History of narcissism

The term narcissism comes from the Greek myth of Narcissus, a handsome Greek youth who rejected the desperate advances of the nymph Echo. These advances eventually led Narcissus to fall in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. Unable to consummate his love, Narcissus “lay gazing enraptured into the pool, hour after hour,” and finally changed into a flower that bears his name, the narcissus.

The concept of excessive selfishness has been recognized throughout history. In ancient Greece the concept was understood as hubris. It is only in recent times that it has been defined in psychological terms.

▪ In 1752 Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s play Narcissus: or the Self-Admirer was performed in Paris.

▪ In 1898 Havelock Ellis, an English sexologist, used the term “narcissus-like” in reference to excessive masturbation, whereby the person becomes his or her own sex object.

▪ In 1899, Paul Näcke was the first person to use the term “narcissism” in a study of sexual perversions.

▪ Otto Rank in 1911 published the first psychoanalytical paper specifically concerned with narcissism, linking it to vanity and self-admiration.

▪ Sigmund Freud published a paper exclusively devoted to narcissism in 1914 called On Narcissism: An Introduction.

▪ In 1923, Martin Buber published an essay “Ich und Du” (I and You), in which he pointed out that our narcissism often leads us to relate to others as objects instead of as equals.

▪ Since 2000, on psychological tests designed to detect narcissism, the scores of residents of the United States have continually increased. Psychologists have suggested a link to social networking.

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