The paranoid and Narcissus

by onepuzzledspecies

“Almost all of our relationships begin and most of them continue as forms of mutual exploitation, a mental or physical barter, to be terminated when one or both parties run out of goods.

But the seed of a genuine disinterested love, which is often present, is ever to develop, it is essential that we pretend to ourselves and to others that it is stronger and more developed than it is, that we are less selfish than we are. Hence the social havoc wrought by the paranoid, to whom the thought of indifference is so intolerable that he divides others into two classes, those who love him for himself alone and those who hate him for the same reason.

Do a paranoid a favour, like paying his hotel bill in a foreign city when is monthly cheque has not yet arrived, and he will take this as an expression of personal affection – the thought that you might have done it from a general sense of duty towards a fellow-countryman in distress will never occur to him. So back he comes for more until your patience is exhausted, there is a row, and he departs convinced that you are his personal enemy. In this he is right to the extent that it is difficult not to hate a person who reveals to you so clearly how little you love others.”

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“Narcissus does not fall in love with his reflection because it is beautiful, but because it is his. It it were his beauty that enthralled him, he would be set free in a few years by its fading. “After all,” sighed Narcissus the hunch-back, “on me it looks good.””

– W. H. Auden, “Hic et Ille,” Encounter April 1956