Echoism: a personality trait that isn’t a pseudonym for being an introvert

Have you heard the term ‘Echoism’ yet? As another personality trait with roots in Greek Mythology, it’s fairly new to the psychology world. It doesn’t hold a place in the DSM-V. But, many do see it as being the inverse of narcissism.

Those who suffer from echoism usually come from a childhood that was wasn’t quite abusive, but emotional neglect was present. Achievements were rarely good enough and displays of negative emotion were discouraged. Narcissistic parents or carers in the household would pin the blame of their failures and actions on the Echoist.

As a result, those with echoism would grow up with the unhealthy disbelief that they must also put someone else’s needs first to survive. Many also never have the self-confidence to feel as though they’re good enough.

What are the signs of Echoism?

In a world where it feels as though there’s a new medical terminology thrown out there every day, I can understand why some people may feel frustrated by the term echoism. In a nutshell, those who are echoists will do the following:

  • Live their life according to the rules of others. For example, pursuing a career path because their parents prefer it.
  • They will always seek external approval. This is usually because they developed in a household where an adult expressing disapproval would leave them feeling as though their security was threatened.
  • They’ll rarely brag about their achievements. Weirdly, many of them are high achievers. When they do meet their career goals, they don’t feel the same sense of success as others.
  • They will always put someone else’s needs first. Usually at a big cost to their own wellbeing.

Externally, someone who is an echoist may seem self-sacrificing. To those who don’t know them on a truly intimate level, they’re the perfect partner, parent, child, or friend. If you get a little closer, you’ll see that all of the above leads to co-dependency, clinging to abusive relationships, and persistent anxiety.

Is there a difference between echoism and being an introvert?

If you’ve read all of the above, it’s easy to brush those traits off as belonging to an introvert. This is something that the investigator of echoists, Dr. Craig Malkin, recognizes. He also addresses them.

Some of the key differences between echoism and healthy introversion that Dr. Malkin describes include:

  • An introvert may stay quiet because they like to consider their words before opening their mouth. An echoist will remain quiet because opening their mouth often lead to negative consequences. Therefore, remaining quiet is as safe space.
  • While almost all echoists will insecurely attach themselves to someone, not all introverts will.
  • Introverts are aware of what their needs, expectations, and desires are. Because echoists believe they can’t depend on others, they’ll emotionally bury all of those things to the extent that they don’t know what they want for themselves. As a result, they can make excellent achievements, but they might not feel satisfied as the achievements aren’t what they truly want or need.

What happens when echoism meets narcissism?

Here’s where the Greek mythology comes in. After spying on the wrong Goddess’s man, Echo (a wood nymph) lost her voice. There was a caveat, though. She could repeat the words of others. Echo then met Narcissus, fell for him, and he fell for her too. Echo then lives her life according to Narcissus’s values, even after his death.

Like the Greek myth, if someone with echoism falls for a narcissist, they’ll immediately enter into an existence where they live according to their partner’s rules. Their day-to-day actions will revolve around trying to please this person, in order to feel secure.

Initially, this goes well. Eventually, the relationship could become abusive – especially on an emotional level. Neither personality trait suits the other well. While an echoist reaffirms a narcissist’s beliefs about themselves, the narcissist may suck the life out of their partner in the pursuit of self-affirmation.

So what do you do if you believe you suffer from echoism? Or, if you think a family member does? Therapy is always a great place to start. Try to find someone who is sympathetic to this new approach to those entering adulthood after an emotionally neglectful childhood. Otherwise, the therapy will become redundant quite rapidly.


About the Author

Laura McKeever
Laura has been a freelance medical writer for eight years. With a BSc in Medical Sciences and an MSc in Physician Assistant Studies, she complements her passion for medical news with real-life experiences. Laura’s most significant experience included writing for international pharmaceutical brands, including GSK.

1 Comment on "Echoism: a personality trait that isn’t a pseudonym for being an introvert"

  1. Cheryl Miranda | June 18, 2019 at 1:47 am |

    Childhood abuse made me an echoist – mirroring the needs of my family. I ended up with a narc as a partner who used this personality trait to my detriment. I am still overcoming years of being someone who would be accepted because they were the perfect version of what my family, partner wanted. It is an uphill struggle.healing from childhood abuse and building my real self

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