Echo and Narcissus by John William Waterhouse

Who Was Echo?

   As this Greek myth goes, there was once a nymph named Echo. Nymphs were magical female creatures that lived in nature. They were not quite human, but not goddesses either.

Zeus, the king of the Greek gods, liked to spend time with the nymphs. His wife, Hera, was very jealous that he spent his time there. When Hera went to find Zeus, Echo crossed her path and tried to distract her from finding him by talking and talking…

   Hera grew angry at Echo’s talking, so she cursed her. This meant that Echo could only repeat the last words spoken to her (like an echo). She had lost her beautiful voice and could only mimic what others were saying, never being able to speak her own words again.

Who Was Narcissus?

   Narcissus was the most handsome guy around. Narcissus was so beautiful that most people who looked at him fell in love. But Narcissus thought he was better than most, and he never returned the love of his admirers.

One day, Echo came across Narcissus in the forest. She immediately fell in love with him! But what could Echo do? With her curse, she could never tell Narcissus that she loved him and could only repeat his words back to him. Narcissus did not understand this, and he told her to go away! Echo was devastated.

Soon after, Narcissus was in the woods and stopped to take a drink in a pond. The water was so still that he was able to see his reflection for the first time. But Narcissus didn’t realize he was looking at himself. He fell in love with the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. It was true love…with himself! All Echo could do was sit and watch.

So, what does this have to do with counselling?

   Often in life we can feel unheard much like Echo. We want to express ourselves and feel acknowledged but can tend to satisfy the needs of others, avoiding our true desires. Sometimes people around us, like Narcissus, can have traits that are dismissive and self absorbed. This can lead to victims creating a variety of learned behaviours and defence mechanisms in order to cope. This can cause sadness, anxieties, low self esteem, fear and even depression.  Understanding yourself through exploration within therapy can unveil true self, increasing self awareness and esteem, leading to positive change.

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