Narcissus. A psychological exploration of the myth.


“The past of every form and way of life, of cultures that formerly lay right next to or top of each other, now flows into “modern souls”; our drives now run back everywhere; we ourselves are kind of chaos.” 

Beyond Good and Evil_ Nietzsche

"Become what you are by learning who you are" Pindar.


This project represents, through the classic myth of Narcissus, the struggle of the individual towards the fundamental knowledge of his/her existence, the base and the vital psychic engine and the dangers of the essential search.


The project has been created with the aim of enabling three different readings.

1. The myth of Narcissus as a metaphor for the search for inner individual knowledge.

2. Narcissism as a human psychological basis.

3. The pathology of narcissistic disorder and internal suffering.

The classic myth of Narcissus represented in traditional arts, depict a character from an external perspective, which maintains distance from the viewer.

Narcissus is a metaphor for certain shared aspects of human experience.

The present project aims to show these shared similarities, for this, the new Narcissus begins his journey from the traditional representation towards a psychological immersion in the different phases of struggle, suffering and possible personal self-transformation, deductible from the classic myth and the different contemporary psychological theories. 

A compendium of ideas combined with several possible exegeses.

The tradition and the experimentation of past cultures, still continue to live in us, according to Nietzsche, and thus the collective past, as layers that form the individual psyche, erects the new human reflection.

The underwater images represent a tripartite internal psychological process with its different readings that establish a dialogue between traditional knowledge and modern scientific theories.

There is in this work, once again, a general interest in the cultural tradition, which continues to evoke and guide new knowledge and important interpretations of our struggles and contemporary realities.


Three readings:

1. The Narcissus myth as a metaphor for the search for internal individual knowledge.

The Roman poet Ovid gathers in his "Metamorphoses" the story of "Eco and Narcissus". Tiresias predicts a long life for Narciso if he never gets to “know himself” (“si se nonverit”) *(1).

The ambiguity of the use of the concept of "knowing oneself" and/or "love of oneself" is confused with the importance of true internal knowledge ("gnóthi sautón"), and when presented in the story, the equivocation becomes persistent in our cultural history.

In "Narcissus and Goldmund”, Herman Hesse deals with the dialogue between the artist and the thinker that resembles the encounter between the Apollonian and the Dionysiac of Nietzsche.

Narcissus shapes the shapeless through artistic creation, Goldmund seeks his destiny. Hess, represents once more, as in “Demian", the arduous journey towards self-knowledge.


2. Narcissism as a human psychological basis.

In 1909 Freud situates narcissism as an intermediate stage between autoerotism and object love. In 1914, in his "introduction to narcissism,” he posited it as an essential psychic instance of every human being, normative, but which, nevertheless also becomes visible in the serious pathologies.

The narcissistic phase is a fundamental basis in individual construction, however, we must leave this primary stage towards individual maturation, and although partial dissolution is necessary, the complete disappearance of the "Self" is problematic.

Lacan establishes in "The mirror stage", the primal phase when the baby recognises his image in the mirror, it is when the formation of the "self" begins. This formation is therefore dependent on the external reflex that will form the internal "self". The division between the intimate and the external is not clear and the "extimacy" will monopolise the initial psychic formation and the later permanent structure of subjectivity.

The “imaginary order” a formative capacity, and therefore creativity and art have an orthopaedic validity, which forms the report towards transcendence.


3. The pathology of narcissistic disorder and internal suffering.

Many intellectual uses derive from the myth of Narcissus, among them the denomination of "narcissism" to a psychological disorder described by Western psychology.

The fragility of the narcissistic "Self" is due to that mirror image projected and constructed with the illusion of totality, which is confused in a satisfactory reflection that limits the intimate and social relationship.

This confused fragility condemns the individual to a life in which the true encounter and recognition with the other is only a chimerical illusion.

If there is no recognition of the other, there are only two types of possible relationships, these are domination or subjugation. The impossibility of this creation of affective bonds is unconsciously perceived by the narcissist, creating enormous suffering.

The internal life becomes a perpetual struggle between a defensive state and a struggle to free itself, its inner space is gradually limited.

The narcissist's drama lies in the constant struggle to free oneself from self-imposed limits, the inability to connect with others and the perpetual defensive state that draws an external reality in these painful internal terms. It is, in reality, a struggle with a created "self" that projects the unacceptable outwards.

It is the lack of empathy and the exacerbated grandiosity of the narcissist that drives him/her, sometimes, to help the fallen, although perhaps this same can mean an imminent danger to others, the narcissist enhances his/her self-image. The appearance is "A warrior for justice", although the supposed justice is doubtful or irresponsible, the narcissist concerns his/her own image.

To a greater or lesser extent, there is a "Narcissus" in each one of us. 

Narciso does not fall in love with himself, but with an ideal mirror image. The romantic projects his/her image to the object of his/her desire, the narcissist reverses that image to him/herself.

There is, however, a desire for union with the illusion, and confusion hides, the impulse of the genuine union with the essential, the true search of the individual that gives meaning to the unique human experience.

In this struggle for the distinction between the chimaera and the essential, between the dream and reality, between slavery and freedom, our human experience is centred in the constant evolution towards the desired full liberating consciousness. To be aware of our inner Narcissus is to be liberated and be able to live consciously and responsibly. 



*1.”If he does not check" (Quote from “Metamorphoses III” in “The Narcissus Myth in Spenser’s Poetry. (Calvin R. Edwards. (1977). The Narcissus Myth in Spenser's Poetry. Studies in Philology, 74(1), 63-88. Retrieved from