Leaving the Narcissistic Organization

It’s Narcissist Friday!

(At home today, caring for a family member just out of the hospital.  This re-post seemed timely.)

Sometimes narcissists like to be with other narcissists.  Of course, when that happens, there is usually a hierarchy of a sort, a way to know who is above whom.  That takes a system—or an organization.  Sadly, volunteer organizations often fall prey to the narcissistic takeover.

Think of the narcissistic organization as a multi-level marketing system.  The currency, of course, is narcissistic supply.  The leaders share percentages of the admiration and attention that comes from those on the bottom.  Years ago, someone tried to get me to peddle a certain soap company’s products and marketing strategy.  He told me how I would get a piece of the work of everyone I sold the system to and of everyone they sold it to.  In other words, I could live on the support of those under me.  He only stuttered when I asked a simple question:  “Doesn’t someone have to sell soap?”

Every narcissistic organization must have followers, people who exude appreciation and awe for the leaders.  They must be obedient and helpful and enthralled.  They must be impressed most of all with the one at the top, but also suitably servile and attentive to those under the leader.  The leader, of course, has little time for those on the bottom.  They are to send their admiration (and usually money) without expectation.  They must be satisfied with small connections and with representatives.

So the people at the bottom, the ones who actually do the work (sell soap), become something like groupies.  They may not be able to connect with the lead singer, but they can connect with the stage crew or the bus driver.  Then they just might work their way up to the drummer and get to see the lead singer once in a while.

Now, when you are in this system, all of this just seems sort of normal.  You don’t expect to get to visit with the CEO or the Teacher or the evangelist.  But you certainly appreciate their skill and wisdom.  You listen to the sermon or go to the seminar and you tell others how great it was.  Your small group leader is as close as you will ever get to leadership, but you recognize that he has been under the teaching of the leader.

But when you finally begin to realize that the system exists almost entirely for the sake of feeding the leader with narcissistic supply, you begin to see the ugliness.  Maybe you disagreed with the leader or one of his representatives about something and found that you were being shut out, even shunned.  Maybe rumors were started about your character to discredit any concern you might have about the organization.  Suddenly the ones who were so gracious and welcoming turn into something unexpected and frightening.

Almost like turning off a faucet, your connections seem to disappear.  The phone stops ringing.  The emails stop.  The opportunities for fellowship and service dry up.  You begin to feel like an outcast.  You might be able to be restored, with a certain amount of apology and penance.  But probably not.  Once the narcissistic organization recognizes a person as a threat, that person must go.  Those who stay will be carefully marginalized.

So now you are out.  Either you saw the truth and got out or they turned against you and kicked you out.  Neither one feels very good.  Just like those with narcissistic lovers, you feel empty and afraid when the relationship is over.  No matter how often people tell you that you are better off apart, you can’t feel that way consistently.

You see, narcissistic organizations are simply collections of narcissists.  All the manipulations and addictive drugs narcissists give their victims are in these organizations.  Very often the narcissistic organization takes over the lives of the people.  There are activities and groups and expectations and jobs and all kinds of connections to keep you both close and under control.  They welcome you with attention and love and excitement and tie your heart to the system.  When you leave, it hurts.  Even if it was your choice.

And, yes, there is often fear.  Narcissistic organizations often fill their people with stories of abuse outside the organization.  Wickedness, prejudice, and all kinds of evil lie in wait outside the organization.  What would happen to you if you left?  Where would you ever find a place you could trust?

This is why people who leave narcissistic churches often stop going to church altogether.  They are either convinced that no other church could measure up to the level of authority or activity of what they are leaving or they are afraid of being hurt again by another group of users and abusers.

And there is anger.  The narcissistic organization uses and discards just like the narcissistic person.  Those who leave these organizations have often given great amounts of time and money and loyalty—only to have nothing but negative in the end.  Sadness and loss turn to anger easily when we realize that we were used.

But there is another feeling, something better, something good.  There is a sense of victory.  Like a person who escapes danger learns that she is stronger than she thought, the person who leaves this kind of organization feels like they have done something right.  It might take time to heal, but it is good to be out.

Eventually, the poison that held you in bondage will leave your system.  Just be sure that you don’t get sucked in again.  Be gracious and kind, but withhold your trust for a while.  And believe that there are good churches and good organizations that are worth searching for.  Think through what you learned.  Watch the leaders.  Listen to people who warn you.

There are real people who care.  Find them.  And be prepared to give again.



Filed under Narcissism, Uncategorized

13 responses to “Leaving the Narcissistic Organization

  1. prodigalkatherine

    I realize that a narcissistic organization can be a church or a Christian business. I wonder if it can also be a family system where several generations kowtow to a patriarch who has become drunk on power.

  2. Fellow Survivor

    Katherine and Penny, I lived it. Father in law completely devistated my exes mom and treated the 3 daughters the same way, with indiference. When I met my ex she told me he was the worst dad ever. The mom said he was a horrible husband and even a worse father. Had his n nephew cut out of his mom’s will, the brother had died. Would not attend his beswt friend’s wifes funeral when that best friend really needed him. Said the emergency ticket of $1500 was to much. He is worth 10 Million.

    • Fellow Survivor

      He ran all the women off so he made my ex the suragate wife and golden child. She plans his parties, vacations, decorates his house, everything a wife does. When he would through those narc rages over spilled mlik I would look at him like he was nuts, but my wife would back down in fear. He would take her and my daughter on expensive trips but leave me behind. The sisters would get nothing. He gave us a large sum of money to buy our house years ago but lent the same amount to a sister that she had to pay back. Littel did I know that that “gift” was a trojan horse right into our lives. He would come and stay at our house whenever he wanted, weeks at a time sometimes. Had to be catered to. Eat when he was ready listen to his stories etc. I finally told the ex no more. He can stay one night, two max.

      He knew my business was suffering and we needed to refinance the house but he told my ex it was a bad idea and not to do it.

      Then, one day he told my daughter while I was in the car that he would buy her a new car if she went to the college of his choice. She told him “thank you grand daddy but my dad and I have already talked about the car he will get me” He says “it won’t be a brand new one, will it?” When he took my ex and daughter to France for two weeks “conveniently scheduled where they would be gone on my birthday and fathers day” I asked my ex and daughter to not discuss the trip, I would have liked to go but was not invited. They informed him about this. He comes right up to my daughter when I was present and starts bragging about how much fun they had and and the exciting things they got to do and see. This made my daughter very uncomfortable. At the same gathering he brings up the car again, but this time with a twist. If she doesn’t go to this college she not only will not get the car but “don’t expect any help from me for your college” Remember, this guy is worth 10 Million.

      His narcissisim developed with a mother that would never tell him when he was wrong. He could do no wrong. But his dad rejected him and told him he would never amount to anything. My exes narcissisim developed through neglect. He never went to one event, one dance recital, one school play, one debate, nothing. The ex told me how ashamed she was when she was 8 and she was the only one at a princes group meeting with a grandfather instead of her dad. There were many other such stories. This is what baffles me so much. She has chosen him and his money over me and my love. Her heart is full of envy this I know. I also understand that some little girls will do anything for their daddy’s love and he shows love with gifts and trips while I showed my love by always being there.

      The final straw came at my own kitchen table where he started up the car issue again. I finally had enough. I looked him straight in the eye and told him I would talk to daughter about what kind of car to pick because “I was going to drive it” I told him there are only 4 people involved in the decision where she will go to college; me, her mother, daughter and the college councelor at school. Can you imagine what it would be like if each set of grandparents offered bribes for certain choices. It would put the kids in a horrible situation.

      Now my problem was that my wife had long ago changed her loyalties from my heart to his wallet. You can’t serve two masters. If he would tell my daughter, in front of me, that she would get a car if obeyed him but nothing if she didn’t then what would he tell my ex.

      Long ago I identified his total lack of emphathy towards friends, extended family, and his own children. Before I even began to study this subject of narcissism I identified the type of people he had around him. They either made him look good, feel good, or serve some particular function or purpose. I coined that phrase 10 years ago.

      When I met my ex she begged me, I mean really begged me to not let her become like her father. I really had no idea what she was talking about at the time. Well, I failed. She would spend a month each summer at his place in Colorado. The more time she spent with him the more she identified with him I guess. She would call me crying on the phone about some cruelty he had commited. Again, thats why I just don’t get it. The ex treats me like she should treat her dad and she treats her dad the way she should treat me.

      If anyone can figure all this out please fill me in. But when I write these notes and relive the events in my mind I really come to the conclusion that “Who Needs This” I would not want my daughter to live like this so why should I. This is the story of the destruction of a perfectly happy marriage being destoyed by an outside force all because I would not bend to his will and reflect back to him that he is a good and decent man, which he is not.

      My prayers have changed from “take the pain away” to “what’s next”

  3. prodigalkatherine

    It sounds like you are beginning to make sense of what happened to you. You seem less devastated and more accepting of this very painful reality. What has happened to you and your daughter, simply put, is deplorable. What has happened to your ex wife may even be worse. In the end I think you and your daughter will both be ok- you because now you are removed from the poison, and your daughter because she has you as a safe place to run to when the ugly realities of her mom’s family sink in.

    My mother (who has strong narcissistic traits but is servile in her relationship with her parents even today) was the favorite daughter of narcissistic parents and the granddaughter of a prominent Christian leader- everything was about image. Her life existed to support the Christian family enterprise. The abuse she suffered is unbelievable, yet she still is so loyal. About 10 years ago, her parents’ best friend seduced her into an affair, and then dumped her cruelly for her much younger brother’s girlfriend. The twisted layers of seduction and control boggle the mind. She and my dad have stayed married, but he is an incredibly patient man. He recognizes that on some level they will always come first. I think he is waiting for them to die so she will finally love him best. It is very sad.

    Narcissistic elder members of a Christian family do incredible damage to the subsequent generations, but it is generally kept behind closed doors because the understanding is: If you make the family look bad, you are tarnishing the Christian witness, and therefore hurting God. The secrets in controlling Christian families boggle the mind. I can’t speak for my family, but I know of others with sexual abuse in addition to physical and mental cruelties – it’s almost as if the narcissist feels they “own” all of the people in their family and to violate them on the most personal level is no more morally problematic than self stimulation. (trying not to be too explicit, but I don’t know how else to convey the boundary violation here). After that sort of abuse there are trauma bonds that are nearly impossible to untie.

    You should take great comfort that your daughter is not 10 years younger when all of this happened. She is unlikely to get sucked into the madness the way she would if she were younger. Your stability and love will help her escape her mother’s path.

    • Fellow Survivor

      Thank you Katherine. Its been a wild ride to say the least. When my daughter was very young I asked myself what I could put in that little brain of hers. I chose Jesus. I have walked with Jesus sinse I was 13. Don’t know why, but when he knocked back then I opened and he has always been with me.

      • Fellow Survivor

        During this ordeal, I fell away from dispair because being a great husband and dad is all I ever really wanted to be, and I have been both. My daughter is very strong in Jesus. She really gets it. If I do nothing else in this life besides give her that gift I will feel justified. I p;icked her up from camp several weeks ago and I asked thenj councelor, who taught who? My daughter has the protection of the cross so she will be fine. I sometimes think Jesus looked down on me and said, no more. You have had enough. I may mispell this but I think it was in Malichi that God says “Ephriham is attached to idols Let him be. I will leave her to her own divises. I am almost free .I just want to find my old self that was lost years ago bending to the exes will against my better judgement.

  4. Penny

    FellowSurvivor & Katherine: I too have felt Jesus saying “No more; enough!”. The past year I lost my dad, 3 close friends and an infant grandchild of another friend, and all my N had to say was “life goes on” and then changed the subject (back to herself, of course). She resented the attention paid to the dying, b/c it meant less for her. The lack of compassion and empathy was staggering, especially since 2 of these people were married and died a mere 11 months apart. It was then that i knew I had to extricate myself from this toxic system b/c it was killing me. So I created non-negotiable boundaries & stood firm, while the rest of the family scapegoated me up the wazoo, in deliberately vile, hurtful ways that still leave me speechless. Yet, I remained resolved: everyone was basically telling me to tolerate her abuse b/c “she’ll never change”. I was finally able to take the focus off of HER, and clearly state that it isn’t about whether or not SHE changes, but rather about ME changing my response[s] to her (and to everyone else.) That had never occurred to anyone; how dare i “rock the boat”, how dare I assert my own needs! But, amazingly, for the first time in almost 40 years I finally realized that i was no longer trapped, & that I could make changes even if nobody else could. I didn’t need their permission to break free~I gave myself permission! I boldly declared that abuse is never from God but from the enemy, and I don’t care how long it has gone on or how old she is, it’s wrong and I will no longer submit myself to it. At that point I went totally NC & it was as tho God Himself shut my mouth: I literally had nothing left to say. They railed and gossiped and threatened and coerced and lied and backstabbed and manipulated and guilt-tripped and emailed and quoted scripture…..but I never responded. I just walked away, and left them all to their idols (as you quoted regarding Ephraim.) I, too, am almost free, but the darkest hour is before dawn and the opposition has intensified, utterly unprovoked. And yet, God has reassured me that the N and all her minions are His problem, not mine. Like you, I choose Jesus. May the Lord rebuke them all.

    • Fellow Survivor

      Penny, you may have read my “end of the story-story” on this site somewhere, but I too had the “NO MORE” moment where I said to myself “I don’t know what my life is going to look like in the future but I know for a fact its not going to go on as it has” I told her the verbal, mental, emotional, and now physical abuse has got to stop. Period. It had worked for the last 10 years, but no more. Once she realized she could no longer control me with that nonsence, thats when she left.

  5. laraine

    I worked for a narcissistic church organization for almost 3 years. I’ve also been in narcissistic relationships before & I have noticed that it took a lot longer to recognize the narcissism in this church than it did in my personal relationships. I think the reason is that portraying humility is part & parcel of the “Christian” image whereas the narcissist in his personal relationships feels more comfortable letting the mask slip.

    I still to this day wonder how those church leaders are still going so strong despite the utter nastiness that lies underneath the facade. I know there are people there who do see through them, but for the most part, they have surrounded themselves with a group of servile, sycophantic yes-men. This article explains this so well! Now I realize what is behind former members having left under mysterious circumstances.

    For so long, I saw only their good side. Their humility seemed very genuine. It was such a shock to realize they weren’t who they portrayed themselves to be. It was all an “innocent” front & a very good one at that.

    I was asked to leave when I recognized what was going on & confronted them about the way they were treating some of the other employees. I saw first hand how a religious narcissist can go into a very nasty rage when you hold the mirror of truth up to their face. When it reaches that point, you become a liability to the organization & you are thrown out like yesterday’s trash.

  6. E

    My husband and I left the church where I was baptized, indoctrinated, married, and quickly filed away in a holding tank with the other fish awaiting heaven. I had no idea who I was in Christ, what purpose I had, and why the church was such a space where Christians merely rested on the laurels of their Christian forefathers. I could not apply one iota of a sermon to my life, as they all seemed geared toward protecting the church from the great evil outside the building, patting the elder generations on the back for a vague perseverance through this adversity, then rewarding young people for taking up the cross of internal church housekeeping…and then we’d get a nice stock video showing where all our offerings would be going from time to time. It was, in short, a spiritual snooze. And I very much enjoyed the setting for a time. I did.

    Our decision to leave was fueled by my narcissistic mother’s smear campaign. I owe her the greatest thanks for driving us toward a spirit-filled, grace church that is non-denominational.

    Our old church’s response was that of panic. The Pastor’s wife, who never interacted with us or knew any personal matters beyond who my mother was, actually phoned our house to talk us out of leaving. My husband politely handled that, as I was a basket case at the time. Two of my mother’s friends met with us under the guise of seeing our new baby in order to pump us for information about this “new church.” One of them even condescendingly implied that we had perhaps be sure it was not a cult we had joined–words straight from the mouths of my mother’s Christian circle that often equates leaving the (their) church with loss of salvation, words I’d heard spoken over former members or members of other denominations.

    So, in my humble experience, do please check out the new organization before joining, at least to disarm the discouraging words from old organization members!

    Second, you do not owe the old organization an explanation. It will be dissected and quoted and used against you.

    Do not join the new one until you have looked around sufficiently to find what God has out there for you. When the right fit comes up, you will land right into it without a second thought. Like you were meant to be there. At least that’s what happened to us.

    The old organization will probably attempt to discredit, pity, or trivialize you. It’s ok, and quite frankly, sad that they feign more interest in your “spiritual health” now that you’re gone. Convenient, eh?

    Expect to feel freedom, then guilt for being free, then happiness, then guilt. It takes a while for the old narcissistic patterns to wash away.

    Don’t go back!

    • UnForsaken

      E, your story sounds So much like the one I was in afew years ago…down to a “friend” telling my sister she was(we were) being “used of the devil”, with a raised voice in a public restaurant. All of your advise is Great. Unfortunately doctrine is not the only thing to look for, as I find myself in a church for almost three years now that also believes falsehoods about me and has na atmosph. of suspition toward anyone who cant get involved ! But I try to remember Chinese Christians, not so much what they go through, but what they do without, like deep felloowship . It’s not ungodly to be were God has put yu , even if I would get out at the best opportunity ! The hard times have only kept turning me back to the Lord’s face, a habit I never realized I was neglecting before ! Everyday can be worship , even without a System , but I’m So glad you could find a place with other believers too!

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