Do We Need Narcissus?
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.
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.
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.