Love is a multifaceted and complex emotion that has affected many human beings for many centuries. Regardless of the significant influence that love plays in people’s lives, the psychology of love influences how people express and experience love. Ovid’s myth, the story of Narcissus and Echo, is the focal point of this analysis. On the other hand, other stories will also be used as a point of analysis to investigate the dynamics of love and Call off to the Other. While love is a paradoxical phenomenon, there is a need to justify how love acts as an impossibility to respond to and the need to respond to love and show the effects of narcissism.
A narcissist is an individual with a pervasive need for admiration, grandiosity, and hard pride that begins from early adulthood (Brekkman). Individuals with an exaggerated sense of self-importance often appear boastful and showcase their abilities and accomplishments extravagantly. Narcissists believe that their work and their lives are more important than those of others. Their work and self come first before any close relationship. They are often concerned with a lack of consideration for others, especially when upgrading themselves. The Greek Myth of Narcissus and Echo, which Brenkman and Mandelbaum have rewritten, presents the destructive aspect of narcissism in modern psychology.
The tale of Echo and Narcissus is not necessarily a moral lesson but is a characteristic of human behavior. Narcissus fell in love with the pool because it reflected his own body. When people reflect on their lives to the extremes of their existence, they tend to act narcissistically. Narcissism, especially in males, can also be detrimental as it influences toxic masculine behavior. The fact that Narcissus only rejected females from his vicinity shows traits of toxic masculinity as he believed that he was the thought he was the most superior person in society (Mandelbaum).
Additionally, Mandelbaum also says that Narcissus’s’ narcissistic behavior is characterized by cold pride to the extent that “no youth, no girl could ever touch his heart”(345-66). The effects of toxic masculinity are forming habits of being reactionary, being oppressive, and using physical violence, which are all behaviors of a narcissist (Kellner). Such traits also describe how unrealistic Narcissus’s mind has become in creating a mental belief that he is superior to the other men. This depicts how narcissistic people tend to be self-involved with themselves, thus causing a detrimental effect on the relationships in their environments.
Narcissism is a natural condition from birth to adulthood. Heinz Kohut also believes that narcissism is a natural condition that develops from birth to adulthood. This is in line with Lacan’s mirror stage, who said that a child’s ego typically begins from the realization of his self-image and takes more focus on it as compared to the image of others. This love from themselves precedes the urge to love others. This stage is essential as it enables a child to master his image completely and perceive that he is a complete human being. However, as the child continues to accept the image of themselves, the alienation of the mirror image and the self takes over, and the child begins to form imaginary images of their bodies, thus beginning to form the child’s self-ego (Lacan 77-79). Such ego affects the relations of the child and others in society. The narrative of the mirror stage is similar to Narcissus’ story when he bent to drink some water and loved the reflection of himself in the water. His infatuation with himself grew, but he could not grab hold of the image. He stayed there without sleep or food. One of the most significant disadvantages of narcissism is that it hinders personal development. When they realize their bodies hinder learning about others, they bring up arrogant and uncompassionate people. The fact that ego seems like a confidence booster, an unhealthy ego creates harm that is a result of constant comparison of oneself to the other.
Love is significant, and responding or failing to respond has repercussions. First, failure to love can be detrimental to self-development and personal growth. One example is based on the Narcissus and Echo’s story: lack of response and showing love causes destruction, for example, when Narcissus’s’ body wastes away due to self-absorption (Mandelbaum). As seen in Narcissus’ story, Narcissus looked at the water and loved the image of his body to the point that he became anguished, which later caused his death (Brenkman 297). On the other hand, love can be a drive towards self-development. Chyng Feng narrates an old narrative about The Lion King, comparing the protagonists and the antagonists in how they respond to love. The article narrates how King Mufassa and his brother Scar differed (Chyng Feng 134). King Mufasa had a beautiful relationship with his spouse and sired a son named Simba. By bearing a son, Simba was guaranteed to take charge of the kingdom when his father retired, thus inspiring him to be a leader(Lull).
On the other hand, Scar does not acknowledge that his brother is the king (Chyng Feng 134). Sharing a parent with Mufasa shows they should be there for each other. It is a paradox that siblings can be similar yet very different when showing love. Scar is the lousy king, while Mufasa is the good king. This implies that love could directly or indirectly affect the personal lives of human beings and spread the positive effects to others while, at the same time, lack of love can cause vices such as selfishness, as seen in Scar and Narcissus.
Furthermore, the need to respond to love is shown as that aspect of building or destroying each other. An example of a study by Caldwell and Robinson says that sometimes love is a “backcloth of unconscious destruction” (362). This is said when the authors talk about the levels at which mothers tend to take care of their children by ensuring that they have breast milk for some time, and later, the mothers stop breastfeeding. This abandonment or destruction of the parent-child relationship leads to the baby’s knowledge of how to survive and experience some kind of hardship that later makes the child grow into a strong human being. This mother-child relationship is quite paradoxical as it requires the most intense love, but at the same time, the child must grow away from the mother to become completely autonomous. While considering the story of Echo’s love for Narcissus, it is an example of destructive love when love remains unreciprocated. Her body was wasted as she was only destined to be with Narcissus. She hides in the forest caves and leaves as her voice remains to be heard in the valleys and mountains, and her bones become rocks (Brenkman 296). The two examples depict a balance of loving and reciprocating love as it can equally cause the building of one another, as in the case of the mother-child relationship, and wasting away, as in the case of the Narcissus and Echo’s story.
Human being’s lives today have a small part of Echo being represented. Echo was a nymph (Mandelbaum 345-66), which represents all the good things that life offers, but people tend to be self-absorbed with themselves. The virtual world of social media has overlooked the physical world that people live in. Additionally, the self-conscience within human beings represents the Echo since there is great beauty in people’s consciences. This implies that if individuals do not live in the physical world and do not adhere to the internal aspects of the human being, they end up in nowhere like Narcissus and end up being snared by the images seen on the surface.
Consequently, this creates the inability to relate to anything meaningful, which is why many people despair. The pictures that people view themselves in today can have adverse effects on what they grow up to become in future. If one thinks about it, the anxiety and depression that affect people are mainly affected by technology and civilization, and that can only be cured by looking at the cell phone screens. Additionally, the media platforms give people the ability to control people’s minds unrealistically (Croteau and Hoynes). To be psychologically healthy, it is crucial to balance between civilization and the physical world and become self-actualized towards moving and interacting with others in the world.
In conclusion, the Narcissus and Echo story goes beyond being a myth but is also one big lesson that love is the ability to be honest with oneself. The biggest question that lies here is the fact that no one should avoid looking at their reflection because an honest and regular reflection leads to psychological development. However, being obsessed with the physical image causes narcissism and obsession. The danger presented in seeing oneself being a grandeur than anyone else in life. A balance between the physical world and internal conscience is necessary because it brings psychological healing.
Brenkman, J. “Narcissus in the Text.” The Georgia Review, vol. 30, no. 2, 1976, pp. 293–327, www.jstor.org/stable/41399656.
Caldwell, L., and H. T. Robinson. “28 The Use of an Object and Relating Through Identications.” The Collected Works of D.W. Winnicott, vol. 8, 2016, pp. 355–364, doi.org/10.1093/med:psych/9780190271404.003.0066.
Chyng Feng, Sun. Chapter Six | Always on top of the food chain copy. Kaiser Family Foundation, 2005.
Croteau, D. R. and Hoynes. W. D. “The Economics of the Media Industry.” “Gender, Race, and Class in Media, 2020.
Kellner, D. “Cultural Studies, Multiculturalism, and Media Culture.” Gender, Race, and Class in Media, 2020.
Kohut, Heinz. The Restoration of the Self. International Universities Press, Inc., 1977.
Lacan, Jacques. Ecrits: The first complete edition in English. WW Norton & Company, 2006.
Lull, James. “Hegemony.” Gender, Race, and Class in Media, 2020.
Mandelbaum, Allen, editor, trans. The Metamorphoses of OVID., Allen MandelbaumHarcourt Brace & Company, 1993.