Ha! You thought you’d be reading about a cute little fish, didn’t you? Nemo, the star of the 2003 animated feature by Disney, is beloved by children of all ages. And, yep, I’m guilty of pulling that ol’ “bait and switch” dirty trick. But, hey, be honest – if I’d just thrown out Ovid’s name, would you have even taken a second look? Probably not. So, don’t blame me. I’m just doing what I can do to help you see the connections between Nemo, Ovid and Justin Bieber and how they all are part of the string of associations to my experience in psychotherapy. (Hey, did that last sentence grab you? Just so you know – Walt Whitman makes an appearance also)
Let’s begin at the beginning. I found Ovid. Well, not actually. I didn’t even know I was looking for Ovid. Truth be told, I had never heard of Ovid before. (Don’t tell anyone) Well, maybe that name was tucked away in one of those tiny cavities of information that is stored so deep in my brain that not even the most talented of brain ‘miners’ in the world would be able to recover.
This is it – Ovid is to Narcissus what Usher is to Bieber. Not bad how I am able to plug pop culture into Greek mythology into Roman poetry, huh? (Hold on – I’ll get to Nemo later)
In the first months of seeing a therapist on a weekly basis, I was very uncomfortable talking, talking, talking, about myself. That’s not how I do ‘real life’. In real life, I have CONVERSATIONS. Those conversations incorporate the natural give and take of sharing.
But, no – not in a therapy session. The focus is all on you. You know – out there in the world, it’s not cute to be as self-absorbed as one must be in therapy. It’s not attractive. It’s not appealing. We say things about those people who seem like NARCISSISTS!
“Oh, my”, I whispered to myself. “Am I a narcissist? I think I’m a narcissist. All I do is think about myself – my thoughts, my feelings, my life, my point of view, my intentions, my, my, my, my.”
So, I came to believe that my new-found attraction to therapy was simply and only an elitist exercise in self-indulgence. With a creeping growth of a sense of horror, I could not avoid thinking thoughts like:
“Where else can I show how much I love myself except with my therapist? Only there with her can I talk about myself non-stop. Only there can I think only about myself. Only there can I hang on my every word and thought. Only there can I believe how important and precious I am. Only there can I accept my own self-accolades. Only there can I, in reality, make love to myself.
“Sure, I can moan and groan about my lacks and faults in session. But, dang, they’re MY lacks and faults. Oh, what a pleasure to examine them in detail and to explore their ‘possibilities’. And what about my childhood? Oh, the most important childhood ever – because it leads to ME!”
Because of my feelings of shame and disgust about the signs that seemed to point to my being narcissistic, I decided to investigate the topic more. And that’s when I learned about Ovid (Publius Ovidus Naso 43 BC-AD 17), the Roman poet who in his work, Metamorpheses , popularized the Greek myth about Narcissus. [Like Bieber toiling away in obscurity in Canada before Usher brought him fame, so was Narcissus tucked away in the canon of Greek myths until Ovid brought him to our attention).
And the character Narcissus is the source of our term narcissistic which is defined as ‘excessive love or admiration for oneself’. This mythical character was very proud of himself and his beauty. He felt aloof and held disdain for anyone who loved him. He cared only for himself – so much so that when he saw his reflection in a pool, he was so entranced by his own beauty that he could not leave the image and died by that body of water.
But many centuries later, Walt Whitman, in his poem, “Song of Myself” begins his work by writing:
‘I celebrate myself, and sing myself’
And further in poem states:
‘We are large, we contain multitudes’
And so, maybe during this exploration into our inner self, we can face the adventure like Nemo who was abducted and lost but was able to face the dangers and learn how to take care of himself.
For us, one of the dangers is the risk of beating up on ourselves too much while we’re engaged in our own adventure and to realize that we need not compare ourselves to ancient mythological characters while still accepting that, yes,
“WE ARE LARGE”.