In Greek mythology, Echo was the nymph whose cursed life came in contact with Narcissus. She fell in love with Narcissus but her love was not returned because he was incapable of loving anyone but himself. Over the last few decades, we as a society have come to recognize the destruction that narcissistic people release on us as a whole, and individually. Only recently has the archetype of Echo been recognized as a personality. And a disadvantageous one at that.
Echo’s curse was to be silenced. She could only repeat what other people said. Her voice was lost, never to be heard again. Echoism, a term coined by Dr. Craig Malkin, lies on the spectrum opposite narcissism. Self-effacing, disempowered, voiceless, Echo lacks the ability to even see and acknowledge her own needs, much less assert them.
The Making of an Echoist
One of the traits of an Echoist is extreme empathy. A child comes into the world as a highly sensitive person. When that highly sensitive child finds him- or herself as a child of Narcissist(s), their empathy gets subverted to accommodate the needs of the parents.
As children, when we are raised with our needs being met, we develop a “healthy” narcissism. As we find that we are loved and cared for, we learn to love and care for others in a healthy way. Typically, in a toxic environment, the caregivers shut down certain emotions that they find offensive – anger, despair, fear, indignation, etc. An Echo is never able to develop the “healthy” narcissism it takes to address his or her own needs.
Warning Signs You Might Be An Echo
While in and of itself, extreme sensitivity is not a unique sign of echoism, it is a starting point for exploitation. Being highly sensitive means that you have abundant empathy. When born into an environment where caregivers use that empathy to shame or punish you for having needs, the stage is set for lifelong exploitation.
Self-effacing Manner with Low Self Esteem
Another trait of a Echo is a self-effacing personality accompanied by low self-esteem. Throughout their lives, Echoists have learned that everyone else comes first. They eagerly support others’ feelings while pushing their own aside. Losing themselves in the needs of others, often unable to even identify their own needs. Showing love, to an Echoist, means sacrificing their own needs to others in their lives. They are most comfortable when the spotlight is off of them.
Fear of Becoming Narcissistic
It’s very ironic, but another trait of an Echoist is a fear of becoming narcissistic. Ironic, because the Narcissist and the Echoist are on the extreme opposite sides of one another. Both are sensitive. The Narcissist is sensitive to his/her own feelings being hurt; the Echoist is sensitive to everyone’s feelings and emotions. The Narcissist has little to no empathy while the Echo has vast amounts of empathy.
Are you an Echo? If so, you will benefit greatly from a skilled therapist who is qualified in this area. In the meantime, my next post will give you some advice on how to address the issue yourself.
Copyright 2021, Monica Nelson