don’t want mutuality in relationships
- Recieve any criticism or feedback negatively; easily offended
- Always right and don’t recognise another point of view
- Believe they can mind read
- Trust is difficult, so they mistrust you and hold grudges
- They are used to having things their own way
- Charming and seductive
- They highjack your emotions
- Addictive habits
Although these clues might help you to make sense of your relationship, it’s not helpful to label your partner as a narcissist. Part of the narcissistic behaviour is to objectify others; narcissistic people struggle to see you as a separate person. Labelling them as a narcissist or a ‘narc’ only means that you objectify them and fall into the trap of doing to them what they do to you.
Hold on to your integrity and reclaim the best version of yourself.
Remember you are not your partners’ therapist. The only person who can make a diagnosis of NPD is a professionally qualified therapist who specialises in NPD who works with your partner in therapy.
What you can do is think about in what ways Echo reflects a part of you. Echo is a key character in the myth. Without her, the story might have felt very different. How do you participate in the dance with Narcissus?
And although Echo withered away, a part of her lived on. Her words were not her own, but the tone, sound and the resonance of the voice was hers. Despite what you might feel has withered away in your life, because of this relationship, what embers are still there to be reawakened?
In my next post, I’ll be giving more attention to Echo and what her echo might mean to you.
Over To You
Do you resonate with the story of Echo? If you want to explore your relationship, find your voice and your confidence get in touch and book your first counselling appointment.
Or call me today on 07535 864836.
Leave a comment below; I’d love to hear from you.
P.S. PASS IT ON
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© Sandra Harewood
**The pronouns “he,” “his” and “him” are used here for ease of explanation but this should in no way imply that narcissists are only male. They can be either gender.**
Soul Centred couples counsellor Sandra Harewood specialises in working with couples and single women with childhood wounding that impacts their adult relationships. Sandra provides a soulful space for her clients to explore and discover creative solutions to their difficulties and create great relationships.
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