Sunny weather this weekend gives a sense winter will come to an end. In the garden daffodils are starting to open.
Daffodils belong to the plant genus Narcissus, with about fifty different species.
The Roman, Pliny the Elder, claimed the Greeks named Narcissus for the effect of the plants’ fragrance on anyone smelling them, narkao is Greek for ‘I grow numb’; from which we also get the word narcotics.
In Greek mythology Narcissus is a young male hunter who seeing his own reflection in a pool of water falls in love with his own good looks, passes out and ultimately dies. According to myth Narcissus grows into the plant of that name next to the pool.
At the start of the 1900s, around the time of Freud, psychoanalysts began using the term ‘narcissism’, derived from the myth of Narcissus, to describe someone filled with self-admiration. This term continues to be used to describe someone who has a need to be admired by others.
There can be down-sides to having too much ego (ego is Latin for ‘I’). The idea of a ‘shrink’ is someone who helps us ‘shrink our ego back down to size’.
Yet there is also a need for sufficient ego (sense of self) to be able to take care of oneself, to tolerate difficult feelings such as hurt, sadness and disappointment. And to work towards important goals over a period of time, to take care of loved ones and to have a sense of meaning in one’s life.
Around the start of the 2000s psychologists began to consider what they called ‘the psychological immune system’. The physical immune system is what helps our body fight off infection. Similarly, the idea of a psychological immune system is a sufficiently strong ego or sense of self, helps us overcome adversity and keep on going in pursuit of what is important to us.
In addition to the idea a ‘shrink’ helps us get our ego back down to size, a therapist can also help us develop a robust and realistic ego that helps us get things done.
Somewhat like Goldilocks, of Three Bears fame, when it comes to ego, too much ego is problematic and too little ego is also problematic. Ideally, we could do with just the right amount of ego to help us stay in touch with reality and get important things done.