Psychology is despised by narcissists like science is despised by the ignorant.
One of the great contributions of psychology to our world, in my opinion, is that it describes people who drive us crazy.
I used to always (and still fight not to) say things “drove me crazy”, like “drum circles in the campground drive me crazy!” or “the smell of cigars in the studio drive me crazy! “or whatever, because everything drove me crazy. I had a boyfriend in my twenties that was much older and wiser than I that had the perfect come back for that over-used statement.
When I said “..this or that drives me crazy!” He would reply, “It’s a putt, not a drive.” True that.
Well.. I have discovered how true indeed. Although often misunderstood as the opposite, I believe I am an Echo. I am overly generous and really care about those I effect in my life. And I take on everyone’s emotion, I walk through crowds with blinders on, and I need time alone, to name just a couple of my quirks. And as your reading this, and as my friend Hurry put it to me once, if you think you do not have any quirks, than you have one more than I.
Those who are not as sensitive as I like to call me crazy. Sometimes joking with me, and sometimes at.
When pushed, I can be harshly direct, honest, and forthcoming of my own failures to try to force accountability from others. I will become extremely direct and fight bullistic behaviour with bullistic behaviour magnified. This is confused with narcissistic behaviour by some, so this is my theory.
Study of the narcissism/echoist personalities has produced many theories of behaviour and how it affects choice of partners and friends. It seems there are narcissists and echoists personalities, and many levels in between on the spectrum. Confidence, in moderation, is good, and the world needs more empathy, so to fall somewhere in between is healthy.
It is one theory that if that spectrum is then drawn in a circle, like a clock face, clockwise to the opposite end of the spectrum, extreme narcissists and echoists have a thin boundary, are neighbors if you will. ( This visual is used to describe the mirroring of the empathetic personality). Echoists echo the narcissists, and the narcissus will rage to not face the kind of accountability an extreme echoist can demand. Thus echoists are sometimes misunderstood as the opposite, as they are simply mirroring what is around them.
Echoists, are overly sensitive and feel emotion intensely, picking up (mirroring) the emotions around them, absorbing others’ feelings like a sponge.
I have always been horribly sensitive and taken to almost absurdity when it comes to animals. To name just a couple, the plight of the car struck kitty, the baby bird with a busted foot, a hungry stray dog, and most domestic pets, due to the mean spirit of uncaring humans, and lack of choice a pet has in which human is theirs. It’s a crap shoot! Just like the family we are born into. And don’t even get me started on the starving polar bears…
The definition of narcissism is excessive interest in or admiration of oneself and an inability to care or sympathize with others.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder, however, is extreme. Psychologists have gone to great lengths to understand what make these types of people tick and their dysfunctional patterns of behavior that are so darn mean. .
Narcissists are bullies. They strike back hard to save face, by name calling, making fun of people, putting others down, judging and are critical as natural defense. If forced to admit being wrong they likely turn their overly harsh and punitive internal “judge” on themselves and feel unbearable shame and self hate depression. In response to that depression, the echoist is wired to find this unbearable, so most of the time Echo will not cause this kind of pain to the narcissus’ and will absorb the blame or emotional bruising, but at their own detriment. The weirdest thing about narcissists high on the spectrum is they are usually quite charming, successful and well liked (most presidents are high on the spectrum). Kids can be cruel growing up but the ring leaders are the narcy in control of them.
I was terribly bullied as a child at home. I would go to school puffy eyed and crying, which put a target on my back for bullies. I went to a large school but most of our classmates stayed the same through high school, so once you’re a mark, your always a mark. I was grouped with the marginalized, usually through choice or solidarity. There was the overly large boy with an immune disease causing him to grow too fast that had bright red hair, the obese boy who didn’t wash (he told the teacher to fuck off in 4th grade to my joy!), the poor girl who had only one outfit, the overly mature girl, who was also very tall, the boy who wouldn’t stop crying, and me, the fat girl that talked too much, had weird quirks (clinical OCD diagnosed at 3 years old) and was fun to laugh at.
What disturbed me the most was how easily another marginalized kid would join the mean students mocking others if they thought they had a chance to be accepted and liked. That hurt the worst. We were too weak and starved for attention.
In art class, once, I remember Donna, the overly mature girl, trying to be my friend. She was just being nice and said that I wasn’t fat at all. She was much larger, with breasts since 3rd grade, than I and said that she would give anything to look like me.
At first I just ignored her, because friending these people meant stagnation on the scale of popularity. When I saw/felt her pain, I changed. In art class while making a clay unicorn head, I changed. I thanked her for her thoughtfulness and at that moment I realized she was very pretty, and I told her so.
Since that day, I have found my social niche to be on the margins, or at the “card table”, in social situations..
The crying boy joined a bunch of more popular kids making fun of me on the bus after school one day. This hurt me very much put me over the edge. I told him how fudged up it is to be mean to me just to be one of the group, I called it “group think” and it was just wrong, especially from him. I told him I hate him more than them because they were ignorant of what they were doing, and he wasn’t, and he knew that this new behaviour of his was hateful and mean. We both were targets since kindergarten and we were in 10th grade by then, so we knew high school layout. The very next morning, he shot himself with a sawed off shotgun in the short span of woods behind all of our houses instead of getting on the bus. I did not feel bad for what I had said to him the day before. I knew I and my comments weren’t the reason he did it. I’m not sure how I knew that but I just did. He did it because there is always the “suicide option” when striving for an end to everyday abuse and he chose it. The same kids that abused this boy all day long had great feigned sadness at his death and formed a vigil in his absence. So he got what he wanted, to be cared for and popular, even if only in his death. I refused to go to the memorials and actually won that argument with my mother. I wasn’t going to pretend that boy was my friend, just because he died. Besides, at least he found an option. False sympathy in this case seems like another form of lovebombing and that is bs.
I did not go to crying boy’s funeral and vigil because I am an uncaring narcissist, but because I am not one.
In the Greek myth of Narcissus and Echo, the origin of the term narcissism, Narcissus was cursed to fall in love with his own reflection and unable to see beyond it. So Narcy loved only himself and could not see Echo. Echo, the original empath or echoist, who had been cursed to mirror and repeat back the words of others, fell in unrequited love with Narcissus and pined away for him, repeating his words of admiration, his self-love, until she died.
My narcy friend “cobalt” characterised me as a narcissist (seeing himself reflected everywhere) and once, while parked in the New York Renaissance Festival campground back in the mid nineties, he entered my bus when I wasn”t there and had, to insult or make fun, cut out a quote from some magazine he was reading and stapled it to my wall and it read:
“The love affair with myself is the best I’ve ever had” like that’s a bad thing. I kept it because I’ve worked very hard to be confident and it gave me joy to see that quote everyday. It is still stapled there to this day, and after two repaint.
He also started a rumor, after trying to hook up with me, that I was a hermaphrodite. Poor Cobalt, the rejected boy child that he was.
I was a very sensitive child with critical parents that both needed to be the center of attention. Like an echo, sensitive people tend to give up their voice and echo the needs of others. Narcissists and echoes are on opposite ends of the spectrum. On the extreme end is a personality disorder but to have a bit of narcissism is a good thing when it falls in the center of the spectrum. A healthy view of self-worth even. On the other end is echoists/empaths that give up their own needs in an attempt to maintain relationships. Echoists are afraid of special attention, uncomfortable with compliments, and try to take up as little space as possible. For those who think I am ego centric, please realize it took years to look up at my audience when I started performing the art of glassblowing, I would freeze and forget what I’m doing if I caught anyones eye. It took many years after that to be able to smile on stage. and even longer still to speak my own narration. I needed an MC to take the limelight. I was 53 during my 19th season at TRF, and I was finally forced into doing my own show, with my own narration, telling my own jokes. And it was awesome and the jokes were finally delivered correctly.
When I was growing up I would let the self obsessed parent lecture on, to only then lie awake at night correcting everything that was said and how I would have rebuked them, if I only had a voice.
I have consciously worked on my self-interest to balance the spectrum, and have allowed confidence in myself as an artist to shape me as a more confident adult. Cobalt had no clue he was just validating my attempt to make myself a more moderate echo with self-made confidence. The love affair with oneself should be the best, and how you then compare every relationship from then on.
If a child has narcissistic parents that need to take up all the space, a temperamentally sensitive child is going to give up space for that parent. My mother was especially adept at lovebombing. This term is usually used by therapists to describe someone who is over solicitous or affectionate in the early stages of a love relationship, but I feel it applies to a parent/child relationship as well. Narcissistic lovebombing is used as a manipulation, giving the object exactly what they want or want to hear to make them emotionally attached and think they need them. This is done to create an illusion that what they have is special. This creates a tight bond that is almost impossible to break, giving the narcissistic personality exactly what they want, your time, energy, love and in complete control of you.
Sensitive people in general are looked down upon for their interests and many such things that form their identity, the crazy tree hugging granola eating animal loving vegan monsters that they are.
But narcissistic lovebombers make promises, they generally never keep.
Living with a person with a narcissistic personality is like living in an alternative reality where you are expected to accept whatever that individual says as true, even when it is obviously wrong. If you object, you are made to feel as if you are at fault. Even if you are clear, for a while, about the differences between reality and what you are being asked to accept, you just get tired and stop correcting them. It is a small step to then start to doubt your own perceptions. .
I was a fearful child. I was terrified of spiders, fish, the dark, closets, mushrooms, polio, bees, germs, drowning, to name just a few, but one thing that scared me the most was being crazy.
I knew that either my parent was right and I was crazy, or they were the crazy one, and the first thought was easier to consider than the second. and if I was crazy, then nobody will ever like or love me. I was constantly told my perceptions and my feelings about them were in my imagination and not real. I had fear and nightmares about being institutionalized by my parents because I knew everyone else would believe them, over me.
Telling someone that what they feel is in their imagination, pretty much is the definition of gaslighting.
I have wasted a lot of my adulthood being gaslit, I’m an easy mark. But aside from being easily manipulated, being overly sensitive to the point of an echo creates a lot of quirks. For example, I cannot sleep well with others, in the bed, or the room, or in the same building, campground, or apartment complex for that matter. Once, while staying in the campground at the NY Renaissance Festival, a drum jam formed very late at night. Now I sleep very light and perform eight shows a day. Campgrounds are the worst for someone as sensitive as me.
So finding myself a niche for artistic recognition at a renaissance festival with all the sites, smells, and noise that come with it, and the sites, smells, and scenes backstage, is painfully poetic.
So as usual, I am the mother hen who goes out there bitching for quiet. It’s a big hippy hoo-ha-done-it but it winds down and 30 minutes later I’m back in my bus and putting ear plugs in. Having finally settled and comfy after admonishing myself for another 30 minutes about what a crazy bitch I was, I finally started to drift off…. and the flipping drumming started again!
I was so pissed I immediately forgot about how much I didn’t want to be a bitch and ran out there screaming!
I then stop to find there were no drummers to be seen and the fire was dying out…that’s when I realized I had the ear plugs in and that it was my own heartbeat I was hearing! I plucked them out to the sounds of snickering from fellow campers, (Cobalt and company had lawn chairs in front of their trailers just to watch the late night Jodi anger episodes).
I went to bed thinking what a fool I am, it will be hours before I forgive myself for that.
Sleep can be very challenging for me and I have struggled with insomnia my whole life. I tend to have night terrors and crazy dreams, but mostly I just can’t get comfortable. And when I am not alone, it’s even harder. When I was younger I would never spend the night with a lover. I always slipped out when they were sleeping and this created a black hole in most of my relationships. Normal people just do not forgive those that WANT to be alone. I assumed until I was about 50 that it was my problem and one I had to fix. I have had a lifetime of sleepless nights, of lying still so as not to wake my partner. I found myself in many uncomfortable positions, and I would just lie there.
Or worse, the formidable “snuggle-hold”.
That’s the feeling of being “trapped” in your lovers arms. I’ve learned to love the snuggle, a lot, but once I allow it to, the “trap thought” takes hold and I panic and quiver till I’m free, complicating the already complicated task of going to sleep. I lived in my truck and a converted school bus, and LOVED it, for many years. This allowed me to sleep over at friends homes, which would have been impossible for me otherwise, by parking in their driveways or yards.
During the years I lived in my truck, if I had a friend that lived in an apartment complex, busy street, or had a sloped driveway, the relationship suffered.
I assumed at a young age I would never have a normal relationship, and not for not trying, and normal was sucky anyway. It is hard for some people to understand when people like me need to be alone, even in a happy relationship. This is one of the reasons echos are often misdiagnosed as having depression or anxiety. They might be depressed, but this is a direct result of the way they are being forced to live their lives, or who they are working with or for. Happy people reflect happy echos, miserable people drag an echo down. If an echo, after years of being told that they are oversensitive, are not aware of who they are, everyday interactions that others find normal could be causing them damage. Boundaries can be difficult, for an echo wants to please others, and not disappoint. Unfortunately this may leave many echos vulnerable to mean, or untrustworthy associations and the crazy that happens when they realize trust was misplaced.
I, as an echo, will make many concessions, show warmth and care about appeasing others, but when thoroughly pushed to breaking point, I feel anger over all the concessions and feel betrayed and unappreciated and at a much higher degree than the average person. I rebuke in demonstrative ways after so much lack of empathy and care and explode with emotion. Then invariably I am called “crazy”.
I will try to confront those that justify their behavior and pass the blame. I have felt lost, confused and hurt. But despite all my heartbreak, I found that I need to pause, to be calm and do some self-evaluation to figure out when and how I became so defenseless. This is when I transform and become whom I expect I really am. The angry Italian lady.
The less sensitive will continue after their negative encounter with me as if nothing happened and they are completely innocent. They will not remember the powerful attempt to make their friendship or employment work, or the help they received, or the allowances made. Just that they were right and I, demonstrative, hurt and demanding accountability, wrong in many ways that overshadow logic, so the substance of the argument is destroyed.
So this is me. I am an echo. I am a joy and angst-sucking sponge. If I am around peace, calm and kindness, I assimilate this and flourish. Negativity is assaulting and exhausting. I like young people because they are not ruined yet, still kind and hopeful. Not because I am childlike but because I like- like a child, and that’s ok.
Are you a narcy or an echo? Or somewhere in between?
Have you been labeled too sensitive? If a friend is distraught, do you feel it too? Are your feelings easily hurt? Are you emotionally drained by crowds and require alone time? Do your nerves get jarred by noise, smells,or excessive talk? Do you prefer taking your own car places so you can leave when you want to? Do you over imbibe to cope? Are you afraid of becoming engulfed by intimate relationships? Do you need to sleep alone to get any rest?-even in intimate love relationships? Are your favorite days when you are by yourself? Do you run through crowds or parties with blinders on (and people think you stuck up maybe) because it’s too overwhelming? Do you forget what you’re doing and your train of thought when around chatty or needy people? Are you overwhelmed by incessant noise? Can you not form thought when overwhelmed?
Then you know how I feel.