Narcissism: The spelling is the easy part.

The word narcissistic, like most psychobabble, is frequently used and often misunderstood. So let’s see if we can turn on some lights beginning with this first in a two-or-three part series.

How ’bout we start with a story?

The fellow enjoying the view is a young man named Narcissus. His particular story is based in Greek mythology; however, multiple versions abound. The most famous is the Roman spin, told by Ovid, so I’ll go with it to tell the tale.

Upon his birth, Narcissus’ mother became extremely concerned about his welfare. And that was because he was amazingly good looking. Well, she finally decided to take her concerns to one of the neighborhood prophets. And she was put at ease after hearing Narcissus would live to be an old man – as long as he, “…didn’t come to know himself.”

Go figure, by the time Narcissus hit 15, every youth and girl in town was crazy about him. However, he turned them all away; believing none of them were worthy of his love.

It seems a nymph named Echo fell in love with Narcissus. And one day she relentlessly followed him as he was hunting. As much as Echo wanted to talk with him, she knew she’d never be able to come up with the words. Finally, Narcissus heard Echo’s footsteps and shouted, “Who’s there?” And wouldn’t you know it, Echo replied, “Who’s there?”

The verbal exchanges went on for a time; however, Echo couldn’t hold out any longer. She appeared to Narcissus and rushed to embrace him. Uh, but he pulled away and told her to take a powder. Heartbroken, Echo spent the rest of her life in lonely glens, ruminating over the love she would never know. Ultimately, the only thing left of Echo was her voice.

Narcissus remained scornful of those who pursued him. And one day he crossed the wrong character. A spurned virgin ended up praying to Nemesis to take revenge on Narcissus by making him feel a love that could never be reciprocated. And with that, Nemesis put Narcissus’ punishment into motion.

As he was walking through the forest, Narcissus, came upon a deep pool. Thirsty, he took a drink. Lo and behold, he saw his reflection for the first time in his life. And he was so taken by the image that he fell in love with the adolescent – not realizing it was himself.

In time he finally connected the dots and knew it was his reflection. But realizing he could never act upon his love, he tore at his dress and beat upon himself. In short order, he was dying. And as the light’s were going out, the bodyless Echo came to him with great pity and sorrow.

Well, Narcissus ended up in “the darkest hell,” and the narcissus flower grew where he died. And the story goes that he continues to gaze upon his image in the waters of the river Styx.

So now you know the story of Narcissus, and understand the foundation for the word narcissistic. Come on back tomorrow and we’ll begin to address – you name it – narcissistic traits, narcissistic personality disorder symptoms, narcissistic men, narcissistic personality disorder causes, and then some.

I always enjoy a good story. How ’bout you?