Echoism (psychology)

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Echoism is the opposite of Narcissism. A state of being where people never or seldom feel special, focus on others, at the expense of their own needs, and may even feel depressed or anxious.[1] While egoism and narcissism concern dynamics of power and inferiority/superiority, Pederson argues that altruism and echoism concern dynamics of belonging and inclusion/exclusion. Pederson has two types of echoists: the "subject altruist" and the "object altruist", with the former being concerned with the belonging of others and loving them, and the latter being concerned with their own belonging and being loved. The subject altruist is self-effacing, a people pleaser, and sacrifices her desire to help others who are outsiders become insiders, or to be the submissive helper of an insider. The object altruist is gregarious, a people person, and wants to be interesting which is based on wanting to fit in and not be an outsider or wanting to be unique as an insider. Both types of echoists show issues with being submissive, having problems saying no, and avoiding conflict. [2]


A term whose name is derived from the nymph, Echo, from the Greek myths; the lover of Narcissus, cursed to repeat the last words she hears. The term was coined by psychoanalyst Dean Davis [3]

Freud contrasted the natural development of active-egoistic and passive-altruistic tendencies in the individual with narcissism, in the former, and what Trevor Pederson referred to as echoism, in the latter. [2]

This is the place for two remarks. First, how do we differentiate between the concepts of narcissism and egoism? Well, narcissism, I believe, is the libidinal complement to egoism. When we speak of egoism, we have in view only the individual's advantage; when we talk of narcissism we are also taking his libidinal satisfaction into account. As practical motives the two can be traced separately for quite a distance. It is possible to be absolutely egoistic and yet maintain powerful object-cathexes, in so far as libidinal satisfaction in relation to the object forms part of the ego's needs. In that case, egoism will see to it that striving for the object involves no damage to the ego. It is possible to be egoistic and at the same time to be excessively narcissistic—that is to say, to have very little need for an object, whether, once more, for the purpose of direct sexual satisfaction, or in connection with the higher aspirations, derived from sexual need, which we are occasionally in the habit of contrasting with 'sensuality' under the name of 'love'. In all these connections egoism is what is self-evident and constant, while narcissism is the variable element. The opposite to egoism, altruism, does not, as a concept, coincide with libidinal object-cathexis, but is distinguished from it by the absence of longings for sexual satisfaction. When someone is completely in love, however, altruism converges with libidinal object-cathexis. As a rule the sexual object attracts a portion of the ego's narcissism to itself, and this becomes noticeable as what is known as the 'sexual overvaluation' of the object. If in addition there is an altruistic transposition of egoism on to the sexual object, the object becomes supremely powerful; it has, as it were, absorbed the ego." (Freud, Introductory Lectures (1919), pp. 417–18)

Where the egoist can give up love in narcissism, the altruist can give up on competition, or "the will," in echoism. The individual first has a non-ambivalent relations of fusion with authority or love figures, which are characterized by the egoistic or altruistic drives. Second, the individual can move to defusion from authority or love figures which leads to repetitions of ambivalent, narcissistic or echoistic relations. In the third movement the individual becomes the dead or absent parental figure that never returned love to the echoist, or the perfect, grandiose parental figure in narcissism. [2]


  1. Malkin Ph.D., Craig (21 July 2015). "The Narcissism Test". Retrieved 24 September 2018. (People can be) simultaneously both "echoists" and narcissists at the same time. The ones who are crippled by low self-esteem, who can't take compliments, and yet who passive-aggressively rage when passed over... conform most closely to "hypersensitive" or what (is called) introverted narcissists.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Pederson, Trevor, The Economics of Libido: Psychic Bisexuality, the Superego, and the Centrality of the Oedipus Complex (Karnac, 2015)
  3. "Davis, Dean. (2005). Echo in the Darkness. The Psychoanalytic Review, 92(1):137-151."

Further reading[edit]

  • Malkin, Craig, Rethinking Narcissism: The Bad-and Surprising Good-About Feeling Special (Harper Wave, 2015) isbn 978-0062348104
  • Pederson, Trevor, The Economics of Libido: Psychic Bisexuality, the Superego, and the Centrality of the Oedipus Complex (Karnac, 2015)

External links[edit]


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