From Ovid's Metamorphoses (Gregory, Horace. "Book III: Echo and Narcissus," 1958.):
Again, again his arms embraced the silverThis excerpt comes from the well-known story of Narcissus, who was cursed by Nemesis to fall in love only with himself. Narcissus's love kept him pining away at the "pool, well-deep and silver-clear," lusting after his reflection, until his death, having wasted away, drained by his futile attachment.
Elusive waters where his image shone;
And he burned for it while the gliding error
Betrayed his eyes. O foolish innocent!
Why try to grasp at shadows in their flight?
What he had tried to hold resided nowhere,
For had he turned away, it fell to nothing:
His love was cursed.
How attached are we to something about ourselves? Narcissus lives within all our psyches, and not necessarily in the form of attachment to our physical appearance (although that's a common one!). Narcissus can seize anything you consider yourself to be better at than others. If you think yourself smart, this may become your curse. The test? If someone challenges your intelligence, how do you react? Are you angered by the comment? Do you repress the anger under the guise of not caring?
If your reaction is anything but unconditional compassion for the person who challenged your "trait," Narcissus has exerted his influence on you, attaching you to your trait. At this point, a (perceived) attack on your trait is a direct frontal assault on YOU!
The Buddha, in his unwaveringly optimistic way, taught us that, yes, suffering exists. But, he continued, it has a cause (many, actually), and if you remove the cause, the suffering will cease! Therefore, unlike Narcissus, we are not doomed to death consumed by our attachment. We can look deeply, discover the causes of our attachment, and remove them.
1-Minute Contemplation: What traits of yours are you attached to? What aspect of you, when challenged, seems to provoke an unnecessarily emotional response?