Where do narcissists end up?

“Echoists” are the opposite of narcissists - and that's not necessarily better

Narcissists. If we think of them, we have a clear picture in mind: arrogant and empathetic manipulators who live from the admiration of others.

That picture, however, is only one end of a much wider spectrum, says writer and psychologist Craig Malkin. Loving yourself as you are is important for well-being - there are also quite healthy forms of narcissism, writes the psychologist in his book “The Narcissist Test”.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, however, there is still one extreme. An extreme that does not correspond at all with the familiar image of the toxic, self-loving narcissist. Malkin calls these people echoists.

Being the opposite of a narcissist can only be a good thing, you might be thinking now. That's not the case.

People who suffer from lack of narcissism

In contrast to narcissism, most people generally consider selflessness and humility to be virtues. Echoists also live these values, albeit to an unhealthy degree: They consider it reprehensible to consider themselves something special - and they suffer from it.

The term "echoists" can be traced back to the story of the mountain nymph Echo from Greek mythology. The nymph fell in love with the shepherd Narcissus, who rejected her. Echo then withdrew injured into the mountains, where her body gradually disappeared until finally only her voice remained. Narcissus, on the other hand, was cursed by the goddess Nemesis for his arrogance: he saw his reflection in a spring and fell in love with it. It stayed on the bank until it died and turned into a beautiful flower.

So do echoists suffer from a lack of narcissism? Instead of a narcissism deficit, the clinical psychologist and psychotherapist Udo Rauchfleisch prefers to speak of a self-esteem deficit. “The term narcissism is actually an unfortunate term because it has very negative connotations in common parlance,” he says. “I prefer to talk about what it's actually about, namely self-esteem, self-respect and self-confidence. And then of course you realize that too little of it can have fatal consequences. "

According to the psychologist, the point at which this deficit is unhealthy is reached when it is no longer a question of genuine modesty, but of an extreme deferment of one's own interests. "When the person suffers and takes chances and opportunities that they actually have, it is no longer good humility, but self-destructive."

After all, it is not that those affected have no dreams and do not wish for success - they just do not dare to tackle them.

"You are not born to be a narcissist and echoist, you are brought up"

What kind of narcissism a person develops depends, among other things, on whether they are extroverted or introverted. However, according to Malkin, the origin of echoism lies in childhood and upbringing.

There are many different ways parents can push their children to one of the extreme ends of the narcissism spectrum. An example, according to Malkin, is emotionally unstable parents who only seem happy when they are praised, comforted and caressed by the child. In this way the child learns that he will only get the affection and love of his parents if he puts his own needs aside.

Another example: Children who are constantly reprimanded with sentences like “Don't let success go to your head” or “Don't talk about yourself, that's arrogant”. According to Malkin, at some point these children begin to feel ashamed of talking about their successes and dreams. "Whenever the environment punishes or threatens a child for striving for something higher, this child will likely end up as an adult on the unhealthy left side of the spectrum," writes the psychologist.

Whichever example we take, in the end, it's the lack of support from lack of love that pushes a child to one end of the spectrum or the other, says Malkin. "If children do not experience this, they develop appropriate behaviors in order to gain love in an unhealthy way, for example by demanding attention (narcissists) or staying in the shadows (echoists)."

Good listener or subtle echoist?

Perhaps you have someone in your circle of friends who is an excellent listener and is always there when you need help without expecting anything in return. It may be that this person is just an observant person. Or maybe she's a subtle echoist.

According to Malkin, subtle echoists reflexively focus on the needs of their fellow human beings - an unconscious strategy designed to prevent others from rejecting them. “In her opinion, the less 'space' they take up with their own claims and worries, the more personable and lovable they are,” Malkin writes. Sometimes they express their own wishes, but take care not to ask too much.

However, it becomes frightening for subtle echoists when their own needs become so great that it is no longer enough to be there for others. If they suddenly have a strong need for support and consolation, according to Malkin there is a short-circuit reaction: they go into hiding. Get still. Suddenly stop answering calls. The psychologist describes your attempts to feel better as chaotic and clumsy, for example in the form of calls in the middle of the night. Malkin calls this behavior "panic of need". "Once the crisis is over, those affected very often slide back to their original position on the spectrum."

Society plays a not entirely insignificant role in the development of this personality, says Rauchfleisch. The term “echoist” is relatively new, but descriptions of people of this kind have been around for a long time. “It intertwines the social and the individual. Socially, people who are particularly polite and nice are perceived as very positive - if they don't overdo it - and are rewarded for it. ”So when someone experiences that they get the attention and confirmation they need, when they are whole is kind and considerate, this insecurity is amplified.

Echoists help regain self-respect

The obvious thought in helping an echoist is to advise them to consult a psychologist or therapist. "But that often doesn't go down well," says Rauchfleisch. "The insecure in particular feel hurt by it." It is better to make it clear to the person: You suffer and lose many opportunities that you actually have; you could feel more comfortable and achieve more if you say goodbye to your demeanor a little. So she might come up with the idea of ​​going to a specialist herself if she can't get out of this position on her own.

Rauchfleisch generally advises those affected and not affected from self-diagnoses via dubious online tests and questionnaires in books. For one thing, it's a self-assessment, so there's a bias. In addition, you can usually already see the consequences of your answers based on the questions - these tests are very easy to manipulate.

Also read: These four types of people magically attract narcissists

It becomes especially critical when an echoist meets a narcissist - or worse, the narcissist is the boss or the partner. “It's an ominous mixture. Narcissists are primarily concerned with power and experiencing their own greatness, because deep down they doubt it and are insecure themselves. Echoists suffer from this extremely - they are exploited to an extreme degree. ”Exactly what echoists need - the approval and love of others - narcissists cannot offer. "For them echoists are only a means to an end."

In such a situation it is important to say to the echoist who is close to you: Protect yourself, pull yourself out of situations in which you are only the victim and where your ultimate self-esteem is destroyed.