Narcissism is the topic du jour. We’re programmed to beware of gaslighting and avoid the red flags of extreme selfishness and a craving for attention. But the reverse – having no narcissism – isn’t any healthier, experts warn. In fact, it can be be equally as damaging.
This trauma response is called echoism, a term popularized by psychologist Craig Malkin, to describe many victims of narcissistic abuse who fear being the center of attention. Those familiar with Greek mythology may recognize the name from the story of Narcissus, a hunter in love with his own reflection, and his romantic admirer Echo, a nymph cursed to repeat back the last few words she hears.
Like their namesake, echoists “struggle to have a voice of their own,” says Malkin, a lecturer at Harvard Medical School who wrote “Rethinking Narcissism: The Secret to Recognizing and Coping with Narcissists.” “They often echo the needs and feelings of others,” and the result is a unique vulnerability to toxic relationships that perpetuate a cycle of abuse and silence.‘Echoists’ are prone to narcissistic, emotionally abusive relationships. Is this you? Jenna Ryu, USA TODAY,
Tue, August 23, 2022 at 9:03 PM
Trauma responses are very real and they subtly alter our behaviors and patterns of thinking, shifting us more and more away from a healthy, balanced point towards adaptive behaviors which severely alter our sense of self. The changes can happen so gradually that our sense of what is normal devolves into our “new normal”.
We usually don’t realize how crazy and messed up life has become until we pull away from it and are able to look at it from the outside.
While we’re in it our survival skills are in full gear, so our brains try to create some kind of sense of normalcy, which blinds us to how bad things actually are.
Survivalism is very necessary for many situations where there is physical threat and danger, and where there is emotionally crippling and wounding occurring. The key thing to do in those circumstances is to survive.
Survivalism calls for adaptive behaviors we wouldn’t otherwise engage in, and if continued over the long-term, can lead us and our families into thinking this really IS normal, yet it isn’t.
People who live through these experiences tend to struggle with mental health issues, depression, and anxiety coming to the top of the list, along with a host of other issues.
When we’ve come to believe that what we’ve come out of or are currently living with is normal, and everyone else in the family believes it too, the person who struggles with mental health issues brought on by these situations is made to feel as though there is something wrong with THEM.
“They lose their own ability to know their mind, to speak their own mind and to have their own feelings. They just exist to put someone else at the forefront and thereafter, they’re fearful of taking the limelight,” Harpur explains. Other common indicators include repeated romantic or platonic relationships with narcissists, low self-esteem, an inability to set boundaries and a fear of upsetting others.‘Echoists’ are prone to narcissistic, emotionally abusive relationships. Is this you? Jenna Ryu, USA TODAY,
Tue, August 23, 2022 at 9:03 PM
It’s difficult for many families to admit that the abusive narcissist who leads or rules the household has been able to alter everyone’s perception of reality in such deep ways, that their “happy” (on the outside at least) family is just a facade, and that no one is really happy.
Justifications become the norm to excuse the abusive narcissist. “He’s a good provider”, “He’s a pillar in the community”, and “He’s a good guy under all the toughness” are some of the justifications which get thrown around.
“It’s not really all that bad” is a lie that is often told to ourselves and to one another, because the thought of “breaking up a family” is one of the most difficult decisions we can ever make.
People who come from highly “traditional” or religious families usually end up trying to brush a lot under the rug, to force themselves to maintain the facade of successfully living with the abuser, because for years they’ve heard how “non-churchgoers” or “non-traditional people” simply don’t hold to the same values, and that the future of the wellbeing of the entire community depends upon them not leaving.
Wow. That’s a lot of pressure to put on people.
What incredible pressure to conform to any abuses in the name of holding their community together.
So people tend to suffer in silence. They don’t want to rock the boat or appear to be out of step with those around them, because THE COMMUNITY IS DEPENDING ON THEM.
Bollocks! It’s completely unhealthy to pretend that abusive situations are healthy or normal.
Sadly, the only ones who are fooled by these ways of thinking are those living it and doing their best to pretend all is good. People on the outside of the community or family often see the truth, but won’t say anything.
Two extreme ends lie on the spectrum of narcissism. One is the narcissism we know and hate: the entitlement, lack of empathy and abusive behavior wreaking havoc on a victim’s life. On the other end is echoism, a more silent condition just as concerning.
Both Malkin and Harpur agree that a hint of narcissism can be healthy. While a pathological narcissist is “blind” to the consequences of their behaviors, a healthy narcissist – albeit with some arrogance – will ultimately be “responsive to feedback and if they make mistakes, it’s not crushing to them. It just becomes something they have to navigate and accept,” Harpur says.
In fact, an innate desire to feel recognized for your accomplishments drives people to try new things, expand their interests and grow. But an echoist who fears seeming narcissistic may repress their true personality and fail to self-enhance or make meaningful connections – a phenomenon scientifically related to anxiety and depression.
“We need to feel a little special in order to be happy and healthy and to thrive,” Malkin says. “If you are so intensely fearful of taking up any attention or of expressing your needs in a relationship, other people miss out on connecting with you … and if the person is so uncomfortable with having focus on them, they’re going to prefer to be with somebody who takes up all the room” – resulting in a special attachment to narcissists.‘Echoists’ are prone to narcissistic, emotionally abusive relationships. Is this you? Jenna Ryu, USA TODAY,
Tue, August 23, 2022 at 9:03 PM
Overcoming being an Echoist
Overcoming being an Echoist is going to be a multi-step process, for there’s going to be a lot of unlearning which needs to be done, but it is best accomplished by learning new positive behaviors and slowly implementing them.
The more we try to force ourselves NOT to do something, the more difficult life gets. Instead, we really need to focus on slowly incorporating new behaviors and thoughts into our lives.
I heard a beautiful analogy years ago which illustrates this process.
Imagine a glass of dirty water. We want to be able to drink clean water from the glass, but we can’t tip out the dirty water. How can we accomplish this?
When we place the glass of dirty water under the faucet and allow clean water to pour in, eventually enough clean water displaces the dirty water.
This perfectly illustrates how our emotions work.
We can’t empty ourselves of our emotions, but we can learn new thought processes and behaviors to gradually displace the old unhealthy ones.
Reclaiming our God-given rights to think for ourselves, to be our own person, and to be able to spend life living and not simply surviving is vitally important to our mental health and to developing happiness and peace within ourselves.
If anything in this post has spoken to you and you wish to learn more, I hope you’ll poke around my Archived Posts to find a wonderful trove of supportive and encouraging posts!
I’m sharing more posts that may be helpful for you:
- 10 Steps to Owning Our Happiness
- Setting “Boundaries with consequences”
- Making a change… “How do I take that first step?”
- Affirmation: Today is a new day! I can do this!
- As we practice being gentle and kind with ourselves, we actually help to speed the process of helping our lives become more positive!
- Always believe that wonderful things can happen!
- A healthy outside starts from the inside!
- Brain Rewiring
More good stuff:
- Teaching ourselves to like, even to love ourselves
- By changing our inner dialogue, we change EVERYTHING!
- Challenge: When a negative thought enters your mind, think three positive ones. Train yourself to flip the script!
- Red Ocean or Blue Ocean? How do you think?
- An answer to dealing with the Inner Critic!
- My top 10 most viewed posts, plus a few bonuses!
- A helpful trick to be able to overcome negatively Comparing Ourselves to others…
- Do you only accept yourself if you look a certain way?
- A new you! Is this possible?
- Start today, start tomorrow, just start!
- There is no enlightenment outside of daily life – Thich Nhat Hanh
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