Narcissus – a character from Greek mythology who is said to have fallen in love with his own reflection and died because of it. There seems to be controversy – did he fall into the pool he was gazing into and drown or did he just wither away at the edge there because he was not taking care of himself? Whichever way it went, the bigger message is: he got so immersed in himself that he died!
The word and disorder, narcissism, is derived from Narcissus and is defined as a “fixation with oneself” and associated with egotism, vanity, pride and selfishness. The narcissist focuses on him/herself with a disregard to others.
I remember hearing the story of Narcissus as a kind of morality builder encouraging me and other youngsters not to spend time thinking of ourselves. We were encouraged instead to put others first. This is how I heard the story when I was in grade school. He died. But first, he looked really pathetic sitting there gazing at himself! The moral? Don’t get too self involved; it causes problems. Don’t fall in love with yourself. Pay more attention to the needs of others rather than your own. And on and on…….basically, everyone and everything else should come first.
Remember though, the real problem for Narcissus was not the involvement he had with self but rather his attachment to his own reflection!
We humans are hungry to know ourselves. I believe culture has encouraged us away from this in many ways – especially by creating a taboo of sorts to paying attention to oneself. I learned it well when I was young and I hear over and over from others, “I learned to put others’ needs ahead of my own and I feel guilty when I put my own needs first”.
The problem comes when we turn away from ourselves
and don’t tend to our deeper needs.
Taking care of everyone else first, feeling guilty for time spent for self, depriving self of something one really wants….does this make you less narcissistic?
I would say NO!
The constant turning away from the inner self, and ultimately the true self, stokes that hunger more and more. Then, all that is available to feed it is the reflection. When one looks more to that reflection of themself from others for validation or to know who they are, what their roles are and how they are valued, that is where the dying really occurs. This is much of where our human ills arise from.
The narcissist not only focuses on self but does so with disregard for others. When any of us disregard ourself and operate as the reflection, how could we see the truth in anyone else? Seeing only their reflection, we will not only miss the true spirit but disregard its potential. This is the problem with narcissus. Paying attention to only the reflection allows us to only see reflection. Disregarding the self for another, makes it impossible to actually know the self or to know anything but the reflection of others.
So, you might ask, “what does all of this have to do with those lovely flowers in your yard?” The moral as it may be….
If you are going to sit and gaze, let it be on what is real.
Take time to gaze at what is beautiful and see the reflection of what is beautiful within.
Kabir said it even better:
A Place to Sit
Don’t go outside your house to see flowers.
My friend, don’t bother with that excursion.
Inside your body there are flowers.
One flower has a thousand petals.
That will do for a place to sit.
Sitting there you will have a glimpse of beauty
inside the body and out of it,
before gardens and after gardens.