“A Hidden Pathology”

It’s Narcissist Friday!     


The reason the title above is in quotes is because it is the chapter title from a book recommended in one of the comments recently: “The Narcissistic Parent” by C.A. Childress. I ordered it after reading the comment (and I apologize for not remembering who recommended it) and was somewhat disappointed. It’s a thin book of only 45 pages and cost about $8.00. But I have read through it twice and now understand its value. This is a book to give the counselor or attorney you are working with. This book will help them understand the narcissist. I can’t guarantee they will read it or value it, but I can almost guarantee that, if they do read it, they will understand a lot more of what you have been dealing with.

In some ways, this two-page chapter (on page 6-7) is the primary message of the book. Dr. Craig Childress, a psychotherapist based in Claremont, California, calls narcissism “A Hidden Pathology.” It may not be correct to say that it qualifies as “pathology” in a medical sense, but narcissism is certainly not normal or healthy. Dr. Childress makes the point that narcissists don’t present themselves as having a serious disorder. He uses quotes from other psychologists to establish that narcissists present themselves as “intelligent, charming” and “calm, self-assured, untroubled.” Well, we know that to be true, don’t we? They are, he says, “creative leaders” and “outstanding performers.” No argument here!

I have heard story after story of narcissists winning over the minds and hearts of church leaders, judges, and counselors. A wife will try to convince a marriage therapist of the struggles she experiences only to hear that it is her own fault – after the narcissist has had a chance to talk with the therapist. Pastors tell wives they should submit and stop bad-mouthing their fine Christian husbands. Judges rule in favor of the narcissist because they believe the spouse is the real problem. How does this happen? It happens because the narcissist knows how to “present well.”

I write often of the narcissists’ “super-power.” They are able to manipulate what others think of them. In spite of their inabilities, the narcissists are viewed as superior. In spite of the fact that they don’t care about anyone, they are seen as loving and helpful. Yes, the narcissist is a broken and cruel person, but you wouldn’t know it unless you were in a special relationship with him/her.

So the cruel and abnormal behavior and attitude of the narcissist stays hidden. The counselor doesn’t see it. The pastor doesn’t see it. The judge doesn’t see it. Hey, maybe even your parents have trouble seeing it. Like most abuse, it stays hidden until you get home. And you have a difficult time convincing anyone of what you are suffering.

Dr. Childress writes particularly about the attachments of the child to the narcissistic parent and how the appearance of connection can deceive those who seek to do right for the child’s welfare. There are professionals who disagree with his assessment of this attachment. That’s a part of the discussion I haven’t gotten into. What I like about this little book is how well it reveals the deception of narcissism. It may look like the children are more attached to the narcissistic parent, but that attachment is inappropriate and pathological. It may seem like the narcissistic parent is well-adjusted and loving, but that is an act. It may seem like the accusing partner is the real problem, based on the behavior observed in the counselor’s office, but what happens at home tells the real story.

When I first began counseling narcissistic relationships, the narcissist presented himself as cool, assured, even docile. He listened to what I said and seemed to appreciate my help. His wife, on the other hand, was stressed and almost unreasonable in her abrupt responses and accusations. Eventually, I could see that she became that way only when he pushed certain buttons. I could almost predict the point at which our counseling would break down on her end. I was fortunate or perhaps guided by the Lord. Not all counselors will see that. Once I did, I was able to talk with them separately to avoid much of her stress. And, when he was put on the spot, his reactions became far less congenial.

Attorneys and counselors, anyone to whom you go for help, may need some education about narcissism. I would reproduce this little chapter for you to give them, but I don’t want to take anything away from Dr. Childress. Perhaps, if you are in that position, you should just spend the $8 on Amazon and give/loan the book to the person you are working with. Call their attention to this chapter. Help them understand that what they see in their office is not the truth.

If you would like to read more about the narcissists’ super-power, check out this post:


If you are interested in purchasing Dr. Childress’ book, this is the Amazon link:



Filed under Narcissism

21 responses to ““A Hidden Pathology”

  1. The hidden pathology of the outwardly charming narcissist. Oh, yes! This is what makes being in a close relationship with a narcissist so isolating and crazy-making. Everyone else sees this wonderful, beautiful, brilliant charmer, while you are an emotional wreck, because of the way the narcissist treats you behind closed doors.

    • rubycommenting

      And then if you as victim speak up and report the abuse you are called crazy or a troublemaker. The abuse shouldnt be going on in the first place.

      • Hi Ruby! Yes I agree, the abuse shouldn’t be happening in the first place.

        When I was being abused, both verbally and physically, I was in a lot of mental and physical anguish. But to me, even more painful than the abuse itself, was the pain of not being believed!

  2. Penny

    “It happens because the narcissist knows how to “present well.”

    In his fine book, “Character Disturbance”, Dr. George Simon, refers to this as “impression management”; this is done intentionally with the goal to avoid responsibility for their actions/behaviors.
    By definition, those whose character is disturbed are, by definition, narcissistic. Let’s face it: to consciously “present well”, to “impression manage”, is self-absorbed!

    Bless you, Pastor Dave, for the insight you had in counseling, recognizing this. Dr. Simon also learned that the character disturbed person has shallow emotions, & isn’t uncomfortable at all, thus rarely seeks “help” or counsel, but their victims/targets do!! They are so narcissistic, so busy “presenting well”, so skilled in impression management that they are perfect, it’s everyone else who is messed up!


    • UnForsaken

      You are so right!

      Interestingly, there are many people who “present well” who are not Narcs. Some teenagers…stage performances…people at job interviews, dinner guests, etc. But Narcs do everything as if this is the big performance. They pull all the stops out and they do it only for themselves!

      I used to be scared of people with a lot of charisma for fear that they were all Narcs, and even frightened of it in myself. In actuality some people naturally have some charisma and don’t want it. Some gain it to be able to work with the real phonies in their lives. They may even be called perfect, but it somehow isn’t a complement to them. They “present well” and “impression manage” but the difference here is that the real deals are NOT self-absorbed. They have a hidden motive, but it may not be a bad one. Some act roles because of insecurity. Others just need to get through the evenings event and decide to be proactive against the Narc take-over. But the really big difference between their motivations and a Narc’s would be the last thing you stated: A Narc uses it to shift blame and get out of responsibility. They love being called perfect!

  3. CM

    I could have used this about 13 years ago. But I’m still buying it now…my daughter would love to have some say-so in court. I don’t know if I’m going back; been beaten by him three times, but you never know, I may still have some courage left. It’s up to God first.

  4. eva

    thanx pastor dave

  5. Carl

    I tried to alert our marriage counselors to what was going on, but she quickly triangulated them, despite the books I shared, journals and specific examples that aligned with the criteria for diagnosis. It is all about the mask, the presentation. Only the best friend, only the spouse, who the narcissist actually loathes, gets to see the real person. The comforting thing in all of it is that by paying attention to the kind of people that the narcissist associates with professionally, you can quickly find out who not to trust. So sad that these people who appear so successful on the outside are really disasters internally. I am so tired of smoke and mirrors in politics, the church, the workplace. Authenticity is so lacking in our culture. Relationships are formed purely for walking over the other person so you can leap frog ahead. Sadly, in the most sacred of relationships — parenting, spousal, pastoral — the true face and motives of the narcissist are revealed.

  6. So very true. My ex-husband snowed a psychologist and a psychiatrist who saw “He’s just a man who knows what he wants” and “If he can be happy with the woman he’s having the affair with, then he doesn’t have a problem.” What? I gave them written evidence, documented psychotic episodes, but he fooled them. This is so frustrating when some of us wanted to truly get the counseling help we desperately needed.

  7. Diana

    Yes, I am not sure my current therapist gets it. She doesn’t have specialized training on narcissism, and has even said it doesn’t do any good to apply labels. At times, it feels as though she thinks I am making up some of the bizarre behaviors I have described to her. If my N husband were sitting in the office, she would not see any of those behaviors. He would be charming, kind, and thoughtful. But that’s not what happens at home. He’s deceptive, disrespectful and self-absorbed. I wonder if I will ever break free from the pain, if I can’t even find a counselor to recognize the abuse. Trying couples counseling in the past didn’t work, for the very same reason you described in your post, Dave. My N would be composed and manipulative, calmly bringing up my bad behaviors and I was the one becoming unglued. Living with an N is an unhealthy lifestyle that has to be broken, with the help of Jesus.

    • Couples marriage counseling is inappropriate in an abusive marriage (and all marriages with a narcissist are abusive). All domestic abuse programs will confirm this. Your therapist doesn’t understand narcissism or abuse, and that the two are connected. Abusers are narcissists, sociopaths, and psychopaths (i.e. people with Cluster B personality disorders). Sadly, most counselors are not trained in domestic abuse, narcissism, sociopathy, or psychopathy. You need to change counselors to find one that it. Narcissism is a permanent, untreatable, incurable personality disorder that gets worse with age. You can expect more of the same and escalated abuse if you stay in a marriage with a Narcissist. Getting out of a marriage with a Narcissist will be the hardest thing you ever do. You will be battling Satan himself. While in a marriage, the abuse is mitigated by the fact that the Narcissist still wants something from you, that is, you are still useful to him. But after a divorce is filed, you are not useful to him, and, because he has no conscience and no reason to mitigate the abuse, the abuse will escalate beyond your wildest dreams. So be sure to have a legal plan, a financial plan, a spiritual plan, and a support system if you leave. The only thing worse than leaving…is staying.

  8. This speaks to me but is so very discouraging in knowing that describes my adult children and siblings that are covert in their ways … which my covert abuser of many years takes advantage of the fact that ‘he’ knows I don’t have family or many friends to turn to.
    Friendships have not been nurtured because I spent my life focussed on ‘him’ and the children and we only visited his relatives. 😦
    Thank you for this post.

  9. Batya Ahul

    Hi pastor Dave & all you lovely people 🙂

    This might not be appropriate but can I post a prayer request here?
    Some time ago Pastor Dave posted on “The non apology apology”

    I experienced this is the work place yesterday & I’ll try & put it into context:

    I’m a Christian mother of 2 beautiful young boys (2 &5 yrs), wife of a wonderful man & a nurse. I grew up in a scapegoating narcissistic family where yours truly was/is the scapegoat. I realised this after years of prayer, introspection & research as to why I always seemed to be on the receiving end of bullying in the workplace. The “Aha” moment was when I finally understood my parents/family set me up to fail as I was cast in this role probably the day I was born. I also know I subconsciously give off signals inviting this behaviour as essentially I was re-enacting my childhood role in my family home. I’ve tried creating boundaries and challenge critical/abusive behaviour but it only seems to amplify situations. I think much like in the family, once you’ve been designated the scapegoat role in the workplace it’s almost impossible to escape it (that bit is a brief history of me).

    The following is what happened yesterday:

    I work part time as an ICU nurse (I also work in school health) and was on shift yesterday. 2 nurses are allocated to HDU each shift but for some reason only 1 person was allocated yesterday. The nurse in charge asked someone to go over, I stated I had worked there 2 previous long shifts and one in which I was literally screamed at by a relative (this was because the nurse in charge had said he would complete something the day before- he didn’t do so and it was not communicated to the family or staff on subsequent shifts- lost in translation but that is another story), the other nurses also stated they had worked there recently (which they had). Nurse P got up in a huff & said ‘I suppose I’ll have to go’ over & stormed out.

    As I could see Nurse P was angry I apologised when she was on the way back from coffee (I wish I hadn’t but it’s the overly empathic me). Nurse P then stated “Well it’s alright for you you get an easy ride” (slightly bizarre response to an apology that no one else offered despite also being guilty of not volunteering to go to HDU) I responded “That was a little patronising”
    and then asked her to “please qualify that statement” (an attempt to set a boundary & challenge negative behaviour)

    To this she responded that “I (me) get away with everything” and that “everyone is complaining about me”. I calmly asked for names and what was being complained about. Nurse P just repeated “Everyone- EVERYONE” as she was walking through the door to HDU.

    I became very distressed & went to discuss this with the nurse in charge in the office. There are over 50 nurses, Dr’s and other healthcare professionals who work in ITU. Once apon a time I would have mentally gone through the list of staff to try & figure out whom said what etc- I now know this is an exhausting waste of time. As I have had no feed back about “complaints” I can only assume nurse P meant “everyone is gossiping about you” which is disappointing but I have suspected this for a long long time. But was still a strange response to me asking her to qualify ” you get an easy ride” because saying everyone is complaining about me has nothing to do with that statement.

    I think she said “I get an easy ride”this because I work part time & have a set working pattern (called flexible working in the UK & everyone can apply for this), I also had extended sick leave after my father died last year as this was an extremely stressful time (my family scapegoating me on an industrial scale).

    The nurse in charge spoke to Nurse P & allegedly she demonstrated remorse and the wish to apologise to me, (here comes the non apology).
    I took a late lunch (3.15pm) & asked the nurse in charge to tell Nurse P that I didn’t wish to be disturbed during lunch (it’s an unpaid lunch break). However at 3.30pm during my lunch break Nurse P appeared and said “I’m sorry for upsetting you” to which I accepted but said “are you apologising for saying “I get an easy ride” and qualifying that with “everyone is complaining about me” to which Nurse P said no she’s not apologising for those statements. I said “that is NOT an apology then”. Nurse P went on to bring up things that occurred 5 or 6 years ago which is a bit ridiculous. I foolishly tried to refute those statements when I should not have engaged with her. I stated apologising for upsetting someone but not apologising for the cause of the upset is NOT an apology & I would be contacting the ITU manger on Monday to discuss this (unfortunately Nurse P & the manager have been friends for 25 years so I know what’s going to happen here). Also I am on of those people who “waves” her hands when talking (?expressive movement?) @ one point Nurse P grabbed my right hand & forced in down (I wonder how that part of her story is going to be presented…..) which concerns me a lot………

    Nurse P left stating “you get your own way & don’t work in HDU AGAIN”. I have always worked there when allocated & she couldn’t/wouldn’t back up the statement…………………

    I spoke to the nurse in charge again and expressed my dismay @ the situation. She was disappointed that the situation wasn’t resolved and agreed I should email the senior manager. She said she would also speak to her on Monday morning & indicated she would be supportive (I’m not sure I fully trust her).

    Whilst this was going on I was caring for a delightful young man who was in kidney failure & I had to put up and run his dialysis and other treatments. He could see I’d been upset & was offering me kindness & support (which made me cry- a patient shouldn’t have to support the nurse caring for them- they just shouldn’t). I know I’m a good hard working nurse & so did he (& so does He!).

    This is a long warbling post (cathartic for me:) but to sumarise the craziness:
    *Angry NurseP goes to HDU as no one else volunteers.
    *I apologise to her after coffee (no one else does).
    *She states “You (me) always get an easy ride”.
    *I ask her to “please qualify that statement”.
    *She replies “Everyone is complaining about you(me)” (but doesn’t give any evidence when asked).
    * I get the “Non apology apology”.

    Please can I ask for people to pray for the light of Christ to shine on this situation and we reach some resolution. Please pray that I am not made to look like the villain in this situation and I will refuse to be a victim.

    I am sure there is an element of spiritual attack going on here as I believe is part of all scapegoating. Nurse P and I have always got on well (I thought so anyway) & her behaviour seems out of character.

    Some say Jesus was a scapegoat for the sins of humanity, I will continue to wear my scapegoat badge with pride.

    Let me know if you’re out there fellow scapegoatees? We need each other!

    I know if I was the only person left on earth Jesus would still have died for me- I am that special & so are all of you. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

      • Batya Ahul

        Thank you Pastor Dave & thank you for your weekly support with this site, it is such a blessing to us all 🙂

      • UnForsaken

        Batya, thank you for taking the time to share your story. I am praying, and others are as well. Don’t feel badly about sharing with someone in ill health. Many of us have experienced bad health and, at least for me, it can be wonderfully encouraging to be able to be supportive of someone else for a change. It is a rare occurrence I might even call empowering.

        Keep your head up. Be at peace in the knowledge that our Savior is with you. Watch Nurse P carefully, as she sounds as if she is using the usual Narcissistic manipulations. But even if you are cornered, remember He is with you always, at all times, and rise above.

        Have you seen the Youtube channel letmereach? I believe she may have a video that might help with your situation as a scapegoat. It is definitely possible to get past other’s definition of us and grow into something else God has for us. It is wonderful to hear you talk of boundaries. I’m still working on them a lot and they are so important. We are going to free our minds yet!

  10. Batya Ahul

    Hi Unforsaken,
    Thanks for your response & especially for your prayers:)

    I emailed the Senior manager on Monday (pretty much what I posted above but less emotive, more carefully worded- “in my view”, “allegedly” etc etc) and suggested gossip was the main issue & perhaps we could address it as an organisational problem.

    The managers response was fairly typical, it stated there was a”breakdown of communication on both sides” & she confirmed no complaints had been made about me & said she was unaware of any gossip. She asked me to make contact “when I’m less upset” so we could discuss it further.

    This is my response:

    Thank you for your reply.

    Thank you also for confirming that you are not aware of any complaints from any staff members, (I was sure if you had I would have been made aware of this). I am also grateful that if you were aware of any gossip you would challenge it; however the fact that you haven’t picked up on any gossiping concerning me does not mean it is not happening.

    As Nurse P reiterated “everyone is complaining about you” as truth/fact (several times),it is my view that she has not only confirmed my strong suspicion that negative gossip about me is occurring (& probably has for a very long time), but also that she has participated in it.

    Essentially Nurse P has given me a gift. I have wanted to raise this issue for some time but was reluctant to as I was concerned I would be considered paranoid (it would appear not).

    I realise your primary attempt in your reply is damage limitation.

    I am more than happy to discuss this with both yourself and nurse P as we have to work together and there is no point not attempting some sort of resolve. Nurse P is entitled to have a bad day- as we all are, but as adults we are responsible for the harm we cause others & that includes our choice of words as well as actions.

    I probably don’t have time this week as this issue has taken up far too much of my free time already.

    I would again urge you to read this article and place my name next to “target” each time it is mentioned. I’m not insinuating that full scale scapegoating is occurring in our work environment-but certain subtle elements definitely are. Negative gossip is a known method of dehumanising & isolating a target in this process.

    Nurse P bringing up events that occurred years ago (that she must have heard from a 3rd party as I’m fairly sure she was not working in ITU at the time) and forming presumably negative opinions based on this information despite not being aware of all the facts, is in my view symptomatic of this.

    I am sure that this is not unique to Nurse P, substantiated by her repeated claim that “Everybody is complaining about you, EVERYONE”. It would suggest that as with all negative & critical gossip there is a larger cohort of participants (& no I don’t believe it is literally everyone but gauged by some staff members behaviour toward me, I do think it’s a significant number) – hence my suggestion that rather than allocating blame to a single individual, this could be looked at as a wider organisational problem.

    Perhaps an exercise or 3rd party speaker @ the next staff meeting?

    I refuse to be victim or villain in this situation, but do assert myself and my families’ right to privacy and for me to be treated as a human being.

    We all have the right to work in an environment of mutual respect and support- how about we look @ positive ways of creating that culture & attempting to minimise the behaviour outlined above?

    I look forward to your reply,

    The article I mention is about scapegoating in the workplace:
    PDF]Why is scapegoating so common at work? Vanessa Avery explains …(I hope that’s OK Pastor Dave, I’m not sure the link works). This response felt Holy Spirit led so I thank you all for your prayers 🙂 I’ll keep you updated on how this goes,
    God bless you all 🙂

    • Batya Ahul

      A quick belated update (if you haven’t read my above posts this may not make sense):

      About 1 month ago we had a staff meeting (nurse P was present) & before the “any other business” section I cleared with my manager that I was going to tactfully refer to events described in my previous posts, but I would not be pointing fingers @ anyone.

      We were all asked if we had anything to contribute, when it came to my turn I said:
      ” Recently a fellow member of staff has said to me that “everyone is complaining about you” & reiterated this again at a later point, stating that it was truth & fact & that they had a right to say this. When I followed this up with our senior manager it became apparent that no complaints had been made about me- certainly no one had complained directly to me either”.
      “It is my view that what this” person meant is “that everyone is gossiping about & criticising you” Please stop- my business is none of yours.”(there were looks of complete horror by some people whilst others looked very guilty- Nurse P oddly enough was completely expressionless….).
      I continued “If you have a valid & I mean VALID complaint, come to me, I would do the same for you. If you feel you can’t speak to me then go to the senior manager. Otherwise me & my family have been through a difficult time (both me & my husbands fathers died in a short space of time) & me & my family’s business is absolutely none of any of yours. Thank you.”

      Someone I suspected of being malicious went off to have what appeared to be a fit of silent Tourette’s. Others expressed their support for sorrow & said I had been very brave. I was concerned I sounded aggressive but was told I just sounded very hurt.

      Since then I feel empowered in the work place. I’ve been able to let the small minority of people who engage in gossip about me, that I know their game (without looking paranoid) & perhaps they need to get out more instead of talking about me. I feel others show a new respect for me too. I was able to do this with without singling nurse P out or humiliating anyone.

      Through His power I forgive those (especially nurse P) who have been unfair & unkind in this situation.

      Thank you Pastor Dave & all who have been praying.
      The Lord is good😀

      • Lea Anna Curtis

        That is wonderful!! I love how you were able to address it, forgive, and go on and let God handle it. God bless you!

  11. Joy

    I’ll have to look for this book. We went to a Christian counselor…..a psychologist. Our sessions looked like what you describe. My ex would be so “caring” and so calm and “concerned.” I, on the other hand, would end up very emotional even though I am not a hysterical type. The counselor really listened at first, but my ex was charming his socks off, and after talking to my ex (then my husband) alone several times, the counselor told me how hard my ex was trying to fix things and that I should let go of the past and forgive. I knew that this was not true because of how my ex treated me every day. Eventually, my ex used the counselor’s opinions against me, saying that the counselor didn’t think we had any serious problems and so surely I had to agree to stay. It’s almost laughable. It was as if he was getting a good grade from the counselor and therefore was winning…..he never realized that fooling the counselor was not going to work…the person whose opinion really counted in this situation, was mine. Eventually I left. We’d been married 30 years.

    • Post-bellum

      Hi Joy, I can identify with your experience. I am so sorry for what you must have suffered not only during those sessions, but the before and after. The use of counselors words against you is reprehensible. Thankfully, God enabled you to see the truth and take action. He sounds like the “accuser of the brethren” that I was married to. I had similar experience in our 5+ years of counseling, one of his tactic’s is to keep counseling sessions filled with discussing the “spat du jour”. That way the “real” issues never surface. I was made out to be the unforgiving, insecure wife and when I would confront his behavior, he would slither out of it. However, one counselor early in marriage saw through his façade, he told me my husband was a masogynist. But at that time, I had 4 young children and didn’t want to leave. When I realized it was, as you said “my opinion that count’s”, it was a huge shift and it became clear to me. Last year, I left (after 22 years). My former abuser successfully convinced his family, his colleges (AVP at major telecommunications corp), our church, our friends, some of my family, and the attorneys that I was the problem, and he is the victim. All because no one ever saw what went down in our home. The mind bending cruelty, gas lighting, constant punishment, double-binds at every turn; the kids and I were all getting sick (emotionally and physically). Church told me I was in rebellion and at risk of God’s judgement, and I was removed from church. I still get condemnation letters one year later, while they harbor an abuser. The beauty from these ashes is what I am learning; it comes down to a matter of faith and trust in God for me. I must focus on the fact that the great God of the entire universe saw what happened to us. He knows the truth. He never slumbers. He is our vindicator. He is the one that will enact perfect justice in His perfect time. My job is to trust and obey, like the great hymn. Although, kid’s and I are truly alone (in an earthly sense and it is very painful) with NO support, none. I am now completely dependent on Him. Right now this is my portion. It’s just not about my former husband anymore, this is about God using what my former meant for evil to bring me along in the process of sanctification. For this I am grateful. I will be getting a copy of this book for my attorney. Hopefully, she won’t bill me for her time to read it! 🙂

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