Narcissus and the Psyche

Giant Narcissus

 

Narcissus and the Psyche

Early in my depth-psychological studies, I was drawn to the artwork of John William Waterhouse. His paintings capture the great drama of many mythic and fairytale images. I’d sit in a sort of meditation looking at the orchestra of expression. This amplification practice helped me experience vivid psychological structures both universal and personal. These were the archetypes personified after all. 

 

During this time, I started to collect reprints of some of his more popular paintings. My home and office displayed radical instincts and narratives of psychological life that felt quite charged. My home and office had become an external display of the process of individuation where unconscious contents could be contained and expressed through these images. 

 

Well, let’s just say that this got out of hand. In fact, with time my own restless existential occurrence paralleled and was exacerbated by my home and work environments. Spaces became psychoactive!

 

The Externalized Object and the Psychoactive Image

Let’s examine the subject of the externalized object and psychoactive image because, as we look to the myth of Narcissus, I think it is an interesting consideration how we decorate our worlds around us with the familiar, the provocative and the taboo. What world do we create around us through others, art, and more? 

 

If you take a look at the clothing we wear, the symbols we gather, we begin to see where we find our reflection. Does this not say significant things about ourselves? Our fantasies? And our desires? When, for me, the desire for individuation and reconciliation of scattered parts dominated my life, Waterhouse brought some formations to light.

 

The Giant Narcissus

The unconscious often comes through as synchronistic and as trickster experiences we can find frustrating or even humorous. The last reprint I ordered of Waterhouse’s work was Echo and Narcissus. I intended to order a small reprint, roughly 2 feet by 1 foot. When the painting arrived, to my utmost surprise, it was huge! 

 

Here I wanted a small example of the narcissistic drive and I ended up with the largest canvas of them all! I laughed hysterically as I hung giant Narcissus himself above my mantle. A fun topic between friends and my partner! He stayed with me for over a year!

 

Echo and Narcissus

Waterhouse illustrates the Greek story of a young male possessed by his fascination with his own reflection. On the other end of the painting, his counterpart (often the other aspect of the archetypical whole figure) gazes in longing toward him. She is desperate, her breast exposed. 

 

It’s an available and nurturing compassion paired with great longing and despair. Our arrested obsession with our image can introduce great insight, understanding, appreciation, and even love of our own features. However, in compensation, relationships feel estranged, emotional life, comfort, and nourishment often unattended. 

 

Who is this other figure?  She is the nymph Echo, heartbroken that all Narcissus can hear and see is himself. Rumor has it she dies of heartbreak and loneliness in nearby caves. Today we hear our own Echo and remember her ghost.

 

The Experience of the Narcissistic Psyche

This divide captures the experience of the narcissistic psyche. On one hand, healthy narcissism lets us see ourselves. For example, attempts at finding the positive and studying our personhood can bring us insight and confidence. 

 

In contrast, when in excess or possession we lose intimacy. Indeed, like the sun at the center of the universe, our own subjective perspective dominates all. Things, others, and ideas are no longer real to the narcissistic. Instead, all falls to personal preservation and must be controlled. In narcissism, the fragile parts cannot be soothed and therefore must be rejected. 

 

In fact, feeling vulnerable is to bounce the ideal image back into view as compensation. To be ordinary, unknowing and a part of the human experience, in exchange with the existential crisis of life proves overwhelming. Echoes are safe, predictable, and controllable. In a full-blown diagnosis, one cannot live outside this terror.

 

The Inflated Presentation of Rightness

It is important to look at narcissism from the perspective of disorder. We can benefit greatly both for ourselves and our work with clients when we consider the severe fragility of the ego that lies behind the inflated presentation of rightness. 

 

Like all personality disorders, the defenses are inherently necessary to maintain any sense of self at all. Just like emotional dysregulation and the Medusa-defenses of borderline personality disorder, we cannot confront, bring this down, and expect a catharsis. 

 

One must confront the narrative entrapment and recognize there is need for dissolution and reformation of ego identity. In many ways, that giant painting on display personifies the need to hold the image close and in the eyeshot of our daily life.

 

The Vulnerable Behind the Inflated

In short, narcissism hides the vulnerable behind the inflated. Narcissism looks like strength but masks a Gollum-like soul, often starved, mistrusting, and neurotic. Cliché as this may sound, it’s our philosophy that love is our best medicine. 

 

Recovering Narcissus in You

The reformation of ego identity comes only through the dissolution of the illusion. In therapy, we have to tread softly while strengthening our own sense of boundary. Agree where we can and come to the narrow bridge, walk the tightrope. The way through is by the subtle confessions that presenting veneers are not the whole expression of a person.

Ask Yourself

  1. Who do I present myself to be?
  2. Who do I want to convince myself I am? (My best)
  3. Who am I afraid to admit that I am?
  4. What does the voice of the inferior in me want to say to me?

 

Struggling to answer these questions? Barn Life Recovery helps people rediscover themselves through our mental health services so that they can Love Life Again. Learn more about our Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) and our Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP).

 

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Barn life is probably one of the most amazing facilities you could ever attend when it comes to mental illness. This was the first place that popped up when I was searching for help and I’m so thankful that it did. The environment is very therapeutic, the staff is awesome, and the group discussions and activities were so helpful in me understanding what I was experiencing. Do not hesitate to be a part of this place. It’s literally a game changer. I was only there for 6 weeks but I wished I stayed at least 6 months. Ever since returning home, I’ve been much happier and my perspective has changed dramatically. I’ve done things and participated in events at my college that I never thought I would be able to do. This place is truly amazing and I’m forever grateful that I found this place.
Ariana E.
Ariana E.
18:05 30 Sep 22
Best for someone looking for spiritual healing in addition to their mental health healing.
Luka P.
Luka P.
03:26 17 Sep 22
Barn Life is uniquely special. As someone who has had long stretches of sobriety with "traditional" communities and methods, Barn Life stepped in when I started struggling during the pandemic and said "traditional" methods failed to help.The staff here are exceptional. This is a truly subjective statement, but it is my honest opinion that the people from the owner (Hi Matt!) to EVERYONE else works there because they believe in the work and want to share the tools they found.Barn Life and their little sibling, Peer Mental Wellness were the launchpad from a shell of an existence to person with self-love/respect, and a life-mission of personal development.
Steven D.
Steven D.
02:54 21 Aug 22
When I walked in I thought I'd teleported to east asia. When I finally got a chance to sit down , take in the scene, explore the culture and decor there ...I found signs and symbols that had me interested in a new way of thinking.Now, when I met the people I wasnt ever struck by how luxurious their suit was (some have cool tattoos) or anything aesthetic but more drawn towards the energy of the staff. Especially the owners and the reiki practitioner, they're the OG's of the place. You'll find Kevin has the same thing and was a huge pickup for the space. He's intro to the themes provide very cool concepts based on Greek myths and how most theologies are symbols for the psyche , and psychology really being the study of the "soul" as psyche in Greek is "soul".Tai chi is amazing, the have an instructor who's been connected to the space since it began.The Qi Gong instructor is awesome. You'll love her traditional, authoritative korean spunk and overall burning passion and unrelenting commitment to help people. She'll put in extra one-on-one time if you're really about it.And reiki with kristin is basically taking a trip without the need of external , psychotropic medications. Shes also very engaged with the community and if you're smart you'll stop in her office from time to time to talk about life or share art. She'll make you see the world in a different way.Last but not least the owner Matt is one of the most warm hearted humans I've ever met. Very well rounded and is probably the coolest one to pick the brain of. His office is usually open but most people dont have the balls to go in there and face him alone believe or not. Dont be soft. What I always loved about matt is when I'd walk in and say something, he never gave me advice. He usually would just agree with my analysis which would somehow guide me to answers, as if being a mirror of truth. The more I opened up to him, the more I felt a , "me too" presence. Hes a true ,genuine man, and will turn into a reliable friend quickly if you're just an honest, authentic and committed human being.And his wife alyssa has the same warm, lighthearted spunk. They both are the loving parents who sit back and watch for sure.Much Love to Barn
Alex W.
Alex W.
07:53 21 Jun 22
Difficult to put my experience of this place into words. A hidden gem of healing, a necessary step to take. If you are looking for change, the place is here—prepare to dive into your journey of self discovery, and enjoy the ride!
Vicki S.
Vicki S.
23:45 07 Mar 22
Barn life is a unique place. In my time, I feel like I came out with more tools and a happier outlook than I could have anticipated. Groups were incredibly interesting, and involved areas and perspectives on wellness and mental health that I haven’t encountered elsewhere, but have been crucial for me. The balance of eastern and western modalities felt like it gave me a lot of space and tools for introspection and growing to understand and like myself better. I feel as though I developed friendships and a support system that I’m incredibly thankful for. I’m grateful for everyone I attended barn with and everyone who led groups or worked there. It really is a special space!
Chris M
Chris M
03:05 03 Mar 22
I came to Barnlife in the middle of Covid and in the middle of a personal crisis.Simply being there, with the excellent staff and supportive clients around me day to day, lifted me up out of my mental despair and set me off to continue my life in a productive, successful and fulfilling way.So many of the staff members are outstanding, but I must say that Mathew Carver, the owner, is the heart and soul and light of this place. His groups and his genuinely caring personal attention truly saved my life.
Colette H.
Colette H.
22:57 02 Mar 22
This was a life changing experience. I came into who I am while here and was able to become comfortable in my own skin. The facility and staff are amazing and it is an extremely supportive community. Nothing like any other treatment program I've been to.
Nicholas C.
Nicholas C.
04:14 02 Mar 22
This is my first review, I just had to sing the praises of Barn Life Recovery, they have been instrumental in helping a family member of mine, the staff and environment are so welcoming- I have seen such a difference in my loved one, they have given him the tools and confidence to dig deep and live his best life, to respond not react. Forever grateful~Thank you!!!
Jessica D
Jessica D
18:00 25 Feb 22
I came to Barn Life in 2019 for support with my depression and anxiety. It was the hardest time in my life and I felt so welcomed and supported by the people here. My experience at Barn Life changed my life. I found community and I learned how to care for my mind, body, and soul. I highly recommend this place for anyone who is struggling mentally.
Alix G.
Alix G.
22:08 10 Jan 22
This is an amazing facility. I actually came to these guys a handful of years ago and had a great experience. They are very welcoming and make that first step a little easier. They are much more open minded and understand what it's like to be sitting in the chairs next to you as well. On top of everything, I had a not-so-great experience with the DMV recently and they required some old paperwork from years ago. Matt and Barn Life were able to help me out and get everything squared away. They truly went above and beyond and I would most definitely recommend them to others.
Ty M.
Ty M.
02:23 25 Apr 21
Barn life is not just a recovery community, it is a family of friends that will stay with me for life. The staff here has taught me things about myself that I never believed before. They helped me find a confidence in myself I didn’t know existed. I returned here after a relapse and deep depression and they accepted me with open arms. I am eternally grateful for this place and anyone should feel safe sending their loved one here.
Suzanne S.
Suzanne S.
19:23 16 Nov 20
This place is the best treatment center I could've asked for! I came in at my lowest I've ever been, and the staff welcomed me with open arms. I truly love everything this place has to offer, every service and group has helped me grow into my own again. I can finally look forward to life again. I would recommend this place to any age struggling with addiction or mental health issues, it is a magical place I swear to god.
Piper D.
Piper D.
22:56 22 Sep 20
This program saved my life. I’ve been to a lotttttt of other programs but this one is so unique and special I literally still talk about it even though I graduated a while ago. I wish everyone could experience how amazing Barn Life is!
Brittany D.
Brittany D.
21:55 17 Sep 20
Barn Life has truly taught me to love life again. I was a lost, broken, and cagey girl when I came here. With the tremendous amounts of love and hard work from the staff and other clients, I have transformed into the woman I was always meant to be.When I first walked in I felt like I found the home I had been searching for. Everyone of their staff members sincerely cares for each person that walks through their gates. The staff is impeccable and will not allow anything to stand in the way of helping any and everyone they meet. I appreciate every aspect that Barn Life has to offer.Every moment I spent in this facility, I will cherish for the rest of my life. I would not be here today without their help.Thank you all so much for being here and offering such a safe space for me to heal and learn to love again.
Justice I.
Justice I.
18:40 25 May 20
This place is so amazing it has really helped me turn my life around I am forever grateful to barn life I highly recommend it to anyone who is struggling
Melanie M.
Melanie M.
22:50 24 Jan 20
Words can't express how grateful I am for Barn Life Recovery. My daughter was desperately reaching out for help for many years and as her mother, I didn't recognize the depth of her despair, and I was limited in my understanding of what "help" she needed.With her insight and perfect understanding of her illness, her limitless research to find the professional help she needed and her persistent attempts to help me to understand what she needed from me,Barn Life Recovery was a glimmer of hope in what I perceived as a helpless and increasing darkness.She had to face many fears to board a jet alone and travel to California from Alabama.I'm so happy for her, she has been there for 2 months and is receiving the help she needs, physical, mental and emotional.I hope the rest of the country can follow their concept of "help".
Sylvia M.
Sylvia M.
13:05 10 Nov 19
Wonderfully compassionate people, very down to earth the team at barn life treats everyone proper af!
austin B.
austin B.
01:02 13 Oct 19
Barn Life is hands down the best recovery / mental health facility in Orange County, probably in California. I went there for 6 months and they saved my life. Unconventional, progressive, caring, fun. NOT your typical prison-like rehab place, it's a zen garden/dojo with art, reiki, tai chi, qi gong, and yoga with the best therapy Ive ever received as well as the most informative, personal groups. Matt and Alyssa Carver are the best people I know and I truly cant say enough about them as people or rehabilitation owners. No, no one paid me to say all this, lol. This is thanks from my heart.
Andru W.
Andru W.
04:20 20 Sep 19
I am alumni from Zen Recovery Path / a great place , and live a happy healthy life ever since / great peaceful place to recover // Namaste
Michael M.
Michael M.
01:06 11 Jul 19
My daughter has been at Barn Life Recovery now for two months. It was my last resort to send her 9 hours away from me. She has been in drug and mental health rehabs in and out for two years. This was my last stitch effort to save my daughter and get her back to herself. Alyssa and I spoke multiple times before deciding. Their willingness to do everything for her and the different teams they have work with them is amazing. My daughter is happy again and clean and sober. She loves it there in their outpatient program. They restore your faith in humanity. They help restore someone who is broken in so many places to themselves. They have put the light back in my daughters eyes. They are committed to helping each person who truly wants the help. They assist in helping them get jobs and be responsible members of society. I recommend their program to anyone wanting to recover from drug, alcohol and mental health.Thank you to all the people at Barn Life who have made my daughter smile and bring the light back to her eyes. I am truly grateful.DawnaLee
DawnaLee W.
DawnaLee W.
17:34 18 May 19
Through trial and error of trying to stay sober this program is definitely the most caring and supporting of them all if anyone needs help and is willing to help themselves I suggest barnlife they will for a fact give you the push you need and the tools to keep you going
Mason T.
Mason T.
06:10 14 Mar 19

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