Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 1453, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
Heart speaks to heart!
Foundations of a new religion
by John Fencik, for the Inland Register
(From the August 18, 2016 edition of the Inland Register)
As the race to the White House heats up, candidates will discuss the problems of the multifaceted American society and offer solutions. Every one of us can add our own slant to this discussion. But do we ever really dig into the core of the problems? Are we willing to get to the heart of the matter? What is at the center of the breakdown of civil discourse and the spiritual/moral upheaval that truly leaves us a “poorer” society?
There is an ancient Greek myth about Narcissus, the son of Cephissus (river god) and the nymph Liriope. Narcissus was extraordinarily handsome – a grave concern for his parents. The prophet, Teiresias, told them to make sure Narcissus never saw an image of himself. One day on a forest walk, Narcissus was seen by the nymph Echo, who at once fell in love with him. She kept her distance and each time Narcissus asked “Who’s there?” she simply repeated his words. One day she revealed her love to him, but he rejected her, leaving her with a broken heart. She so pined for him that over time all that was left of her was the repeating of the sounds and words of others. Nemesis, Goddess of Revenge, heard her lament and sought to punish Narcissus. Narcissus came upon a pool and in the water he saw his own beautiful reflection – and fell in love with it. He could not leave the image of his own beauty and continued to admire himself until he ultimately died.
This myth gave rise in psychology to a personality disorder called narcissism. Otto Rank, an Austrian psychologist, produced the first study on this disorder (1911). In 1914 Freud published “On Narcissism: An Introduction.”
The narcissistic personality is associated with words like conceited or self-centered. A narcissist may carry a sense of superiority and “keeping others in their place.” There is also the feeling of “entitlement” – a word so frequently used to define the modern Millennial generation. The inability to handle failure or criticism and not being perceived as “special” are other characteristics. Psychology relates that this personality may actually be hiding one’s own insecurity. Depression and anxiety can be results of the disorder.
What has happened is that this “person-ality” disorder has now morphed into a generational or societal disorder – one that is presented as normal behavior. But there is more. This societal self-centeredness has spawned a new religion, with thousands of followers. God and organized religion (Catholicism) have been relegated to being insignificant. “My-self” is the center of the universe and “I” should be the center of yours as well. Its followers worship instead at the altar of the demi-god, Narcissus. The virtues of this ego-centric “spirituality” are mendacity, mediocrity, manipulation, moral relativism, and moodiness.
(John Fencik is director of Catholic Funeral and Cemetery Services of Spokane.)
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