What Is Echoism? The Silent Response to Narcissism Explained

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If you have an active narcissistic parent, spouse, sibling, or leader figure in your life, you may find yourself losing your voice in the relationship. Your true identity is either completely stripped away, or never gets a chance to nurture and take root. In turn, you find yourself always agreeing with what the narcissistic person says. Dr. Craig Malkin, a psychologist, researcher, and author, popularized the term “Echoism” to describe this behavior.

This article will share with you what echoism is, what its signs are, and how you can recognize an echoist.

The Origin: The Greek Mythology, Echo

Before we discuss “what is echoism?” we need to understand its origin. A story is told about the Curse of Hera explaining the origin of echoism as follows: –

The Couple

Goddess Hera was the wife of Zeus. God Zeus was attracted to nymphs. He would frequent earth to have affairs with them. His escapades made Hera jealous. She was determined to catch her husband red-handed. Hence, she followed him around Mount Cithaeron, watching his every move.

The Plan

On recognizing this, Zeus came up with a plan to occupy his wife. He engaged Echo, a mountain nymph residing at Mount Cithaeron, to have long chats with Hera. That way, he would have ample time to get away and continue with his affairs unnoticed.

Still, eventually, Hera recognized what was happening. Out of fury, she cursed Echo to never speak her mind ever again. Instead, Echo would only repeat the most recently spoken words of another person.

One day, while Echo was up and about all alone in the woods, she saw and fell in love with a charming young man by the name of Narcissus. Narcissus was hunting deer in the forest and had roamed away from his colleagues. Echo followed Narcissus silently, unable to share her fondness for him. Yet soon enough, as luck would have it, Echo found an opportunity to do so.

See, Narcissus would call out to his buddies by asking, “Is anyone there?” And, Echo would use this chance to repeat the question, to catch Narcissus’ attention. Upon hearing her, Narcissus shouted, “Let’s come together.” For he thought it was his mates who had replied to him. Instead, Echo reiterated these words while racing towards Narcissist. But Narcissist rejected her, leaving her in despair.

The Ending

Later on, Narcissus would pass by a lake and catch a glimpse of himself. He fell in love and became obsessed with his image. Unable to move on, Narcissus ended up dying there, leaving Echo in desperate mourning. Eventually, Echo died too but left her voice behind.

The Lesson

In a nutshell, the above Greek mythology summarizes the events of Echo, who was the original victim of a narcissist. And isn’t this what we see happening to our society every day? Love-entanglements that lead to murder or suicide?

Echoism in the 21st Century

Despite echoism originating centuries earlier, it is only until the year 2015 that Dr. Greg Malkin came up with the term Echoism. In his book, Rethinking Narcissism: The Secret to Recognizing and Coping With Narcissists, Malkin views echoism as a direct effect of being in a relationship with a narcissist. Today, psychologists observe that there are a growing number of people with echoism.

What Is Echoism?

Echoism is a new word in the world of mental health which involves people losing their sense of self as they constantly try to “prop up” those with more inflated egos in their life.

Narcissism vs. Echoism

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Narcissism and echoism are two extreme behaviors on the same spectrum. On one hand, narcissists come out as selfish, show grandiosity, are in constant need of admiration, and view themselves as better than everybody else. In contrast, echoists portray the opposite of narcissism. They are always afraid of feeling special, standing out, or expressing their needs. Instead, they forfeit their interests for the sake of others.

How Does Echoism Develop?

Interestingly, the relationship between a narcissist and an echoist starts with the narcissist “rescuing” the echoist from a situation that is not good. Think of that narcissistic spouse who rescues their partner from losing their home to auctioneers. Or, it could be a narcissistic leader using their influence to secure a job for a fresh college graduate.

However, this altruistic narcissist manipulates the echoist to pay back this gesture by obliging to all their demands.

Since most echoists grow up in a narcissistic relationship, they feel they owe the narcissist. In turn, they will do and speak whatever the narcissist dictates. Narcissists love such behavior because, they get to be the center of attention.

The Signs

Now that we understand what is echoism, what are the tell-tale signs? Well, you can identify an echoist if this person: –

  • Is an extreme people pleaser.
  • Struggles to accept compliments or praise of any kind. Here, instead of saying thank you, they will reflect or ignore the compliment.
  • Is an excellent listener but never shares their problems with anyone. These are the persons you run to when you need to offload your problems, yet they never seem to have a bad day.
  • Hates being the center of attention.
  • Defines their identity as per what the narcissist dictates.
  • Is quick to take the blame when things go wrong.
  • Fears being seen as needy, hence, never asks for favors.
  • Is in constant search for validation but rarely ever gets it. Hence, this person revolves in a cycle of seeking out people to get that validation.
  • Tends to look for someone who will boost their self-esteem. This other person ends up putting their own needs behind the needs of the narcissist too.
  • Represses their feelings to support other people. They never focus on themselves or allow anyone to focus on them.
  • Feels the urge to give everything they have in return for affection from the narcissist. In contrast, they sacrifice their all as a way to express their love.

Echoism vs. Empathy vs. Introversion

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Regrettably, many people dismiss the above signs of echoism, mistaking them for an empath or an introvert. Yet, the two are quite different. Indeed, most echoists are quite intelligent and successful persons. They may be nice and supportive but never doormats.

Moreover, a lot of echoists are capable of making independent decisions. And, should you raise an alarm about their behavior, they may even get upset. To them, this is not a big deal.

Secondly, whereas introverts like to be quiet and overthink most aspects of their lives, echoists depict introverted ways only because they learned that it is unsafe to express them.

The Bottom Line                                               

If you are in a toxic relationship that makes you become an echoist, you ought to free yourself from it as soon as possible. For, echoism leads to unhealthy boundaries and habits that can hinder your development. Seek professional help and begin your journey of narcissistic abuse recovery.