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Linington, M. Montgomery, N. Morris, E. (2017). Echoism: A Life Dominated by Concern for the other. Att: New Dir. in Psychother. Relat. Psychoanal., 11(2):134-153.

(2017). Attachment: New Directions in Psychotherapy and Relational Psychoanalysis, 11(2):134-153

Echoism: A Life Dominated by Concern for the other

Mark Linington, Nell Montgomery and Elisa Morris

Our wish in this paper is to introduce a new concept of echoism, which we have developed together in our discussions about our psychotherapeutic work. Initially we were drawn to explore a common theme in some of our clients; a theme characterised by a compulsive watchfulness and overwhelming concern for the other presenting with a concomitant lack of self. We found we could identify this allocentric self by a characteristic voice in the therapy room, which sounded disconnected and unowned.

We believe this relational position to the other, which we illustrate in three case studies, has originated in early experiences of attachment relationships. We think this complex manifestation of a hyper-aroused and misdirected caregiving system is a particular form of disorganised attachment. We have made creative use of a mythical relational story, which is already familiar in the field of psychoanalysis, to explore this relational pattern further.

Freud's reading of the story of Narcissus has always been focused on only one of its subjects and the presence and significance of a less visible self in hiding, has been unrecognised and unconsidered. Our use of this myth seeks to draw attention to this obscured character, the lesser known Echo. The fact Echo has been overlooked is typical of her story and typical too of these clients we see. But her story, we have discovered, offers a valuable means to explore and understand—as did the story of Narcissus, for another sort of person and relationship—the nature and themes of the echoist.

The myth itself offers up themes of parental discord, punishment, rejection, and separation, which we have also identified in our clients. Our hope has been that in this exploration of our concept we might progress our understanding of the origins and dynamics of this form of attachment-based relating, which we have each found challenging, transferentially and countertransferentially, in our psychotherapeutic work.

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