Got a Narcissist in Your Life? Here’s What the Ancient Greeks Teach Us about How to Deal with Them


During the hunt, Narcissus became separated from his companions and called out, ‘is anyone there,’ and heard the nymph repeat his words. Startled, Narcissus answered the voice, ‘come here,’ only to be told the same.

When at last Juno realized the truth, she cursed Echo. From that moment on, the once loquacious nymph could only repeat the most recently spoken words of another person.
Sometime after being cursed, Echo spied a young man, Narcissus, while he was out hunting deer with his companions. She immediately fell in love with him and, infatuated, followed quietly.

Finally, he shouted, ‘This way, we must come together.’ Taking this to be a reciprocation of her love, Echo concurred ecstatically, ‘We must come together!’

In her delight, Echo rushed to Narcissus ready to throw her arms around her beloved. Narcissus, however, was appalled and, spurning her, exclaimed, ‘Hands off! May I die before you enjoy my body.’ All Echo could whisper in reply was, ‘enjoy my body’ and having done so she fled, scorned, humiliated, and shamed.

Despite the harshness of his rejection, Echo’s love for Narcissus only grew.[10] When Narcissus died, wasting away before his own reflection, consumed by a love that could not be, Echo mourned over his body. When Narcissus, looking one last time into the pool uttered, ‘Oh marvellous boy, I loved you in vain, farewell’, Echo too chorused, ‘Farewell.’ “

~Wikipedia – Echo (mythology)

Why are we, like Echo, so infatuated with narcissists, especially after they scorn us? Perhaps we confuse their curse of falling in love with themselves as actually self-love? And that fake confidence appears attractive? Even when Echo could see Narcissist’s curse of falling in love with himself (when she realized he was a narcissist), she still desired his attention and love.

Once people wake up to the fact that they have a narcissist in their life, their first reaction is to learn more about narcissists and what makes narcissists tick. They believe that by diving into this topic, by understanding more deeply how narcissist operate, they’ll free themselves from the grips of a narcissist. But is it true?

The takeaway from the story of Echo and Narcissus is more about Echo than Narcissus himself. Once you realize that you’re in relationship with a narcissist, there’s nothing you can do to save or redeem them; you must decide to save yourself. Narcissus was cursed, he could not be saved from his own self-obsession. In fact, when the gods cursed Narcissus to love himself to the point of wasting away, it may be that he was a narcissist even before the curse – for he continually spurned all potential lovers before he was cursed. He always believed himself to be too good for any lover, thus his curse was more of an ramping up of his same sick behavior, taking it to the extreme. Taking him to the point of ultimate destruction.

Echo experienced the danger of getting too close to Narcissus, yet did not learn her lesson. She so craved his attention and affection, that even after seeing clearly the affects of his curse – his endless self-longing to the point of wasting away – she continued to seek his love and attention in vain.

Don’t be like Echo. Once you become aware that you have a narcissist in your life, run don’t walk away if you’re able and recognize that narcissists are like a black hole: the more attention you give them, the more of your life-force they will suck into their gravitational pull. Instead, only be curious enough about narcissists and narcissism to recognize and avoid them, but not so infatuated that you fall prey to Echo’s fate and whither away yourself.

In the words of Byron Katie: “. . . if I had a prayer, it would be this: God, spare me from the desire for love, approval, or appreciation. Amen.”