Our previous blog post entitled “Narcissism Then and Now” featured the famous painting by Caravaggio of Narcissus, the character from Greek mythology who, having fallen in love with himself, lay paralyzed until the day of his death gazing at his reflection in a pool of water. Above is another painting of Narcissus done in 1903 by John William Waterhouse, an English painter who was part of the Pre-Raphaelite movement in art. This work broadens the coverage of the myth by including the nymph, Echo, who is gazing with longing on the self-preoccupied Narcissus.
In spite of Echo’s beauty, her undying love of Narcissus and her dedication to his well-being, Narcissus has chosen to avoid the entanglement of loving someone other than himself. Instead the basis of his relationship with Echo is her echo. Since she was cursed by the goddess Hera to only repeat what other people say, Narcissus only hears from her the repetition of his own words. Her only function for him is to reinforce what he says and thereby mirror who he is.
This is a classic feature of narcissism which shows up in individuals today who are afflicted with the condition, like Donald Trump. Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, historian and biographer, Michael D’Antonio, has written a well-balanced, fair and revealing biography of Trump originally published under the title Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success and recently republished as The Truth About Trump. In addition to detailing story after story of Trump’s obsessive self-promotion and quest for money, power and publicity, D’Antonio reports that “Trump begins each day with a sheaf of paper detailing where and how often his name has been mentioned in the global press.” D’Antonio goes on to note that “[t]he reports are typically too numerous for him to actually read, but the weight of the pages gives his sensitive ego a measure of his importance on any given day.”* Trump lives to hear his Echo.
The tendency of narcissists is to fail to recognize that other people have intrinsic worth and value independent of them. The primary value of others derives from the role they play in reaffirming one’s own sense of self-worth. This devaluation of the other can be spooky. In an interview with Michael D’Antonio Trump made the chilling confession that “[f]or the most part, you can’t respect people because most people aren’t worthy of respect.”** Wow! Did he really say that? Maybe we ought to give that comment some thought and attention. Maybe we should be praying for the healing of those who we know are trapped in this spiritually fruitless and potentially dangerous syndrome. Say a prayer for Donald and don’t forget, as the song, “Only You” reminds us, only YOU can save the world from narcissism.
Until next time,
* D’Antonio, Never Enough, pp. 13 – 14.
** D’Antonio, Never Enough, p. 326.