The Internet arena is a narcissist’s paradise. The term narcissism, which means loving yourself too much, comes from Greek mythology. Narcissus, the son of a river god named Cephissus and a nymph named Liriope, was a handsome young man who turned away all the girls who fell in love with him. To punish him for his haughtiness and his disregard for the feelings of others, the gods made him fall hopelessly in love with himself. When Narcissus went to drink from a pool, he couldn’t take his eyes from his reflection in the water. Eventually he died there and the flower we call the narcissus, notable for its beauty, grew where he’d lingered.
It was in Greece that narcissism was first mentioned, then meaning a feeling of pride that is greater than normal and hurts other people’s feelings. In the late 19th century, the word began to take on a psychological meaning. In 1914 Freud added his interpretation, claiming that narcissism is a vital natural phase in healthy human development but so is learning love for others. The transition from early or “primary” narcissism to the investment of energy in an external love object, Freud believed, is a crucial step in the individual’s healthy development. It was Freud who said, “A strong egoism is a protection against falling ill, but in the last resort we must begin to love in order not to fall ill.” He also wrote that “a person in love is humble. A person who loves has, so to speak, forfeited a part of his narcissism.”