Mirror, Mirror

I've learnt quite a few new Greek myths this year (for storytelling events), one of which I'd like to muse on for a while as it is particularly relevant to me at the moment. Narcissus, in a nutshell, was a self-obsessed prat who rejected all those who loved him as being unworthy ~ causing the nymph Echo to fade into nothingness and driving Aminius to kill himself in despair. Wrathful Nemesis punished him by causing him to see, for the first time ever, his own reflection - which he promptly fell in love with and either drowned whilst attempting to snog the face in the pool or (according to a variation) topped himself after realising that he could never find anyone as perfect as himself!
The myth is a very clear warning about the dangers of intense self-adulation. Whilst there are comparatively few outright autolatrists in the world, there are many people who are so self-obsessed that other people are merely a means to an end, stepping stones to be trampled on or made use of and then discarded without a second thought.
Having grown up with a father who was very wrapped up in himself and his own pleasures and wants, my first-hand experience of how such narcissism can damage others. It's one of the reasons why I've shied away from anything that smacks of self-indulgence. I've always much preferred to do things to make others happy, and am one of those rare people who actually enjoys Christmas shopping.
Of course the inherent danger of avoiding an extreme is that one is quite likely to go to the opposite and just as unbalanced extreme. Self-abnegation and a dislike of looking after or satisfying ones own needs is not, in the long run, a wise or healthy thing. During these last four years friends have moved away, become subsumed by crises in their own lives that have lead them to withdraw from wider contact, or (in some unfortunate cases) turned out to be utter twats. The upshot has been that I have had fewer and fewer people whom I enjoy looking after and doing things for ~ I have been pushed back more and more on to myself. The forces of the collective unconscious (or maybe it was just renegade elves from the North Pole) have thrown a great many temptations in my path ~ mostly Dr Who books, CDs and the like ~ things I would, in previous years, have avoided buying for myself whilst spending the money on other people or causes. A petty thing, perhaps, but an uncomfortable area for me, which has often left me feeling like a selfish git.
The psychological push is towards finding that delicate balance of having a positive enough regard for oneself to enjoy treats without guilt (and more centrally to expect respect from others, refusing to be a door mat as so often in the past) without becoming a self-regarding bore in the process.
The key, perhaps, is compassion ~ both for one's own limitations but also for other people. To a large extent compassion for others goes hand-in-glove with finding them interesting and wishing to know about and be with them. Not as a means to self-advancement, but sheerly for the pleasure of shared company.
After his death, Narcissus transformed into a flower, a daffodil ~ a sign within the myth that something beautiful and delicate can arise from a concern with oneself... so long as it is a balanced concern!


  1. Balance... one foot on the well, the other on the goat... you know, as rabid self-indulgence goes, your Dr Who habit is pretty lightweight :-) This is not a thing you need to beat yourself up for. People who like you will not need you to martyr yourself, and will enjoy you being happy in whatever small ways appeal to you. Hugs.

  2. Kinda annoyed with the 50h an Dr Who special. By bringing the Time Lords back into existence, the producers have found the perfect way to end the show with the 13th incarnation. They simply use the story of him searching, finding, and finally restoring Gallifrey back to it's rightful spot in the galaxy. He dies/retires as the greatest hero in the Time Lord mythos.

    Anyhoo, on the subject of Narcissus, I'm reminded of a scene in a David Carradine movie 'Circle of Iron'. The disciple was allowed to follow DCs character on the understanding that he wouldn't question the Master' (DC) actions. One of three actions that so outraged the disciple that he chose to break his pledge and question the actions, was that DC punched a male child in the face, drawing blood.

    DCs character explained that the child was so beautiful (and narcissistic) that the people were in trawl to him, and he was ruining his own life/potential. So, by breaking the kids nose, everyone saw him differently and the spell was broken.

    Maybe Narcissus could've used a visit from Vinnie Jones.

    1. I think it profoundly unlikely the BBC will ever give up that cash cow, Gallifrey or not!
      I remember that scene with Carradine, and I dare say that Vinnie Jones could teach the vain quite a few lessons!
      It occurred to me this morning that the notion of vampire's being unable to cast a reflection might have some relationship to the Narcissus story ~ that they cannot, in some sense, see or be aware of themselves and that this total lack of awareness demonstrates (or maybe even somehow causes) their undead nature, at least in a psycho-symbolic sense.


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