The inspiration for the modern concept of narcissism is the ancient Greek legend of Narcissus, a Thespian hero who, after rejecting the advances of the nymph Echo, fell in love with his own image, which he refused to accept as merely a reflection. He suffered fits of melancholia and mania until he died of starvation, turning into the flower that still bears his name. Essentially a cautionary tale warning of the fatal consequences of self-obsession and the denial of external reality, it also is featured in Christian discourse as an aspect of original sin and idolatry, what Martin Luther called incurvatus in se ipsum, or “the love that is bent towards itself” rather than extended outward to the external authority of God.

Contemporary definitions of the ...

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