Do We Need Narcissus?

Monday July 21st 2014
Detail from Echo and Narcissus by John Waterhouse

Detail from Echo and Narcissus by John Waterhouse

Narcissus (suddenly): “Have you ever been in love? I mean really in love?”

You: “Well, obviously, I marr—“

Narcissus interrupts: “Me – I’m super sensitive so when someone like me falls in love, well it’s probably unusually intense. I mean I know you married Kloe and you’ve had seventeen children, but it would never have been anything like what I’m feeling now. I just — wow –“

You: “When I first fell in love…”

Narcissus: “Of course, it could be my beautiful eyes that have bewitched him. I mean he just couldn’t stop staring and staring at me. Or maybe it’s the hairdo. It was transcendent though, love at first sight like a … like Zeus and whatshername….. or Aphrodite and Adonis… I mean we’re GODS.”

You smile weakly, and Narcissus goes on and on. After a while you stop bothering to nod and smile since clearly it makes no difference. He’ll go on talking anyway. You realise he’s stopped.

You: “Well, like I was saying there was this incredible, huge monster the size of a house….”

Nars: “Yeah right, I have to go now. I have an important date with a pond.”

Those Greeks knew a thing or two about human nature. We’ve all had a friend like Narcissus, who can bring any conversation around to the subject of himself in less than a minute, who never listens to a word you say, who leaves you feeling like an old leaf.

For the full story of Narcissus, click here.

But in the first throes of passion, everyone’s a bit of a narcissist. Falling in love is fascinating  — when it happens to you. If you’re lucky, you fall into the pond together: you and your beloved. So when does healthy self-regard turn into full-blown narcissism, what psychologists call narcissistic personality disorder (NPD)? The short answer is when it’s delusional — and when it carries on for ages. Here’s a definition of a person with NPD from Wikipedia.

  • Expects to be recognized as superior and special, without superior accomplishments
  • Expects constant attention, admiration and positive reinforcement from others
  • Envies others and believes others envy him/her
  • Is preoccupied with thoughts and fantasies of great success, enormous attractiveness, power, intelligence
  • Lacks the ability to empathize with the feelings or desires of others
  • Is arrogant in attitudes and behavior
  • Has expectations of special treatment that are unrealistic

Sounds like a pure Leo, maybe, or Aries. Except Leos are naturally generous, and when they are well-developed they don’t expect anything back. A narcissist is the opposite of that, everything, even giving, is for personal gain. I heard the head of a charity the other day talking about “narcissistic giving” by individuals and institutions. That’s a gift that looks good on the old CV but does not come from compassion. I’ve known people who check all those boxes and then some more. But one person especially springs to mind. She’s a very pure Aries. And here’s the thing: actually — as it turns out many years down the line — she has evolved into an exceptional and thrilling artist. So she is indeed special and talented, and without that narcissistic one-pointed self-belief and the grandiose fantasies (which turned into realities), she would not have made it. What is more, her work is generous and inclusive. People who participate come away feeling great about themselves and about their interactions with other people.

Me, me me, and some more thought about how I feel about me. Anais Nin - her narcisstic self-regard turned out to be kind of interesting for the rest of us.

Me, me me, and some more thoughts about how I feel about me. Anais Nin – her narcissistic self-regard turned out to be kind of interesting and poetic.

So those “negative” narcissistic characteristics may have some real use in the world, even if they are not so grand in personal relationships. The truth is that not all of us are capable of empathy –- leave that to the Pisces, who can do it standing on their heads –– or seeing quality in “ordinary” people, leave that to the Aquarians. My astrological point is this. Your chart may indicate characteristics that are considered negative in our culture — such as narcissism — but those characteristics could also be absolutely necessary to a well-functioning society. We need all kinds of people in the world. For example, most charities couldn’t survive without “narcissistic giving”. So ironic. I have not found a specific signature for narcissism astrologically. But in fact there’s no more Leo or Aries in the charts I’ve looked at than you might expect — so far (this is an on-going investigation. I’ll let you know if I find anything meaty.) Now it’s been argued that we live in increasingly narcissistic times: everyone thinks they are special. This has been blamed on several generations of parents who told their children that they were unique and special all the time. These kids, it’s argued, grow up with a sense of entitlement. In short, the younger generation 20-30 year olds ticks more of those boxes in the NPD test.

King of the Minotaurs - a kind of self-portrait by Picasso, maybe not the world's best boyfriend...

King of the Minotaurs – a kind of self-portrait by Picasso, maybe not the world’s best boyfriend…

Of course, they do! Youth is narcissistic. I expect the older generation would have ticked more of those boxes when they were the younger generation. It’s natural to be fascinated by yourself before the first Saturn Return at 27. You are fascinating. You are exploring yourself. And you need that bubble of narcissism to carry you into the harsh realities of the adult world. Part of the shock of the Saturn Return is the lifting of that narcissism as you realise that you’re not that special. And then after a few years , maybe after your third Jupiter Return, you start to realise that in your own small way, you’re pretty special after all. Obviously, nowhere near as fabulously, grandiosely special as my friend, but we pygmies can dream…. and study our charts! I’d just add that growing up with a narcissistic parent or having a narcissistic partner is no joke at all but that is for another post.

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  1. Eleonora says:

    Love your post!!!
    Neptune conjunct Sun could be an indicator for narcissisim as well, or maybe other aspects involving neptune. It acts like a mirror, or like the surface of the water in which you see yourself. A distorted self-image. As far as I know, Narciss died that way (drowned while admiring himself in the surface of the water). Castro and Maradona have this aspect. Of course, not everybody with this aspect is narcisstic… often enough, it indicates some deep insecurity about own identity (which may be the cause for so much self-exploration). And yes, it can be very positive indeed.

    • Christina says:

      Yes, I agree about that: it’s one of the things I’m looking at. For example, Anais Nin is a Pisces Sun with Moon-Neptune opposition and Neptune on the MC…. As you say, it can also be a very beautiful aspect, poetic and artistic. I think she exemplifies both.

  2. Iris says:

    Churchill: “We are all worms but I do believe I am a glow worm. “

  3. mimi says:

    Hi Christina,

    How about Libra with Moon/Neptune in a Libra ascendant ?
    I know some very narcissistic people and I can tell you they’re not at all Leo or Aries.

    I get so tired of people who think fire signs are always self-centered.
    They are not more self-centered than Libra or Pisces or Virgo.


    • Christina says:

      I’m afraid a particular person of my acquaintance with Libra Sun/Leo Moon does spring to mind. I think Libra does have that reflecting thing going on which is part of the pattern.

  4. Eleonora says:

    Yes, it sounds interesting, sun in pisces… some kind of mix of fire and water influences.

    Ok, I took natal charts of 11 persons who are claimed to be narcisstic and Anais Nin.

    Anais Nin: Sun in pisces, capricorn moon conjunct IC, neptune conjunct MC
    Napoleon: leo sun, capricorn moon conjunct IC, neptune conjunct mars
    Saddam Hussein: Moon sagittarius conjunct DC, neptune (in 4th) bi-quintile venus, trine uranus, trine mercury
    Lee Harvey Oswald: Moon in capricorn (close to DC), neptune conjunct IC, trine uranus, opposite Jupiter, semi-sextile sun, sesqui-quadrate neptune (sun conjunct north node)
    Picasso: Moon in sagittarius conjunct north node, neptune in 10th oppose mercury
    Madonna: Leo sun, moon conjunct ASC, neptune square venus, neptune conjunction jupiter, pluto sextile Neptune, Neptune sextile Mercury
    Sharon Stone: sun in pisces, moon in Sagittarius, Neptune T-squere venus and uranus, conjunct jupiter and n. Node, sesqui-quadrate sun, moon conjunct IC
    Marlon Brando: Sun and moon in aries, moon in 4th, neptune part of yod (along with mars and uranus), trine jupiter sun and moon
    Steve Jobs: Sun in pisces, moon in aries in 7th house, neptune oppose mars, squere jupiter, uranus and venus, trine sun
    Marquis de Sade: Moon in 10th, neptune opposition jupiter, semi-square mercury
    Paris Hilton: Moon in leo conjunct north node, neptune in 1th house, sesqui-quadrate moon
    Hitler: Taurus, moon in capricorn, Neptune semi-sextile sun and bi-quintile moon

    Moon is often in a fiery sign (often sagittarius), but most often in capricorn.
    4 capricorn moons, 3 sagittarius moons, 2 aries moons, 1 leo moon (10 out of 12).
    Moon is always dominant (in a cardinal house, conjunct angles or N. Node)
    Neptune is dominant as well, and often makes tight minor aspects to personal planets, such as bi-quintile, semi-sextile, sesqui-quadrats. Very often neptune in 10th.

    It is a really great topic, and I hope you will write again about it, when finished your research! Thank you!

  5. Liz says:

    Would Neptune on the AP indicate narcissism as well? Or would it attract narcissists — as if the person or event were a mirror to the world?

    • Christina says:

      Do you mean the Aries Point?

        • Christina says:

          In which case, we’re talking about people born in the 1860s, I think. Theoretically, it could do both. It would be interesting just to find a few charts of people born with this signature and see. When they came of age, the Aesthetic Movement would have been the thing, which is pretty self-regarding. I’ve had a quick look at Aubrey Beardsley (Neptune in Aries but the other end) and Oscar Wilde (Neptune in Pisces exactly on the DESC!), but no Aries Point.

          • Liz says:

            I just realized! You could say that the television was the child (creation) of those born with Neptune around the AP because the first patent for it came out in 1884. The man who published the patent, Nipkow, was born in 1861.

          • Liz says:

            Oh that’s excellent! These were the adults of the Belle Epoch. (I’m reminded of a favorite movie: A Room With A View.) I wonder if their children also grew up with a sense of entitlement — it would add another layer to the jazz era.

            The first person I think of is Rudolf Steiner (1861) the philosopher and artist who started the Waldorf school.
            As for public projection: Lizzie Borden (1860) is a name that still comes up (here in the USA) sometimes when discussing female murderers. Her story went literally everywhere in a time without television she was as notorious as OJ Simpson. Talking about well-known American females, there’s also Annie Oakley (1860) the actress who became famous for her shooting skills. Oh! and Laura Addams (1860), the first female nobel peace prize winner.

            The poet, Rumi, was born with Neptune on the AP; he wrote many love poems.

  6. mimi says:

    How about Liberace ????

    But he is a Taurus, however he has Neptune in Leo.


  7. Jamma says:

    I met Anais Nin once … she was wearing a long purple velvet cape — in the middle of the afternoon. She didn’t seem narcissistic … just playful, like she viewed the world as a large theatrical production.
    For a grade-A narcissist, I’d nominate Arnold Schwarzenegger. I checked and he has Leo Sun with Capricorn Moon (!) and Pisces Midheaven.
    Born: July 30, 1947, 4:10 AM
    in: Graz (Austria)
    Sun: 6°05′ Léo
    AS: 19°03′ Cancer
    Moon: 3°31′ Capricorn
    MC: 24°17′ Pisces

  8. Janet McKee says:

    I have Echo conjunct Narcissus with Saturn at their midpoint (exact, all in very close orb). Doesn’t sound great, but I’m thinking maybe Saturn balances the two extremes? Also, a new acquaintance has Narcissus conjunct (combust) their Sun, both of which conjunct my Ascendant. Is that a Red Flag? Would appreciate your thoughts. Thank you.

    • Christina says:

      I don’t think so. It really depends on how they are living their chart. Our narcissist in chief — Boris Johnson ex-PM — has Venus Rx combust his Sun though, which I think is quite tricky to get around!

  9. Melissa says:

    I met a person I’d consider to have NPD. Really never knew what that was until I became involved. Truly damaging and I’d go as far as sociopathic yet there was also a wounded childlike quality at times. Libra rising with Pluto on ascendant square his mars. Lots of squares with Chiron an an exact Venus square Neptune. Charming initially then Controlling, dominating and sexually abusive. Now I ironically met a woman recently .. just a friend..( no coincidence ) who shares his birthday and same year. Definitely not an abuser but a recipient of abuse. I’d reserve the term NPD for the true personality disordered . Narcissistic traits something entirely different.

    • Christina says:

      Very true: wouldn’t want to use the clinical term, which is quite a specific disorder. This is more about narcissistic traits. Also, I think there’s a huge difference between getting involved in a personal relationship, and just seeing the person from further away.