How to Avoid Fading Away When You're With a Narcissist

What we can learn from Echo and Narcissus.

Posted Sep 15, 2020

Noah Buscher, Unsplash
Source: Noah Buscher, Unsplash

We’re all familiar with the word “echo” – the repeating sound which we hear in certain environments – but we may be less familiar with its origins. In Greek mythology, Echo was a mountain nymph who was famed for her love of talking. Echo put others before herself and when the Greek god Zeus visited her nymph sisters, for the purpose of extramarital relations, Echo was placed in the position of protecting Zeus by lying to his wife Hera by engaging her in conversation and lying about his whereabouts. (All stories really are as old as time!)

When Hera discovers Echo’s deception, she curses Echo so that, from then on, she is only able to repeat what someone else says and cannot initiate conversation in the way she used to love. Echo falls deeply in love with Narcissus, a beautiful youth who passes through where she lives. He, unfortunately, is only in love with himself. Rejected and heartbroken, Echo slowly withered away to stone so that only her voice remained in the echoes we hear in mountains, empty rooms and the like.

Echo serves as a good reminder to those of us who pin all our hopes on another person. Perhaps, like Echo, you’ll find yourself rejected, ignored, or dismissed. If you cannot accept that, simply, this other person insists on treating you this way, you will find yourself living a half-life, constantly striving for the type of attention the other person cannot or will not give you. The rejection may not be as outright at Narcissus’ rejection of Echo. Instead, you may find yourself in a relationship with a narcissist who disrespects your needs and wants and always puts themselves first. If you constantly define yourself in relation to another – whether a parent, partner, or friend – it won’t take a goddess to remove your power to initiate conversation and say what you feel. It’ll happen because you lose the ability to form your own thoughts without reference to your significant other. It’ll also happen because you’re too scared to cross your significant other and choose to stay quiet rather than provoke a negative response from them.

Another great lesson from this myth is the fact that Echo got herself into this trouble in the first place by putting others first. In protecting Zeus by covering his infidelities, Echo put herself into a position of danger. Zeus – a chief deity – was more than happy to lie, cheat, have affairs, and draw others into his web of deception. Poor Echo was easily used given her sweet nature. Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation, in which you are manipulated and used in order to serve the needs of someone else? Narcissists commonly use other people to strengthen their attacks on others. They manipulate people into lying and cheating for them in order to protect and defend them – no matter how badly they’re behaving. Not only does acting in this way mean you may be going against your own values, it can place you in a lonely and dangerous position. When you get caught up in a narcissist’s web of lies and deceit, you might find that other people in your life who were decent get up and leave, so that you’re left in a vulnerable position in which the narcissist can tighten their hold on you.

If you are feeling manipulated, used, and as if your voice is being robbed of you – and you want to avoid fading away like Echo – please ensure that you get the help and support you need. Everyone deserves to have their own voice.