Narcissus

A. Molnos

The myth of Narcissus is the classic story of the mirror image and self-love. The process by which Narcissus falls in love with his own image illustrates projection and a certain aspect of projective identification. It has little to do with mirroring in the psychological meaning of the term. He sees a beautiful youth in the surface of the water and is consumed by longing for that other being. As he does not recognize the image for what it is, namely his own beauty reflected in the pool of water, psychologically no mirroring occurs. And since no mirroring occurs, his inability to reach out towards another being, different from himself, remains concealed to him.

Narcissus believes he loves someone else when he actually is in love with himself. Behind the image he sees there is in fact no one else. This is the prototype of the total disregard for the reality of the loved person. We can call it narcissistic love. We could say it is love for the unconsciously projected image, or a starting point for love by projective identification. Love blind to the object of love. One can imagine what this sort of love does when instead of a pool of water a real person is at the receiving end of it.

See also MIRRORS & MIRRORING, NARCISSISTIC DEFENCES, PROJECTION, PROJECTIVE IDENTIFICATION