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Ledermann, R. (1988). Ovid's Myth of Narcissus. Brit. J. Psychother., 5(2):255-256.

(1988). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 5(2):255-256


Ovid's Myth of Narcissus

Rushi Ledermann

In Volume 4(2) of this Journal John Padel published a commentary on a series of articles on narcissism written from various points of view. Volume 3(4) contains a paper by me entitled Narcissistic disorder: a Jungian view of its aetiology and treatment. In that paper I drew some parallels between Ovid's version of the myth of Narcissus and my clinical findings in the treatment of patients suffering from narcissistic disorder.

In his review Padel pointed out some inaccuracies in my presentation and interpretation of Ovid's version of the myth. I am very grateful to him for his criticism and should now like to present a revised version of these parallels. Different authors who have written about narcissistic disorder have used this term because of the many connections with the myth of Narcissus as related by Ovid in his third book of Metamorphoses (Ovid).

Jung has stressed the fact that myths can be helpful guides in analytical treatment as they express deep universal and eternal truths about men. Also the parallel between the myth of Narcissus and clinical manifestations which I observed in narcissistic disorder emphasises the fact that this disorder has an archetypal dimension. Rosemary Gordon also drew attention to this myth in one of her papers on narcissism (1980).

In what follows I am paraphrasing F J Miller's translation of the Latin text: ‘Narcissus had reached his sixteenth year. … Many youths and many maidens sought his love; but in this slender form was pride so cold that no youth, no maiden touched his heart’ (1916).

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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