16 Apr Echoists and Narcissists as siblings
Dasha was a conjoined twin who was born in the USSR in 1950 and spent the first five years of her life with ‘care-givers’ who were scientists studying her and her identical twin Masha in one of Stalin’s laboratories.
It’s not surprising that she and her twin Masha, grew up with personality disorders – not as a result of their unusual deformity but because of their childhood trauma. After all, conjoined twins Abby and Brittany Hensel were brought up in a loving family and are well adjusted, happy adults.
What is surprising is that because of their inherited character traits (Masha was like her bullying father and Dasha like her gentle mother,) they were at diametrically opposed ends of what is now known as the scale of narcissism.
When I met Masha and Dasha, they were in their mid thirties and Masha had developed into a full blown narcissist while Dasha was struggling with the torment of being an echoist.
In Greek mythology a nymph, Echo, was in love with the handsome Narcissus who fell in love with his own reflection and pined away staring at himself in a pool of water. Echo pined away watching him.
I was introduced to the twins as a foreign correspondent in Moscow, because Masha wanted to be featured in the British Sunday Times Magazine. She desired fame, money and attention while all Dasha had ever wanted was to hide in the shadows.
Humiliation is a more intensely felt emotion than either happiness or anger and the toxic shame that both Masha and Dasha felt at their core, comes from when caregivers consistently punish and isolate a child. The trauma of persistent abandonment and rejection results in the True Self being quelled. As a defence mechanism against the shame of not being considered lovable, the child creates its own False Self.
The narcissist forms a hard shell and becomes a consummate taker, demanding the love and approval he/she never received. The echoist however, crawls inside someone else’s hard shell (usually a narcissists’) and is a consummate giver, seeking that love and approval.
They both employ survival tactics to keep them safe, and both are based on shame.
Being on the echoist end of the spectrum myself, I felt an immediate affinity with Dasha and antipathy for Masha. This was something my editor had to help me balance when rewriting the book The Less You Know The Sounder You Sleep.
An echoist lives in denial of the shame of being in an abusive relationship so Dasha was loyal to her sister and I was loyal to my late husband who, through no fault of his own, (it’s that dang parenting again) was as malignantly narcissistic as Masha.
Masha wanted to be a circus act, to appear on TV, and feature in the tabloids. Dasha wanted to be quietly hidden away in a corner She would have hated being on social media and expressing her opinion, (as do I, but I’m doing battle with my fear of CRAP – criticism, rejection, abandonment and punishment, on a daily basis.) But Masha would have loved it.
The first autobiography I helped them write, turned out to be Masha’s bombastic version of their life. That’s why, after their death, I wanted to write a second one, giving Dasha the voice she never had, but with the message that always burned within her: that disabled people are not ‘defective,’ just different.
But I also wanted to show how she eventually rose above the cripplingly abusive relationship with her sibling.
In a way you could say I perpetuated my own echoism by telling her story. But I’ve come to realise that I did so with such passion, because in a way it was my story too…