People often ask me what’s new about Rethinking Narcissism.
And the answer is—well, quite a lot: a new definition of narcissism (that explains why there are so many “types” of narcissists), the real reason millenials got such a bad rap, the secret to dealing with narcissistic coworkers, friends, and loved ones—the list goes on. But one of the ideas that resonates most for people who read my work is the concept of echoism—and how it draws us, unwittingly, into relationships with extremely narcissistic friends and partners.
You see, this book is, in many ways, my gift to you after my journey back from my own struggles with echoism—the end result of my search to find peace. To find security. To find joy.
If you haven’t read Rethinking Narcissism yet—or you’re not familiar Greek mythology—Echo is an important part of the story of Narcissus, but one we rarely, if ever, hear about. She was a mountain nymph, cursed to repeat back the last few words of anyone she heard, and she also had the misfortune falling in love with the infamously self-absorbed Greek youth, Narcissus; just as he fell in love with his reflection, Echo fell in love with him, but she lacked a voice of her own, so was never truly heard—or seen—by him. She became little more than his echo.
Like Echo, people who struggle with echoism, also struggle with their voice. At their best, they can be caring, empathic, devoted, but they much prefer to focus on others. Because their deepest fear is seeming narcissistic in any way, they berate themselves for being too needy, too clingy, too demanding, even too selfish, which is truly ironic, because they’re usually anything but. And it’s precisely that pattern of behavior that draws the most narcissistic people into our lives; it’s our penchant to find fault with ourselves and ramp up our efforts to be “less selfish” that keeps us mired in harmful relationships.
In my book, I teach you how to find your voice if you struggle with echoism. So you can break the pattern once and for all.
At a recent conference where I spoke, Harvard Medical School’s Treating Couples, it was echoism that even my fellow clinicians found so eye-opening that they lined up to ask me about it at the end of the talk. The term offered language—and hope—for a dynamic they knew, but hadn’t yet named: the dance of Echo and Narcissus. Here, I’m talking about my dating life and my own struggles with echoism.
Oh—and as you might have guessed, there’s a happy ending.