It’s Narcissist Friday!
You have been on your new journey for a while. Along the way you have met both friends and users. You have learned to be careful. But the call of a support group is strong. When you learn of the Dragon Hunters Society, you are cautious, but excited. The thought of connecting with those who hunt the dragons taps into your heart needs.
I started writing about narcissism over ten years ago. At that time, people were learning the concept. There were several good books explaining it, and the subject was not new, but the term was not popular. In the last ten years the discussion of narcissism has exploded. Two noticeable things have happened. First, as the subject of narcissism has popularized, it has also become mostly benign. By that I mean it has lost its punch. Everyone is a narcissist, they say. Narcissism can be good, they say. The discussion has gone from the personal abuse of the victim to the role of the narcissist in society. In other words, the victim is increasingly forgotten.
The second thing that has happened is that victims have unionized. The internet has allowed victims to find comrades and leaders who offer much needed support. Larger communities even have in-person groups.
Now, before I go further, I want to make it clear that a great many people have found real help and encouragement from some of these groups. There are some that are practical, honest, and sincerely caring. Don’t be afraid to check them out. Just be careful.
You see, there are group dynamics that go beyond friendship and support. Groups can be places for leaders to shine. As they write and counsel, they become celebrities of a sort. They develop a spotlight that others want. I have watched as these support groups divide because of leadership struggles. Sometimes there is money involved, but popularity and control are more likely to be the desired benefits for leaders. (And who can you think of that desires popularity and control?)
Sadly, groups that provide visibility and popularity can draw leaders and members who are phony. They may be there for the thrill of the “likes,” as Facebook has taught us. Some groups have opened the door to even more abuse for those who seek comfort. The internet may offer distance and safety, but there have been support groups that allow dating connections between members and give advice that does not help. In-person groups have always had the risk of leaders who abuse their positions. Sometimes (too often) leaders bring only their narrow opinions and don’t listen to others. They become part of the problem. Joining a group without clear boundaries and cautions can be dangerous, and the group should support your boundaries and honor your cautions.
Lately, some of the groups have become political platforms for the leaders. Again, I understand. But the problems of transference and scorching slip so easily into politics. Those who associate one political position or party with the old life sometimes are so antagonistic that they want to “guide” others who just want to be loved. Leaders have power over the thinking of their followers and must be careful not to misuse it.
Groups have a tendency to slip to the lower characteristics of members and leaders. I have been concerned about the bitterness and anger that has become almost the identity of some of the groups. Yes, anger is part of the narcissistic experience. We all understand that and accept it. But a group should seek to help people overcome bitterness. Leaders should have (for the most part) dealt with their own anger. Otherwise, the dangers of hatred and anger continue to be stirred up in hearts that need to heal.
Those words make me nervous. I can hear the objections. I understand and accept the objections. But I have seen women write comments about their desire to forgive their narcissist only to have group members berate them and accuse them of stupidity. When leaders allow anger to rule the group, that group is no longer beneficial. (And watch what happens when a man comments. No matter what abuse he has suffered, he is often made to feel that he was the problem.) And a group that becomes political on one side of the aisle is really no different than the church or organization that became political on the other side.
I know groups that don’t have these problems. Some leaders are honest when they encounter their own triggers and are quick to admit that in the group. Some have no desire except to help and encourage. So, please don’t think that I am trying to disparage all of these groups. I am simply saying to be careful.
Hunting dragons is not a positive vocation. Seeking the narcissists and abusers under every rock should not be anyone’s goal. Instead, the support of a good group should help victims learn ways to find identity, establish boundaries, and enjoy life again. In other words, move past the dragons.
Life is not about dragons. If your life becomes consumed with hunting or defeating dragons, the dragon wins again.