Let’s go back in time to Greek mythology and revisit the story of Narcissus. Echo was punished by Zeus’ wife Hera for Zeus being in cohorts with her and the nymphs. As a result of Hera’s wrath, Echo could only utter the last few words that anyone ever spoke to her, and nothing else. She fell in love with the beautiful Narcissus. As she could not speak for herself, but only mirrored what Narcissus said, her love remained unrequited as Narcissus became more in love with himself than someone else.
Narcissists have a hard time seeing people as separate from themselves. This is what in psychology is called ‘narcissistic supply’. In the narcissist’s mind, each individual is an extension of themselves. Whether this means a mirror image, sounding board, someone to admire them, feel sorry for them, tell them they are right or fill whatever void they have been feeling from childhood. For example, voids might include that they aren’t smart enough, that they aren’t good enough, and that they aren’t pretty enough. It is an exhausting job for the ones that are closest to them, and thankless in a lot of ways. This brings us to the next point.
The issue with being a in a relationship, any kind of relationship, with a narcissist is the fact that there is no reciprocity. Whatever one gives to the narcissist, it is wise to not expect anything back. In times of need, the narcissist has a hard time letting go of their own self to assist, help, or be there for someone else. For example, one time there was a young child that was very sick with the stomach flu. It was to the point where a doctor had to come to the house because they were so fatigued and in and out of consciousness. Their narcissistic father did not only fail to take care of them but in a rage when the child was still in a helpless state threw the bottle of pills that was prescribed by the doctor for the stomach flu on the floor. The child watched as the medicine splattered all over their room. Seeing someone other than themselves needing help was too much for that narcissistic father to bear. As he casually walked away the child struggled to get up and collect the medicine that would eventually make them feel better.
Like Echo, a narcissist makes another individual what they want them to be, not recognize them for who they are. Thus, people who have grown up with a narcissist have a difficult time forming their own identity, understanding boundaries, building good self-esteem, sustaining healthy relationships, controlling their emotions, and the list goes on. There is void inside that was created due in part to the lack of fundamental emotional needs being met and good examples being set. This can also be true for people who did not grow up in that environment but now have someone close to them that is a narcissist. There is no reciprocity, only an echo, and between the echo, a void.