It’s Narcissist Friday!
Singer’s Six Conditions for Thought Control (Cults in our Midst, 1995)
2. Control the person’s social and/or physical environment; especially control the person’s time. Through various methods, newer members are kept busy and led to think about the group and its content during as much of their waking time as possible.
Suddenly, your daughter can’t stop talking about this guy you haven’t even met. She sees him at work/school, spends every evening with him, and can’t put her phone down. Her life has suddenly become consumed with “Bobby.” When you ask about him or what they do together, you encounter a wall. Suspicion pops up in her words and mind. “Why do you want to know? Don’t you trust me?” Bobby’s too busy for you to meet him.
Your friends have become enamored with their new Christian teacher. They tell you all about him, but seem to think you aren’t quite ready for the level of teaching he provides. In fact, you sense them pulling away from you. Their time and focus are somewhere else. They say critical things about you and your family but pretend to care. They sit with their group at church. They have evening meetings and lunches with the new group. The new teacher encourages the people to identify as a group. Something is wrong.
The new boss has really gotten the team together. Your husband stays at the office late and comes home talking about work. He makes phone calls, sends emails, and studies so that the boss will approve of him. Promises of a promotion and a raise are almost close enough to grasp. You don’t dare protest because you don’t want to jeopardize his opportunities.
How do you gain control over someone who has a support system? “Isolate and medicate.” Do whatever you can to pull the person away from the support system, then flood his/her system with attention and expectation.
Isolating is a common narcissistic technique. Separating victims from their support structure begins early. Parents are not to be obeyed. Friends are not to be trusted. Wedges are driven in old relationships. The narcissist wants his victim to be dependent on him. Narcissists will often pull people out of their jobs, out of their church, out of their family. It is not uncommon for a young couple to move away from their parents (or her parents) so the narcissist can be the only support person.
“Medicating” is the idea of providing whatever it takes to make the isolation seem acceptable. Filling time with projects, travel, dates, work, and more allows the narcissist to help the victim feel like this new life is just too busy for the old relationships. A narcissistic organization will encourage people to be involved in the life of the group getting to know other members. Fun activities, involved projects, conferences, etc. A narcissistic friend will find positive and uplifting ways to be together, but still separate from others. Travel, shopping, clubs, etc.
The “medicating” part of this equation is important. People are medicated by different things. Anger can be a reason to separate. Different “values” pull people apart. A young wife might be persuaded to separate from her disapproving family. When the first child comes, the old family traditions aren’t good enough. Holidays, education, medical decisions, discipline—all can be “righteous” reasons to separate from family. That feeling of superiority, combined with a little anger, medicates by providing a strong reason to stay away from those who used to be the support structure. A decision to educate children at home provided separation for many young families, for example.
Isolation without “comforting” reasons is difficult. Narcissists and narcissistic organizations will be quick to provide those reasons. Later, when the support structure is no longer available, when too many bridges have been burned, the fun and righteous reasons may not be so easy to find or believe. But, by then, the damage will be done. The trap will be sprung.