Narcissus

This morning the husband and I discussed the President. A meme has resurfaced—thanks to the garbage-laden Internet of Mark Zuckerberg—of President Trump, The Orange Mango, User of Makeup Dusted with Gold, Imperial Rambler, Narcissist of Our Age. Two years ago, in 2018, the man squatting in the White House entered his flight-of-ideas mode before a Montana audience. The subject was Elton John, and how he, Mr. Trump, was bigger and better than Elton. Even though he, Mr. Trump, didn’t have an organ. Except that he, Mr. Trump, had a mouth. A mouth is better than an instrument, especially if such mouth connected to a brain.

The rest is history.

Anyway, as I was writing to the subject of this blog—starting out, I had no subject—I had to look up the spelling of narcissist (forgot the double-s). This got me thinking about the eponymous Greek myth protagonist.

Consulting Wikipedia, I found this fabulous painting (above) of Narcissus by Michelangelo Merisi da Carravagio, a 16th-17th century painter of the tenebrism technique, “shadowism”, favored by Rubens and Rembrandt. In one of the multiple versions of the Narcissus mythology, he spurns his male suitors. One of them, Ameinias, uses the sword Narcissus gave him to kill himself. In all the stories there is just revenge, whether brought about by Nemesis, the goddess of revenge, or via Ameinias’ fervent prayers for justice. However word got around, the ending I like the most is when Narcissus sees his gorgeous self in the clear water of a pool, he is fixated to the point where he too commits suicide, because he can never have the object of his desire: himself.

Among the many versions, there is one in which Narcissus upon his metaphysical death becomes a yellow and white flower. Scholars debate about which came first—Narcissus named for the flower or the flower named for Narcissus. Anyway, it’s another name for the common daffodil, a flower of the amaryllis family.

However there is little debate about the origins of the narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder (DSM-5) included NPD starting in 1980. Prior to this, Freud defined the syndrome in 1914, describing it as a function of libido. Narcissism turned inward, via libido energy, is normal in infants. Freud describes abnormal narcissism resulting from excessive depletion of this libido energy, when, if not replenished by love and affection, becomes pathological. Seems very Freudish to me.

Narcissus exemplified someone in love with himself. The myth is a moral fable: those unable to feel empathy for others are destined to perish from it. In a recent NPR interview, an expert in empathy quoted a study finding that the most successful CEOs—and perhaps this is a prerequisite for the job—lack the ability to feel empathic; however empathy can be taught. That is, if you can get the a-hole to admit that he (men are statistically more likely to have NPD; thus the choice of pronoun. However women are not immune) might be committing empathy fail and get him to take your class.

The depth of self-regard and lack of empathy in someone who could be classified as a narcissist is common enough. I’ve mostly read about NPD as it relates to serial killers, but in our current circumstances it’s become a favorite drive-by diagnosis, along with bipolar disorder.

As lifted from the VeryWellMind.com website:

“According to the DMS-5, a person must meet the following criteria to be diagnosed with a personality disorder:

  • Chronic and pervasive patterns of behavior that affect social functioning, work, school, and close relationships

  • Symptoms that affect two or more of the following four areas: thoughts, emotions, interpersonal functioning, impulse control

  • Onset of patterns of behavior that can be traced back to adolescence or early adulthood

  • Patterns of behaviors that cannot be explained by any other mental disorders, substance use, or medical conditions”

Sounds like a lot of people I have known, worked with, or broke off friendships with.

I sometimes think that the President’s supporters think his term is just another of his TV shows, set in the White House with a four year run, a new take on “The Apprentice”.

And here are some Love-in-the-Mist, nigella, for something beautiful to gaze at.

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About Jill Zeller

The author of numerous short stories and novels, Jill Zeller lives near Seattle, Washington, with her patient and adoring husband, two English mastiffs, and one self-centered tuxedo cat. Her works explore the boundaries of reality. Some may call it fantasy, but there are rarely swords and never elves. More to the point, she prefers to write as if myth, imagination and hallucination were as real as the chair she is sitting on as she writes this. Maybe it is because she was raised as a Christian Scientist. Jill Zeller also writes under the pseudonym Hunter Morrison

Comments

Narcissus — 3 Comments

  1. In my area we are trying (without a lot of luck) to eradicate an invasive non-native plant. It was imported from SE Asia as a pretty bedding flower that sent up nice orange flowers and filled in landscape beds rapidly.

    Now it has jumped the beds and is spreading mercilessly. It’s taking over so nice seed bearing plants that feed the birds are becoming endangered. Hack Weed sounds like the orange muskrat in office…

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